Thursday, December 30, 2010

Now New Year's is on our Mind......

We got Xmas and Ricardo's birthday out of the way and I can report that the Lamb Navarin I made for his birthday was a huge success and my guys raved about the subtle yet complex flavors found in this amazing dish! It was very good and although had some work, is an easy dish to master. I totally recommend it, YUM!

I also heard from a couple of people (my sister among them, Hi Karina!) asking what kind of food budget do I have if I am able to put the kinds of foods I write about on the table on a regular basis even though I'm always talking about comparison shopping and buying on the cheap. After talking about all this I found that among the things that allow me to do as much as I'm able to is the simple fact that Las Vegas DOES have cheaper food prices. We compared item by item prices and we do have preferential prices on most things, I had no idea there was such a difference but for whatever reason it helps us out a lot, otherwise our menus would be much simpler.....

Anyway, while I still can I will take advantage of whatever specials we get and continue preparing great food..... this time with New Year's in mind and here's the menu I've come up with. I should also mention that I shop twice a month to be better able to take advantage of specials so the menu I'm posting I actually shopped for on Dec. 15th..... I haven't been to the market since but I might get some more butter today.....

The Garcia's 2010-2011 New Year's Menu

Fiori di Zucca Ripieni (Stuffed & Fried Squash Blossoms)
served with a light Tomato Basil Sauce

Delicate Lobster Ravioli served with
Champagne Cream Sauce

Asparagus served with a White Wine Reduction Hollandaise Sauce

Cauliflower Florets with a Crunchy Lemony Butter Topping

Peach Baluchons (Lovely Peach Pastries)

Italian Prosecco Sparkling Wine


Another menu worth anticipating don't you think? Plus if you look at my menus you can see that a lot of them repeat ingredients, thereby lowering their cost to produce and make them a viable option for me. I should also mention that the Lobster being used for the raviolis can only be possible due to an outrageous special at the Korean Market of $1.99 per pound because it was not whole but lobster pieces they had, so although it is fresh lobster meat it's only pieces along with some shells (which I want to flavor the broth and sauce) and since it will be mixed with other ingredients for the raviolis I don't need big chunks or a tail for presentation and saved me a lot.... otherwise, we'd be having something else. lol

Here are the recipes for our wonderful end of year meal:

Fiori du Zucca Ripieni (Stuffed & Fried Squash Blossoms).- An Italian recipe this time of a favorite Mexican dish, but any way you serve it it's wonderful.

12 Squash Blossoms, centers cleaned
1/2 cup Mozzarella, Jack or similar melting cheese, cut in small dice
3-6 Anchovy fillets, cut in small pieces
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
Salt & pepper to taste

In a bowl combine cheese and anchovies well. Stuff into the flowers and lightly twist these so they will hold in the stuffing.

Beat the eggs well. Place flour in shallow dish, salt and pepper this. Add oil to pan to get about an inch or so depth and over med heat and dip flowers into the flour, dust off the excess, then into the egg and into the flour a second time and fry in the oil, turning several times, until golden.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle salt over them while still hot.

Serve in a small dish putting some sauce down on the dish first then setting the blossoms on top.

Sauce: In a pan with a little oil, put 1/2 onion sliced thin and sweat for a couple of minutes, add 1-2 cloves of garlic which were pressed out from a garlic press, add salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes, add 1 small can of tomato sauce (or fresh) and 2-4 oz water plus 1 tsp of sugar, some Basil or Oregano and allow to come together for a few minutes, the sauce should be light and tasty.
NOTE: These can be served without stuffing and sauce, just lightly fried and crunchy.

Lobster Ravioli with Champagne Cream Sauce.- These are always wonderful and delicate and everyone loves them. You can make your own pasta or simply use some Chinese Egg Roll Wrappers and save yourself the work.

1 package Egg Roll Wrappers
1 cup mushrooms (button or your choice), cleaned and chopped fine
1/2 med onion, chopped fine
1 cup lobster meat, chopped fine
2-4 tbl butter
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup Ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese mixed with 1 egg)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 tbl tomato paste
the lobster shells
1 celery stalk, cut in half, add the leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 onion
1/2 cup champagne or sparkling wine
1 tbl butter
1 tbl flour
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
Basil leaves cut into very fine ribbons
salt & pepper to taste

In small saucepan put the lobster shells with 2 cups water on the stove and bring to a boil, add the celery, the piece of onion and garlic and simmer until it's reduced to 1 cup or so. You will use this broth as a flavoring for the sauce.

In a pan with 1-2 tbl butter over med-high heat, add the onion and carrot and saute until tender. Then add the tomato paste and stir to cook it slightly. After about 3-4 min, add the lobster broth made before and the wine. Bring to a boil and simmer until this reduces down to a third it's original quantity.

Make a roux from the flour and butter by heating up the butter, adding the flour and cooking it to loose the flour taste. Add this to the sauce that's been simmering, whisking it to avoid lumps so that it thickens. To finish it, add some of the cream until you've got the consistency you like.
If you want it chunky with the veggies, leave as is, but I run it through a sieve and just use the creamy sauce. Set aside.

In a pan with a little butter in it, add the onion, mushroom and cook until tender, add salt and pepper and the lobster meat and lightly cook this. Do not overcook, you want it tender. Now put this mix into a bowl and add the Parmesan and Ricotta and mix well. This is your filling.

Take your egg roll wrappers (or pasta) and lay across your work surface making two rows and put a teaspoon of the filling onto each on the first row. Brush the edges of these and place the second row of the wrappers on top of the stuffing and seal the edges well either by pressuring them or by cutting with a cookie or pasta cutter so they are well closed. Lay these to the side, while you get your salted water ready for cooking them. They will cook rather quickly and float to the top, fish them out with a slotted spoon, place on plates with some sauce on top. Add some more cheese and the Basil leaves for presentation and enjoy!

Asparagus with White Wine Reduction Hollandaise Sauce.- One of our favorites done a quick way but with all the flavor..... if you peel them with a regular potato peeler you'll make even the toughest ones, tender and great!

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
10 black peppercorn
1/2 onion, finely chopped
8 egg yolks, beaten
1cup butter, melted and cooled
Kosher salt, to taste
Tabasco sauce or cayenne, to taste
1/4 cup warm water
1-2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 lb asparagus with stalks peeled for tenderness

Put vinegar, wine, peppercorns and onion in a pan and simmer over med-high heat until reduced to 2 tbl, about 5 min or so. Strain the reduction through a fine sieve and let cool.

Pour water into a med pot to about a 2 inch depth. Be sure you have a bowl that fits on top but won't touch the water so you have a bain marie or water bath. Bring the water to a simmer over med heat. In the bowl, away from the water, whisk together the reduction, yolks, butter, salt, Tabasco and set over the pan. Whisk quickly until the mix is rich and thick, at least 4-5 min without stopping. It doesn't matter how it looks, ok? Just forge ahead. Take the bowl off the water bath and add the water and lemon juice and keep whisking until the sauce becomes thick and velvety. Keep warm.

If you want you can tie the asparagus together with some kitchen twine (so they don't get injured and are easy to remove) and put in a pot with lots of salted water over high heat. Cook until still crisp or about 4 min, don't overcook or they will be wilted and mushy. Remove, drain and place on a platter, pour some sauce over top and serve at once.

Cauliflower Florets with a Crunchy Lemony Butter Topping.- You can serve this "head" complete or separate the florets, but if you serve whole the sauce won't cover the same so I leave the florets separate and toss.

1 head of cauliflower, cleaned
1 tsp of salt
2 slices of lemon
2 large eggs
7 tbl butter, melted
3 tbl breadcrumbs from the blender (made from lovely bread)
the juice of one juicy lemon
3 tbl parsley, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

In a big saucepan with water, salt and the lemon slices, place on the stove until it boils. Add the cauliflower(either whole or in florets) and cook until just done, about 15 min or just tender. Drain and reserve.

In a small sauce pan with water, also boiling add the eggs and cook for 10 min. then remove and run cold water over the eggs, peel and chop fine. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve.

In a large pan over med high heat, add the butter and add the breadcrumbs when the butter stops foaming. Stir them around to cook them and they become golden and crunchy. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice then add the parsley and chopped egg and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Now, in the serving pan, put the cauliflower and top with the buttery breadcrumb mixture and toss well. Top with some extra parsley to serve. You can also add some red pepper flakes if you like or add or change seasonings.

Pear Baluchons (Pear Pastries).- Pears were on special yet this presentation makes this lovely fruit truly special ..... You can make this a short cut version by using vanilla pudding (I had leftover Pastry Cream which is better because it really jells which makes it easy to use) and buy Puff Pastry at the store. Of course you can make your own but I've been lazy and decided to just buy some..... Those refrigerated dough canisters (crescents) are perfect!

Fruits, all types of stone fruits can be used for this, pitted and cut into wedges
1 package Puff Pastry or your choice
Creme Patissiere, Vanilla Pudding or your choice
1 egg yolk
2 tbl heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon, ground
4 tbl sugar plus 1 tbl ground cinnamon - mixed together

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Make 4.5 inch squares out of the pastry you're using and lay them flat on your work surface.

Place the fruit in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Reserve the "other" sugar-cinnamon mix for topping. Toss well and allow to rest for 5-10 min.

On baking sheets, either with PAM, parchment paper or a silpat, place some pastry squares and top each with about 2-3 tbl of the pastry cream. Top with about 1/4 cup of fruit and bring the ends together on the top and press together, they will look like little packages. Refrigerate at least to min and allow them to rest.

In a small dish mix together the egg yolk and the cream. When you are ready to take the pastries out of the fridge, you will "paint" them with the egg wash and then sprinkle them with the sugar-cinnamon mix and then bake in the oven for 15-20 min or until golden brown. You can serve with ice cream or make extra and have them as a breakfast or brunch pastry the next morning.

There, you have my New Year's menu and we're all set. I just came back from the store and found a great Italian Prosecco for under $6 (big price difference from French Champagne) and I've got everything ready to start tomorrow. Made the seafood broth and cleaned the lobster. My "mis en place" is all done so everything should go smoothly. Both Rene and I are counting the days to go back to school and we've missed our routine a lot and can't wait to get back to it, we've got a very challenging block coming up which will be amazing!..... But for the time being I'd like to wish you and everyone at your house, the very best New Year's ever! May your bubbly be sparkling, and all your wishes come true... for all of us! Cheers to all!.......

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