Recipes, Napkin Folding, Travel, and Table Tips from Best Chefs and Restaurants

Cedar smoked Glacier Bay half shell oyster â traditional shallot mignonette â rasped citrus
Cedar smoked Glacier Bay half shell oyster â traditional shallot mignonette â rasped citrus

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Roast Leg Of Lamb With Tarragon-Mint Butter

Roast Leg Of Lamb With Tarragon-Mint Butter

Aside from grilled lamb chops, another popular dish is leg of lamb usually flavored rosemary and garlic. If you’re expecting a large number of guests over for lunch or dinner, impress them by serving a roast a whole leg of lamb with tarragon-mint butter.

Start with a good piece of meat. Go to your trusted meat vendor if possible. When buying from a fresh meat market, check the color of the meat to gauge its freshness. Fresh lamb is pink or reddish in color and not too dark which indicates that it’s a more mature animal and may not be too tender. Buy the best you can afford – USDA Prime has the best quality in terms of tenderness and flavor. USDA Choice is suitable as well for roasting as the cooking process tenderizes the meat.

Tarragon combined with mint makes for a great bouquet of spring flavors ideal for a hearty dinner. When preparing this dish, take the extra step to prepare side dishes like a nice fresh salad or bouquet of spring vegetables. Depending on your expected number of guests, choose an appropriate size of lamb as you do not want people to go hungry or without a second helping if they want.

First off, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and position a sturdy rack which can hold the leg of lamb in the bottom portion of the oven. Proceed to prepare a savory herb butter by combining unsalted butter with chopped tarragon, mint, sea salt and a splash of tarragon vinegar. Retain a portion of it should you wish to make a vegetable side dish using the same flavors.

Using a sharp knife, make one inch incisions on the trimmed leg and insert strips of orange peel. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat some oil in large heavy oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb all over until browned on all sides. This takes about ten minutes depending on the size of the meat. Transfer the skillet to the oven (or transfer to a baking dish if your pan is not oven proof. Brush the meat liberally with the softened herb butter and roast for about 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 350 degrees. The lamb is done when a meat thermometer shows inserted registers 135°F to 140°F for medium-rare. Again this depends on the size of the lamb. Once cooked, cover lightly with aluminum foil and let rest for about half an hour prior to carving.

Make the fat and caramelized juices into a rich gravy by adding some wine and broth and bringing this to a boil scraping the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and cook until the sauce thickens slightly. Mix in the remaining herb butter and more orange peel. Taste and adjust the flavoring with salt and pepper as needed.


Tropical Glazed Ham with Curried Pineapple Chutney

Tropical Glazed Ham with Curried Pineapple Chutney

There are countless ways to make a ham with a whole pork leg usually being the most popular. There’s something about having a ham on the table during special occasions like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas that makes the celebration more complete. It’s an impressive dish large enough to serve as the centerpiece of the table.

For the Easter holiday, why not go for something a bit different and prepare a tropical glazed ham with curried pineapple chutney? This will surely impress your family and friends especially those not used to these flavors in their ham. It’s not as difficult as you think as you’ll be starting off with a cooked ham. It’s perfectly alright to purchase a large leg as the leftovers can be used for a lot of other dishes like sandwiches, salad, fried rice or noodles. Make sure the ham you buy will fit comfortable inside your oven though!

Position a rack on the bottom part of your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Score a diamond pattern all over the rind of the ham in one inch gaps between the lines. Stick a whole clove on each intersection and roast the ham for two hours then reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Continue cooking it until a golden crust develops which takes about an hour.

To make the tropical glaze, mix together mango nectar, apricot preserve, minced peeled fresh ginger, grated lemon and lime peel, some coriander and a splash of fresh lime juice. Simmer this for about 15 minutes in a sauce pan over low heat until the glaze thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Once the ham is nice and golden, carefully take this out of the oven (careful because it’s heavy) and using a pastry brush, apply the glaze gently all over the ham. Return to the oven and roast for about 30 minutes until the glaze caramelizes . Serve with store bought or homemade curried pineapple chutney on the side.


Whipped Potatoes With Herbs

Whipped Potatoes With Herbs

A steak meal in an all American family restaurant isn’t complete without a generous serving of mashed potatoes. If Asia has its rice and noodles and Italiy has its pasta, Americans got to have potatoes with their meal whether is baked, made into French fries or mashed to creamy goodness with butter.

Rather than make it from instant mixes which may have a lot of artificial ingredients, colorings and flavorings, make your own at home with easy to find and inexpensive ingredients. No matter what instant mashed potato mix manufacturers say, nothing compares to the freshly made kind especially if the recipes is certified delicious!

To make whipped potatoes with herbs, peel and quarter quite a lot of russet potatoes. You can leave the skin on if you’re lucky to find organically grown potatoes. A lot of the fiber and nutrition is in the skin so keep it on if you’re sure of the source. Boil the potatoes and some garlic in salted water until fork tender. Depending on the size of the cubes, this will take about 30 minutes. Drain well on a kitchen towel then return the potatoes and garlic in the pot. Mash this with a fork then continue beating with a hand held electric mixer until smooth. You can do this in a food processor as well. Add the butter and continue beating until smooth. At this point, you may opt to add some sour cream as well if desired. Increase the speed and continue beating until the potatoes are light and fluffy. Finally, stir in your favorite herbs, like basil, parsley, chives, rosemary and thyme. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve hot together with your entrees. It goes well with most grilled or roasted meat and poultry dishes.

You may notice that there will be some flecks from the herbs and pepper as well as the skins if you decided to keep them on.


Garland Of Spring Vegetables

Garland Of Spring Vegetables

When one hears of a garland, thoughts of a Hawaiian luau come to mind. But in the spring, instead of flowers around the neck of a person, a garland is better used to describe the fresh vegetables accompanying a hefty piece of cooked meat like a whole roast leg of lamb or a turkey.

If you happen to be making another festive spring dish of roast lamb or roast turkey or chicken, you can use the flavored herb butter and create an accompanying vegetable dish in very little time. After paying close attention to the roasting meat, occasionally basting it with herb butter to prevent drying it out, one should spend time on the accompaniments. After all, the finest of roast meat and steaks should ideally be eaten with a vegetable and/or starchy component.

Like the colors of a flower garland, different vegetables like carrots, turnips and fresh peas literally recreate the colors of spring on a dish. Start off by blanching sliced carrots and turnips boiling salted water for about two minutes. Add fresh shelled peas and cook until all vegetables are just tender. Other colorful ingredients that are appropriate include squash, sweet potatoes and of course different kinds of pumpkin.

Note the different cooking times of the different veggies considering how small they’ve been cut up. Toss in some herb butter, tarragon and mint until the butter melts and heats through and through. Season to taste with salt and pepper to taste and lay the vegetables around lamb and presto–you’ve gotten yourself a bouquet of spring veggies to go along with roast meat, pizza or pasta.

Some countries do not have a spring season like hot tropical countries with only a wet and dry season. However, this recipe can be used and serve with popular Asian dishes as well.


Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

In your next family gathering or office potluck party, instead of serving the expected potato dish of French fries, baked or mashed potatoes, why not give it a twist? A literal twist of lemon can surely impress your guests with little effort and cost. Roasting potatoes with lemons and select herbs and spices will yield a totally different dish an unmistakably Mediterranean feel.

To start with, select quality potatoes suitable for roasting. Opt for large potatoes which need to be cubed peeled or unpeeled. When retaining the skin, it’s recommended to purchase organically grown so there’s no risk of chemical fertilizers or pesticides remaining in the dish.

Before starting, fire up your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As with baking, preheating the oven is an important step usually forgotten by most cooks which can seriously affect your dish. Mix together some vegetable oil, melted butter, freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic and dill. Season this with salt and pepper. Toss in the cubed potatoes ensuring all pieces are coated well. Spread the potatoes evenly on a baking sheet with no pieces sticking or on top of one another. Drizzle the remaining flavored oil on the potatoes. Bake until the potatoes are brown and crispy. This will take about 45 minutes.

To make the dish more appealing, use different kinds of potatoes. There are a lot of colors available in large markets – red, white and purple. When using these beautiful tubers, it is better to cut them in wedges rather than in cubes. This showcases the colors better. Adjust the cooking time as the potatoes have been cut in larger pieces. Flavorwise, instead of cooking oil and butter, extra virgin olive oil can be used for a more authentic Mediterranean flavor.

Lemon roasted potatoes go well with a lot of dishes from roast meats to fried fish and seafood.


Asparagus And Mushroom Tarts

Asparagus And Mushroom Tarts

Frozen puff pastry dough is an invention that’s made it easy for inexperienced cooks aspiring to be gourmet chefs to prepare impressive baked dishes with little effort. For those familiar with how puff pastry is prepared, there is something to be said with the delicate texture that spells hours of rolling out butter in cold dough over and over to layer the fat and result in the buttery flaky pastry.

Modern day technology has allowed puff pastry to be simple purchased from the frozen section of the supermarket, rolled out and assembled into a variety of sweet and savory baked goods. It usually comes in a packages containing folded thing sheets of dough that are brushed with butter or olive oil, topped or layers with anything from fresh or cooked fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, optionally brushed with egg wash then baked.

Bake asparagus and mushroom tarts in the springtime when these produce are in abundance, affordable and at optimal nutritional levels. When using fresh asparagus, purchase those that are the same size so they cook evenly. For stems that are too thick, these can be peeled or sliced for faster cooking. Like most vegetables, the les done it is, the more nutrients are retained, especially heat sensitive enzymes.

This recipe for asparagus and mushroom tarts presents hearty vegetables, creamy ricotta cheese on a crusty base. The recipes can be modified to make it completely vegan by substituting the ricotta cheese with a soy based cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Thaw and roll out the dough into a 10x14 inch rectangle and lay this out on a baking sheet. Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

While the dough bakes, make the ricotta filling by mixing ricotta cheese with salt, pepper, basil and olive oil. Spread this on top of the slightly cooled baked tart and arrange it with asparagus and sliced mushrooms. Be creative in arranging the vegetables. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and bake for another 20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked but still firm. Slice with a serrated knife and serve hot.

The recipe can be modified to use other fresh vegetables or another variety of mushrooms like shitake. The puff pastry can be replaced with another base like filo pastry or bread cups.


Grilled Octopus With Gigante Beans And Oregano

Grilled Octopus With Gigante Beans And Oregano

Octopus is one of the types of seafood that rather intimidates a homemaker who’s not familiar with this tasty bounty of the ocean. It is actually a very popular seafood consumed in many Mediterranean and Asian countries where large quantities are caught. It’s still quite a way to go before octopi becomes a regular fare in the United States and United Kingdom where it still raises some eyebrows when served in specialty restaurants.

Chopped up and cooked, one may not realize that he is consuming octopus as it looks like more acceptable and widely consumed squid. However the miniature baby octopi are served whole, then there might be mixed reactions ranging from wonderment to disgust.

If you are lucky to be able to source fresh octopus from your fish monger (you may have to order this ahead of time), you may want to keep it simple, squeeze some lemon to eliminate any fishiness and accentuate with the flavors of the Mediterranean.

Do note that it has the tendency to toughen up when improperly cooked so be extra careful. It is recommended to tenderize it much like a beef steak before cooking it. Freeze the octopus a couple of days before cooking it. Alternatively, boil the meat for an hour or two before flavoring it.

Another way to tenderize octopus actually doubles as anger management therapy! People in the Mediterranean actually beat the octopus on hard surfaces as soon as these are caught supposedly to make it more tender when cooked.

To cook the popular dish of grilled octopus with gigante beans and oregano, it is recommended to use the large variety with large tentacles rather than the baby variety. Season the cut up meat with salt and pepper then pan fry in oil over medium high heat until it releases most of its liquids. Allow this to evaporate uncovered for about 20 minutes turning occasionally to cook evenly. At this point, you may wonder where the grilling comes in.

Prior to firing up the grill however, the octopus needs to be cooked further on the stove top. In the same pot, add red wine, coarsely chopped onion, garlic, a stick of cinnamon bark and a bay leaf or two. Reduce the heat and simmer until the octopus is fork tender. This can take up to two hours. Drain off the liquid and remove the onions, cinnamon and bay leaf. Pat dry with a paper towel and take off the skin if preferred.

Now comes the grilling part! Cut the body and tentacles crosswise into half an inch thick strips and brush with a little bit of olive oil. Season again with salt and pepper and grill about two minutes per side or until grill marks are formed. Once all the pieces are cooked, toss them in olive oil, red wine vinegar, and oregano.

The gigante beans simply are a base to carry the flavors of the octopus. Soak overnight and boil in salted water until desired tenderness. Serve in a bowl topped with the octopus.


Zucchini Keftedes With Feta And Dill

Zucchini Keftedes With Feta And Dill

If you want to impress friends with a dish that’s both reasonably inexpensive, easy to prepare and healthy, try your hands at making a delicious zucchini keftedes with feta and dill. Sounds fancy? It’s actually not once you realize that it is actually simply Greek for meatballs.

But this particular recipe is actually completely vegetarian with grated zucchini as the main ingredient with egg, cheese and coarse breadcrumbs for texture and binding. Though it’s not as filling as real thing, it certainly adds a different twist to ordinary meatballs and a lot healthier to boot!

Take good amount of fresh green or yellow zucchinis coarsely grated, slightly salt them with kosher salt. Let this stand for a maximum of one hour and squeeze as much of the liquid that’s drawn out from the vegetable. Use a clean cheesecloth or towel for this purpose.

Flavor the zucchini with minced green onions, dill, mint, garlic, lemon peel, and teaspoon black pepper. Go easy on the salt as the zucchini will still have some saltiness to it from the previous step. Bind the mixture with coarse breadcrumbs, egg and crumbled feta cheese. Make sure to combine all the ingredients well to distribute all the flavors evenly.

Either with a large slotted spoon or a 1/8 measuring cup, take a large dollop of the mixture and form into patties much like a small hamburger. Place the patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator for a few hours. This step is actually better done ahead of time so the patties will hold better before frying in cooking oil.

Though you may be tempted to use olive oil to fry with, it not advisable to do so as olive oil is not recommended for deep frying due to its lower flashpoint where it starts to smoke and burn the food easily. Use canola or any vegetable oil instead in a large deep skillet with about a quarter inch depth of oil. Be careful to keep the temperature of the oil just hovering over medium-high to yield perfectly cooked through golden brown keftedes.

Arrange keftedes on platter, topped with spoonful of Greek yogurt if you are lucky to find this healthier, thicker variety in your supermarket. To make it even more attractive, use a colorful ceramic serving dish and sprinkle some dill on top.


Corned Beef Quesadillas

Corned Beef Quesadillas

Nowadays, the celebration of St. Patrick's Day revolves more around the festivities and not so much anymore the religious commemoration of how the saint selflessly worked on converting the pagan Irish centuries past.

Though some religious folk would still go to church in the morning, the drinking, dancing and feasting on food and drink in the afternoon are the events that are more looked to as these are opportunities to revel with friends in a rambunctious atmosphere where people can drink until they drop.

Aside from shepherd’s pie, various potato dishes, beer, Irish bread, whisky and coffee, consumed during St. Patrick’s Day corned beef (with or without cabbage) is one of the most popular foods enjoyed in many parts of the world.

Quite surprisingly however, corned beef isn’t an Irish dish and can hardly be seen in St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Dublin. It actually traces its roots to the first generation of Irish who settled in the United States who were longing for the food of their native country. Trying to recreate their favorite boiled bacon from the limited resources they had, they boiled until tender the cheapest cut of meat they could buy–beef brisket. The brining of the meat was an adaptation of other countries method of preserving the meat and doesn’t actually have anything to do with corn.

Many years later, corned beef still remains as a staple food not only amongst settlers in the United States but has gone on to become one of the most popular dishes served anytime of the year aside from St. Patrick’s Day.

Making it into quesadillas is a great way to use leftovers as the shredded pieces of meat are combined with cheese and sauerkraut and grilled thereby transforming it into a kid-friendly treat. It’s actually a pretty healthy dish complete with protein from the beef, carbohydrates from the tortillas, calcium from the cheese, fiber and other nutrients from the fermented cabbage.

Do not attempt to use the left over beer and alcohol to concoct a kid-friendly drink though!


Little Lucky Whoopie Pies

Corned Beef Quesadillas

For people not at all exposed to the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, their knowledge is most likely limited to images and various sound bites of the various activities (not necessarily religious) observed across the world.

And for those who do celebrate it yearly, particularly in countries where the significant populations of the Irish have settled such as Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, the activities are more celebratory in nature with parades and festivals held in public areas and restaurants, hotels and country clubs organizing events to attract both locals and tourists.

In all of these events, green is the clearly the most visible underlying theme of the celebrations held and food consumed. Though the appearance of green beer, cakes, pretzels can certainly turn off some people, it’s only from food coloring and its significance traces its roots to how Saint Patrick was said to have used a shamrock or leaf of clover to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish pagans in the 17th century. Thus, the shamrock and the color green became the most popular imagery during St. Patrick’s Day.

With a clearer understanding of this, one doesn’t mind anymore eating green food associated with St. Francis’ Day.

One of the most popular foods consumed is the little lucky whoopie pies that resemble a stuffed chocolate cookie sandwich with a creamy frosting in the middle. Make your own from scratch or your favorite instant cookie or cake batter and stuff it with a sweet butter or cream cheese filling colored green with an optional drop or two of mint extract. Accent it with green candies or candy sprinkles.

If you do not wish use artificial coloring in your food, try natural green colorants instead such as spirulina, a kind of algae that a little quantity of is enough to color any food or beverage a deep green color. It confers a lot of nutrients as well.


St. Patrick's Day Cookie Bites

Corned Beef Quesadillas

Aside from the adult festivities and drinking sprees, St. Patrick’s Day is also a great time of year for whole communities to celebrate togetherness and family ties.

Aside from the many desserts such as cakes and pies flavored with Irish crème liqueur, cookies are a great option to give out to children. Mini-cookies, cookie bites, nibbles and morsels are all just different names on how these baked treats are made into smaller bite sized portions which can be presented in a basket or box.

It’s so easy to theme pastries to go with the season. Similar to the yuletide season which has a certain flavor and mood to it, St. Patrick’s Day edibles are easily noticeable by the sheer greenness of them. Turn any recipe to a St. Patrick’s Day treat by adding a few drops of green food coloring to your favorite cooking dough or cake batter recipes.

Presenting different pastries in a smaller size allows you to make more kinds and a wider variety. Adding some mint extract to the dough or batter or real mint leaves in the icing also adds a different touch to any cookie recipe. For busy moms on the go, they can opt for any of the instant cookie dough available in the frozen section of large supermarkets. Instead of portioning it according to package instructions, divide it by two or more to make smaller sized nibblers. Make sure to adjust the baking time as smaller cookies will surely cook a lot faster.

Simple butter or sugar cookies can be colored with a few drops of green food color and cut into fun clover- or leprechaun hat shapes. For cookie recipes like chocolate and ginger bread, if the dough is already dark and green food color may not work, sprinkle them with green and white candy toppings instead. Another option is to top them with a simple icing tinged green with a bit of food color.


Napkin Folding

Hosts and restaurant owners take into consideration not just the food and the taste. Even the table setting becomes an art form on its own. The table napkin has not only served its purpose of wiping excess food on the lips. It has now become a small piece of art welcoming a crowd of diners as you sit down for dinner. These table napkins are folded in various ways, usually in attractive shapes, flowers, animals, and other amusing shapes with just a fold and tuck. It’s actually very interesting to see the table linen shaped like a flower or swan welcoming you for dinner.

Folded napkins also serve the purpose of storing silverware in a prettier way. Not only do they serve as keeping utensils, but the utensils also help in preventing the napkins from flying off when a strong gust of wind approaches. Remember, napkins are usually made of light material, such as paper and cloth. If the event is outdoors, say a garden wedding, lunch, or afternoon barbecue, a little weight from silverware may help keep them in place and prevent unnecessary chasing of that cloth swan folded in place.

Napkins also come in paper or cloth. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Cloth does not tear as easily as paper, and may be used throughout the entire meal and absorbs liquid better. Paper of course, is more convenient for picnics and fast foods. They also prove to be more cost-efficient in some diners as there’s no need for additional laundry costs. There is also the option of being stiffer than paper so they can be folded into a lot more shapes.

Cloth and paper napkins come in a lot of swatches or colors. Even basic white has variants like ecru, ivory, cream, and bone. Red, pink, or blue, and other colored and printed napkins may be used for themed parties or may be matched with the restaurant’s interior. Attractive napkin rings may be purchased to keep them in place, and in weddings and parties, they may also be used as giveaways. The shape of the napkin when folded may also be themed according to the occasion, such as flowers and hearts for Valentine’s Day, animals for a children’s party, and so on.

Various tutorials online as well as books are available for those who would like to learn a few shapes to do in the next dinner party. You don’t have to own a five-star restaurant to be able to make a table setting just a little more special.


Frozen Cream

Everyone’s heard of ice cream, sherbets, sorbets, frozen yoghurt–popular icy dessert confections made with varying amounts of milk (or none at all) flavored with chocolate, fruits and many other ingredients. But what is frozen cream? Is it a kind of food or an ingredient?

To the ordinary layman and maybe even novice chefs unfamiliar with dairy or dessert terminology, frozen cream could be taken for ordinary cream that is frozen. A quick online search for the exact words will not yield much formal explanation on this exact product and direct the searcher to lots of information about ice cream.

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