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A Rich Meal That Sings

This weekend's Chef on a Shoestring has been a cooking teacher, a TV star and even an opera singer. But currently, Frederic Van Coppernolle is the executive chef at the French consulate in New York City. On The Saturday Early Show, he is preparing a three-course meal for four on a budget of $40.

Executive chef at the French Consulate, Van Coppernolle also had his own show on Food Network for a time called "How to Boil Water."

He's a farmer, sports enthusiast and he really is an opera singer. He has spent the better part of his career teaching others how to cook, having graduated at the top of his culinary school class in Paris and worked in a wide range of restaurants before coming to the United States.

He even taught at the prestigious Ritz Escoffier Cooking School. (Escoffier was the founder of classical cuisine at the turn of the century.)

For more about Van Coppernolle, go to his Web site.

Here's his menu for Saturday:

Crispy Camembert Fondant
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Heirloom Tomatoes and Mint Couscous
Warm Brownie Pudding

FOOD FACTS

Camembert Cheese (pronounced KAM-uhm-behr): Napoleon is said to have christened this cheese after the Norman village where a farmer's wife first served it to him. This cow's-milk cheese has a white rind and a smooth, creamy interior. When perfectly ripe, the cheese should ooze thickly. When overripe, it becomes runny. Choose Camembert that is plump and soft to the touch. Avoid pieces with hardened edges which may forecast over-ripeness.

Heirloom Tomatoes: Heirloom tomatoes are grown from seeds that have not been altered by humans/science. This means that unlike the round red tomatoes you buy in the grocery store, heirlooms do not travel well, do not keep well and don't always look pretty. But the flavor is unbeatable.

Couscous: A staple of North African cuisine, couscous is a granular wheat flour that be served as a salad, underneath stew or in many other variations.

RECIPES

CRISPY CAMEMBERT FONDANT

Ingredients:
1 camembert (preferably Isigny-sainte-Mère)
4 sheets of phyllo dough
2 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. mandarin marmalade
1 bunch watercress
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt, pepper

Method:

  1. Cut the camembert in 8 wedges.
  2. Place 1 sheet of dough on your table, brush with some melted butter and delicately place another sheet on top of the first one. Brush again with butter.
  3. Cut the layered sheets in half. Place a small dollop of marmalade in the center of each half, place 2 wedges of camembert on the marmalade, some more marmalade on top of the cheese, and top with fresh ground pepper. Then, fold the phyllo dough delicately over the cheese, forming a small package.
  4. Place the dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  5. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 sheets of phyllo dough until you have four cheese packages. Brush the tops of your pastries with more butter and keep in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
  6. Make the dressing for the salad by placing the remaining mandarin marmalade in a large bowl and adding the salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil. Whisk to combine; check the seasoning.
  7. When ready to serve, place the pastries in a pre-heated 350 degrees oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the excess stems from the watercress and place in the bowl of dressing. Mix well but gently. Divide the watercress salad between the four plates, place the hot camembert next to the salad and serve immediately.
GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST WITH HEIRLOOM TOMATOES AND MINT COUSCOUS

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts (about 1/2 pound each)
3 small heirloom tomatoes (try to get different colors: red, purple, yellow, green...)
1 small red onion
1 bunch of mint
1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt, pepper

Method:

  1. Clean the chicken if necessary, reserve.
  2. Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute to help make peeling easier. Remove the skin, cut in quarters and remove the seeds. Cut in small cubes, reserve.
  3. Cut the red onion in small dices, add to the tomato dices.
  4. Remove the leaves from the mint, saving the stems for the couscous. Reserve the stems.
  5. Crush the garlic cloves, grate and squeeze the lemon. Chop the mint leaves; mix with the olive oil, garlic, fresh pepper, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour half of the mixture over the chicken and half over the tomatoes and red onion. Let the meat and the tomatoes marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  6. When ready to cook, place the chicken on a hot grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side to get nice markings on the breasts. Remove from the grill and put on a small sheet pan. Pour any remaining marinade over the chicken.
  7. Place in a 350 degrees oven for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked, allow the meat to rest for about five minutes. Mix the chicken's cooking juices with the tomatoes. Slice the chicken and place on a plate, cover with the marinated tomatoes and drizzle remaining tomato marinade over all. Serve with mint-infused couscous.
MINT-INFUSED COUSCOUS

Ingredients:
1 cup couscous
1 cup mint-infused boiling water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small carrot, peeled
1 small green squash
1 small yellow squash
1 garlic clove
salt, pepper

Method

  1. Place the couscous in a bowl. Crush the garlic clove and add to the couscous.
  2. Cut all of the vegetables in small dices. In a large pot of salted water boiling water, blanch the carrots, green and yellow squash. Remove, refresh in cold water and add to the couscous.
  3. In the same water in which you cooked the vegetables, add the mint stems. Turn off the heat, and let the herb infuse the water for at least 30 minutes. Bring back to a boil, measure out 1 cup of boiling water and pour over the couscous/vegetable mixture. Give it a stir and cover immediately with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the plastic wrap from the couscous and separate the grains with your hands or a fork. Place 1 tbsp. olive oil in a frying pan, heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the couscous and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Divide among four plates, serving alongside the chicken.
BROWNIE PUDDING

Ingredients:
2 cups diced brownies
3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup cream
3 eggs
1 dash vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar

Method:

  1. Break the eggs in a bowl, add the sugar, heat the mixture on the stovetop. Add the milk, cream and the vanilla extract slowly. Reserve.
  2. Place the cubes of brownies in 4 ramekins or creme brulée dishes. Pour the custard over the brownies and let sit for 30 minutes without mixing.
  3. After that time, pour more custard over the brownies if needed. (The brownie might absorb some of the custard which is good, it will allow your pudding to remain moist).
  4. Bake in a preheated 325 degrees oven for 15 minutes (5 minutes more for a deeper ramekin).
For the sauce:

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. cream

Method:

  1. Place the sugar in a sauce pan. Place on medium heat. When the sugar starts to melt, mix with a wooden spoon. It will color quickly and when it reaches a dark amber color, remove from the heat and add all the cream at once. Be careful, the hot sugar may splatter, so don't leave your hands on or near the handle.
  2. When the bubbles subside, mix well, let cool slightly and drizzle over the puddings. Serve and enjoy.
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