Saturday, January 30, 2010

Valentine's Day Recipe: Mary Ellen Rae's Poulet aux Fines Herbes

News flash – Valentine’s Day is in two weeks. What are you doing? What are you buying your sweetie? Most importantly, what’s for dinner?

We asked Chef Mary Ellen Rae to suggest a special home-cooked meal. Chef Mary Ellen toiled for years as a chef in the Los Angeles Times test kitchen and now owns Personal Touch Gourmet, a full-service foodie operation for catering, cooking classes, freelance recipe testing and more.

Here’s her recipe for Poulet aux Fines Herbes, a richly flavorful main course that she suggests pairing with roasted asparagus and buttered egg noodles sprinkled with fresh minced chives. A version of this recipe previously appeared in the Times.

As a variation to these sides, I used corn-quinoa pasta as shown in the picture above. On a related note, Fissler USA is about to debut a new line that makes pasta preparation a breeze. When introduced in March, the Solea line promises to dazzle and inspire with its sophisticated, visionary and individual approach to fine cookware. Solea lids are engineered for straining, so there’s no need for a colander when cooking pasta or vegetables. Combined with the renowned CookStar base and other high-tech features, Solea can help you cook pasta Fissler-style — i.e., “perfect every time.” Your pasta — and your Valentine — will love you for your discriminating taste in cookware.

The thoughtful editor/publisher of has posted many more suggestions for enticing Valentine’s Day food, drink, music and other mood setters. Wishing you a lovely evening …

Poulet aux Fines Herbes
Recipe by Chef Mary Ellen Rae of Personal Touch Gourmet

Serves 4

½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup finely ground fresh breadcrumbs
¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup minced fines herbes (a combination of chives, tarragon, chervil and parsley)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat trimmed
½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese

Heat oven to 375°. Line a small roasting pan with foil and set aside.

Stir the Parmesan cheese into the breadcrumbs and place on a shallow plate. Stir the flour and salt together on a second plate and pour the egg into a shallow bowl.

Combine the butter and fresh herbs in a food processor and process until smooth. Pound the chicken breasts to flatten to ¼ inch. Place one chicken breast on work surface and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 tablespoon of butter mixture in the center of the chicken. Put 2 tablespoons of Gruyère cheese on top of butter. Fold in the sides lengthwise and roll up jellyroll style so the mixture will form a bundle. Set aside and fill remaining chicken breasts.

Dip each chicken bundle into the flour, shaking off excess, then into the egg mixture and finally into the breadcrumbs. Place in the roasting pan or casserole. Press the sides of the chicken to form a round shape, ensuring the bottom sides are tucked under. This will help to keep the butter-cheese mixture inside the bundle. Finish with remaining chicken breasts.

(Chicken can be frozen at this point and placed in an airtight container. When cooking frozen chicken, add an additional 10 minutes to the cooking time).

Bake chicken for 25-30 minutes or until thermometer placed in the chicken (not butter center) reaches 165°.

Friday, January 29, 2010

One more week of Dine LA

One week down and one more to go of the now biannual Dine LA restaurant promotion. Participating restaurants offer a three course prix fixe menu at one of three price points that are a reduction from their usual menu price. This is a great opportunity to try a restaurant that might otherwise be beyond your usual price range, and to get a selection of food that goes beyond what you usually choose. I would rarely get an appetizer, main course and dessert but at these prices, it's worth the dietary splurge. And frankly, the restaurateurs tend to keep the portions reasonable; neither too skimpy nor too excessive. So you walk away feeling very satisfied but not overfed, and with a happy wallet.
We went to Palate Food & Wine last night and the meal was exceptional. The chef at Palate finds a way of making the food unpretentious, and yet, extremely sophisticated. Unusual flavor pairings leave you guessing at the recipe's ethnic origins but the combinations totally work. Go between Jan. 31 and Feb. 5 for the Dine LA deal. (Thanks to EaterLA for the photo)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fine Food Found: Soleil Westwood

Introducing “Fine Food Found,” short dining reviews by Fissler Foodies in Los Angeles.

Les deux moules

Soleil Westwood interpretation

Fissler interpretation

A French-Canadian bistro on LA’s Westside was offering a generous bowl of moules frites for $10 as part of its 10-year anniversary celebration. How could I (or anyone) resist?

This was my first visit to Soleil Westwood, a charming little spot on Westwood Boulevard just south of Wilshire. From the décor to the service and naturally the food, it was delightful on all fronts.

We began with the parmesan cheese fondue, which is not at all what you may think. A tempting square of baked, breaded cheese appears artfully plated. As the gracious host/chef/owner explained, Canadians spread it on bread with a dash of butter and salt. Simple perfection, pictured below.

My guest ordered crab cakes on farfalle pasta, an unusual combination enriched by a lusty Dijon cream sauce.

The moules frites is pictured above before I devoured it. When the server cleared the dishes, there wasn’t a thing left, not even little scraps of frites. Magnifique!

Coincidentally, Fissler’s new Solea line uses a pot of mussels to illustrate its mouth-watering versatility (pictured above). Described as “visionary, individual and sophisticated,” the line will make its US debut in March at the International Home and Housewares Show. Stay tuned for the details and prepare to be inspired! (If you just can’t wait, click here.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hello Lemon Curd.

I'll be the first to admit I'd rather skip dinner and go straight for dessert. Often the first thing that comes to mind is CAKE, but what about all the other wonderful neglected or often overlooked desserts out there? My friend Lauren's family make a traditional Lemon curd every year for the holidays which leaves me thinking about it for the rest of the year, so I decided it's time I made some myself.

What I like most about lemon curd is that it's not only both sweet and a bit tangy but also extremely versatile. It can be used on cakes, filled in donuts or pies, spread on toast or folded in to cream, served alongside a savory dish or just eaten plain as it is. However one choses to have it the reward is there in it's presence.

While searching for a good recipe, I came across David Liebovitz's Meyer Lemon Curd recipe which is adaptable to both Meyer (a sweet lemon for those not familiar) and regular lemons and requires not much more than a few ingredients, a pot, strainer and bowl. Genius.

Lemon Curd
Makes 1 cup (240 g)

Here, I use a slightly dare-devil method for making curd by heating everything together over direct heat. If you're feeling intrepid, instead of increasing the heat in step #4, keep the heat very low, or cook the curd in a double-boiler; a bowl nested over a saucepan of simmering water.

If you're like me, and need to use regular lemons, use 1/2 cup (50 g) of sugar, as directed.

1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed Meyer lemon juice

1/3 cup (65 g) sugar (or 1/2 cup, 100 g, if using regular lemons)

2 large egg yolks

2 large eggs

pinch of salt

6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cubed

1. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.

3. Add the butter cubes and set the pan over low heat, whisking constantly until the butter is melted.

4. Increase the heat and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. It's done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk.

5. Immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained, store the lemon curd in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week (if it lasts that long in my house).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pumpkin and Salami Soup!!!

I was searching for a winter soup recipe and found a new website that's a great resource for recipes and food information from Germany: I figured, if I'm going to cook with German pots and pans I should try cooking some German food. Couldn't resist the hilarious name of this soup: Pumpkin and Salami Soup. The words just sound so funny together. But it's really good. I used peeled and cubed Kabocha squash but butternut would work just as well, and you can get that already peeled and cubed at Trader Joe's and some supermarkets. Or you can make the job really easy and use canned pumpkin.
Pumpkin and Salami Soup
(Kürbissuppe mit Salami)
Recipe courtesy of Roz Denny, Modern German Cooking.
Serves 4 to 6

2 tbsp canola oil
1 oz butter
1 lb fresh pumpkin flesh
1 onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
a good pinch of dried thyme
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 to 3 tbsp cream
4 oz German salami (such as Abraham brand) cut into shreds or quarters
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
flat leaf parsley leaves or chervil sprigs, to garnish

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and gently sauté the pumpkin with the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes until softened.

Add the curry and thyme and cook for one minute then stir in the stock. Bring to the boil, season and simmer, partially covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes until the flesh is very soft.

Strain off the liquid and reserve. Pass the solids through a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, adding the reserved liquid.

Return to the pan and bring back to the boil. Stir in the cream and then check the seasoning. Pour into warmed soup plates and gently stir through the salami pieces. Sprinkle with the parsley leaves or chervil sprigs and serve with chunks of German rye bread.