Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Artichoke, Mushroom & Leek Mille Feuille


The secret ingredient for the semi-finalists of the RedEye's Virtual Kitchen Stadium challenge has been revealed - alcohol! Beer, wine, sake, hard liquors... anything is fair game. However, the challenge doesn't end there. The dish must be vegetarian, which means dairy and eggs are acceptable but absolutely no red meat, seafood, pork or poultry. It's about time vegetarian friendly dishes are highlighted and I'm excited about the challenge!

The voting polls are open starting now until 4pm on Thursday, July 18th... please check it out and vote for your favorite dishes HERE!

When coming up with a recipe, I thought about the various alcoholic drinks that are popular this time of year. For me, a nice crisp glass of Chardonnay would be my drink of choice on a summer day. So why not create a dish highlighting Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is a great wine varietal enjoyed all year round, especially during the summer months. If you're not familiar with Chardonnay wine, it's a white wine that's usually fermented and aged in oak barrels. It also has a buttery taste that comes from a wine-making process called malolactic fermentation, where the tart acids are converted into softer acid. As a result, it makes the wine, rounder, creamier and is known as a buttery character. I especially like cooking with Chardonnay and I find it pairs nicely with creamy and buttery dishes. A specific Chardonnay I like is Charles Shaw - it's super affordable ($2.99 a bottle) and in fact, the 2005 Charles Shaw Chardonnay was judged "Best Chardonnay from California" at the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition back in 2007.

So with butter as a key flavor note to work with Chardonnay, I thought of some of my favorite buttery dishes. Puff pastry is made with thousands of layers of butter and is often used for the sweet French pastry, Mille Feuille. A French beurre blanc sauce is a butter sauce that also uses white wine. Vegetables such as artichokes, mushrooms and leeks are delicious with a buttery sauce. Slowly, my culinary brainstorming has paid off! Why not create a Mille Feuille made with layers of puff pastry, alternating with a savory vegetable filling? With all this in mind, I present my...

Artichoke, Mushroom & Leek Mille Feuille
served with a Thyme Beurre Blanc sauce & sauteed garlic spinach

1 package of puff pastry

To prepare the puff pastry:
Remove the puff pastry from the package. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out 6 rounds of puff pastry and bake according to package directions. After they have baked and cooled slightly, split each puff pastry in half, crosswise. Set aside until ready to assemble.

Vegetable Filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup roasted artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup sliced button mushroooms
1 cup leeks, cleaned, sliced thin (white part only)
1/2 cup Chardonnay wine
1 cup freshly grated Peccodrino Romano cheese

To prepare the vegetable filling:
In a lage sauce pan, heat the olive oil and butter until melted. Add the minced garlic and leeks, cooking until softened. Add the artichokes and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms have slightly caramelized. Add the white wine and allow it to cook until the wine reduces down completely and evaporates.

Stir in the Peccorino Romano cheese and set the filling aside to cool slightly until you're ready to assemble.

Thyme Beurre Blanc Sauce:

1 cup Chardonnay wine
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
salt & pepper to taste

To prepare the Thyme Beurre Blanc Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, combine the white wine, lemon juice and thyme leaves over high heat and allow it to reduce to about 2-3 tablespoons so you have a very concentrated wine reduction.

Add the cream to the wine reduction set over high heat. When it comes to a slow boil, reduce the heat to low. Add the cubes of cold butter one at a time, while whisking. To prevent the sauce from breaking or separating, you can whisk the butter on and off the heat.

Continue whisking butter until all of it is added to the reduction and you have a nice rich, buttery sauce. into the reduction until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency. Season with salt & pepper to taste and keep warm on a very low flame until ready to use.

To assemble the Artichoke, Mushroom & Leek Mille Feuille:

On a serving plate, place one half piece of puff pastry.
Top the puff pastry half with 1 heaping tablespoon of the vegetable filling.
Place the other half of puff pastry over the vegetable filling.
Continue alternately layering puff pastry and the vegetable filling until you have used a total of 2 full puff pastry rounds, making sure you end with puff pastry.
Garnish the plate around the mille feuille with the thyme beurre blanc sauce and serve warm.
I also served this dish with a side of sauteed garlic spinach.

The voting polls are open starting now until 4pm on Thursday, July 18th... please check it out and vote for your favorite dishes HERE!