Archive for November, 2010

Sautéed hen of the woods and king trumpet mushrooms

30 November 2010

I must confess I am not crazy about mushrooms. I don’t dislike them, but I don’t necessarily seek them out either. I agree there is something entirely satisfying about going out to *hunt* for mushrooms (someone recently commented on the inadequacy of the term) and then cooking them in an omelet, say, with lots of parsley just picked in your grandmother’s garden; but it’s been a while since I picked any mushrooms.

However, a few years ago I had hen of the woods mushrooms at Hearth, a lovely restaurant in New York’s East Village, and the dish single-handedly made mushrooms worth craving. It must have been in early fall and I decided to make the mushrooms for Thanksgiving. That first year I couldn’t find a sufficient amount of hen of the woods, so I added king trumpet mushrooms. Now they have become part of the Thanksgiving tradition, too.

The mushrooms should be cooked at the last minute, while the turkey is resting.

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King trumpet (or king oyster) mushrooms (Pleurotus eryngii)

Hen of the woods (or maitake) mushrooms (Grifola frondosa)

Olive oil

Garlic

Fresh thyme

Maldon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

***

Carefully wipe dirt from king trumpet mushrooms, if necessary.

Cut off stub and thinly slice mushrooms lengthwise (the result are beautiful cross sections).

In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to cover the surface. Thinly slice garlic, cook in olive oil until just golden, remove immediately and set aside.

Add mushrooms – just enough so they don’t overlap in the pan, working in batches as necessary – season with Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and sprinkle with thyme. Sautée until the mushrooms become golden-brown on one side, turn them over, and cook another minute or two until soft but with a bit of bite.

To serve, sprinkle with a little more thyme and the pieces of crispy garlic.

Heritage turkey with apple chestnut stuffing

29 November 2010

Back from a lazy long weekend here is the recipe for our Thanksgiving turkey – with plenty of time until next year, or a head start for Christmas if turkey happens to be on your menu.

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Apple chestnut stuffing

I am not bound by tradition when it comes to stuffing, so I don’t consider it essential to include bread. This recipe was initially inspired by a goose stuffed with lady apples but has evolved quite a bit.

For a 16-18lb (7-7.5 kg) turkey:

1 large bunch parsley

2 handfuls fresh thyme

2 handfuls fresh sage

10 thick slices bacon

800 g (5 cups) whole peeled cooked chestnuts

8 medium-sized tart apples

5 medium-sized red onions

Maldon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Pick leaves from herbs and discard stalks. Set aside.

Place half the slices of bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it is brown and crispy on one side, turn over until brown and crispy on the other. Remove from skillet and set aside, keeping rendered fat in the pan.

Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters, then cut each quarter in half crosswise. Brown apples in bacon fat for 3-5 minutes over high heat.

Crumble 2/3 of the chestnuts, leaving about a third whole, and add them all to the apples. Stir to combine and remove from heat. Chop the thyme and sage and add to the apple/chestnut mixture. Transfer to a bowl.

Place the remaining slices of bacon in skillet over medium heat and repeat browning process. Remove from skillet and set aside, keeping rendered fat in the pan. Slice onions and cook them in bacon fat until translucid and just starting to brown. Add to apple/chestnut/herb mixture.

Chop bacon, chop parsley leaves, add to the rest of the stuffing, season generously with salt and pepper, and mix carefully.

***

Heritage turkey

I don’t make turkey often enough to have acquired proficiency in roasting the birds, but they have usually turned out anywhere from quite fine to fairly spectacular. I am refining the technique, one turkey a year at a time, to hit the high moisture marks every time. These are the steps I followed this year, with decent, though improvable results. 29 November 2010

Note from 25 November 2011: I edited the recipe slightly and reduced cooking times after another Thanksgiving turkey cooking adventure this year.

16-18 lb (7-7.5 kg) heritage turkey

Butter

Coarse gray sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Stuffing

Take turkey out of refrigerator well in advance (for example before you start making the stuffing), so it has time to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 475°F (245°C).

Once turkey is at room temperature, separate skin from breast meat and rub softened butter onto breasts. Season inside of turkey, then spoon stuffing into the two cavities, front and back, and sew shut with kitchen string. Rub skin on all sides with generous amount of coarse sea salt and black pepper, and tie legs together with string.

Place turkey in a roasting tray, breast side down, and roast for 10 minutes. Turn turkey breast side up and roast for another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C), add a little water at the bottom of the pan, and roast for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until a thermometer* inserted in the inner thigh registers 150°F (65°C). While the turkey cooks, place a wet muslin cloth over the breasts and baste over the cloth and legs regularly, adding water to the juices if needed. Remove the cloth after about 3 hours to allow the skin to become very crispy.

Let the turkey stand for 45 minutes. Meanwhile reduce the juices and make the gravy, but I won’t tell you how because I prefer to just reduce the juices, keep them piping hot, and pour them over the meat before serving. (Full disclosure: I have asked willing guests to make gravy in the past couple of years, and I must admit it was very good – maybe next year I will tackle the sauce myself).

Check at the joints of the thighs and legs. If they are still uncooked (juices running bloody), remove from the turkey, return to the oven, and cook for another 25-30 minutes or until the juices run clear.

Carve and serve breasts, thighs, and legs.

*I acquired a thermometer unintentionally when the owner of Flying Pigs Farm gave me one at the market one day. He was obviously nervous I might overcook the beautiful loin roast I had just bought from him. I must admit the thermometer came in handy for the pork, and is very useful for turkey.

Thanksgiving (Cranberry sauce)

22 November 2010

Who wouldn’t love a holiday whose sole purpose is to share a meal? As a French woman I’ve always wondered why the French didn’t come up with that idea.

I started making Thanksgiving dinners long before I moved to the United States. The custom began with my mother, who is American (in a somewhat roundabout way), and though I cannot remember that we celebrated Thanksgiving every year as a family, I certainly picked up the tradition when I left home, and have celebrated, if not hosted it consistently since.

My first endeavor involved roasting a chicken with wild rice stuffing in a tiny countertop oven in a small Parisian studio apartment. Later, in Germany, turkeys replaced chickens as the dinner parties became larger to fit the size of the beautiful old apartments students could afford in Berlin in the 1990s (I haven’t lived in such a big apartment since). I discovered that KaDeWe was the only store in the city to carry (frozen) turkeys in November.

Since I moved to New York I have expanded on and modified recipes, and refined a menu that to me is traditional, though it isn’t exactly, in spite of the turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. On Thursday I will make the dishes I have honed in recent years. In the future I am sure some things will change.

2010 Thanksgiving menu

Pumpkin leek soup

Heritage turkey with apple chestnut stuffing

Sautéed hen of the woods and king trumpet mushrooms

Mashed celeriac with parsley

Cranberry sauce (recipe below)

Pumpkin pie

And other desserts brought by the guests

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Cranberry sauce

There is no possible excuse for buying cranberry sauce it’s so ridiculously easy to make. I usually do it the weekend before Thanksgiving.

***

3 x 12 0z (340g) bags* cranberries

3 cups (750ml) water

2 cups (450g)  sugar

Zest of 2 untreated lemons

1 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)

***

Place the cranberries in a large bowl, fill with water and toss to wash. If you are obsessive as I am, check through the cranberries one handful at a time to sort out the soft, discolored ones, placing the good cranberries in a colander as you go. (This is not exactly necessary, but I love the ritual and the feel of the cranberries through my fingers… Otherwise just strain the berries through a colander.)

In a medium saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add cranberries and lemon zest, mix and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped. Remove from heat and mix in some Grand Marnier if desired.

Once cool, transfer to a jar or bowl and refrigerate (if you make the cranberry sauce a while in advance, sterilize the jars in boiling water, pour in cranberry sauce while hot, and seal tightly).

*For some reason, cranberries are practically always sold in 12 oz bags, so I started using that as the reference.

At the market | Celeriac aka celery root (Rémoulade salad)

18 November 2010

Celeriac is one of my favorite vegetables. It’s at the market in the fall and I get very excited by the prospect of eating it. I usually make a purée together with potatoes and a bright green mix of fresh parsley and olive oil; This “green celeriac mash” is part of my traditional Thanksgiving menu, and, if all goes well, I will post the recipe in a few days. In the meantime, below is another great recipe that’s perfect for the freshest market-bought celeriac: Céleri rémoulade, a typical French celeriac salad.

But here first is some information about this excellent vegetable which seems to be less well known in the United States.

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is different from celery, though they are related. They evolved from the same wild plant, apium graveolens, which is common in Europe and temperate parts of Asia. Wild celery has tough stalks and a very strong flavor, and historically the stalks were used solely for medicinal purposes and as a condiment, though the small root came to be considered a delicacy in Europe and the Arab world. In the early seventeenth century, a milder, edible variety of stalk celery was cultivated, and botanists also began developing a plant with a larger root – celeriac.

It’s important to pick out celeriac carefully, because the interior can be pithy and hollow, which makes for a bad surprise and can be very frustrating. (That’s why it’s a good idea to always buy a little more celeriac than one think one needs, just in case; that, and because a good half inch of the vegetable comes off when it is peeled.) So celeriac should feel heavy; if the stalks are attached they should not be wilted; and the root should be very fragrant.

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Céleri rémoulade (Celeriac salad)

NOTE: Predictably, there are as many versions of this recipe as there are cookbooks. The variations in the dressing range from a mustard mayonnaise to a mustard cream sauce with no oil at all. I have tried the different versions and I must admit that, to my surprise, the recipes that mix mayonnaise and cream are the best. (I was certainly very skeptic at first, despite the fact that these versions appear in some of my most trusted references – Alice Waters and Thomas Keller). The recipe below follows the proportions prescribed in Chez Panisse Vegetables.

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2 small heads very fresh celeriac

Juice of 1 lemon

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp strong Dijon mustard

1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade

2 Tbsp heavy cream

Parsley

***

To prepare the dressing, mix the lemon juice with salt and pepper, then stir in the mustard, mayonnaise, and finally cream.

Peel the celeriac by removing a generous amount of the tough, knobby outer layer. Finely grate the root and immediately toss with a few tablespoons of dressing at a time, making sure not to overdress or the salad will become soggy. **Celeriac oxidizes quickly so it really must be dressed immediately.** Taste and correct the seasoning for salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Most recipes suggest to cover and refrigerate the salad for anywhere from 15 minutes to half a day. I also like to eat it immediately, when the celeriac is still crunchy.

Chop parsley and sprinkle over salad just before serving.

***

Related post

Thanksgiving

Baby food* | Lentils

16 November 2010

The other day I decided to make one of my favorite recipes from Moro cookbook: lentil soup with cumin. It’s a wonderful recipe that requires little else besides lentils and cumin – with cumin, of course, being the key. We had friends over for dinner and I was quite excited about making this soup. It’s simple and delicious, and perfect just as it is.

But I must have underestimated how often I have made this recipe recently, because the guests had already arrived and I was about to start the soup when I realized that I had run out of cumin. Thomas went out to get the indispensable spice from a store close by and returned with deceptively labeled coarsely ground black pepper… So, I had to improvise – I used curry powder and fresh sage leaves instead.

Typically the story should end with a revelation, a new wonderful recipe discovered by necessity. But no, unfortunately, Moro’s lentil soup with cumin has no cause to envy my lentil soup with sage and curry. Sage did seem like a good idea, however, and since I cannot resist tweaking recipes, even those that need no tweaking, this week I made lentils with sage and cumin for Louise.

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1 medium onion

Olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 sage leaves

1 cup (200g) red lentils

***

Slice onion finely. Heat a good drizzle olive oil in a small heavy bottomed saucepan, add onion and let sweat, stirring occasionally, over medium heat.

Thinly slice garlic clove, grind cumin seeds in a mortar, and wash lentils under running water through fine mesh sieve.

Once the onion starts to brown, add garlic, cumin, and sage leaves. Stir well and let cook for about a minute. Add lentils, stir well again. Add 3 cups (750 ml) water. Cover and cook at a lively simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are soft.

Blend the lentils, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice before serving.

*This doesn’t have to be just for babies. Add Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a drop of excellent olive oil, and a hint of harissa and it makes a very decent soup.


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