Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Evie's Lemon Chicken

Periodically I like to share family recipes here. I've written about dill pickles, about noodle kugel, matzoh meal popovers, and blintz casseroles. Clearly, they have an Eastern European Jewish spin to them. But that's what I grew up on.


My parents were terrific cooks. For as long as I can remember, they both enjoyed the creativity of the kitchen and from an early age taught my sister, brother, and me jewels of recipes from our family and culture as well as day-to-day contemporary dishes. Some families ski, others go camping. Ours cooked. My mom in particular has long collected cookbooks about cuisines around the world and has been adventurous in both her cooking and baking and her grocery shopping. It's just part of her DNA. She's reined it in now and my dad can no longer cook, due to his progressing Alzheimer's, but Mom can still surprise me with a terrific dish that's new in her repertoire.

This lemon chicken is one of them. I first had it at their house several months ago. I'm not a white meat chicken fan so I wasn't looking forward to eating it. But, whoa, I loved it. The chicken was tender and moist, with some crunch from breading in panko. Lemon and chicken is a perfect pairing and the citrus here is delightfully tangy, complemented by a fragrant herbs. My mom served it recently with grilled asparagus and roasted baby potatoes, but I'd be sure to have some kind of rice or grains to sop up the juices.

The premise for this lemon chicken is simple. You take chicken tenders (or skinless, boneless chicken thighs--or even fish or boneless pork ribs) and dip them in egg, then panko (both well seasoned, of course) and sauté till brown. Place them in a single layer in oiled pyrex or other baking dishes (for this amount, you'll need two). Pour the chicken broth mixed with lemon juice over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake.

That's it.

And, the beauty of this dish--besides the flavor--is that it freezes wonderfully. So you can make a big batch at once and create individual meals for later.

Evie's Lemon Chicken
(printable recipe)
Yield: 5 to 6 servings

To get really crispy chicken, use cast iron skillets and don't crowd the chicken pieces. Be sure to have paper towels ready on plates to place the cooked chicken to drain. If you don't want to use white meat chicken, this will work just as well with skinless, boneless thighs, boneless pork ribs, and even fish.

20 ounces chicken broth
Zest of 2 lemons
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 pounds boneless chicken tenders (about 15 tenders)
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To make the sauce, mix together chicken broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Set aside.
3. Mix together eggs, lemon juice, and garlic salt. Set aside.
4. Mix together panko, cheese, and herbs. Set aside.

5. Trim fat from the chicken. Dunk each piece in the egg mixture, then dredge in the panko mixture. Place in a single layer on a plate until ready to sauté.

6. Heat two cast iron skillets and add about a quarter inch of olive oil to cover the bottom. Add the chicken but don't overcrowd. Sauté until brown on the bottom, then turn. When the chicken is browned on both sides remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Continue with the rest of the chicken until all have cooked.

7. Brush baking dishes with oil. Place the chicken in a single layer in oiled baking dishes. Pour chicken broth mixture over the chicken, halfway up the pan.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with the juices.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Father's Day Treat: Peach Slices with Cointreau

I had to think long and hard about what to do for my dad this Father's Day. What would make the day special for him at this stage in his life? As you may know, he has Alzheimer's Disease and is declining. That makes this year's celebration of him especially poignant. My mom and I will probably take him out for brunch, but buying him a gift is not really appropriate these days. Fortunately, he still loves food. Up until the last couple of years he loved to cook and he still loves to eat. When we were kids, he and my mom loved taking my brother, sister, and me to restaurants that back in the 60s and 70s were unusual at the time--tempura bars, Cuban eateries, Russian fine dining. They wanted to expose us to whatever got us out of our burger or mac and cheese comfort zone.

Even today we go out for Chinese and sushi, burgers and fish and chips. His favorite place to eat these days is Supannee House of Thai in Shelter Island for sweet and sour mixed seafood over brown rice.

I love making food gifts for him and in the past few years I've taken to making him pickles. But it's too early in the season to make him his favorite bread and butter pickles or dill pickles. If not pickles, then what?

Fortunately, I just wrote an article about a new book on canning for the San Diego Union-Tribune, which will appear in the paper's food section next week. The book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan, revolves around her successful efforts to use alternative sweeteners instead of  refined sugar when making everything from jams and jellies to sauces and pickled vegetables. McClellan, who is the author of two other cookbooks and the blog, Food in Jars, selected naturally occurring sweeteners that still facilitate canning and even add flavors--honey, maple syrup and sugar, coconut sugar, fruit juices, agave, and dried fruits.

I'd already made a couple of the recipes--loquat jam with agave and marinated multicolored peppers with honey-- and was looking forward to making more of them. So, I poked around the book and had an "aha" moment. My dad has always loved canned peaches. Here was a recipe for peach slices with bourbon, using maple syrup as the sweetener.

There was just one obstacle. My dad has never liked spirits. So, I did a little hunting around my pantry and had my second "aha" moment: Cointreau! Orange and peach flavors can be a lovely marriage. And it would also complement the maple syrup in McClellan's recipe.

Perfect. That was the only alteration I made to the recipe.

I bought six pounds of fragrant yellow peaches and spent an early Sunday afternoon making the peach slices. It's a little labor intensive since you have to halve, pit, and skin the peaches. As McClellan says in her recipe's headnote, you really want to use freestone peaches for this. I did not. So it was challenging. Ultimately I used a paring knife to cut around the pit on one side to separate the halves and then to cut it out from the half it clung to. It wasn't pretty but it got the job done.

Everything else went very well, including blanching the fruit to loosen the skin from the flesh. From there, you make a syrup that you slice the peaches into, cook briefly, and then place in the jars together before processing. The result is divine. The peaches bring their own sweetness, the maple syrup adds more but it's very subtle, as is the underlying flavor from the cointreau. The peach slices are tender and I know my dad will enjoy eating them with a little whipped cream. But you should also consider using them to top ice cream or sorbet this summer, or perhaps some pound cake or angel food cake. Save a couple of jars in your pantry and when you're feeling a little wistful for stone fruit next February, you can satisfy that yearning.

To all the dads out there, enjoy your day! I hope your family makes a big fuss over you!

Peach Slices with Bourbon
From Naturally Sweet Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan
(printable recipe)

The trick to canning peaches is to look for the freestone varieties. They typically arrive in markets towards the middle point of peach season and they will make your workload far lighter. You can’t tell by looking what kind you have, so ask your grower or the produce person at your local market. Tell them you want them for canning, they’ll understand.

Makes 4 (pint/500 ml) jars

6 pounds/2.75 kg yellow peaches
6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice, divided
3 cups/470 ml filtered water
3/4 cup/235 g maple syrup
1/2 cup/118 ml bourbon

Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 4 regular mouth pint/500 ml jars according to the process on page 12.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While it heats, cut all your peaches in half and remove the pits. Fill a large bowl 2/3 the way up with cold water and add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. The cold water stops the cooking and the lemon helps prevent the fruit from browning.

Working in batches, proceed to blanch all your peach halves for 60 seconds. Make sure to give the water a chance to come back up to boiling between batches. If the water isn’t hot enough, you will have a hard time removing the skin during peeling.

Once all the peaches have been blanched and they are cooling down, make the syrup. Combine the remaining lemon juice, filtered water and maple syrup in a saucepan large enough to eventually hold all the peaches. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.

While the syrup heats, slide the peels off the peaches and cut them into wedges. Drop the cut wedges into the heating syrup as you work. Once all the peaches are in the syrup, raise the heat to high and bring the pot to a boil.

Using a slotted spoon, funnel the peaches into the prepared jars and top with the syrup, leaving 11/2 inches/3.8 cm headspace. Add 2 tablespoons of bourbon to each jar. Tap the jars gently on the countertop to settle the peaches and use a wooden chopstick to remove any air bubbles. If necessary, add additional syrup to each jar, so that each has a finished headspace of 1/2 inch/12 mm.

Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes (see page 12).

Note: Most the time I’ll tell you that you can use whatever jar you want, but for these peaches, I actually do recommend opting for regular mouth jars. Their shoulders will help keep the peach slices submerged in the syrup and that will ensure they keep their quality longer.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sweet Petite Confections Shows Off The Earl and the Tarts

Do you make bonbons? No? Neither do I. Or neither did I until I met chocolatier Michelle Lomelin of Sweet Petite Confections in Clairemont. Lomelin, whose first career was in fashion design, began to pursue chocolate making in 2000. She launched her business seven-and-a-half years ago, starting in her home, then moving to a rental kitchen, where she made pastries as well as chocolates. A year ago she moved into her brick-and-mortar shop and decided to pare down to her core focus, making seasonal chocolates and holiday and themed collections, utilizing her merchandising skills to design eye-popping and imaginative chocolates and their packaging.

Currently, her spring collection, themed Flora and Fauna (above), is out, along with a gold-and-yellow First Anniversary collection (below). "I design my chocolate collections like clothing," she told me. "This isn't See's."

The retail/kitchen is a bright, sleek space--just what you'd expect from a fashion designer--even outfitted with a refrigerator decorated with a eye-grabbing huge pink rose graphic behind a mammoth marble island that is the kitchen's anchor. This is where she makes her stylish and addictive bonbons, meltaways, barks (love her best-selling Seaside Bark with Hawaiian sea salt and crisped rice), salted caramels, lollipops, and even custom chocolate business cards for retail customers and wholesale clientele, including The Lodge at Torrey Pines, The Hotel del Coronado, the Bahia, the Catamaran's spa, The Hilton Mission Bay, BMW, Hyundai, and the Farmers Insurance Open. It's also where she conducts classes and tastings. And soon she'll be introducing ice cream daily and pastries on Saturday mornings. Eventually, she said, she'd like to expand to offer cafe-style seating.

Lomelin invited me in to learn her techniques for making bonbons, specifically her tart cherry and Earl Grey tea-infused dark chocolate ganache bonbon she calls The Earl and the Tarts. I spent three enjoyable hours with her and found her to be a thorough, engaging, and patient teacher. For her, the classes, the tastings, and even the shopping are directed to one purpose: "I want people to come in here for an experience," she said.

Lomelin had the dark chocolate for the shell and the foot (the bottom of the bonbon) tempering in her tempering machine. You probably don't have one or need one, so follow the directions for tempering chocolate on a site she recommends, King Arthur Flour.

She also prepped the dried cherries. They were chopped and soaking in Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon in a small red bowl.

So, we got started making the ganache. The first step was to heat the cream with the Earl Grey tea leaves. The mixture reaches the boil, then she turns off the heat, covers the saucepan, and lets it steep for five minutes. After that she strains the leaves and adds back a little milk to return the mixture to the original weight.

Then Lomelin adds glucose syrup and reheats the scented mixture to the boil. At that point, she pours it over a combination of dark and milk chocolate pieces--she prefers Guittard chocolate--and lets it sit for a minute. If you want, you can give the chocolate a head start in melting by putting it in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Make sure when you're working with the chocolate that you keep it away from unnecessary moisture. At its best, it can be difficult to work with. As Lomelin said, "Chocolate is like a fussy French chef in a bad mood. You have to yield to it."

With the chocolate warmed, you want to stir the mixture until it emulsifies. Lomelin starts in the center of the bowl and works outward in large circles.

Next, she adds the butter and incorporates the pieces smoothly into the mixture. Now you have ganache. Time to transfer it into a pastry bag. Lomelin has a nifty trick to do this pretty smoothly. Get yourself a large cup--along the lines of a 7-Eleven-size slurpie cup--and place a pastry bag or thick plastic ziplock bag inside, folding the top of the bag over the top of the cup. Now you can use both hands to pour the ganache into the bag.

Tie up the top of the bag and place it on its side while you move on to the next steps. If the ganache begins to harden at the tip (if you're using a plastic bag, you'll snip off the corner to create the hole), simply warm it up by gently massaging it.

From here you'll drain the cherries in a sieve and blot them with paper towels. Don't toss the liquid. You can enjoy it in cocktails or custards, or even reduced to a syrup to use over ice cream.

So, here comes the fun part. Putting it all together in molds. You can find chocolate molds at places like Michaels or Do It With Icing or online. Lomelin uses expensive thick polycarbonate molds.

You don't need those but they were cool to work with. She showed me how to decorate them with colored cocoa butter. First we did some finger painting, dipping a finger in the "paint" and then smearing the mold's interior. Then we did some spray painting.

You probably aren't going to do this, but what you can do after the the bonbons are made is use luster dust, an edible decorating powder, or confectioners glitter--both of which I found on Amazon.

Add a little vodka to a small bowl. Lomelin uses vodka for three reasons--it has no flavor or color and the alcohol evaporates. Using a blush brush, dip it lightly in the vodka, lightly in the glitter, and then lightly brush it on the bonbon.

Okay, back to the process. Remember that tempered chocolate? Well, you're going to pour that into the mold over the paint and then drain the excess (that's why you need to temper so much more chocolate than you'll actually use; save the rest by pouring it on a cookie sheet. Once it hardens break it up and put the pieces in a ziplock bag to store.)

Now you have shells. They need to crystalize or harden. You'll know when they're ready for the next step when they go from shiny to matte.

At that point, get the ganache in the pastry bag and place a dot of it into each cavity. This allows the cherries, which you add next, to stick. Then you'll pipe in the ganache for real, leaving space for the foot.

By the time you fill each cavity, the chocolate will have hardened a bit, so Lomelin warms it up with a heat gun (alternately, use a hair dryer) so the foot will adhere seamlessly. Now you'll add more tempered chocolate to create the foot, sluicing off excess with a scraper.

Okay, almost done. The mold/s go into the refrigerator for about an hour to crystalize. When they're hard, gently tap the mold to release the bonbons.

I bet you think that's it. But not quite. You want to put them in a pretty package, right? Lomelin taught me a nifty trick for getting the chocolates securely into those little paper cups. Use your thumb and index finger to slightly spread open the cup. Place the bonbon squarely in the middle above the cup and lower it until you feel it hitting the cup. Release your fingers, then swiftly but gently press down on the bonbon. It should actually click in. Don't worry if you don't get it right away. This will take a bit of practice, but it's so satisfying when it works.

The Earl and the Tarts
from Michelle Lomelin of Sweet Petite Confections
Yield: 66 12-gram bonbon pieces

175 grams heavy cream
10 grams earl grey tea leaves
Whole milk (as needed)
55 grams glucose syrup (available in San Diego at Do It With Icing--or substitute with corn syrup)
155 grams 64% dark chocolate, roughly chopped if not already in pieces or discs
240 grams 33% milk chocolate, roughly chopped if not already in pieces or discs
30 grams butter, softened and cut into pieces
100 grams dried tart Montmorency cherries (available at Trader Joe's), minced 
100 grams Bourbon (Buffalo Trace) or spirit of choice
 2 pounds 72% dark chocolate, tempered (King Arthur Flour explains the process well.)

To make ganache: In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and tea leaves just to a boil. Cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain leaves from cream and return to original weight by adding milk. Add glucose syrup and reheat to just a boil. Place the dark and milk chocolate pieces in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Using a spatula, stir mixture in small vigorous circles in the center of the bowl until it emulsifies. Stir outward in larger circles to spread the emulsion throughout the bowl. If necessary, heat the ganache for 5 seconds at a time in the microwave until all chocolate is melted. Once all chocolate has melted, add the butter and stir until incorporated. Transfer to a pastry bag.

In a small bowl, combine the minced cherries with the spirit and let reconstitute for 1 hour (or more if desired). Drain through a mesh sieve and lightly pat dry. Save the remaining liquid to enjoy in cocktails or reduce and make a syrup to pour over ice cream.

Prepare the bonbon mold as desired. Using tempered 72% chocolate, create a shell and allow to crystalize. Once chocolate has crystalized, pipe in a dot of ganache, then sprinkle in approximately 1.5 grams of cherries per cavity. Pipe in ganache, leaving approximately 1/8 inch for the foot. Using a heat gun or hair dryer, warm the mold slightly and add the foot. Place in cooler for 1 hour to crystalize. Gently tap mold to remove chocolates.

Sweet Petite Confections is located at 3582 Mount Acadia Blvd. in San Diego.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Decaf You Can Fall in Love With

It's been decades since I've been able to drink regular coffee. In the years since I first gave it up, the quality of decaf has steadily improved. And yet I can't take for granted that when I go to a meeting or a coffee house, a restaurant or an event that I'll be able to enjoy a cup--delicious or not. In coffee houses, the compromise often is an Americano, which is okay, but not the same as a quality full-bodied decaf.

One local coffee roaster that seems to respect the desire of decaf drinkers to luxuriate in a delicious cup of coffee is Cafe Virtuoso, a 100 percent certified organic roaster that's been in business since 2008. Owners Laurie and Savanah Britton, who run their business out of a sleek warehouse space in Barrio Logan, invited me to come in to learn about their roasting process and taste their decaf varieties.

Daughter Savannah, who manages quality control, explained that they send their roasted beans to Coffee Review for an evaluation (You can see the scores they've received here.) It's a 100-point scale. Their Signature Decaf, mistakenly judged and scored as espresso instead of the intended drip, received a 90, she said. "We don't even look at coffee beans unless they're at least an 84," she added. Coffee Review is correcting the error by rating it again for drip.

She then introduced me to Cafe Virtuoso's head roaster, Nelson Teskey. Teskey, who came to work at Cafe Virtuoso nine months ago from his native British Columbia, began his coffee obsession while in high school and in 2014 became a licensed Q, or Quality, Grader from the Coffee Quality Institute, basically the coffee equivalent of a sommelier. According to Cafe Virtuoso, he's the only Q Grader in San Diego who is also roasting coffee. Teskey is also a Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Lead Instructor, who teaches others how to roast specialty coffee.

We began with a tasting. Teskey prepared both their Signature Decaf and Decaf Vernazza using a pour over technique. "We like to pour over because it releases more delicate, subtle flavors without the sediment that you get from a French press," he explained. He added that if you use a French press after you pour your cup/s, you should pour the remaining coffee in the press into another carafe or Chemex so that it doesn't overextract from exposure to the grounds at the bottom.

I tasted both coffees black, of course. Teskey, not surprisingly, was keen on explaining the various notes of each variety. My palate isn't as refined. But while I enjoyed both, I appreciated the Signature decaf more sans milk or sugar. There was no residual sourness that I sometimes experience with black coffee and the flavor was rich, almost chocolate-like.

Teskey then showed me their impressive stainless steel Loring roaster. All of the controls on this roaster are digital, enabling them to track the temperature of the beans through the various stages of roasting. If Teskey and the Brittons are happy with the results, they can then digitally save the roasting profile so that in the future they'll get consistent roasted beans for that variety. Before they could digitally control the process, consistency was based on the experience of a single person running the machine and the aromas and tastes that person experienced.

Cafe Virtuoso roasts 10 to 15, 70-pound batches a day--the yield following roasting drops to 57 to 60 pounds since the beans give up moisture in the process. When they get in new beans, Teskey said, they'll do a sample roast based on standards for the profile of that bean variety. Then they'll do a cupping, or tasting, of the results. They'll score the sample based on the cupping, but, as Savannah had said, they won't buy the beans if they rate below an 84. Tesky will consult with her about the flavor notes and their goals for the beans they do decide to keep and will then roast the beans based on that.

For decaf beans, the roasting process is different because the beans have undergone Swiss Water Processing, which removes 8 to 9 percent of the water in the beans before they're even roasted. So, said Tesky, the roasting temperatures are lower than the usual 350 to 460 degrees. It's gentler because the potential of burning the beans is more dramatic.

I bought bags of both decaf varieties with the intent of using the Decaf Vernazza for when I want to make a cappuccino or mocha and the Signature for when I want to keep things small and simple--an easy pour over of a single small cup to enjoy black. It's been a great way to start my mornings.

Cafe Virtuoso is located at 1616 National Ave. You can buy coffee beans there--as well as specialty drinks and snacks at their coffee bar. You can also find their coffee here.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jeremy Oursland's Salmon with Vegetables, Gnocchi, and Tomato Fonduta

It's hard to believe, but in August Bottega Americano will have been open for two years. I remember walking around the cavernous restaurant's shell while it was under construction as executive chef Dave Warner explained how there would be different stations lining the walls--one for pasta making, one for making pizza, another for charcuterie, still another for pastry. Once it opened, it was  impressive to see the vision realized--both in the design and the high caliber of the food being served.

I've enjoyed a lot of terrific meals there and was happy to visit one recent late morning to meet with sous chef Jeremy Oursland to learn how to make a new dish on their spring menu. They just call it Salmon, but it's a seared salmon filet with caramelized fennel, gnocchi, sugar snap peas, and Swiss chard, dressed with a tomato fonduta--Italy's version of fondue.

Oursland has been with Bottega Americano since it opened. Previously, he had worked with Warner at JRDN in Pacific Beach following a two-year hiatus during which he had moved to Santa Rosa and gone to school. Before that he'd worked at Rainwaters on Kettner while helping out his grandparents. Oursland grew up in the restaurant business. His dad had been a chef at a country club and Oursland started out there as a kid working as a dishwasher. Like many who start with doing the dishes and sticking with it, he got a chance to cook, first making brunch and breakfast, then dinner.

"I learned about catering and banquets. I learned about fine dining from my five years working there," he said.

Everything was prepped and ready to go when I got to the restaurant. First, Oursland showed me how to make the fonduta, filling a saucepan with half a lemon, wine, garlic, shallot, fresh herbs, peppercorns, and a roma tomato. Cream had been warmed in another pot. Once the mixture was reduced and strained, he added the cream, tomato paste, and butter, which yielded a rich yet slightly acidic sauce. In fact, this makes enough so that you can use some to serve with the salmon and vegetables and have more to enjoy over pasta, other fish, chicken, roasted vegetables, or (Oursland's suggestion) cheese curds. Or use it as a dipping sauce for bread.

Then Oursland cooked the salmon. In your home, use the stove. At the restaurant, Oursland takes advantage of the searing heat of the pizza oven. First he heated the cast iron skillet in the oven. Then he carefully added some canola oil and slid a salmon filet, skin side down and away from him onto the pan before pushing it into the oven. He also prepared a version on the stovetop.

Oursland suggests purchasing skin-on salmon from a specialty seafood market or Costco. He prefers wild or sustainably farmed salmon. When prepping it be sure to pat the skin dry so that it will get crispy. And only salt the fish just before you put it in the hot pan. "If you season it and let it sit, the salt will pull the moisture in the fish to the surface and the sear won't be as crisp," Oursland warns. He suggested using a fish spatula because its thin edge makes it easy to get under the fish without tearing the skin or the flesh--and it's easy to clean.

He also makes sure he blanches the vegetables before sauteing them. "This seals in the flavor, adds crunch, and brings out vibrant colors," he noted. "Make sure all the veggies have a chance to dry thoroughly before sauteing," he said, adding, "Thomas Keller has a chapter in the French Laundry cookbook about big pot blanching. It's well written and a fun read. I enjoy preparing vegetables. It can be a little time consuming but if you do so with respect for the product it will show in your dish. I find it very relaxing and rewarding.

"If you pay attention to the minor details it makes for such a better result," Oursland said.

Salmon with Caramelized Fennel, Gnocchi, Sugar Snap Peas, Swiss Chard, and Tomato Fonduta
From Jeremy Oursland of Bottega Americano
Serves 4 to 6, depending on portion size


½ pound sugar snap peas
1 bunch rainbow chard
2 fennel bulbs
3 ounces canola oil for caramelizing the fennel, and sautéing the gnocchi and the salmon
1 teaspoon butter
Kosher salt
6 ounces per person of gnocchi (You can substitute pasta like fusilli or penne. You can also buy house-made gnocchi at Bottega Americano)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
6 ounce portion per person salmon filet, skin on 
1 cup fonduta (see below)

For Fonduta:
Yield: 3 cups

3 cups white wine-preferably one you wouldn’t mind drinking but not too expensive
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs tarragon
8 garlic cloves
1 large shallot roughly chopped
2 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 of a lemon
1/2 medium tomato 
1 cup cream, slightly warmed
1 tablespoon tomato paste  
1/2 pound butter, cut into pieces 
Kosher salt


To make the fonduta, combine the wine, bay leaf, thyme, tarragon, garlic, shallot, lemon, and tomato in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half.

Add the cream and whisk in the tomato paste. Reduce by a third, then strain the mixture through a sieve.

Return the sauce to the saucepan and whisk in the butter over medium-low heat. Season to taste with kosher salt. Strain again. Set aside.

For the vegetables:

Prepare an ice bath. Wash the rainbow chard thoroughly in cold water and dry. Remove the stems and dice the leaves into ¼-inch by ¼-inch pieces. Blanch in salted boiling water for one minute and then place in ice bath for a moment to shock them. Remove from the water and set aside.

Prep the sugar snap peas by removing the “string,” grabbing the outer edge where the pea was connected to the vine and pulling it away from the pea. Remove the tip where the pea connected to the vine, too. Blanch and then shock in the ice bath. Remove and set aside.

Cut the top and bottom of the fennel bulbs. Remove the core. (Save them to include in a simple vegetable stock). Julienne the remaining parts of the bulbs into ½-inch strips. Sauté in canola oil over medium-high heat until it has a nice caramel color and becomes soft. Finish with a touch of butter and season to taste with kosher salt. Set aside.

Blanch the gnocchi, then sauté on medium-high heat in canola oil until golden brown and crispy. Season with kosher salt. (If you’re using fusilli or penne, cook according to directions and skip the sautéing.)

Sauté all the prepared vegetables together in a pan with a little olive oil and crushed garlic. Add the gnocchi or pasta (or skip this step and add them while plating). Season to taste with kosher salt. Set aside.

To cook the salmon, first pat the skin dry to help the skin get crispy. Heat a cast iron or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add canola oil. Season the fish with kosher salt just prior to placing in the pan (again for a crispy skin). Lightly lay it in the pan skin side down and placing it in a motion away from the hand holding the pan to avoid splashing the oil on yourself. Let it cook approximately five minutes. Using a fish spatula, flip the filets carefully, tilting the pan away from you to avoid the oil splashing, and cook another two to three minutes on the other side. Remove from heat and let it rest a couple of minutes before plating.

To plate, place the vegetables and gnocchi on each plate to form a bed for the salmon. Place the salmon on top. Sauce the plate with the fonduta and serve immediately.

Bottega Americano is located in downtown San Diego at 1195 Island Ave. 

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