Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Brie with jam

I love to cook for our play reading group. Appetizer, first act, main, second act, dessert. And lots of wine and, well, hams.

I was totally behind in planning and time, so I swung by Fareway on the way home and picked up an 8 ounce brie and some crackers, slathered some apricot jam from our "handsome tumbler" on it. And then when I got to our host's--nuked it for 90 seconds and that's it.

Olives, pecans from Joanie's tree, toasted, and it's a party.

Brie with Khalua.
Brie with any kind of jam
Brie wrapped in puff pastry and baked (courtesy of Jason and Shawnda).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bargemen's Beef a la Plagiariste

I want to test here the notion that two wrongs make a right. I have plagiarized Modern Canine.com, which plagiarized some internet site that plagiarized a cookbook I heard about but can't remember the name of or author of. The recipe is, if I recall right, from the bargemen of the Rhone river, painted in all their romantic simplicity by van Gogh. And it's so simple and so meaty. And the best part is the marrow.

I am neither a militant carnivore, nor militant plagiarist, though I have sympathies with both. One of the best meals I ever had was at St. John Bread and Wine in the East End of London, where they serve abats and all thats. I love very basic meats roasted or braised until it falls off the bone.

I also think that recipes like this one--ancient, earthy, local, simple--defy the concept of plagiarism. On the other hand, some enterprising American must have gone to the wilds of France to bring back the details of this great dish. And it must have appeared in some beauti
fully illustrated cookbook. And then it was purloined by some plagiarist to the internet, and ceaselessly re-stolen to this day. And yes, by me. And if someone will tell me where it is, I will credit it, chapter and verse, then change my recipe slightly so it is not plagiarism. This is why Creative Commons must be the rule for foodies. This preparation, though, I found elsewhere and have brazenly copied it. It's from the Rhone area of France and it's very hearty.

  • 4 slices beef shank, bone-in, fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 lbs. onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • salt & freshly ground pepper

To accompany the meat:
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled. . . .
  • 5 parsley sprigs
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, patted dry

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
  2. Smear the oil on the bottom of a dutch oven that is large enough to hold the shanks in one layer.
  3. Spread half of the onions on the bottom, sprinkle with salt. Put the shanks on top of the onions.
  4. Season the shanks with salt and pepper and add the thyme sprigs. Top with the remaining onions. Sprinkle on some more salt.
  5. Cover tightly and place in the oven. Braise for 3 hours
  6. In a food processor, process the anchovies, garlic and parsley into a paste. Spoon into a serving bowl.

To serve:

Transfer the shanks & onions to a serving bowl. Degrease the pan juices and pour them over the meat. Serve accompanied by the anchovy paste."

A note on time and temperature:
The beef in the photo above was taken direct from the freezer and put put frozen solid, with the onions and thyme, into the oven at 215 degrees at 7:45 am and taken out at 7:30 pm. 12 hours. It was delicious. This recipe is hard to mess up, except perhaps by cooking at too high a temperature for too short a time. I did thicken the juices with a tablespoon of Wondra dissolved in a tablespoon of brandy, while I chopped the garlic and parseley. Five minutes.

Van Gogh - Coal Barges on the Rhone River

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Salmon with Sorrel (or Spinach)

The great Lyon chef Pierre Troigros has for four decades made a jeweled salmon with sorrel--a dish that started the French food revolution, really. This has similar flavors using similar ingredients. The presentation is much less elegant (here is what Martha Stewart does with Pierre's marvel). As for the taste, judge for yourself.

Sorrel is amazingly easy to grow. I planted some 20 years ago in the herb garden, and it's still going strong, from April to November. Just a few torn leaves give a salad a lemony tartness. And a chiffonade makes a great garnish. It makes me feel like I really can garden.

Serves four

1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 salmon fillets or steaks (4-6 ounces each)
4 ounces sorrel (or spinach), washed and dried in advance
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions or shallots
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/2 cup fish stock or clam juice
1 cup creme fraiche (or heavy cream or low- or non-fat sour cream)
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (the juice of about 1/2 lemon)
salt and pepper
  1. Heat a 'fait tout' (Dutch oven) or large skillet on high (ideally one with a glass cover) and add the peanut oil. Salt and pepper the filets on the top (skinless) side.
  2. Saute the filets, skin side up, for one minute on each side or until lightly colored. Remove to a plate and cover
  3. Add the wine, stock, cream, scallions and lemon juice (use less if you use sorrel). Boil for four minutes.
  4. Lower heat, add sorrel or spinach and cook for one minute, then off heat and swirl in the butter, in bits.
  5. Pour the sauce around the fish and serve.

Salmon Provencal

4 salmon filets or steaks (4-6 ounces each)
8 ounces spinach (or sorrel), washed
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup nonfat sour cream (or 1/4 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche)
1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cajun seasoning
Herbs de Provence
  1. Heat a 'fait tout' (Dutch oven) on high (ideally one with a glass cover) and add the olive oil.
  2. Using a garlic press, smear the top (skinless) side of the filets with garlic. Sprinkle with herbs and Cajun seasoning. Salt and pepper.
  3. Saute the filets, skin side up, for two minutes or until lightly colored.
  4. Add the spinach (or sorrel) and the wine. Cover and steam for four minutes.
  5. Remove the filets and spinach (or sorrel) to a plate(s).
  6. Add the cream or sour cream, and squeeze one tablespoon lemon juice in, holding the seeds back. Stir rapidly, boiling, until the sauce thickens slightly.
  7. Pour the sauce around the fish and over the spinach (or sorrel). Serve with lemon wedges.


Saumon saute beurre blanc

  1. skin side down. Remove to a warm plate.
  2. Add the spinach and scallions. Cover, and melt for two minutes, tossing frequently.
    Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Remove to a warm plate.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon chopped scallions and 1/4 cup white wine (or red wine or champagne). Boil one minute or until reduced almost to a syrup.
  4. Off heat, and swirl in 2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits.
  5. Nap the salmon with the sauce, and garnish with green scallions or parseley.