Archive for the ‘Aperitif / Tapas’ Category

Mimosa (deviled) eggs

29 March 2012

The trees are blooming in New York; it’s showstopping. Forsythias, exuberant magnolias, Callery pears like downy street clouds, vaporous cherry blossoms. And yet.

It isn’t time! I am still anticipating winter; the snow, the stews, the spiked hot chocolates by the fire. I have a notebook full for recipes longing for freezing temperatures: braised short ribs, slow-cooked duck, a quick spicy lentil soup if you’ve come home late from the cold. I see they will have to wait.

The year is creeping ahead, chives and tarragon have pierced my balcony beds, and so, submitting to nature’s infectious enthusiasm, I have embraced spring — but not, I admit, without a pinch of regret for a winter that wasn’t really.

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6 eggs

About 10 stalks chives

About 3 stalks tarragon

5 or 6 leaves parsley

3 tsps mayonnaise

2 tsps red wine vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Smoked Spanish paprika

*

Fill a small saucepan (just about large enough to fit the eggs) with water. Bring to a boil. Add the eggs to the water one at a time, carefully, with a large spoon so they don’t hit the bottom and crack. Boil gently for 12 minutes. (I decided not to adopt the method Michel Roux uses in his book Eggs, which starts the eggs in cold water. However I have taken note of his advice to make sure the water boils gently, in order to avoid rubbery whites.)

Meanwhile, chop the herbs very very finely.

Once the eggs are cooked, strain the boiling water and add lots of cold water so they cool quickly.

Peel the eggs. Slice each in half lengthwise, carefully scoop out the yolks, and place them in a plate or shallow bowl.

Mash the egg yolks thoroughly with the mayonnaise, vinegar, finely chopped herbs, a pinch of salt, and a grind of black pepper.

With a small spoon, scoop the yolks back into the egg whites as neatly as possible.

At the very last minute, sprinkle a pinch of paprika on each egg.

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Related posts

Pork rillettes

Chicken liver terrine

Marinated olives

Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika

Pork rillettes

20 October 2011

I’ve been in the mood recently to serve a somewhat more elaborate apéritif, tapas style, when we invite friends over for dinner. It’s convivial and frees up last minute cooking time since I then usually skip the first course.

A typical apéritif includes marinated olives. Cherry tomatoes, radishes, or daikon radish depending on the season. Cashews or almonds, which I’ve just learned to dress up by roasting them with some spice. For something more substantial, I’ve often made salmon rillettes or chicken liver terrine. But as I was delving into Moro The Cookbook, I found this Spanish pork rillettes recipe.

French rillettes don’t usually include overt aromatics. They taste like pure, unadulterated pork, in fat. They are delicious. This recipe uses pimentón (Spanish paprika), fennel, and sherry alongside garlic and bay. It’s different from the rillettes I knew; it certainly is no worse.

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I reduced the amount of pimentón for a more subtle flavor and added a note about the leftover pork fat, but otherwise the recipe is that of Moro the Cookbook.

2 lbs (1 kg) boneless pork belly

1/2 lb (225 g) pork back fat

6 garlic cloves

1 heaped tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)

2/3 cup (150 ml) fino sherry

Sea salt and black pepper

***

Preheat oven the 275°F (140°C).

First trim the rind from the pork belly, then cut the meat and fat into roughly 2 x 1 1/2 inch (5 x 3 cm).

Prepare the aromatics by roughly chopping the garlic cloves; in a mortar, lightly crush the fennel seeds and peppercorns; halve the bay leaves.

Place the pork and fat in a large mixing bowl and add the garlic, fennel seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, paprika, sherry, and a good pinch of salt, and toss well with your hands to combine. Transfer to a 2 quart  (2 liter) earthenware terrine or heavy cast-iron pot, seal tightly with foil so no steam can escape, and place in the oven for at least 4 hours, until the meat is very soft and can be shredded easily.

Remove from the oven and strain the meat in a sieve, pressing with a spatula or spoon to release the juice.

Put the liquid aside to cool, then in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and solidifies.

Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, shred between your fingers. **This is best done when the meat is warm rather than cold, as it will become more difficult to shred.** Set aside any pieces of fat that have not melted away (see note).

When the fat on top of the juice had somewhat solidified, spoon it off and set aside. Add all the juice and 2 tablespoons of fat to the shredded meat. Mix well, season with salt and pepper, and put the meat back into the terrine or other earthenware or glass jar. Pack the meat gently and seal with a layer of fat about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick.

Keep in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before serving, and up to 2 weeks if well sealed with fat.

Note: You could discard the leftover fat, but it seemed a shame to do so, so I placed it in a small skillet over very low heat, letting it melt further. I then strained the fat and kept it in the refrigerator, to be used on bread instead of butter. The pieces of fat that remained solid, brown and caramelized, we ate — just like that.

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Related posts

Cookbooks | Moro The Cookbook (Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika)

Chicken liver terrine

Cookbooks | Moro The Cookbook (Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika

14 October 2011

I think I own more than a hundred cookbooks, and yet often, when I look for inspiration, I am tempted to reach for the same one (or four): the River Café Cookbooks. I know them, I trust them. Over the years, with their reliable support, I have become confident in their flavor profiles.

I don’t know all my cookbooks so well. I often use them as a reference, comparing similar recipes for a dish — braised rabbit? — from which to distill a personal take. In many I have found a few recipes I like. Some I’ve made once, some I’ve repeated many times, some I plan to make one day. But I don’t feel I know these cookbooks intimately.

I want to get better acquainted.

So I am delving into my library. And Moro The Cookbook is where October led me. Moro is a restaurant in London opened by two former River Café chefs, Sam and Sam Clark. The cooking is familiar in its simplicity, but while the River Café is Italian in inspiration, the Clarks look to Spain, and the Southern Mediterranean, and therefore use herbs and spices very differently. I was already enamored with Moro’s lentil soup and have often served hard-boiled quail eggs dipped in cumin and salt, but that was about it.

So I have plunged. In the past few weeks I have made many dishes from this cookbook, and here are some of the things I’ve discovered.

Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika (method below) is an excellent complement to marinated olives for an apéritif.

It’s okay to cook loin of pork in milk with bay and cinnamon rather than, more traditionally, sage and lemon. It’s heady, subtle, surprising. It doesn’t taste like cinnamon. It tastes pretty great.

“Beets with yogurt” sounds deceptively innocuous for something quite as good as this. The beets are simply boiled then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. The yogurt is mixed with garlic. That’s it — but it’s incredible.

Given a great piece of pork belly you can make rillettes yourself, and flavor them with herbs and spices that are not French but completely addictive.

And the best mashed potatoes are cooked in milk.

The book’s 200-odd recipes are punctuated by personal anecdotes as well as history, and interspersed with information about Spanish ingredients such as pimentón (Spanish paprika), piquillo peppers, mojama (cured air-dried tuna), and the many different types of sherry.

In their introduction, the authors say: “We hope, like us, you will be excited by these flavours and enticed by the romance and tradition inherent in each dish. We […] want to impart something of the ‘language of spice,’ how a teaspoon of ginger or five allspice berries can speak of different continents. ” The book achieves exactly that.

***

Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika fromMoro The Cookbook

2 cups (250 g) whole blanched* almonds
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked sweet Spanish paprika
1 tsp sea salt

***

*To blanch the almonds, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Drop the almonds in the water and let sit for about 10 seconds, strain immediately and wash under cold water. The skins will have blistered and can easily be removed.

Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).

Place the blanched almonds on a roasting tray at the top of the oven and dry-roast for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they just start to turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a mortar, grind the sea salt to the consistency of powdered sugar.

Remove the almonds from the oven and sprinkle with the olive oil, paprika, and salt. Return to the oven for just a couple more minutes.

Let cool before serving.

*

Related posts

Lentil soup with cumin   **   Pork rillettes

Chicken liver terrine

8 October 2010

I love this recipe for many reasons: it’s absolutely delicious, quick to make, can (or rather should) be prepared in advance, and, well, it’s liver. I find all sorts of excuses to make it. Tomorrow it will be lunch in the country; it’s been good for parties or Easter brunch; but more simply it is the recipe upon which I fall back when we have friends for dinner and I am undecided about what to make. It helps unlock my imagination and inspires the rest of the meal. Most often I serve it with baguette as a tapas-style apéritif together with olives and nuts, radishes or cherry tomatoes – depending on the season.

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1 lb (450 g) chicken livers

3/4 cup (180 g) and 2 Tbsp (20 g) butter

1 small onion (or large shallot)

Olive oil

1 large sprig each sage and thyme

1 Tbsp Madeira wine (Marsala also works well)*

1 Tbsp brandy

Salt and pepper

***

Trim the fat from the chicken livers and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt 3/4 cup butter over low heat. Once melted set aside.

Finely chop the onion (or shallot). In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbsp of butter together with a little olive oil (the oil prevents the butter from burning). Add the chopped onion, cook over medium heat, and as soon as it becomes translucent add the whole sage and thyme and stir to mix flavors. Immediately increase the heat to high and add the chicken livers. After a couple of minutes the livers should be slightly brown; turn them over. Sprinkle the Marsala and brandy over the livers and cook for a few minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

When the livers are cool enough to handle, remove the sage and thyme, transfer to a cutting board, and chop finely. Place the livers in a bowl, add the scrapings from the skillet as well as the melted butter and mix well. Transfer the livers to a terrine dish (any bowl will do) and place in the refrigerator for a few hours and up to two days. It gets better after a day or so.

*The absence of Madeira or Marsala absolutely should not keep you from making this recipe. Just replace with a little brandy. On the other hand, it creates an opportunity to buy the wines, which deserve to be kept in your bar or pantry and will come in handy, for example when making stewed pears (recipe to come later this year).

Marinated olives

17 September 2010

We usually serve olives as part of an aperitif, but between dinner invitations, they often end up forgotten at the back of the fridge. To avoid throwing olives away, and to ensure a ready supply for any unexpected visitor, I started keeping a large jar of marinated olives on hand on my kitchen counter. It’s practical, avoids waste, and the olives are very good.

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Olives, any mix of green, black, Picholine, Kalamata, Cerignola, Niçoise, etc – or just one kind

Coriander seeds, coarsely ground in a mortar

Black peppercorns

Garlic cloves

Bay leaves

Dried red chillies

Lemon wedges

Olive oil

***

Mix the olives with the coriander, peppercorns, whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon wedges, and chillies. Put in a jar and cover generously with olive oil. **Anything that is not submerged will become moldy.** Place a lid on the jar but do not close it hermetically, as the olives need to breathe.


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