Friday, June 25, 2010

Chicken Marsala Cream with Mushrooms and Sauteed French Beans

I like to make use of the chicken stock I made several days ago and what better way to use it is to dish up a simple and easy recipe Chicken Marsala. I taught this recipe during the Youth Work Committee's special summer cooking class two years ago at United Evangelical Church of the Philippines. I was assigned to teach and demonstrate Italian Cuisine. Chicken Cacciatore, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, Panna Cotta and Tiramisu to name a few. It was a humbling and fearful experience for me, if you have been following my blog I'm a Poppy seed and a Mimosa Pudica, I talk less but listen and do more. But being an instructor it's th e other way around I need to talk more, listen and do less. Thank God my students are friendly, I feel comfortable accommodating their questions...and yes this time I've got to talk more.

Another thing that you might want to know about me aside from being a shy girl, is that I like to learn photography..I'm still a work in progress so pardon m e if some of my photos looks blurred or not fascinating at all. I don't know if there's something wrong with uploading my photos in this blog because at Picasa 3 (where i store my photos) all my photos have clear and sharp image...Uhm??...I need somebody to figure this one out.

I can still remember when we would have an out of the country family vacation during summer, I would take different shots of the Walt Disney parade from Disney Land Aneheim, the Mt. Fuji of Japan, or the bridge of San Francisco and my mom would asked me where's my sister in that photo?...She would also say that I'm wasting the film, we don't have digital camera yet on those days...that was sometime not so long long ago.

Anyways back to the dish. Chicken Marsala is an Italian dish made from chicken cutlets, mushrooms and Marsala wine. There are many cooking variations for this dish either you add herbs, squeeze some lemon juice, add some cream or a combi nation of herb and cream which I've made. The key ingredient which gives chicken marsala its distinctive sweet flavour and aroma is the Marsala wine. Marsala wine is produced using the Grillo, Inzolia, and Catarratto white grape varietals, among others. It was traditionally serve as apertif between the first and second courses o f a meal. Different Marsala wines are classified according to their color, sweetness and the duration of their aging.

Chicken fillet are pounded flat then coated lightly with flour and quickly browned in butter with a little olive oil then removed
from the pan (do not removed the brown bit pieces in the pan because the excellent flavor are in it). The remaining oil and juices are used to sauté the mushrooms and the shallots after which deglazing (is a cooking technique for removing and dissolving bits of food in the pan using liquid in order to make a pan sauce) it with Marsala wine and reducing it until the consistency of syrup then add some cream and herbs or other possible ingredients.

I like going to Santi's and Robinson's Place to buy imported fruits, vegetables, cheeses, sausages, bacon, frozen berries, cold-cuts, meats and much more which are not available in other supermarkets. Although it is costly I still buy a thing or two or three or four or five?...its so tempting to get all those delicacy, when it comes to food sometimes I forgot what budget means.

I bought Shimeiji and White Button Mushrooms (rich in anti-oxidant properties) at Robinson's Place supermarket for my Chicken Marsala, you can make use of other mushrooms like s
hitake or canned mushrooms but i prefer fresh. There are two kinds of Shimeji, Buna (brown color, top photo ) and Bunapi (white). Shimeji should always be cooked for they have somewhat bitter taste if eaten raw, but upon cooking the bitterness disappears completely. The cooked mushroom has a pleasant, firm, slightly crunchy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. This mushroom can be used in soups, stir-fries, stews and in sauces. When cooked alone, this mushroom can be cook as a whole, including the stem or stalk (only the very end cut off). I think you'll be seeing more of this and other mushrooms on my blog because I like them.

I've added french beans on my Chicken Marsala as a side dish, you can serve this as one dish meal by adding either mashed potato, pasta or rice pilaf. French Green Beans or in French word Haricot Vert (silent "t" for both words), this can closely resemble to regular green beans. However, they are a bit more slender and long than regular green beans and they are also stringless. When lightly cooked, they are tender, crispy and very tasty with a hint of sweetness. You can blanched them and add them to salads or side dish or you can stir-fry or roast them to bring out the soft and sweet flavor.

Makes 4 servings

For the Chicken

4 pieces chicken breast fillet
All-purpose flour for dredging
Salt and Pepper

For the Sauce

1/4 cup button Mushrooms
1/2 cup shimeji (optional)
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pcs. shallots (chopped)
1/4 tsp thyme or oregano
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper

For Haricot Vert or French green beans

250 gms. French green beans
2 cloves chopped garlic
3 tbsps Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

To pan fry. Place the chicken breast fillet in between the cling wrap and using a meat mallet pound the chicken breast lightly until 1/4 -inch thick. Put some flour on a shallow dish and season the meat with a little salt and ground pepper. Dredge the breast in the flour shaking off the excess. Heat butter and oil over medium-high flame in a large skillet. When the oil is already hot slip the chicken breast into the pan and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown, turning once. Remove the chicken to a platter in a single layer to keep warm.

To make the sauce. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the shallots until aromatic, add the mushrooms and sauté until they are nicely browned and their moisture are evaporated, about 5 minutes. Pour the Marsala wine in the pan and boil down for a few seconds to cook out the alcohol. Add the chicken stock, oregano or thyme, simmer for 2 minutes to reduce the sauce slightly. Return the chicken breast to the pan and simmer for 1 minute to heat the chicken through. Add heavy cream and season it with salt and pepper.

To cook the beans. Boil water in a mini stock pot, once the water is boiling add rock salt and blanched the beans, cook until crunchy and tender about 1 minute. Remove the beans and transfer into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Heat oil over medium-high heat and sauté garlic until fragrant add the beans and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Dredge - the process of pulling food through dry ingredients to coat them before cooking.
Reasons for dredging:
  • It acts as barrier to keep the food from sticking to the pan as it cooks.
  • It enables the exterior to become crisp and darken evenly without burning.
  • It prevents the food from becoming tough texture because it seals in the moisture of the food.
Blanch - the process of briefly cooking food in boiling water or steam and then immersing the food in ice cold water or frozen storage to stop the cooking process.
Reasons for blanching:
  • It brings out the color in vegetables and helps maintain their nutritional value, which can be lost in overcooking.
  • It is also useful for loosening the skin of the fruit and vegetable so that the skin can be removed easily.
Ice bath - a preparation technique, used primarily for vegetables, that shocks the food item by exposing it into ice after the food item has been blanched.
Reasons for ice bath:
  • To immediately stop the food from cooking.
  • To preserve the flavor, the food color and the texture at the point when the shocking occurs.

Have fun cooking and enjoy!

By His Grace,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Doughnut Resist

I was fascinated with what the yeast can do to breads such as Baguette, Ciabatta (Italian pronunciation: [tʃaˈbaːta], literally "carpet slipper"), Foccacia (Italian pronunciation: [foˈkatʃːa]) , Pizza (Italian: [ˈpit.tsa]) , and Doughnut among others. If you will take a look at the history, growth and nutrition, reproduction, uses and other elements of the yeast you will have nosebleed, so to make it simple in baking point of view it is use as leavening agent, where it converts the fermentable sugars present in dough into the gas carbon dioxide. This causes the dough to expand and rise as gas forms pockets or bubbles. When the dough is baked the yeast dies and the air pockets "set", giving the baked product a soft and spongy texture...still has nosebleed?

After having tried baking baguettes, now for my daughter's wish i made her and her cousins some Doughnut. It was not as soft and spongy as Krispy Kreme or even taste exactly like it but they enjoyed it with gusto and was asking for more. My daughter who was also curious (just like her mom) and overwhelmed with the dough made a few pinches thus releasing some air and deflate the dough.

There are a wide varieties of doughnut to choose from, this can be sweet or occasionally savory. In different parts of the world they have their own variation of doughnut, it can be made as simple the one in Persia where they have zoolbia and bamiyeh, a fritter that comes in different shapes and sizes coated in sugar water syrup or a Bean paste doughnut where it is widely available in Japan bakeries, it is similar to Germany's Berliner except it contains red azuki bean paste.

I made mine easy and simple. Mix all the ingredients together proof, shape, proof, fry and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar. Yes it's as simple as that, but remember Patience is a virtue because for the first proofing you need to let it rest for an hour and the next proofing about 15 minutes. By the way, proofing has two meanings one having to do with yeast and the other having to do with the dough. Proofing yeast occasionally refers to the process of mixing only water and yeast and proofing dough refers to a specific rest period within the more generalized process known as fermentation.


Makes 24 regular size pieces

For the dough
  • 3-1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 pc egg
  • 1 pc egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup butter (cut into 1/2" cube, keep refrigerated)
  • 1 gm bread improver
For frying
  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable oil
For dusting
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
To mix. In a medium bowl mix the flour, salt and sugar. Set aside. Stir yeast and warm warm together, add egg and egg yolk. Mix well and set aside. Using your fingers toss butter into flour until butter is size of cornmeal. Add yeast mixture and work mixture into a dough and knead for 10 minutes. Let rest until double in size.
To form. Roll the dough either square or rectangular shape into 1/2" thick (or depending on how thick you want your dough). With a cookie cutter of about 4" in diameter cut the dough and using the smallest cookie cutter punch the center to create a hole. Place the formed dough in a baking sheet with parchment paper and let rest for 15 minutes before frying.

To fry. Heat oil until it reaches 320 F. Dip each doughnut in the cooking oil and cook until both sides are golden brown. Drain in paper lined tray.

To dip. Mix the white sugar and cinnamon and dust or sprinkle it on top of the doughnut.

Make sure to try this recipe because it's one snack that you "doughnut" want to miss and of course! the best combination for these is coffee.

Happy Eating!

By His Grace,

Monday, June 14, 2010

White Stock

Learning is a never ending process. Education should not be limited into the four corners of the classroom, even after earning the highest degree people still needs to learn new ways and methods to be updated with our fast pace changing technologies, equipment, fashion, tools and even with food.

Long ago people would settle for comfort food, an inexpensive, uncomplicated and easy to prepare dishes. The evolution of food has drastically change, it started way back during the 17th century when chef and writer La Varenne marked a change from cookery known in the Middle Ages, to somewhat lighter dishes and more modern presentation which is called the Haute Cuisine a French term literally means "high cooking". In 1900's Chef Georges Auguste Escoffier modernized the Haute Cuisine which became known as Cuisine Classique. Then there's Nouvelle Cuisine [noo-vehl kwee-ZEENe] a French term meaning "new cooking" referring to a culinary style that moved away from the rich and heavy style of classic French cuisine toward fresher, lighter food served in smaller portion. Now we have Fusion Cuisine it combines the elements of various traditions while not fitting specifically into any. In years to come, another evolution would emerge, whatever cuisine that would be it will surely be a challenge to equip ourselves.

After graduating from Culinary Arts two years ago, what's next? My dream is to have a mini restaurant, something cozy and elegant but affordable. Uhm...elegant and affordable would that be possible? Anyways, before waiting for that dream to come true, I mentioned earlier that learning is a continuing process, so I enrolled in Rouxbe [roo-bee] an online cooking school, they deliver a professional culinary school curriculum in high definition, close-up video together with professional chef support, practice video recipes and assesstment tools. What's more is that you can study at your own schedule and at your pace and watch the video as many times as you want.

In any culinary school the first thing that they will teach you is how to select, handle and care for your chef knives. I went through it the second time when I enrolled at Rouxbe. You can choose whatever lesson you want to learn, but I prefer to start with the basic...White Stock.

A Stock is a simple flavorful liquid made with various ingredients simmered in water. The key ingredient to making a stock is to start with cold water, fresh ingredients, simmer a period of time, scheme off impurities and strain. Stocks can be use in many dishes particularly soups and sauces, it can also be use in cooking rice like Paella and Rissoto instead of using water to give full flavor to the dish.

To make the stock start by washing the fresh bones with fresh water then cover it with cold water (this promotes the extraction of collagen, which may be sealed in by hot water) until an inch or two, turn the heat to medium keep the pot uncovered and slowly keep the bones to a simmer, scheming the impurities every now and then.

After the stock has been simmered for 2 hours and impurities has been scheme off add the mirepoix [mi-re-pwa] a french name for a combination of onion, carrot and celery, sometimes leeks can also be added. Simmer the stock for 1 and a half hour. The ratio between the bones and mirepoix is three part bones and one part mirepoix. Once the stock returns to it simmer scheme off excess impurities as needed. Chicken stock need to be simmered for 3 to 4 hours to extract the flavor.

About 30 minutes or so before the cooking time add the seasoning component of the stock which is the Bouquet Garni, french for "garnished bouquet", it is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with strings. A common bouquet garni for a stock consist of flat parsley, thyme, bay leaf, celery leaves and whole peppercorns, these usually puts at the end of cooking time since a less time is needed to extract the flavor, you can either add it loosely or tied it into a bundle.

Once the stock is finish cooking, scheme it one last time before straining then remove all the ingredients using a strainer, discard all the solids since all the flavor are in the liquid. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, for an even clearer stock place a cheesecloth on top of the sieve. Cool the stock as quickly as possible before storing, the fastest and safest way to cool down the stock is to place it in an ice bath and stir while bringing down the temperature. Do not refrigerate before completely cooling as bacteria can be trap inside and multiply as it becomes cold making it unsafe to consume.

Stocks can be kept in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days and can be freeze well for months. Don't forget to label it for easy reference.

By His Grace,

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hot Cocoa with Bruschetta Cream Cheese Sardines

The day after I baked the baguette I was thinking of what to top with my bread, a simple tarragon cream cheese would be nice or tomatoes with basil sounds good (but i don't have tomatoes and basil) I ended up speading cream cheese and topping it with sardines. I also made a cup of Hot Cocoa Drink with oats and egg to go with it.

For the Cocoa Drink

Makes 2 servings
  • 1-1/2 cup milk (full cream or non-fat)
  • 1 pc tablea cocoa
  • 1/8 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp white sugar (or depending on your taste
Warm the milk and tablea on a small pot at medium heat, dissolved the cocoa before adding the oats and sugar. Let it simmer until slightly thicken. Add egg, mix and serve.

For the slices of baguette, spread some cream cheese and lay half sardines on top and warm it on a toaster. Enjoy a simple and elegant breakfast on a cloudy day.

By His Grace,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spice Pets

Nope I'm not referring to the spices we put on our food but to our 3 bunnies and a dog. They are adorable, soft and cuddly. Well, they can be a spic
e too because they are sweet and warm but definitely not aromatic...

Our rabbits/bunnies are local breed that I bought at Cartimart. Initially we only have two, Snowball and Furball, but the second one died I think due to heatstroke. I thought that Snowball might get lonely so i bought another two...Cinnamon and Pepper. By the way, their names where given by a good friend who also like bunnies and dogs, a very creative girl indeed..Thanks a lot.

There are over 50 species of rabbits, the most common ones are Netherland Dwarf, Angora, and Mini Lop. They have a high reproduction rate that is why i bought female. They are herbivores (plant eating), i usually give them plenty of water, pellets, parsley and hay (grass or herbaceous plants). Rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk and often nap at day time.

Since Rabbits need to exercise I let them out of the cage every now and then to explore the wonderful world of our house. They like to hop around, sneak inside our TV stand or behind the fridge.

Another spice in our home is our dog named Zoe, I got her name from a Sesame Street character, a cute monster in orange (???). She was born November 10, 2008, a Shih Tzu breed-canine species, we were able to bring her home when she was a month and a half old. But before Zoe, we already have a dog who is also a Shih Tzu unfortunately because of old age and many complications Sasha died on the same year and month when Zoe was born. In God's perfect timing He has already prepared Zoe in the absence of Sasha...What a true blessing indeed!

Zoe is a very playful, sweet and hyper active dog. She really gets excited when somebody would come into our house either family members, visitors or strangers. She likes to be pampered with massage, she even gets sleepy when I do that to her and when she sleeps with us she likes to sleep on my pillow...Uhm...I wonder why?. I don't know if I will call it strange but she would rather be with people than with dogs.

Ahh..pets are a stress busters indeed....A great spice to have around the house.

By His Grace,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our Daily Bread

I was contemplating on what to post for my initial recipe. I had several selections from appetizer to soup to salad to main course down to dessert. My first choice was to make Chicken Marsala Cream with 3 Mushrooms then i thought why not a refreshing Thai salad or Panna Cotta with Berries. I had sleepless nights thinking of what recipe will I feature on my blog. Finally, I decided to make French Baguette, nothing beats the morning with a freshly baked bread topped with Tarragon Cream Cheese.

French Baguette also known in English as French Stick or French Bread, is a long thin loaf of French bread that is commonly made from basic lean dough. It is distinguishable by its length, crisp crust and slits that enable proper expansion of gases.

In making bread one needs patience because it takes a lot of time to wait before you can savor your baked bread. The preparation is easy if you have a stand mixer but a little time consuming if you're gonna use your hands, you need muscles and energy to knead the dough for 5 to 7 minutes. When I was studying at a Culinary School we were taught that yeast needs a humid environment to be active, but i was surprise to discover that yeast can also be mixed with ice cold water! Another revelation that i found out is that there are other technique in making bread. It is called the delayed-fermentation method (adapted from Artisans Bread Every day by Peter Reinhart), it is controlling the temperature to delay the activation of the yeast in order to release more sugar from the starch and the result is more flavor and a crust with more color without adding extra ingredients.

I started it out by mixing all the ingredients in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until well blended, let it rest for a while then switch to dough hook and mix for another few minutes, once the dough is mixed and kneaded place the dough in an oiled container and immediately place in the refrigerator.

The black lines indicate the dough level before i put it in the refrigerator overnight. Curious as ever, every now and then I sneak and take a peak on my dough, in just a short time the dough becomes bigger and bigger.

The above photo shows my dough as soon as i took it out from the fridge, it already doubled in size because i used warm water. Let it rest for 4 hours to warm it and wake up the yeast but it didn't expand anymore i guess that's the maximum size of it.

Sprinkle the counter liberally with flour, gently rem
ove the dough from the container taking care to release gas as little as possible. Divide the dough into 2 portions and pat each piece into a rectangle or oblong. (The second portion I cut it in half, form it into a ball and kept it in the fridge to make a pizza...uhm...what toppings will I put?)

When forming a baguette, fold up the dough then fold down, put your thumb in between the folded line, using your thumb roll over the dough and use your other hand press down gently with an upright position just to stick. The more rounded the dough form the more volume it will get. Do these twice more and on the last folding and pressing, press the dough a little aggressively to seal off the air. After that process, elongate the dough evenly as possible about 23 to 24 inches.

Cover the sheet pan with Silpat or parchment paper and dust it with flour (cornmeal or semolina flour are much better). Place the formed dough gently and let it rest for 10 minutes. Just prior to baking score or slit the dough about 1/2 inch deep
with a serrated knife or razor blade. Dust the dough with flour for decoration (optional).

The delayed-fermentation method turned out very well, it was very crisp outside, soft and flavorful inside. I was overjoyed with the result of the bread because every time I take a bite I can hear the crackling sound..crack...crack...crack.

French Baguette

Makes about 2 loaf

  • 2-3/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
To Prepare. Combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer, with paddle attachment at low speed mix altogether until well blended and smooth about 1 minute. Let it rest uncovered for 5 minutes. Switch the attachment to dough hook and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Dough should be smooth, agile and elastic but not sticky. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 1 minute then transfer into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Dough can also be kneaded by hand. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix then switch to your hands when all the ingredients are incorporated. Let it rest for 5 minutes then knead for 5 minutes more until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer into a lightly oiled bowl and refrigerated overnight.

To Form. Remove dough from the fridge 2 hours before baking. Transfer gently to a work surface taking care to release as little gas as possible. Divide the dough into 2 portions and form each pieces into a loaf. Place the dough gently on a baking sheet with parchment paper dusted with flour. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Score or slit the dough 1/2 inch deep diagonally and dust with flour.

To Bake. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit 45 minutes before baking. Place a sheet pan with 1 inch ream which will serve as steam pan under which the baguette will be baked. Transfer dough to the oven and pour 1-1/2 cup hot water into the steam pan. Bake for 15 minutes then rotate the pan and bake for another 20 minutes until golden brown. The internal temperature should be 200 degrees fahrenheit in the center. Transfer the bread into a cooling rack, let it cool before slicing or serving. It is best eaten on the same day, or heated briefly in the oven the next day.

Patience is a virtue....all good things come to those who wait. I have waited and now I can enjoy the fruit of my labor. Bon Appétit!!!

By the way, next time i will use a different method in baking baguette, same ingredient and measurement, let us see what are their similarities and differences.


Knead means to mix and work into a uniform mass, as by folding, pressing, and stretching with the hands.
Yeast available in any supermarket

By His Grace,