French in a Flash: Thick Celeriac Soup with Gruyère

RECIPE: Thick Celeriac Soup with Gruyères
Celeriac Soup

Celeriac Soup with Gruyère melting into it...

The first thing that hits me about celeriac is the smell.  It’s like the forest floor and a cabbage patch and a grassy field all at once.  It is so intensely vegetal.  And let’s face it: few vegetables can tread the line between root vegetable and garden vegetable with such success.  It has the bulk and heartiness of the likes of a potato, but the lightness and brightness of a very mild celery.  It’s gorgeous.  And because so few people really eat or make it in the States, it’s that smell that immediately takes me to France, and makes me feel like I’m having something ever so special.

This soup was inspired by a Vichyssoise, if you consider a Vichyssoise to be a thick soup of root vegetable and onion, rather than exclusively potato and leek.  The soup is simply celeriac, caramelized shallots, thyme, and vegetable broth, simmered and blended together until it’s thick and creamy, even though there’s not a drop of cream.  In the age old French tradition of stirring grated cheese into hot soups, I serve it with a mound of grated Gruyère to be melted and stirred into the thick and steaming soup.  The result is a hearty soup with the lightness and smell of a garden, punctuated by the slight sweetness of the caramelized shallots and the earthiness of thyme.  The Gruyère does magical things, adding that salty nuttiness that I love, and oozing into the soup.  If you make one soup this fall, it has to be this one!

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

Thick Celeriac Soup with Gruyères
serves 4

Celeriac SoupINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 small shallots, finely sliced
  • 1/4 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 3/4 pounds celery root, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • Grated Gruyère, for serving

PROCEDURE

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat until frothy.  Add the shallots, and cook on medium-low to medium heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Keep a cup of water on the side, and add a splash every few minutes to keep the shallots from burning before they are caramelized.

Add the potatoes, celery root, thyme, salt, pepper, and vegetable broth, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering for 30 minutes.  Add the contents of the pot to a blender, and carefully purée until smooth.  Serve very hot, with a big pile of coarsely grated Gruyère to pile on top and melt into the soup.

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

The Secret Ingredient (Chipotle): Chipotle Ketchup

RECIPE: Chipotle Ketchup

Chipotle KetchupMaybe I say this every month.  It’s very possible.  But Chipotle has been my absolute favorite Secret Ingredient to date.  Which may be why I’m doing five recipes instead of the usual three.

Chipotles are smoked jalapenos.  But, they are somewhat different than the usual jalapeno you’d buy at the store.  Green jalapenos are picked when the pepper is slightly unripe.  Like bell peppers, the longer a jalapeno stays on the vine, the more its color deepens from green to red.  So jalapenos meant for chipotles are left on the vine until they become deep red in color, then dry a bit, and are finally harvested.  Once they are harvested, they are smoked over a period of days until they are quite dry, like a prune.  Then, they go on to many different forms, the one I prefer being canned chipotle in adobo, where the peppers are packed and rehydrated in a vinegar-based sauce with onions and flavorings, that becomes a secret ingredient all on its own.

Chipotles can be used in all sorts of complicated dishes, slow cooking with pork, or co-chairing a fantastic guacamole with avocados.  But one simple preparation that I often see on haute-casual brunch menus is chipotle ketchup, served simply with fries.  The smoky, earthy spiciness of the chipotles add a great kick to the ketchup, but the adobo, with its similar spices and vinegar content to ketchup just kicks the whole thing up, while still staying in the vein of the original ketchup.  The result is something seamless that simply works.

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

Chipotle Ketchup
makes 1 1/3 cups

Chipotle KetchupINGREDIENTS

  • 1 14-ounce bottle of ketchup
  • 2 chipotles in adobo
  • 1 tablespoons adobo

PROCEDURE

Put all the ingredients in the blend, and whiz until smooth.  Serve with fries.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Dips, Spreads, Preserves, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Quick-Braised Young Leeks with Parmesan and Thyme

RECIPE: Quick-Braised Young Leeks with Parmesan and Thyme
Baby Leeks with Parmesan and Thyme

Baby Leeks with Parmesan and Thyme

Sometimes, for this column, I have a very distinct thing that I want to do.  Like, Celeriac Remoulade.  And then I pace and puff and pout my way around a supermarket, hunting for the celery roots that are never going to be found, because they’re not in season.  This week, I did as the French do (probably very appropriate given the nature of this column), and just wandered the produce aisle, looking for something to strike my fancy.  And I found them, baby leeks.  They’ve been so trendy for so long, which is something you don’t say everyday.  So, I figured, let’s give them a whirl.

My flavor inspiration came from Thanksgiving stuffing, the onion and thyme action with a salty bite.  I do a quick blanch on the leeks, and then toss them with olive oil and whole thyme leaves and a bit of nutty Parmesan, and then put them into a hot oven to have everything crisp and crumble into each other.  The result is such a beautiful, unusual side dish, full of soft, mellow onion flavor, and charred, woodsy strands of thyme, and nutty, salty Parmesan.  Hey, ’tis the season.  Might as well get with the times.

Excerpted from my weekly column “French in a Flash” on Serious Eats.
Quick-Braised Young Leeks with Parmesan and Thyme
serves 2

Baby Leeks with Parmesan and ThymeINGREDIENTS

  • 6 ounces baby leeks, tips and dark greens trimmed away
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 10 small sprigs thyme
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Halve the leeks lengthwise.  Place the butter and water and salt in a sauté pan over high heat.  Add the leeks in a single layer, and place the lid askew over the pot.  Cook until the water has just evaporate, about 7 minutes.

Gently toss the leeks with the olive oil and add the whole thyme sprigs.  Roast in the oven until just slightly golden, about 3 minutes.  Scatter the Parmesan over the leeks, and return to the oven for 1 minute more.  Serve on the side, or on top, of chicken or fish.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

Franglais: Onion-Ring Leeks

RECIPE: Onion-Ring Leeks
Onion Ring Leeks

Onion-Ring Leeks

I always go for comfort food, but there are times when I want my vegetables to be a bit more stilettos than sweat pants.

Enter the leek.

The unsung heroe of French food.  Any stock, any soup, any sauce—should have a sign graffitied across the plate, “leeks were here!”.  Their leaves are used in bouquet garni, tied and bound, then thrown away.  They are braised in sauces, then strained out.  And thrown away.  They are simmered in stocks, with bones, and peppercorns.  And then thrown away.  For every ten times you’ve tasted a leek, maybe they’ve actually crossed your lips once.  It’s a crying shame.

Every once in a very long while, when leeks are the star of the show, and get their day in the sun, they are in that single, solitary moment highbrow, exotic, and very French.  Leeks have the mild onion flavor of a shallot, but less sweet, and a bit more vegetal with a hint of celery.  Hearty in constitution, but delicate in flavor.  I love to shred them superfine and toss them in flour, and then fry them until they’re frizzled, and pile them high on top of seared steaks or crisp fishes.  This version is a step up from that, thick strands of leeks soaked in buttermilk and coated in an onion-ring breading of flour and cornmeal.  I fry them until they are crisp, and season them with salt, and maybe a pinch of piment d’Espelette.  I like them as an appetizer, with a wedge of lemon.  Or on the side of a light grilled steak.  They soften, and caramelize, and are crisp and soft and sweet and salty at once.  To be blunt, they are delicious.  A treasure, buried at the bottom of your stockpot, or garbage can.

To everything there is a season.  And I believe the leeks shall inherit the earth.

Excerpted from my weekly column Franglais on The Huffington Post.

Onion-Ring Leeks
serves 2 to 4

Onion-Ring Leeks

serves 2 to 4

 

Onion Ring LeeksINGREDIENTS

  • 1 leek, cut into thick strips
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • Canola oil for frying

PROCEDURE

Leave the leeks to soak for 15 minutes in the buttermilk. Meanwhile, mix together the flour, cornmeal, and salt.  Fill a cast iron skillet with 1 inch of canola oil, and heat it to 375°F.

Allow the excess buttermilk to drip away, and dredge the leeks, individually, in the flour mixture.  Fry in small batches until crisp and golden brown, from 1 to 3 minutes.  Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with extra salt.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Cheap, Eat, For a Crowd, Franglais, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

Working Girl Dinners: Bruschetta Sea Bass

RECIPE: Bruschetta Sea Bass
Bruschetta Bass

Bruschetta Bass

I eat bruschetta at least once a week.  In fact, I’m getting ready to make it for lunch today.  I like it simple, tomatoes tossed with olive oil and salt, maybe some torn fresh basil, piled onto toasted good bread that I sometimes rub with garlic.  It’s light, and healthy, and easy, and perfect.  When I’ve over done it, which is often (I had two dinners last night: a brie sandwich at 6 AND fish and chips at 10), this is what I revert back to.

For dinner, if I want something similar, but more elegant, or more hearty, I actually turn a piece of Chilean sea bass into bruschetta.  The fish is thick, but buttery and flaky, and I sear it in olive oil, super simply, just until it’s crispy on the edges, and just cooked through.  Then, and this is the secret, I rub it with a cut clove of garlic.  Like with garlic bread, but it’s garlic fish.  So good.  Then, I pile it high with a salad of tomatoes, and olive oil, and basil, so all the tomato juices run down into the ravines in the fish, and the salad is so fresh and light you can’t help feeling like some virtuous kitchen saint, when really you’re eating something so good, you don’t care about actually being good.  You’re going to love it, plus, it dresses up nice for company.  Bon app!

Bruschetta Sea Bass
serves 2

Bruschetta BassINGREDIENTS

  • 2 5 to 6-ounce boneless, skinless Chilean sea bass fillets
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ½ pint grape tomatoes
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic

PROCEDURE

Season the fish with salt.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.  Place the fish presentation-side-down in the hot oil, sear until golden brown, about 4½ minutes.  Flip the fish, and sear another 2 to 2½ minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes in a mini food processor to a chunky chop (you can do this by hand too).  Stir with basil and remaining olive oil,  and salt.

When the fish is done, cut the garlic clove in half, and rub the cut end all over the hot fish.  Divide the tomato salad over the top, or on the side, of the fish, and serve right away.  Bon app!

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

Smoking Hot Chipotle Fried Fish

RECIPE: Smoking Hot Chipotle Fried Fish
Chipotle Fried Fish

Chipotle Fried Fish

As a London resident, I have become a bar-none fried fish fanatic.  The juxtaposition of that crispy exterior with a soft and steaming interior of flaky fish is so scrumptious.  And so satisfying.  I use a po’ boy preparation on these mahi mahi fillets.  Usually, I soak oysters in buttermilk, then coat them in a flour-cornmeal mixture before frying and stuffing them into soft French bread.  For this fish, I whiz the buttermilk up with smoky, spicy chipotle in adobo, that infuses the fish with all that charred, vinegary heat.  Only then do I coat it in that crispy cornmeal coating.  Pile this hot, crispy, spicy fish onto a hoagie roll with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mayo for a New Orleans-style po’ boy.  Or slice it and bury it into the Chipotle Slaw tacos from a few weeks ago.  Or serve it on a charred bun with some of next week’s Chipotle Ketchup.  It’s simple, inexpensive, a little bit special, and seriously good.

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

Smoking Hot Chipotle Fried Fish
serves 4

Chipotle Fried FishINGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 4 chipotles
  • 8 teaspoons of adobo
  • 4 6-ounce fillets of mahi mahi
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal

PROCEDURE

In a blender, whiz together the buttermilk, chipotles, and adobo.  Place in a large sealable baggie with the fish, and marinate for 1 hour.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a cast iron skillet, and preheat to 375°F.  Mix together the salt, flour, and cornmeal.  Dredge the fish in the coating, and then fry, two at a time, for 3 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve with lemon wedges, or on a bun with chipotle cole slaw.

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Categories: Cheap, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

Fluffy Truffled Scrambled Eggs

RECIPE: Fluffy Black Truffled Scrambled Eggs
Black Truffle Scrambled Eggs

Fluffy Black Truffled Scrambled Eggs

If there was ever a breakfast that you’d eat in a silk robe and really fluffy slippers, this is it.  Huge chunks of fluffy egg, tempered with half and half.  And best of all, studded and stirred with heady, earthy, better-than-anything black truffle butter.  Could a day ever start out more luxuriously?

The trick to these eggs is to beat some soft black truffle butter into the eggs themselves, so that as the eggs cook, the butter melts in, leaving flecks of the extra-special ingredient like black gold all throughout mounds of fluffy moonlight eggs.  The second trick is to move the eggs very little as they cook, so they form large fluffy clouds.  Fluffy truffled scrambled eggs just screams bellinis in bed, but it’s also perfect for real life.  It takes seconds to whip together, and uses only four ingredients.

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

Fluffy Black Truffled Scrambled Eggs
serves 2 to 4

Black Truffle Scrambled EggsINGREDIENTS

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black truffle butter, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons, softened
  • Nonstick spray

PROCEDURE

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt and pepper, and 2 teaspoons softened black truffle butter until well combined.

Spray the skillet lightly with nonstick spray.  Add the remaining truffle butter, and once it has melted, add the eggs.  Allow it to cook for at least 20 seconds.  Only then, drag a silicone spatula from the edges of the pan, to the center, moving the cooked egg from the bottom in big clumps, and making room for the uncooked egg to settle on the bottom of the pan.  Do this a few more times, until the eggs are just set.  They will cook for a total of about 2 minutes.  Serve right away.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Eat, Eggs, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series