Dear Martini’s Thanksgiving Menu

Still don’t know what to make for Thanksgiving dinner?  It’s not too late to pull something together!

Here’s a handy list of everything we’ve made for the Thanksgiving holiday and we’re ready to show them to you right now!  Each link takes you to a recipe and corresponding technique videos.  It’s our Thanksgiving Series all in one place!

Two Great Salads 

Spinach and Walnut with apples and warm bacon vinaigrette… or… Frisee with segmented oranges and pomegranates with a hazelnut vinaigrette.  Either way, you win.  These are the tastiest, most mouth-watering salads that complement any Turkey Day menu.

Pumpkin Soup

Imagine sitting down to a silky, savory soup to kick off your Thanksgiving feast!  Packed with fresh veggies – it’s so true that soup is GOOD FOOD!

Sautéed Greens

A great recipe using delicious local greens such as kale, Swiss chard or collard greens (our favorite is Dino Kale!)

Apple and Fennel Seed Cornbread Stuffing

Our favorite Go-To stuffing recipe.  Sweet and savory, nutty and spicy… this one pleases every palate — even the picky eaters!

Roast Turkey

The most hassle-free way to cook a delicious turkey.  We promise!  We even have a video on how to carve the turkey!

The Plentiful Pumpkin

For all of the vegetarian or meatfree Thanksgiving diners out there – this one’s for you!  A roasted pumpkin packed with delicious veggies, grains,nuts and cranberries.  It’s a feast for the eyes, the body and the soul.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Love them or hate them, this seasonal vegetable is a great side dish to your menu.

Cranberry and Candied Ginger Sauce

The traditional tart and sweet cranberry sauce gets a makeover!  Deep and spicy but still fruity and fresh!

Turkey Pan Gravy

Make the gravy right in the roasting pan for maximum flavor!

How-to Videos!

Check out our Vimeo Portfolio of all Thanksgiving-related video content:

All of our Thanksgiving content is also available on YouTube:  The Thanksgiving Collection

Dear Martini wishes you a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!  

Basics of Turkey Gravy

The night before Thanksgiving is the best time to make the stock for your gravy.  The stock is your secret weapon for making fabulous gravy.  If you make the stock, you won’t have to resort to flavor-additives or thickening agents… just simple, homemade gravy.  If you don’t have time to make stock be sure to buy frozen freshly made stock that most grocery stores make available around Turkey day.

Make the gravy right after the turkey comes out of the oven.  In the time it takes for the bird to rest before it’s presented to the table, you can make the gravy and get everyone to the table.  Be organized and prepared — keep all of your gravy-making ingredients and equipment together in one place so it’s ready when you are.

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Turkey Gravy

Makes approximately 3 cups

Turkey Stock:

1 package turkey giblets (minus the liver)

1 turkey neck

1 turkey tail (the pope’s nose)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

3 cups water

Gravy:

1 tablespoon roasting pan fat

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup turkey drippings, skimmed of fat

To make the stock:  Rinse the giblets, neck and tail under cold running water and place in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add the onion, celery, carrots, bay leaf and peppercorns.  Pour enough water to cover the giblets and vegetables by 2-inches.

Bring the saucepan to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer, simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  If any foam develops on the surface, carefully skim it off as stock simmers.

Turn the heat off and allow stock to cool until pot is cool enough to strain.  Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve into a clean container.  Discard the giblets and vegetables.  Cover stock and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the gravy:   Immediately after you take the turkey out of the oven, move the turkey to a carving board to rest and pour all of the juices from the roasting pan into a fat separator.

Return roasting pan to the stove and place it over two burners.  On medium-low heat, add a tablespoon of the fat from the fat separator and butter to the pan and let the butter melt.  Add the flour and whisk the flour and butter together into a thick paste.  Keep whisking until the butter and flour mixture (roux) smells nutty, up to three minutes.

Quickly, but carefully pour the cold stock into the roasting pan, a little at a time, and whisk to blend the stock and roux together – do not worry too much if you have lumps at first.  Bring the heat up to medium-high and keep whisking until it begins to boil.  The gravy should thicken as it boils.  Turn off the heat and taste.  If the gravy needs salt, whisk in the turkey pan juices one tablespoon at a time.

Strain the gravy into a gravy boat and serve hot.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Bird is the Word — How to Cure and Roast Thanksgiving Turkey

Dear Martini exists to make cooking easier and more pleasurable for all.  If it’s your first time in the kitchen, we’re here to guide you through your recipes by offering simple cooking techniques whenever you need them.

Our mission couldn’t be more true than for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  If you’ve ever been gripped with fear over preparing the Thanksgiving Turkey, herein lies your salvation.  The turkey is cured for a couple of days before roasting — that is, it’s been rubbed with salt and left to sit in its own salty juices to season and tenderize.  The night before you roast, you’ll take it out of the salt juices and allow the bird to dry overnight in the fridge.  This process makes the skin tight and dry — which will reward you later with the tastiest, crispiest skin you’ve ever had!

This simple recipe, if followed to the letter, is a foolproof, confidence-booster.  Once you make this turkey for your friends and family, you will be requested to make the turkey for the next 100 years!

Please take note:  it’s a four-day process from curing to roasting, which does not include time for defrosting if the bird is purchased frozen.  Most frozen birds take 2-3 days to thaw in the fridge.  Make sure you factor the thawing time in with your preparations.  In our experience, a fresh bird is the better way to go — but only if your budget allows.

This four-day process can be broken down into three phases:

1)  Cleaning the Bird

2)  Curing the Bird

3) Roasting the Bird

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always,  subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Roast Turkey 

Serves 8 to 10

1 (14-16 pound) turkey, defrosted
1 cup kosher salt
2 lemons
8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
4 sprigs rosemary or thyme
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Special Equipment:
Cotton kitchen twine
Large brining bag

***This is a four-day process.***

Monday:
Remove the turkey from its wrappings and rinse under cold running water.  Remove the giblets bag and set aside for making stock later.  Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

Rub kosher salt all over the surface of the turkey.  Place the salt-rubbed turkey into a large brining bag.  Move the turkey onto a large tray or platter and refrigerate for the next three days.

Tuesday:
Turn the turkey over so the salt and juices redistribute.  Keep the turkey refrigerated.

Wednesday morning:
Flip the turkey back to right-side up so the salt and juices redistribute again.

Wednesday, early evening:
Remove the turkey from its brining bag.  Use as many clean, dry paper towels as you can manage to clean the turkey by wiping the surface clean of any salt or juices.

Use a fork to prick holes all over the surface of the lemons.  Stuff the lemons, garlic and herbs into the cavity of the turkey.  Tie the turkey’s legs together with cotton kitchen twine.

Place turkey breast-side up on top of a roasting rack that has been set into a roasting pan.  Place the turkey in the fridge and keep over night, uncovered.  This will allow the skin to dry out and tighten, which will produce a crispy skin when roasted.

Thanksgiving Day:
Move your oven rack to the lowest position without being too close to the heating element.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Remove the turkey from the fridge.  Keep the turkey on the counter for about an hour to bring it up to room temperature.   Take a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and shape it to the top of the turkey, as if to cover the turkey breast and the roasting pan.  Remove the foil and set aside for later use.

When ready to roast, rub or brush the surface of the skin with canola oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Roast at 425°F for 30 minutes, or until the skin of the turkey is golden brown.  Rotate the turkey 180° and lower the oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting until the internal temperature of the bird registers 165°F.  Remember to insert the thermometer into the thickest place of the bird, either into the meatiest area of the breast (165°F) or into the thickest part of the thigh (170°).  A 14-16 pound turkey should take between 2-3 hours to roast.

Turkey Weight

Oven Temp

Internal Breast Temp

Internal Thigh Temp

Approx.

Cooking Time

10 – 13 lbs.

350°F

165°F

170°F

1 ½  to 2 ¼ hours

14 – 20 lbs.

325°F

165°F

170°F

2 to 3 hours

21 – 25 lbs.

325°F

165°F

170°F

3 to 3 ¾ hours

26 – 30 lbs.

325°F

165°F

170°F

3 ½ to 4 ½ hours

During roasting, if the bird is browning too quickly, use the aluminum foil shield to cover the bird.  Remove the foil during the last 20 minutes of roasting to crisp the skin.

Carefully remove the bird to a large carving board with a well and tent with foil.  Immediately begin making the turkey gravy, using the roasting pan.  Allow the bird to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

There comes a time in one’s life when a singular event makes such an impact, there is time BEFORE, and time AFTER.  And, every human adult’s life in Western Civilization begins with intense dislike for Brussels sprouts.  At some point, either in early adulthood or even much later on in life, one might be fortunate enough to be reintroduced to the Brussels sprout and find he comes to like the pleasant delicious vegetable after all.

I can honestly say I’ve never known another fruit or vegetable that remains so divisive — there is the WE LOVE camp and the WE HATE camp.  And why hate?  There is nothing this humble mini-cabbage has ever done to make one hate it so much.

Tips for cooking Brussels sprouts for maximum potential:

  1. Buy them fresh, still attached to the stalk.  They stay fresher for up to a week and a half when still attached to their stem.  If you buy them loose in a bag or from the bulk bin, chances are they’ve been trimmed a week ago.  They start getting bitter soon after they are cut from the stalk.
  2. How can you tell a good sprout from a not-so-good one?  Squeeze the head between your thumb and forefinger.  The tighter the sprout, the fresher and tastier it will be.  If you feel something spongy with a lot of give and take, it’s lost its mojo.  Too much air between the leafy layers can only mean bitterness and sadness.
  3. Try different methods for cooking:  steaming, braising, roasting, sautéing, frying… and see which method works better for your palate.
  4. Add yummy aromatics like garlic, shallots, celery or caraway seeds, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes or BACON to the recipe.  Their complexity complements many different flavor profiles.  Find one that fits your palate.
  5. As a leafy green, they are downright fluffy and easy to digest.  Slice them in thin ribbon-like strips for a quick sauté. They cook so fast this way!
  6. Just don’t EVER buy them frozen. EVER.

The recipe below is Chef Mia’s, which was inspired by a photoshoot we did one afternoon (pictured above).  We liked the look and texture of both halved and sliced that we decided to keep them together in this dish.  I actually made this for dinner tonight — and added julienned carrots.  Delicious!

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 4 to 6

RT @DearMartini “Dear @Brussels_sprouts_haters, This is a life changer.  You’re welcome.  Love, us.  #Baconmakeseverythingbetter”

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half

4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into ½-inch dice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced horizontally

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

¼  teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste!)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Take half of the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice them horizontally.  Keep the remaining halves in tact.  Keep them separate and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crispy.  With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.  Pour off the bacon grease in a disposable container and discard.

In the same pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the halved sprouts.  keep tossing the sprouts until their outsides are brown and crispy, about 7-8 minutes.  Add the shallots and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.  Stir in the sliced Brussels sprouts, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the sprouts turn bright green, about 5 minutes more.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and return the bacon to the pan.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed and serve hot.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Winner of a Chicken Dinner!

A Winner of a Chicken Dinner

As a follow-up to our blog post on pan-seared steak, and for the folks who are more inclined to have chicken for dinner, this is for YOU!

In this episode, we feature the pan-seared chicken breast and a garlic-rosemary pan sauce.  If you watch closely, you’ll see that the elements and techniques for this chicken recipe are almost exactly the same as the methods for the steak recipe.  In fact, it’s DESIGNED to be similar – once you master the basic techniques, you can apply them to virtually anything as long as you understand heat management and flavor profile.  And those two foundations of cooking only come with experience – the more you cook and taste your own food, the more you’ll figure out where to add a little here, push it a little there…  you’ll be on your way to eventually cooking WITHOUT recipes!

Here’s a great base recipe to follow and make your own.

Pan-seared Chicken Breast with Garlic-Rosemary Pan Sauce

Serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 half chicken breasts, boneless, skin-on

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

Make a beurre manié:  In a small bowl, use your fingers to rub together the butter and flour until it forms a paste.  Roll the paste together into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Sear the chicken breasts:  Take the chicken breasts out of the fridge, unwrap and set them on a large plate.  Generously sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper and set aside until they come to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before cooking.

Heat a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high flame and add the grapeseed oil.  When you see the oil shimmering, place the chicken breasts in the middle of the pan, skin-side down and sear for 4 minutes.  Check after 4 minutes – if the skin is still sticking to the pan, leave it alone.  It’s not ready to be flipped yet.  If the chicken lifts up with no problem, check the color – the skin should be golden and crispy.  Flip the breasts to the other side and sear for another 4 minutes.

Transfer the entire pan to the oven and roast for another 7 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165°.  Remove the breasts from the pan to a clean plate and tent with foil to rest.  In the time it takes for the breasts to rest, you can make a tasty pan sauce with the pan drippings that are left in the pan!

Make the Pan Sauce:  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan and return the pan to medium-flame.  Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds until it is fragrant.  Pour a small amount of chicken stock in the pan and use a wooden spoon to rub and scrape up the hardened pan drippings from the bottom of the pan.   This step not only cleans the pan, but also dissolves the pan drippings (or fond) back into the sauce, boosting the sauce’s flavor.  Add the remainder of the chicken stock and rosemary and increase the heat to high.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer.  Simmer for 3 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by a third.   Turn off the heat and swirl in the butter and flour mixture, gently stirring to melt the butter.  As the butter melts, the sauce will thicken slightly.  Remove the garlic and rosemary or strain the sauce.  Taste and add any additional salt and pepper, if needed.  Stir in a couple of drops of lemon juice if you feel the sauce needs some acidity.  Keep warm.

To serve, slice the chicken breasts into 1-inch thick slices across the grain and drizzle the sauce over.  Serve hot with a side of pasta tossed with minced garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes, and some vegetables, like blanched peas.

As always, you can check out the video collections on our Vimeo Channel!

Fish Wrapped

Fish Wrapped

It’s that time of year again — as we approach the fall and winter seasons, the days get shorter, nights get chillier and when we get home from work, our tired souls want a comforting, delicious meal that is virtually effortless to prepare and equally effortless to cook.  Some might consider this request to be a tall order… but here at Dear Martini, we’ll deliver that to you gift wrapped (bow, extra)!

The concept of cooking en papillote ( in paper) is so simple.  Creating an air-tight pouch using parchment paper, aluminum foil or even a simple brown paper bag delivers many benefits:  the food is both steamed and roasted in its own juices, there is minimal clean-up,  it’s the most flavorful form of low-fat cooking available, and the possibilities and combinations are endless!

The principles of cooking en papillote:

1)  Choose a delicate, lean protein — fish, shellfish, chicken breast or tofu.

2)  Select the most flavorful, colorful, piquant, aromatic garniture you can — capers, olives, ginger, herbs, shallots, lemon zest.

3)  Size matters — thinner slices of protein work better, smaller pieces of garnish cook faster.  Avoid huge thick chunks of anything.

4)  Seal your package properly — do not let any of the precious steam escape from inside the package.

5)  Rub a small amount of oil on the OUTSIDE of the package — this contributes heat delivery and makes the roasting environment hotter.

In the time it takes for your oven to reach the correct temperature (400°F), you should have your papillote package dressed and ready to go.  Then, it’s only a matter of minutes (10 at the most) before it’s cooked, and you’re removing that beautifully glossy, puffy package from the oven to the table!  Be very careful when cutting the package open — steam burns are quite nasty!

Salmon Fillet en Papillote

Serves 2

One 8-ounce salmon fillet, skin-on, pinbones removed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon minced shallot

1/4 cup julienned or shredded carrots

pitted olives, roughly chopped

halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon minced parsley

Special Equipment:

Parchment Paper (12″ x 16″) or aluminum foil

Baking sheet

Kitchen Scissors

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Take a sheet of parchment paper or  aluminum foil and fold it in half.  Draw a half-heart shape on the folded paper and trim.  Open the heart and place the salmon in the center of one side of the heart.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the aromatics and vegetables and toss together, season with salt and pepper.  Place the vegetables on top of the salmon.  Fold the other half of the heart over the salmon and begin to fold the edges together.  Start at the curved end of the heart, making one folded crease 1/4-inch from the edge.  Continue to make successive folds along the edge of the package, making each new fold from the center of the previous one.  Keep folding along the edge, making sure each crease is flat and straight.  When you reach the pointed end, fold up, then fold back, tucking it underneath the package.

Transfer the package to a baking sheet or any pan and drizzle a couple of drops of oil over the top.  Use your fingertips to spread the oil over the surface of the package and bake for 10 minutes, or until the package is browned and puffy.

Remove from the oven and let it rest for a minute or two.  It will start to deflate.  Carefully cut around the edges to open the package.  Lift the salmon up from the package and transfer to a plate.  Spoon the vegetables and any sauce drippings from the package on top.  Serve immediately.

Announcing… Video Playlists!

Hi Gang!

We’re busy keeping a cool project under wraps but for now let’s talk about something important:  VIDEOS.

Do you watch them?  Do you like them?  Are they helpful to you in your culinary pursuits?  We hope you say YES to all three!

To make things every easier for all you awesome home cooks out there, we’ve uploaded all of our current videos to YouTube for your viewing and sharing pleasure.  We’ve also made some playlists that group the videos together according to recipe.  Take a look and see what’s helpful.

Here is our Bacon and Egg Salad Playlist, for example:

We’ve got a playlist for each recipe we’ve featured here on our blog:  chocolate souffle, cranberry-orange scones, guacamole, Nicoise salad, pan-seared steak, vinaigrette, aioli… and more!

Remember to share the videos with everyone you know — especially that colleague or cousin whom you KNOW could use the help.  We’re  are in serious need of some increased numbers, so please help us spread the word.  Yes, the same videos are also still available on Vimeo, which we prefer to use; but we noticed that YouTube is still the standard when it comes to viewing and sharing.

And, as always, we wouldn’t be here without YOU.  It’s YOUR encouragement and support that keeps up wanting to make more great videos for you.  So THANK YOU for being here with us!

xxoo

Mia and Terri

Steak… with Benefits

It’s a universal truth that all cooks have to know how to properly sear a steak.  And yet only a few well-trained cooks know that properly searing a steak pays off dividends in the end.  Our preferred cut of steak is the New York; also known as the strip steak, the club steak or the  Kansas City, this particular cut of steak is flavorful and tender so there is no need to marinate.   The dividend?  When pan searing steaks, you can use the pan drippings to make a quick sauce.  In the time it takes for the steaks to rest, you can make a delicious light pan sauce.  It’s a benefit you should really take advantage and try.

Pan-Seared New York Steak with Red-Wine Pan Sauce

Serves 4

2 (10-ounce) New York strip steaks, cut 1-½ inches thick
Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
1-½ tablespoons clarified butter
1 shallot, minced
½ cup dry red wine
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 cup low-sodium beef  or chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and frozen until ready to use

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.  Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, when hot, add the clarified butter and sear steaks 3 minutes on both sides.

Transfer pan to the oven and roast until medium-rare (a thermometer inserted into the center of the steak will register 127˚F), approximately 7 minutes or roast to desired doneness. Remove steaks from the oven and transfer to a clean plate. Tent steaks with foil to keep warm and let rest for 10 minutes while preparing the pan sauce.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots to the pan and sauté until soft, about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the thyme and stock to the pan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half; about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add any accumulated beef juices from the resting steaks to the pan; simmer another minute.  Turn the heat off and swirl in the cold butter a couple pieces at a time until blended into the sauce.  Taste and season sauce with salt and pepper if needed.  Strain sauce (optional) and transfer to a small serving pitcher.

Slice steaks against the grain into 1/3-inch thick slices and serve with sauce.

*Cook’s note:  This Red-Wine pan sauce is an example of a simple sauce lightened and slightly thickened by swirling in a couple of tablespoons of butter.  The consistency of this sauce is light and not thick like traditional gravy.  It’s just a quick little sauce you can drizzle over your steaks.

Strawberry Shortcake — the classic all-American summertime dessert!

Strawberry Shortcake!

We’re in the last stretch of summer and if you haven’t already made this classic all-American dessert yet, now’s your chance!

Let’s say you’re invited to a friend’s house for a weekend backyard barbecue… and you want to contribute a dessert to the party but don’t know what to make? Herein lies your salvation. Bring strawberry shortcake! It’s everyone’s favorite! Bring the components with you in separate containers, and assemble just before serving.

There are only three components to this dessert: strawberries, whipped cream, and lightly sweetened biscuits. Follow our how-to videos to help you along with preparing each component. As always, we’ve created a portfolio of all relevant how-to videos on our Vimeo Channel: http://vimeopro.com/dearmartini/strawberry-shortcake. We hope this will earn its place in your arsenal of go-to dessert recipes!

Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 8 to 10

1 recipe shortcakes, recipe follows

2 cups sliced strawberries, macerated

2 cups creme chantilly, recipe follows

Zest of one lemon, from a traditional zester for garnish, or

8-10 fanned strawberries

Bake the shortcakes according to recipe and set aside.  While the shortcakes are baking, prep the strawberries for macerating and whip the cream. Serve immediately.

If you are taking the shortcakes to an event, it’s best to assemble the dessert on site.  Macerate the strawberries and whip the cream immediately before serving.

To assemble for serving:

Slice the biscuits in half and warm them in an oven set to 250°F for 10 minutes (this step is optional, but the biscuits are awesome when they are warmed!)

Arrange the bottom half of a biscuit on a plate. Place a generous spoonful of the macerated strawberries and the resulting syrup on the biscuit. Spoon a generous dollop (or quenelle) of whipped cream over the strawberries. Top with the top half of the biscuit. Repeat with the remaining biscuits. Garnish with either threads of lemon zest or a fanned strawberry. Serve immediately.

Recipes:

Shortcakes

Makes 12 biscuits

* in this recipe, the base recipe for the biscuits is derived from our scone recipe. We like to make our own acidulated milk instead of using buttermilk from the store; so if you wish to use buttermilk, substitute ½ cup for the lemon juice and whole milk.

2 teaspoons lemon juice or cider vinegar

½ cup whole milk

1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 cups plus ¼ cup all-purpose flour for dusting

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar)

 

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Mix the lemon juice and milk together and let it stand in the fridge for as long as it takes to prepare the rest of the recipe. If you are using ½ cup buttermilk for this recipe, eliminate this step. Cube the butter and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt with a wooden spoon. Add the butter. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or break up the butter into the flour by rubbing the butter and flour together between your fingers. Do this very quickly and randomly. You should still have lumps of butter varying from small (pea-sized) to large (blueberry sized). Do not let the butter get soft. If it does, return the bowl to the fridge for a few minutes.

Combine the eggs and milk mixture together and add to the flour mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy, lumpy mass. It’s ok that it’s not smooth or uniformly mixed in. It’s ok to see random lumps of butter still not mixed in.

Transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently, with floured hands, pat it down into a rough rectangle shape about 1-inch thick. Use a spatula and pick up one end of the dough and fold it over in half. Pick up the entire dough piece and turn it 45-degrees. Flour your hands and pat it down into another rectangle.  Repeat this patting, folding, turning method 4-5 more times. Keep flour dusted underneath the dough as you turn it.  For the last pat-down, make sure the rectangle is about 10-12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Transfer the dough to a sheet pan and cover. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to firm up the butter.

Use a 3 ½ -inch diameter biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter to cut the biscuits. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the scraps together and pat and fold to recombine the dough. DO NOT KNEAD THE DOUGH TOGETHER. Continue cutting out biscuits and reforming the dough until they are all cut. Refrigerate the biscuits for about 30 minutes to firm up the butter.

Just before baking, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the biscuits and sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The biscuits will be firm to the touch. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool.

Macerated Strawberries:

1 pint strawberries, sliced

1 tablespoons sugar

Macerate the sliced strawberries in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let them sit for 15 minutes or keep covered in the fridge until ready to use. In our experience, strawberries taste best when they are cool, or at room temperature. We find that the chill from the refrigerator inhibits their flavor.

Crème Chantilly:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

 Whip the cream with vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. Set all components aside until you are ready to serve.

 Strawberry Shortcake recipe 500pxl

The Nicoise Salad

The Nicoise Salad.

Ahi tuna Nicoise Salad

There is so much going on it might look like it’s got everything but the kitchen sink; but break that down and examine what it’s offering:  soft, sweet greens…  a meaty tuna steak (pure protein)… ripe cherry tomatoes (nature’s candy, at the peak of their season, it’s a little red garden kiss)… crunchy green beans… soft, satisfying potatoes that soak up the vinaigrette… vinegary fruity olives… creamy hard-cooked eggs… all pulled together with a vinaigrette made with the best olive oil you can afford.  This is the Salad of all salads, folks.  It’s the best of everything — all on one plate.

At the risk of making you think I’ve gone over the deep end, I believe Aristotle might have had the Nicoise Salad in mind when he said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  It’s a marriage of the best quality ingredients and execution of technique.  If ever you wanted to improve your cooking skills, make this salad a few times this month.  Each component for this salad requires a technique.  The better you are at mastering each technique, the more amazing this salad becomes. And the best part of using this salad to practice your skills:  you get to eat your efforts!  Rip open a crusty baguette and open a bottle of wine (a dry rosé would be perfect, by the way).  Think of us when you do.  Cheers!

Nicoise Salad

Serves 2

  • prepare each ingredient separately and keep chilled in the fridge, then assemble the salad as described below in the instructions
  • We have provided a technique video for each of the components of this salad.  The complete video portfolio can be viewed on Vimeo:  http://vimeopro.com/dearmartini/nicoise-salad

½ cup vinaigrette, recipe follows

2 large handfuls of salad greens, washed and spun dry (we prefer baby romaine)

4 hard boiled eggs, chilled and peeled

1 cup haricots vert, blanched and chilled

6 small potatoes, boiled and chilled (red or Yukon Gold)

1 cup ripe cherry tomtatoes, halved

¼ cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted

1 (8-ounce) sashimi-grade Ahi tuna steak, seared and rested

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

A.  Prepare the salad components:

  1. Place a large serving dish or platter in your fridge to chill.
  2. Make a batch of vinaigrette and set aside.
  3. Prepare the salad greens keep covered in the fridge with a damp paper towel.
  4. Make the hard-cooked eggs.  Peel and chill them.
  5. Trim and blanch the haricots vert.  Drain from the ice bath and keep chilled.
  6. Boil the potatoes and toss in a separate bowl with salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette.  Set aside.
  7. Halve the cherry tomatoes and set aside.
  8. To sear the tuna, heat a stainless steel pan over high flame.  As the pan is heating, generously season both sides of the tuna with salt and pepper. The pan will be heated properly when water beads as it’s sprinkled into the pan.  Let the water evaporate from the pan before adding the oil.  Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil and place the tuna on the pan to sear one side for 45 seconds.  Carefully lift the tuna and flip to the other side and sear for another 45 seconds on the other side.  Immediately remove the tuna from the pan onto a plate and tent with foil for 10 minutes.

B.  Assemble the salad:

  • in this composition, the sliced tuna steak will take center stage.  The rest of the components will surround the tuna around the edges of the platter.
  • Use the same bowl to toss each separate component with vinaigrette.
  1. Lightly toss the salad greens with salt, pepper and vinaigrette and arrange on the platter.
  2. Peel the hard-cooked eggs.  Cut them in half and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Lightly drizzle with a teaspoon of vinaigrette.  Arrange them on the platter.
  3. Cut the potatoes in half and toss with more vinaigrette.  Arrange them on the platter.
  4. Toss the haricots vert with salt, pepper and vinaigrette.  Arrange them on the platter.
  5. Toss the cherry tomatoes with vinaigrette and arrange them on the platter.
  6. Arrange the olives on the platter.
  7. Slice the tuna in ¼-inch slices across the grain and arrange in the center of the platter.
  8. Drizzle some more vinaigrette over the top of the salad and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Serve immediately.

C.  Vinaigrette for Nicoise Salad — ah yes, remember this one?

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/44209569″>Vinaigrette</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/dearmartini”>Dear Martini</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Makes 1 cup

¼ cup Champagne vinegar

½ teaspoon Dijon or stone-ground mustard

generous pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon minced shallot

2 teaspoons minced parsley

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients into a clean jar (preferably one that is 12 – 16 ounces in capacity).  Make sure the lid is on tight and shake to combine.  Keep in the fridge until you are ready to use.