Crispy Seared Cod with Peas, Pancetta, and Wilted Lettuce

RECIPE: Crispy Seared Cod with Petits Pois à la Française
Petits Pois à la Française with Cod

Petits Pois à la Française with Cod

Petits Pois à la Française, or French peas, is a very traditional and somewhat unusual dish. There are many iterations, as is to be expected with an old-school French dish. In my version, I start with a little bit of pancetta, add the peas and some parsley, and finish it off with just a dollop of crème fraîche. But the one ingredient that all versions have, including mine, is lettuce—chopped sucrine lettuce, thrown in to wilt at the last second. It’s not conventional, but it’s delicious. The lettuce stems retain their crunch and the leaves just start to wilt into the creamy sauce. It lightens up the whole dish and allows the dish to achieve that perfect balance we’re always desperately hunting for in French cooking.

Usually these peas are served as a side, but I make it into dinner by searing fillets of cod and mounding them on top of the peas. There’s a heartiness to it, but between the flaky fish and the extreme vegetal nature of the peas, it’s light and lively. A must try!
Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!
Crispy Seared Cod with Petits Pois à la Française
serves 4

Petits Pois à la Française with CodINGREDIENT

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 6-ounce fillets of cod
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 4 cups thawed frozen peas
  • 1 head of baby gem lettuce, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche

PROCEDURE

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Season the cod with salt and pepper.  When the oil shimmers, place the cod presentation-side-down in the hot skillet.  Sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until the fish takes on a nice golden crust.  Then turn over, and finish cooking for 1 minute.  Take the skillet off the heat, and remove the cod to a plate.  Set aside.

Add the pancetta to the same skillet, and return to medium-high heat.  Brown the pancetta until it starts to become crisp—2 to 3 minutes.  Add in the peas and warm through, stirring often.  Add 2 tablespoon of water, the lettuce, the parsley, and the crème fraîche.  Stir over the heat until the crème fraîche has melted and the lettuce is just beginning to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper.

To plate, make a bed of the peas.  Top with the cod.  Garnish with parsley.  I recommend good crusty bread on the side.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas

RECIPE: Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas
Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas

I love little tricks of the trade that make me feel like I’ve got something for nothing.  This dish cooks in 10 minutes, and looks like I’ve gone to a really high falutin’ Italian restaurant.  Why?  Because I bought fresh lasagna sheets at the store and “made” my pasta myself by cutting it by hand.  The pasta looks rustic and grandma-worthy, when all I had to do was boil it for five minutes, and stir it together with the world’s simplest sauce: ricotta cheese, and some of the water from the pasta pot.  Garnished with bright peas, fresh anise-y, sweet basil, and bursting cherry tomatoes, it’s the perfect really last minute, need-to-eat gourmet dinner for two.  Just creamy enough to be comforting, but light from all those fresh summer flavors.  This one does you proud—in one pot and ten minutes.

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and Peas
serves 2

Handcut Pasta with Ricotta and PeasINGREDIENTS

  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 1/2 ounces fresh lasagna sheets
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • Parmesan or Pecorino for grating

PROCEDURE

Preheat the broiler.  Place the tomatoes on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Season with salt.  Broil for 5 minutes.  Set aside.

Cut the lasagna sheets into thick “noodle” strips.  Cook in boiling salted water until al dente—about five minutes.  Add the frozen peas 1 minute before the end of cooking.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain.

Add the ricotta, basil, and 1/2 cup of pasta water to the pot.  Stir to combine.  Add in the drained pasta and peas, and the roasted tomatoes and any juice they have rendered.  Season with salt and pepper.  Loosen with more pasta water if necessary.  Serve, and top with grated Parmesan or Pecorino.  A green salad goes perfectly alongside.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Bright Lentil Salad with Apples, Fennel, and Herbs

RECIPE: Bright Lentil Salad with Apples, Fennel, and Herbs
Lentil Salad with Fennel, Apple, and Herbs

Lentil Salad with Fennel, Apple, and Herbs

This is a bright, hearty, and optimistic salad. Admittedly, it’s also a total knock-off of my go-to dish at my favorite French restaurant in London, La Petite Maison, which specializes in taking Provençal peasant food and reinventing it at the height of sophistication. The salad is simple, but unexpected: firm little du Puy lentils, finely diced apple and fennel, some bright herbs (I use Greek basil and fresh thyme), and a very fresh, loose vinaigrette made from olive oil and cider vinegar. It’s nice to know that some of the most basic food—a fruit, a vegetable, and the lowly, humble lentil—can come together in something unexpected and above the ordinary. It’s like a Cinderella salad.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Bright Lentil Salad with Apples, Fennel, and Herbs
serves 4

Lentil Salad with Fennel, Apple, and HerbsINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 medium fennel, finely diced
  • 1 apple (recommended: Pink Lady), peeled and finely diced
  • 8 ounces baby plum tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 14.5-ounces cans of du Puy lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil

PROCEDURE

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper until the sugar dissolves.  Add in the olive oil, and whisk until emulsified.  Add the water, and whisk to loosen.  Add the fennel, apple, and tomatoes, toss to combine, and allow to sit in the vinaigrette for 15 minutes.  Finally, add the lentils and fresh herbs, and allow to sit another 15 minutes.  Serve.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian
 

Cheated Paella for Two

RECIPE: Shrimp and Chorizo Lazy Paella
Shrimp and Chorizo Lazy Paella

Shrimp and Chorizo Lazy Paella

Paella is a party dish.  The kind of endeavor you’d only undertake if you plan on feeding at least 10, if not 100, people.

And yet, it’s the perfect after-work comfort food.  Rice, perfumed with all that decadent saffron.  The charred smoky garlickiness of the chorizo.  The elegance of the seafood.  The sweet onions and bright bursting peas.  Everything in one perfect pot.  Elegant and down to earth all at once.

So I set about devising the perfect weeknight paella for two, and it’s so good and easy.  I use boil-in-the-bag rice, although you could use whatever white rice you like.  I sauté together some good dry Spanish chorizo and olive oil, shallots and shrimps, green peas and parsley.  Then I add in the rice and some saffron, and finish it all together in a big pan.  If I’m feeling ambitious, I finish it off under the broiler to get that top layer of rice nice and crisp—like it is at the edges of those big Spanish paella pans.

The result is a hot and hearty dinner, full of sausage and shrimps and rice and green peas, that’s at the same time a bit luxurious and exotic.  And—the best part—everything is already on-hand.  I have my shrimp and peas in the freezer.  My chorizo, rice, and shallots in the pantry.  In fifteen minutes, we have a paella party.

Shrimp and Chorizo Paella Pan

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Shrimp and Chorizo Lazy Paella
serves 2 to 3

Shrimp and Chorizo Lazy PaellaINGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 teaspoon (not packed) saffron
  • 8 1/2 ounces parboiled white rice (preferable cook-in-the-bag rice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced into thin coins
  • 1 large shallot, sliced
  • 20 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

PROCEDURE

Put the saffron in a small bowl and cover with 2 tablespoons of boiling water.  Set aside to steep.  Meanwhile, cook the rice according to package instructions.  Then drain, and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.  Add the chorizo and cook for 1 minute.  Add the shallot and cook for 45 seconds, stirring often.  Add the shrimp, and cook until almost completely pink.  Then add the peas, and cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque and the peas thawed.

Push the shrimp and chorizo to the side of the pan and add the drained rice in the center.  Add the saffron and its water.  Stir the saffron into the rice and cook until the pan is dry.  Then, stir in the shrimp and chorizo and peas from the corners of the pan.  Stir in the parsley and serve!

Optional step: place the paella in an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish, and drizzle the top with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Place under a hot broiler just until the rice turns slightly crisp.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches
 

Tender Lamb Brochettes with Thyme and Haricots Verts

RECIPE: Tender Lamb Brochettes with Thyme and Haricots Verts
Lamb and Thyme Brochettes 1

Lamb and Thyme Brochettes

The one thing (among several others) that’s great about planning a wedding in Paris is getting to go there because you “have” to.

We “had” to go down a few weeks ago to administrate our wedding planning, and as such, we “had” to eat.  To keep our energy up, you know.  There’s this great thing about Paris restaurants: copycatting.  I think it comes down to the French insistence on seasonality, but if you see a special in one restaurant, you’ll see it in every restaurant.  A few years ago, in May, there was tomato tartare with fresh anchovies and white asparagus vinaigrette on every menu.  It was remarkable.  And this time, the plat du jour partout was lamb brochettes with thyme and haricots verts.  Skewers of tender medium-rare seared lamb in a thyme and lamb jus with simple steamed French green beans.  The perfect union of light, lean substance and fresh, bright flavors.

Lamb and Thyme Brochettes 2

I don’t do knock-offs in most things, but when it comes to French food, well, I’ve made it my raison d’être.  I bought simple lamb loin at the supermarket, cut it into disks, and skewered it.  I seared it simply in very hot olive oil until it had a crust on the outside and a blush on the inside.  I deglazed the pan with some beef stock, and swirled in fresh thyme and a lump of cold butter for the perfect cross between a jus and a gravy.  And alongside: simple French green beans, which never fail to be just the right accessory.

Lamb and Thyme Brochettes 3

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Tender Lamb Brochettes with Thyme and Haricots Verts
serves 2 to 3

Lamb and Thyme Brochettes 2INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of lamb loin, cut into 1-inch discs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon, cold
  • 11 ounces of haricots verts, trimmed

PROCEDURE

Bring a stockpot of water to the boil.  Preheat a wide skillet on high heat.  Skewer the lamb onto the bamboo skewers, leaving a little space between each piece of lamb, and season with salt and pepper.  Add the olive oil to the skillet, and sear the lamb for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side, for a total of 2 to 3 minutes, until medium-rare to medium.

Set the lamb aside to rest.  Meanwhile, add the beef stock and thyme to the hot skillet.  Whisk in 1 tablespoon of cold butter, and take the sauce off the heat.

To prepare the haricots verts, salt the boiling water.  Blanch the haricots verts for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender.  Drain.  Return to the pot with the remaining teaspoon of butter, and stir to coat.  Serve with the lamb and its thyme sauce.

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Turkey and Porcini Meatballs with Rosemary and Polenta

RECIPE: Turkey and Porcini Meatballs with Rosemary and Polenta
Turkey and Porcini Meatballs on Polenta

Turkey and Porcini Meatballs on Polenta

My meatball addiction knows no bounds.  If made correctly, meatballs are actually so much lighter than MEAT.  Pillowy, more delicate, easier to portion-adjust.  And so versatile and easy to throw together.

This is my “Tuscan-inspired” meatball ragu over polenta.  Rustic and comforting.  Full of the woodsy twang of rosemary and the earthy punch of porcini mushrooms.  And it couldn’t be easier.  Just throw all the meatball ingredients in a bowl–lean turkey, fresh rosemary, dried porcini mushrooms, Pecorino Romano cheese–and gently mix together and form into balls.  Then, the meatballs are simmered in a gussied-up bought tomato sauce, and poured over creamy quick-cooking polenta.  It’s comforting and hearty, but because of the way we cook the polenta and the turkey (as opposed to beef) in the meatballs, it’s actually really light.  I serve it with a big green salad.
From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday! Continue reading
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Categories: 30 Minutes, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series
 

Seared Tuna with Niçoise Vegetables and Garlic Butter

RECIPE: Seared Tuna with Niçoise Vegetables and Garlic Butter
Tuna with Niçoise Veggies

Tuna with Niçoise Veggies

I was in a meeting the other day at the office, when my friend pulled out a take-out box from the office cafeteria, and excused herself.  “I’m starving,” she said.  “I just need to have some lunch!”

There are some meals at my office cafeteria that I look forward to (veggie dumplings and pickled vegetables is worth scheduling meetings around), but generally, I’m pretty jaded.  Or I was.  Until Issy opened up the paper box to reveal a gorgeous spread: seared tuna steak, new potatoes, green beans, and a lemon wedge.  The perfect summer meal.  Evocative of French seasides with striped umbrellas and big sailboats.  Suddenly, my panini from around the corner began to pale into oozy, woozy insignificance.  I had such overwhelming food envy, that I went home, bought all the ingredients, and recreated it for dinner.

This dish is inspired by a Niçoise salad; but it gets rid of all the salad parts and leaves the essentials.  Fresh tuna, crusted in sea salt and herbes de Provence, seared for just three minutes in olive oil until barely cooked through.  Tender crisp haricots verts.  Creamy baby new potatoes.  Roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine.  All tossed in a garlic- and lemon-infused warm olive oil and butter sauce, littered with shreds of fresh basil and torn parsley.  Served warm, it’s light and bright, but also so flavorful and a little bit decadent from the sauce.  It’s the perfect summer meal.  A real feast, but light enough so that you don’t fall asleep in the afternoon at the office.  You may, however, daydream about places you’d rather be.  St. Tropez.  Cannes.  Antibes.  St. Jean Cap Ferrat.  Some things can’t be helped.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app! Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series