One of the joys of the profession is to join my culinary colleagues at the annual conference of the IACP, International Association of Culinary Professionals. This year the event was held in that culinary crossroad, Austin, Texas, from June 1 to June 4.
It was a stimulating and energizing four days of workshops, master classes, welcome cocktail reception and gala awards reception, an authentic Texas BBQ complete with country music, and just great dining around this passionate restaurant town.
There were classes in social media, the craft of writing, building a sustainable food community and so much more. A special culinary demonstration was given by Jacques Pepin whose theme was “What French Cuisine Can Offer Modern Cooks.” Pepin, a father and grandfather, is a man very close to my heart. At my former tabletop shop and cooking school, he gave morning and evening weeklong classes through the 12 years I taught at and directed the cooking program at Cooktique in Tenafly, New Jersey. He has offered his treasured comment for the back cover of my new cookbook, Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End, where he wrote, “In Savoring the Hamptons, Silvia takes us with enthusiasm and great allure through the seasons with the locovore food and wines of that special spot, paying tribute to the culture, the integrity, and the uniqueness of that extraordinary place.”
In Austin, Pepin demonstrated the following recipes, wowing his audience with Gallic charm and his masterful cooking techniques.
ASPARAGUS WITH CROUTONS AND ALMONDS
This recipe is inspired by Spanish ingredients and combines them in a quick and tasty way. Cooking time may need to be increased or decreased by a minute or so depending on size.
1 pound large, thick asparagus, tough ends removed and bottom half of stalks peeled with a vegetable peeler
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup 1/2-inch bread cubes (croutons), preferably from a baguette
1/4 cup whole almonds with skins
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Rinse asparagus and pat dry with paper towel. Cut each asparagus stalk into 3 to 4 pieces.
At serving time, heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet until very hot. Add the asparagus, croutons and almonds and sauté, covered, for 4 to 5 minutes, tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks all over. Add the salt and pepper and toss again. Serve on four warmed plates.
Note: The recipe from Jacques Pepin’s More Fast Food My Way lists chorizo as an ingredient. It was my choice not to use the chorizo since I love the pure flavor of asparagus and almonds. And whenever I get a chance to use my crisp homemade croutons I will use them. If you choose to use the chorizo you will need a cup of 3/4-inch pieces, about 4 ounces, and add them with the asparagus, croutons and almonds. This is an extraordinary recipe. My thanks to Jacques Pepin for the inspiration.
CHICKEN SUPREMES WITH TAPENADE AND MUSHROOM SAUCE
Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are called suprêmes in French cooking. They can be stuffed ahead and sautéed at the last moment.
For the Tapenade
1/2 cup mixed pitted black oil-cured olives
1 small garlic clove, sliced
2 dried apricot halves, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
8 anchovy fillets in oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the chicken
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)
1 tablespoon light extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups baby or wild mushrooms, washed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or parsley
1. Place the tapenade ingredients in a food processor and pulse to make a coarse purée.
2. Cut a horizontal cut in each chicken breast to create a pocket and stuff with the tapenade.
3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 180° F. Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet and when hot, season the stuffed breasts with salt and pepper, and arrange them side-by-side in the skillet. Cook over medium heat, covered, for about 3 minutes on each side, and then transfer to a platter and keep warm in the preheated oven.
4. Add the mushrooms and onion to the skillet the chicken cooked in, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and reduce the contents by boiling for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and additional salt and pepper to taste, and mix well to incorporate the butter.
5. Serve a chicken breast on each of four hot plates, and add any juice that has accumulated around them on the platter to the mushroom sauce in the pan. Divide the mushrooms and sauce among the servings, spooning it over the chicken breasts, and sprinkle the chives or parsley on top. Serve.
Recipes reprinted and adapted from Jacques Pepin’s More Fast Food My Way (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).
For more recipes and cooking news, check out my new website, www.savoringthehamptons.com. [/expand]