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Hollowing Out and Stuffing Artichokes
(Vider et Farcir l’Artichaut)
1. For the artichokes: Cut about 1 in. (2.5 cm) off the top of the artichokes and cut off the stems. Peel the fibrous skin from the stems and reserve the centers. Rub cut parts with lemon to prevent discoloration.
2. Using scissors, cut off the top third of each artichoke leaf. These leaf tips are tough, and each has a “needle” in the center. Wash the artichokes under cool water. Bring 2 qt. (2 scant liters) of water to a boil in a stockpot. Add the artichokes, cover, bring to a boil again, and boil gently 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.
3. When cool enough to handle, grab the center of each artichoke and pull out the center leaves in one clump.
4. Using a spoon, remove the choke, the hairy material inside at the base. The artichokes are not yet completely cooked and may require some scraping to remove the choke.
5. The centers of the artichokes are clean.
6. STUFFING: Melt the 2 Tb. (28 grams) butter and ¼ c. (59 milliliters) peanut or corn oil in a large skillet. When hot, add 1/3 c. (48 grams) chopped shallots, 3 or 4 chopped garlic cloves, and 2 c. (120 grams) bread crumbs, and sauté, stirring almost continuously, for 4 to 5 minutes over medium to high heat, until the bread turns a nice brown color. Add ¼ tsp. each pepper (1.25 grams) and salt (1.5 grams). The base of the center leaves is tender. Cut away the tender parts and add to the stuffing.
7. Spoon about 2 Tb. (30 milliliters) of the stuffing into each artichoke, placing some in the cavity and some in between the leaves. When they are stuffed, place the artichokes side by side in one layer in a saucepan. Sprinkle with 2 Tb. (30 milliliters) olive oil, add 1 c. (237 milliliters) of water, and place the stems around the artichokes. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook approximately 30 minutes. By then, most of the moisture should have evaporated and only the olive oil will remain with the gently stewing artichokes. If there is still liquid in the pan, remove the lid and continue boiling until the remaining moisture has evaporated.
8. Arrange the artichokes on a platter with the stems around. The artichokes can be served alone as a first course or as a side dish.
(Separation des Oeufs)
When you are separating eggs, you often end up with an excess of yolk or white. The egg whites, almost pure albumin, freeze well. Defrosted egg whites whip even better than fresh egg whites, and they do not pick up odors. The yolk, however, high in fat, does not freeze well. Unless the temperature goes as low as -20 degrees (-29°C), bacteria will grow in the egg yolk. In addition, yolks easily become freezer burnt. However, they can be kept for a couple of days in the refrigerator covered with a layer of water to prevent a skin from forming on top. Pour the water off before using.
1. To separate the yolk from the white, crack the egg on the edge of the bowl. Open the egg, keeping one half upright to hold the yolk. Let the white drop into the bowl.
2. Pour the yolk into the empty half shell, letting more white drop into the bowl as you are transferring the yolk from one shell to the other.
3. An alternative method is to pour the egg into your hand and let the white drip through your fingers.
When making poached eggs, the fresher the eggs the better. The older the eggs, the more the whites will tend to spread in the water. A dash of vinegar (white vinegar preferably, to avoid discoloration of the eggs) is added to the water to help firm the egg white. Salt is omitted because it has the reverse effect and tends to thin down the white. Poached eggs lend themselves to an infinite number of combinations, from the very simple poached egg on toast, to the sophisticated eggs Benedict, served with ham, hollandaise sauce and truffles. Eggs can be poached several hours, even a day, ahead (as most restaurants do), eliminating any last-minute panic when you want to serve several people at once.
1. To poach 6 eggs, place 2½ to 3 quarts (2.4 to 3 scant liters) of water and ¼ cup (59 milliliters) white vinegar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; then, reduce to a simmer. Break one egg at a time on the side of the saucepan. Holding it as closely as you can to the water (to avoid splashing), open it with both thumbs and let it slide into the water. Drop your eggs at the place where the water is simmering so that they don’t go down into the water too fast and stick to the bottom. If you are afraid of burning
Aficionados prefer oysters raw on the half shell with a dash of lemon, or a mignonnette sauce made by mixing together ½ cup (118 milliliters) good red wine vinegar, ¼ cup (36 grams) chopped shallots, ½ teaspoon (2.5 grams) coarsely ground black pepper and a dash of salt. (Crushed peppercorn is called mignonnette; hence, the name of the sauce.) These fine mollusks should be used, as all shellfish, only if they are alive and fresh. Despite the fact that restaurants sometimes wash oysters to get rid of any lurking bits of shell that might present problems to their patrons, once oysters are opened, they should never be washed. Their taste becomes flat and insipid. Oysters are usually larger and fatter in the United States than they are in France. The “green” flat oysters of France, the Belons and Marennes, are now grown in Maine. Oysters are usually poached in their own broth. Be sure not to overcook these delicate shellfish or they will toughen. As soon as the edges of the oyster whiten and curl up, they are cooked enough.
1. Some of the oysters available from good markets are, top 2 rows, from left to right, closed and open: Apalachicola, Cotuit, Pacific oysters; and bottom 2 rows, from left to right, closed and open: Wellfleet, Blue Point, Belon, Chincoteague. Other well-known varieties include the Louisiana, Kent Island, Cape Cod, and the tiny, delicious Olympia, all of which can be bought locally, depending on the time of the year and the availability.
SHELLFISH AND FISH
2. Wash the oysters under cold water. Use special sturdy pointed-tip oyster knives like the ones shown in here and a thick towel or pot holder to prevent an accident.
3. Shucking oysters: With the oyster held firmly in the palm of your hand, pry and push the tip of the blade into the pointed end at the “hinge,” between the top flat shell and the convex bottom one. You may have to exert a great amount of pressure to insert the knife between the shells at the hinge, but that is the place where you can make the cleanest opening, free of fragments of shell.
4. When you have inserted the point of the knife, press down to pop open the lid. Then move your knife back and forth, making the blade slide against the top shell inside to sever the muscle that holds both sides together. Lift up the lid.
5. If the oyster shell crumbles and cannot be opened at the hinge, insert the point of the knife on the curved side of the oyster between the shells. Pry it open and sever the muscle.
SHELLFISH AND FISH
6. This technique will tend to break little pieces of shell loose inside the oyster. Be sure to remove them after the muscle is opened. Do not wash the oysters under water as this flushes out the juices and the best taste of the oysters. Open the oysters over a bowl and retrieve the extra liquid to use in soups or sauces. At a time when a lot of oysters are opened, the extra juices can be used to rinse the oysters after opening to eliminate possible pieces of shell. Then add 1 Tb. (14 grams) of the juice to each oyster after the rinsing, leaving the bits of shell in the bowl.
Trimming Shell Steak
(Préparation du Contre-filet ou Faux Filet)
1. Slide your knife between the bone and the meat and, standing the roast on the end of the chine bone (backbone), continue cutting alongside the chine bone to separate it from the meat.
2. Following the contour of the bone, separate the bones from the meat. Trim away most of the fat underneath and on top of the meat. (There are approximately 5½ lb. (2.5 Kilogram) of fat and about 2½ lb. (1.1 Kilogram) of bones on this piece of meat.)
MEAT AND GAME
3. At one end of the strip, there is a triangular piece of meat lodged on top of the strip and separated from it by a large sinew. Although this triangular piece is often left in place and the steaks cut directly through it, it is preferable to remove it because the connecting sinew is tough. Following the contour of the sinew, cut off the triangle of meat.
4. The triangular piece of meat is being removed and can be used as a steak. (It weighs approximately 8 oz., more or less, depending on the size of the shell.)
5. Now the top of the strip can be cleaned of the large gelatinous sinews, which are excellent in white as well as brown stock. Remove by pulling on a strip of sinew with one hand while cutting and sliding the knife against the sinew with the other hand to get it off with as little meat attached as possible.
6. When the whole shell is trimmed (there is still a little bit of the front flap and chain attached to it), most of the fat and sinews have been removed. Cut off about a 3-lb. (1.4 Kilogram) piece of the shell for a roast.
MEAT AND GAME
7. Cut the rest of the shell into ¾- to 1 in. (2-to2.5 cm)-thick steaks of approximately 10 oz. (283 grams) each. Depending on the size of the shell, it will yield approximately a dozen steaks in addition to the 3-lb. (1.4 Kilogram) roast, bones and sinews (which can be used for stock), and fat. The steaks can be wrapped in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil and frozen individually for later use. If the steaks are frozen, be sure to defrost them slowly, still wrapped, under refrigeration.
Croissants are the essence of the French breakfast. They are never eaten at other meals. The large twisted croissants bought in cafés in the morning are often made with a mixture of shortening and butter. The small straight croissants are usually made with only butter. For pain au chocolat, or chocolate rolls, strips of chocolate are rolled up in rectangular pieces (about 3 x 5 inches/7.6 x 13 centimeters) of croissant dough and baked at the same temperature and for the same amount of time as the straight and crescent-shaped rolls. Croissant dough requires skill to make. It has some of the qualities of puff paste as well as of brioche. It acquires flakiness through the rolling and folding technique of puff paste, but it is also a yeast dough, which needs proofing before cooking. We made our croissants with all purpose flour (which is high-gluten, hard-wheat, elastic flour), because we found that using pastry flour (a soft wheat flour with less gluten) did not make much difference. Small croissants are about 1¼ to 1½ ounces (35 to 42 grams) each; large croissants are about 3 ounces (85 grams) each.
1 pound (454 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour (a good 3 cups tightly packed) 2 tablespoons (18 grams) extra flour to mix with the butter 3 sticks (340 grams/12 ounces) sweet butter, softened 1 generous cup (237 milliliters) milk, at approximately 90 to 100 degrees (32 to 38°C) 1 1⁄4-ounce (7-gram) package dry yeast or a .6-ounce (17-gram) package fresh yeast 1 tablespoon (14 grams) sugar 11⁄2 teaspoons (9 grams) salt
BREAD AND PASTA
1. Place the yeast, sugar and milk in a bowl. Mix well and let it work for about 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, cut 2½ sticks (283 grams/10 ounces) of the butter into 4 lengthwise slices. Place on a plate and refridgerate.
2. Place the flour with the remaining 2 ounces (57 grams) of butter, salt and yeast-milk mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low speed using the flat beater for about 10 seconds, until it forms a ball. Shape the dough into a rectangle. Place on a floured board and roll the dough into a rectangle 20 inches (51 centimeters) long by 12 inches (30 centimeters) wide. Use extra flour to help in the rolling. Arrange the slices of butter, one next to another, on top two-thirds of the pastry, covering it to with about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) form the edge. 3. Lift the unbuttered third and fold on the buttered part.
4. Fold the remaining third over and press all around the edges.
BREAD AND PASTA
5. Place the dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer. The object is to get the dough and the butter well set and to the same temperature so it rolls out uniformly.
NEW COMPLETE TECHNIQUES
JACQUES PÉPIN has published
26 cookbooks and hosted 12 public television cooking series. One of the best-known culinary teachers in the world, he’s earned a place in the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame, captured the foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America award, been recognized for Best TV Cooking Segment and Best Culinary Video, and earned the foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Chef Jacques won a daytime Emmy award for a television show he co-hosted with Julia Child and is among an elite group that has received the Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Chevalier de L’Ordre du Mérite Agricole, two of the highest honors bestowed by the French government. The founder of the American Institute of Wine and Food, he shares his knowledge through teaching at The French Culinary Institute. A former columnist for The New York Times, Jacques writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine. He also participates regularly in that magazine’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and at other culinary festivals and fundraising events worldwide. He lives with his wife in Madison, CT.
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