French in a Flash: White Bean Bisque with Garlic Chips

RECIPE: White Bean Bisque with Garlic Chips
White Bean Bisque

White Bean Bisque

I’m in Florida, and it’s freezing! People roll their eyes, but we Floridians are entirely unequipped for this weather. If I were in New York, and it was thirty degrees, I’d wear a coat, maybe some gloves, but down here, it’s a free(zing) for all–I swear I still see t-shirts.

This week’s column will warm you up with minimum effort. I fry window panes of garlic to make garlic chips, and then use some of the garlic-infused oil to sweat out some shallots. Add to that some rosemary, and some canned white beans, a bit of stock or water, and 15 to 20 minutes later, you have soup–soup that’s rich, velvety, and aromatic of Provence, my summer oasis hallucination in this winter desert. You can easily make this more resolution-worthy by cutting out the butter and cream, although then it’d be less like a bisque, and more like bean soup, but I won’t tell…

Garlic Chips

Frying Garlic Chips

As always, click here for the full story and recipe from my column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

White Bean Bisque with Garlic Chips
serves 4

White Bean BisqueIngredients

  • 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 4 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans
  • 1 quart vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Procedure

  1. In a small saucepot, heat just enough oil to deep fry the garlic chips—about 1/4 cup depending on the size of the pot.  Heat over medium heat.  When hot, add the garlic chips in, and cook until crispy and golden—but not brown and burnt.  Remove the chips to a paper towel with a slotted spoon to cool.  Reserve the oil.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved garlic oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to a stock pot over medium heat.  Add the shallot, and sauté gently until just soft—3 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the pot along with the rosemary sprig (leave the leaves on the stem) and the stock or water.  Season with salt and pepper, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil.  When the soup boils, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. After 15 to 20 minutes, remove the rosemary sprig from the soup and discard.  Turn off the heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.  Stir in the cream—the residual heat of the soup will heat it through.  Serve the garlic chips as a garnish on top.
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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Soup, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Wasabi) Part II: Wasabi Pea-Crusted Seared Tuna

RECIPE: Wasabi Pea-Crusted Seared Tuna
Wasabi Tuna

Wasabi Tuna

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I think it was my unhealthy college years when I first discovered the medicinal properties of seared tuna.Growing up, I used to make my mother cook my tuna steaks absolutely through, so they were splitting at the seams and dry as Bumblebee in a well-drained can.

But after a week of studying finance with an entire thin-crust Domino’s pie every night for a week, I decided it was time for something light. And happily, at a corner Japanese sushi bar, I stumbled upon my treasured “reset” food upon which I’ve relied ever since.

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

FINALIST!

I have the best readers ever. Thanks to your votes, French Revolution’s pumpkin beignets won the miscellaneous division of Bon Appetit‘s holiday blogger bakeoff, and has made it into the finals, along with four other delicious, gorgeous desserts. Click here to see the final selection.

And thank you so infinitely much for casting your votes!

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VOTE!

RECIPE: Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets
Spiced Pumpkin Beignets

Spiced Pumpkin Beignets

I went to a very feminist all-girls’ school in New York. There were all sorts of legends about the founder: a suffragette mauled to death on a wheel–they got more and more wild and heroic until she was the feminine reincarnation of Hercules, singled-handedly accomplishing the immortal task of securing women in the vote on the great, grey streets of New York. A great mural dominated the second floor hallway, of women doing men’s work. And in math, when we reached the number 19, we were told over and over again to remember: the 19th Amendment, in 1919 (even though we subsequently discovered it was passed in 1920).

Lesson learned? It may be painful, but you vote. Or else.

So, today, I graduate from pupil, to illustrious head mistress, telling you to VOTE VOTE VOTE your heart out for my Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets with Vanilla Bean Sugar for Bon Appetit’s holiday bakeoff. Like my heroic suffragette academic forebear, I can’t do it alone. Plus, there are no cog wheels involved in this kind of voting. It’s all gastronomic pleasure as you meander through pages of holiday desserts to die for.

Follow this link, register, and scroll through. My entry is in the “Miscellaneous” category. You can flip through by clicking “Vote on Next Batch,” and then just click on my Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets. It will turn green, and then, just cast your vote!

And truly, THANK YOU.

Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets
makes about 45 beignets

Spiced Pumpkin BeignetsIngredients for the Beignets

  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons Bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and grated (only for gilding the lily; optional for Thanksgiving)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Ingredients for the Vanilla Bean Sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 used vanilla pod

Procedure for the Beignets

  1. Combine the pumpkin, Bourbon, spices, brown sugar, salt, water, and butter in a medium saucepot.  Cover, and sit over medium high heat until the butter is just melted and the mixture is bubbling.
  2. Take the pan off the heat, and dump in all the flour at once.  Using a wooden spoon, stir forcefully and rapidly until all the flour is absorbed.  Place the pan back on the heat over medium-low heat for 30-45 seconds, until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.  Decant the hot dough into a large bowl.
  3. Stir the dough around to cool it off, and then add the eggs one at a time.  Add one egg, and use the wooden spoon to stir it in.  You could also use an electric hand mixer.  Once the egg is absorbed, add the next, and then repeat for the third egg.  The final pumpkin spice choux pastry should be smooth, thick, and sticky.  The perfect way to gild the lily for Thanksgiving is to add 1/2 peeled and grated Golden Delicious apple to the pastry dough now, before frying.  It adds autumnal sweetness and moisture that is irresistible.
  4. Heat a deep pan half full of vegetable oil until it registers between 310 and 325 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Drop in teaspoon-sized amounts of dough in batches, careful not to overcrowd the pan and effectively drop the temperature of the oil.  Fry the beignets for 6 to 9 minutes.  The trick is to allow them to fry until they crack.  The fissure will expand.  That is what creates the puff inside the beignet.  When the fissure and the rest of the beignet are about the same color, six to nine minutes should have passed, and you’ll know the inside is cooked.  Remove with a spider or slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.  Toss with the vanilla sugar (recipe follows).

Procedure for the Vanilla Bean Sugar

  1. Vanilla sugar is the perfect way to use up scraped vanilla pods that you’ve used in other recipes like crème brûlée.  Save the pods in a baggie, and then decant the sugar into a bowl.  Use your fingers, and get some of the sugar into the crack in the split vanilla bean; then scrub with the sugar as though you were scouring a pan with salt.  You won’t believe how much vanilla is still left inside, and it is more than enough to make vanilla sugar for these beignets.
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The Secret Ingredient (Wasabi) Part I: Wasabi-Battered Calamari with Wasabi Mayonnaise

RECIPE: Wasabi-Battered Calamari with Wasabi Mayonnaise

 

Wasabi Calamari

Wasabi Calamari

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

In my family, we have a long-standing sushi tradition. It goes something like this: I drive to the supermarket where they roll the freshest sushi to my exact specifications. I then drive over to my mother’s house for lunch. We proceed to use the ends of our splintered, disposable wooden chopsticks to smudge subsequently more and more jade green wasabi onto the tops of our little crab and avocado and scallion rolls.

Giving a lap dog wasabi is either animal cruelty or assault.

Our family dog, all ten pounds of him, sits under the table begging for a morsel. But we both think that giving a lap dog wasabi is either animal cruelty or assault with a deadly weapon—or both. I then dip in ponzu; she dips in shoyu—a source of mammoth contention. Gradually our little green mounds grow with our bravado, remembering only with the delight of the dare before us that each molehill of wasabi is an Everest of heat.

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Anniversary: Dandoy in Brussels

Brussels Bouquet

The perfect anniversary bouquet: hanging flowers in Brussels’s Grand Place

It’s official! Mr. English and I have been together two very long but seemingly short years.

Having finally gotten me back in England, Mr. English knew the best way to keep me was to take me back out as quickly as possible. We’ve started a tradition where one plans the anniversary every other year: he has evens. So he told me to pack my bags: no details, no planning, no nothing. As the resident control freak in the relationship, I had to wonder. Was he trying to change me?

I decided to go with it, and I wheeled my little pink Longchamp weekender into St. Pancras station on Saturday morning. He had told me to meet him in Le Pain Quotidien. As I ordered “quotidian” side of Gruyere, I demanded, “Where are we going!” I had, after all, packed cashmere gloves and a bikini.

He motioned around him, at the wooden walls and clear glass wall. “This is your clue.” I pondered for a moment, and as he handed the ticket across the table, I jumped up. “We’re going to Belgium!?”

If you are European like Mr. English, you may feel quite blase about Belgium, as I later discovered did Mr. English. But to me, who had grown up quarantined from Europe by a giant ocean, Brussels had always been my culinary epicenter. I imagined quaint little carts–the kind that used to rattle with tin cans hanging from the roofs–vending crispy, salty little frites with mayonnaise. And mountains and mountains of mussels, soaked in beer, warming up my frost nose. I thought it might be where my stomach would go to heaven.

I came up with a little list in my head of all foods Brussels: Brussels sprouts, Belgian endive, and the Belgian waffle. It was this last one by which I least expected to be impressed. I dragged Mr. English into Dandoy, the famed waffle house, and ordered one. The man behind the counter, who reminded me of the clown that pops out of the box, asked if I wanted Bruxelles or Liège. I said I didn’t know. He told me you could get the sweet Liège anywhere, but a Bruxelles waffle: only in Brussels!

It was crisp on the outside, and just airy-creamy within. Each little square on the grid was puddled in melting, collapsing icing sugar. There was a saltiness to the batter, and the sweetness you expected. And I turned to Mr. English, huffing out a puff of powdered sugar, and exclaimed, “If I were from Belgium, I would sue America for slander. How dare we call what we eat Belgian waffles?” He, of course, told me I was being very American.

I am on a waffle hunger strike from now until the next time Mr. English takes me back to Brussels. And for all of our sakes, it had better be soon.

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Categories: Brussels, Restaurants, Voyages
 

Starving

An Oxford Graduation

An Oxford Graduation

I’m dedicating this post to one reader, Mark, because it was his question that inspired it.

He asked, after reading that I had returned to Oxford to do my MBA, what I planned to do with all this education. Back weeks ago, full of pluck and tenacity, I stood tall, peering with shaded eyes across my vast aspirations, sure that I, writer and eater and cook, could never bite off more than I could chew. My appetites, I admit—for food, for life, for success—are greater than the ocean that separates me from my home.

I must admit that I have overdone it before, snacking on frites past midnight, slathering my morning baguette in a winter-thick blanket of ivory butter. And then, I had to go on a diet—which I hated! And though I hope I’ve upheld the adage French women don’t get fat through responsible consumption, the diet I’ve never been able to keep is rationing ideals, dreams, hopes, goals. Perhaps it is a contagion that racks all first generation Americans. Both my theses are on the American Dream, so has it fascinated me ever since I first heard the two words consecutively uttered. I cannot live without work. I am too hungry.

So, here I am, in the den of the hungriest lions in the world: business school. I will write cookbooks, I told myself, and be the greatest literary and culinary entrepreneur of all time! Sophomoric was the word invented for just such idiocy. I suppose the benefit of an expensive education is hearing over and over again that you can do anything—which translates to you can do everything. Yet, so far am I from being a master of the universe that I am not even master of my own universe.

And so the education that I thought would catapult me to the highest heights of personal capability has me licking the dregs of the lowest lows. Every day I sit in the same seat, under the same fluorescent lights, as one professor after another equivocates about the Capital Asset Pricing Model. They pontificate about where supply meets demand, and I surreptitiously stretch my legs under my desk and ask myself whether I will ever find an equilibrium that satisfies my own market conditions. I have realized, for the first time, that there is only so much of myself I can supply, and so many, many forces demanding.

I have only a microwave during the week in my little room. And I have found myself, that hungry, hungry tiger, feeling caged. I always thought that caged animals would turn tame, but they won’t. They turn angry. Which is why with every hour I spend balancing accounts, I curse the fact that I’m not balancing the weights of butter, flour, and water in choux pastry. I realized that I haven’t done anything that I love—I haven’t cooked, I haven’t written, in weeks.

Every day, a little knot of us eat three meals under the same fluorescent lights of the business school. Sometimes I play a little game with myself: is that fennel, or just tarragon in the soup? My friend Jeff asks for an extracurricular education in spices that I am happy to provide, as the cafeteria staff leaves dangerous, whole spikes of anise and cinnamon in its “fragrant” rice. But never before has food comprised such a little portion of my life. And now I am not just hungry, I am starving. Hungry for success, yes, but also starving to do that which I love more than that which I felt I should love.

How could a plate so full appear, feel, be so very empty?

I am not a religious girl, but another part of expensive education is religious training, and one line has always stuck with me: “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” I used to listen to all the voices that bombarded me telling me that following a dream, doing what you love, was childish. But that same passage reads, “love never fails,” and I have found what I love, and love is an investment, one that my professors would agree produces an excellent rate of return. I turned 27 last week, and so now that I am a woman, I put away childish things, and I am putting myself on a diet. Less strategy and accounting–more cooking and writing. More love.

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