French Rev on VMAC & Cheese

VMACI loved, loved, loved this profile on French Rev by the lovely and talented Victoria McGinley of VMAC & Cheese, a super-chic lifestyle blog with a real zest for all the best things in life.  Please check it out, and visit her blog.  She just got back from France, and has some great posts on what she saw there.

The profile: http://vmacandcheese.com/2012/06/27/behind-the-scenes-with-french-revolution/

print this post Posted by Kerry | Leave a comment
Share

Categories: Finds
 

Hearty Tortellini Pasta e Fagioli

RECIPE: Hearty Tortellini Pasta e Fagioli
Tortellini Pasta E Fagioli

Tortellini Pasta E Fagioli

When I was growing up, there was an Italian dive half a block away on First Avenue.  The front was a pizza parlor, but to locals, the lesser-known back was Little Italy moved uptown (New York has long been a city of hidden hotspots), and all the families from our building would plunge into bowls of New York Italian staples, all in a sort of Diluvian flood of marinara.  I can’t remember what it was called, and it’s not there anymore, which is a shame because their baked ziti was something else.  But I’ll always remember it because it was the first place I tried one of my great food favorites: Pasta e Fagioli, that thick tomatoey soup studded with ditalini, creamy white beans, and that little hint of pancetta floating through the broth.  It’s so simple and honest.  It fills you up and it tastes good.  And that’s that.

I like making comfort food, especially nostalgic comfort food, for me and Mr. English during the week, just because whatever trauma happened at the office that day is washed down with a spoonful of dinner and a swig of wine.  So here is my fast, easy take on Pasta e Fagioli à la First Avenue in 1989.

I start with a mirepoix, which is just a fancy way of saying some chopped onion, carrot, and celery, which is a great start to any soup.  But if you don’t feel like buying veggies or chopping, you can actually leave this out.  It gives a nice vegetal crunch to the soup, but because we are using bought broth, you don’t need the extra flavor if you want to make this an even quicker dinner.  Then, simply pour in some bought marinara sauce (You know they were doing this back on First Avenue.  The stuff was everywhere!) and some vegetable or chicken broth, and bring to a boil.  Next, add canned cannellini beans for that traditional creamy heartiness, and instead of ditalini, those tiny little pasta rings, I add prosciutto- or pancetta-stuffed baby tortellini.  This does two things.  First, I don’t have to add and render pancetta into the soup.  All the smoky ham flavor comes from the all-purpose, cheesy, meaty stuffing of my baby tortellini.  And second, it gives this soup that really thick, stew-like quality that is its signature.  Then, if I have some around, I stir in some Parm or sliced up prosciutto.  But at its barest bones, this soup is four ingredients and five minutes to backroom New York hearty happiness.  Perfect for the middle of the week, and so good that even though I was out for dinner last night, I came home and had a bowl at eleven o’clock just because I could.  I couldn’t resist!

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

Hearty Tortellini Pasta e Fagioli
serves 2

Tortellini Pasta E FagioliINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small carrot, chopped (optional)
  • 2 small celery stalks, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups tomato basil or marinara sauce
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of cannellini beans
  • 1 pound any ham tortellini, such as pancetta or prosciutto, preferably mini-sized
  • Grated Parmesan to garnish
  • Thinly sliced prosciutto to garnish (optional)

PROCEDURE

Heat the oil in a stockpot over medium heat and add the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir often until the onion is translucent.  Add the tomato sauce and broth, and bring to a rolling boil.  Add the beans and ham tortellini, and cover to two minutes until the tortellini are just cooked.  Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan and prosciutto.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 2 Comments
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Soup, Soup & Salad
 

Fall-Apart Lamb Braised with Mustard and Mint

RECIPE: Fall-Apart Lamb Braised with Mustard and Mint
Braised Lamb with Mustard and Mint

Braised Lamb with Mustard and Mint

Every other month I wait by my mailbox for my favorite magazine: Elle à Table.  I pay a small fortune to import it from France, but it’s worth every centime.  It’s full of all the glossy, chic, too-cool-for-school French recipes and hot spots and food trends, and I eat it up.  It’s offered me a few inspirations over the years, and this week I was heartily rewarded for my subscription fee.

I saw a recipe for lamb stewed with mustard and mint.  I shut the magazine right there—I don’t like to see the ingredients for fear that I’ll copycat.  So I set about making my own version.  Lamb shank, on the bone, seared in olive oil, and simmered in a broth flavored with shallots, garlic, beef stock, wine, Worcestershire sauce, whole grain mustard, and an entire bunch of fresh mint.  The meat jitters in the pot for two hours until it just gives up and falls off the bone.  The bone itself and the heat of the oven reduce the sauce until it coats a spoon in that deliciously velvety way that you know only means good things, and the top of the lamb gets crisp like barbecue.  The Worcestershire just makes it all taste like meaty gravy, and the whole grain mustard is surprisingly gentle, imparting a sweet sting to the broth.  But the pièce de résistance is the mint—left of the stem, strewn haphazardly over the meat and then baked for hours, it imparts just a lightness, and surprising savoriness, to the dish.  No surprise that mint goes well with lamb, but this goes so far beyond 1980s neon mint jelly that it’s like coming to the discovery all on one’s own.

I made this for our Sunday evening roast, and Mr. English didn’t even look up from his plate until he peered at mine and asked, “are you gonna finish that?”

Success.

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

Fall-Apart Lamb Braised with Mustard and Mint
serves 4

Braised Lamb with Mustard and MintINGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 lamb shanks (about 3 pounds)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, left on the stem

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a braising pan, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Season the lamb with salt and pepper and sear until brown on all sides.  Add the shallots and garlic, and stir into the oil.  Immediately add the wine, and boil for 1 minute.  Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard.  Stir everything together, and bring to a boil.  Cover the top of the ingredients with the sprigs of fresh mint, and cover the pot.  Cook in the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.  Simmer on the stove to thicken the sauce if desired.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 8 Comments
Share

Categories: Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series
 

Five-Spice Fried Calamari with Sesame and Lime

RECIPE: Five-Spice Fried Calamari with Sesame and Lime
Five-Spice Fried Calamari with Sesame and Lime

Five-Spice Fried Calamari with Sesame and Lime

My weeknight repertoire tends toward the healthy. Fish. Beans. Pasta is about as decadent as I usually go. And yet, sometimes, that just isn’t enough.

Calamari is like an upmarket version of fish sticks. It’s both comforting and slightly elevated. A lot of people get nervous about frying, or about seafood in general, but fried seafood is one of the easiest things you can make, and it cooks in less than two minutes.

Just take some calamari rings, toss them in a Ziploc bag with flour, sesame seeds, and Chinese five spice powder, and quickly fry them up. If you don’t own a thermometer to test your oil temperature, don’t worry. If it sizzles when you add the calamari, it’s hot enough. You know they’re done when they look crispy and golden. Then, just squirt with some lime juice and top with fresh herbs, and you’ve got dinner.

I keep calamari in my freezer and toss it in the fridge to defrost the morning I want to make it for dinner. With ingredients like Chinese five spice powder, you have all the flavor in one jar. Just add a cold beer, and the night is perfect.

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

Five-Spice Fried Calamari with Sesame and Lime
serves 2

Five-Spice Fried Calamari with Sesame and LimeIngredients

  • 1 pound calamari tubes and tentacles
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, black or white
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Sea salt
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Lime wedges

PROCEDURE

Prepare the calamari by slicing the tubes into 1/2-inch strips and cutting the tentacles in half down the center.  Rinse and drain.

In a large plastic food storage bag, toss together the flour, Chinese five spice powder, and sesame seeds.  Add the calamari, and season with salt.  Seal and shake the bag until the calamari is coated in the flour mixture.

Fill a cast iron pan about halfway with vegetable oil, and heat until the oil reaches 365 to 370 degrees F.  Shake the excess flour off the calamari and fry, in batches if necessary, for about 2 minutes until golden brown and crisp.  Drain on a paper towel.  Top with sea salt, green onion, cilantro, extra sesame seeds, and lime zest (or any combination of the preceding), and serve with lime wedges.  Done!

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 2 Comments
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

One-Pot Sausages and Lentils with Sweet Roasted Shallots

RECIPE: One-Pot Sausages and Lentils with Sweet Roasted Shallots
So-Easy, One Pot Blistered Sausages with Lentils and Sweet Roasted Shallots

So-Easy, One Pot Blistered Sausages with Lentils and Sweet Roasted Shallots

One of my favorite pastimes is reading French menus. Tantalizing. Always full of combinations that seem so obvious in retrospect, but that would never have occurred to me. Strawberries and thyme. Salmon and lentils. Pears and ham. They are where I get most of my cooking inspiration, even when I never try the dish I spy somewhere after Entrées and before Désserts.

One night last summer when I was in Nice with my family and Mr. English, I skittered between two restaurants half a block apart, reading their menus. “This one, this one!” I begged. I had spied something, a local specialty, that I just had to try: sausages and lentils. So humble, and yet I knew it would be elegant in its simplicity. Really good, firm French lentils that never lose their figure. Sausages full of smoky bacon, wine, and garlic that snapped under the point of a knife. Both the sausages and the lentils were listed next to their provenance. These were special sausages, special lentils, with a pedigree and a history. Who could resist?

Apparently, my entire family and Mr. English. They all wanted to go to the pasta place down the street. So I consoled myself, as I twirled my tagliatelle with pistou around the tines of my fork, that I would try sausages and lentils at home. And I have, in about ten different ways. This recipe is how to make sausages and lentils—one of those genius French combinations I stole from a French menu—in a jiffy.

I toss slivered shallots and Toulouse sausages—full of bacon, red wine, and garlic—with olive oil, and roast them until the sausages blister and the shallots caramelize. Then, I hit them with a splash of white wine and easy, organic canned du Puy lentils. After adding some torn herbs and giving it a few minutes under the broiler, the one-pot peasant dinner is done. I serve it with a greens and walnut salad tossed in a whole grain honey mustard dressing. It has all that French country charm with a distinctly American practicality that I love. Really French in a Flash.

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

One-Pot Sausages and Lentils with Sweet Roasted Shallots
serves 2

So-Easy, One Pot Blistered Sausages with Lentils and Sweet Roasted ShallotsINGREDIENTS

  • 6 shallots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 14 ounces Toulouse sausages (about 6 links)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans du Puy lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • A pinch of dried Herbes de Provence
  • Torn fresh parsley or thyme to garnish

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. To prepare the shallots, top them, and then cut them in half.  Peel the halves, and shave off the little beard at the bottom.  The slice, not too thinly, pole to pole.

Heat the oil in a sautépan over medium heat until it shimmers.  Add the shallots and sausages, and season with salt and pepper.  Shake to coat everything in the oil, and bake in the oven until the shallots are soft and caramelized and the sausages blistered, about half an hour, stirring once or twice.

Take the pot from the oven and place on the stove over high heat.  Add the wine, and bring to a boil.  Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, then add the lentils, water, and herbes de Provence, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until the liquid is mostly evaporated.  Stir in the fresh herbs, and serve with green salad and torn fresh bread.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 1 Comment
Share

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

Grilled Rare Tuna Salad with Basil-Tapenade Vinaigrette

RECIPE: Grilled Rare Tuna Salad with Basil-Tapenade Vinaigrette
Grilled Rare Tuna Niçoise

Grilled Rare Tuna Salad with Basil-Tapenade Vinaigrette

Next week is my favorite week of the year: my annual family trip to Provence. Every year it’s a different town—some by the sea, some tucked into the little mountains. But there’s always the same punch flavors of olives, tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

Salade Niçoise is the requisite seaside order for hot days when the sun is beating down. But, as perfect as it is to order when you’re out, it’s a pain to make at home. I make this version when I want to evoke the flavors of Provence—and the rocky beaches, cliff-tossed breezes, and mile-high blue skies—without having to boil eggs, potatoes, and green beans. I sear tuna crusted in herbes de Provence on the grill until it’s rare, thinly slice it, and fan it out over a delicate bed of finely sliced tomatoes and silky butter lettuce. A quick dressing of basil, olive oil, vinegar, and black olive tapenade evokes all the traditional flavors. And, to gild the lily, it’s crowned with fried (or fresh) capers instead of croutons.

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

Grilled Rare Tuna Salad with Basil-Tapenade Vinaigrette
serves 2 to 4

Grilled Rare Tuna NiçoiseINGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces fresh tuna steak
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons dried herbes de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons, plus more for frying the capers
  • 2 tablespoons capers in brine, rinsed and meticulously dried
  • 2 tablespoons bought black olive tapenade
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 10 basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus extra for the salad
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce, torn
  • 1/2 lemon, halved

PROCEDURE

Preheat a grill pan over high heat.  Season the tuna liberally with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence.  Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over the outside of the seasoned fish.  Grill 1 minute on each side, and set aside.

To fry the capers, heat a shy inch of oil in a small saucepot until it shimmers.  Carefully add the capers (they will splatter) and fry until crisp and golden.  Drain on paper towel.  You can also just add the capers as they are, without frying.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the tapenade, vinegar, garlic, 10 basil leaves, and salt and pepper.

To assemble the salad, arrange the tomatoes on the bottom of a serving dish.  Scatter the lettuce on top, and then some whole basil leaves.  Slice the tuna about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and arrange over the lettuce and basil.  Drizzle the vinaigrette all over, and crown with the capers.  Serve the lemon quarters on the side, and maybe some good warm Poilâne-style bread.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 1 Comment
Share

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

Dinner for Two: Little Italy Sausage’n'Beans

RECIPE: Mulberry Street Cassoulet

My favorite food in the world is cassoulet.  It’s rustic, filling, hearty, and so, so good.  But it doesn’t only have to be French.  While the traditional version takes a million minutes and a few different kinds of confit to make, this Mulberry Street version only takes one pot and fifteen minutes, and is a kind of fresh riff on the Italian favorite sausage and broccoli rabe.

Start with some really, really good pork sausage flavored with garlic and herbs.  Sweet Italian sausage works perfectly.  Nestle it into a pot with canned cannellini beans, whole cloves of garlic, fresh rosemary, broccolini, and olive oil.  Add just a little bit of broth or water or wine, bring it to the boil, and then nestle the whole thing under the broiler.  The sausages with blister and crack, the beans will toast, the garlic will go all soft and sweet, and the broccolini with become tender-crisp.  You have your meat, starch, and veg all in one place, and the perfect rustic, romantic meal to throw on top of a red and white checked table cloth decorated with scattered melting candles stuck in wine bottles.  Unfortunately, I can’t help with the accordion player, but otherwise, you’ve pretty much set the scene!  The perfect downtown dinner for two.

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

Mulberry Street Cassoulet
serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • About 1 pound of sweet pork sausage links
  • 1 bunch broccolini, stems chopped into small circles, florets left whole
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated and left in their wrappers
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of water, vegetable stock, chicken stock, or white wine
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

PROCEDURE

Arrange the oven rack in the center position.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  In a high-sided sautépan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat.  Add the sausages, and just brown lightly on the bottom.  Take the pan off the heat, and add the broccolini, garlic, and rosemary, and toss to coat in the oil.  Add the beans, and whatever liquid you choose, and season the whole mix with chili flakes, if using, and salt and pepper.  Nestle everything down into the liquid, and make sure the sausages are poking out on top.  The liquid will only come about halfway up the side of sausages.  Drizzle the top of the pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Put the pot back on the heat, covered, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat all the way down, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.  Then, remove the lid, and place the whole pot in the oven for 15 minutes.  You may want to turn on the broiler at the end for another 2 minutes to make sure the sausage is super crispy.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 5 Comments
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series