Friday, April 15, 2011

I have a crush on Curtis Stone!!

I did not use that title in this post simply to drive more traffic to my blog. Honest, I didn't. Those of you who know me know that I love my husband more than words can express. This year we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. And, just like a fine wine or aged cheese, yes it does get better with age. (OK, my kids are probably rolling their eyes about now). you remember when "Take Home Chef" was on TLC? No matter what I was doing, when 4 o'clock rolled around I would stop, turn on the TV, and for 30 minutes smile and sigh and swoon a little over Curtis. For those of you who have not heard of Curtis Stone (really? You must be from another planet), he is a  professionally-trained chef from Melbourne, Australia who has cooked in the finest restaurants in Europe. He worked at the Mirabelle, London as Sous Chef, helping create the Mirabelle Cookbook.

Eventually, he became Head Chef at Quo Vadis in Soho, London. Curtis was included in a book about London's finest chefs titled "London on a Plate." The book led to Curtis getting an agent and a number of opportunities within the media. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Yes, I idolize him for his brain. And did I mention that he was included in the 2006 People Magazine list of 100 Sexist Men?

In December last year, my younger daughter asked me what I wanted for Christmas. "Curtis" was my reply. Well, she couldn't actually give me Curtis--the shipping costs would have been exorbitant (after all, he's 6'4"!). But she gave me one of his cookbooks, and a wonderful one it is.

"Cooking with Curtis--Easy, Everyday, and Adventurous Recipes for the Home Cook" presents traditional seasonal favorites. And for each "featured" main ingredient there are three separate recipes--one for the novice, one for the semi-experienced cook, and one for the pro.

Today I leafed through the book searching for something special I could prepare for my husband (still my No. 1 guy!) and my older daughter. And my eyes landed on "Pigeon and Foie GrasTart". Why? I have no idea. I'll never eat pigeon (but I can substitute chicken breast). And, do you know what foie gras is? I do and I'll NEVER go there. So what could I use instead? What about the mushroom pate that is commonly used in a Beef Wellington -- duxelle!!??

So, with a plea for forgiveness from Curtis, I present my own version of his recipe, "Chicken and Mushroom Pate Tart".

 Chicken and Mushroom Pate Tarts

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 sheets puff pastry
2 cups baby spinach, blanched and squeezed to remove excess moisture
tomato fondue (see below)
mushroom pate (duxelle) (see below)
1 egg, mixed with fork
3 tablespoons milk

For the tomato fondue (as published in Curtis's book)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 10 plum tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shallot and sweat for 2 minutes until soft. Add the garlic,thyme, and bay leaf and leave to sweat until soft. Pour the red wine into the pan and stir to deglaze, then reduce the liquor to a glaze. Add the tomatoes and reduce to a thick paste. Remove the pan from the heat and cool. Transfer to a bowl, cover and leave to chill in the refrigerator until required.

For the mushroom pate (duxelle)
  • 1/2 lb.mushrooms (morels are great, but button mushrooms work)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter; divided
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth, sherry, or white wine
Finely chop the mushrooms in a food processor. Scrape mushrooms out into a clean, cotton towel. (Note: Do not use terry cloth, and choose an old towel as you will stain it.) Twist the towel around mushrooms and wring out as much liquid as you can over the sink.
Heat a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over a burner set between medium and medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to melt and avoid burning. Add mushrooms, shallots, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms appear dry and are beginning to brown; about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter, and, when melted, the sherry or wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vermouth has evaporated. Remove from heat and cool.

To assemble the tart
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, swirling to coat. Carefully add the chicken breasts and saute about 4 minutes per side or until no longer pink in the center and nicely browned. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Cut out 4 large circles (about 5 inches across) from each puff pastry sheet. Place 4 pastry discs on a waxed-paper lined tray. Place a little spinach in the center of each disc to form the base of the tart, then place a cooked/cooled chicken breast on top. Spread the tomato fondue on the breast and spread about 2 tablespoons of the mushroom pate on top of each (using 8 tablespoons total). Lay another pastry disc on the top and press down the sides of the pie to make a tart tht looks slightly like a ravioli.

Place the tarts in the refrigerator and leave to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat together egg and milk. Remove the tarts from refrigerator and brush with egg and milk wash. Prick the tops 3-4 times with a small knife.

Place the tarts on a baking tray and bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

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