Welcome to I Love to Cook

Cooking is something I have always enjoyed. I learned to cook at the apron strings of my mother and grandmother. The experience of cooking brings me both pleasure and peace of mind.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Truffle crab sauce

In an attempt to spice up a salmon fillet I tried this little sauce.

1 tablesppon Black truffle, umbrian sauce
1 - 2 tablespoons Lump Crab
1 Shallot
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
Olive Oil

Heat oil and shallots in a skillet, add the truffle sauce and crab.  Lightly saute' then add cream to the hot mixture.  Allow to thicken and serve over fish

Serving Suggestions
This sauce was very flavorful and could easily compliment other meats.  The finished sauce is white with the black speckles of truffle interlaced.

Roasted Potato and Fennel Gratin

I have been battling the flu lately but had a chance to make the recipe shown to me in the Sur La Table cooking class, "Winter Bistro Classics with Le Creuset".  Thanks to Chef Martin Gilligan for a great class.  I re-created the recipe sadly without the fennel, since there was none to be found in our local area but the outcome was still great.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large leeks, white and light green parts (wash and clean thoroughly)
2 coups heavy cream
1 dup whole milk
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2-1/2 pounds yukon golden potatoes

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated parmeasan cheese
 3 medium fennel bulbs, fronds trimmed, bulbs cored and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons of fresh thyme

Preparation - Cleaning & Slicing
Cleaning the leeks  we trimmed te leeks to the length we wanted, setting aside the darker green portins of the stock.  hen we sliced the leeks lengthwise.  This allowed for thorough cleaning of the leek, especially down in the lower folds/crevices of the plant.

Slicing of the potatoes and the fennel were accomplished on a mandolin with a safety glove.  This was truly a fun device but since I don't have one I did all my slicing by hand.  When I do buy a mandolin I will definitely get the kevlar safety glove which preclude the accidently slicing and unwanted addition of finger slices to the dish.  Slice the leeks, potatoes, and fennel into evenly thin slices, about the thickness of a medium knife (1/8") blade.  Being careful and patient we were able to make the majority of our slices very consistent.  In fact my wife volunteered to slice the potatoes and she did an excellent job.  It is common to rinse the potatoes and hold them in cold water until ready to use.  However in this recipe we rely on the starch from the potatoes to help form the thickening in the mixture.  So slice the potatoes just prior to adding them to the cream sauce.

Preparation - Putting the dish together
Place 2 tablespoons of butter into a large saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add the leeks and saute until softened but not browned, about 4 - 5 minutes.

Add the milk and cream to the saucepan and heat until the mixture simmers.  Add salt and pepper, stirring well to combine.  At this point I added some of the thyme to the mixture for added flavor.  This is a slight departure from the recipe provided but I love thyme.  Cook undisturbed until potatoes are partially cooked and the mixture begins to thicken, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Generously grease a 13X9X2 inch baking dish with butter.  Combine the cheeses in a small bowl.  Using a slotted spoon or spider, carefully transfer a portion of the sliced potatoes into the dish. 

NOTE:  You can either artistically arrange or do a rustic spread of the potatoes.  The results are seen in the final dish when it is sliced and served.  The artistic layer may show a better cross-sectional view when presented but the taste  is the same.

Once you have placed a layer over the bottom of the pan layer the sliced fennel and a generous portion of the cheese mixture.  Repeat this layering until all of the potatoes and fennel fill the pan.  Pour the remaining cream mixture into the pan to just cover the potatoes ad fennel, then top with a layer of the cheese mixture.  Generously dot the surface with the remaining butter around the surface of the dish.

Bake in the pre-heated oven until the casserole bubbles around the edges, potatoes and fennel are tender and the top is golden brown, about 50 - 6 minutes.  If the top begins to brown too soon then cover with aluminum foil and continue to bake.

Serving Suggestion
Allow the gratin to set for at least 20 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle the gratin surface with thyme leaves.  Slice the gratin into serving portions and transfer to the serving plate with a metal spatula.  Serve immediately while hot.  With a little fineese you can present a nicely cut profile highlighting all of the layers of potatoe, cheese, and fennel

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cooking Class at Sur La Table

This Friday, 1-7-11, I attended the Sur La Table Winter Bistro Classics with Le Creuset, instructed by Chef Martin Gilligin (Emma, Louise, & Joel).  What a fun experience.  A lot of fun loving cooks and a great menu.  We made Roasted Potato and Fennel Gratin, Gamay-Braised Lamb Shanks with Nicoise Olives, Thyme & Fresh Chevre Tart, and Dark Chocolate & Cherry Clafoutis (with flaky pie dough).  In addition we prepared a couple of additinal dishes - Cilantro/cucumber salad and Candied carrots. I have all of the recipes and have permission to post as long as we give apprpoiate credit to Sur La Table.  Please e-mail me for a quick copy and I will try to post the recipes here as time permits, since I would like to re-create the recipes myself before I actually post.  I would strongly recommend this course to anyone wanting to share a wonderful cooking experience.  There was not a lot of in depth training but the presentation of basic techniques that anyone could use and reproduce

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chicken Mozzarella and Sun Dried Tomatoe Meatballs

My wife is not fond of red meat, in fact the only meats she eats are chicken and a little fish.  We had been purchasing pre-made meatballs from Trader Joe's but for some reason they have been discontinued.  Of course that become a cooking challenge and the recipe follows.  A few comments - The chicken is dry and bland so seasoning the meat is important.  Also I did not add any oil but will probably use sun dried tomatoes in oil as part of the base.

  • 1 1/2          Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup      Sun dried tomatoes (I used dried)
  • 1 cup         Buffalo mozzarella (approximately a ball)
  • 1/4 cup      Bread crumbs
  • 1                Egg
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Salt and pepper


Rinse and pat dry the chicken breast, then cut into 1 - 2 inch cubes.  Nothing artistic just working chunks that can easily be chopped in a food processor.  A meat grinder should also work.  Place the chicken cubes into the processor with the knife blade and pulse the chicken until it is roughly chopped.  Add the mozzarella, tomatoes, egg and bread crumbs.  I would also take a quick stab at some initial seasonings (salt & pepper as a minimum).  Pulse the processor a few more times to ensure it is thoroughly mixed.  An initial caution is to not over blend the mixture since you want a 'hamburger' consistency and not a soup.

Pre heat the oven to 375 and oil or apply non stick spray to a cooking sheet.  Form the meat mixture into meatballs .  I tried to use a couple of spoons to get a consistent size then gently finalized the form into balls.  I made the balls about 2 - 2 1/2 inches but personal preference  should be your driver.  Place the meatballs on the sheet and then into the oven.  As always with chicken complete cooking all the way through is the key.  I ended up cooking the meatballs for about 40 minutes.  In the middle of the process I rolled the balls 180 degrees so that more than one side would be crisped.

A second caution - working with raw chicken requiresgood housekeeping skills.  Be sure to not cross contaminate surfaces and/or utensils a wash your hands thoroughly after handling any raw meat.  I cut the chicken and then washed the knife, the cutting board, my hands and the general work area with soap/water and a little bleach.  I am not trying to scare anyone off or preach hygiene to the obsurd but contamination leads to salmonella which after you remover, you are typically not in the mood to eat  from that cook or that recipe again.