Have A Grape Day

30 04 2010

A British study recently presented at The Experimental Biology convention in California noted that consumption of grapes lowered blood pressure, improved heart function and reduced other risk factors for heart disease and metabolic syndrome in rats. Metabolic syndrome is a condition associated with impaired blood sugar regulation and the development of complications previously associated with diabetes per se. In many ways it can be considered a diabetic “precursor.”

This is not really a surprise as this mirrors many of the benefits associated with wine that we had previously discussed. American researchers think the benefits of grapes could be due to phytochemicals and antioxidants. These are the same compounds that are thought to produce the positive health effects of wine. It seems the benefits of grapes are preserved in alcohol.

What is interesting is that the animals were fed the fruit in addition to a high-fat, American style diet for three months. A control group had a similar diet without the grapes. At the end of the three-month period, the grape-fed rats had lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, improved glucose tolerance, better heart function, and reduced indicators of inflammation in the heart and the blood than the rats who received no grape powder.

There is always a danger in extrapolating across species, but this data seems to correlate very well with human observational studies looking at the beneficial effects of wine. So go have a grape day; I’ll take mine fermented.

When More is not just Less, but Fatal

29 04 2010

Free range, hormone free skinless chicken breast with pan sauce over pea and mushroom risotto made with from scratch light chicken stock: with proper planning healthy and natural is as easy as the prepared kuk-but better tasting and non-toxic

The other day I wrote about the positive effects of a diet rich in folate and B-vitamins. Notice I did not say the positive effects of massive consumption of high dose vitamin B and folate supplementation; because as Buddha seeks enlightenment, Doc walks the Middle Path to Culinary Nirvana. In Medicine we have a caveat, “Better is the enemy of Good.” Like everything else in America, we tend to think More is Better (which makes it the enemy of Good if you’re following  along). So while a diet rich in folate and B-vitamins is clearly beneficial, in the following case of diabetics with any kidney disease More is not only not Better, it is Fatal. Read on, intrepid culinary acolyte, as Alton Brown says, “There’s a lesson here.”

In a study published in the April 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association it was revealed that high-dose vitamin B therapy is dangerous for diabetics with kidney disease (of people with diabetes, about 40% develop kidney disease), and patients on this regimen should stop immediately.

The original hypothesis was that high-dose vitamin B therapy (folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 supplementation) would improve patients’ kidney function and reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. A recent study looking at diets rich in these compounds in the general Japanese population of both men and women found this to be true (that’s the study discussed the other day-see Tuesday’s post).

However, this study found that high-dose vitamin B therapy was associated with a significant worsening of kidney function, and twice as many patients taking supplementation had heart attacks and strokes as compared to patients not taking the high dose supplementation.

“Because B vitamins are water soluble, we suspect that while healthy people would excrete excess vitamins in urine, those with renal failure would not be able to do so, perhaps causing the adverse effects we have seen in this study…Vitamin B therapy may still be beneficial in people with normal kidney function, but this is clear evidence that high doses of vitamin B should not be given to those with kidney problems ” said Dr. David Spence, of the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

Thus endeth the lesson. The moral of the story is that Mother Nature is crafty and a whole lot smarter than we are. You can’t take what she gives you, process the bejesus out of it, add chemicals so it has a life span longer than George Hamilton’s tan and expect it to be the same as the original. And if you think the processed product (or you) lack that “certain something”; taking a pill with 10,000x the original amount of what was processed out does not make it better, or even as good as the original. The Law of Unintended Consequences applies to Medicine, Food and by the communicative property, us. Chew on that, my  young Padawan.

Casting Call

28 04 2010

At the request of Food Network ( I did get a personal form letter) , here is the casting call for America’s Worst Cooks:

Who: We are asking people to nominate themselves or someone they know who is a hopeless home cook. We are seeking people with a genuine inability to cook, but a need and desire to improve.

What: Worst Cooks In America is the high stakes elimination series where the “recruits” (worst cooks) will be put through culinary boot camp to learn one of the most important life skills – how to cook!

When: Saturday, May 1st, 10am to 3pm

Where: The W Atlanta Midtown, 188 14th St. NE Atlanta, GA 30361

Why: There are truly are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to cook, and are dying to learn and to learn to cook like professionals.

To Apply: Those interested in attending the casting call can e-mail us at Worst Cooks-Atlanta. Tell us why you (or the person you are nominating) are the most disastrous cook in the country. Include name, age, hometown, occupation, contact phone number, and a recent photo of the hopeless cook.

Vitamin B Rich Foods May Reduce the Risk of Death from Cardiovascular Disease

27 04 2010

Every now and then we like to justify our existence by bringing you usable information in addition to helping you stuff your face with tasty bits. Here we may be able to do both, so you can feel good about what we tell you to stuff your face with. Now, let’s look at the facts.

A recent Japanese study looking at 23,119 men and 35,611 women between ages 40 and 79 who completed questionnaires about dietary habits was published in the April edition of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association as part of the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study. The study found that both men and women may benefit from consuming foods rich in B vitamins and folate and that these foods may help reduce the risk of heart failure in men and the risk of death from stroke and heart disease in women.

The researchers followed these groups for several years and at a median of 14 years follow-up, 986 people had died from stroke, 424 from heart disease, and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system.

The people in the study were examined and grouped according to their intake of folate, vitamin B6 (also known as Pyridoxal, Pyridoxine or Pyridoxamine) and vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 was not found to be associated with a reduced risk of mortality. However, it was found that higher consumption of folate and B6 was associated with significantly fewer deaths from heart failure in men. In women, they detected significantly fewer deaths from stroke, heart disease, and total cardiovascular deaths. To avoid confounding variables, anyone taking supplements was eliminated from the analysis, thus the findings reflected intake from diet. The protective effects of folate and vitamin B6 did not change even when researchers made adjustments for the presence of cardiovascular factors.  The researchers suggest that a diet rich in these compounds help offset dietary intake of other compounds like homocysteine, or offset genetic predispositions to disease states. While the study was performed in Japan, the researchers say their findings are consistent with studies in North America and Europe. However, they cautioned that more research is needed, especially in different populations.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm in the U.S. of the National Academy of Sciences, recommends 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams of vitamin B6 per day, depending on age and sex. The IOM says extremely high-dose folate supplements should be avoided and recommends adult intake of 400 micrograms daily.

Natural sources of folate include vegetables, fruits, whole or enriched grains, fortified cereals, beans, and legumes. Specific examples include dark green leafy vegetables (see the recent Swiss chard recipe post), broccoli, legumes (dried beans, peas and peanuts), asparagus, oranges, avocados and strawberries. Dietary sources of vitamin B-6 include fish like salmon, vegetables such as potatoes, liver (see timely post of last week’s foie gras recipes!), meats like rabbit (see yesterday’s recipe post), turkey, chicken andwhole grains, and fortified cereals.

Whole Braised Rabbit with Shitake Pan Sauce over Smashed Root Vegetables

26 04 2010


Nothin’ says luvin’ like a bunny in the oven. Delicious, tender and seasoned with herbs and vegetables I know  this dish is a Red Queen favorite; and contrary to popular myth, it does not taste like chicken, it tastes like rabbit. So if you have stormy, rainy weekend this is the perfect dish to make and allow the smells of the stew to permeate the dreariness and warm you up, inside and out. And, that my friends, is what’s cookin’.

  • 1 Andouille sausage
  • 1 approximately 4 pound whole rabbit
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • Seasoned Flour for dredging
  • 3 carrots roughly chopped
  • 3 ribs celery roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 bouquet garni (thyme, oregano, bay leaf, parsley)
  • 1 cup light chicken stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup water (or enough water to bring liquid ¾ way up rabbit)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 ounce Shitake mushrooms
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 large celery root
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbs truffle butter
  • ¼  cup cream

Remove any giblets from the rabbit, clean and pat dry. Brown the sausage in the Dutch oven and remove. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Dredge the rabbit in the seasoned flour and brown in the Dutch oven. Remove the rabbit and cook the onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add the garlic and leek and cook 1 more minute. Add the wine to deglaze the bits on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add the sausage and rabbit back, laying them on the bed of the carrot, onion and celery. Add the chicken stock and the bouquet garni. Add enough liquid to come up about ¾ of the way up the rabbit. Cover and cook for about 1 to 1 ½ hours covered. Remove the top and cook another hour. Remove the rabbit. Strain the liquid and return to the stovetop and reduce by 2/3. In a pot with salted water, place the peeled potatoes and celery root cut into small chunks. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until fork tender. Drain the water, return the root vegetables to the pot, season and smash with butter and cream. Add the thinly sliced shitake mushrooms to a sauté pan with some olive oil and lightly brown, seasoning as they cook. When the pan juices have reduced by 2/3 and thickened, add the truffle butter and cream, whisking in and allow the sauce to thicken. In a separate bowl combine the parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest and thyme. To serve, place the smashed root vegetables on the serving plate. Place the rabbit on top, add the mushrooms, pan sauce and top with the parsley lemon and thyme.

Cromesquis of ice-wine and chanterelle mushrooms

23 04 2010

Bite sized deep fried foie goodness

I thought we would end this week of decadence completely over the top, down the other side and back up; hence the cromesquis. For my friends, what could be better than delicious foie gras, breaded and deep fried. A deep fried golden crispy gooey sweet and savory at the same time treat  so completely outrageous only the French could conceive of it. This is a variation of the classic made famous by 3 Michelin Star chef Marc Meneau (he uses truffles and port). I used an icewine (you could use a Sauterne as well) to add some sweetness to use this as a finish to a meal, or a week. It is normal for some of these to self destruct in the deep-frying process, so don’t worry-be happy-and enjoy. For those that enjoyed Foie gras week, email me and I’ll be seeing new patients in the office all week!

The exposed inside of now molten foie gras, mushroom and wine; Manna from heaven.

  • ·         6 oz of foie gras, diced
  • ·         1 ½ cup of cream
  • ·         2 oz chanterelle mushrooms (or truffles)
  • ·         1 tsp
  • ·         ½ tsp pepper
  • ·         2 ½ packets of gelatin
  • ·         1 bottle good dessert wine (187 ml bottle)
  • ·         1/3 cup seasoned flour
  • ·         3 eggs+3 egg yolks
  • ·         2 cups Doc’s Breading Mix
  • ·         Oil for deep-frying

This takes several days to prepare, so you can do a little each day prior to when you want to serve them. Bloom the gelatin. In a small saucepan reduce the dessert wine by half. In a hot sauté pan sear the foie gras and set aside. After the wine has reduced, add the cream and bring to a boil. Add the gelatin and remove from the heat. Add the foie gras and mushrooms. Pour the mixture into a baking dish and refrigerate overnight, allowing the mixture to solidify. Remove the solidified mixture and cut into squares (anywhere from about 1/2 to  1 inch by 1/2 to 1 inch). Dredge the squares in the seasoned flour and return to the refrigerator for another 8 hours. Mix the eggs and egg yolks. Make a 2 station breading area dipping the squares in the egg yolk and then into the breading mixture. Refrigerate overnight and repeat the process again. Allow the breading to set for at least several hours. The Cromesquis are now ready to prepare. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F and deep fry the Cromesquis until golden brown. Remove, drain and finish in the oven for about 4 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly (the inside is hot and  molten) and serve immediately.

Shellfish Foie Gras-Tons

22 04 2010

Revenge in a golden crispy package

I hate crab rangoons. Not real crab rangoons, but the pale facsimile that passes for what should be a real treat. I mean, holy empty piñata Batman, there’s nothing inside but cream cheese (and maybe some faux crab). It is especially troubling to me because back in the day at my first job where I ran the kitchen, we made real rangoons. Real crab from the Chesapeake, some seasonings, chopped veggies and  a little cream cheese wrapped in a wonton and  crispy fried to perfection. For years I have suffered disappointment after disappointment when dining out, leaving me with more unfulfilled broken promises than Amy Winehouse’s rehab counselor. Sure I made the rangoons we made in the restaurant for my own pleasure, but I craved more, expected more when I went out to eat. Well to all you fake rangoon purveyors and fanciers, Foie off. If revenge is a dish, it is best served over the top and in your face. So with that I give you, with no apologies, wonton stuffed with  lobster, scallop, shrimp and foie gras topped with a drizzle of truffle oil and shaved parmesan. The key here is fresh ingredients; look at the mise en place picture-everything was dripping seawater, then again it might have just been drool….

  • 1 lobster tail from ~ 1.5 pound lobster, chopped roughly ~ inch ¼ bits 
  • 3-4 large sea scallops, chopped roughly~ inch ¼ bits
  • 3-4 large shrimp, chopped roughly~ inch ¼ bits
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 ½ lemons
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 slices of foie gras torchon cut into roughly ¼ inch cubes
  • Wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg beaten + 1tsp water
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Truffle oil
  • Grated parmesan for garnish



Segregate each type of shellfish in a bowl and add to each bowl ½ tsp thyme, pinch of salt, turn of fresh ground pepper and juice of ½ lemon. Allow to rest for 1-2 hours. Pre-heat the oil to 350 degrees F. Place a wonton wrapper in front of you so it has a diamond shape. Place a piece of each type of shellfish and a piece of the foie gras in the center. Fold the won-ton over and seal the edges by moistening with the egg. Using your dominant hand, place your index finger palm up so the tip of the finger is at the tip of the triangle. Pull the ends of the triangle over your index finger. Seal the ends together with the egg wash and remove your finger. Repeat until all the wontons are assembled. Place in the oil at 350 degress F and fry until golden brown. Remove, season and top with the truffle oil and grated parmesan  (I know, I know-cheese with shellfish-trust me with the truffle oil it works).

and Foie

Grilled Duck Breast with Champagne Mango Ginger Sauce, Grilled Baby Bok Choy and Foie Gras Hash Browns

21 04 2010


Grilled and Sliced Duck Breast over Champagne Mango Ginger Sauce and Foie Gras Hash Browns served on Foie Gras Torchon

Foie gras is versatile; by itself as an appetizer, a  meal, a savory dessert. Foie gras can play the starring role or support the meal. Here we use the foie gras in one of my favorite ways. I know, I know it’s been said about a kazillion times before but the truth is the truth: few things are better than potatoes cooked in duck fat. And what goes better with a duck part  than another duck part? The sauce adds a subtle sweetness and acidity along with a little ginger to help cut the richness of the dish. The simply prepared baby bok choy acts as a nice textural contrast. The foie and  potatoes and duck-they punch your ticket to the Pleasuredome.

Grilled Duck Breast (before slicing), Sauce and Grilled Baby Bok Choy

  • 2 duck breast (about 12-16 oz total weight)
  • 2 Tbs chopped shallot
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs finely grated fresh ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 champagne mango, chopped
  • 1 cup champagne
  • 4 Baby Bok Choy
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into about ¼ inch cubes
  • ¼ cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 4 approximately ½ inch slices of foie gras torchon for serving, + ~another 1 to cook with (OK here to use some pieces or scrap)

Season the duck breast on both sides. Place some scores across the fat, about ½ inch apart approximately ½ way into the fat pad. Grill the duck breast fat side down. Remove the breast and allow it to rest for about five minutes. While the breast is resting, place the lightly seasoned bok choy on the grill and finish. While the duck grills make the sauce. In a medium saucepan heat the oil and butter. Add the shallots and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 more minute. Add the lemon juice, mango and wine. Cook until reduced by about 1/3 and the mango has become very soft. Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender or food processor) puree the mixture. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened. While the duck grills and the sauce thickens, prepare the hash browns. Heat the olive oil and foie scraps or about 1 sliced torchon in a large sauté pan. Add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and brown. As the potatoes start to brown add the onion and cook for several more minutes. Add the garlic and finish browning the potatoes. Serve by placing the hot hash browns over the torchon, this cause the torchon to melt slightly and mixes with the potatoes. Garnish with chopped thyme.

As I said, the truth is the truth; there are few things better than potatoes and duck fat-can you handle the Truth?

How they serve potatoes in Heaven

Red Wine Poached Asian and Anjou Pears with Seared Torchon of Foie Gras

20 04 2010

We did some basic red wine poached pears several weeks ago. The addition of the seared torchon takes this to a whole other level of experience. I love this dish not just for the gamut of taste experience it runs, but for its versatility. It can be an appetizer, a dessert course or a whole feature unto itself. I like this after a little bread and cheese course; a terrific foil and a perfect ending to a satisfying meal experience. The addition of the Asian pear add a contextual crunch, as it remains a little crisper after poaching than the Anjou pear. If you don’t make the torchon, just slice some of the foie and pan sear; either way it’s 20 minutes to Nirvana.

  • Anjou pears, cored with skin on or peeled
  • Asian pears, cored with skin on or peeled
  • Red Wine Poaching Liquid (recipe follows)
  • Torchon of Foie Gras, cut ~ ½ to ¾ inch thick
  • Seasoned flour

Red Wine Poaching Liquid:

  • 1 cup of red wine (something you would drink by itself)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 split vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon stick

If you need more poaching liquid, just increase the amounts maintaining the same ratios (thanks Michael Ruhlman!). Bring the liquid to a boil to dissolve the sugar and then reduce to a simmer. Poach for about 10 minutes per side. Remove the pears and allow them to cool. While the pears cool, turn up the heat and reduce the remaining liquid by 1/2 to 2/3. At the same time heat a heavy bottomed pan over high heat. Score one side of the torchon. Lightly dust the torchon in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Place the torchon in the smoking pan and cook 1-2 minutes each side forming a nice sear and crust. Remove and plate with the cooled fruit. Drizzle a little of the reduced liquid over the pears and torchon.


Foie La La

19 04 2010

Finished and sliced Foie Gras Torchon

Foie week is here and we will Foie la la la la all week-long. To start our festivities you obviously need some high quality foie gras. (Like the duck foie gras we got from Blackstar gourmet.) When you get good quality foie gras, it can be served as is, hot or cold. I, however, often prefer to make a torchon. The word  torchon is French and refers to the linen dish towel which is used to wrap the foie gras in the final steps of preparation. I like the torchon because it takes an  incredible product and elevates it even higher standard and elegance. It also gives me a very consistent product and a way to evenly portion the foie gras. Once made, the torchon can be frozen and keeps well. It takes several days to make a torchon, but only really 2 days of work. Do not worry- we have an instructional video which will put out (hopefully at weeks’ end) to walk you through this one step at a time. Let’s get started:  

Foie Gras Torchon Preparation   

  • Day 1

Foie Gras in its native state after overnight buttermilk soak, demonstrating the 2 lobes it consists of, a larger and smaller

  • Remove Foie gras from package (I use a 1.25 to 1.5 pound pice of foie gras, Grade A )
  • Soak overnight in buttermilk

Note: Due to the modern packaging of high quality foie gras, this traditional step is not completely necessary. It was originally used to extract any remaining bits of blood, etc. from the foie gras prior to working with it. I like to do it, but it is optional.    

  • Day 2
    • Prepare the salt-sugar mixture:     
      • 2 ½ tsp Kosher salt
      • ¼ tsp sugar
      • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
    • Remove the foie from the milk, dry and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes (it is easier to work with this way)
    • Separate into 2 lobes, work each in turn
    • Working with each lobe individually, dissect out the veins and remove any bruised or blood stained areas (the blood spots will give your final product unattractive “spots”. We will show how to dissect out in the video.) It is a bit tedious but very easy. Remember, you can’t really screw up taking out the big veins as you can form the foie gras back towards original shape and we’re going to be compressing this as two big pieces anyway. When you find a big veing follow it back as far as you can digging theough the foie.  Also remove any membranes at the surfacr covering the liver as you work with it as well as any bruised areas.
    • Try to maintain as much “lobal” integrity as possible as this results in a smoother looking final product
    • Place in a container and layer the foie gras lobes  so they are about ¾ to 1 inch in thickness. They will feel and resemble two big chunks of clay. Like clay, if they do fall apart you can push them together and with gentle pressure form them back towards original shapes.
    • Top with salt-sugar mixture
    • Refrigerate overnight


The cleaned cured foie gras after being formed into a log in parchment paper

  • Day 3
    • Allow the foie gras to come to room temperature for about 45 minutes
    • While the foie gras comes up to room temperature, heat enough light chicken stock to cover the rolled foie gras to a poaching temperature (~165-180 degrees F); also prepare an ice bath.
    • Place the foie gras lobes on parchment paper on top of a bamboo rolling mat (you don’t need the mat, but I find it helpful to form the log)
    • Form a loaf around 3 ½ inches wide by 6-9 inches long
    • Use the mat to roll a loaf shape (seen in the picture above)
    • Transfer to a sheet of cheesecloth about 1 foot wide by 2 feet long
    • Roll the foie gras in the cheesecloth by rolling away from you as someone else keeps tension on the cheesecloth

    The rolled foie gras, notice you can see some of the foie gras squeezing through the cheesecloth indicating a good tight wrap.

    • Tighten and tie each end with twine (make sure you have wrapped it tight. Some foie gras squeezing through the cheesecloth is a good sign)
    • Tie off three equal sections along the roll
    • Poach the foie gras for about 90 seconds (do not go longer, you are reforming the foie gras not making stock). I use light chicken stock to poach it in


    Poaching the foie gras, it is normal to lose some volume

    • Place immediately in ice bath
    • Roll up in dishtowel (I like the traditional final wrap, that is after all how torchon got its name). Roll it the same way you did in the cheescloth; very tightly.

    Final step allowing the Foie Gras Torchon to hang overnight in the refrigerator

    • Tie off each end
    • Hang in refrigerator overnight


Slicing the Foie Gras Torchon, now ready to be enjoyed....

 Don’t worry, you can always by foie gras already in a torchon!