Welcome!

Award-winning Chef Phyllis Segura has cooked for people in all walks of life both in the U.S. and E.U. Chef Phyllis has been cooking for special people since 2000.
She attended the Apicius Cooking School of Lorenzo de’Medici in Florence, Italy; received a James Beard Foundation scholarship; attended various New York cooking schools; and watched her grandmother very carefully.
As a personal and private chef Phyllis cooks for individual clients and offers cooking demonstrations regularly. She specializes in small elegant dinner parties, and intimate dinners - plated or buffet, weekday meals and private and group culinary instructions.
The chef prepares a wide variety of cuisines. Whereas a restaurant chef might have a specialty that is served daily, as a personal or private chef Segura applies her skills to the requirements and palates of her clients. Fresh and seasonal ingredients make the best dishes. She is not shy with herbs and spices and will go out of her way to source ingredients.

Vegetarian, Vegan, Macrobiotic, Kosher, grain-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, blood type, diabetic and other special diets are available. Chef prefers to use organic, pesticide and antibiotic free, non-GMO and local products as much as possible.
Consultations with nutritionists are recommended for special needs and diets for proper guidelines.

References and a rate sheet are available. She currently lives in Saugerties, NY.
In 2013 she offered cooking classes in her home kitchen in Spencertown,NY www.reddoorcookingworkshop.blogspot.com

Send an email: info@cookingontheriver.com

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ANATOMY OF A DINNER

Happy Valentine's Day to All

Today I am working on a dinner party for four to be served tomorrow.
Here is the menu:
HORS D'OEUVRE
Red Pepper Tapenade
Grissini with Prosciutto
Beets & Goat cheese Heart-shaped stack
Roasted Baby Pepper stuffed with ricotta & Parmigiano
Marinated Cucumber

Crispy Bread

SOUP
Creamy Tomato
 tomato gel, diced celery, croutons

MAIN
Spiced Duck Breast
 Plum-Cherry Sauce
Duck Meatballs
garnished with crispy onions & orange supremes
SIDES
Braised Endive with Prosciutto
Crispy Roasted Purple Potatoes with Lemon, Garlic and Sage

CHEESE COURSE
St. Agur-a soft cow's milk from France
 Midnight Moon-a goat gouda from California
 Etorci-a sheep's milk from the Pyrennes
Grape Gel
Fig-Walnut Chutney
Peach Chutney

DESSERT
Chocolate Cream Pie
Assorted Phyllis' Cookies


These days it is virtually impossible to find duck breast  in your local (Rockland County) supermarket. I've bought it there before but they only seem to carry it when there is some meat danger alert. I went to our local butcher, Steve's in Congers, and he found some, after much digging, that was frozen. I needed four and he pulled out two packages. They looked so huge that I bought only one. After a day in the fridge I checked it out. Usually all the extra fat is cut away, not so here. I cut off a massive amount and trimmed the still semi-frozen duck, put it into a clean bag and back in the fridge to further defrost. It looked like only two breasts so I still had to get two more, or so I thought. I was surprised that when totally defrosted there were four, but I did know that yet. The Old World Market in Nyack had some. The vacuum packages looked like they had two. Another surprise. After opening the package I saw that there were actually four. In neither case was there anything on the label and I never asked...well at Steve's I did say I needed four. So now I have twice as many duck breasts as I needed. There go the profits from this dinner! I can't freeze them because they were previously frozen. Quack, quack...This is the part where I invite someone for dinner...The best thing is to order them in advance from D'Artagnan!

Preparing the duck breast: Cut off any extra fat around the sides. Then dry the breast using a paper or cloth towel. With a sharp knife, score the fat diagonally. Rub with a misture of ground spices. I like to use coriander seeds, star anise, soft Mexican cinnamon, ground ginger & salt & pepper. Put on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate until about an hour before you want to cook it. Take out, uncover.  Rub with a bit of olive oil all over. Place in a hot cast-iron frying pan fat side down to render the fat and crisp it. Turn over to brown, then place into a hot oven for about 5 minutes. Serve duck rare to medium-rare. Remove from oven and let rest about 10 minutes covered with a foil tent. Then slice diagonally. To plate nap the sauce on the bottom center of the plate. Pile the duck in a graduated circle and add garnishes. Here I garnished with crispy onions, orange supremes, and the duck meatballs.

The raw duck after having the spices rubbed into it.

The beets being cut into hearts, then sandwiched
with a mixture of goat cheese, chopped capers and chives.

For the duck meatballs: One Duck leg confit (also found at Old World Market). I removed all the meat and discarded the skin. Chopped it well. Chopped a quarter of a medium onion and a clove of garlic and sauteed them in duck fat. (Duck fat: a good thing to have rendered from all the fat and kept waiting, virtually forever, in your fridge. That's what your ancestors used, along with goose fat.) Added a pinch of fennel seeds, Biber Pepper and some dried thyme - ground up in a mortar and added to the onion and garlic. Saute only until soft. Add to the chopped duck. Add a small splash of sriracha sauce.  I wanted this to be slightly hot. Add one egg and about 1/4 cup breadcrumbs.
Duck Meatballs fresh out of the pan.
Before they were stirred into the Cherry-Plum Sauce.

     Put it all into the food processor and process until it comes together and is well mixed. With moist hands, make small balls barely an inch in diameter. Roll in flour, dust off the excess, and fry in melted duck fat. Keep the pan moving so the balls stay round and cook all over. Makes about 16. I will put them into a vacuum-sealed bag to hold until the party when I'll reheat them in the Cherry-Plum Sauce - same sauce as for the duck breasts. They will get served with the duck - 2-4 per person.
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The Red Pepper Tapenade: Roasted one red pepper, peeled it, popped into processor with toasted walnuts, a few dried cherries and cranberries (different!), a splash of Pomegranate Molasses, a chopped garlic clove. Blend well. I decided to add some breadcrumbs and a squeeze of lemon as well as a pinch of Aleppo pepper and grey salt. Drizzle in some extra-virgin olive oil. Put into a jar. It will be better after a day or two. [You can make this, and it will taste perfectly fine, with just the roasted red pepper (use one from a jar), toasted nuts of some sort, a garlic clove, salt and pepper, and olive oil.] Add some freshly grated parmigiano, too.

For the Grape Gel: find some nice green and purple seedless grapes. Cut some in half and leave some whole. I like to make this with white wine but for this party have to use something non-alcoholic so I used sparkling white grape juice. White grape juice without the sparkling would be fine too. I used Knox gelatin here but you could also use Agar or kanten. I made it in a rectangular plastic container, easy to transport. Just place the grapes in and pour over the gelatin mixture. (I only wanted 2 cups, the recipe on the package will give you 4 cups, so just cut it in half. In this case 1-1/4 cups grape juice and 3/4 cup boiling water.) This will get served as part of the cheese course cut into squares, or, since it's Valentine's Day, in heart shapes. After a heavy dinner a bit of gel is very soothing.

The Creamy Tomato Soup was  adapted from a Deborah Madison's recipe. I added some smoky elements like sun-dried tomatoes and fire-roasted canned diced tomatoes and a bit of liquid smoke. Just saute a little bit of onion and celery in a little bit of butter and a pinch of ground cloves. Then add a couple of tablespoons of flour and stir to cook a minute or so to get rid of the floury taste. Then add a couple of 15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes. Organic, of course. I used one can of the fire-roasted kind, about a tablespoon of tomato paste to up the tomato flavor, and one can of diced tomatoes, about 2-1/2 cups of vegetable broth or water, and a pinch of baking soda. (If basil is in season, or if you like using the dried basil, toss in a bit of that. I didn't use it and the basil in the market right now is hydroponic and rather tasteless. So no basil in my soup today.) Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Creamy Tomato Soup.
The nature of the pottery caused that ring around the outside.
Bread. Heart-shaped butter.

     Either let it sit until you have time to deal with it again, or, decide if you like it rustic. If not, then you will need to strain it. Just push it all through a fine strainer. I think that most haute cuisine, if you will, has been pushed through a strainer or China cap at some time. The finer the strain the nicer it feels in your mouth. Before serving you can add some milk or heavy cream, not too much, to make it creamy, then heat until barely bubbling. If you prefer to leave it as tomato soup and not creamy tomato soup, then I'd swirl in about a tablespoon or less of cream only when serving. Just swirl some into the middle of the bowl. For crispiness I add some very small dice of celery as a garnish, and some tiny bread croutons. For this party I am also adding some of the tomato gel, you know it's the seeds and gel inside the tomato that you are always told to take out. If you add a little bit of salt to it, it tastes a little like caviar!
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For the Cherry-Plum Sauce I used a Duck and Veal Demi-glace (purchased and made by D'Artagnan), dried cherries, damson plum jam, chopped plums (really prunes that are really plums), red wine, pinch of sugar and pinch of salt. Cook it all together until it gets syrupy. At the end I usually add in a knob of unsalted butter that has been mixed with some flour...just to add gloss and thickness. Taste it, of course, and add more of what you think is missing. After note: I didn't need to add the butter/flour because the sauce was already glossy and thick...in fact I had to thin it out with some water just a little.

     By the way, in case you haven't noticed, I am not listing these in any particular order.
The Chocolate Cream Pie: Is from a recipe from Saveur that you can find here:
http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Chocolate-Cream-Pie
Of course, I made some changes, but not many. I used 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and 3 ounces of rich dark chocolate, instead of 9 ounces of just semi-sweet. It would have been fine if I used 3 ounces of the semi-sweet and 6 ounces of the dark, too. I also did not add the vanilla. I did use about 2 teaspoons of vanilla in the whipped cream and I used powdered sugar instead of granulated there too, as well as about 1-1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch to stabilize it. Lots of grated dark chocolate on top.  It was worth it. Very rich. Very unctuous. Just what you want a dessert to be.
La Pie in her glory.


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The braised endive went something like this: I took about 6 whole Belgian Endives, trimmed the bottoms and removed any brown outer leaves. Cut them in half. Sauteed them, cut side down first, in butter to brown, then turned them over to brown the other side. Slipped them into a nice oval ceramic dish. Cut some Prosciutto di Parma into 1-inch strips and tucked them between the endive. Poured over about half a cup of vegetable broth (left over from the tomato soup!). Popped them, covered with foil, into a 350 oven but it should have been a 375 oven, for about 30 minutes. I had a few things going on in there and didn't want them to cook too quickly. I did raise the heat to 400 after I took off the foil. There was still quite a bit of liquid left in the dish.

     I cooked this in advance so took it out of the oven to finish before serving. Just before serving, about 20 minutes before, I put it back into the oven, no foil, added about 1/2 cup of heavy cream and let it roll. It wasn't done until it looked done, which means it was bubbling, a bit browned around the edges and the liquid had turned into a light creamy sauce. The prosciutto had gotten slightly crisp. A braised endive symphony. Serve immediately, if not sooner. Oh, don't forget a bit of good salt, Malden would be nice, and a dash of fresh pepper...before the cream.

The Crispy Purple Potatoes. This was something I had when dining recently at Butter in New York. I tasted them and figured it out. Then I looked it up on the internet and found a recipe that contained Sage, Garlic and Lemon. Okay. I tested it out and made my moves. Chopping up a bit of garlic to mix in with the potatoes did not work for me. So I made a garlic confit which is whole garlic cloves sans paper and olive oil wrapped in some aluminum foil, top twisted, and roasted at about 400 for...as long as it takes...about 30 minutes. Be careful when opening the packet as steam will escape but don't be afraid to check it to see if the garlic is slightly browned and very soft. Put into a glass jar and pour over some more extra-virgin olive oil. This will be your magic elixir.

     Now find some baby purple potatoes. Fingerlings are fine. Green Giant is even making them so I found them in a supermarket...Stop & Shop.  Better from a Farmer but hey when you need purple potatoes. They are really gorgeous! Boil them in salted water for about 7-9 minutes until slightly soft.  Drain them and dry. Actually wipe them. If they are dry crispiness has more of a chance. Then put them into a ceramic dish and push them to smash. Use what you've got. I used my hands. No problem. Just break them up unevenly. Cut up some fresh sage leaves and toss in. Same with salt and pepper. Toss. Then take some of that garlic and toss in with the potatoes and pour over plenty of the garlicky oil. The potatoes will soak this up. Now squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over the whole, not too much. Where you have squeezed the lemon the purple will get more reddish in those spots! Place the dish in the oven and bake about 30 minutes or until crispy. Feel free to toss them about once, but not too much. Serve hot.
The Plates. Taken just prior to first mouthful.

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That is about all I am going to tell you regarding the recipes. Quite a bit actually. The photos are not great.  Hey, you try and plate hot food on hot plates and serve it as soon as you can AND take a photo. I plated the duck with just the sauce, crispy onions and the orange, with nothing else on a large white plate. Then passed the potatoes and the endive. I didn't get to take a picture until everything was on the plate. I photographed all four platters.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. I enjoyed preparing and serving it. Day after is a nice rainy day. Good for resting.  Bon appetit.

1 comment:

Richard Skipper said...

I have known Phyllis for some time through various social situations and through her former involvement with the Piermont Community Garden. A few weeks ago, I saw her posting in the "Piermont Happenings" page on Facebook. She was hiring out her services for Valentine's Day. I called her up and asked if she would be available to cook for four. I had a birthday last week as well as my friend Pat. Her husband's birthday is coming up later this month. It was also an appreciation dinner. They took care of our Yorkie while my partner and I went away for two months last month. Two weeks ago, Phyllis came over and we discussed the menu. We decided on something that we would never do on our own. As you see from the blog, Phyllis created a special dinner we will not soon forget. It was an incredible evening. Our guests were, as we were, blown away by the taste sensations. EVERYTHING was beyond perfect. I cannot sing Phyllis' praises enough. Please consider her for that next intimate occasion. You'll thank me!
Richard Skipper, Piermont