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Give Thanks for the Entree
Posted by Lori Ross - Viewed 69315 times

Story and photography by Lori Ross

In America, we call the main dish of a meal the entrée.  Across the pond, it is called by a wonderfully dramatic French term “piece de resistance” reflecting its importance as the centerpiece around which the menu is built. Creating delicious entrees worthy of the name “piece de resistance” is easy on today’s sophisticated passagemakers.

These days, Jim and I are busy making the 1994 Fleming we’ve just bought -- a 55-foot beauty -- our very own. One thing that continually surprised me this winter, as we boat shopped to trade up from our Grand Banks 42, was that on many new boats the standard galley configuration included only a stovetop and microwave, no oven. The builders claim that buyers prefer the additional galley storage, and are comfortable with only the new high-tech microwave ovens that claim to brown, bake, and roast chicken, meats, breads, and pizza “just like an electric oven.” 

Call me old-fashioned. Although I’d never want to be without a microwave, I still want the flexibility and versatility offered by a traditional oven -- even in a yacht galley. It’s better at browning and roasting than microwaves, and doesn’t take much longer than the microwave does for many dishes. So one of the first modifications we’re making to the Fleming is to add a Regency VSA convection oven, and large grill, to the existing galley configuration of high-tech microwave, cook top, full-size refrigerator, and freezer. I also bought a full-size Cuisinart blender/food processor combo, a toaster and coffeemaker.

This new boat of ours takes us a long way from our roots. Back when Jim and I first got married, our first boat was a 24-foot-Shark sailboat, with a two-burner alcohol stove, small grill, and ice chest. As we explored Long Island Sound and Southern New England for a summer, we cooked steaks and fresh fish on the grill, shopped every couple of days, and hung a bag with our wine over the side to keep it chilled.
Our next sailboat, a Beneteau 35, had a wonderful oven and a good ice box. We loved the warmth of our cozy cabin, making chili, baking corn bread and apple crisp, and watching football with friends (on our first boat TV) on frosty nights during late fall cruises in the Chesapeake Bay. Then, with our Grand Banks 42, the world of good-sized grills, and “real” refrigerators and freezers opened to us. We could stash a week’s worth of frozen ingredients -- chicken, shrimp, steaks, burgers, soups, and stews, plus prepared foods such as our favorite pizza -- and just pop them in the oven while underway. What extravagance!   

It doesn’t matter whether you have a 24-footer with just the basics, or a 55-footer with all the amenities, the pleasures of cruising often revolve around the great dinners you enjoy aboard. So, this issue, we’re going to take a look at the entrée or piece de resistance, the main course of our evening meals. For Jim and me, one thing hasn’t changed much over the years, our everyday cruising main courses lean towards grilled or sautéed chicken, seafood and beef; sometimes pork tenderloin or lamb; served with salad and vegetables. And then, to make these simple meals a bit more special, I add a sauce or salsa. In French cooking, the meat or fish always wears a complimentary sauce, and to put it on the plate without one is like walking out the front door naked. Fresh, light, easy-to-make sauces are enjoying a renaissance these days, so let’s take a look at some great main courses, and the sauces that compliment them. Cheers!

Gas, charcoal and electric grills vary in the amount of heat generated, and in the way they pre-heat. These recipes assume that the grill is preheated to “hot” (charcoal briquettes are lightly covered with gray ash), and racks are rubbed lightly with oil and positioned 4-6 inches above coals or heating elements. If your grill rack sits lower or higher than 4-6 inches, adjust the cooking time and heat to avoid over or under cooking.  Gas grills pre-heat quickly, but have hot and cool spots and flaming  -- just move items to cooler part of grill. Recipes indicate approximate minutes of cooking – but each grill is different, so check frequently to avoid over or under cooking. Meat, chicken and fish continue to cook when off grill, so remove them before fully cooked.

Steaks and Chops - Beef tenderloin, sirloin, flank steak, lamb and pork chops are marinated in olive oil, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper for 30 minutes then grilled over high heat (to cook quickly and avoid drying out) for 6-8 minutes per inch thickness for rare to medium rare.  Let steaks and chops rest off-heat for 5 minutes before serving. Slice flank steaks very thinly, across the grain.  Serve steaks and chops topped with a variety of sauces (see suggested recipes).

Fish and Shellfish - Tuna, salmon, monkfish, and other thick fish fillets or steaks are delicious on the grill seasoned with olive oil, dill, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper, and grilled on medium-high for 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness. Shrimp and scallops are grilled for a mere 3-5 minutes total. Let rest 2-3 minutes before serving and try rouille, charmoula, or hollandaise sauces.

Shish Kebab - Cut meat, chicken, fish into 1 ½ -inch cubes, or use individual pieces of shrimp or scallops. Marinate in olive oil, season with fresh ground pepper, rosemary, and salt. Thread on wooden or metal skewers and grill on medium high for a total of 4-8 minutes per inch of thickness (less for fish/shellfish, more for meat/chicken). Rest off heat for 3-5 minutes. Serve with assorted sauces.

Vegetable Kebabs – Bite-sized pieces of onion, pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, fennel, eggplant are delicious marinated in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, thyme or rosemary. Skewer and grill on medium/low heat for 4-8 minutes (depending on veggie type and desired crispness). Serve with hollandaise or sauces suggested below.

Sauteing refers to cooking in a small amount of oil over medium-high to high heat in preheated frying pans. This method is best for ½- to ¾-inch steaks, chops, boneless chicken breast and fish fillets.

Sauteing refers to cooking in a small amount of oil over medium-high to high heat in preheated frying pans. This method is best for ½- to ¾-inch steaks, chops, boneless chicken breast and fish fillets.

Sugared Steak  - Tenderloin or sirloin steaks are coated lightly and evenly with a mixture of two parts salt to one part sugar, and a smidgen of fresh ground pepper, and seared in a cast iron skillet or grill pan with ridges. The sugar creates the beautiful black crust and sheen you see at the steak house. Serve with potatoes, steamed vegetables, and hollandaise sauce.

Boneless Chicken Breasts – This is one of the best ways to cook boneless chicken breast (which has a tendency to dry out quickly). The outside is crusty and buttery, the inside is moist and tender, however, it will smoke up your galley a little unless you have a very good stove fan. Trim fat and tenderloin from four boneless chicken-breast halves (if you wish, pound chicken breast to ½-inch thickness). Dredge breasts and tenderloins in 1/8 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Using 11- or 12-inch skillet, heat to medium, then add 2 tbsps butter and 1 tbsp of oil to pan, and turn heat up to medium-high. When butter/oil stops foaming and begins to turn brown, place chicken in the skillet in a single layer. Cook, turning several times, until the breasts are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side (tenderloins cook faster). If chicken isn’t cooked through, reduce heat to low and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Remove chicken from skillet and serve with a squeeze of lemon or sauces below.

Fish Fillets - The first time I made this was with sea trout I’d caught only about an hour earlier. Use the freshest boneless fish fillets you can find up to ½ inch thick. Lightly dust 4 ½-inch fish fillets with flour, salt and pepper. Warm a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, brush bottom with 1-2 tsps of oil or butter. Add fish and cook on one side until lightly browned and edges have turned opaque (usually 2-3 minutes). Flip fish and cook 2-3 minutes more.  If your fillets are thicker, reduce heat once browned to low for another 3 minutes. If you like rare tuna seared on outside, heat oil and butter on high, put one-inch tuna steaks in pan and reduce immediately to medium-high.  Cook 1 ½ minutes on each side for rare or 3 minutes on each side for medium. Serve with lemon wedges. Fish cooked this way makes great fish sandwiches garnished with tartar sauce or aioli, fresh lettuce, tomato and sliced onion!  The same method may be used for sautéing shrimp and scallops.  

Fish Fillets - I learned this recipe from my sister, Mariette, who makes perfect fish every time.  Preheat oven to 450. Place a thick (1 inch or more) fish fillet or fish steak in a COLD buttered pan, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dill, and breadcrumbs, and squeeze ½ fresh lemon over the fish. Place in hot oven for 18 minutes. The top of the fish doesn't turn brown but the fish comes out rare and warm in the center.  If you want the top of your fish browned, before you put fish in the oven, preheat a skillet on high and sauté the top of fillet (not skin side) in 1 tbsp of olive oil for one minute.  Then, turn the fillet onto the skin side in the cold buttered pan and place in the oven for 18 minutes. Serve with charmoula or rouille.

Garlic Lemon Chicken  - Set oven to 425 degrees.  Place cut-up chicken in a single layer in shallow pan. Brush skin with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, mix ¼ cup lemon juice with 4 cloves chopped garlic and drizzle on chicken.  Place a thin slice of butter on each piece of chicken. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce oven heat to 400 degrees for another 20 minutes.  We often roast asparagus, potatoes or other vegetables in the same pan as the chicken brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper, during the last 20 minutes of cooking.  The veggies pick up the wonderful chicken flavor from the liquid in the pan.

Chicken, Fish, and Vegetables -- Foil cooking steams food in its own juices and the result is deeply flavored, tender and very delicate fish, chicken and vegetables.  Place 7- to 8-ounce fillets or chicken breasts in a bowl with a pat of butter, salt, pepper, herbs, veggies cut into small pieces, and 1/4 cup of white or rose wine. Take two shoebox-size sheets of aluminum foil for each packet and fold on three sides to create a “bowl” – place chicken, wine and spices in the packet, fold closed, and seal well.  Place on medium high grill or in hot oven. For chicken, set oven at 425 degrees and cook for 20-25 minutes; for fish, set oven at 475 for 10-15 minutes; for vegetables alone, cook at 425 for 10 minutes. Serve oil packets on plates and let guest open and enjoy the delicious aroma.

Fish -Place 8-ounce fillets or steaks (2 at a time) in a glass pie dish and cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook at 100% power for about 3 1/2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes. 

Vegetables - Place 2 cups of vegetables in a glass bowl with sliced garlic, salt, pepper and 1 tbsp of butter. Cover with vented plastic wrap, or simply cook in zip lock bag (left open in one corner) and microwave on high for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Serve with salt, pepper and butter, or sauces below.

These sauces are a delightful addition to the main course. A great idea for a dinner party aboard is to make one of the chicken, fish, or beef recipes above, then serve a selection of these sauces in bowls on the table so that your guests have a chance to try each one to find their favorite(s).  Each recipe makes about 1 cup of sauce.

3 tbsps water
3/4 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
    (preferably from a baguette, crust removed)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1 pimento pepper

A Gallic tradition for good reason, rouille is French for "rust," after the rich color of this sauce. Pour water over bread crumbs in the bowl of a food processor. Add garlic, salt, pimento pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add oil in a slow stream, while food processor is running, until well combined. It should have texture of mayonnaise.

Blender Hollandaise
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp cream
1 cup (1/2 pound) melted sweet butter,
    heated until bubbling but not brown
1 tbsp lemon juice

Place yolks, salt, pepper, and cream in blender for a few seconds at high speed until you have a smooth frothy mixture. Still at high speed, start adding hot butter in a thin, steady stream, not too slowly. As you add butter, the sauce should thicken. When half the butter has been added, add lemon juice or vinegar. Continue blending until all butter is used.

Bearnaise Sauce
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup tarragon vinegar
1 chopped shallot
1 tbsp each fresh tarragon, chervil or parsley, and fresh ground pepper
(plus the ingredients for Hollandaise, sans lemon)

Follow the recipe for Hollandaise above. But instead of lemon juice, in a saucepan, mix the Bearnaise ingredients, heat and reduce to ¼ cup. Strain and use one or two tbsps of this reduced liquid instead of lemon juice.

Chimichurri Rojo
4 tbsps olive oil
1/2 cup Spanish sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 ½ tbsps hot paprika or regular paprika
    with ½ tsp of crushed red pepper
2 tbsps cayenne
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tbsp of salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf, broken in half

This Argentine Red Sauce is one of my favorites because it’s easy, full of flavor, and a great compliment to meat or chicken. Combine all ingredients and let flavors develop for 2-3 hours.

Green Chimichurri
10 minced, peeled cloves garlic
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

This Argentine Green Sauce is a perfect compliment to fish, chicken, or meat. Combine all ingredients and let flavors develop for 2-3 hours.

½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped parsley
5 cloves of garlic
5 tbsps lemon juice
1 ½ tsps salt and cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/3 tsp ground cumin
½ cup olive oil, or more

Combine first seven ingredients and add enough olive oil to make this thick Moroccan herb sauce.


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