Archive for the ‘Basic’ Category

A good steak with anchovy and herb butters and shallot confit

15 May 2014

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Key, of course, is the quality of the meat. Beef should be grass-fed and dry-aged. To say I choose my homes according to their proximity to a good butcher is exaggerated, but we’ve been lucky for a while now, with, for years, excellent meat just a few blocks away. There was Ottomanelli in the West Village, Harlem Shambles uptown, and, here in London, we live close to another great butcher, Godfreys.

The cut is important, too. Meat on the bone is typically more flavorful, and thick cuts (an inch and a half at least) are much easier to cook to perfection: very brown and crisp on the outside but perfectly rare in the center.

There are debates over whether steaks should be seasoned early or whether salt left on the meat absorbs some of the moisture. I’ve decided to settle into the camp that favors early seasoning, allowing the salt to seep into the cut. Since meat should be brought to room temperature before cooking, I take the steaks out of the refrigerator about one hour before dinner, season them generously with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, and let them sit a while.

It is useless to try to give a cooking time. Every steak is different, depending on the cut, its thickness, its initial temperature. I’ve found that a cast-iron skillet works best, and it should be very hot before the meat is added. A combination of butter and olive oil in the pan is good, as the butter is delicious and won’t burn as quickly together with the olive oil. Ideally one could add herbs to the rendered fat and baste the steak as it cooks.

Sear the meat on very high heat, turning it over once the first side is evenly brown. The steak is perfect when the outside is brown and crisp, like a crust, and the meat has contracted, but just barely. Not too much or it is overcooked.

Like all meat, steak needs to relax a little before being cut; about ten minutes, just the time needed to get the rest of the meal on the table.

Serve the steak with the butters, shallot confit, and some strong mustard.

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Herb and anchovy butter
These must be made a least an hour ahead, and easily the day before.
I make one butter with anchovies, parsley, and basil, and the other with just herbs and sea salt.

250g good unsalted butter

A generous handful of parsley

Small bunches each of basil and chives

A dozen anchovies in oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse grey sea salt

Cut the butter into two equal parts, place each in a small bowl, and let sit at room temperature until it becomes soft and easy to work with (probably about an hour).

Wash and shake the herbs dry. Pick the parsley and basil leaves from the stems.

Separate the herbs into two groups: one with half the parsley and a few basil leaves, the other with approximately equal amounts of parsley, basil, and chives.

Finely chop each group of herbs.

Drain as much oil from the anchovies as possible, and chop finely.

Using a fork, mix one of the softened butter with the anchovies, parsley, basil; the other with the parsley, basil, and chives, and the salt. Mix each well until the butter is homogeneously speckled with the herbs.

Transfer each piece of butter into a small serving bowl, even out the surface, and let cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The butter will keep for a while, though it will be best for a couple of days.

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Shallot confit

3-4 large shallots

Olive oil

Small sprig fresh thyme

Small sprig fresh rosemary

One bay leaf

Sea salt

Peel and slice the shallots into thin-ish slices. (The shallots can be cut either crosswise or lengthwise.)

Place in a very small saucepan with enough olive oil to comfortably blanket the bottom of the pan. Add the herbs and a good pinch of salt.

Cook on very low heat, staying close and stirring regularly, until the shallots are a deep golden. **In case the bottom does burn, quickly transfer the rest of the shallots to a different pan so the burnt flavor doesn’t tarnish the confit.**

Let cool a little and remove the herb stalks before serving.

The confit can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator but must be slightly reheated before serving, just beyond the point where the oil isn’t congealed to awaken the flavors.

Winter cabbage slaw with miso ginger dressing

1 February 2013

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Where has January gone? It disappeared in a few flurries of snow that sprinkled the city white and pretty and were swept away in a wink. It was devoured by raclettes and tagines, spicy lentil soups, and the best chocolate brownies.

And so, suddenly, hello February. Today you are my favorite month. After a couple of unnaturally warm days the cold is back, which is as it should be.

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It seems I wouldn’t make a very good Texan, because I prefer slaw without mayonnaise, This isn’t to say that I don’t like slaw with mayonnaise, I love coleslaw in general, even the limp overdressed versions of average diners. But, given the choice, I prefer a citrus-y, Asian-inflected variant. This miso ginger dressing is adapted from the beautiful blog 101 Cookbooks. I added fresh grated ginger, lime juice, and reduced the sweetness for something more assertive.

Winter slaw

1/2 small red cabbage

1/2 small white cabbage

1 fennel bulb

2 or 3 celery stalks

Fresh parsley leaves

Slice all the vegetables very thinly, using a food processor, a mandolin, or a very sharp knife.

Miso ginger dressing

A 1/2 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 Tbsps white miso paste

1/2 tsp strong Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp mild runny honey

Juice from 1 lime

1/4 (60 ml) cup rice vinegar

1/3 (100 ml) cup olive oil

Mix together the grated ginger, miso paste, mustard, and honey until they are all well combined into a smooth paste.

Add the lime juice and rice vinegar, stir well, and finally the olive oil.

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Related posts

Endive salad with apples, walnuts, and comté

Dandelion, fennel, and pumpkin seed salad with pumpkin seed oil

Fettucini with immediate tomato sauce

4 October 2012

The last of the summer’s ripe tomatoes may be a little soft, a little blemished, they may not warrant much attention as heads will be turned by the arrival of bright yellow squash and orange pumpkins. What these tomatoes want is this sauce exactly. It is so quick, so easy that it will barely distract from the anticipation of slow roasts and apple pies. It is so good that those blemished tomatoes may soon be missed, as the creeping cold leaves heaps of unripened green tomatoes in its wake, with no better prospect but to be transfigured into chutney.

The sauce sort of made itself one night, and I was taken aback by how easy it was to create such a good sauce in so little time. I’d always supposed that good tomato sauce needs to simmer gently and reduce patiently. On that evening there was no time and, temptingly, in the kitchen, some good fettucini and a few roma tomatoes.

All I did was cut the tomatoes lengthwise in sixths, slice a few garlic cloves, heat some olive oil in a large skillet, throw in the garlic for barely a minute, add the tomatoes, and wait until most of the juice had evaporated and the tomatoes hinged on golden and in some places brown. It took perhaps 10 minutes, just about the time to boil the pasta.

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For two

5 ripe tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

Good olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

200 g good fettucini

Really good olive oil

Parmigiano-reggiano

Few basil leaves

*

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil for the pasta.

Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise then in half in thirds. Peel and thinly slice the garlic.

Carefully slide in the fettucini. Cook in a heavy boil.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large heavy skillet. **The skillet should be large enough so the tomatoes are in one layer only.** Cook the garlic for barely a minute over medium to high heat, until translucent, then add the tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook the tomatoes over high heat until a lot of the juice has evaporated and they start turning brown.

Start checking the pasta regularly after about 8 minutes (by carefully taking one out and eating it). Drain quickly in a colander as soon as the pasta is just al dente (or to desired consistency) and return immediately to the pot used for boiling the pasta (one could use another pot but it’s much simpler this way). **It is important not to overdrain the pasta. If it is too dry it will become sticky.** Quickly drizzle generously with good olive oil so the pasta doesn’t stick.

Transfer the pasta to individual bowls. Spoon over the tomatoes, add a drizzle of very good olive oil, tear up a few leaves of basil on each bowl, and grate some parmigiano to finish.

At the market | Ramps (Ramp pesto)

26 April 2012

       

I get excited about strawberries in June, quinces in October, and clementines at Christmas. So naturally, some years ago when I discovered ramps, the very first greens to appear at farmer’s markets here in spring, I talked about them a lot. Few of my family and friends in Europe knew ramps, and I somewhat precipitously made the connection with ‘ail des ours‘ in French and ‘bärlauch‘ in German. For years I’ve been talking about ramps, you know, ail des ours, bärlauch.

Well, Wikipedia has just informed me that I was wrong. Ramps are Allium tricoccum, and they are native to America, while the French and German (and English) ‘bear garlic’ is Allium ursinum. They are closely related but not the same thing. So the ramps we foraged in Haute Savoie last spring were not actually ramps, which explains why they felt different. If my memory serves me well the leaves were a little harsher, the taste a little coarser. In any case, that answers the question of their origin: ramps are Northern American. They are foraged and it is commonly assumed that, like wild mushrooms, they cannot be cultivated, but this appears to be a myth.

Ramps are sometimes called ransom (the common name of the European allium), but also wild leek, wood leek, or wild garlic, which gives a good idea of their taste, unmistakably in the onion/garlic family.

I’ve baked ramps with potatoes into very good and very pretty gratins; for Easter I tossed a potato salad with ramp pesto; just yesterday I made a ramp risotto with rosé wine that wasn’t half bad; ramps can also be woven into egg nests for breakfast; they can even be pickled. The pleasures are many, but the season is short — take advantage!

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Ramp pesto

I started out with saenyc’s Wild Ramp Pesto on Food52. I found that raw ramps made the pesto too garlicky, while blanching them all made it too mellow, so I added a few raw ramps to give the pesto just the right kick. I also reduced the amount of walnuts and parmigiano and added parsley for a more vibrant taste.

1 bunch (about 28 to 30) ramps

2-3 sprigs parsley

5 whole walnuts

1/3 cup (20 g) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1/3 cup (100 ml) good extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps lemon juice

Good pinch sea salt

3-4 grinds black pepper

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Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Prepare another bowl with ice water.

Trim off the roots of the ramps, rub off any loose skins around the bulbs, and wash the ramps in cold water. Wash the parsley and cut off most of the stems.

Set aside 2 to 3 of the smaller, more tender ramps, and chop them coarsely. Blanch all the others in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the blanched ramps to the ice water. Take them out and squeeze them to remove excess water.

In a blender or food processor, purée the ramps (blanched and raw), the parsley, walnuts, and parmiggiano, pouring in a steady drizzle of olive oil. Blend thoroughly to form a paste. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend again, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Use as you would any other pesto: with pasta, potato salad, smeared on bruschetta and topped with fresh goat cheese, etc…

Note: As is, this pesto will keep just one or two days. To increase its longevity, add some olive oil and/or freeze.

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Related posts

Spaghetti with ramp pesto, walnuts, and parmigiano

At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote)

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

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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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