Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moroccan chicken tagine with lemon, olives and thyme

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There's a saying that a little preparation goes a long way. That's true in the case of this dinner - and many of the dinners I make. When I get home from work, I want a good dinner, but I really don't want to think about it. So, each week, I figure out in advance what we're going to have each night. I then make my grocery list and I'm set. I know exactly what I need to do each day and I don't have to puzzle over dinner after a long day at the office.

Many of the meals I make may seem time intensive, but broken down, they're actually quite easy. This tagine requires marinating the chicken for several hours. I make the marinade in the morning, pop it in the fridge, and it's all set when I get home. Into the tagine it goes and the meal is ready in about an hour (most of which is hands-off simmering time). The chicken is so tender it taste like it cooked all day and the lemon, olives and thyme give it tons of flavor.

chicken-tagine

Chicken tagine with lemon, olives and thyme
adapted from Tagine by Ghillie Basan

8-10 chicken thighs
1 Tbsp. olive oil plus a pat of butter
1/2 large lemon cut into very thin wedges
6 oz. large green pitted olives
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

For the marinade:
1 onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
a small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
a pinch of saffron threads
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. coarse salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then add the chicken and stir to coat the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to overnight.

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Heat the olive oil and butter in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Remove the chicken from the marinade and brown on both sides, working in batches if necessary. Pour the marinade over the chicken and add enough water to come halfway up the chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.

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Skim off any fat that's risen to the top. Add the lemon, thyme and olives. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

I like to serve this with hand-rolled couscous and carrots sauteed with mustard seed and fenugreek and sprinkled with cilantro.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Sassy, spicy, smoky baked beans

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The inspiration to make ribs with all the fixin's hit me on a beautiful sunny day. I could almost taste the smoky ribs, baked beans and cole slaw as we sat on the deck watching the sun set. Of course, the day I decided to make this meal turned out gray, rainy, and 50 degrees. Oh well, it tasted good in the kitchen, too.

I love smoky food. Smoked paprika is my favorite spice; one of my favorite kitchen gadgets is my Cameron's stovetop smoker. I like to heat things up with smoky chipotles in adobo... the list goes on. When I make ribs, it's an all day process (most of it hands-off)- they're rubbed, smoked, basted, slow-cooked, basted again, and finally grilled. Perfect with cole slaw or potato salad, we have them several times each summer.This time, I went with cole slaw - it's easier than potato salad. So, for a starch, I decided to make a batch of smoky baked beans. This recipe is based on one I found in Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible. It calls for canned beans, which makes them really quick and easy.

Give them a try at your next BBQ - they go great with my smoked ribs.

baked-beans

Sassy, spicy, smoky baked beans
adapted from the Barbecue! Bible

3 slices thick-cut bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cans kidney, cannellini or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste

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Preheat oven to 350F.

In a frying pan, cook the bacon. Drain on paper towels. Discard all but 1 Tbsp. of the drippings from the pan. Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in the pan until softened, about 5 minutes.

When the bacon is cool, coarsely chop it.

In a round baking dish, whisk together the brown sugar, molasses, barbecue sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire, dry mustard, prepared mustard, vinegar, paprika and cayenne. Stir in the bacon and the onion mixture. Stir in the beans. Add salt and papper to taste.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Stir then continue baking for about 30 minutes more, uncovered.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Asparagus, pancetta and ricotta ravioli

asparagus-pancetta-ravioli (3)

I love making fresh pasta. I've got both pasta attachments for the Kitchenaid stand mixer which let me make everything from lasagne to rigatoni. Some days, I just don't feel like going to the difficulty, so I've found that wonton wrappers are a quick and easy substitute when making fresh ravioli. They're thin, which is just what I like for ravioli - it allows the flavors in the filling to shine through. And it's easy to experiment with different fillings - one of our favorites is prosciutto and sage. I've also made mushroom, plain cheese and plenty of others. This past weekend I decided on asparagus and pancetta - with cheese of course!

Asparagus and pancetta ravioli

1/3 cup diced pancetta
1/2 cup diced asparagus (see note)
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
About 20-25 wonton wrappers

Note: For the asparagus.Trim the ends, then bundle the stalks together and thinly slice from the bottom - this way you can reserve the tops for another use.

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In a small pan, brown the pancetta. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.

Bring a small pan of salted water to a boil, Blanch the asparagus for about 2-3 minutes. Run under cold water and let drain.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, parmesan, cooled pancetta, asparagus and salt and pepper to taste.

asparagus-pancetta-ravioli

Lay out the wonton wrappers on a lightly floured surface. Top each with a bit of the filling. Rub a bit of water around the edges, then fold over to seal. You can make these a few hours ahead, but dust them with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

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When ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently add the ravioli (the wonton skins are very tender!). Let boil for a few minutes - the ravioli will rise to the top. Give them about a minute or two after tehy've risen. Scoop them out into serving plates. Top with your favorite sauce, olive oil, or anything you choose!

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To make this a complete meal (which means meat for my husband), I sauteed some veal scallopine in a little butter and olive oil. I also browned some extra pancetta and blanched the asparagus tops. Before serving, I heated the pancetta and asparagus together in a pan with a little butter and olive oil. I poured this over the ravioli and topped with the veal and some fresh grated Parm. Delish!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chunky Banana Bran Muffins

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I hate wasting things so when I have leftover bananas that are overripe, they have to find their way into some sort of baked good. These chunky muffins are perfect: they use up any leftover bananas I have around the house and they're loaded with bran, nuts, raisins and all sorts of good stuff. The banana keeps them moist for a few days so they're great for breakfast on the go.

What's your favorite recipe to use up extra fruit you have around? Leave a comment and let me know!

Chunky Banana Bran Muffins

1 ½ c. bran flakes
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
½ c. milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 c. all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
½ c. raisins (optional)
1/3 c. chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Grease or line 12 muffin cups.

banana-muffins

Combine cereal, banana, milk, egg and oil in a bowl and mix well. Let stand 5 minutes; stir to break up cereal. Add flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until just mixed. Stir in nuts and raisins.

Divide evenly among prepared baking cups. Bake 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes 12.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Raspberry Almond Crumb bars with Toasted Coconut

raspberry-crumb-bars

The arrival of Spring always makes me crave fruit. The trouble is that it's still a bit too early to get much fresh fruit - or at least fresh fruit that hasn't travelled across the country to get to my plate. Another thing I like about Spring is that it's still cool enough to turn on the oven and not so hot that room temperature butter is soup. Take the two together and baking fruity treats is just the ticket.

I've been on a raspberry kick of late. I bought some raspberry sorbet and a big jar of raspberry jam. I got the jam home, went to put it in the cupboard and found... another big jar of raspberry jam! Ooops. Jar number one must find a suitable use. I flipped through a couple baking books and found a recipe I liked in the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. Her Jam Crumb Bars had only a few ingredients and would be the perfect use for my jam. They needed a little something extra though so I added some almond extract and toasted coconut.

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These buttery, rich bars are easy to make. They require cooling time in between baking so throw something else in the oven to make good use of the heat while the crust cools. The limited number of ingredients is a welcome change to many of the dishes I attempt and believe me, these have all the flavor in the world: butter, raspberry and almond with a hint of toasted coconut. Yum!

Feel free to substitute your favorite jam (or whichever flavor you accidentally bought 2 jars of). Strawberry, apricot, blackberry - anything would pair nicely with the flavors. And until more fresh fruit arrives, these are full of fruit flavor (which makes them healthy, right??).

I'll be craving another fruit dessert soon, so leave a comment with your favorite or a link to something you've made...

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Raspberry Almond Crumb Bars with Toasted Coconut
adapted from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

1/2 cup coconut
2 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces, plus extra for pan
1 3/4 cup blanched almonds, finely ground in a food processor
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. almond extract (optional)
1 3/4 cups raspberry jam (or use your favorite fruit jam)

raspberry-crumb-bars (1)

Preheat oven to 350F. Sprinkle the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, stirring occasionally.

Butter a 13x9-inch cookie sheet (1/4 sheet pan), then line the bottom with parchment allowing about an inch to hang over on each of the long sides. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, almonds, sugar, and salt. Sprinkly the almond extract over the mixture and the cut in the butter using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Using your fingers, squeeze the mixture together to create pea-sized crumbs with a few larger clumps.

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Transfer 2/3 of the mixture to the prepared baking dish and press it firmly and evenly in the bottom of the pan. Use a rolling pin to flatten the crust. Be sure there are no holes or cracks. Bake until light golden all over, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

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Combine the cooled toasted coconut with the remaining crumb mixture.

Spread the jam over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the ramining crumb mixture over the jam, squeezing some into clumps. Bake about 20-22 minutes until the topping is light golden and the jam is bubbling around the edges but not too dark. Remove pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Run a kinfe around the edges and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into individual bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Korean BBQ: Marinated short ribs in lettuce leaves

korean-kalbi

When I was a kid, my dad worked in downtown New York City, so trips to Chinatown were frequent treats. We'd ride the train in with mom, visit the South Street Seaport, and head to Chinatown for supper. We were exposed to lots of different Chinese food, but it wasn't until colelge that I became familiar with other Asian cuisines. My sophomore and junior years, I had a Vietnamese roommate who introduced me to the food she'd grown up on. Then senior year I had a Korean roommate. It was Julie who first introduced me to Korean barbecue and such things as kimchee. After college, we often met in New York for trips to Kum Gang San, one of our favorite spots in Koreatown.

Our trips to New York have become less frequent, but my love of Korean food has not. I've only tried making Korean once before and it was a debacle. I attempted kimchee - in Jeff's apartment building in Jersey City. We still laugh about how terrible if turned out and how awful the cabbage and vinegar smelled. It was quite possibly the worst meal I've ever cooked.

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So naturally I had some hesitations about trying to make Korean food again. But I happened to catch an episode of Grill It with Bobby Flay and he and a Korean friend visited Kum Gang San and then made homemade Kalbi (Korean short ribs) and a delicious looking cucumber salad. I had to try it... and you should too. These make a wonderful spring or summer dinner - serve them with steamed rice in lettuce wraps for a fresh dinner. I also served the cucumber salad on the side along with some store-bought kimchi (I have not yet receoved from the last fiasco).

Jeff's verdict was that he'd definitely have it again. He said he might even request it for his birthday. But we both agreed the meat would've been more flavorful had we sliced the beef before marinating it. so I've modified the recipe accordingly.

korean-bbq

Note: Boneless short ribs can be hard to find - I found these beauties at Whole Foods. Most of the other ingredients can be found at an Asian market or your local supermarket.

Korean Barbecued Short Ribs (Kalbi)
adapted from foodnetwork.com

Marinade:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 Korean pear or Asian pear, grated with juices
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 small white onion, grated or thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 (12-ounce) can lemon-lime soda (Sprite or 7-Up)

2 pounds boneless short ribs
Cooked white rice, for serving
12-16 large Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Gochuchang paste
Toasted seasme seeds (optional)

Cut the short ribs against the grain into slices about 1/4 inch thick.
Whisk together all the marinade ingredients in a large baking dish.

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Add the ribs and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight; it is best if marinated overnight.

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korean-bbq (14)Heat grill to high. Remove short ribs from marinade and grill short ribs until slightly charred and tender and cooked to desired degree of doneness. Serve short ribs in lettuce leaves with rice, gochuchang paste, and sesame seeds.



Serves 4.

Korean Cucumber Salad (Oi Moochim)
adapted from foodnetwork.com

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1/2 cup distilled vinegar or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons seasoned gochuchang paste, or more to taste, recipe follows (I used about 6!)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
4 Korean or kirby cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

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Whisk together the vinegar, soy, sugar, gochuchang, and sesame oil in a large bowl. Add the cucumber and onion and stir until combined. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and let marinate at least 1 hour before eating.

Seasoned Gochuchang Paste (seasoned red pepper paste):

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4 tablespoons gochuchang (available at Korean grocers)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well.
Gochuchang (GOH-choo-jang) paste: spicy red pepper paste sold either in glass jars or plastic containers that can be purchased at any Korean or Asian food market.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Restaurant review: BLT Market

I have a not-so-secret crush on Laurent Tourondel. I've long been familiar with his restaurants but had never been to any other than BLT Burger. I've cooked my way thru much of his cookbook, loving every recipe more than the last. It seems the man has got my number when it comes to flavor combinations...

So if you're expecting anything other than a rave review of BLT Market, too bad. I had one minor complaint about the meal, but we'll get to that...

At Christmas, restaurant gift certificates are a popular gift in my family of food lovers. This year, I was elated to get one for the BLT restaurant group from my brother and his family. It's been packed away for the right opportunity and with Spring weather upon us, Jeff and I ventured into the City for the day. I booked the reservation on Open Table about 3 weeks ago - it was surprisingly easy to get a prime-time table.

Situated on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Central Park South, the restaurant offers glimpses of Central Park. It's smaller than I expected, but very pretty. A chalkboard announces the additions to the seasonal menu and the hostess station is surrounded by shelves of market items for sale, including Tourondel's cookbook and postcards of the stunning paintings that add color and flare to the restaurant.

The menu offers a good selection of seasonal fare. Appetizers included Maine scallops, Mache salad, and an asparagus terrine, among other things. Entrees included fish, duck, chicken, veal, and lamb, all prepared with seasonal produce. Spring was definitely in full swing at BLT Market.

Our order was promptly taken and we were served an amuse bouche and some garlic bread. The amuse bouche was, well, odd. It was pigs in a blanket. When I heard that I thought it must be some sort of gourmet sausage, but to my surprise it was a hot dog. It was wrapped in a flaky dough and topped with a little sauerkraut and some mustard. It was very good as far as pigs in a blanket go, but seemed out of synch with the rest of the menu. Our only guess was that it was selected due to the beginning of baseball season, but it just seemed odd...

The garlic bread was another story. It was moist and delicious and each slice was slathered with a pesto that was flavorful but not too garlicky. Yum! That was more like it.

Our first course came quickly. We shared an appetizer portion of the risotto: Arborio risotto with English peas, morel mushrooms, Rock shrimp and Coach Farm goat cheese. This dish was sublime, divine, and well, just other-worldly. The peas were crunchy and sweet, the shrimp tender an surprisingly plentiful and the morels added an earthy flavor to the whole dish. The rice was al dente and the whole thing came together with creamy aged goat cheese. My mouth was in heaven.

I doubted my entree could top that, so I waited eagerly for a taste. The wait wasn't long. A server promptly placed our dinners in front of us - they say you eat first with your eyes, and this food looked good! I had opted for one of the additions to the menu: Branzino stuffed with seafood and served with a radish and micro green salad. Jeff selected veal cheeks blanquette with pearl onions, and fava bean ragu. The dishes were very different but equally delicious. My fish absolutely amazed me: it was a whole fish, skin on, but had not a bone in it. When you think stuffing, breadcrumbs usually come to mind - this didn't have a single breadcrumb. It was full of chopped shrimp and scallops and a few sweet plump raisins. Jeff's veal cheeks were tender beyond belief with perfectly cooked vegetables, including sweet, crunchy fava beans.

Needless to say, there wasn't a bite left on either of our plates. We did not, however, save room for dessert. We were presented with two cinnamon crusted donuts: little munchkin-like donuts, steaming hot and a perfect ending to the meal.

Gracious service and excellent food in a lovely setting put BLT Market on our list of restaurants we'd visit again. If you get the chance, give it a try - you'll experience some of the best seasonal cuisine around.

BLT Market on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring in action: Lemon mascarpone layer cake

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The coming of Spring means different things to different people. In our family it means a lot of celebrating. There's Easter, Mother's Day, and birthdays galore. Both of my nieces have Spring birthdays, as does my brother-in-law. This year was a perfect storm of sorts with Easter falling on my brother-in-law's birthday and just 3 days after my youngest niece's 1st birthday.

Easter weekend - always full of food and treats - was especially celebratory this year. We attended a 1st birthday party for little Catie on Saturday with 2 cakes and then my sister baked a cake on Sunday for her husband's birthday. Her lemon mascarpone layer cake was a hit with everyone and the lemon was perfect for an unseasonably warm Spring day.

Given how yummy this cake was and how beautiful, I thought we'd give a guest spot to my sister for today's post. I plan to file this recipe away for future use so it only seemed fitting to share it with everyone. Enjoy!

Note well, to save time, you can substitute good quality store-bought lemon curd for the homemade. You'll need about 16 ounces.

lemon-cake

Lemon Mascarpone Layer Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Lemon curd
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Cake
6 large eggs, separated
14 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Filling and frosting
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
3 8-ounce containers chilled mascarpone cheese

For lemon curd:
Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until thickened and instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 10 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter; whisk until melted. Transfer 1 cup curd to small bowl for spreading on cake layers. Reserve remaining curd for filling. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of both curds. Chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line bottom of two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with parchment paper. Using electric mixer (hand mixer recommended here since you'll need it for several different items, and a stand mixer with only one bowl would be problematic) beat egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and slowly dissolving ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes. Using clean and dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining 7 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff and glossy, at least another 4 minutes. Fold half of whites into yolk mixture, then sift half of flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt over and gently fold in until incorporated. Fold in remaining whites, then sift remaining flour over and fold in just until combined, being careful not to deflate batter.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool in pans on racks.

Run knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto rack, tapping on work surface if necessary to release cakes. Cut each cake horizontally in half (layers will be thin). Peel off parchment and set layers aside while you make the syrup and filling.

For syrup:
Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/3 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice.

For filling and frosting:
Beat cream and sugar in large bowl until peaks form. Add mascarpone to lemon curd in medium bowl; whisk until well blended. Fold whipped cream into lemon-mascarpone mixture.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Brush with syrup (do not drench the cake). Spread a thin layer of lemon curd over it, then about 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Top with second cake layer; brush with syrup and spread with lemon curd and 1 cup lemon-mascarpone filling. Repeat with third cake layer, syrup, lemon curd, and filling. Top with fourth cake layer. Brush with syrup, then spread lemon curd over. Spread the lemon-mascarpone filling over the cake top and sides to coat it (like a crumb coat). Fill pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch star tip (to be used for rosettes) with filling. Pipe small rosettes of frosting over top of cake, covering completely. Spread remaining lemon-mascarpone filling as a frosting over sides of cake until covered. You may not use all of the filling so keep it for another use if you want. Refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.If your filling is too soft to pipe the rosettes, just put the bowl of filling in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes until it firms up a bit.

Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Party bites: Easy crab appetizer with endive cups and wonton crisps

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Probably goes without saying but there are few things I don't like to cook. But appetizers are always at the top of my list of favorite things to make. There's something about making little nibbles and bites that are packed with flavor that I just love. One of my favorites and a sure crowd-pleaser is this simple crab recipe. I first made it a few years ago when I was having a cookout and needed some lite nibbles that would suit a couple of guests on diets. This worked perfect - it's lowfat, light and very flavorful. (The dieters avoided the wonton crisps).

I made it again yesterday for Easter at my mom's. We celebrate with a trditional Polish breakfast - kielbasa, eggs, and babka. Then dinner is baked ham, au gratin potatoes and more, so a light appetizer in the afternoon is the perfect way to keep hunger at bay without adding to the calorie-fest!

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This recipe is easily adaptable too. Add some cilantro or a bit of minced red pepper, or even some mango. It's also good served as a first course salad or for lunch (if there are leftovers!) It tastes best made a day ahead and the wonton crisps can be made a day or two ahead and stored in an airtight bag or container. If you don't want to go to the trouble of makign them, use white corn tortilla chips or cucumber cups. Doesn't get much easier!

Crab with lime served on wonton crisps and endive cups

1 package wonton wrappers
Canola oil, for frying
Sea salt

1 lb. cooked crab meat (lump or claw work fine)
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, minced

2 heads Belgium endive, leaves separated and washed

Cut each wonton wrapper in half on a diagonal. Heat about an inch to an inach and a half of canola oil in a deep-fryer or heavy pan to 360F. Drop the wonton wrappers into the hot oil, a few at a time and fry for a few seconds on each side, until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with a little sea salt while still warm. These can be made a couple days ahead - be sure to store them in an airtight bag or container.

crab-appetizer

Pick over the crab meat for any shells. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk the lime zest, juice, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

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Add the crab meat, scallion and celery and stir to combine. Refrigerate at least a few hours or overnight.

To serve, place the crab in a bowl on a platter with a spoon and surround with the endive leaves and wonton crisps.

crap-appetizer2

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Surf and Turf, French Laundry style

oxtails-monkfish

In a burst of energy (or perhaps a moment of weakness), I decided to have a go at another French Laundry recipe on Saturday night. I selected "Surf and Turf", braised oxtails with seared monkfish, topped with sauteed salsify and cepes. Pretty ambitious considering I was unsure of finding any of the main ingredients...

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Thus began the shopping trip. I started at my local farm market... no cepes or salsify there, but I got the makings for the brunoise and the braising liquid. Next morning, off I went again. At my first stop I found oxtails - ok I now had 1 of 4 main ingredients. I grabbed a package of crimini mushrooms just in case I couldn't find cepes. Then I moved onto the next store...

oxtails-monkfish (4)

As I neared the seafood counter, a glistening piece of monkfish caught my eye. But it was just one lonely piece - I had a bad feeling... I asked the fishmonger if it was fresh and he very honestly shook his head no... Well, that fish was not for me, thank you very much. I rounded the corner to produce and was greeted by a beautiful sight: a whole line of D'Artagnan gourmet mushrooms... But, no cepes. I grabbed come royal trumpets which worked out beautifully. No salsify there either. At that point I decided I could live without salsify, but I could not make surf and turf without the surf...

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I pulled into a little seafood market in Westfield, NJ, and walked in. I scanned the counter and saw two beautiful pieces of what looked like monkfish tail, but the sign said... catfish??? So I asked and I was right, monkfish! I carried my trreasure home and got started...

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In lieu of typing the entire recipe, I'm going to save myself from a case of carpal tunnel and instead share a link directly to it. Needless to say, I left out the salsify and we didn't miss it. The oxtails had a rich full flavor - similar to that of braised shortribs. The fish was mild, and perhaps a bit overpowered by the rich beef. The Royal Trumpet mushrooms were meaty and delicious atop the whole thing. I served it with a simple salad of mache, jicama and sliced avocado with a dijon vinaigrette. A dish I would definitely make again - perhaps after I try a few more of Keller's concoctions... So check back to see when I get the French Laundry out again!

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