Category Archives: Musings
I recently finished reading a wonderful book, one I recommend for anyone and everyone who cooks, thinks they can cook, wants to cook, wants to learn how to cook, or just enjoys eating. As far as I can tell, that includes most everyone–certainly most everyone who reads my columns or my blogs. The book is titled Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and The Reinvention of American Taste, and it catalogs that summer, when the named principals and others of the gourmet industry glitterati of the time all found themselves in the Provence region of France at the same time. The book is abstracted from the daily journal of Ms. Fisher, one of the most most respected food writers in the world at the moment. It describes literally the moment when gourmet American cuisine stood up and broke free of the traditions and disciplines of classical French cooking and took its place as a separate and exciting style of cooking and life.
I’m not particularly a huge fan of traditional French cooking; I find it fussy and regimented, and I prefer to experiment with ingredients that I like–to mix and match flavors to see what the outcome might be. I’m not always successful, but I pride myself on technique and on my ability to repeat a recipe exactly time and time again if I find one I like. I’m also adept at duplicating a recipe I’ve tasted elsewhere and identify the flavors within. That’s not a skill I was able to hone; it is a particular and peculiar talent I was born with, so all the credit for this ability rests with my mother, who patiently explained every thing she was doing in the kitchen as she proceeded through a recipe. I then learned the rest of my cooking from my mentor, Martin Bettonio, executive chef at my family’s Epicure Gourmet Market in Miami Beach, after a stellar career as the executive chef at The Fontainbleau hotel, also in Miami Beach.
That said, following a reading of Provence, 1970, and at the request of my beloved life partner, Ellen, I decided to make a supper dish on a Sunday evening that reflected the influences of French cooking on American cuisine and took advantage of my strengths as a cook.
And thus was born my most recent personal dish creation, the butterflied grilled chicken with lemon and rosemary. It is a model of simplicity, using only a few carefully selected ingredients. It takes advantage of the wonderful bounty of local products–the chicken is fresh from a local farm courtesy of Stoltzfus Poultry at Central Market, fresh rosemary from our very own garden, and an amazing rosemary-infused extra-virgin olive oil obtained from my new friends at Seasons Lancaster on the first block of West King Street, a wonderful new source of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, chutneys, and other condiments most interesting.
But this recipe starts with the chicken. Fresh and not so large as the hormone-laden grocery-store poultry, just over four pounds and beautifully pale–no evidence of marigold petals in Stoltzfus chickens. First I butterfly the chicken, which is my preferred way to cook a chicken on a grill; it makes for more even cooking and a greatly reduced cooking time. To butterfly a chicken, take a sturdy chef’s knife in one hand and the chicken in the other. Stand the bird up straight, resting on its wings and neck cavity. Place the tip of the knife firmly on the chicken just aside the tail piece (an Irish friend of mine used to call this “the Pope’s nose). Holding the chicken firmly upright, quickly run the knife down alongside the backbone, all the way to the cutting board. Turn the chicken and repeat on the other side of the backbone. Tear the whole backbone away from the chicken and set it aside. Lay the chicken on the cutting board, breast side down, and run the tip of the knife the length of the breastbone and the breast cartilage to sever the skin layer. Pick the chicken up and quickly and firmly fold it like a book bringing the outsides of the breast together, inside out, breaking the rib bones away from the breast bone. Then firmly pull the breastbone away from the chicken–both the bone and cartilage pieces. Salt and pepper the inside, flip the chicken to breast side up and lay it on the cutting board. Cut away the wing tips and set them aside with the backbone. Your chicken is now ready.
Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary
1 whole chicken, 4 to 4.5 pounds, butterflied
1 whole lemon, sliced very thin
1 whole shallot, minced fine
2 whole sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Koshersalt and pepper to taste
Place the minced shallot in the olive oil in a small bowl and allow to sit while doing the rest of the preparation.
Butterfly the chicken as described above. Preheat the outdoor grill of your choice to 350 degrees F., so that the chicken can be placed on the grates away from direct flame.
Run hands and/or fingers between the chicken meat and the skin, including the thigh and leg, if possible, to separate the skin from the meat. Rub minced shallot and olive oil over the whole chicken under the skin. Then place three slices of lemon and a whole sprig of rosemary under the skin on each side of the breast. Rub the remaining olive oil over the chicken skin and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken, breast side down, on the grill away from the flame, and close the top. Grill 14-16 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, flip and grill 15 minutes more. The chicken is done when the juices from the thigh run clear when pierced with a knife. Remove the chicken from the grill, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary.
Here is a link to a few other CSAs in Lancaster County besides my favorite, Blue Rock Farm. This is by no means a complete list, but there are resources where you can get more information. This one is Farmers’ Friend. Another is the website of PA Buy Fresh Buy Local, and if you “Google” Lancaster County CSA you will find others. Here is a quick link to a few. I haven’t tried any of them out, Blue Rock is my first venture into CSA. I’ll keep you posted.
It is called the East Side Community Kitchen, located at 347 North Plum Street in Lancaster. Those who wish to use the kitchen are required to join the community as a member. The fee is $40.00 per month, which includes two hours of kitchen use, which can be banked up to 12 hours. In other words, you will be billed $40.00 each month, but on a month in which you do not use the hours, they can be rolled over into the next month, until a maximum of 12 hours are saved. Additional hours are billed at a rate of $20.00 per hour. The kitchen has virtually all the equipment one might need; members are asked to bring their own ingredients, any special equipment they might need, and extra paper towels and trash and garbage bags occasionally, as an in-kind contribution to help reduce costs. Members are also required to clean up after themselves in a manner congruent with the requirements of a commercial kitchen.
More information about the East Side Community Kitchen can be found at: http://www.eastsidecommunitykitchen.com/Home
In my last post I waxed poetic about the Blue Rock Farm in Willow Street. Now, Caitlin Brady sends me this recipe for a sweet and tasty chocolate cake made with chocolate and beets. It’s incredibly rich, and you may never go back to “normal” chocolate cake again.
Caitlin’s Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one 8 or 9-inch 2 layer cake
For the Cake:
2 medium beets, unpeeled and trimmed of their greens
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pans
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose ﬂour, plus more for dusting the pans
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
For the Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons ﬁnely grated beets, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves. Place clean beets in a piece of foil and drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil. Seal foil and place on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Remove the beets from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the ﬁnest grating plane. Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting. Set aside. Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans. Add a dusting of ﬂour to coat the pan. Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until pale and ﬂuffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together ﬂour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk. Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter. Bowl can be removed from the mixer. and mixture folded with a spatula to ﬁnish incorporating ingredients. Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.
Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan). Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.
To make the frosting:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until smooth. Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined. Beat in the beets. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate. Top with a generous amount of pink frosting. Spread evenly. Place the other cake on top of the frosting. Top with frosting. Work frosting onto the sides of the cake. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.
Welcome to Jeff’s Kitchen. Inspired by friends who have sampled my cooking and by my years working at the famous gourmet shop in South Beach, this is the place to post those fabulous recipes we all know and love, along with a picture, a story, an event, a person, place or thing, or whatever you feel the need to unload. The operative piece of equipment here is your brain, a saute’ pan, a piping bag, and the desire to make the world better because of the food you prepare with your own two hands.
Tell Me Why…
Don’t just post, tell me a story. Tell me where you found the recipe, tell me what appeals to about it, tell me who you dazzled with your best moves in the kitchen (or elsewhere–as long as food is involved). I’m not just the best virtual chef you know, but also a pretty good storyteller. But I want to know yours. I do like stories with my recipes, and storytellers in the kitchen. Join me in the fun.
And if this isn’t enough to whet your whistle, Here’s the best damn Key lime pie recipe on the planet. I got this from an old guy who ran a donut shop on KeyLargo, and on any day, between the hours of six and ten a.m., he sold more Key lime-filled donuts out of his rundown shack on the southbound side of A1A than all the donuts sold at the local Dunkin’ Donuts down the road. With his assistance, we turned this recipe into a world-famous pie, which we’ve been selling at our place, and at a world-famous South Beach crab house, for more than fifty years. The pie has become the signature dessert for that crab house. It’s our recipe. We made it for them. To use with their own name attached to it. And I saw it on Food Network on cable. So make it yourself. And then, write me. Tell me the story about the results. That’s what Jeff’s Kitchen is all about. Let’s share our best recipes and make this the coolest food place on the planet. Or any planet.
Chefzilla’s Key Lime Pie
3/4 cup of Grahm cracker crumbs
3/4 cup toasted pecans chopped fine
1/2 cup white (!) sugar
1 stick of melted butter (use margarine and I’ll take this recipe back!).
5 room temperature egg yolks
2-14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk. I use fat-free SCM, and my family can’t tell the difference.
1/2 cup FRESH SQUEEZED lemon juice
1/2 cup FRESH SQUEEZED Persian lime juice
grated zest of 1 lime
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. For the crust, combine the cracker crumbs, chopped nuts, sugar, and butter in a 9-inch straight sided pie plate. Pat firmly and shape the crust a half-inch up the sides of the pie plate.
3. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust begins to brown on the edges of the sides.
4. Combine all the other ingredients until they are well mixed. Pour into the crust.
5. Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
6. Freeze the pie for at least six hours, and preferably overnight.
7. Remove the pie from the freezer 1 half hour before serving. NO MORE!!!!!
8. Serve with a big dollop of fresh-made whipped cream. DO NOT USE READY WHIP OR MERENGUE. PLEASE!!
9. Serve to someone who will repay you handsomely for the most incredible treat you have ever prepared. They will respond, “Damn, this is the best key lime pie I ever ate. It’s better than any I ever got in a restaurant.