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
 

Oh-So-Easy Baked Camembert Corkscrews

RECIPE: Oh-So-Easy Baked Camembert Corkscrews
Camembert Corkscrews

Camembert Corkscrews

You know in the cartoons, when Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck has some genius idea, and a light bulb goes off in the corner of the screen?  I may not have a tail or whiskers or feathers or be drawn in marker, but I swear that exact thing happened to me when I thought about mixing melted Camembert and pasta.

 

The method behind this easier-than-easy mac ‘n’ cheese comes from fondue.  Sometimes, for a lazy fondue, I buy a small round wheel of brie.  Wheels of brie come in little wooden boxes, and if you wrap those wooden boxes tightly in foil, nestle the brie in, and bake it for an hour, you have a seriously good fondue with no effort.  Just cut away a little hole in the rind, and dip in your bread and apples like a man going ice fishing.

 

For this recipe, I shove some garlic and herbs down into a wheel of pungent Camembert and let the whole thing melt together in the little foil box.  Then, I scoop out the inside of the cheese and put it in the blender with some starchy cooking water from the fusilli.  The result is a perfectly creamy sauce, that tastes of roasted garlic, thyme, and that pungent Camembert flavor that gets stuck in the twists and turns of the al dente corkscrew pasta.  It is so different, and addictive, and works as a big vegetarian bowl or as a side to a hearty meatloaf or roast chicken.  It’s familiar, but that extra kick of the Camembert makes it different and special and really, really good.

It may not be reinventing the wheel.  But it’s making damn good use of one.

Excerpted from my weekly column Franglais on The Huffington Post.

Oh-So-Easy Baked Camembert Corkscrews
serves 4

Camembert CorkscrewsINGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces Camembert (the round one in the wooden box)
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • The leaves from 4 stems thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound fusilli pasta

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Take the camembert out of the box, and cut the very top white rind off only the top of the cheese (leave the sides and bottom intact).  Wrap the box the cheese came in completely and tightly in foil.  Place the cheese cut side up back in its box.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top with the garlic and thyme.  Close the box, place it on a small rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour.

Boil the pasta until al dente is salted water.  Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid.  Add ¼ cup pasta cooking water to the blender, and scoop the melted cheese, leaving the white rind behind, into the blender as well.  Purée until smooth, and return to the pasta pot.

Add the pasta back in, and toss to coat.  Use the remaining pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary.  Serve right away.

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Categories: Easy, Eat, Franglais, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

WORKING GIRL DINNER: Rare Japanese Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayo and Pickled Ginger

RECIPE: Rare Japanese Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayo and Pickled Ginger

I am obsessed with tuna burgers.  They have that whole burger thing going on, with the bun, and the toppings, and the casualness of it all.  I love that familiarity and simplicity.  But I feel so much better after I eat tuna burgers than when I devour a bacon cheeseburger.  And while tuna burgers may seem to be the exclusive domain of restaurants, they are actually even easier to make at home, by far, than the regular beef version.

This tuna burger is home-ground, and flavored with a sprinkle of soy sauce.  I sear it, and serve it on a brioche roll with wasabi mayo, butter lettuce, and pickled ginger.  It’s like a tuna roll on a bun.  I leave the inside nice and rare, but the great thing about tuna burgers is that you can serve them exactly how you like them.  They take five minutes to make, stretch a dollar, and double as both gourmet and comforting.  I promise, these will be entering your regular rotation starting tonight.  (And I’ll be eating them with you!)

Japanese Tuna Burger

Rare Japanese Tuna Burger with Wasabi Mayo and Pickled Ginger

Rare Japanese Tuna Burgers with Wasabi Mayo and Pickled Ginger
serves 2

Japanese Tuna BurgerINGREDIENTS

  • 4 slider buns, halved horizontally
  • ¾ pound fresh sushi-grade tuna steak
  • 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon wasabi
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • Butter or Boston or Bibb lettuce
  • Pickled ginger

PROCEDURE

Preheat a large nonstick skillet on high heat, and place the buns, cut-side-down in the pan to lightly toast.  Remove them when they are golden brown.

While the buns are toasting, cut the tuna into chunks.  Put the chunks in a food processor with the soy sauce and a pinch of salt and pulse until the tuna has the same texture as ground beef.  Take the tuna out of the food processor, and form into 4 patties.

Make the wasabi mayonnaise by whisking together the wasabi and the mayonnaise.

Make the burgers.  With the pan on high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan and immediately put the tuna burgers in.  I cook them 30 to 60 seconds on each side, because I like them super rare.  Use a slotted spatula to flip them over.  Take the pan off the heat when you are done cooking the burgers.

Spread some wasabi mayo on each bun.  Top the burger with some lettuce (I forgot it in the video, but you should use it!) and pickled ginger.  Serve with cucumber salad on the side (I toss chunks of cucumbers with soy sauce and sesame seeds).  You’re done!

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