OFF the Beaten Path….

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I often think about dishes that will serve the spring-early summer month,
Dishes that can be a lunch item, part of a dinner, or just because they sound good, and I’m hungry….

Many of you might know that the recipes I write is from my personal archives..
Recipes that has been served in the past for whatever reason, anyhow…

Following is from my Viognier files…

Viognier, a grape variety not served enough in my opinion. Floral and Full. A great compliment to following recipes.

Tartlet of chicken, pancetta and gorgonzola

This dish is a great appetizer or for a light lunch or dinner. The pancetta , an Italian bacon cured in salt, has a salty flavor so be judicious if adding any salt. For busy home cooks, this dish is perfect: It can be assembled earlier in the day and baked before serving. Dark meat is preferred, although if you have a roasted chicken left over from the previous night’s dinner, it’s a great way to use it.

Wine pairing: This has powerful flavors, especially the gorgonzola, so a powerful, drier-style viognier from France’s Rhone valley would be a nice match.

6 to 8 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 bunch fresh chive, finely chopped
1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 slices pancetta, 1/4 inch thick, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
2 leeks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup gorgonzola
1 table spoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry the chicken thighs. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, thyme and chives. Rub over chicken. Place chicken in 9 by 13 baking dish and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside.

Increase oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the puff pastry to a 12-inch circle. Butter a 10-inch springform pan, lining the pan with the dough. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on top, using pie weights or beans to hold it in place. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven; let cool.

Shred thigh meat into small pieces, removing skin and bones. Set aside. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove from pan, draining all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Melt the butter in skillet and add leeks. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

Combine leeks, pancetta and chicken in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and cream. Pour over the chicken; season with nutmeg and pepper. Crumble the gorgonzola into the mixture, mixing well. Spoon into tart shell. Bake in 325-degree oven for approximately 35 minutes, until golden brown. Test for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer in center.

Remove from oven, place on rack and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Serves 8.

The day before: You can make the tart the day ahead and reheat it, but it’s best served the day it’s prepared.

Tricks of the trade: For better presentation, use individual molds. It’s a little bit more work, but it’s easier to plate when serving.

Chick pea soup with pumpkin and huancaina

This soup has served as a popular luncheon soup in the restaurant. It’s not too heavy and thickened with pumpkin, making for a very healthy soup. The huancaina, a type of chili pepper, gives the soup a little kick.

Wine pairing: That little kick from the chili peppers means this would go perfectly with a sweeter-style, warm-country California viognier.

2 cups garbanzo beans, soaked in water overnight and drained
1 gallon chicken stock
1 onion, cut in half
Pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon honey
1 huancaina chili pepper, seeded and diced
1 bouquet garni: thyme , black pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, 1/2 cup total
3 cups fresh pumpkin meat, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

In a large stockpot, add the beans, chicken stock, onion, saffron, honey, huancaina, and bouquet garni. Bring to a light boil. Lower heat and simmer for two hours. With a slotted spoon, remove the onion and huancaina. Simmer for another hour or so, until beans are tender. If the soup evaporates more than 20 percent, add a bit more chicken stock.

When the beans are tender, add the pumpkin. Simmer until the pumpkin is tender, approximately 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, mash a few pieces of the pumpkin up against the sides of the pot. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour into six soup bowls. Sprinkle with nutmeg and chopped parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Trick of the Trade:
If adding additional stock during the cooking process, heat the stock first. Cold stock will harden the beans and increase the cooking time. Do not season with salt until soup is done.

Not in the mood for white? How about a glass of Pinot Noir.

Porcini-crusted tuna and foie grass hash browns

I have served this dish in numerous pinot noir wine dinners at the restaurant and it has always met with great success. It doesn’t compete with the pinot noir – it brings out its best qualities. And the succulent tuna is a perfect complement to the hash browns.

Wine Pairing: This dish is perfect for a French burgundy, which is made of the pinot noir grape. The earthiness of the burgundy is a wonderful match for the earthiness of the mushrooms and the foie gras.

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
3 tuna loins, approximately 4-inches long and 2-inches wide, skinned and cleaned
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices bacon, sliced very thinly
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 cup foie gras, finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparing the tuna:
In a blender, blend the porcinis until they have reached a powder-like consistency. Brush the tuna loins with the egg. Roll the tuna in the porcini dust, set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sear the tuna loins for 10 to 15 seconds on each side, leaving the inside rare. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Blanche the potatoes for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute until slightly brown. Add the onion and celery and saute lightly for a few minutes. Add the blanched potatoes, letting them roast in the pan and caramelize for another 10 to 15 minutes , until the mixture is golden brown. (Keep stirring and scraping the pan while cooking.) Add the thyme, rosemary and foie gras. Season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for another minute.

Mound a serving of the hash browns onto 6 dinner plates. Slice each tuna loin into 6 slices and arrange 3 slices on top of each portion of hash browns. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Trick of the trade:
When searing tuna, do not overcook it as it will become dry and will crumble when slicing. Cook the hash browns as long as possible to create the nutty flavor that caramelized sugars produce.

Jan Jorgensen
TwoChefs Restaurant

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