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Upscaling Comfort Food

Mac 'n cheese and truffle oil. Pop tarts made from scratch. Many local chefs and restaurants are updating favorites of yesteryear with high end ingredients, new techniques--and often with the prices to match. We examine the power of nostalgia and food, and the flavors that recall our favorite home-cooked meals.

Michel Richard's Lemon Eggceptional Recipe


lemon eggceptionalYields 2-4 eggs per person

Ingredients

For the lemon curd:

4 egg yolks, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the meringue:

4 egg whites, separated
1/4 cup sugar

For Egg shell mold:

1 egg

For the White Chocolate Shell:

7 oz White Chocolate

Instructions

Using an egg-shaped rubber mold, fill with water and place in the freezer for one hour. Before it is completely frozen, dip a toothpick into each mold. Return to the freezer and leave overnight.

For the lemon curd, whisk sugar and yolks. Add butter to yolks, and whisk again. Place in microwave for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and mix with whisk. Place back in microwave until mixture reaches a boil, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from microwave, cover, and place in the fridge.

Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie or in a microwave. It should be just warm to the finger, not too hot.

Remove the egg mold from the freezer. Dip it in warm water for a couple seconds and then remove the frozen “egg”. You will have an egg shaped “lollipop” mold.

Holding onto the toothpick, dip the egg half way down into the white chocolate. Transfer it to a parchment paper or silpat, and hold in place for a couple seconds. Gently remove the egg mold from the chocolate, leaving the chocolate “shell” standing alone. With one frozen egg mold, you should be able to get 8 eggs shells.

For the meringue, whip whites with electric whisk. Little by little add sugar until firm.

Remove lemon curd from fridge. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue mixture. Squeeze meringue mixture into each eggshell half way. With another pastry bag or a teaspoon, place lemon curd on top of the meringue, in the shape of an egg yolk.

To serve: place each white chocolate egg in a ceramic eggcup or on a plate. Serve with a demitasse spoon, like you are eating a soft-boiled egg.

Michel Richard's Fried Chicken Nuggets Recipe


chicken nuggetsYields 20 nuggets

Ingredients

2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 12 ounces each)
2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 6 ounces each)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
8 ounces (about ½ large loaf) day-old Italian bread or country bread, crusts removed
1 large egg white
Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
1 teaspoon whole milk, or as needed

Instructions

Pull the small chicken tender from the underside of each chicken breast. With a paring knife, remove and discard the piece of sinew that runs the length of the tender. Set the tenders aside. Cut the thin pointed end off each breast and add that meat to the tenders. The tenders and trimmings will be used as the binder. Trim the breasts and thighs of any excess fat or sinew and discard.

Cut the tenders and trimmings into 1-inch pieces. There should be 1 cup. If there is less, add enough cut-up breast meat to make 1 cup.

Season both sides of the chicken breasts and thighs with salt, pepper, and about half the thyme.

To roll the thighs into a log: Lightly moisten the work surface, to anchor the plastic, and lay out a 2-foot-long piece of plastic wrap, with a short end toward you. Place the thighs end to end down the center of the plastic, starting about 4 inches from the bottom edge. Pull the plastic wrap from the bottom up over the chicken pressing it against the surface of the meat. Slowly roll up the chicken in the plastic wraps, being careful not to catch the wrap in the chicken and pinching in the sides from time to time to compact the roll. Twist both ends of the roll and tie with kitchen twine, forming a compact log. Then repeat with the chicken breasts, laying them end to end, with the thinner ends overlapping. Trim the ends of the plastic and refrigerate the logs for at least several hours, or up to a day.

Break up the bread and place in the food processor. Pulse to process into irregular bread crumbs. The largest crumbs should be no more than ¼ inch, but do not overprocess. You should have about 2 ¼ cups. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Place the reserved chicken trimmings in a small food process or blender, add the egg white, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to a day.

To cook the chicken, fill a large pot with water and clip a thermometer to the side of the pot. Using a large pot of water makes it easier to maintain the temperature once the chicken is added. Heat the water to 160F. It is important that the water temperature remain between 155F and 160F as the chicken cooks. Keep a bowl of ice cubes next to the stove, and if the temperature climbs, add a few ice cubes to lower the temperature quickly.
Place the thighs, still wrapped in plastic, in the water and poach for 20 minutes, checking the water temperature often. If the chicken doesn’t remain under the surface of the water, wedge a wooden spoon in the pot to keep it submerged. After 20 minutes, add the breasts and poach the chicken for another 30 minutes.

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Remove the chicken from the poaching water and place in the ice water. If the thighs still look undercooked, return to the poaching water for a few more minutes. Once they are cold, remove the logs from the water and wipe dry.

To fry, heat the oil to 325F in a deep fryer or deep heavy pot. Meanwhile, unwrap the chicken and cut into pieces about 1 ½ inches in size. Cut the thighs lengthwise in half, then cut each half crosswise into 4 pieces. Cut the breasts lengthwise in half, then cut each half crosswise into 6 to 7 pieces.

Remove the chicken puree from the refrigerator, and whisk it. It should have the consistency of mayonnaise; if it is too thick, add enough milk to make it spreadable.

Dry the chicken pieces. Using your hands or a brush, coat each chicken nugget generously with the chicken puree, then place in the bread crumbs and roll in the crumbs to coat, pressing the crumbs so they adhere. Fry the nuggets, a few at a time, for 2 minutes, or until light brown and crispy. Remove from oil with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Tiffany MacIsaac's Hostess-Like Cupcake Recipe

Ingredients

White Chocolate Mousse:

2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
7 ounces white chocolate, melted
1/2 cup heavy cream

Devils Food Cake:

3 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1v2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, warm
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

Chocolate Glaze:

1/2 cup heavy cream
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons white chocolate, melted

Instructions

White Chocolate Mousse:

Place yolks, eggs and sugar in a bowl over a double boiler and whisk until warm to the touch, about 2 minutes. Remove from double boiler and whisk until thick, about 2 minutes. Drizzle melted chocolate into egg mixture, whisking vigorously until incorporated. In a separate bowl whisk cream to stiff peaks. Fold into egg-chocolate mixture and place in a piping bag fitted with a large tip. Refrigerate until needed.

Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa into a bowl. In another bowl whisk together eggs, yolks, buttermilk, coffee and vanilla. Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, whisking. Add butter and stir until just combined.

Spray a 12-cup nonstick cupcake pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup halfway with batter. Bake until cooked through, 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before filling and glazing.

Glaze:

In a small pot, bring cream to a simmer. Place bittersweet chocolate, butter and salt in a bowl. Pour simmering cream into the bowl and let sit 1 minute. Whisk until smooth.

Assemble:

Working with one at a time, remove cupcakes from pan. Insert the piping tip into the top center of each cupcake and pipe in white chocolate until full. Wipe any excess off top of cupcake.

Dip tops of cupcakes in glaze. Shake upside down to remove excess. Allow glaze to set 10 minutes. Place warm white chocolate in a piping bag with a narrow tip and pipe a line of loops across top of each cupcake.

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