Dinner for Two: Crispy Broiled Scallops and Chorizo

RECIPE: Crispy Broiled Scallops and Chorizo
Crispy Broiled Scallops and Chorizo

Crispy Broiled Scallops and Chorizo

I have a serious food crush on seafood with pork.  Here in London, a restaurant called J. Sheekey’s Oyster Bar makes squid and wild boar cassoulet.  My heart stops.  It is literally all I live for.

And while I can’t exactly make cassoulet any ol’ night of the week, much less with wild boar, I can still get that combination of down-home deliciousness and elegance that the combination offers.  Enter, my Crispy Broiled Scallops and Chorizo.

To me, cooking for two means limiting not just my time spent, but also my ingredients.  I don’t want to go out and spend a fortune stocking my cupboard with things I’m only going to use once, and in such a small quantity.  And when cooking with just a few ingredients, it’s important to make each one count, so that the food is exciting and tempting, not boring.

This dish is the perfect example.  I start with scallops, because scallops are sweet and rich and always feel like a treat.  But, the bay scallops are cheaper than the big fancy scallops, and they cook a lot more quickly.  And Spanish chorizo is bang for your buck.  In it, you get the salty meaty flavor of the ham, that gorgeous burnt red smoky flavor of the paprika, and tons of garlic.  And I only had to buy one thing!  Toss the chorizo and scallops together, and automatically the fat and flavor melts out of the chorizo in the oven and bathes and crisps the scallops.  Gorgeous!  I top the whole thing with panko crumbs for crunch and fresh baby greens for something light. Continue reading

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French in a Flash: Vegetarian Grilled Zucchini Croque Mademoiselle

RECIPE: Chargrilled Zucchini Croque Mademoiselle
Chargrilled Zucchini Croque Mademoiselle

Chargrilled Zucchini Croque Mademoiselle

There’s a place downstairs from my old apartment in Paris called the Horse’s Tavern Café.  It has an inside, but I’ve never seen it.  For me, it’s all about sitting at the tables that tumble forth out of the front door and onto the Carrefour Odéon, and ordering from their ‘Croques‘ menu: a whole list of different melted cheese sandwiches.  I love the one that comes with prosciutto instead of regular Paris ham.  But there’s also three cheese.  And a whole array of different hams.  I’m like a kid in a ham candy store.

But the vegetarian options are limited, and because I spent twelve years as a vegetarian, I wanted to create one as amazing as the traditional Croque Monsieur, and all the other croque options at the Horse’s Tavern.  This version uses chargrilled, herbes de Provence-scented zucchini, for that same smoky ham taste, and that bite of something other than cheese that adds interest to the sandwich.  I sandwich the zucchini between two piles of Emmenthaler and two slices of rustic white sandwich bread, and toast.  Then, I smother the top of the sandwich a with béchamel punched up with Dijon mustard and a fresh scrape of nutmeg, and another blanket of cheese.  Into the broiler to bubble and blister, and you have a big, fork-and-knife, Horse’s Tavern-worthy vegetarian Croque.  Just a little more delicate that the Monsieur, so I call it the Mademoiselle.

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

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Eat, French in a Flash, Paris, Recipes, Restaurants, Sandwiches, Series, Vegetarian, Voyages
 

Dinner for Two: Hot Hot Hot Chipotle Steak Tacos

RECIPE: Fiery Chipotle Soft Tacos with Charred Scallions, Cilantro, and Avocado Cream
Hot Hot Hot Chipotle Steak Tacos

Hot Hot Hot Chipotle Steak Tacos

When cooking for two, and living as two, it’s important to keep the fire alive.  In other words, to keep things hot in the kitchen.

As in, taco night.  Of course.

Traditionally, for me, taco night was one of those completely impractical but absolutely unmissable bimonthly family events.  We had all kinds of incarnations: black bean tacos.  Jumbo shrimp tacos.  Spicy turkey tacos.  But they all had one thing in common: seventeen and a half components each, all made from scratch, and forty-two plates to wash afterwards.  The very thing that makes tacos so perfect for a dozen ravenous friends—the million little bowls brimming with different salsas and toppings and guacamoles—is the very same thing that makes it so fun and amazing, and also so completely and ridiculously impractical for two people.

Until now.  Just because I’ve left my mother’s house and am now living à deux doesn’t mean my love or need for tacos has diminished.  So I set myself the challenge of developing a taco night that’s practical for two.

Here’s the plan: buy an inexpensive flank steak and a can of chipotles in adobo.  Whiz up the contents of the can of chipotles in a mini food processor and instantly it creates this spicy, smoky, savory marinade that you pour all over the steak.  Grill the steak on a hot grill pan right on the stove, along with some fresh green onions (such a great taco combo).  Slice up the charred, hot, crusted steak and the green onions, and pile them into warm corn tortillas along with some simple toppings: finely preshredded cabbage (just buy it like that!), torn leaves of cilantro, a spritz of lime, and a quick mash up of sour cream and avocado to cool things down.  It all happens in one pan, but the flavors and textures are as fun and tantalizing and complex as any hi-falutin’ family taco night out there.  Maybe even a tad more sophisticated, because after all, I am now officially all grown up.

Here’s to keeping the spice in life, and to feeling the heat.

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

Fiery Chipotle Soft Tacos with Charred Scallions, Cilantro, and Avocado Cream
serves 2 (maybe 3)

Hot Hot Hot Chipotle Steak TacosINGREDIENTS

  • 1 7-ounce can of chipotle in adobo
  • 1 1 1/3-pound flank steak
  • Sea salt
  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 bunch of scallions, trimmed
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • A handful or two of thinly shredded cabbage (I buy a bag of preshredded cole slaw cabbage)
  • A big handful of torn cilantro leaves
  • 8 5 1/2-inch corn tortillas

PROCEDURE

In a small food processor, blitz all the contents of the can of chipotle in adobo until smooth.  Season the flank steak with salt, and place it in a large plastic baggie with the chipotle puree.  Rub the marinade all over the steak.  Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Preheat a grill pan over high heat.  Lightly drizzle the grill with oil.  On one side of the grill, place the steak.  On the other side, grill the scallions until soft and charred.  Chop and set aside.  Grill the steak about 8 to 8 1/2 minutes on each side for medium doneness.  Set aside to rest for 10 minutes, then thinly slice.

While the steak rests, blitz together the avocado and sour cream in a small food processor.  Set out the lime, cabbage, and cilantro.  To warm the tortillas, wet a paper towel and wring it out so that it is just damp.  Wrap the stack of tortillas in the damp paper towel and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Wrap in foil to keep warm until you’re ready.

Assemble the tacos as you like: a warm tortilla, a handful of cabbage, some steak, scallions, and cilantro, topped with a spoonful of avocado cream and a spritz of lime juice.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series
 

French in a Flash: Lighten Up Summer Zucchini Gratin

RECIPE: Fresh Zucchini Crumble
Zucchini Gratin

Zucchini Gratin

If there’s one thing I love about French home cookin’, it’s a gratin.

But, gratins are pretty hard to justify.  Especially with the onset of summer.  Gratins and beaches mix about as well as oil and water.  That is to say, not at all.

So I’ve recently gone on this ‘gratin-lite’ kick: baked dishes that have the same kind of bubbling creaminess and comforting crusty top as my favorite, say, potato Dauphinoise, but just a bit lighter.  This particular zucchini version is inspired by a zucchini crumble I had about two summers ago in Avignon at a restaurant called Le Moutardier, because it was built on the site of the old mustard maker back when the pope lived in Avignon.  There’s not a lot of mustard there now, but there is a breathtaking zucchini crumble on the menu, made with mint and cheese, that inspired this summer gratin. Continue reading

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Categories: Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Dinner for Two: White Bean Shrimp Scampi on Grilled Garlic-Rubbed Bread

RECIPE: Grilled Garlic Bread with White Bean Shrimp Scampi
Grilled Garlic Bread with White Bean Shrimp Scampi

Grilled Garlic Bread with White Bean Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi. It may have sunk to diner fare, but then again, diners are kind of where you go to eat any kind of food you REALLY want. Nothing beats those jumbo, juicy shrimp, stewed in white wine with garlic and butter. The parsley is that something green that justifies the ostrich-sized nest of linguine beneath the shrimp. So decadent, and messy, and tangled, and happy.

I love this sleek, modern twist on my beloved scampi.

Char up some thick country bread drizzled in olive oil, and rub it with garlic. Then top it with a five-minute, one-pot stew of meaty shrimp, creamy, comforting cannellini beans, even more garlic, white wine, and just a touch of butter for authenticity. I toss in a handful of parsley or arugula or both, then pour it over the charred garlic bread. The sauce soaks into the crusts, and the shrimp and beans together are so hearty and garlicky and good. Eat this with someone you love, and who loves you. (There’s a lot of garlic.)

White Bean Shrimp Scampi 2

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

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

French in a Flash: Creamy Mussels with Sauce Roquefort

RECIPE: Mussels with Creamy Roquefort Sauce
Creamy Mussels with Sauce Roquefort

Creamy Mussels with Sauce Roquefort

My stepfather comes from Normandy, which I secretly love for the extremely selfish reason that it means I get to go to a whole different part of France, and eat.  To go where I ordinarily wouldn’t, and to eat what I would otherwise dream of eating.  Mussels.

Across the bridge from Le Havre, which was destroyed in World War II and was rather hastily rebuilt, resides an adorable little seaside town called Honfleur.  There, the harbor is lined with little restaurants, cafés, and bistros.  Some worth their salt.  The dish to get is mussels.  In America, we prize the giant black beasts, but in France, you get tiny, sweet, succulent little mussels that I so much prefer.  They come as a meal: a million little mussels in a great enameled iron pot, the lid of which quickly becomes the bowl for your million little shells.  On the side comes the torn baguette and side of crunchy, salty fries.  And at the bottom of your great mussel pot comes the sauce you ordered.  You can, if you’re enterprising, try about twenty sauces.  Marinière, made with white wine and onions.  Dijon, made with mustard.  Cream, which is Marinière with sweet, thick Normandy cream stirred in.  Provençal, made with garlic and tomatoes.  Garlic.  Cider.  Beer.  Pistou.  And maybe the most unique, and certainly my favorite: Roquefort.  The Cream sauce with sharp, pungent blue Roquefort cheese melted in.  Gorgeous! Continue reading

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French in a Flash: Seared Rare Niçoise Tuna Lettuce Cups

RECIPE: Seared Rare Tuna Niçoise Lettuce Wraps
Niçoise Tuna Lettuce Wraps

Niçoise Tuna Lettuce Wraps

Nothing makes me run for salad like the first sight of springtime sunshine. All I want are bright, light things that still fill me up after a day at the office. I love a classic, but a classic can be so much more fun when you have a little irreverent play with it.

Take the Niçoise salad: torn leaves topped with potatoes, egg, green beans, tomatoes, and canned tuna and anchovies. My favorite restaurant in Paris has a perennial dish on the menu called “Niçoise à Ma Façon,” or, “Niçoise Salad, My Way.” It’s a life-altering tumble of baby gem lettuce, slightly soft French green beans, new potatoes, crumbled purple potato chips, caper berries, anchovies, canned albacore, slivered pickled garlic, fried shallots, and hard boiled egg, tossed in a creamy, soft lemon dressing. A Niçoise salad is the kind of quotidian dish that you eat without consequence at a million other places, but you come back from Paris talking about Niçoise à Ma Façon.

Inspired, I took a shot a trying Niçoise à My Façon. I bag the canned fish for barely seared rare fresh tuna and good white marinated anchovies, dice them up with fresh, crisp haricots verts and baby grape tomatoes and hearty purple or golden potatoes, and then hit it with briny olives and capers, fresh basil, and bright lemon and olive oil. I spoon the mixture into delicate lettuce cups and eat them like tacos. Provençal at its best!

Niçoise Tuna Lettuce Cups Close Up
Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats. Continue reading
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad