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Opening With Endive

Chef Tom Valenti is the executive chef and owner of Ouest restaurant located in Manhattan. He cooks up a delicious three-course meal for four on our shoestring budget.

Valenti was trained in classic French and Italian cuisine. He has earned high praise for his bold approach to traditional foods. Before Ouest, he was the executive chef at the acclaimed Butterfield 81 restaurant.


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Menu:
Endive Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette
Poached Chicken Breast Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Spinach
Pistachio-Fig Tart

Endive Salad with Creamy Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
4 heads of endive
4 oz. Roquefort cheese
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Cut endive in half lengthwise, with cut side down, slice into thin strips.
  2. Put sliced endive and small chunks of Roquefort in a bowl.
  3. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place in center of serving plate (envision a haystack).
Method for vinaigrette:
  1. Combine egg yolk and Dijon mustard in a stainless steel bowl. Add one tablespoon vinegar and whisk well. Add the oil slowly in a thin drizzle, whisking to form an emulsion. Slowly whisk in the remaining vinegar.
  2. Season with a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper.
Poached Chicken Breast Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Spinach
(Serves 4)

Ingredients for Spinach and Goat Cheese Filling:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken stock (or water)
1 1/2 pounds spinach, stems removed and well washed in several changes of water
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces high-quality fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook gently for 15-20 seconds, being careful not to let it color.
  2. Add the stock and immediately put the spinach in on top of it. Cook, stirring quickly because the spinach will cook down rapidly. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about one minute, then remove from the heat and spread out on a cookie sheet to cool.
  3. When col, transfer to a mixing bowl and gently combine with the goat cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Note: If making in advance, store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Ingredients for chicken assembly:
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Note: avoid buying the chicken already boneless and skinless. You'll get the best results by purchasing a whole chicken and removing the breast the yourself.)
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. mesclun greens

Method:

  1. Cover the chicken breasts, one at a time, with a sheet of plastic wrap and gently pound to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Lay each breast in the center of a clean 12 X 18- or 20-inch piece of plastic wrap.
  3. Place 1/4 of the cooled prepared filling in the center of each breast.
  4. Wrap the plastic tightly around the breast and roll up the ends, turning tighter and tighter until the breast is in a cylindrical shape; take care to keep the plastic wrap tight around the roll.
  5. Once the cylinder is formed, continue to twist the ends tightly until they are well sealed. Set aside and repeat with the other three breasts.
  6. To cook the chicken breasts, set a large pot of water over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Carefully place the wrapped chicken breasts in the water and poach for 15-16 minutes.
  7. Remove the chicken breasts with tongs and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove the plastic, using a sharp knife or scissors. Cut the chicken on a bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve over greens.
Note: If making in advance, the stuffed chicken breast can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for up to several days. When ready to proceed, allow to come to room temperature.

Pistachio-Fig Tart

Ingredients:
Pistachio Crust:
2 Cups ground unsalted pistachio nuts
1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Seeds from one vanilla bean or one teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons
8 ounces (2 sticks) plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks

Method:

  1. In a bowl, stir together the nuts, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla seeds or extract, and lemon zests.
  2. Add the butter to the bowl and stir until fully incorporated.
  3. Whisk in the egg and egg yolks one at a time.
  4. Cover the dough with plastic warp and chill for 30 minutes. You should have about 4 1/2 cups dough, enough for one 9-inch tart or eight 4-inch tarts.
Ingredients for filling:
2 packed cups dried figs, stems removed
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch fine salt

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until the figs are tender and the liquid has thickened and reduced, about 50 minutes.
  2. Let cool and puree. You will have about 1 1/2 cups filling.
Assembly:
  1. For a 9-inch tart: Spray a tart pan that has a removable bottom with nonstick spray. Press half of the dough into the bottom of the tart pan. Chill well.
  2. Spread all the filling on the dough. Chill well.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
  4. Spread the remaining half of the dough over the fill. This is most easily done using wet fingers. Alternatively, roll out the dough, cut into strips, and arrange in a lattice pattern.
  5. Bake in the pre-heated oven until golden brown, 45-50 minutes.

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