What is your "Signature Dish"
- Firegoat Jul 13, 2013 09:48 AM
So many of the "reality" competition TV shows like Hell's Kitchen, American Baking Competetion, Masterchef etc, have the cheftestapant come in with their "signature dish." Something that is "You on a plate."
If you had to make a signature dish for one of these shows, what would be "you on a plate?"
(apologies if this should be in home cooking or some other venue)
My winter signature dish is Guinness beef stew or osso bucco
My spring signature dish is roast leg of lamb with homemade mint sauce and roasted asparagus
Summer would either be feta mint lamb burgers or caprese salad with my own tomatoes.
Fall would be gorgonzola and spinach stuffed chicken breasts in a white wine sauce or chili and corn bread.
My son would say toad-in-the-holes, quesadilla or nachos, LOL
My own recipe, that came to me "full-grown from the head of Zeus", as it were. It's a braise made with the meat portion of a breast of veal, onion, apple, golden raisins, and sauternes. I've never measured, nor written it down.
I look forward to seeing what people have to say in this thread.
For my part: I'm sure my friends would say that my sourdough bread and also my pizzas are their favorites--I make them a lot, so there's been lots of feedback. And not to toot my horn, but I do not know where to find a bread that I like better than my own, and I believe I do as well with Naples-style pizza as can be done in a residential oven that can't be coaxed much over 570 degrees.
BUT: I think the dish which is most unique to me is one I don't make often, and it's not easy to make in large quantities, so fewer people have experienced it. It's pretty much my invention, so it has no name, but it's basically mediterranean.
It's made in a skillet and its primary elements are sliced sweet peppers, sliced onions, diced apples, sometimes some currants or raisons, all simmered with some chicken broth, garlic, herbs (dried and/or fresh), cumin, and enough "hot" spicing from fresh chiles or cayenne power to create a balance of sweet and hot.
While I have written up the recipe, and in fact it won a recipe contest at a local Whole Foods, what's interesting about this dish is that you cannot really make it just from a recipe. Depending on the sweetness of the apples and peppers at hand, the exact nature of the spices, etc., it can only be made by tasting and adjusting balance as you go along. Sometimes I even add some sugar if that's what it takes to get the balance just so. I serve it on a bed of cous-cous.
Once, my father visited and I made it for him and his current wife, and I think she kind of took quiet offense when he said he thinks it's the best dish he's ever had, because she is a very good cook herself and very much in charge of their everyday cooking. If anyone's curious, I can go into more detail about the recipe.
Well, the recipe's old enough that I don't find it among my current computer files. I think my above description gives enough for many cooks to go on. But here's some more about process. If Chowhound has a space for this sort of thing, I'll post it under my profile:
Apples and Sweet Peppers over Cous-Cous
I begin by gently sauteeing 2 or so medium onions (sliced) and 2-3 red/yellow peppers (cut into long slices or square chunks) in olive oil until softened. If I'm using fresh chiles for heat, I generally tend to use two or so serrano chiles cut lengthwise at this stage. You can taste the mixture as time goes along, and when the chiles have imparted the desired heat level, I remove the chiles to a plate (maybe they're done for the day, or maybe not; they can be added in or minced up at any point, of course).
Somewhere in this time I will also add several cloves of garlic (sliced or minced garlic, or even whole or halved garlic cloves, which can be left in or removed at the end). I'd also add kosher salt, pepper and any dried herbs or spices here (cumin, thyme, oregano, etc.), keeping in mind that further additions and adjustment can be made.
Then I'll bring up the heat enough so that I can add a half cup or so of dry white wine and get it evaporating briskly. I might also add a splash of fish sauce here.
After the mixture has reduced, I lower the heat and might add a 14oz can or so of diced tomatoes (or fresh, in season), but tomatoes are optional in this recipe. Then add enough chicken stock to give the mixture the consistency of a very wet stew (you want it wetter at this point than it will be for the final product, because simmering and reduction are ahead). Also add a handful of raisons or currents here, if desired. They'll need this time to plump up. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally (no vigorous bubbling allowed).
FInally, add two or so apples that have been peeled, cored, and diced into chunks maybe 3/8" or 1/2," along with any fresh herbs that you desire. I don't find it necessary to use a granny smith or full-on baking kind of apple: a Golden Delicious or the like is probably optimal.
Taste here to make adjustments for heat and savory. At this point I might reintroduce the chiles or add cayenne powder for heat. Taste again after the apples have been in there for 10-15 minutes to judge the degree to which they have imparted new sweetness to the dish. You might use sugar or some honey or agave syrup or whatever to bring up the sweetness so that it is in balance with the heat and savory component you desire.
I can't stress enough that this dish is about frequent tasting, adjustments, and balance--more so than anything else I've ever made.
Add any finishing fresh herbs and seasoning once all the components seem properly cooked (a texture and moisture issue now). Then just let it sit off heat, lightly covered, as you prepare cous-cous.
I use the semi-instant style of cous-cous that merely needs steeping in a boiled fluid for 10 minutes or so. I do take considerable care with the cous-cous broth, which needs to be genuinely flavorable and not just some chicken stock. I usually put a bit of garlic and minced onion in a saucepan with olive oil, toss in a premeasured amount of broth (relative to the planned amount of cous-cous) and then also a small splash of white wine, some fish sauce, chopped fresh parley or some sage or whatever's on hand, or some dried herbs like thyme and oregano, a pat of butter, salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne, paprika, etc. Then you can taste the broth, which should be quite salty but not hugely, its saltiness will be taken up into the cous-cous, so you need to learn just how much to overshoot in the saltiness at the broth stage.) Boil this mixture, stir in the cous-cous before much evaporation has happened, then take it off heat and let sit tightly covered for ten or more minutes. Then fluff away and join with the veggie stuff.
Sedimental, for sweet-hot, if you have access to a Trader Joe's try their Sweet Chili Sauce, $1.29 a bottle. Good on anything but if you use it as a dip for any boring frozen fried fish like fish sticks or filets etc, the combo will make you think you are a good Thai restaurant. Absolutely one of the best condiments I know of.
Thanks. My sourdough should be replicable. There's little secret about it, as far as I can tell. I have a starter begun with organic grapes (with stems) about 12 years ago. I think I used Peter Reinhart's book Crust & Crumb for primary advice. In recent years, I have mostly used a "no-knead" approach with 12-18 hour rises (you can see many threads here and websites about that). But I don't think the amount of kneading is the whole thing. It's really about the amount of time your dough gets to "preferment." Reinhart wasn't selling the no-knead approach, but he does urge you to knead up the dough and then let it sit in the fridge for a "retarding" phase: the yeasts slow down in their activity due to the lowered temperature, but the flavors develop over that same time.
Also, I use at a minimum King Arthur's Bread Flour for its high protein level, but I've lately been working from a 25lb bag of their even higher-protein "Lancelot" flour, which I found at a nearby Amish bulk grocery store. (For some reason, King Arthur itself will only see you directly these piddling 3lb bags of that stuff.) Other unbleached, unbomoated bread flours, like Good Medal's, can do fine. All flours are best bought in bulk at health food stores or the like with decent turnover, from artisanal bakers who are willing to sell you an extra 25lb bag, or from restaurant food supply places. That's dramatically cheaper per pound.
As for pizza, I think the key elements are a bread dough (I work from Peter Reinart's recipe for Neapolitan dough in his book America pie, which involves significant kneading and a day or more rising in the fridge. I have a sturdy baking stone, and I will often pre-heat the oven for an hour or more at maximum temperature with the stone in there. I bought an infrared thermometer and am able to read the surface temperature of the stone that way--it is generally about 570-585 when I make the pizzas. The pies cook a total of about 5 minutes under those circumstances, and sometimes in the last minute or two, I will turn the oven to a broiler setting. (Basically, they key to pizza, and the challenge, is to get the top and the bottom both where you like them at the same time.) I use bread flour for pizzas, too, but a good AP flour is good enough not to be a deal breaker for me.