Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Halibut a la Barigoule

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Each year, we host Mother's Day dinner at our house. Last year, 7 months pregnant, I decided on a Greek menu because it's nice and easy. This year, with a 10-month-old, I picked another easy menu: steaks, grilled veggies, a couple appetizers... nothing fancy. Mom was bringing a tray of her famous manicotti. Perfect - and simple enough to let me enjoy the day with my tiny one. But instead of hosting a party, I was a mom.

A few days before Mother's Day, little one's school informed us that Coxsackie Virus was making its way around the baby room... I arrived for the Mother's Day tea to find a baby with a fever. She awoke the next day with a few of the tell-tale spots that accompany the virus so I quickly rang Grandma to cancel the festivities. Even though she was sick with little spots all over her precious face and hands, she was still the best part of Mother's Day. We had a picnic in the park and played all day. It might not have been what we'd planned, but it was perfect all the same.

Aside from spending time with her, I wanted a nice meal. Halibut happens to be my all-time favorite fish and this particular recipe is fantastic. Lots of basil, artichokes, beans with a hint of bacon. So this was my Mother's Day dinner. It's great for a special occasion - it would also be goosd for a dinner party: you can make the barigoule ahead of time and just stir in the basil at the end and cook the fish. Don't forget to soak the beans a day ahead!

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Halibut a la Barigoule
adapted from the Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ pint pearl onions, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch half-moons
12 baby artichokes, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup white beans (recipe follows)
6 halibut fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Prepare the Basil Purée:
Prepare an ice-water bath in a medium bowl and bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the basil and blanch for 1 minute. Strain, plunge the leaves into the ice bath, and reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water. Remove the leaves from the ice water and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Place in the work bowl of a food processor along with the reserved ¼ cup of liquid and process until smooth, green, and bright. Refrigerate until needed.

Cook the Artichokes:
Wrap the coriander seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaf in cheesecloth to make a sachet. Set aside. Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the onions and garlic along with 1 teaspoon of salt and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and herb sachet and cook for 5 minutes.

When the carrots have softened, add the sliced artichokes and the wine. Bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid by half, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cooked white beans, if using, and keep warm over a low flame while the halibut is cooked.
Cook the Fish:
Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Dry the halibut fillets and season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the ¼ teaspoon white pepper.
Use 2 large sauté pans to cook the fish or, if using 1 pan, cook the fish in 2 batches. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the sauté pan until the oil smokes. Place 3 of the fillets in the pan and cook for 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven to finish cooking for 5 minutes, or until the fish just begins to flake around the edges.
Just before serving, remove the spice sachet from the broth, add the basil puree, and add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil. Stir well to combine, and spoon the warm barigoule sauce into 6 shallow bowls, with a halibut fillet in the center.

Serves 6. To adapt it for two, I made the beans as shown, but reserved some for another use. I halved everything else and used just 2 halibut filets.

White Beans
adapted from the Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally

1/2 pound dried white beans
1 leek
2 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
1 celery stalk, cut into thirds
1 medium onion, halved
half a head of garlic, cut through the equator
1 Tbsp. coarse salt (less if your stock is salty)
3 thick slices smoked bacon, cut into lardons
Bouquet garni made with 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp. black peppercorns, 6 sprigs parsley and 3 springs thyme

Put the beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight.

The next day, drain the beans in a colander and rince with cold water. Transfer to a pot and cover with water. bring to a boil over high heat. When the foam subsides, drain and rinse the beans again.

Return the beans to the pot with the remaining ingredients. (Careful with the salt - your stock and bacon will also add saltiness). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beans are cooked. Taste them often to be sure you get the right consistency.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate Pots de Creme

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For those of you wondering where I've been, I have an excuse. And I think it's a good excuse. I've been occupied with wagon rides, story time (Dr. Suess's A-B-C is our current fave), outings in our rainbow tent, and more. As a matter fact, just this evening, we had our very first dance party. Mind you, mom and dad are not exactly great dancers so I'm doubting my little one will have a future in it, but tonight, while Cookie Monster crooned away about all things cookie, my family was dancing and grooving.

Our little not-quite-10-month-old has recently figured out how to pull herself to standing. So tonight she pulled herself up and started bopping to the music, grinning from ear to ear. I tried to get a video but apparently my iPhone doesn't like to run the video camera AND Pandora at the same time... I'll be better prepared next time because the wee one was either really, really proud of herself or laughing at mom and dad's awful dance moves... I'm sure if the neighbors could see us they got quite a chuckle as well...

But more about dance parties another time. Bottom line, being a mom is just plain great and seems to get better all the time... I don't have as much time to cook, but every now and again, I get ambitious. These Pots de Creme are easy - I put them in the oven while Dad fed the baby and they were set and chilled by the time we finished dinner.

What are Pots de Creme? My husband asked me the same thing. I described it as kind of like mousse, but when he tasted it, we agreed it was denser and richer. (and yummier).

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Chocolate Pots de Creme
adapted from Good Food by Neil Perry

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 1/2 oz. good quality dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. Caster or superfine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Makes 4

Place the cream and milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring almost to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has completely melted.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl. Temper the eggs by adding a little of the chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk. Add the remaining chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk until well combined.

Pour evenly into 4 mugs or ramekins. Place in a roasting pan and pour boiling water around them about halfway up the sides of the dishes. Place in the lower third of the oven and bake until just set, about 25 minutes. Remove the cups to a wire rack to cool, then chill before serving.

Serve with whipped cream or berries if desired.
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