Charcuterie Board, How to Make it Sexy and Awesome.

Charcuterie board~Chef and a baker
I get it, you’re thinking that charcuterie is something that you order as a starter with a couple of drinks to warm yourself up for what’s to come, but guess what?
Charcuterie is not just restaurant food, and it doesn’t have to be served first.
Actually in France it follows the main course and is served right before dessert or it sometimes can be considered dessert.
The cured and smoked hams, salami and pâtés usually come with some really nice artisan crafted cheeses, baguette, cornichons, mustards and chutneys.
Depending on how much time or skill you have, you can make your own charcuterie from scratch or you can visit the local butcher, gourmet or most of your regular old run of the mill grocery stores will have them too.
If you wanna make your own there are a ton of books to guide you, but this post is more about what to do with the charcuterie and how to make it sexy and awesome.
Here is my strategy when it comes down to putting it all together.

How Much Charcuterie?

Generally, 3-6 ounces per person is the guideline I’ll usually follow. It really depends on what else you’ll be putting on the board, will there be a bunch of baguette?
Do you have a hungry crowd coming? I’ll try and err on the side of having too much and making it look like a feast as opposed to looking cheap.

Use Different Textures

Use a soft and rich pâté, pair it with a hard salami. It’s a good idea to have a smoked element on there maybe a smoked Italian sausage, but not too much you don’t want everything to taste like smoke.
A rillette either pork or salmon has a nice textural balance to the board and will keep it interesting. Some of my favorites to include would be mortadella, nice and salty and some chorizo and andouille for a hint of spice.

Don’t Forget to Garnish

I must have acid in my food, nothing brings food alive like a squeeze of lemon. Berries are bright and fruity. Nuts are perfect for a little crunch.
I like to toast either macadamias, pistachios or almonds. Cornichons, or the little pickles add a great sour crunchy element. Of course, there is mustard! Cured meat and mustard are perfect for each other, I especially like the whole grain dijon blend, the more complex the flavors, the better.
Don’t forget the baguette, it’s a wonderful and necessary accompaniment to the board.

Slice it up

Rule of thumb for slicing meat is to slice it cold, and temper it so that it’s served at room temperature. It’s much more attractive and sexy if you slice it on the bias to about the size of a quarter. As thin as possible is the best way to go, and please, please remove the casing, nobody wants to eat that.

Bring the Wine

There’s no secret that I’m a wine drinker. I’m pretty much open to any type of wine depending on the weather and what mood strikes me that day. I don’t really think there is a bad wine to have with charcuterie per se, although I do prefer Sav Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc with my boards.

Cheese, Cheese, Cheese

Regional artisan cheeses is key here, and the same rules apply. Mix up the textures, colors, use different types of cuts and shapes. I usually find myself choosing French cheese, so a brie, triple cream, goat, and a strong blue will most always find it’s way to my board.

To Finish

Berries, flowers, nuts and always some extra virgin olive oil for a little shine. If you can find some fleur de sel for a little salty crunch, put some healthy pinches over the top, it’ll make your board that much better.
Fruit and Cheese Board~Chef and a Baker
Fruit and Cheese Board~Chef and a Baker

 

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Grand Marnier Soufflé Recipe

The New Classic French Grand Marnier Soufflé Recipe~Chef and a Baker
A soufflé is an airy concoction leavened by beaten egg whites and oven heat. This is a fun one to try and is not exactly super easy but if you like a challenge, give this one a shot.
Soufflés should be served directly from the oven, before they have any chance to deflate. The soufflé dish, a ceramic dish with tall, straight sides, is usually greased and then dusted with sugar (or, for savory soufflés, bread crumbs) to help the batter “climb” the sides of the dish.
Grand Marnier Soufflé
 
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A soufflé is an airy concoction leavened by beaten egg whites and oven heat. This is a fun one to try and is not exactly super easy but if you like a challenge, give this one a shot.
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. To make the pastry cream, in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear along the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, ⅓ cup of the sugar, the flour, orange zest and salt until pale and well blended. While whisking, slowly add the hot milk.
  3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the liqueur and vanilla.
  4. Pour the pastry cream into a large bowl and gently press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready to bake.
  5. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 6-cup soufflé dish and dust with sugar.
  6. Remove the plastic wrap from the pastry cream and whisk until smooth. In a deep, spotlessly clean bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they are foamy and soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. While beating, gradually add the remaining ⅓ cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
  7. Scoop about one-fourth of the egg whites onto the pastry cream and, using a rubber spatula, fold in gently to lighten the mixture. Then fold in the remaining whites just until no white streaks remain. Scoop into the prepared dish. Run a thumb around the inside rim of the dish to keep the batter from sticking and help the soufflé rise.
  8. Bake until the soufflé is puffed and the top is browned, but the soufflé still jiggles slightly when the dish is gently shaken, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with the crème anglaise. Serves 6 to 8.
Notes:
For some high-rising soufflés, a collar is fashioned out of parchment paper to give more support.
Recipe credit~ Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge

 

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Creamy Asparagus Soup

Creamy Asparagus Soup, Delicious and Nutritious ~Chef and a Baker
Yes, eating asparagus does make your pee smell.
But once you’re past that, there are plenty of reasons au mangent on this spring superfood.  On our recent trip to France we were able to see many clever uses and variations of asparagus.
It’s also packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Thanks to all these nutrients, asparagus offers some serious health perks.
Not to mention it just tastes great in a nice, light and refreshing spring time soup.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
 
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Crème d'asperges (Asparagus soup) tastes great in a nice, light and refreshing spring time soup.
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: French
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds green asparagus
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut tips from 12 asparagus
  2. /2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish.
  3. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into ½-inch pieces.
  4. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain.
  6. Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids), and return to pan. Stir in crème fraîche, then add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon butter.
  7. Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips
Notes:
Recipe adapted from Epicurious
Creamy asparagus soup keeps, covered and chilled, 2 days. If making ahead, add last tablespoon butter and lemon juice after reheating.

 

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Roasted Garlic Baba Ganoush

Roasted Garlic Baba Ganoush Recipe ~Chef and a Baker
This baba ganoush recipe is a great way to introduce and ultimately make anyone fall in love with Middle Eastern cuisine, even if they’re a little scared of trying something new.
Traditionally it’s just made with eggplant that’s been fire roasted (either on a hot grill or under a broiler) to the point of a nice creamy golden brown, with tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt.
I like to add another flavor dimension with some roasted garlic, vinegar and serve it as an appetizer with a French baguette that’s been cut into crostinis’ and baked for a nice crispy crunch to highlight the creamy texture of the eggplant.
I’ll also generally serve it cold or at room temperature.
Roasted Garlic Baba Ganoush
 
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This dish is a great way to introduce and ultimately make anyone fall in love with Middle Eastern cuisine, even if they're a little scared of trying something new. Traditionally it’s just made with eggplant that’s been fire roasted (either on a hot grill or under a broiler) to the point of a nice creamy golden brown, with tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt.
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3  large and fresh eggplants
  • 1 large head of  garlic, roasted in olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp Tahini
  • Fleur de sel to taste
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 fresh baguettes
  • 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to high broil and position a rack at the top of the oven.
  2. Slice your eggplant into ¼ inch rounds and sprinkle with sea salt and place in a colander in the sink to drain any excess liquid. After 10 minutes, rinse slightly and then pat dry between two towels.
  3. Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of fleur de sel salt. Roast for 5-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the eggplant is softened and golden brown. Remove from pan, stack and wrap the rounds in foil to lock in moisture – wait 5 minutes.
  4. Cut baguette into crostinis' and season with the roasted garlic oil and some fleur de sel. Bake in oven until golden brown and a until crunchy.
  5. Peel away most of the skin of the eggplant (a little is OK) and add flesh to a food processor. It should be soft and tender and the skin should come off easy.
  6. Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, vinegar, a pinch of salt and mix until creamy. Add herbs last and pulse to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I added a bit more tahini, lemon juice and another pinch of salt.
  7. Garnish with fresh parsley, the remaining roasted garlic (minced) and a drizzle of Extra virgin olive oil
  8. Serve with fresh sliced baguette cut on a bias into crostinis' and/or pita chips.
A great idea would be to have a Turkish inspired dinner and to use this baba ganoush recipe as an appetizer, with some fresh toasted and tasty French baguette or pita chips.

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The Best Pizza Dough

Learn How to Make the Best Pizza Dough~Chef and a Baker
I used to be a big believer about the best pizza dough being related to the water that you use. Being from New England originally and then starting my culinary travels eating pizza everywhere from Sicily to the Philippines, I’ve changed my mind somewhat.
(Sorry, New York).
I’ve found that by using warm water and combining two types of flours will give the dough that chewy, toothsome quality that really elevates an ordinary pizza dough.
Semolina flour, a hard durum wheat with a yellow coarseness to it, gives a nice texture to the dough. While the glutenous bread flour not only gives the dough it’s bread-like quality it also helps it to rise.
The Best Pizza Dough
 
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Semolina flour, a hard durum wheat with a yellow coarseness to it, gives a nice texture to the dough. While the glutenous bread flour not only gives the dough it's bread-like quality it also helps it to rise.
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1.5 Cups warm water ( try to get it at 110 F)
  • ¼ ounce yeast packet of active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons of of Olive oil
  • 2½ Cups white bread flour
  • 1 Cup Semolina flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Instructions
  1. Pour the warm water into a large measuring cup, stir in the yeast and olive oil and let sit for a few minutes or until the mixture begins to bubble. On a clean surface mix together both flours and the salt and form a large well in the middle.
  2. Once the yeast is ready, carefully pour it into the well and using a fork bring the flour into the well  to incorporate it. Continue this process until the center is no longer runny and then bring the rest of the dough together until well incorporated and smooth. You could also use the food processor by combining the wet and dry ingredients together and pulsing until smooth.
  3. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl and cover with a warm damp cloth. Place the bowl in a warm room for about an hour and a half, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Remove the the dough from the bowl and place on a flour dusted surface. Knead with with your hands to extract the air and divide into two balls. Roll them out into the recipe of your choice (more to follow)
  5. You can make the pizza dough out a day ahead but make sure you wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it. Then you'll want to roll the dough out just before cooking.

 

 

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Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns Fast and Easy ~ Chef and a Baker
Classic Hot Cross Buns.
The perfect Easter Pastry,  are underrated and good any time of year. These hot cross buns have several dried fruits in them and are flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, and mace mixed in a rich brioche dough which is great for a delicious treat.
Hot Cross Buns
 
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The perfect Easter Pastry,  are underrated and good any time of year. These hot cross buns have several dried fruits in them and are flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, and mace mixed in a rich brioche dough which is great for a delicious treat.
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1⅓ Cup Filtered Water
  • 10 oz Heavy Cream
  • 4 oz Melted Butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 ½ Tbs Yeast
  • 2 lb AP Flour
  • 4 oz Brown Sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Cardamom
  • ½ tsp Mace
  • ½ Cup Dried Apricots, Diced
  • ½ Cup Golden Raisins
  • ½ Cup Dried Cherries
  • ½ Cup Pitted Dates (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a mixer with a dough hook attachment, add water, yeast and stir
  2. Add heavy cream, butter, egg, flour, sugar, salt and spices
  3. Knead about 5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary until dough is smooth, shiny and elastic
  4. Add fruit in last minute.
  5. Put into a container and let rise until doubled in volume
  6. Divide dough into 5 oz portions.
  7. Shape into balls by placing you palm over the piece of dough with your fingers bent and mover your hand in a circular motion until the skin is taught, but not too tight. If necessary flip the ball of dough over and pinch ends on the underside together so it doesn’t open during proofing or baking.
  8. Chill for half an hour.
  9. To Bake:
  10. Place chilled balls onto sheet pan, spacing for baking
  11. Proof until doubled. Egg wash before baking
  12. Bake until light golden color, let cool slightly
  13. Brush with apricot glaze simple icing or a marmalade
  14. When the bun is cooled pipe a cross across the top with cream cheese frosting with a ¼” plain tip

 

 

 

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Lavender Gazpacho

White Gazpacho & Lavender Recipe~Chef and a Baker
Whenever I think of cold soups, I think of gazpacho, the “liquid salad” of Spain.
Not all gazpachos are made with tomatoes. White gazpacho is a classic dish from Spain, earlier versions dating back to when the Moors controlled Andalucia.
This version is made with bread, blanched almonds, red grapes, cucumbers, olive oil, and garlic. Odd combination you might think, but let me assure you, it truly is delicious. The soup gets body and protein from the blanched almonds. The bread acts as a thickener.
Lavender Gazpacho
 
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This gazpacho is made with bread, blanched almonds, red grapes, cucumbers, olive oil, and garlic. Odd combination you might think, but let me assure you, it truly is delicious. The soup gets body and protein from the blanched almonds. The bread acts as a thickener.
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Spanish
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 English cucumber (halved)
  • 2 cups red grapes
  • 2 slices white bread with crusts removed, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 cups Spanish Marcona almonds (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne Salt & white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chervil oil
Instructions
  1. Mince the garlic, half of the grapes, the cucumbers and puree in a food processor. Add the bread and then puree again.
  2. Mix the yogurt and veggie stock together in a bowl. Add the pureed cucumber with the olive oil, vinegar, parsley, cayenne, salt and white pepper and ¾ of the almonds.
  3. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate until chilled, about 5 hours.
  4. Halve the remaining grapes and toss with the almonds and some salt. Pour gazpacho into soup bowls and garnish with chervil oil, nasturtiums, grapes and chopped almonds.
White Gazpacho~Chef and a Baker
White Gazpacho~Chef and a Baker

 

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Grilled Artichokes with Calabrian chili aioli

Grilled Artichokes with Calabrian Chili Aioli~Chef and a Baker
Grilled artichokes always suprise people with their delicate smoky flavor.  I would say that these artichokes are slightly sweet with an earthy overtone. They love to be paired with bright acids (vinegar or lemon) and when they are grilled the flavor goes into overdrive. I’ve paired these with a Calabrian chili aioli.
Calabrian chile peppers have smoky fruit notes and are considered a medium spicy chile pepper. The small pepper is often referred to as the Hot Calabrian chile pepper, small red cherry, and “Devil’s Kiss,” or as the pepper is known in Italy: Peperone Piccante Calabrese, which translates to ‘spicy pepper of Calabria’. When made into an aioli and used as a dip for the artichoke the added creamy heat makes the artichoke amazing.
Grilled Artichokes with Calabrian chili aioli
 
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Grilled artichokes always suprise people with their delicate smoky flavor.  I would say that these artichokes are slightly sweet with an earthy overtone. They love to be paired with bright acids (vinegar or lemon) and when they are grilled the flavor goes into overdrive
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 Large artichokes
  • 2 lemons (quartered)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
  • ½ cup Calabrian chili aioli
Instructions
  1. Using a knife or kitchen shears, cut off the sharp points of the artichoke leaves. Cut the stem about 1 inch from the bottom and pull off the small dry outer leaves from the base of the artichoke.
  2. Soak the trimmed artichokes in cold water for about 20 minutes to clean them. Simmer the artichokes upright with the lemons in a pot for about 30 minutes, do not boil them into mush, we need the artichoke to hold together for grilling.
  3. Remove the artichokes from the pot and cool at room temperature. Cut in half and lengthwise and scoop put the fuzzy choke. Get your grill hot. and brush each side of the artichoke with olive oil and grill for 4 minutes on each side.
  4. Place on a platter and dollop aioli in the center with a squeeze of the remaining lemon juice and sprinkle parsley on top.

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Limoncello Zabaione

Limoncello Zabaione, How to Make a Delicious Dessert~Chef and a Baker
This one is a very quick, easy to make and yet absolutely delicious dessert. All you need is a few ingredients and you’ll be all set.
Limoncello is a lemon liqueur that pairs wonderfully with the Zabaione. The Zabaione (sa-ba-yon) is a light and frothy egg custard. Normally it is served with fresh berries or stone fruit, but with fresh figs coming into season they are the perfect accompaniment for this dessert.

Limoncello Zabaione
 
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This one is a very quick, easy to make and yet absolutely delicious dessert. All you need is a few ingredients and you'll be all set.
Chef and a Baker:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ limoncello
  • 1 tablespoon Crème fraîche
  • 6 fresh figs (quartered)
  • ½ cup toasted hazelnuts
Instructions
  1. Set up a double boiler. In the top bowl combine the egg yolks, sugar, and limoncello. Whisk until well blended.  Gently boil the water in the bottom insert of the double boiler and mix vigorously until it starts to thicken and become foamy. This should take around 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and let cool down to room temperature. Add the Crème fraîche and whisk until the the consistency is thick and custard-like. You should easily be able to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Place the figs into champagne flutes or your desired vessel and garnish with hazelnuts.

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Chilean Sea Bass

Chilean Sea Bass ~ Chef and a Baker
Unless you’d rather call it Patagonian Toothfish, this fish was renamed in the late 70’s to be more appealing to the US market. It’s actually a cod but don’t let that scare you, it’s a great fish to eat and work with.
It has a natural, rich and buttery flavor that will most certainly amaze and delight you. The flakes are moist, large, delicate and will melt on your tongue.
Chilean Sea Bass • Crispy Zucchini • Vegetable Hash • Honey Harissa

Chef and a Baker
Chef and a Baker

 

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