Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amuse-Gueule de Roquefort

J has loved blue cheese ever since we discovered it on our honeymoon in Europe in 1977. She would buy it in every new town, at a cheese shop, and put it in her purse. We ate it for lunch most every day, back when Europe was $10 a day. And she still loves it. Now we live in Iowa, where there's good Maytag blue. And in Ames, where at Iowa State University they created the first process for making blue from cow's milk, homogenized.

This is a recipe for cheese balls in Julia (MAFC I p. 196). But I just use it to top crackers or toast rounds.

4 ounces blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives or green onion tops.
3 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon finely minced celery
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 turns of a pepper mill
1 teaspoon cognac or two or three drops Worcestershire sauce
  1. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, blend the ingredients until smooth.
  2. Garnish with more chopped chives or green onion tops

Eggplant Caviar: La Tentation de Bramafam

This dip or amuse bouche or amuse gueule (on a cracker or toast round) is straight out of Julia (MAFC II p. 353), except you nuke the eggplant in its skin instead of baking it in its skin. That means you have to find small eggplants so it will cook in 5 minutes--about 8 ounces each. It keeps two days and freezes beautifully. You can double the recipe easily, but again you must use small eggplants or microwave them longer (then you are into 14 minute territory. Horrors!).

Makes about 24 cracker toppers

Two small eggplants, totaling about one pound
4 ounces walnuts (pieces are fine but some whole ones for garnish is nice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
four turns of a pepper mill
2 large cloves, peeled
2-3 squirts tabasco
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
4 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Cut off the green ends from the eggplants and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, chop the garlic. Then add the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil and process one second to mix.
  3. Prepare the crackers or toasts and get out an oven mitt.
  4. When the eggplant is done, using the oven mitt, halve each lengthwise and with a spoon scrape out the flesh.
  5. Add it to the processor bowl and process until grainy but blended, about 8 to 12 seconds, adding the olive oil in a stream.
  6. Spoon a bit on each cracker or toast, and garnish with optional walnut halves. Or simply serve in a bowl as a spread.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lamb neck, Collier d'agneau.: La clapassade d'agneau sauce grisette

Reglisse is licorice. Yes, I know this is a bit bizarre, but read on. I was in Paris a few years ago eating with my dear colleague Tiane at an art nouveau restaurant called Le Bouillon Racine on the Left Bank near the Sorbonne (Rue Racine). It opened over a hundred years ago to serve working class and petit bourgeoisie a lovely meal in a elegant setting for a good price, so the food was mostly soups and braises--the first fast food, in a way. The place was a cafeteria for Sorbonne professors for many years, but rather recently reopened in restored fin de siecle glory, green and glass.

I was intrigued by the souris d'agneau a la reglisse. Literally mouse of lamb with licorice. The "mouse" is a small shank, which resembles a rodent in shape and, well, color. I had to try it, and it was delicious, with a hint of sweetness I sometimes like in lamb (think mint sauce) and that amazing licorice flavor.

Then just last week I heard a program about a new dish of lamb and licorice, this time using the neck or "collier." It was on Carnet Nomade, one of my favorites on France Culture radio, a program about the city of Montpellier having had a competition to choose a dish that would (in the best french sense of Le Marketing) be the city's culinary signature, as cassoulet is for Toulouse or brandade is for Nimes. They called the dish (before it was even chosen) La Clapassade (which means something like 'cup of stones'). The winner: A student of linguistics from Quebec, Michel Otel, who made it from signature products of Herault province, including a licorice candy called grisettes. I had to try it (I stayed last year in Montpellier for a few days with a professor of linguistics from the university. Fate.)

But where to find suitable licorice? They don't just melt in the black ropes we eat here. They use licorice root, which apparently french children used to (still do?) eat in sticks, which look like bark, and which you can simply drop into the braise (see the video below of the creator of the dish preparing it). Fortunately, our amazing Wheatsfield coop has an "herbal" section that included licorice root, though it was chopped, so I had to wrap it in cheesecloth before adding it.

Oh, and of course where to find lamb neck! The answer is, as so often, the ISU Meat Lab. They have it in slices about an inch thick. The French apparently will bone the neck for a large braising piece, or cut the meat off the bones. But simpler is faster. And I guess you can substitute another fatty, bony cut, like breast of lamb (Denver ribs or lamb ribs) or, as in Paris, shank.

J and I think this is a winner. And it's definitely 10 minutes or less active time, though divided into two, five minute segments, about eight hours apart. As with most braises, this is even better warmed up the next day. And the leftover sauce is amazing on, well, leftovers. But if you pour this over rice or noodles or polenta, you'll have little sauce left, it's so good.

Serves 2-4

3 pounds lamb neck slices, bone in (four slices about 1 inch thick)
1 packet dry french onion soup mix (I use Knorr)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock (homemade if possible. See this blog)
1 ounce licorice root, tied in cheesecloth
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Kitchen Magic (optional)
4 small carrots, peeled (optional)
2 small parsnips, peeled and halved (optional)
5 sprigs thyme (optional) OR lemon or lime zest (optional)
Green olives (optional)
2 tablespoons Wondra
  1. In a slow cooker, place the lamb neck slices, the soup mix, wine, stock, licorice root bag, and honey.
  2. Stir in the optional Kitchen Magic and top with the optional carrots and parsnips, and one sprig of thyme.
  3. Cook on low for about 8 hours.
  4. In a small saucepan, stir together the Wondra a two tablesoons of water, white wine, or stock.
  5. Using a strainer, carefully pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a gravy separator (which I didn't do for the pic above :-(). Wait 15 seconds, then pour the stock into the saucepan and place over high heat, stirring, until thickend slightly. About one minute. Correct the seasoning.
  6. Using a spatula, carefully place one or two lamb slices on each plate (they are fall-apart tender). Arrange the optional carrots and parsnips. Pour sauce around and garnish with thyme sprigs, zest, or green olives. Pass the extra sauce or reserve for another use (delicious on leftovers).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Poulet sauté

Julia prefers thighs for sautes. I do too. And if they are boned, they cook in 10 minutes flat, with time to make a quick sauce. Nowadays, I can get them at the big supermarkets in the little packages of four. But usually I go to Fareway, buy hindquarters for 77 cents a pound, and bone my own. The legs I can roast later or turn into a leggy coq au vin, and the rest goes to make crock pot chicken stock (same). Boned out, the thighs weigh in at 5 ounces, coming from one of the huge modern chickens. So one per person is enough.

There are infinite variations to this possible, and I list some later, especially one that uses leftover sauce from a crock pot coq au vin (pictured).

Serves 4.

Poulet sauté (MAFC I 254).

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (garlic flavored is nice)
Four boneless chicken thighs
Herbs de Provence (optional)
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup chicken stock (on this blog, though canned will do)
Chopped herbs (optional)
  1. Melt butter and oil in a large skillet or fait-tout over high heat.
  2. Dry the top side of the thighs with a paper towel and season them with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence.
  3. When the butter is melted, place the thighs seasoned side down and then season the top side.
  4. Chop the shallot and the optional herbs.
  5. Turn the thighs after four minutes. They should be golden.
  6. Add the shallot.
  7. After three minutes more, or when they are slightly firm to the touch, remove them to a plate and cover.
  8. Add the wine, stock, and half the herbs, scraping the browned bits with a wooden spoon.
  9. Nap the thighs with the sauce and garnish with the remaining herbs.

Au vin
Instead of wine and stock, use leftover sauce from Coq au Vin (pictured)

A la creme (MAFC I 256).
Instead of the stock, add 2/3 cup whipping cream or creme fraiche.

Herbs de Provence (MAFC I 257).
Season the thighs with herbs de Provence and fennel seed
Flame the thighs with Pernod
Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic preserved in olive oil when you turn the chicken.
Add 2/3 cup mayonnaise (or light mayo) to the deglazing juices.
Garnish with 2 tablespoons basil, fennel tops, or parsley.

Doria (from Escoffier)
Peel a cucumber and, using a melon baller, cut garlic-clove-sized pieces out. Microwave them with butter for three minutes. Add these, with the juice they render, with the wine to deglaze the pan and make the sauce.

While the chicken is cooking, use an apple corer to core and cut the apple into 8 slices. Halve these crosswise and add them to the saute pan with the chicken. Shake the pan to coat the apples with the fat. Flame the thighs with Calvados. Deglaze with apple cider instead of wine.

Use pears and Poire William instead of apples and Calvados. Use a Riesling to deglaze.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tarte aux pêches (Julia's way then mine)

Here's a great little tribute to Julia, and her peach (or apricot) tart (MAFC I p. 639), written just after her death for the Washington Post. I have simplified it just a bit to get it in the oven in 10 minutes flat, but I think it's almost as good. And then I add a recipe, just as fast, that is, in my experience, more typical of French cooking, with custard.

For 6 people
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

9-inch pastry round (such as Pepperidge Farms)
8 to 10 fresh apricots or 3 to 4 freestone peaches
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pea-sized dots
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup apricot preserves
  1. Halve and remove the pits from the peaches. Cut the halves into slices.
  2. Fit the prepared pastry into a fluted pastry pan with a removable bottom.
  3. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar in the bottom of the pastry shell.
  4. Place the peach slices in concentric circles, close together in the shell.
  5. Sprinkle on the rest of the sugar. Dot with the butter.
  6. Bake in the middle level of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until fruit has colored lightly and the juices have become syrupy.
  7. Meanwhile, microwave the apricot preserves and 2 tablespoons of sugar for one minute. Set aside
  8. Slip the tart onto a rack. Decorate with the slivered almonds, and spread on the apricot glaze.

And here's one with a custard, the way you see it in French pastry shops--and almost as pretty.

Tarte aux pêches et amandes

Serves 6-8

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

1 round of pastry for a 9 inch pie pan
1/2 cup pulverized blanched almonds (4 ounces in a food processor with 1 tablespoon sugar)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche
2 eggs
  1. Lay the pastry over a 9 inch fluted tart shell with a removable bottom and crimp the edges.
  2. Halve and remove the pits from three or four ripe peaches and arrange them tightly in the shell, cut side down.
  3. Combine the other ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with a wire whip until blended.
  4. Pour the mixture over the peaches, pushing it off the tops of the peaches.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden, the custard is golden in places, and set.
  6. Let cool for an hour on a rack. Remove the tart by carefully pushing it up from the bottom.

All these very French, very easy peach tarts have almond powder. 10 minutes with a prepared crust and don't peel the peaches.

Much the same thing from Marmiton, with cream (not fraiche) and diced peaches.

Another similar: great photos

Maizena is cornstarch!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Concombre sauté: Quick cukes: Sauteed cucumbers

Cucumbers are such an uninspiring vegetable. But they are always available, and cheap, and crunchy, and refreshing. And I am trying to find ways this summer to use them.

Julia peels and slices and soaks them in vinegar for 30 minutes before baking them for an hour (MAFC p. 499). Lovely, and probably less than 10 minutes active time. But I never think ahead about veg. I want something to use those cukes in the frig now. I love sauteed zucchini, so why not cucumber? As is often the case, Emiril has good things to do with simple things.

Serves two. Inspired by Emiril.

one large cucumber (English or garden variety) or two small ones
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
chopped basil and/or mint, or dill
optional: fresh grated nutmeg, chopped garlic, minced shallot or scallion or green onion tops, added with about one minute left to go.
  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan.
  2. Cut the ends off the cucumbers and halve lengthwise. With a spoon remove the seeds, if any. Slice about 1/3 inch thick.
  3. Add the cucumbers and sauté, tossing when the cucumbers have browned a bit on one side.
  4. Add the herbs, chopped, and toss. Grate a little of the optional nutmeg. Season and serve.

Salade de concombres à la crème fraîche ou au vinaigre

I love cucumbers in the summer. They are refreshing. They have no calories. They taste like Iowa. I think my first exposure to cooking was in a funky rooming house where I lived my first year in college. A guy down the hall would make cucumber and onion salad. He was quite heavy. He said it was the perfect diet food. I agree.

And for those times when you want something with cream, hey, cucumbers are still light and full of flavor.

Salade de concombres à la crème fraîche

1 cucumber, medium or large
1/4 cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream or Greek-style yogurt or light yogurt)
1/2 to one tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs, such as dill, mint, chervil (cilantro), basil, parsley, or chives.
  1. Peel the cucumber, leaving strips of green. Slice it into 1/8 inch slices. Place it in them bowl.
  2. Add the salt and lemon juice and toss.
  3. Then add the crème fraîche and toss.
  4. Chop the herbs and garnish with them. Grind the pepper onto all.
Salade concombres au vinaigre

1 cucumber, medium or large
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 to one tablespoon white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs, such as tarragon, dill, mint, chervil (cilantro), basil, parsley, or chives.
  1. Peel the cucumber, leaving strips of green. Slice it into 1/8 inch slices. Place it in a plastic bowl.
  2. Add the salt, vinager, and minced onion and toss.
  3. Chop the herbs and garnish with them. Grind the pepper onto all.

Is this my competitor blog?!

Also contains Salade concombres vinaigre

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Braised celery

Holidays are, for me, leftovers. And killing time playing games, which we did with Scrabble (see our masterpiece below, in which J and I again lost to our daughter). And I always have not only leftover turkey and potatoes and gravy, but also celery, which I overbuy for the dressing.

Celery takes more calories to chew than it provides to the body. It is calorie negative--or positive, depending on your point of view. So it is the perfect after-holiday leftover accompaniment. And it takes flavors marvelously. Julia has a lovely slow recipe for it (MAFC I p. 491), with a lot of butter. But this one has the butter optional and a lot of other lighter flavor enhancers. If you want more done (less crisp-tender) celery, cut it into half inch pieces or smaller, instead of the one-inch pieces here. Or microwave it (instructions below).

Serves 4

1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock (preferably homemade chicken stock--see this blog)
1 pound celery (slice off about two inches of the end, and reserve the leaves).
1 tablespoon Wondra
Salt & pepper to taste (be generous with the pepper)
Optional: One or more of the ingredients below:

  1. Heat the stock on high in a skillet large enough to hold the celery in a single layer.
  2. Meanwhile, wash and trim the celery, then slice into one-inch pieces.
  3. Add the celery to the skillet and stir to wet.
  4. Sprinkle the flour and salt and pepper over top.
  5. Cover and shake a bit, holding down the lid, till the flour is no longer visible (a glass top lid is helpful here, but it's really impossible to go wrong).
  6. Cook til the celery reaches the 'crunch' you like, shaking or stirring occasionally.
  7. Garnish with parsely and enjoy!
VARIATIONS: Add at the beginning (or adjust seasoning with at the end),
Olive oil
Garlic, chopped or minced
Onion, chopped or minced
Lemon juice--a few drops to brighten the taste
Vinegar: white wine, balsamic, or cider (again a few drops)
Coriander seed, crushed with the flat of a knife or a mortar and pestle.
White wine
Sage leaves (for a lovely late Fall aroma)

Microwave Instructions
  1. Mix celery slices, stock, salt, pepper, and any other ingredients in a plastic microwave safe bowl (or in a plastic bag, tied loosely, and set in such a bowl--to save cleanup).
  2. Cover and microwave on 'MAXIMUM', for 3 minutes.
  3. Stir or shake to mix well.
  4. Cover and microwave again 'MAXIMUM', for another 3 minutes
  5. Leave to rest for 2 minutes.
  6. Garnish with parsley.