Posts Tagged ‘savory’

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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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.

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Roasted almonds with Spanish paprika from Moro The Cookbook

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

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*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 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until 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.

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Lentil soup with cumin   **   Pork rillettes

In Brittany | Mussels with shallots and white wine

25 July 2011

I am in France spending a large part of the summer with my family at my sister’s beautiful, old, and very run down farmhouse in northern Brittany.

While New York was smouldering under the heat last week everyone in France complained about the cold, and here, too, temperatures have hovered around 18°C (65°F) and it rains more often than not. But no one complains. Northern Brittany is known for blustery weather and beautiful coastlines, and we’ve been enjoying both.

Food-wise, beyond crêpes and savory buckwheat galettes – Brittany’s most famous culinary exports – the region has fresh fish and seafood in abundance, is famous for artichokes and pink onions, breeds pigs, and bakes far and kouign amann for dessert. This of course being just a cursory list. We’ve been enjoying all of that, too.

But first, mussels.

I forget how easy it is to cook mussels so I don’t make them often in New York, but here mussels are not only on every market but also on the beach, and on all of our minds. This is one of the most basic traditional French preparation: moules marinières, or sailor’s mussels, with shallots and wine wine. Add cream (as I do here) and they become ‘moules à la crème.’

Serves 4 as a main dish (count 1 lb of mussels per person)

4 lbs (2 kg) mussels*

4-5 shallots

2 cloves garlic

3 Tbsps butter

Olive oil

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

2/3 cup (200 ml) crisp white wine such as muscadet

2-3 Tbsps crème fraîche

Freshly ground black pepper

Large bunch flat-leaved parsley

*

Thoroughly scrub the mussels clean, wash them under clear water, and drain.

Peel and thinly dice the shallots. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Wash and finely chop the parsley and reserve for later.

In a large cooking pot, melt the butter with a dash of olive oil. Add the shallots, and cook until they become translucent. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for another minute. Throw in the sprigs of parsley and stir again to combine the flavors.

The shallots shouldn’t turn brown. As soon as they start to turn golden, pour in the white wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Add the mussels, cover with a lid, and turn up the heat. As soon as the lid starts to let off some steam, take the pot off the fire and, firmly, with both hands, shake it with a few gentle jerks in order to turn the mussels inside the pot.

Place the mussels back onto the stove for a few minutes more. Most of the mussels should be open. If not, jerk the mussels again and return to the stove.

Once the mussels are open, transfer them carefully with a straining ladle to a warm pot or bowl for serving.

Place the coking pot with the shallot/wine sauce back onto the fire. Stir in the crème fraîche (I prefer the sauce to become milky and not creamy, but add according to taste), and some pepper.

Pour the very hot sauce over the mussels, sprinkle with lots of parsley, and serve immediately.

*At home, poke breathing holes into the bag of mussels and store in the refrigerator.

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Finger food | Leek and manchego frittata

16 June 2011

Louise is now 15 months, she walks around like an independent little person, and she eats what her older brothers eat. The days of puréeing are already over, and as such my days of “baby food” posts. But since the children usually eat separately, especially during the week, this will be the transition into the world of children’s dinners.

As much as I oppose the concept of children’s food, in particular as it implies anything yellow and battered, I do believe in adult meals. This means that our children have dinner together, earlier, and go to bed at eight. It’s not about a different kind of food, it’s about timing. Ideally, children’s dinners should be easily prepared on a weeknight with homework and soccer and a toddler who really should be in bed by seven puttering about resignedly.

So as a bridge away from baby food here is the ultimate anytime any-age family meal – frittata.

It is ideal because it basically consists of staples and anything else that happens to be in the kitchen: eggs; an onion or leftover leek, garlic; cheese (gruyère, manchego, parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella); perhaps diced ham, pancetta, or some smoked salmon; peas, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, potatoes; herbs…

The possibilities are endless, and the result not only very tasty but a full meal in one dish that the children always like.

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This quantity makes a lunch frittata perfect for one adult and one toddler. Adjust the quantities as desired. I usually count 2 eggs per adult, 1 per (young) child, plus an extra one overall “for the pan.”

2 leeks

Olive oil

A small knob of butter

1 clove garlic

3 eggs

Manchego cheese, a piece approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) cube

Pepper

***

Preheat broiler (grill), or oven to 425°F (220°C).

Trim leeks on either side and remove one or two layers of the tougher dark green outer leaves. Wash off excess grit under running water. Slice the leeks into slices 1/2 or 1/4 inch (1 or 1/2 cm) thick. Wash well in cold water to remove any persistent dirt, and strain.

Thinly slice the garlic clove. Thinly grate the manchego.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat a little olive oil and small knob of butter, enough to comfortably coat the pan once the butter has melted. Add the leek and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until it softens and becomes translucent but before it gets brown. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook for just another minute.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add the cheese and a little pepper if desired (manchego is very salty so no additional salt is required).

Stir the cooked leeks and garlic into the eggs, just enough to combine, then return the egg/vegetable mixture to the pan (there should be enough oil left but if not, add a dash).

Cook on the stove over low heat, loosening the eggs at the sides with a spatula from time to time (don’t go anywhere, this will just take a few minutes).

When you can see the eggs starting to set underneath, but the top is still quite runny, place the pan in the hot oven. Leave it for barely a minute, just enough for the top of the frittata to set but no longer.

Cut into wedges (or cubes) and serve with a large green salad.

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Baked shrimp with lemon, rosemary, and tarragon

12 May 2011

It’s surprisingly easy to grow tarragon.

I had always thought of tarragon as a fragile herb because it is often wilted and usually bland when bought, but I discovered it is actually a low-maintenance hardy perennial that survives the New York winter. Alongside chives, tarragon is the first herb to come up in spring, year after year, and I think it’s worth growing, if only for that optimistic quality.

A classic French use for tarragon is with chicken, it also goes nicely with fish, and gives an acidulated kick to salads. This oven-baked shrimp, though, is itself almost reason enough to grow tarragon. I was inspired by a recipe found on Oui, Chef (which uses different herbs and spices, but the idea and cooking method are the same).

It’s absurdly delicious, and ridiculously easy.

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Adapted from Herb and Lemon Baked Shrimp by Oui, Chef.

If you don’t happen to grow tarragon on your balcony, fresh thyme and 1/2 tsp cracked coriander seeds would go well, as shown in the original recipe (added early with the lemon, rosemary, and cracked pepper to flavor the oil).

1 lemon

1/2 tsp peppercorns

Good olive oil

Few sprigs fresh rosemary

1 lb (450 g) shrimp*

Few sprigs fresh tarragon

Coarse grey sea salt

*

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Trim the ends of the lemon, cut it in half lengthwise, place the halves cut side down on the board and cut into thin half moons. In a mortar, crack the peppercorns.

Pour enough olive oil to cover an ovenproof dish a generous 1/8 inch (1/4 cm) deep. Put the lemon slices in the oil reserving 4-5 very thin ones for later. Add the cracked pepper and the sprigs of rosemary. Put into the hot oven for about 15 minutes, until the oil is sizzling and fragrant.

Remove the dish from the oven, add the shrimp and tarragon, tossing them quickly in the fragrant oil, then sprinkle some coarse sea salt and place the few reserved slices of lemon on top and slide back into the oven.

Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. **Small shrimp are cooked practically as soon as they lose their translucence on the outside. Larger shrimp may take a couple minutes longer. (They will continue to cook when out of the oven.)**

Serve immediately, with a spoonful of the juices.

*Here in New York, nearly all shrimp has at some point been frozen. Usually, shrimp that is sold unfrozen is actually thawed. If the shrimp has been caught wild and never been frozen, it is specified. Therefore, unless very fresh wild shrimp is available, it is best to buy frozen shrimp and defreeze it at home just before cooking.


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