French in a Flash: Creamed Leeks

RECIPE: Creamed Leeks
Creamed Leeks

Creamed Leeks

Get the whole story on Serious Eats.

Nothing irks me more than the neglected vegetable.  It’s abusive–to the vegetable, for one, and to you, because you’re either missing out on your vegetables altogether, or eating ones that taste like mush.  Neither is acceptable.

I was vegetarian for twelve years, so I get a special thrill when I see vegetables done right.  Creamed leeks is not exactly something new in France, but it was new to me when I first had a bed of them underneath a simply sautéed fillet of fish.
The dish is simple: sliced leeks are sautéed down in a little bit of butter until they are soft, and sweet.  Then, I add cream and a dash of Parmesan (my addition to tradition).  The cream creates that texture that binds all the leeks together, and has that same savory-sweetness of the leeks themselves.  The Parmesan adds that punch of salt to wake it all up.  It’s so simple, but decadent.  And it goes perfectly with everything–under fish, seared chicken breasts, even sliced steak.  Why gild the lily?
Creamed Leeks
serves 4

Creamed LeeksINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large leeks, washed, and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan

PROCEDURE

In a nonstick sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and water, season with salt and pepper, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until the leeks are soft—10 minutes.  Stir in the cream and Parmesan, and serve.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

Working Girl Dinners: Multigrain Cacio e Pepe

RECIPE: Multigrain Cacio e Pepe
Multigrain Cacio e Pepe

Multigrain Cacio e Pepe

There is no denying that there’s something about pasta after a long day.  It’s done in ten minutes, and it fills you up in more ways than one.  There’s something undeniably comforting a too-big bowl of something warm and simple.  This is my healthed-up version of the Italian classic cacio e pepe, which I believe translates to Pecorino and black pepper.  Although, really, what’s in a name?  As long as it tastes good.

The traditional version is made with bavette, kind of like linguine, tossed with Pecorino cheese, and butter, and lots of black pepper.  I used multigrain spaghetti (love Barilla Plus), and add chopped baby arugula.  Both of them add nutrition, but also texture, and great flavor.  I actually prefer this dish with the whole grain pasta.  Its nuttiness goes with the cheese and pepper so perfectly.  The whole thing takes 10 minutes, and one pot.  You don’t even have to cook the sauce.  It’s that easy.

And then you have a big bowl of pasta to bury yourself in.  Warning: it might take even less time to eat than to make.

Multigrain Cacio e Pepe
serves 2

Multigrain Cacio e PepeINGREDIENTS

  • ½ pound multigrain spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 cup baby arugula, roughly copped
  • 2 tablespoons reserved pasta water

PROCEDURE

Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt the water.  Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

In a large bowl, mash together cheese, butter, and black pepper.  Add the arugula, and the hot pasta and pasta water.  Toss together, and serve.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

Franglais: Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

RECIPE: Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

I posted a simple aligot, gooey cheesy French mashed potatoes, recipe on Serious Eats a couple of weeks ago to great fanfare.  So, here’s an American-ized version, with all the flavors of a baked potato.

Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

This is one of those recipes that prove that even if we all have our differences, we can get along. There’s this steak place that I love in New York, and of course, it has the requisite “potato menu.” And just from reading down the list, you get a sense of how entrenched, and staunchly and particularly identifying potatoes are. Here’s some of what they list: Gratin. French, of course. Parmesan Gnocchi. Italian. Loaded Baked. What else? American. Could your preferred potato be more nationally identifying than your passport? Could be.

If you’re as menu-obsessed as I am, you may have guessed: that’s BLT Steak.

Let’s face it. The world is becoming smaller. I just found a place where I can order a blue cheese wedge in London–so I’m pretty sure that cultural culinary availability has caught up with the Internet. It’s charming that at least our potatoes still speak to where we come from, but it’s also time for them to join the information age. Merge a bit. Catch on to the fusion trend that seemed to hit the rest of food about a decade ago.

If BLT had Aligot on the menu, it would fall pretty close to Gratin, in the French section. Aligot is mashed potatoes whipped up with so much cheese that the potatoes actually acquire this elasticity–think about when you pull apart a grilled mozzarella sandwich. Now mash that image into some potatoes. Delish, comforting, gut busting, and perfect. Traditionally, they’re made with a tomme cheese, maybe some garlic, and a bit of crème fraîche. Nothing wrong with that.

But just to have a little fun, this is a mashed potato mash up of that strictly bordered potato menu: Aligot, with a hint of American flavor. Instead of crème fraîche, I use sour cream. Easier to find, and cheaper anyway. Instead of tomme or cantal, a sharp white cheddar. The elasticity suffers a bit, but the flavor is excellent. And instead of garlic, snipped fresh springy chives. All the flavors of a baked potato, loaded into an Aligot mash. If you wanted to gild the lily, I’m not opposed to some homemade bacon bits. Just a tad gluttonous.

Finally, potatoes have dual citizenship.

Loaded Baked Potato Aligot
serves 2 to 3

Loaded Baked Potato AligotINGREDIENTS

  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • 1½ cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper

PROCEDURE

Peel and dice the potatoes.  Place in a large pot and cover with 2 inches cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Salt the water, and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until fork tender.  Drain.

Add the sour cream and half and half to the pot.  Pass the potatoes through a ricer into the sour cream mixture.  Beat together with a wooden spoon.  Then, beat in the cheese in handfuls, and finally the chives.  Season with salt and pepper.

 

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: So-Easy Red Pistou Salmon

RECIPE: Red Pistou Salmon
Red Pistou Salmon

Red Pistou Salmon

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I find there’s something in the sturdiness of salmon that makes it a good dance partner.  And by that I mean, it stands up both to the wet-noodle waltzers that don’t lead, that don’t add anything really, that let the salmon shine on its own.  And to the aggressive, step-on-your-toes partners that are so strong they overwhelm the salmon with their own domineering flavors.  Salmon still shines, even if that strong, specific flavor is slightly eclipsed by something stronger still. Continue reading

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

I Love Raclette: Kappacasein

Raclette 1

I can really relate to mice.  If I were standing in front of a mousetrap and I had to make the choice between cheese and certain gory death, or no cheese….  Well, in the presence of cheese I don’t think I’d be of sound enough mind to make the right decision.

I have found my mousetrap.  Raclette.  Amazingly, I had never had it before.  But I’d heard of the famous “melted cheese” depot at Borough Market here in London.  They serve “the best” grilled cheeses made with the famous Montgomery cheddar, and raclette.  Which is raclette cheese broiled on a special machine until it bubbles and melts and goos and pools.  Then, the man scrapes the melted puddle all over a pile of smashed potatoes, served with sharp little cornichons to clean the fattiness from your mouth between bites.  If this plate of raclette was on a giant Kerrytrap, there would be no way I could resist.  I’d be toast.  Sandwiched into a delicious grilled cheese.

Raclette 2

What I like about the raclette is that it’s especially pungent–not overwhelmingly so, and not in that piquant way that something soft and stinky like Camembert might be.  But it’s a melting cheese that still packs a punch, and smells distinctively toasty and nutty.  It’s the kind of food that in the absence of a down blanket, chicken noodle soup, and a friend who loves you, will banish any woe to splitsville.

And while the whole apparatus for the raclette may seem like something of a cruel and unusual cheesy torture device, I love that it keeps raclette special.  I have to crave it, think it, want it, and then go for it.  I can’t make it at home (although I intend to do a little testing with my broiler) without investing in an expensive raclette machine.  Frankly, I’d rather get on the subway, spend 5 pounds, and just enjoy the rarity, specialness, and decadence of it.  Mr. English took our little plate into the churchyard just beyond the fence to the market, and engaged in the most competitve cheese eating contest London has ever witnessed.  It’s warmness, the heartiness, and the consistency, both in the sense of the melted gooey cheese and in the sense of the plate of one classic, unadulterated thing, that makes you want your fair share of raclette.

I love when something so simple, so humble, so pure, so unpretending is just so damn perfect.  It’s like an effortless beauty that turns heads with no makeup.  Cheese, potatoes.  Nothing more, and nothing less.

Raclette 3

KAPPACASEIN

According to the Kappacasein webpage, they are no longer trading at Borough Market, which comes as something of a shock.  Follow the link for their new location.

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Categories: Finds, London, Voyages
 

MEATLESS MONDAY meets WORKING GIRL DINNERS: Speedy Three-Beany Veggie Chili

RECIPE: Speedy Veggie Chili
Speedy Veggie Chili

Speedy Veggie Chili

Now that I’m back in the UK with Mr. English, I have become deeply suspicious of American food abroad.  I had a burger a couple of nights ago–it was okay.  I won’t get it into it.  But then I went to see Something Borrowed, and the sheer amount of Shake Shack in that movie sent me into an emotional tailspin of homesickness the likes of which I’d hardly thought possible.  So, I’m not about to put my sensitive condition on the line by ordering chili an English establishment that thinks it gets it.  Because, with all due love and respect, it doesn’t.

As I always say, why let someone else do what you can do better yourself?  I love vegetarian chili–all the beans are more comforting in that hearty, creamy way they have than good ol’ beef could ever be.  This version has kidney, black, and pinto beans, kicked up with crispy spice from poblano peppers and scallions.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I filmed the video back home in the States–if anyone knows where I can find a poblano pepper in the UK, I’m desperate!  But you can substitute with a green bell pepper and a small jalapeno.  The whole thing comes together in 15 or 20 minutes, and I serve it on top of New York-style toasted corn muffin wedges.  It’s so healthy and hearty, but nearly instant at the same time.  It’s just the kind of thing you can take to the couch and eat too much of.  With no guilt.

Speedy Veggie Chili
serves 2

Speedy Veggie ChiliINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large poblano pepper, diced
  • 4 large scallions, sliced
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 1-ounce packet of chili seasoning
  • salt
  • corn muffins

PROCEDURE

Sauté the veggies on medium in the oil for 3 to 4 minutes, until soft and just starting to char.  Add the tomatoes and the seasoning, and stir to combine.  Add the beans, lower the heat to low, and cover for 10 minutes.  Finish uncovered for 5 minutes.

Toast the muffin in a 450 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meatless Mondays, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Working Girl Dinners
 

The Secret Ingredient (Curry), Part II: Bombay Mussels with Peas and Naan

RECIPE: Bombay Mussels
Bombay Mussels

Bombay Mussels

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I love Indian food, and I think my love for it might stem from its mystery—at least, as far as I perceive it. It feels unattainable to me, like the bad boy in the leather jacket at the back of the cafeteria. My good friend the English food writer Pinky Lilani once invited me to her home for an Indian cooking lesson, and she whipped out a box of spices; to one who had cooked little Indian food before, it was like staring into an alchemist’s treasure trove. I had no idea how to use them.

Cooking with Indian spices is a bit like tight-rope walking for me—it’s really hard to balance. But curry is a blend, of many things, most often turmeric, coriander, red pepper, and cumin, which gives it that verdant, smoky, earthy, spicy scent. For this dish, all my components are already figured out for me. While a perfect Vindaloo, say, would take me considerably more time and study, all I have to do for these Bombay mussels is add curry powder, and attain something of that heady curry house flavor.

One of my favorite things to order at Indian restaurants is the seafood. I love the way the spices play with the sweet tenderness of prawns and scallops and sea bass. But this time, I decided to make mussels. I temper the curry and green onions with a dash of butter and cream, and stew up the mussels with springtime green peas, which add sweetness and color and that lovely fresh pop in your mouth. Instead of baguette, I warm up naan breads to soak up the juices. It’s so unusual and lovely and easy.

Bombay Mussels
serves 2 for dinner, 4 to start

Bombay MusselsINGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 2 pounds mussels
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream

PROCEDURE

In a high-sided braising pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the scallions, and sauté until soft—2 minutes.  Add the curry powder, and sauté an additional 30 seconds.  Add the water, peas, and mussels to the pot, and season with salt and pepper.  Cover, and steam over medium heat until all mussels open—5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, stir in the cream, and serve with warm naan.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient