Week 17 – It’s that Time of Year Again – Time for the Boss’s Potluck Christmas Party…

Crispin Courtenay, Temecula Valley Chef

What you can do to make an impression, keep your job, get a raise and marry a Super Model.

…well maybe make a good impression.

Omitted are the tired party clichées, such as anything that wobbles, meatballs, fondue (although this is making a trendy comeback…but so is Michael Jackson, enough said) and the ubiquitous spinach and artichoke dip.

Goal: Create a sophisticated party dish that gets Ooo’s and Ah’s, does not break this years very-tight budget, and is relatively simple to make.

Three Choices Guaranteed to Please:

Crème Brulee

Special Items
16 – 4oz Ceramic Oven-Safe Ramekins, or 4 oz tinfoil tins, available at any cooking store.
Blowtorch – available at any plumbing section of a Home Improvement Store
Chinois – A fine mesh strainer, can substitute a normal strainer lined with Cheese Cloth

½ Gallon Heavy Cream
12 Egg Yolks
½ cup of sugar, if you like it sweet add ¾ cup
pinch of salt
1 Vanilla Pod, split and seeded or 1 Tsp pure Vanilla Extract
½ cup Turbino Sugar

Top with fresh fruit or Candied Citrus

Optional ½ lb of melted chocolate.

Heat the cream and Vanilla until almost boiling, then remove from stove. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg, salt and regular sugar, until it forms a ribbon-like texture. Get your tallest pot and set the chinois across the top, pour the cream and pod to strain, then discard pod. With a ladle, slowly pour into the egg mixture 1/3 of the hot cream. You must stir constantly and add the cream slowly so that you do not curdle the eggs. Retrieve the chinois and place over the pot with the hot cream. Pour the egg mixture through and stir as you are adding it (if you have more hands than an octopus, or a helper).

Pour 4 oz of the finished mixture into each ramekin. Cook at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until it wobbles as a mass when wiggled. Place on wire rack to cool evenly and refrigerate.

Just before serving sprinkle with Turbino Sugar and melt with the torch. It helps to move the torch slowly and have it close to the Brulee. It is always easier to melt two light layers of sugar, rather than a thick one.

Alternately: The sugar may be melted under a ‘hot’ broiler (most electric stoves fail miserably). This technique is much safer, however the results are not as consistent.

Caution: The torch will burn or melt anything in the surrounding area, use the torch only on a metal sheet pan or similar. Mind your fingers, if you manage to touch the molten sugar, pray you have a bowl of ice water standing by. You have been warned. The Pro’s always have a fire extinguisher at hand any time they are working with an open flame, you should to.

Pickled Vegetables
Special Items:
Large Glass Jar, ½ – 1 Gallon Capacity
Spider Strainer

½ gallon, White Vinegar is fine, but if you have money to burn, Rice Vinegar is a great replacement.
2 Tbsp, Salt
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Head Garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped .
Chili Peppers, to taste (optional)
Hard Vegetables of your choice such as carrots, cucumbers, jicama, beets, radish, daikon, green beans, celery, mushrooms, chilies, cauliflower basically whatever is attractive at the market. Clean and or peel it, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

In a large Stainless Steel pot, heat vinegar with sugar and salt to boiling and remove from heat. Add about 12 cups of vegetables and let seep, stirring occasionally. When close to room temperature use a Spider Strainer to remove the vegetables to the Glass Jar. Add vinegar mix to cover, top up with fresh vinegar if required. If you have extras, eat them, or make another jar.

Caution: this is not a true pickle, in that the vegetables are not fully-preserved, they will keep for about a week, eat them by then.

Wild or Exotic Mushroom Risotto

Nothing beats the cold like a rich and creamy risotto. The key to a successful Risotto is using the best ingredients you can afford, it is a simple dish, and the quality of the ingredients shine through.

First decision, Regular or Lacto-Vegetarian (I would mention Vegan, but a Risotto without Parmesan and butter…just shoot me)

Mushroom Stock
If Vegetarian, you are going to have to make a mushroom stock.

3 bags of dried mushrooms, assorted is good, porchini is better.

Wash the mushrooms quickly to remove surface dirt. Then place in a mixing bowl, add to that 6 cups of hot water and let cool. When cool, rub the mushrooms gently between your hands to remove any remaining sand, set aside. Carefully pour mushroom liquid through a strainer or Chinois and stop before the sandy grit. Use the mushrooms for your risotto.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

4 Tbsp Virgin Olive Oil
6 cups mushroom or beef stock
2 shallots or one small purple onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup Mourvedre Wine
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
2 lbs of cleaned, sliced wild mushrooms Chanterelles or Porcini, they may be sautéd in advance in garlic and oil, or added raw.
Black Pepper to taste, freshly crushed only, skip the ground 6 year old black spice in a can.
1 Tsp Sea Salt
1 cup freshly grated or shaved Parma Grando or Parmegano Reggiano (your wallet, you choose)
4 Tbsp Normandy or similar unsalted butter

Add oil to pan, bring to heat and add the rice, sautée until translucent, add garlic and shallot and sautée until fragrant, quickly add wine, cook down until evaporated then add two cups of stock (or enough to cover rice), adjust to slow simmer, adding a ladle of stock whenever the rice appears dry. When it tastes done–al dente– season to taste, then add butter and remove from heat. When butter is melted, stir in cheese. Check taste. Place in a heavy cardboard box and go to your party, Risotto should retain heat for about an hour, and can be revived in a slow oven. Enjoy.

Factoid: Wild mushrooms are gathered by trained foragers, and can range from expensive, to… are you out of your mind expensive. Exotic mushrooms is the common trade-name for farm-raised mushrooms that are carefully controlled, thus the possibility of eating a poisonous mushroom are eliminated.

For sources or more information please contact Crispin at courten@hotmail.com or http://www.facebook.com/crispin.courtenay