RECREATING RESTAURANT FAVORITES AT HOME
Living on a budget does not have to mean living outside the lap of luxury. With a little know-how and a dose of enthusiasm, life on the tight and frugal rope can be just as sweet as blowing the bank on designer furniture and fancy feasts. Last month we explored how travel can inspire and elevate your living spaces. This time we're diving into recreating restaurant favorites at home with help of Chef Rebecca Karram of Until We Eat Again.
Imagine this if you may; It’s one of those midsummer evenings in the West Indies when dusk lingers, as if ambivalent to the concept of night ever falling. The week has been long and challenging and some weekend self love is on the agenda. How does a table at Fromage Brasserie sound? Like a good one, by the window. How about a warm boule of creamy pumpkin bisque and some crispy calamari with fresh aioli for the soul? Does a chef's plate of steak au poivre interest you? Well it's your lucky day so employ a hungry sous chef, grab your apron and tune your iPad to google search, for here are some of our favorite restaurant dishes recreated at home.
Bisque is a French cooking method of extracting flavor from imperfect crustaceans not good enough to send to market. In an authentic bisque, the shells are ground to a fine paste and added to thicken the soup.
In a pumpkin bisque you work to infuse flavor as opposed to extracting it. Some methods cuts cooking time by blending or puréeing cooked or canned pumpkin and squash then simply adding seasonings as the purée breaks down over slow and steady heat.
- 16 ounces fresh pumpkin, cut into chunks
- 11 ounces butternut squash, cut into chunks
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch pepper
- 12 ounces heavy cream or coconut milk
- Olive oil
In a medium saucepan, sauté the onions until they begin to soften. Then combine the pumpkin, squash, garlic, chicken broth, salt, spices and ¼ cup water.
Simmer until the pumpkin and squash have completely softened.
Stir in the cream or coconut milk.
Continue to simmer for a few minutes.
Garnish each serving with a dash of nutmeg.
A great way to ensure your soup is FULL of flavor would be to roast those delicious fresh market veggies in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic at 425 degrees, for about 30 minutes (moving them around on the pan frequently). Roasting pumpkin and squash allows extra flavors to be infused into the veggies, not to mention the sweet and rich flavor that comes from it.
For an even smoother bisque, allow the soup to cool a bit, then blend! The pumpkin always blends smoother when it’s a bit cooler. And remember, undercooked pumpkin will never blend smooth, so be sure to cook that soup down until everything is deliciously tender.
Squid is popular among many cuisines. Calamari is the spiffy English iteration used for squid dishes across the Mediterranean, notably fried squid or fried calamari.
Fried calamari is remixed the world over with techniques developed with distinct heritage from Japan to turkey and Spain in between. The classic? Mediterranean style batter-coated, deep fried squid, fried for less than two minutes to prevent toughness. It is served plain, with salt and lemon on the side.
- 1 lb cleaned calamari, cut into rings
- 1⁄4 cup cornmeal or 1⁄4 cup cornstarch
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (I like garlic and parsley flavored)
- oil (for frying)
Remember that calamari is most tender when cooked for a very short period of time, or a very long period of time. Anything in between will be like rubber! So, don’t take your eyes off of it when it’s frying! As soon as you see that golden brown crust, get those babies outta there!
First, coat the calamari rings in cornmeal, shaking them out to get rid of any excess.
Then dip them into a mixture of the eggs and garlic.
Lastly, dip them into the bread crumbs mixed with salt, coating them well, and shaking off any excess.
Up to this point may be done in advance, and the calamari rings refrigerated for a couple of hours, until you are ready to fry.
Meanwhile, heat the oil (the secret to crispy calamari is hot, hot oil, just below the smoking point.) Fry the rings (in batches) about 1 minute, or until they are golden.
Remove and drain on paper towels.
If you have a deep fryer it's best, but otherwise, make sure the oil is deep enough to cover the calamari.
Serve immediately with lemon wedges, a sprinkle of salt, garlic mayo, and marinara sauce.
STEAK AU POIVRE
Like most classic dishes, steak au poivre has as many versions as there are colors in a jumbo box of crayons. Food historians think that the dish originated in the Normandy region of France in the 19th century. Lore has it that it was a favorite late night meal in bistros and bordellos due to the reported aphrodisiac qualities of pepper.
Traditionally, Steak au Poivre is made with beef tenderloin (filet mignon) but rib eye, New York strip or sirloin steaks are also options. Lesser cuts of meat may even be improved by the complex sauce. The meat is crusted with cracked peppercorns (either all black or mixed) and then seared in a little butter and oil in a very hot pan, cooked to temperature, and removed from the pan. While resting, a pan sauce is made in the same pan used to cook the steak.
- 4 (6 -8 ounce) New York strip steaks or 4 sirloin steaks, 3/4 inch thick, patted dry
- 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black peppercorns or 1 mixture of various peppercorn
- olive oil, for the pan
- 1 cup red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir)
- 4 -6 tablespoons butter, sliced
I always make sure my steaks sit out of the fridge for about 20 minutes before they hit the pan, as I believe it makes for an evenly cooked piece of meat when it’s not cold out the fridge! When it’s finished cooking, let it rest! I know it’ll be hard not to dive in immediately, but it’ll be worth the wait. Cutting the meat before it rests will let all those flavorful juices run out, and you’ll be left with a dry steak- and nobody wants that!
Sprinkle the steaks with salt on both sides, and then press the ground peppercorns into the steaks on both sides.
Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add just enough olive oil to make a light film.
When the oil is very hot, add the steaks, cooking until nicely browned on one side, about 3 minute.
(If the pan is small, work in batches.) Flip the meat over and put the skillet in the oven.
For medium-rare steaks, roast for 3 minutes for 6-ounce steaks; 4 minutes for 8-ounce steaks.
Check for doneness with the tip of a knife or by pressing with your fingertips, keeping in mind that the steaks will cook a bit more as they sit.
Transfer the steaks to a warm plate and tent with foil.
With a spoon, remove any fat from the skillet.
Put the skillet back on the burner and heat to medium high.
Add the wine and cook until it's reduced to 1/4 cup, about 7 minutes, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. REMOVE PAN FROM THE HEAT.
Whisk in the butter a slice at a time, whisking until completely melted.
Taste and adjust the seasonings, drizzle the sauce over the steaks, and serve immediately with more sauce on the side.
Variations: add shallots to the pan sauce, finish with chopped parsley.
substitute 4 tbl cognac and 1/2 cup dark stock in place of the wine.
substitute 1/4 cup cream and 1/4 cup cognac for the wine- reduce slightly to thicken.