Thursday, September 22, 2011

The French Way........

When I decided I wanted to cook for a living, I knew I had to master some very important things….and my number one mission was sauces. I spent years learning the art of Northern Italian cooking, but not until I had mastered the art of French sauces.

I took Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking to the kitchen and started cooking. It wasn’t like Julie and Julia….far from it! It was me spending a great deal driving back and forth between home and the grocery store….I must have gone through a thousand pounds of butter! I started studying everything I could find on French sauces. You need to realize this was a long time before Al Gore invented the internet! It was all at the library.

 In the 19th century, the chef Antonin Carême classified sauces into four families, each of which was based on a mother sauce (also called grandes sauces). Carême's four mother sauces were:

• Béchamel, based on milk, thickened with a white roux.

• Espagnole, based on brown stock (usually veal), thickened with a brown roux.

• Velouté, based on a white stock, thickened with a blonde roux.

• Allemande, based on velouté sauce, is thickened with egg yolks and heavy cream.

In the early 20th century, the chef Auguste Escoffier updated this classification to five mother sauces. They are:

Sauce Béchamel, milk based sauce, thickened with a white roux.
Sauce Velouté, white stock based sauce, thickened with a roux or a liaison.
Sauce Tomate, tomato based sauce, thickened with a roux.
Sauce Espagnole, a fortified brown veal stock sauce.
Sauce Hollandaise, an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon juice. (traditionally a reduction of pepper corns white vinegar and a bay leaf is used in place of lemon juice)

These 5 sauces are the base for many other sauces, referred to as “small sauces”,simply by incorporating additional ingredients. Bechamel can become Mornay Sauce with the addition of cheese, traditionally Gruyere.

With so many people watching their weight and what they eat, sauces and gravies are far less important today. Sad, but true. But I think everyone who cooks should know how to make the 5 mother sauces. You won’t make them every day, not even weekly. But there are special occasions, holidays that simply call for a more elaborate menu. A sauce can make an ordinary plate of food an exciting meal!

So, here it is, almost Fall. Cooler weather is here, you are thinking about warm, satisfying food and looking forward to being back in the kitchen. Now is the time to develop your sauces! Today I am going to cover Bechamel. I hope you decide to try your hand at sauces….they are amazing.

Bechamel….it used to be prepared in most homes on a regular basis, only we called it “White Sauce”  Have you every tasted a spoonful of Bechamel? I think it is heavenly. With just a small amount of freshly grated nutmeg (none of that stuff in the spice shaker….I’m talking about you grating a dash from a whole nutmeg). If you haven’t, you simply must.

Here is the basic recipe, makes approximately 4 cups of sauce.

Bechamel Sauce
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Continue whisking, cook for about 2 minutes, and then gradually – 1/3 cup at a time - add the milk. Continue whisking and cook until the sauce is completely heated through, smooth, and thickened. Remove from the heat and season with the salt and nutmeg.
So, now that you have made the basic sauce, what do you do with it?

Let’s make Mornay Sauce….

Mornay Sauce is a classic cheese sauce made by enriching a standard Bechamel wiith Gruyère and Parmesan cheese.

Mornay is an ideal accompaniment for vegetables, pasta or fish. The Cheeses can be switched for Cheddar and it is the perfect cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese! It is one way to get the kids (and many adults!) to eat the dreaded broccoli! Here are the directions:

Mornay  Sauce
1 quart prepared Beshamel Sauce
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ cup whole milk, hot

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the Béchamel to a simmer. Add the cheddar cheese and mustard powder and stir until the cheese has melted. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat and adjust consistency with the hot milk if necessary. Serve right away.

Makes about 1 quart of Cheddar Cheese Sauce.

Here is my favorite Lasagna recipe….it is Bobby Flay’s. It is long and worth every extra ingredient and moment of your time. The Bechamel has cheese, making it a Mornay Sauce. I hope you love it!

                                 Bobby Flay’s Lasagna

Bolognese Sauce:
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds pork shanks (on the bone)
3 pounds beef shanks (on the bone)
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound pancetta, finely diced
1 1/2 cups finely diced Spanish onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced celery
4 whole garlic cloves
1 cup dry red wine
3 cups homemade beef or chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices
4 fresh thyme sprigs
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup tomato sauce, recipe follows
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Chopped fresh basil leaves

Ricotta Mixture:
3 cups ricotta, strained in a cheesecloth lined strainer for at least 4 hours
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper

Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Bechamel (Mornay) Sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups whole milk, heated
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Bechamel Sauce
4 fresh sheets pasta, cooked for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling, salted water, drained or 1 pound lasagna noodles (cooked in boiling, salted water until slightly under al dente, about 5 minutes)
Ricotta mixture
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Fresh basil leaves
Bolognese Sauce

For the Bolognese Sauce:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat.
Season the shanks on both sides with salt and pepper, place in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.
Remove the shanks to a plate. Remove fat from the pan. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook until golden brown. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the pan and cook until soft and lightly golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the red wine, scrape the bottom of the pan and cook until completely reduced. Add the beef stock, diced tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and parsley and bring to a simmer. Add the shanks and 1/3 of the pancetta back to the pan, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 2 hours.

Remove the shanks to a cutting board and when cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl.

Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl. Place 3 cups of the cooking liquid into a large high-sided saute pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Add the shredded meat and the remaining cooked pancetta to the pan along with 1 cup of the tomato sauce, parsley and basil and stir to combine and just heat through.

For the Ricotta Mixture:

Stir together the ricotta, eggs, parsley, basil, cheese and salt and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to meld.

For the Tomato Sauce:

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the onions and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bring to boil, season with salt and pepper and cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and basil.

For the Bechamel (Mornay) Sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and let cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of the hot milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thickened and loses its raw flavor, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season the sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk in the cheeses. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in some of the remaining milk.

For Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with the butter. Ladle a thin layer of bechamel evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of pasta dough, cut to fit the inside of the pan on top of the bechamel and top the pasta with the ricotta mixture and spread evenly. Spread a thin layer of bechamel over the ricotta, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan and some basil leaves. Top with another layer of pasta and spread the meat mixture evenly over the top. Ladle an even layer of bechamel over the Bolognese mixture, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan and some basil leaves. Place the final layer of pasta dough over the meat mixture and ladle the bechamel over the top to completely cover the pasta and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of Parmesan.

Place the pan on a baking sheet and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F, remove the foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 25 to 35 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into slices and top with some of the tomato sauce, more grated cheese and chopped parsley and basil.

See what I mean?  LONG! And HEAVENLY!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

                           The "Nine Lives" Show at the Tortoise Gallery

I had so much fun at the opening of Nine Lives at the Tortoise Gallery! The gallery was packed with friends, art lovers and the wonderful people of Miami County.
Nancy Sims-West, owner of the Tortoise, had the gallery looking magical! She directed the hanging of the show and it was perfect, as was her own appearance. She topped off her black dress with a gorgeous necklace by Johnson County jewelry artist, Nancy Forbis.
The wine was from Somerset Ridge, the home of the Somerset Ridge Painters. The food was created by the painters! The painting behind the table is by JoAnne Carlton.

As I said, the food was prepared by the nine of us, and there was plenty of it! I made ham salad and it seems to have made several people very happy. I was asked for the secret to a perfect ham salad….and the answer was good ham, good mayonnaise, good dill pickles.

Here is a “sort of” recipe….ham salad is one of those things you just do, but I will try.

This is for Kristin and Matthew:

2 pounds baked ham, cubed, I use Farmland Foods
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 whole (2 halves) dill pickle, coarsely chopped. I use Claussen’s Kosher Dill Halves
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
½ to ¾ cup mayonnaise, I use Hellmann’s
Place the cubed ham in the food processor and pulse to chop, being careful to not over chop it, You don’t want ham paste! Pour ham into a large bowl. Place bowl of food processor back on its base, and put in the chopped onion, pickle and celery. Process to medium chop. (The size of the ham, onion, celery and pickle pieces is up to you. If you are making it for sandwiches, you may want it a finer chop. For a plated salad, larger bites are nicer. Mine was for spreading on crackers so I made it a medium fine chop.)
Put chopped onion mixture into large bowl with ham. Toss to mix well before adding mayonnaise. When adding mayonnaise, stir gently to blend well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Your ham will determine how much salt you need. Adjust the amount of mayonnaise for your taste.
See? You didn’t need a recipe! It is just plain old home cooking!
Ada Koch’s Oatmeal Cookies were another big hit….and once again, good old home cooking! I will see if I can get her recipe for you. Stay tuned!

It was such a treat to meet Majo’s mother, Ana Herrera, who came from Louisiana for this event. Okay, so she came to visit Majo and Shawn, but I think her timing was perfect!

Majo with her mother, Ana Herrera
To close, I want to thank Jim and Inge, Jerry and Jodie, for coming to the show….aren’t old friends great? Jerry and Jodie had just returned from a trip to Scotland, landing back in Kansas City about 20 hours earlier! Now that is friendship! By the way, they agree with me on the subject of the traditional food of Scotland….pretty boring!

I wish I could have gotten photos of the crowd, but at 4' 11", I don't do well with a camera. You would be looking at pictures of people's backsides! So, I took most of the photographs before the doors opened at 6PM.

left:  Floral...right: Alsace Autumn
my paintings
For those of you who could not make the opening celebration, the show will hang at the Tortoise for the next 4 weeks. If you are coming down to Paola to see it, let me know and I will meet you….we can do lunch at Molly’s!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

                                        Yesterday I should have been in the studio, painting….
                                                      no doubt about it. Why wasn’t I?

Majo,  Kansas City artist

Enjoying the music and
wine on the Veranda

 Simple….BIG day at the winery! After a miserably long, hot summer, we have finally been given some absolutely lovely weather! Gorgeous blue sky, gentle breezes and 74 degrees! Glorious!

Cindy, Mistura Fina, and Stan Kessler
 I was just going to drop by the vineyard and winery to take a few photographs and visit with Majo, my good friend and fellow Somerset Ridge Painter. As I pulled up in front of the winery there were cars parked everywhere! I instinctively knew I was going to work. I washed wine glasses, cleaned off the tables out on the lawn, washed more wine glasses, grabbed my camera and took some shots, washed more wine glasses. The afternoon flew by…..but no painting. But I sure had fun!

Cindy and Dennis, the owners, had arranged for some fabulous musicians to play on the veranda….Mistura Fina with Stan Kessler! Lots of Brazilian rhythm with a Bosa Nova/American Jazz approach! FUN! People took their wine out on to the veranda, or to the tables on the hillside; they brought picnic lunches or enjoyed the food items the winery has available in the tasting room. We had Frisbee players, Bocce ball enthusiasts, music lovers, cigar aficionados, art lovers….and even the 2 horses next door decided to entertain over along the fence. They actually posed for Majo to paint their portrait!

Big fans of the crowds at the vineyard

Yep, it was a good day at Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery! Not so good at the studio………..

Did you ever have one of those flashbacks brought on by an aroma, a smell? It is amazing how the mind works. Let me explain, NO! not how the mind works (particularly mine!) but rather how a smell sent me back, way back, into my childhood.

Those of you who have been reading my blog since the beginning, January 2009, know I’ve shared many memories and recipes from the Ogg Family Farm. My mother was the youngest of the 5 children of William Clyde and Minnie Florence Ogg of Ray County, Missouri. The farm had been in the family for 3 generations by the time I was born. I spent part of my summers visiting my aunt and uncle, Clarence and Zelma Ogg (don’t you just love the names!), and many holidays, particularly Memorial Day. Being an out of doors kind of girl, I loved to wander around the farm, climb on the tractor, run down to the fishing pond, and look for kittens in the barn. This morning I was transported to that barn, all because of a whiff of dried grasses. Many times I drive down country roads to get to Paola, where my studio space is located. Country roads are so much better than highways! Driving at 35 to 45 miles an hour as opposed to 70 to 75, gives me the chance to think about my painting; thinking about the canvas on my easel. That morning, little did I know that I was about to be transported back to the 1940s!
Here in Kansas, the fields are now dotted with hay bales. Food for the livestock during the coming winter months is an important part of farming. Huge fields are dedicated for just that purpose. As I was driving along with my windows down early that morning,  my car was filled with the soft, summery smell of just mown dry grasses.  That is when the barn filled my thoughts.
The barn was huge; it had a hay loft and I can still smell the combination of the dried hay and the hard packed Missouri dirt floor. As I shuffled through the hay that sifted down from the loft above, the laser-like beams of sunlight that streaked through the spaces in the walls, made the tiny particles of straw dust, dance and glisten. Of course, it played hell with anyone who had hay fever, but I was allergy free during those days!
Once inside the barn, I would stop and let my eyes adjust to the light, and listen for the soft mewing of the latest litter of kittens. It was heaven. The smell of that old barn will apparently stay with me forever. So will the memories.
After a day of wandering, I would wash up at the old pump on the back porch. I’m not sure how you can love an old pump, but I did. The water was always cold, crystal clear, and tasted better than any glass of water from the faucet back home in Columbia, Missouri! The fact that it was part of the world’s greatest screened in back porch might have something to do with it. Actually, I loved every nook and cranny of that farm house.
I certainly can’t share memories of the Ogg Family Farm without including some food memories. As I said, many holidays were spent there, with holiday foods! Old family recipes, such as my Grandmother Ogg’s Corn Bread Dressing come to mind….there was nothing like the food on the farm! Piping hot biscuits, homemade salt rising bread, fresh green beans slow cooked with country smoked ham and onions, Grandmother’s Chicken and Noodles, heavenly Hams, fresh from the farm’s smoke house, so big they barely fit in the oven! Wow….I miss the farm!
My favorite farm breakfast features corn! My Mom says they didn’t use Maple Syrup, but they did have a steady supply of Sorghum Molasses, her favorite. But for me, pure maple syrup drizzled over these buttered Corn Fritters and running over onto a big slice of fried Country Ham, suits me just fine!

Ray County Corn Fritters 
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
12 ounces cooked corn
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups flour, unsifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
oil or shortening for frying

1. Beat egg in a large bowl. Stir in milk, the corn and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add and beat in flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
2. Drop in tablespoons of the mixture into deep or shallow hot oil (375 degrees). Fry until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on each side.
3. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot. If desired serve with butter and a healthy drizzle of syrup. (OH yes! I desire!) I might add some like a couple of fried eggs, over easy, and even hash browns with this breakfast. As for me, I just want the corn fritters and fried ham! (with butter and syrup, of course)

Lesson Learned:  Childhood aroma memories can make you hungry!

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Invitation for you!

The Somerset Ridge Painters
Photo by Shawn Johnson
                                   The Somerset Ridge Painters
are pleased to invite you
to the opening of their new gallery show!
Please join us at The Tortoise Gallery on Friday, September 16th, 6 to 9 PM.
The Tortoise is located on the Historic Town Square, Paola, Kansas

The Somerset Ridge Painters
Audrey Benskin, Patsy Brown, JoAnne Carlton,
 Winnie Davis, Kristin Goering, Maria Johnson,
Vicki Johnston, Ada Koch, and Kay Tucker

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

Kansas Storm

Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker