Creme caramel COURTESY PIXABAY
Leap year in the Gregorian calendar contains 366 days. With February 29, 2020, as the extra day this time around, why not celebrate on Saturday by indulging in a decadent dinner? It will be four years before it happens again.
I’ve chosen three over the top, almost addictive dishes that are, in my book, “forbidden” except once every four to eight years. They are Deep Fried Chicken, Tornado of Beef en Croûte with Sauce Béarnaise, or Crème Caramel. But not all three on the same day or dinner! Bon appetit!
Old-Fashioned Deep Fried Chicken
1 whole frying chicken cut into pieces or 3 chicken legs, 3 thighs, 3 chicken breasts, split
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
About 2 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Canola oil, grape seed oil or peanut oil, 1/2 to 1 inch deep in a skillet, about 3 cups
(Grams used lard)
Wash and cut chicken into serving-size pieces and pat dry with paper towels. In a shallow mixing bowl, combine the milk and heavy cream. Add chicken turning the pieces until they are completely coated.
In a large zip-lock plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, pepper, celery salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika and cardamom together.
Working with one to two pieces at a time, add the chicken and shake until they are completely coated. Place chicken on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet until ready to fry. Continue until all the pieces are coated.
Meanwhile, in a deep heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add enough oil to measure about one inch deep in the skillet. When the oil shimmers, sprinkle a pinch of the flour on the oil and if it browns quickly, it is hot enough. Add the dark meat pieces, first, skin side down and cook undisturbed until even medium brown, about 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook another 8 to 10 minutes. When brown, turn the chicken once more and cook until the juices run clear when pierced with a two-pronged fork, about 6 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Continue until all the chicken is fried. Hold chicken in the oven at 375 degrees F. until serving time.
Tournedo of Beef en Croûte with Sauce Béarnaise
6, 1 to 1 1/4-inch-thick filet of beefsteaks and tied with string
1 tablespoon cognac
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 1/2 teaspoon dry tarragon
6 slices 1-inch-thick bread, crusts removed and trimmed to match the size of each steak
1 cup unsalted butter, clarified
For the Sauce Béarnaise:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
1 large shallot minced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 egg yolks
About 2/3 to 3/4 cup clarified butter (from above)
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Chopped fresh parsley
Splash fresh lemon juice
Tie cotton kitchen string around each steak. Pat steaks dry with paper towels, rub pepper and tarragon on entire surface, drizzle with cognac and reserve on a plate.
In a shallow sauté pan over moderate-high heat coat the bottom with clarified butter. Sauté bread until golden brown, adding butter as necessary. Remove the croute, drain on paper towels and set aside.
For the sauce:
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the vinegar, wine, shallot, tarragon, rosemary and pepper to a boil and reduce the liquid by half. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan on the counter, whisk the egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored, add the reduction of shallots and beat well. Add cold butter (one tablespoon) to the eggs, set the saucepan over low heat and whisk the yolks and butter until the butter melts, the eggs are smooth, and you can see the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat, add the next tablespoon of cold butter, whisking continuously. Slowly, whisk the warm clarified butter into the egg yolks in a steady stream until the sauce forms an emulsion. Taste and adjust the seasonings with a splash of lemon juice. Can be done ahead and kept warm over tepid water.
To sear steak and serve:
In a heavy sauté pan over high heat, sprinkle the pan with coarse salt. When the pan is sizzling, sear the edges of each steak by holding the steak with tongs. Then, place one side down and sear it until a brown crust forms, about 2 minutes. Turn over and cook until the steak offers slight resistance to the pressure of your finger, or done according to your preference, about 2 minutes for rare. Remove from skillet, set aside while deglazing the pan. Deglaze the pan with cognac and reduce about one minute. Transfer each steak to a toasted croute, spoon about one-half teaspoon pan juices over the steak and top each steak with a tablespoon of Béarnaise sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve at once. Pass the remaining sauce at the table.
(Serves 6 to 8)
For the caramel:
1/2 cup white sugar
For the custard:
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped into the cream
1/4 cup white sugar
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar
Use a one-quart metal soufflé mold or individual ramekins. Fill a large rectangle pan with two inches of water and place it on the middle rack in oven at 350 degrees F.
For the caramel: In a clean saucepan over moderate-high heat, add sugar, stirring constantly until it boils. Cook until sugar melts and becomes caramel-colored. It will take a while and burns easily. VERY CAREFULLY, pour the caramel into the mold and tilt the mold (holding on with potholders) around to coat the edges as best you can, then invert the mold onto a buttered plate or baking sheet to harden and cool until ready to fill with custard.
For the custard: In a heavy saucepan, add cream, scrape the vanilla seeds and add the bean to the cream and heat until scalded (just below a boil.) Whisk in sugar until dissolved. Cover and let steep 10 minutes. Before adding cream to the egg yolks, pass it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the pod.
With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are frothy. Slowly add the sugar in a thin stream and continue beating until the yolks are thick and very pale, about 5 minutes. Add steeped cream in a thin stream of droplets while continuously running the beaters.
Pour strained custard into the caramel lined mold. Set the mold in prepared baking pan. The water should come about halfway up the sides of the mold. Bake until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the center, about one to one-and-one-half hours for a quart mold. Let cool to room temperature. Cover the dish/mold with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, place a large plate or platter with a lip (to hold the caramel sauce) over the top of the mold and invert. Let the mold sit for about 5 minutes over the custard allowing the extra caramel to drip onto the custard.
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