GIVEAWAY! Lunch in Paris

 

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

I was just in Paris a few weeks ago, and Mr. English had to miss our train and stay back in London until dinnertime.  Hate to admit it, but I wasn’t totally disappointed!  Sorry, love.  I got to do two of my favorite things entirely undisturbed: go shopping at Petit Bateau, and have lunch in Paris.

There are only some cities where you can feel completely comfortable eating by yourself.  And Paris is the best place of all the places.  The chairs at all the cafés face out into the street.  Even if you are eating with someone, there’s no way they’re as interesting as the mismatched couple sauntering by, he with a dirty grin, she with an Hermes bag.  Or the old friends that embrace just the second longer than is natural, and you think to yourself how you will be just like that with your best friend when you’re eighty.  Or the other American darting across the street that you could have spotted a mile away.  It’s as filling as the meal.  And the meal, well that’s another thing altogether.

Croque Monsieurs I eat early in the morning or late at night, though it’s a lunchtime Parisian staple.  For lunch, I love French onion soup, asparagus vinaigrette, even a bowl of mussels.  A big pizza I can carve with a fork and knife.  Or falafel in Le Marais.  Or picnic food.  In the Luxembourg gardens or on the Pont des Arts, I like to bring a baguette and a wedge of cheese or a pot of caviar d’aubergines, and a bag of fruit.  Or I like to have a tartine of meats and Poilâne bread in the Place Dauphine, watching the petanque players.  Will I ever get tired of talking about those petanque players?  Not likely, because I never get tired of watching them!  But my favorite place to have lunch in Paris?  On tip of the Ile de la Cité, with cheese crèpe bought at L’Avant Comptoir and transported hastily to the spot where I sit with my legs dangling over the wall towards the Seine.  Those naughty little sparrows are company enough for me, as I watch the tourists on the Bateaux-Mouches, the pompiers on their flotillas, and the lovers strolling on the banks across from me.  I like to imagine all that has gone on on the river, for hundreds, even a thousand years.  Lunch in Paris is such a treat.  And I don’t like sharing my treats.

When I was asked to review Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard when it first came out, it reminded me just of lunch in Paris.  Because it was a treat.  Written by an American who fell in love with a Frenchman (who can blame her) and picked up and moved to Paris without even knowing the language, or what she wanted to be, or who her friends were, she sheds such comedic insight on Americans and French and the differences that make them so attractive to each other.  It is poignant, and romantic, and deliciously filled with the recipes that pepper any life in Paris.

With Lunch in Paris just out in paperback, Elizabeth’s publisher has agreed to give away a copy of this truly lovely book to one French Revolution reader.  This is our first giveaway–I hope the start of many!  So, do us all a great service, and tell us where the best place to have lunch in Paris is, in the comment section of this post.  That way, we’ll all have a destination next time we’re in town.  I will pick one at random at the end of two weeks, and you’ll get the book in the mail!  I can’t wait to discover all these new Paris places!

This giveaway has closed and the winner has been contacted. Thanks so much for all your wonderful Paris comments!

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Mahjong Dumplings: Lower East Side Cool Hits the Upper East Side

What is Mahjong?  Maybe someone can explain it to me.  All I know is it was a game my grandma used to play “with the girls”.  But now, I’m suddenly into it because I am, literally, obsessed with Mahjong Dumplings.

The Upper East Side is my hometown.  And I always thought that was pretty cool.  I mean, it’s not everyone who gets a TV show made about their hometown, right?  Except, suddenly, it’s not so cool to everyone else.  When I was growing up, the UES was the place to be.  There really were meat lockers in Meat Packing, and going to the Village meant getting the car out of the garage and going for a “trip.”  We went to Brooklyn, again, in a car, to buy vegetables from an organic co-op.  But these were all outposts; the center was uptown.

Now, I can’t get anyone to meet me uptown for dinner!  ”There’s nothing to do uptown!”  How ridiculous and nonsensical.  But, I guess, uptown doesn’t have what downtown is full of: small, upstart young restaurants with a delicious, gimmicky menu, and a line down the street.  That’s true.  We have more stately manors or cozy neighborhood corners.  Until now.  Enter Mahjong Dumpling.

On Second Avenue between 80th and 81st Streets is a little downtown outpost.  The bar is decorated with mahjong tiles inlaid in glass.  The walls are papered with cigarette-rolled magazine pages.  Funky bamboo chandaliers hang from the ceiling, and the place can’t seat more than 50 people.  Very downtown.  And then there’s the menu: it’s like dim sum went around the world in eighty days.  The left side of the menu is starters and noodle bowls, and the right side is all dumplings.

I called up my own little dumpling, Mr. English, to tell him all about my Mahjong dining experience, but then I realized: all I talk to him about is food, and dogs.  So I spared him, thinking “my readers will want to know about this.”  I walked in with my two best friends on the Upper East, thinking we’d have a little five o’clock snack.  Maybe try three or four types of dumplings.  We wound up ordering three times, tasting all but one kind of dumpling, plus pickles, pork buns, udon soup, and shaved ice.  Then, I went back the next day for lunch, and tried even more.  Before I get to the food, I have to say how much I appreciate that a restaurant of just a few tables, with such a creative, and truly good, menu opened uptown, when it could so easily have fit in downtown.  I think uptown is on the up and up, poised to reclaim the title of best New York neighborhood.  But what I love about Mahjong is I get all the quaint chic of downtown, all the great food, all the fun, but it’s not overcrowded, it’s not overly trendy, and in no way does it feel exclusive.  You don’t have to wear a pompadour to fit in here, because it’s the food that steals the attention.  What I love about my hometown is how easy it is, how truly casual despite its reputation for prestige.  It just doesn’t try too hard, and neither does Mahjong.  It knows it’s got a good thing: like any cool kid, it’s not going to follow the crowd.  It will let others come and find it.

I love the playful names.  I love the relatively inexpensive prices.  And I love the options.  You can spend a lot, or a little.  You can pig out, or get some very light dishes.  And, when was the last time you got free refills?  The only thing that disappointed me is that they were fresh out of apple pie and cheddar dumplings both times I was there!  All I know is, grandma, I’m taking up Mahjong.

Dumplings

Run Forrest

Run Forrest

Run Forrest: shrimp / carrot / ginger / scallion / panang curry sauce

This is my number one or number two favorite dumpling (it’s really hard to commit at Mahjong!).  It’s almost like a traditional shrimp dumpling or shumai that you would find a Sunday lunch dim sum, but that sauce is so creamy, and so flavorful, it started licking it off my chopsticks after the dumplings were devoured.

Grade: A+

Red Lantern

Red Lantern

Red Lantern: chorizo / paprika / sweet roasted yellow pepper sauce / charred corn salsa

Amazing.  A great example of how to correctly apply fusion: a Spanish dumpling.  The dumpling is crisp, the chorizo is full of that paprika flavor, and the sweet pepper sauce is so unexpected and Spanish and delicious.  The charred corn salsa is another unexpected but perfect flourish.

Grade: A

Boardwalk Crab

Boardwalk Crab

Boardwalk Crab: crispy maryland style peekytoe crab / light mustard aioli

Okay, maybe this one is my favorite.  It’s like a crab cake in a crispy shell.  And I love seeing the little bit of oil separating from the aioli: means it’s homemade.  Even my friend who hates crab thought this was one of the best ones.  And who can beat the originality?

Grade: A+

The Fresh Prince

The Fresh Prince

The Fresh Prince: grilled beef short rib / pepper / onion / aged provolone cheese

“In west Philadelphia, born and raised.”  This is a Philly Cheesesteak dumpling.  Genius.  Chunks of short rib and peppers and onions in this almost mini-spring roll dumpling, with another sauce that I licked of my chopsticks: aged provolone cheese sauce, with just a hint of spice and spiciness-maybe nutmeg and chili?

Grade: A

The Maine Event

The Maine Event

The Maine Event: lobster / chive / clam chowder sauce / oyster crackers

I love that there’s basically nothing inside that wonton besides lobster.  The taste is pure, and sweet.  The clam chowder sauce is so different from the soy sauce you’d expect–the polar opposite.  And it works.  And the oyster crackers?  I love a plate with a sense of humor, and this dish is composed almost like a snack off a tasting menu, instead of a plate of dumplings.

Grade: A-

The Big Easy

The Big Easy

The Big Easy: wild mushroom / lotus root / carrot / scallion / cilantro

This is the best vegetarian dumpling on the menu, and an example of a more traditional Asian approach gone right.  It’s light, and the sweet-tangy dipping sauce makes it the perfect bite if what you crave is traditional Asian dumplings.

Grade: A-

Traditional Monkey

Traditional Monkey

Traditional Monkey: pork / chive / tofu / ginger / sweet thai chili sauce

Another great traditional dumpling.  I don’t love pork dumplings, but I love the freshness of this one.  It’s light, and I’m not scared of what mystery meat might be inside it.

Grade: B+

A La Farm

A La Farm

A La Farm: spinach / mushroom / eggplant / sundried tomatoes / ricotta / truffle oil / parmesan

Another vegetarian option, but the weaker of the two.  I didn’t taste the truffle oil; instead, I detected a sort of misplaced hint of wasabi.  This wasn’t my favorite, but I certainly love the idea of it, and if I were going vegetarian, I wouldn’t shy away.

Grade: B

Mom's Style

Mom's Style

Mom’s Style: braised pulled beef / balsamic caramelized onions

My least favorite was also possibly the most creative and the most beautiful.  If you like meat and broth, you will like this.  I would liken it almost to an Asian meat-broth noodle soup, while I was expected more of a pot-au-feu.

Grade: B-

Starters, Noodles, and Desserts

Cucumber Pickles

Cucumber Pickles

Cucumber Pickles: wasabi / ginger / garlic / rice wine

I would come here just for this.  They are my favorite things on the menu; they’re amazing.  Fresh cucumbers, just marinated in the mixture long enough to just turn pickle.  Like, an Asian new pickle.  You can pick out each flavor component: the heady heat of the wasabi, the spice of the ginger, the pungency of the garlic, and the sweet rice wine.  Amazing.  I think my partners in dumpling crime summed it up best: “These are really good.”

Grade: A+

Steamed Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns: crispy berkshire pork belly / hoisin / cilantro / cucumber slaw

These seem to be popular here, and for good reason.  The hoisin is so thick and fresh and sweet and pungent.  The pork is big hunks of crispy meatiness.  And the slaw is so light and fresh, and the bun to pillowy and soft.  It’s like a lovely dream.

Grade: A

Cold Sesame Noodle

Cold Sesame Noodle

Cold Sesame Noodle: soba noodles / cucumber / scallion / cilantro / carrots

Nothing like the thick and globby (if delicious) Chinese takeout sesame noodles.  This is very fresh, almost garden-like, and flavorful.  Perfect for a hot day.  I wished we’d ordered two, because this may be the only overpriced dish on the menu, at $8.

Grade: A

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Black Sesame Ice Cream: housemade / 2 scoops

It tasted like frozen, creamy halvah in a bowl.  Not too sweet.  Just right.  With that perfect fluffy homemade ice creamy consistency.

Grade: A-

Tuna Bites

Tuna Bites

Tuna Bites: sashimi tuna / nori / ginger / wasabi / bean sprouts

I’m a bit mystified by these, because the outside nori is battered and crisp, but the inside tuna is completely raw.  With a little bean sprout salad, and wasabi sauce on the plate, this is probably the most well-to-do, tra-la-la dish.  I missed the soy sauce, but they were excellent, and very beautiful.

Grade: A-

Mandarin Flower

Mandarin Flower

Mandarin Flower: yu choy / oyster sauce / sesame seeds

Perhaps the most dietetic thing on the menu!  Steamed Asian broccoli topped with truly fantastic oyster sauce (although, to me it tasted just like the hoisin sauce from the pork buns), and the perfect crunch of sesame seeds.  The only way to improve it would be to stir-fry those broccolis!

Grade: B+

Selling Ice to Eskimos

Selling Ice to Eskimos

Selling Ice to Eskimos: shaved ice / seasonal fruit

Like an Asian granita, this shaved ice is covered in lychee syrup, toasted coconut, and chunks of pineapple.  It’s big enough for 4, and it’s not too sweet and refreshing.

Grade: B+

Thick Rice Noodle

Thick Rice Noodle

Thick Rice Noodle: sliced beef / shiitakes / scallion / beef broth / lemongrass

This is not my cup of tea, or broth, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it.  The beef was very tender, in great large chunks that fell apart in that perfect way when you bit into it.  The soup very full, and meaty, and flavorful.  Just too meaty for me.

Grade: B-

Next time I go, I have to try the crispy tofu with rice flour, toasted coconut, and chili oil.  And the cocktails, which have ingredients like yuzu bitters, chili infused vodka, aloe vera, and jasmine tea.

Mahjong Dumplings

1542 Second Avenue (80th & 81st Streets)

212.717.7800

www.nycdumplings.com

 


So sorry about the dark bottom right corner in these photos.  My lens cracked, and I just noticed it at Mahjong.  Apologies!

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Working Girl Dinners: Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce

RECIPE: Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce
Working Girl Mustard Salmon

Working Girl Mustard Salmon with Asparagus and Boiled Potatoes

Salmon is the real chicken of the sea.  Everyone loves it.  It’s healthy, and guiltless, relatively inexpensive, and elegant.  This meal is so easy, but it’s the kind of food you could serve to in-laws or bosses.  Or, just to yourself, because it tastes good, and you don’t need an occasion to eat good food!

I know, gone are the Mad Men days when a girl is expected to entertain her husband’s boss in the family dining room.  We have our own bosses to worry about, and a separate dining room seems a little far-fetched.  But at the same time, I don’t think we see each other enough during the week.  After work, we think the best way to recover from the day is delivery.  But imagine, having your friends over, or some family, for a couple of hours of laughing and chatting and eating.  What could be more invigorating?  I would make this meal when my dad comes over.  To know him is to know he eats salmon with unusual gusto at least three times a week.  It’s a treat to have him over for a homemade meal.  Now go call your parents, and tell them to come over for dinner tonight!

This is an unusually effortless meal, because the oven does all the heavy lifting.  Roast the salmon on a bed of herbs, to flavor it, and right alongside simultaneously roasts the asparagus.  Ta da!  Both come out of the oven crisp, and tender, and delicious–and at the same time.  It’s kitchen magic.  On the stove, stir together a little water, sour cream, and mustard until you have a sauce.  That’s it.  Elegant dinner, done.  And the best part is, if you are having company, just double the recipe.  It cooks in exactly the same amount of time with no extra exertion on your part.  And if it’s just you, then halve the recipe.  Again, it all works out the same.

Guest-Worthy Salmon with Asparagus and Mustard Sauce
serves 2

Working Girl Mustard SalmonINGREDIENTS

  • 2 6-ounce boneless, skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  • 1½ teaspoons olive oil
  • A handful of fresh thyme stems
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons water

PROCEDURE

Place the top rack of your oven in the second highest position (one down from the top).  Preheat the broiler.

Rub each salmon fillet with ½ teaspoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Place the salmon on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper (so it won’t stick).  Under each salmon fillet, tuck a small handful of fresh thyme stems, so you create a bed of thyme for the salmon.

Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the woody ends of each stalk.  Place the asparagus on the parchment-lined baking sheet with the salmon, and toss with the remaining ½ teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place on the rack you adjusted under the broiler for 12 to 15 minutes.  The top of the salmon with be golden-brown, and the asparagus will be crisp.

Meanwhile make the sauce.  In a small sauce pot, stir together the sour cream, Dijon mustard, and water over medium-low heat, just until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper.

I like to serve this with the sauce poured over the salmon, with the asparagus alongside, and maybe a few boiled potatoes.  Serve extra sauce on the side for the veggies.

FISH TIPS

Buying fish can be daunting.  You are looking for fish that is clear (not foggy), bright (not gray), and doesn’t smell like dead fish.  Readers have asked me for reputable fish stores.  From my experience, Whole Foods has good fish.  And in New York, I recommend Citarella, The Vinegar Factory, and Eli’s on the Upper East Side.  Don’t forget, you can ask the guy behind the fish counter to do almost anything.  So when I say boneless, skinless, center-cut salmon fillets, tell him those instructions, and he will do all the work for you.  And they won’t think you’re being difficult.

If you have guests, just double the recipe!

ON THE SIDE

The asparagus in this recipe are built in, which I love.  But if you want to add boiled potatoes, here’s how you do it:

Put small boiling potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes, or fingerling potatoes in an empty saucepot.  Fill the pot two-thirds of the way up with cold water.  Put the pot over high heat, uncovered.  When the water boils, add salt.  Cook until the tip of a knife easily pierces the potato.  Depending on the size of your potato, that could take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.

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

French in a Flash: Crunchy Roasted Salmon and Beets

RECIPE: Crunchy Roasted Salmon and Beets
Crunchy Roasted Salmon with Beets

Crunchy Roasted Salmon with Beets

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This recipe is a combination of a fantastic salt-of-the-earth salad I had at Canton Arms in London and a recipe I saw in a French food magazine on an airplane.  A great reminder that just when you can’t imagine what’s for dinner, inspiration is all around us.

The salad I had at Canton Arms, a gastropub in Stockwell, was shaved raw candy cane beets and roasted red and golden beets, tossed with vinaigrette and fresh mint, and topped with cheese curd and rosemary-whole grain bread crumbs.  It was small, packed a punch, and seemed fresh out of some invisible London garden, replete with a cow who generously contributed the curd.  On the flight home, I thumbed through a French food magazine and saw salmon and beets, roasted together, red beets bleeding sweet dye on the rosy salmon.  It was all so welcoming, and wintry, but also light enough as we start to shed our cocoons near the imminent spring thaw.

This is my version.  Beets and salmon roasted together with olive oil and a bed of fresh thyme, topped with simply toasted rosemary panko.  Impressive and healthy and homey. Continue reading

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Franglais: Sweet Potato and Carrot Velouté with Quatre-Epices

RECIPE: Sweet Potato and Carrot Velouté with Quatre-Epices

Sweet Potato and Carrot Velouté

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

I love sweet potato fries.  Because they are salty.  And crispy.  And what’s not to love?  You could deep fry and salt anything and I’d put it in my mouth.  Deep-frying sweet potatoes took away their stigma: they weren’t good for me anymore.  But otherwise, I never liked sweet potatoes.   Dietetic versions of their better Idaho brother.  And let’s face it: I’d always loved the bad boy.  It wasn’t until very recently that I ever went for a potato, or a boy, that was good for me.

It wasn’t until college that I discovered how versatile a sweet potato could be, how much it could handle.  I was getting pizza late one night in the student center, and I saw a bunch of the guys working behind the counter digging into a slice of pie.

“Is that pumpkin pie!?” I cried, turning orange in envy.  I had been writing for hours, and wasn’t above demanding a slice of pumpkin rather than pizza pie.

“Sweet potato pie,” one of them grinned, pulled a bite off his fork with his lips.

I was confused.  “What’s that?”

All three of them turned to me.  “Where are you from?” they demanded in disbelief.

Now that I think of it, they were probably asking whether I was from Mars.  But they seemed southern, so I answered “Florida.”  I had grown up on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, so I trotted out the more convenient of the two.

“And you’ve never had sweet potato pie?” Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Series, Soup, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian
 

Working Girl Dinners: So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde

RECIPE: So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde
Shrimp Quesadillas

Shrimp Quesadillas

Some nights (okay, many nights), I come home with this voracious need to devour.  This total and all-consuming drive to eat something overtly satisfying.  Not shy.  Not light.  Just hit-the-spot filling and delicious.

Could anything fit that description better than a quesadilla?  I think not.

Shrimp Quesadillas Zoom

These quesadillas are stuffed to the gills.  A crunchy flour tortilla is filled oozing melted Monterey Jack cheese, plump shrimp, and crunchy-delicious pablano pepper, green onions, and garlic.  The flavor comes from tangy-spicy salsa verde, which also doubles as an extra salsa.  And to serve it, I make the world’s easiest cheated guacamole.

I’ll tell you why these quesadillas are so easy: I take shortcuts, and use ingredients that I always have.  For instance, I absolutely always have tortillas and shrimp in my freezer.  I also love Pace’s Salsa Verde and usually have a jar of it in my fridge.  And instead of making guacamole from scratch, and buying extra salsa (one is time- and ingredient-consuming, the other sits in my fridge and takes up space), I make a short-cut guac from mashed avocados and store-bought fresh pico di gallo.  The whole thing adds up to a really easy, really filling, really delicious dinner.  And, it’s great for entertaining mid-week: just double the recipe to serve 4.

So-Easy Shrimp Quesadillas Verde
serves 2
recommended equipment: CuisinArt Griddler, George Foreman, or Panini Press

Shrimp QuesadillasINGREDIENTS

  • 1 Haas avocado
  • 1 cup (½ pound) Pico di Gallo (in the supermarket produce section)
  • 1 tablespoon oil, preferably canola
  • ¾ pound raw jumbo shrimp (11-15 count), peeled, and deveined
  • 4 scallions, sliced on an angle
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeds removed, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ⅓ cup salsa verde (recommended: Pace Salsa Verde)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, torn (optional)
  • 2 extra-large (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray

PROCEDURE

If using a Griddler, grill, or panini press, preheat the griddle to the highest heat (usually 425°F).

Make the avocado salsa.  Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and mash it in a bowl.  Stir in the Pico di Gallo, and season with salt.  Set aside.

Make sure you have all your ingredients prepped.  Make sure the shrimp have no tails, and use a small knife to slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.  Chop the scallions and the poblano pepper, and grate the garlic.   Then, heat oil in a wide sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté the shrimp for 90 seconds, season with salt, and use a slotted spoon to place the shrimp in a bowl.  Add the scallions, pepper, and garlic to the same pan.  Sauté for 1 minute, stirring often, and season with salt.  Use the slotted spoon to remove the vegetables to the same bowl as the shrimp.  Toss the shrimp and vegetables with the salsa verde and cilantro.

Spray one side of each tortilla with nonstick cooking spray.  Then, flip the tortilla over, so the dry side is facing up.  On one half of the tortilla, sprinkle ¼ of the cheese.  Scatter half the shrimp and vegetable mixture over the cheese.  Top the shrimp and vegetables with another ¼ of the cheese, and fold the tortilla over, so you have a stuffed half-moon with cooking spray on the outside.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients on the second tortilla.

Place the quesadillas on the Griddler and cook until the tortilla is golden and crisp, and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.  If you don’t use the Griddler, clean out the sauté pan you used earlier, and make sure it is very dry.  Place the pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Then place the tortillas in the pan, and cook until the tortillas are crisp and golden, and the cheese is melted, turning once.  Use a big knife to cut each tortilla into thirds, and serve with the avocado salsa, and some leftover salsa verde, if you have any.

TIPS

You can just as easily make this with chicken, or make it vegetarian using black beans.

If you want to use chicken, cut up a chicken breast into strips, and sauté it just like the shrimp.  It may need longer to cook: it is fully cooked when you cut into the middle of a strip of chicken, and the chicken is opaque and white.

If using black beans, drain and rinse a can of black beans and toss with the vegetables and salsa verde.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

The Secret Ingredient (Saffron) Part III: Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

RECIPE: Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes
Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

When working with secret ingredients, I like to find perfect pairs. Jelly for peanut butter. Peas for carrots. The Juliet to their Romeo. Once you find their match, there are an unlimited number of iterations you can create using the dynamic duo.

Mussels pair perfectly with saffron. In cooking school, we made a creamy saffron-ed mussel soup. One of my favorite recipes is a creamy saffron and mussels pasta I created for French in a Flash. There is something about creamy saffron mussel anything that just works. I think there is an opposites-attract aspect to why the pair always comes off without a hitch. Saffron is very earthy to me, very pungent. And mussels are the opposite–extremely maritime and briny. I think the combination of cream and saffron prevents the mussels from tasting like they were just scraped off a dock. And I also love the irony of it: saffron, the most expensive spice on the market, and cream, always luxurious, with cheap, cheap mussels. It’s a great way to make an “expensive” dish of seafood and saffron with very little money.

This ten-minute, one-pot dish goes down like a house on fire. And anyone can make it. Sop up the soup with crusty baguette, or boil plain pearl couscous and put that at the bottom of your bowl to eat with the strands of saffron and just-burst sweet tomatoes.

Mussels with Saffron and Tomatoes
serves 4

Mussels with Saffron and TomatoesINGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds mussels
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock, dry white wine, or water
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

PROCEDURE

Put the mussels in a large bowl full of water, a large handful of ice, and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.  Allow to mussels to sit in the liquid for 1 hour, to disgorge any sand.

In a wide braising pan with high sides, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots, and sauté, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the stock, wine, or water, and the saffron.  Rinse off the mussels, and add them and the tomatoes to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot, raise the head to medium-high, and cook until all the mussels are wide open, 5 to 7 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat, and stir in the cream.  Serve with warm crusty baguette, or even over plain pearl couscous.

 

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