Franglais (is back!): The Ultimate Raclette Grilled Cheese Sandwich

RECIPE: The Ultimate Raclette Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Raclette Grilled Cheese

Raclette Grilled Cheese. Look at that ooze!

I can’t believe I didn’t actually discover raclette in France.  It was in London (for shame!).  And being the cheese lover that I am, I’m shocked that it took me until my late twenties to make such an epic discovery.  The guys at the Kappacasein cheese stall at Borough Market secure huge wheels of the semi-soft, pungent cheese under special-made broilers, that heat, melt, bubble, and char the top layer of cheese exposed to the heat.  That cheese is then scraped off the wheel—and right onto a plate of fluffy potatoes, with some cornichons on the side to add some bite to cut through the fat.  It’s just something that everyone should put in his or her mouth every once in a while.  It’s primaly, undeniably, resolution-floutingly delicious.

But I don’t have a special raclette grill at home, and I don’t eat it often enough to warrant buying one.  Nor do I always feel like trekking down to Borough Market.  So I came up with this ultimate grilled cheese as the antidote to a raclette-less life.   The key to this simple sandwich is to use the best ingredients you can find: the best bread (Poiâne if you can swing it), raclette (you’ll need to find a terrific cheesemonger), mayonnaise (excellent imported French mayo, which has a mustardy, vinegary edge that adds a lot to the sandwich), and sea salt (fleur de sel or Maldon preferred, for salinity as well as crunch).  This may seem nitpicky, but I’ll explain.

The best thing about raclette is that it can actually toast.  Much like a Gruyère on top of an onion soup, it can brown and crisp and char, adding a different texture and flavor to the oozy, gooey bits of cheese under the toasted crown.  By using an airy pain au levain with a great crust, you create tiny little holes through with the raclette can melt as you toast the sandwich.  So, the inside cheese is gooey and runny, like a pungent mozzarella, and the crust of the sandwich is a crispy combination of toasted sourdough, sea salt, a swipe of sharp French mayonnaise, and little rivulets of toasted cheese.  So you get the experience of a real raclette grill with just a stove and a skillet.  A little American ingenuity and a lot of great French flavor.  This is my ultimate grilled cheese.  Bon app!

From my column Franglais on The Huffington Post. Continue reading

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series, Vegetarian
 

Triple-Fried, Triple Citrus Goose Fat Frites

RECIPE: Triple Fried, Triple Citrus Goose Fat Frites
Triple Citrus Frites

Triple Citrus Goose Fat Frites. Idaho potatoes never had it so good!

If you’re looking for a recipe to beat the winter blues, look no further.  This is my ultimate comfort food: matchstick potatoes, deep fried in goose fat (three times so they’re the pinnacle of crisp).  I top them with sea salt I crumble between my fingers and the zest of oranges, lemons, and limes.  It’s an idea I picked up at the old Spring when it used to be in Montmartre: they’d serve them with lobster rolls.  Not too shabby.

I entered this recipe in the winter citrus contest on Food 52.  Check it out!

Triple Fried, Triple Citrus Goose Fat Frites
serves 2 to 3

Triple Citrus FritesINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of Idaho potatoes (about 2 potatoes)
  • Goose fat for frying
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • Maldon sea salt

PROCEDURE

Wash the potatoes well, but leave their skins on.  Use a mandoline to carefully slice them into matchsticks.  Place the matchsticks in a big bowl of cold water, and swish them around as though they were in a washing machine, to wash all the starch off.  Drain the potatoes, and pat them extremely dry using paper towels or a clean dishcloth.

Fill your frying vessel, preferably a medium-sized deep enameled cast iron pan, with at least 3 inches of goose fat.  Heat the oil to 325°F.  Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, fry the potatoes for 2½ minutes.  Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Continue until all the potatoes are fried.

Raise the oil temperature to 360°F and repeat the same process, only this time fry the potatoes for only 1 minute.  Drain the first batch, and repeat the process for all the potatoes.  Then raise the heat to 375°F.  Repeat the process again, still working in small batch.  This time, fry the potatoes for only 15 seconds, until they are golden brown and crisp.  Drain on a fresh set of paper towels, and season immediately with salt and citrus.  You will want 8 Microplane swipes each from the orange, the lemon, and the lime.  Crumble the Maldon salt between your fingers, salting the frites to taste.  Use your fingertips to gently toss the salt and citrus zest amongst the frites.  Eat right away!

NOTE

If you can't find goose fat, you can use duck fat, or just a light vegetable oil.

 

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The Secret Ingredient (Avocado): Chunky Charred Fresh Tuna and Avocado Salsa with Corn Chips

RECIPE: Chunky Charred Fresh Tuna and Avocado Salsa with Corn Chips
20120112TunaAvocadoSalsa

Chunky Charred Fresh Tuna and Avocado Salsa

Tuna and avocado are a pretty handsome pair.  Not quite so obvious as peanut butter and jelly, but sometimes the best matches aren’t the most obvious.  When you stop to think of it, as I just did, tuna and avocado are everywhere.  Tuna-avocado rolls are a sushi staple.  My mom used mashed avocado in her tuna salad instead of mayonnaise.  And sliced avocado usually shows up as a garnish on tuna burgers.

This dish was a huge hit: a kind of blurring of salsa and tartare.  I rub a tuna steak in olive oil and smoky, spicy herbs, and char it just to get a little bit of the grilled flavor.  Then, I dice it up, along with diced avocado, tomato, jalapeno, green onion, and cilantro.  A drenching of citrus juice, and a swig of olive oil, and nothing so delicious has even been scooped up on a corn chip before.  You can definitely serve this as an appetizer to share, but it also makes a phenomenal lunch.

Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats. Continue reading

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

Chouquettes

RECIPE: Really Easy Chouquettes
Simple Chouquettes

Simple Chouquettes. What a way to wake up!

I still remember my first chouquette.

I’m not big on breakfast.  While it’s most people’s favorite meal, it’s something I usually resolve to eat around this time every year.  Mostly, I fail.  But one fine morning, I was in Paris and on my way to cooking school.  Cooking school is not for the faint of heart or the empty of stomach.  You need calories to burn.  So as I passed by the bakery around the corner from Le Cordon Bleu, I gazed into the window for some inspiration.

In a little cloth-lined basket, I saw a stack of something I’d never noticed before.  Puffs of crisp dough, covered in a crust of pearl sugar.  I asked what they were.  That baker was never friendly and replied with a terse, “chouquettes”.  I realized I was on my own, so I ordered a handful.  With my first bite it hit me: profiterole shells.  They are profiterole shells, without all the sweetness of cream and chocolate.  Just the simple, air-filled, balloon of a shell, crisp on the outside, airy pocket inside, and covered in sugar.  A little bit eggy, just a little bit rich.  But light enough for a girl who hates breakfast.

They’re so easy to make at home, and so charming to serve in a little basket at brunch.  I add a slight American twist by serving them, and sometimes even injecting them, with an assortment of jams.

This post is cross-posted with EcoSalon.  Check it out! Continue reading

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Bakery, Bread & Butter, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Eat, Pastries, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Anchoïade

RECIPE: Anchoïade
Homemade Anchoïade

Homemade Anchoïade

I was thinking about what to make for my column last night, while watching British food TV.  The chef was doing a tour of the Canal de Midi, much as I have done over the last few summers, touring along Castelnaudary, down to Marseille.  It was just outside Marseille, in a town called Cassis, where I first had anchoïade (pronounced: an-show-ee-ad).  Provence is full of dips and pastes—like fabulous, fresh French ketchups, except so much more than that.  They are all made of the region’s signature produce: artichokes, peppers, eggplants, anchovies, olives, tomatoes, basil, and garlic, garlic, and more garlic.

A diamond-standard original is anchoïade, an anchovy spread or dip that I’ve made before.  But this is a far simpler, more honesty version.  I love serving it as a surprise alternative to tapenade, or as a French foil to bagna cauda.  Anchoïade, like most Provençal pastes, is usually banged together in a pestle and mortar, and made from just four ingredients: the best anchovies you can find, packed in olive oil, olive oil itself, preferably extra virgin, white wine vinegar, and, of course, GARLIC.  If anchovies are too salty, or too fishy for you, just soak the fillets in milk for 15 minutes before using them.  That’s also a useful trick for Pissaladière.

Bang together the four ingredients (you can also whiz them up in a food processor) and the anchoïade is done.  I like to serve it with crisp, sweet sugar snaps for a fresh, light crudité aperitif with white wine.  But in Cassis, I had it spooned over roasted sweet bell peppers, and I think it makes a terrific pairing with olive bread or breadsticks.  It’s unusual, quirky, and very local and regional to Provence.  Let’s just call it “le nouveau dip hipster”.

Anchoiade with Red Peppers

Served with roasted sweet peppers in Cassis

Creme d'Anchoiade

Anchoïade on sale in Provence

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

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The Secret Ingredient (Avocado): Mémé’s Avocado Carpaccio

RECIPE: Avocado Carpaccio
Avocado Carpaccio

Avocado Carpaccio

The other night, I was out to dinner at Haru in New York, a favorite sushi bar of ours where we often order outrageous rolls.  The Kiss of Fire with pickled and fresh jalapeños stacked over a rainbow of tunas.  The Golden Passion, with torch-charred super white tuna and yuzu tobiko.  The Kamikaze, the Spider.  The list goes on.

“I want an avocado roll,” I announced.

“An avocado roll!?” they incredulous exclaimed.  “Really?”

They thought I was being boring.  But it’s my absolute favorite.  A sparse stick of avocado at the heart: creamy, buttery, vegetal.  Perfect with a hint of salty soy and the snap of nori.  Avocado, I thought to myself, is a phenomenal ingredient.

So here we are: avocado is January’s secret ingredient for a number of reasons.  First, as I mentioned, it tastes ridiculously awesome.  Second, and let’s be real, it’s January, and I need something healthy in my life and in my body.  Third, it’s texture is so adaptable, and it’s flavor so mild, that you can really do myriad phenomenal dishes with avocado.  I’m not going to teach you how to roll an avocado roll, because some things are best left to the experts.  And I’m not going to do guacamole, because I covered recently in our chipotle month.  And I’m not going to do avocado gelato, because I doubt you’ll actually make it, but I wanted to mention it because if you can find some, you must try it.  In the spirit of avocado month.  But I think that we are going to do some fantastic avocado dishes this month, starting with Mémé’s Avocado Carpaccio.

Mémé is my French-Moroccan grandmother.  Every Moroccan family begins a big meal with a spread of salads: carrot salads, beet salads, chili salads, cucumber and tomato salads, eggplant salads.  And in Mémé’s case, avocado salads.  She makes this simple fan of avocado, and floods it in lemon juice and olive oil.  She bedazzles each Hass half with slivers of scallion, cilantro, and parsley, and then adds the crunch and flavor of flour de sel.  It’s gorgeous, simple, healthy.  Buttery and fresh.  Light and decadent.  In short, it’s perfect.  I love serving it to kick off a healthy fish dinner.

Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats. Continue reading

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Individual, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Cassoulet-Style Sausage ‘n’ Beans

RECIPE: Cassoulet-Style Sausage 'n' Beans
Cassoulet-Style Sausage 'n' Beans

Cassoulet-Style Sausage 'n' Beans

I think of French dishes like boyfriends. I remember asking “grown-ups” how they knew they’d met the loves of their lives. They’d always say something cheesy like, “You just know.” I’d roll my eyes. That’s ridiculous.

And then, last summer, I met cassoulet. Brawny, rich but humble, supportive, with an excellent lineage and a bright future. It’s what the French call a coup de foudre—love at first bite. And I just knew. Cassoulet is my favorite French dish. Bouillabaisse. Bourguignon. Gigot à Sept Heures. All just flings! Every moment that I’m away from cassoulet, I’m thinking about it.

I was lucky enough to spend last summer outside of Toulouse near the famous birthplace of cassoulet: Castelnaudary. Cassoulet, if you haven’t yet become acquainted, is a simple, hearty dish from the southwest of France made of duck, goose, or pork confit; garlicky sausage; pork; white beans; and breadcrumbs. It’s life-altering, despite its simplicity. Despite the summer heat, or perhaps in amorous defiance of it, I ate cassoulet every other night, forgetting waistline, expense, and all common decency. I ate it out of a can and I ate it at the best restaurants. And now, so far away from it, I can’t stop craving, and wishing, and hoping, and dreaming about it.

Here’s my quick fix because this is, after all, French in a Flash, and homemade goose confit does not fit under the “in a Flash” heading: white beans flavored with smoky bacon, sausage drippings, herbs, garlic, and wine, crowned with sausage and super-flavorful breadcrumbs. I bake it for 20 minutes, and dive in. Not quite cassoulet, but close enough to the real thing that I can stop crying for one meal.

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

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