Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sylvie's Turkey Breast Ballotine

For this year's Thanksgiving dinner, we traveled to a remote village close to the Mont St. Michel castle and dined in a historic stone manor with walls so thick that they trap all the aromas of the food being prepared in the kitchen. Well, not exactly, but that's how Chef Bernard Guillas describes his sister Sylvie's home in France, where she grows her own vegetables and raises chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and sheep.

Sylvie's Turkey Breast Ballotine is featured in the Wings chapter of Flying Pans - Two Chefs, One World, the award-winning cookbook by Chefs Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver.  It is also The Marine Room's featured recipe of the month. When we planned on just three of us for Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted a change from roasting an entire turkey with all the traditional sides. After spending an afternoon with Chef Bernard at Rancho La Puerta, I was inspired to prepare something from his cookbook.

Chefs Bernard and Ron have a passion for fine cuisine, travel, and life. Flying Pans takes you on a culinary voyage through forty countries, combining recipes with anecdotes, trivia, and stories. The recipes were photographed at San Diego's Macy's School of Cooking, and were all styled by the chefs themselves.

"The role of a chef is to create a feast for the senses...
 telling the tale of a region and its people via taste, texture, scent, and sight.
I am always striving to discover new styles of cuisine with original cultural roots."
 - Chef Bernard Guillas

Sylvie's Turkey Breast Ballotine

Sylvie's Turkey Breast Ballotine
Croissant Sausage Stuffing, Glazed Carrots, Cipollinis, Apple Cider Gravy
Minimally adapted from Flying Pans - Two Chefs, One World
The Marine Room's Featured Recipe for November 2011
Serves 8


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup stemmed, diced oyster mushrooms (I substituted chanterelles)
2 cups minced leeks, white part only
1/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup diced sun dried tart cherries
1 teaspoon chopped sage
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chicken stock
6 links hot Italian sausages, casings removed (about 3 cups)
8 large croissants, cubed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 4-pound boneless free range turkey breast
1 stick unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons chopped thyme

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, leeks, hazelnuts, cherries, sage and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes without browning, stirring often. Transfer mixture to large mixing bowl. Add chicken stock. Fold in sausage and croissants.

Place turkey breast on cutting board. Butterfly-cut breast lengthwise to create pocket. Place two thirds of stuffing in center. Roll. Tie with butcher twine. Transfer remaining stuffing to baking dish. Cover.

Place turkey in roasting pan skin side up. Dot with butter. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Bake 1 hour or until center of stuffing reaches 160 degrees, basting often. Bake reserved stuffing during last 30 minutes of cooking turkey. Transfer turkey to cutting board. Place roasting pan on stovetop over medium heat to make sauce.

Apple Cider Sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 green apples, cored, chopped
4 leaves sage
2 tablespoons sifted flour
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup sparkling apple cider
2 cups chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Add butter, shallots, apples and sage to roasting pan. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add balsamic and apple cider. Bring to boil. Add chicken stock. Bring to simmer. Reduce to sauce consistency. Strain through fine sieve. Season with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Relish:

1 cup dried cranberries
1 pound fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 stick cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mint sprigs for garnish

Place all ingredients, except mint, in saucepan. Cook, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have popped and reduced to relish consistency, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl, or individual serving ramekins. Serve at room temperature. Garnish with mint.

Vegetables and Presentation:

1/2 cup verjus (you can substitute ½ cup of Savignon Blanc plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar)
1/2 pound young carrots, peeled, trimmed
1/2 pound cipollini onions, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon minced mint
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add butter, verjus, honey, cipollini onions and carrots to large skillet over medium heat. Bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cover. Cook 2 minutes. Uncover. Cook until liquid is syrupy. Add mint. Toss. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Slice turkey breast into 1-inch thick slices. Place in center of warm serving plate. Garnish with carrots and cipollinis. Spoon sauce onto plate. Serve with cranberry relish.

Fresh ingredients for the Croissant-Sausage Stuffing

Chopped and ready to be sauteed

Large Croissants

Stuffed, rolled, tied, and ready for the oven

Some of the Cranberry Relish ingredients

Cranberry Relish

This may become a new Thanksgiving tradition in our home

Newfie Notes:
  • I purchased a 4.5 lb. boneless turkey breast. When I unwrapped it, I discovered it was actually one full breast, or two half breasts. I decided to make two ballotines at that point, one from each half breast. Not knowing how to butterfly a turkey breast, I watched a few videos online. This one by Martha Stewart was helpful (but I still made John do it!)
  • My turkey breasts took a bit longer than an hour, especially after opening the oven and basting often. Be sure to use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature, and remove from oven when the center of the stuffing reaches 160 degrees F. Allow to rest about 10 minutes before slicing.
  • I bought day-old croissants for half price.
  • Chanterelles are extremely expensive. The recipe calls for Oyster mushrooms.  I won't make that mistake again!
  • I was unable to find verjus. As indicated above, Chef Bernard recommends substituting 1/2 cup of Savignon Blanc plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar.
  • The Apple Cider Sauce is out of this world!
  • Don't wait until next Thanksgiving to try this recipe. It would be lovely for Christmas, or any special occasion.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Walnut Turtle Pie, from Fleming's Prime Steakhouse

Back in early October, we spent An Afternoon at Fleming's with EC Gallery and Painter of Chefs artist, Christopher M.  The luncheon prepared by Chef Christopher Gardner was incredible, and Fleming's signature Walnut Turtle Pie, part of the dessert trio that day, had John drooling all the way home.

It was hard to pass up Bobby Flay's Throwdown Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving, but I decided to give this Turtle Pie a try.  It's more of a cake than a pie, or like a rich, chocolate brownie.  The chocolate crust becomes one with the filling as it bakes.  The center  is chocolaty and gooey, almost like a lava cake.  The rich chocolate filling coats the walnuts as they rise to the top, creating a crunchy, caramelized-walnut layer that caves back into the soft center as it cools.

Walnut Turtle Pie
Adapted from Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
Makes two 6-inch pies

Ingredients for the Crust:

8 ounces all purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ lb. unsalted butter (cold, ½-inch dice)
2-3 tablespoons ice water
Pan coating

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 ¼ cup light corn syrup
½ lb. unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 large eggs
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup dark Crème de Cocoa (a chocolate flavored liqueur with hints of vanilla)
12 ounces walnuts, roughly chopped


Make the crust by combining the 8 ounces flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, cocoa powder and ½ pound diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium-low speed until cornmeal consistency. Add 2 tablespoons of ice water and mix just to form into a smooth ball (use extra tablespoon if dough doesn't come together). Divide the dough in half.

Lightly flour a cutting board and roll out the first piece of dough to a 10” circle, about ¼ inch thick. Spray the inside of the pan lightly with pan coating, such as Pam, and then gently lay one crust inside, and press down on the bottom and up the sides. The crust should come up the inside side of the pan about 2 inches. Repeat with the other piece of dough and pan. Place pans in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

For the filling, combine corn syrup and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1 ¾ cup sugar, vanilla and dark Crème de Cocoa; add the reserved corn syrup and chocolate mixture, and blend well (I also used the electric mixer for this step).

Sprinkle the walnuts evenly over the bottom of the crusts, and then pour in the batter. Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees F (300 degrees F for a convection oven) for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the center of the pies puff up and appear set.

Remove pies from the oven, and allow to cool for 15 minutes at room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Serve with whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.

A slice of chocolate heaven

Preparation Photos and Newfie Notes:

Fleming's recipe provides quantities for 2 cakes and 4 cakes, but doesn't specify what size cakes.  I'm assuming, by the instructions to roll the dough to 12 inch circles, that they are using 8 or 9 inch pans (the recipe says to use cheesecake pans).  However, I recently bought two, 6-inch cake pans with removable bottoms, which is why I adapted the recipe for these pans. I had a little left over dough and filling, so I experimented with a third pie in a 3 1/2 inch ramekin.  I like smaller cakes and really love the size of these pans, but you could use these same quantities to make one large turtle pie using a 9-inch cheesecake pan.

Before baking

I took the small ramekin out of the oven after 50 minutes.  The 6-inch pies were still a little jiggly in the center at 1 hour and 30 minutes, so I baked them about 10 minutes more.  They puffed up and cracked slightly, and the centers then sunk back down as they cooled.

After baking

I served the first pie that evening, after about 3-4 hours of refrigeration.  It was gooey in the center, which is actually how it was served at Fleming's.  The second cake firmed up slightly, after refrigeration overnight.

Petite Turtle Pie

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Singing in the Rain at Rancho La Puerta

Rancho La Puerta, voted World's Best Destination Spa by the readers of Travel & Leisure magazine, is an extraordinary place. The 3,000-acre property in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, features an amazing program of fitness activities, healthful cuisine, luxury spa amenities, superb accommodations in private casitas, lush landscaped gardens and secluded sanctuaries, an organic farm, internationally known cooking school, and mountainsides and meadows of great hiking and walking experiences.

This past Saturday, I was a guest for Saturdays at the Ranch, a new program offering a one-day-visit to San Diego-area residents. The experience includes transportation from Old Town via luxury coach, a half day of fitness and spa activities, gourmet spa lunch, and a long, wonderful afternoon spent in a hands-on cooking class, including dinner, at La Cocina que Canta, the new cooking school and culinary center set in the midst of an organic farm. 

My Saturday at the Ranch was also the kick off event for the 8th Annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, and we are looking forward to attending several of the cooking classes and tastings throughout the week, and the Grand Tasting event this weekend.

Despite the rain, which was rather heavy at times, I was able to explore a small portion of the ranch and take a few photos before my late morning therapeutic massage. Unfortunately, the hike was cancelled and my wanderings were confined to the meandering brick paths.

At about 3:00, I found my way back to the meeting location for our 3:30 transport to La Cocina que Canta, "The Kitchen that Sings." It was a short drive through Tecate, around the outside perimeter of the ranch, and down a muddy and bumpy dirt road. We scurried up the path, deposited our umbrellas, and slipped in through a massive wood door to the warmth of the open kitchen and dining room, where we were welcomed by Rancho La Puerta's Executive Chef, Denise Roa, and visiting guest Chef, Bernard Guillas.

We've had the pleasure of dining at Chef Bernard's La Jolla restaurant, The Marine Room, and chatting with him at the annual Gingerbread City Gala and The Gourmet Experience. He's a charming and entertaining award-winning chef, winner of San Diego's "Best Chef" many times, and co-author of Flying Pans - Two Chefs One World, a cookbook that combines personal travel stories, anecdotes and over 100 global recipes from travels with co-author and Marine Room Chef de Cuisine, Ron Oliver.

La Cucina que Canta is a culinary institution that has fast become the "it" place of many of the most famous teaching chefs and cookbook authors.  Guest instructors in the past years have included Rick Bayless, Deborah Madison, Patricia Wells, John Ash, and many more. The school itself is located in the midst of the ranch's six-acre organic farm that climbs the fertile hillside at the foot of Mt. Kuchumaa.

There were about 10 guests participating in the cooking class. Preparation stations were set up around the kitchen island, complete with knives, cutting boards, fresh produce, printed recipes, and everything required to prepare our five course dinner. Most of the produce was freshly picked from the organic farm, just outside the kitchen. The class was divided into teams and then put to work chopping, measuring, mixing, marinading, blanching, rolling, sauteing, and baking, with the assistance of Chefs Bernard and Roa, and the friendly kitchen team.

A few hours later, everyone sat down at the large farm-style table to savor an amazing five-course dinner and wine.
Ahi Tuna Lollipop with Ginger Macadamia Sauce

Salade Gourmande du Gros with Banyl Hazelnut Vinaigrette

Portobello Mushroom Bisque with Truffle Oil, Pine Nuts, and Lemon Greek Yogurt

Almond Tatsoi Crusted Halibut with Plum Tomato Sambal,
Sweet Soy, and Quinoa Heart of Palm Salad

Hibiscus Infused Lemon Tart with an Almond Cumin Crust

After dinner, we had a few moments to relax and visit while Chef Bernard autographed copies of his cookbook, and then we were transported back to San Diego.

Despite the rain, some reluctance in traveling to Mexico, and not having John with me on this trip, I had a marvelous time and can't wait to return to explore and experience everything this magical ranch has to offer.

Please visit Rancho La Puerta's web site for a wealth of information, videos, and photographs.
Chef Bernard shares the recipe for his Hibiscus Infused Lemon Tart, here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Espresso Cinnamon Toast Shortbread Cookies

The December 2011/January 2012 issue of Fine Cooking has some tempting recipes to try for the holidays: Seared Scallops with Warm Radicchio and Pancetta; Braised Fennel with Orange; Short Rib and Dried Porcini Lasagne; Butternut Squash Lasagna with Goat Cheese, Sage, and Breadcrumbs; Sweet Potato Oven Fries; an updated version of German Chocolate Cake; and Shortbread Cookies, Your Way.

My Way:  Espresso-Cinnamon Toast Shortbread

Vanilla Shortbread Cookie dough provides the canvas for various add-ins to suit your taste, such as cardamom, double ginger, cinnamon toast, lemon and espresso-chip. Even in my adult life, I make cinnamon toast on occasion. There's just something addicting about that crunchy layer of caramelized cinnamon-sugar, with buttery, soft, warm bread underneath, with my morning cup of coffee.

With mom still in rehab after hip surgery, I had a little added incentive to make these shortbread cookies last night...some for her, and most for me ;-)

I didn't stop with adding a touch of cinnamon to the dough and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar over the top before baking. I also dissolved a teaspoon of instant espresso powder in the vanilla extract before mixing the vanilla into the dough. With a basic recipe like this, there are many creative variations.

Fine Cooking's step-by-step and flavor options can be found in the most recent issue, and in the article, How to Make Shortbread Cookies. Be sure to add these to your Christmas Cookies list this year!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Simply and Perfectly Cooked Duck Breasts, for French Fridays with Dorie

I've only prepared duck a few times at home, but it's one of my favorites to order when I see it on a restaurant menu, especially when served with a cherry and/or port sauce. This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Twenty-Minute Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts, was certainly one I didn't want to miss.

Dorie writes an entire page about the basics of the breasts from Moulard ducks, called Magret de Canard.  The Moulard Duck is a cross between a Muscovy drake and a Pekin hen. Magret refers to the breast of a Moulard duck that has been reared for foie gras, and it provides moist, red, meaty flesh with rich flavor. Since Gascony, France is the heart of foie gras country, the Moulard duck is common in the cooking of the region.

Moulard Duck

Muscovy duck, sometimes called Barbarie or Barbary duck, is thin-skinned, low in fat, and has deep red, mildly gamy meat which is sometimes compared to roast beef for its flavor, and veal for its tenderness.  The carcass of a Muscovy duck is heavier than most other domestic ducks, and has a larger breast that its Pekin counterpart, with up to 40% less fat than that breed. Europeans have been enjoying the Muscovy duck meat for a long time, and the popularity of this duck is growing in the United States.

Muscovy Duck

Dorie recommends Moulard duck breasts for this recipe, which are more "succulent."  One of San Diego's best meat markets, Iowa Meat Farms, carries both Moulard and Muscovy breasts.  A package containing two Moulard breasts, weighing about 1/2 pound each, runs about $15.00.  Quite a bit more than a couple of chicken breasts, but a nice treat once in a while.

Two Moulard Duck Breasts, about 1/2 lb. each

I absolutely loved Dorie's method in cooking the duck breasts to perfection.  However, I didn't love the sauce, which was balsamic vinegar, honey, juice of a lime, and the accumulated juices in the foil (all but a tablespoon of the rendered duck fat is removed from the pan before making the pan sauce).  

Perfectly Cooked Duck Breasts
Slightly adapted from Around My French Table

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  To prepare duck breasts, trim away excess fat that extends beyond the edge of the meat if necessary. Then score the fat side, season with salt and pepper, and place skin side down in a hot cast iron pan. No fat or oil is needed. Cook for about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and flip the breast over, cooking for about 3 minutes. Make sure the duck is not cooked beyond medium rare. Wrap the breasts loosely in foil and place in the warm oven to rest for about five minutes.  Slice into 1/2-inch thick slices and serve.

I served our duck with steamed asparagus and a gourmet rice blend of wild and white rice, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds.

Dorie's recipe is available on D'Artagnan, where you will find a few more duck recipes (including one with cherry sauce) and all kinds of gourmet food products and organic meats.


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Coronado Island Pirates Board the HMS Obsessed for a Halloween Sail

Ahoy, Mateys! Welcome to a recap of our 4th Annual Halloween Party. Last year's Villains on Trial theme was pretty amazing, but this year is going to be a tough act to follow. John spent endless hours researching, designing, and creating the pirate ship set, props, invitations, and our costumes. He added so many amazing artistic details. Although I bitched and moaned quite a bit during the process, I am so proud of my talented man. I talked him into leaving everything as is for another week or two, so we can enjoy it a bit longer and continue to chuckle at the aaarrrggghhs as people walk or ride by the house...


Legend be told, when the leaves begin to fall and a chill grips the air, in these parts, there be a ship only seen from a misty distance. The misfortunate who glimpsed her sails say she flies a banner of infamous pirate, Captain Juan Carlos Rodriguez Dominguez Christiania de Coronado. Ruthless, cutthroat privateer, bearing a Letter of Mark signed by the Queen of Spain herself. His ship, HMS Obsessed, sails the straights off Coronado, looking to pillage and plunder in the name of the Queen.

I heard tell from an old salty mariner, claims to have seen her late one hallowed eve. Overwhelming greed took hold the Captain and crew, as a shark to its prey. The Captain plotted course to steal the trident of Poseidon, Lord of the Sea. Slipping silently through the trade winds to the edge of the earth. Catching the deity in a dead calm of the doldrums, relieving him of his treasured trident.

Infuriated, the god whipped the seas into mountains of froth, a squall unlike any witnessed by man. He summonsed from the briny abyss the Kraken, so he could inflict bitter and merciless revenge. The crew fought valiantly to the last, an epic battle to save their ship and souls. As all weathered sailors know, their struggles were to be in vain. Victoriously, the monster sent ship, crew, and all, to the icy depths of Davey Jones’ Locker. Vengeful, the god damned all souls aboard to sail the water beyond the shores of Coronado for eternity.

In late October, when a frosty bluster blows a bitter mist from the sea, it pay you well to listen for the sounds of men on deck bringing canons to the ready. For Captain Juan Carlos Rodriguez Dominguez Christiania de Coronado and his crew of the damned come. An eternity of tortuous unsatisfied greed their compass. Enslaving those unsuspecting sailors to his eternally cursed crew, take what he may for their plunder.


The Captain, building the helm

The Captain, tying the rigging

Jumpin' Jenny

Pirate Party Invitation and Treasure Map

Awaiting the Arrival of the Crew
(Photo by Bob Younger)


As the crew arrived, we offered Spiced Apple Martinis, made with 10 Cane Rum, Apple Cider, and Amaretto de Saronna.  Of course, the bar was stocked with wine, and several crew members contributed special bottles of wine, vodka and single malt scotch whisky.

Spiced Apple Martini

We had a bountiful selection of gruel, including Carmen's Keelhaul Mini Pork Tacos, Bradley's Creamy Hot Crab Dip (from White on Rice Couple), Bob's Ceviche, Mary's Meatloaf, assorted Jerky, Cheese, Bread, Crackers, Spreads, Dips and Chips, and Finger and Rat Cookies.

Chris & Julie came aboard with lovely Charcuterie Platters


Chilled Shrimp with Remoulade worked well with the theme
 Mexican White Jumbo Prawns bathed in a mayonnaise, mustard and horseradish Creole sauce 

Shrimp Remoulade, John Besh's My New Orleans

Siren Nina graciously offered her Ahi Poke we all loved so much at one of our Concerts in the Park

Ahi Poke on Crispy Won-Tons

Essential to any pirate party is a big pot of Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo.  After visiting New Orleans, hosting the Daring Cooks' Gumbo Challenge, and sampling several gumbos, I highly recommend this one from John Besh.  It can be made a day or two in advance, and warmed up just before the party.

Drew's Smoked Sausage and Chicken Gumbo
John Besh's
My New Orleans

Kai's Beef, Bean and Vegetable Chili helped keep us warm on the high seas

Pirate Chili

For dessert, I prepared tartlet versions of Bobby Flay's Throwdown Pumpkin Pie and Saveur magazine's Chocolate Caramel Tart.  I've blogged about these in the past, and they are two of my most visited posts.

Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Crunch and Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream
Bobby Flay's Throwdown

Chocolate Caramel Tartlets


Captain Juan Carlos Rodriguez Dominguez Christiania de Coronado
Lord Master of Pirates, King of the Seas

Mary Read and her Salty Dog, Dooley
(Photo courtesy of Bob Younger)

The Honorable Scurvy Dog
(Photo courtesy of Bob Younger)

(Photo by Bob Younger)

Hillari, Nina and Julie
(Photo by Bob Younger)

Julie and Chris
(Photo by Bob Younger)

(Photo by Bob Younger)

The Captain, Ginger and Ken
(Photo by Bob Younger)

(Photo by Bob Younger)

Sandra and Bob

Pammy and Bradley
(Photo by Bob Younger)

(Photo by Bob Younger)

Peter and Julie
(Photo by Bob Younger)

Mike and Ruth Ann
(Photo courtesy of Bob Younger)


Treasure Hunt for the Urchins
(Photo by Bob Younger)

The Captain accepts Brad's challenge to
'Errol Flynn Swing' through the party
(Photo by Bob Younger)

The wreck of the HMS Obsessed
(Photo courtesy of Bob Younger)

The Morning After