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Friday, January 29, 2010

In The Kitchen With Huy Chi Le - Lemongrass Chicken

Having recently dined at Indochine, renowned for celebrity sightings as much as its food, we were eager to try some a few dishes at home. Featured in the beautiful new book, Indochine, Stories Shaken and Stirred, the following classic recipe by the restaurant's chef/owner Huy Chi Le serves two.

#29 Lemongrass Chicken with Asian Basil
(Serves Two)

Marinade Ingredients:
1 lb chicken breast thinly sliced sideways against the fiber
2 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp chili-garlic sauce (widely available in Asian markets)

Mix together and let sit for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.

Cooking Ingredients:
4 shallots finely sliced the long way
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass (only the white part)
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup whole Asian basil leaves (stems out)
2 tbsp finely chopped peanuts

In a wok or flat pan, heat the oil to high heat. Throw in the sliced shallots and lemongrass and turn a few seconds until browned. Add marinated chicken and toss quickly and vigorously, separating it if it sticks together. Sautée for about three to four minutes (depending on the thickness of the chicken), adding a table spoon of chicken broth every minute. Add the whole Asian basil leaves and sauté for another thirty seconds. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top. Garnish with a sprig of Asian basil.

First published in part in Next magazine.

Used by permission, photo by Jessica Craig-Martin, 1989 from Indochine, Stories Shaken and Stirred published 2009 by Rizzoli International New York;

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cavatelli with Chloe

I don't mind telling you right up front: I didn't make my own cavatelli. As much as Jimmy Bradley persists in making pasta at home for Cavatelli with Braised Veal Cheeks in The Red Cat Cookbook, from his restaurant (and our neighborhood fave) The Red Cat, once I read about rolling out obstreperous 30-inch logs of dough which are to be cut into 1/4-inch pieces and further pinched, twisted into shapes and flung into a bowl, I immediately turned a pale shade of puce and hied myself to Buon Italia at the Chelsea Market, where the pasta may be bought fresh, without the fuss.

Also, I didn't use veal cheeks. I learned veal cheeks are a special order item from the butcher requiring advance notice, and as our dinner was to be a simple, somewhat impromptu affair, we used an entirely suitable shoulder of veal instead. Absolutely salt and pepper the meat and braise it the day before as Bradley's cookbook suggests, in a rich sauce of beef stock, hand-crushed, whole-peeled tomatoes, and a hearty red wine with diced onions, celery and carrots--garlic, diced plum tomatoes (I used heirloom grape tomatoes), grated Pecorino Romano cheese, basil and full leaves of escarole finish the dish the next day, resulting in pure genius. I'd even venture to suggest really planning ahead by alotting enough time that once finished, let your pasta sit overnight and then reheat the whole thing to serve to your guests yet another day later.

A modest salad of red leaf lettuce with shallot-Champagne vinaigrette accompanied our delicious dish, and we were beside ourselves just dipping homemade bread into the sauce. I meant to get single serving Ciao Bella sorbets for dessert, but I forgot. Didn't matter anyway--we hardly needed it!

Cavatelli with Braised Veal Cheeks
Adapted from The Red Cat Cookbook by Jimmy Bradley & Andrew Friedman
Serves 6 as an appetizer, or 4 as a main course (but unless your guests are cattle, I think this makes much more than that!)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound veal cheeks (or veal shoulder)
1 carrot, onion, celery each coarsely chopped
1 35-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juice
2 cups veal stock (we used homemade beef stock)
1 cup red wine, preferably Barolo or Cabernet (a sturdy red table wine will do just fine and be considerably cheaper)
5 thyme sprigs
2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium head escarole
1 pound store-bought fresh cavatelli
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
2 tablespoons sliced basil
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Pour 1 cup of the canola oil into a heavy-bottomed roasting pan and heat over high heat. Meanwhile, season the veal cheeks with salt and pepper. Add them to the pan and brown well on both sides, approximately 5 minutes per side. Remove the cheeks from the pan and set them on a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add the carrot, onion, and celery and brown them, approximately 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, stock, wine, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Return the meat to the pan and transfer to the oven. Cover and braise until the meat is almost falling apart, approximately 2 1/2 hours. As the cheeks braise, periodically check on them to be sure the liquid isn't boiling aggressively; it should be at the mildest of simmers (0ver the braising time, I ended up gradually turning my oven down to 200 degrees).
Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside. Pass the braising liquid through a food mill to make a sauce. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat by hand and return it to the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Heat two tablespoons of canola oil (I used olive oil here) in a wide, deep-sided, heavy-bottomed saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until it's just beginning to brown, approximately 2 minutes. Add the escarole and saute for a minute or two, then add the meat and sauce and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to warm the meat and integrate the flavors.
Add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Strain and add to sauce. Toss in the fresh tomatoes, Pecorino, and basil, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
(The recipe suggests drizzling olive oil over the pasta and adding some more grated cheese when serving, but why gild the lily?)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Grain of Salt

A most bewitching set of salts came my way recently from Salt Traders, purveyors of fine
sea salts, natural salts, and hand harvested salts from around the world that appear quite worth their weight. From Hawaii they submit the following, cunningly accompanied with descriptive tags:

Black Lava Sea Salt has "a hearty crunch with high-quality, activated charcoal (a natural anti-toxin and digestive aid)" to toss on to vegetables and roasts, as well as potato dishes and stuff fired up on the BBQ.

Bamboo Sea Salt is "combined with organic bamboo leaf extract. It is known for being abundant in amino acids, antioxidants and vitamins." For use in Asian cuisine, such as stir-fry, or use liberally with soups, just about any meat, and salmon.

Red Alaea Sea Salt "gets its name and color from the volcanic clay native to Hawaii...sprinkle on any dish to add dynamic texture, color and flavor. Perfect for traditional Hawaiian dishes, such as Kalua Pork."

Guava Wood Smoked Sea Salt "is fine and soft, like brown sugar, with a pure mellow smoke flavor...hand-harvested, solar dried, and then slowly cool smoked over native guava wood." Who knew? Try on burgers, grilled salmon, or salmon burgers! Rubs for chicken and roasts, a finish for risotto, a flavoring for eggs (such as poached eggs Norvege with a sprinkle into your hollandaise) and home fries or a bracing dip with ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Or your grandfather's boots! Just marvelous!

For more information call 800-641-SALT;

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Morning Zucchini Bread

When I learned from a friend that those indeed were not just rotting bananas in her freezer--I was scrabbling around for some ice to make a cocktail--no, rather they were a deliberate trick, freezing old bananas first and putting them aside to later make the most wonderful banana bread. Well, that sounded good to me and certainly something to try so Baby and I froze some bananas with good intentions but forgot about them and they sat for too long in our freezer and just got gross so we ended up throwing them out over the weekend. But it did get me thinking about making a sweet, slightly savory bread to make that Saturday afternoon and wake up to on Sunday morning, so I tried my hand at making zucchini bread, which I've always thought tastes very similar to gingerbread. My loaves were quite scrumptious, good on their own, served room-temperature or toasted and slathered with terrific Tofutti spread ("better than cream cheese" with half the fat and no dairy as well) or butter, or both! I would use a little more baking powder than the recipe suggests to elevate the bread, to perhaps form a more gracious arc. Also, toast the walnuts at 375 degrees for maybe 5 minutes and when you start to get a nutty whiff emanating from the oven, they are done.

We nibbled on our loaves of zucchini bread over several days!

Spiced Zucchini Walnut Bread
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2004
Makes 2 loaves

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (from about 2 medium)
1 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped (about 4 ounces)

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Butter and flour two 8x4x2 1/2-inch metal loaf pans.
Whisk flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, allspice, and baking powder in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and lemon peel in large bowl to blend. Whisk in flour mixture. Mix in zucchini and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake breads until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Let stand 10 minutes.
Turn breads out onto rack and cool completely.
(Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Next Magazine - For The Love Of Scotch

Scotch is a gentleman’s drink. Indeed, it always reminds me of my father, and great, hushed conversations with him sometimes into the wee hours—and rarely do I think of Frank Sinatra without a glass in his hand (or any of the characters on Mad Men for that matter). I like the occasional blended Dewar’s and my father likes his Cutty Sark, only because there’s a picture of a clipper ship on the label of course, and occasionally he turns to sips of Bruichladdich single malt for medicinal purposes.

Recently I discovered a limited-edition of The Glenlivet Nadurra Triumph 1991 single malt Scotch whisky, which is elegantly smooth and as warming as a cashmere scarf, perfect for winter. I do suspect the Old Man would approve.

To serve, pour some of the singular amber liquid in a highball or a rocks glass, but you may want to skip the rocks—just a drop of water will do just fine. Cheers then!

First published in Next magazine.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Everything But The...Ruffoni Gratin Pan!

I have to confess that I'm cheating on Baby with an Italian: not just any Italian mind you, but the handsomely turned out, absolutely gorgeous hammered copper Italian Ruffoni Gratin Pan with brass acorn and oak leaf embellishments. We met at Williams-Sonoma several months ago and it was, at least for me, love at first sight. When at last I finally was able to take this beauty home, I couldn't wait to make wild, passionate Swiss Chard Gratin with it.

Swiss Chard Gratin
Adapted from Saveur, #88, November 2005
Any flamboyant sort of chard can be separated into two parts: the abundant leaves and the considerable stalks.
Start with the stalks: get about a pound of Swiss Chard (green, red, or rainbow), trim the ends and remove the stalks, cutting them into 3-inch pieces and boiling for a few minutes in a reliable pot with salted water and a few bay leaves. Drain into a colander.
Now, for the leafy greens: roll them up and cut thinly on the bias to make a chiffonade. Wilt in a large pan with at least two tablespoons olive oil and minced garlic. Add cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste. With a slotted spoon, place into colander as well.
To make the bechamel sauce: in a heavy saucepan, stir a quarter cup flour into a melted stick of butter over a medium-low flame. Stir constantly for three minutes and increase heat to medium, whisking in two cups of cold milk, a little at a time to make a fine paste. Add salt! Pepper! And most importantly a lot of grated nutmeg! Whisk continually for 15 minutes and you'll have a greatly thickened, most virtuous sauce.
Put your chard leaves and stems into the gratin pan, cover with the bechamel sauce, add even more nutmeg, a whole lot of grated gruyere cheese and place in a 400 degree preheated oven. Bake until shimmering perfection is achieved, roughly 25 minutes.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lentilles du Puy!

This is a delicious, hearty salad that would go well served alongside grilled brook trout--but we didn't even get that far, instead grazing over it for hours, eating right out of the pan and finishing up the next day. Don't use just water though to cook the lentils; try homemade mushroom stock (vegetable or chicken stock would do nicely too) and about half a cup of white wine. In our dish, the lentils were Goya, the beets were from a can, and the parsley was dried. Oh, and I fried three strips of bacon, removed them and sauteed the carrots and beets in the grease with a little butter instead of the suggested oil. Later, I crumbled the cooled bacon and tossed it into the mix at the end. C'est magnifique!

Lentilles du Puy with Roasted Carrots and Beets
Adapted from Saveur, Issue #18
Serves 6 as a side dish
"This recipe was developed for the esteemed lentils from Le Puy (which have been granted an appellation d'origine contrôlée by the French government), but any French-style lentil will do."
3 small beets, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 shallots, peeled and halved
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb. lentilles du Puy, or other French-style green lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Place beets, carrots, shallots, and 1/2 cup oil in a medium roasting pan. Stir to coat vegetables evenly with oil. Add parsley and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once, until vegetables begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Add lentils and 3 cups of water, stir, then cover pan with foil. Cook until lentils are tender and all water is absorbed, about 1 hour.
2. Remove pan from oven. Remove and discard herb sprigs, then dress lentils with vinegar and remaining oil. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning and serve.
Variation—Different vegetables and dressings can be used for this salad. For instance, roast 2 cups peeled small pearl onions for 20 minutes as in step 1 above. Dice 4 celery stalks. Add celery and lentils to onions with 3 cups water, cover, and continue roasting. Meanwhile, mix 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice with 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Stir in 1 minced peeled garlic clove and 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme. When lentils are tender and liquid has been absorbed, toss with dressing. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pete's Pea Soup

Armed with a pair of smoked pig knuckles, I set out to make pea soup. Much else was a happy accident, as I substituted some of the ingredients listed in the recipes on the bags of my dried peas and added other improvised goods that Baby and I already had on hand.

Pete's Pea Soup

1/2 lb bag Goya Green Split Peas/6 oz. package of Manischewitz Split Pea Soup Mix (find something to do with the seasoning packet at a later time) OR just use 1 lb. Goya green split peas
2 pork knuckles (pulled from the Hoppin' John stew)
2 tb sauteed onions (left over from our Boeuf Bourguinon)
1 tb tomato paste-not at all traditional-but I wanted sweet and didn't have any carrots to use, as the recipe on the bag indicates
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup pinot grigio (left over from our Celery Victor lunch) or other dry white wine
Soffritto bouillon cube (from Italy, essentially a mire poix trio of carrot, celery and onion), but the bag suggests Sazon Goya cubes, which are similar I think
Beef bouillon cube (also can use chicken bouillon but we didn't have that)
6 cups water

Simply add all of the ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer with cover on until the peas are tender. Remove pork knuckles. The soup is good to eat right away but will thicken to a fine moat overnight.

Serve with some crispy bacon pieces on top if you'd like, but I don't think you'll need it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Don't Hold The Mayo

After watching Meryl Streep and Steve Martin devour Croque-Monsieur sandwiches in the wonderful It's Complicated, Baby and I left the theater completely ravenous. Since he had just made a loaf of some hearty country bread, we went to the market for slices of ham and gruyere cheese to make some French fare of our own. As they do at Bruxelles, my favorite bistro in the city, we made some salad and frites to go along with our sandwiches.

Our greens were dressed with the leftover mustard sauce from our Celery Victor and just because our frites were rather more Ore-Ida fries from a bag, we still strove toward tradition and made our own mayonnaise for dipping! For years I had wanted to try but never quite dared and perhaps it was just beginner's luck, but apart from the strenuous, constant use of a wire whisk to blend olive oil into egg yolks over several minutes, the faintly olive green result was a touch fruity and quite good, seeming like fairly miraculous alchemy.

From The French Chef cookbook, Julia Child creates hand-made mayonnaise (The Hundred and Twentieth Show). Within its pages we learned that "egg yolks are delighted to absorb olive oil and turn it into an emulsion - meaning a thick sauce." However, eggs should be at room temperature, and their yolks must be beaten first until thickened and light in color like lemons. She further tells us that "egg yolks can only absorb a certain amount of oil...oil proportions are a maximum of 3/4 cup per egg yolk." After the yolks have received 1/2 cup of oil with all that whipping, you can ease up a bit, and more casually whip in more oil, a few droplets at a time--but unless you need a lot of mayonnaise, I think you can stop shortly after incorporating the first 1/2 cup of oil.

Now, go to your sandwiches!


Bon Appetit May 2001

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
4 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add nutmeg and bay leaf. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat broiler. Place 2 bread slices on work surface. Top each with half of ham and sliced Gruyère. Top with remaining bread.
Heat heavy large skillet over low heat.
Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
Add to skillet and cook until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer to small baking sheet.
Spoon sauce, then grated cheese over sandwiches.
Broil until cheese begins to brown, about 2 minutes.

Wicked Good Clam Chowdah

At the ripe old age of 83 (he just turned so today), my Dad still goes digging for clams in the summer at our cozy cottage in Friendship, Maine--he disappears for hours at a time--to bring back the most delicious mollusks from Muscongus Bay which we steam and dip in butter, or marinate with gin, clam juice, and apple cider vinegar for soused clams (an excellent garnish for an extra dry martini!) or make into a chowder. When Baby and I were home over Christmas, Dad sent us back to New York with the best gift of all--juicy clams he had dug up, vacuum-sealed and frozen from this past summer's haul. Although I started with a delicious recipe from my father, I feel I complicated it a bit, haphazardly trying to make my first clam chowder, but as we are to take recipes and adapt them into something of our own, passing them down along the way, I think the extra time and labor ended up creating another wonderful Down Maine dish that I'd be proud to serve in Friendship.

Happy Birthday! My dear old Dad!

Wicked Good Clam Chowdah
Serves 4
3 slices Oscar Mayer thick cut bacon, or the like
2 tb each chopped shallot, garlic, red onion
3 tb European butter; 1 tb when sauteeing shallot, garlic and red onion, 2 tb later to whip into reduced lobster stock
1 can drained, diced Del Monte fresh cut whole new potatoes
1 cup clam liquor (take care not to put any sand into your chowder!) or bottled clam juice
1 tb or so, fresh thyme leaves removed from stem (to avoid a woody flavor)
2 cups chopped clams
1-2 cups lobster stock for simmering the clams and potatoes; 3 more cups lobster stock, reduced to 1 cup to stir into the broth later
3 cups 2% reduced fat milk, instead of cream
Black pepper and white pepper to taste

Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy and remove, saving the fat (chop bacon when manageable). Add shallots, garlic, and red onion into this, with a tablespoon of butter and sautee for about 5 minutes.
Add clam liquor, potatoes and thyme with 1-2 cups lobster stock and simmer at low heat while rapidly reducing 3 cups lobster stock over medium-high heat in a separate pan. When this latter 3 cups of lobster stock has reduced to 2 cups, whip 2 tb butter into it with a wire whisk and continue to simmer down to 1 cup.
Add reduced stock into broth mixture with chopped clams, crispy bacon and let it all get to know each other until simmering nicely. Pour in cold milk and bring to heat but do not boil. I did mean to use fat free evaporated skim milk, an even better substitute for cream, but thankfully I looked at the bottom of the can first and saw that it had expired last year! Anyway, the 2% milk on its own will work just fine.
Throw in some freshly ground black pepper and some white pepper to finish it off and let your chowder sit off heat for at least an hour before reheating and serving. May be refrigerated up to 2 days.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Celery Victor

Although scrambled eggs was the first dish that I was taught and made successfully when just a little nipper, there was another dish before it that I made quite unsuccessfully, quite on my own. I used to watch a strange little cartoon called The Oddball Couple (based on Neil Simon's The Odd Couple) featuring a dandy cat named Spiffy and a slobbering dog named Fleabag. I remember thinking it was an absolute riot. So moved was I by one episode where Spiffy (the Felix Unger character) cooked something or other, I hightailed it to the kitchen to make something of my own: sauteed celery doused with Worcestershire sauce and served on wheat toast. It was truly gruesome. I couldn't even eat it.

Well, it turns out that not only hope, but celery too springs eternal. When I made Hoppin' John stew on New Year's Day, it required a stalk of celery, as so many soups and stews do, and like so often before, I found myself wondering what to do with the rest of the package. Single carrots are easy enough to find but not celery. And as much as I sometimes think I might like a snack of celery, I find Ants on a Log to be exhausting and just end up throwing the balance of the bunch out.

I turned to to look up something to do with my celery. Thoughts turned to celery soup, but I didn't have all the ingredients and didn't want to go out again. Suddenly, there it was--Celery Victor! Wary at first, this ended up being a light, elegant and extraordinary dish that felt French, even though its origins are to be found in San Francisco's Hotel St. Francis at the hands of chef Victor Hirtzler. One bunch is an ample amount for two people, presented at lunch, so pretty on a serving platter with celery leaves as a garnish alongside a few glasses of pinot grigio.

The dressing is wonderful--try it on asparagus too--but don't substitute vegetable oil instead of Canola oil as I did the first time out (horrible!): just cut to the chase and use extra virgin olive oil. Also, Celery Victor may be served with anchovies, but I just added about 1 teaspoon or so of anchovy paste into the dressing. Victorious!

Celery Victor
Adapted from Gourmet March 2002, courtesy of
Makes 6 first-course servings
3 celery hearts (1 1/2 lb total), leaves reserved and ribs cut into 3-inch-long pieces
About 3 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Arrange celery ribs in 1 layer in a 12-inch heavy skillet and add just enough chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently, covered, until celery is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer celery and broth to a bowl and chill, uncovered, until cold, 2 to 3 hours. Whisk together mustard, sugar, and 3 tablespoons celery cooking broth. Whisk in oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir in chives, then chill vinaigrette, covered, until ready to serve.
Transfer celery ribs with a slotted spoon to 6 plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette and scatter celery leaves on top.
Cooks' notes: Cooked celery can be chilled up to 1 day. Cover chilled celery after 2 hours. Vinaigrette can be chilled up to 1 day.