Holiday Quatre Épices Glazed Carrots

RECIPE: Quatre Épices Glazed Carrots
Quatre Épices Glazed Carrots

Buttery spiced carrots full of ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cracked black pepper

One thing (of the many things) I love about French cuisine is the little mixtures of herbs and spices that, together, have become vastly important and common as one ingredient.  Herbes de Provence.  Fines herbes.  Quatre épices.  Blends that are ubiquitous in France, and synonymous with certain ingredients or preparations.

And the great thing is, quatre épices, a simple blend of ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper, is like a savory version of holiday spice.  Put it in anything, and it instantly assumes a kind of medieval banquet air that reminds you of gingerbread or mulled wine—but savory.

For this side, I do a simple glazed carrot.  It’s very traditional in France to cook your carrots this way: with butter and water in a pan, letting the steam evaporate as it softens the carrots, and then letting the butter envelope them.  I simply switch up plain sliced carrots for the charming mini Chantenary variety, and add a pinch of quatre épices to spice things up.  They play so well with the natural sweetness of the carrots—it’s perfect.

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

Quatre Épices Glazed Carrots
serves 4 to 6

Quatre Épices Glazed CarrotsINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound baby Chantenay carrots
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon each ground ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Sea salt

PROCEDURE

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender, the water evaporated, and the spiced glaze thick: about 15 minutes.  Serve right away.

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

Filet and Quick-Pickled Onion Tacos for Two

RECIPE: Filet and Pickled Onion Tacos
Filet and Pickled Onion Tacos

The perfect punching-above-its-weight weeknight dinner for two.  Warm corn tortillas.  Filet mignon, rubbed in spices, seared, and sliced rare.  Quick home-pickled red onion.  Cilantro.  Lime.  Queso fresco.  A little bit of cooking.  A little bit of assembly.  A lot of joy.

Mr. English and I are half mad about the steak tacos at a Mexican place here in London called Wahaca.  They’re not much to write home about—just grilled steak, pickled onions, cilantro, a bit of salsa.  But in their warm, small, snug simplicity, they are perfect.  When it came to rustling together a weeknight dinner for two, I knew I had to knock off the perfect Wahaca original.

Start with the onion.  This is such a cool trick.  Thinly slice the onion and then put it in a bowl with a pinch of salt and some vinegar.  Stir it all up and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the taco ingredients, and in 15 minutes, voilà, you have a quick-pickled onion.  A bit mellow, a bit snappy, definitely the perfect counterpoint to the rich beef.

For the steak, I go off and use filet mignon.  It is pricier than other cuts of meat, but it is so tender, and because you’re only cooking for two, and slicing the steak, a little goes a long way.  I can’t apologize for it—it makes these tacos such a treat.  I crust it on the outside with what I call taco spices: cumin and chili powder.  But you can get creative or use whatever you have on hand: chipotle powder, blends, whatever.  Then I give it a quick sear and slice.

All that’s left to do is warm some tortillas (good corn ones!), tear up some cilantro, and crumble some queso fresco (feta would be a good substitute if you need one).  You can also pick up some fresh pico di gallo at the supermarket if you want to add another layer to these tacos.  Then, just pile them high!  Spiced, rare sliced filet mignon.  The pickled onions, which you’ve drained, and are so full of attitude.  The fresh cilantro.  The salty, crumbly cheese.  I could eat a dozen.  In fact, be warned.  Mr. English did say, I could eat another batch.

Filet and Pickled Onion Tacos 2

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Filet and Pickled Onion Tacos
serves 2

Filet and Pickled Onion TacosINGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 pound beef filet, cut in two steaks
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/4 cup wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 small (4 1/2 inches) corn tortillas
  • 1 cup diced queso fresco
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut in small wedges

PROCEDURE

Season the filet steaks with cumin, chili powders, and salt.  Set aside.  Use a mandoline to very thinly slice the red onion.  Place the red onion, vinegar, and a good pinch of salt in a bowl, and stir to combine.  Let sit for 15 minutes to quick pickle while you finish the tacos.

Preheat a small nonstick skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Sear the steaks 2 minutes on each side for rare meat.  Set aside to rest.  Meanwhile, heat the tortillas.  Dampen a paper towel with water, and wring any excess moisture from it.  Wrap it around the stack of tortillas and microwave for 30 to 60 seconds, until the tortillas are warm and pliable.

Thinly slice the steak.  Make the tacos by piling on steak, pickled onions (discard the vinegar), queso fresco, cilantro, and a squirt of lime.  Dig in.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series
 

Broiled Provençale Scallops

RECIPE: Broiled Scallops Provençale

Broiled Provençale Scallops

I hate to say it, but I have a real bone to pick with English markets.  And I just don’t understand what the problem is!  I can never find seafood.  Giant shrimp like we have in the States.  Scallops.  Calamari.  Just can’t find them.  But when the kind of downtrodden mini supermarket by my office started stocking “large sea scallops,” I went a little crazy.  (You can expect to see a few more of these recipes!)  I crammed them all together in a little gratin dish along with grape tomatoes.  And then for the topping I whizzed up some of the stash of fresh breadcrumb I keep in the freezer with a clove of garlic, some fresh basil, and butter.  Boom.  Gratin-ed together, the top becomes this kind of pistou-ed crumble, and the scallops and tomatoes together underneath collapse and release all their sweet juices.

Normally, when I’m in Provence and I order seafood, I order moules à la Provençale, which is mussels steamed with tomatoes, garlic, and sometimes basil.  So I thought for these special little scallops, I wanted to take the same flavors, deconstruct them, and build them back up together again.  The tomatoes go in whole with the scallops.  The basil and garlic get to work in the breadcrumbs.  This is one of those recipes that I hope is something of a French Revolution signature: super easy, done in minutes, but with enough chic to warrant some company.

Broiled Scallops Provençale 2

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

Broiled Scallops Provençale
serves 2

Broiled Provençale ScallopsINGREDIENTS

  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • 14 large sea scallops
  • 16 grape tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Pour a drizzle of olive oil into each of two gratin dishes, and use your fingers to grease the inside of the dish.  Arrange the scallops and tomatoes in an even layer between the two dishes, and season with salt and pepper.

In a mini food processor, blitz together the garlic, basil, and breadcrumbs until completely combined.  Add the Parmesan, butter, salt, and pepper, and blitz until combined.  Divide the basil crumbs over the top of the two gratin dishes.  Place the dishes on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes.  Serve hot.

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

Sunday Night Millionaire’s Spaghetti with Truffles

RECIPE: Millionaire's Spaghetti with Truffles
Millionaire's Spaghetti with Truffles

Millionaire’s Spaghetti with Black Truffles

Last night we came home to London after a whirlwind wedding planning weekend in Paris.  I think if I’m honest, I didn’t want to come down from the high that was the weekend (in Paris!) and face the reality of a work week!  The Sunday night frights were in full force.  So I made something escapist–a bowl of Versailles to dig into–using a little bottle of truffles I found at the supermarket that I squirreled away for just such an occasion as this.  And the great thing was, even though using truffles made it special, it was easy.

Make no mistake: this is decadent.  But that’s what I need sometimes on Sunday nights.  A bit of creamy comfort.  Boil the pasta, and while it’s cooking in its hot salt bath, grate and slice the black truffles.  Drain the pasta, but keep some of the water.  Then, create a really simple, but enveloping sauce but whisking a bit of cold butter into the hot pasta water on the stove.  Finish with some cream and the truffles.  Toss the pasta in all of that goodness, and serve with black truffle oil and good grated Parm alongside.  I made a big salad with just olive oil and balsamic on the side to make me feel better about all the cream.  It worked.  I felt like a million dollars!

Oh, and I should mention, the jar of truffles did not cost a million dollars.  It cost fifteen.  Which isn’t cheap, but considering this feeds four, it’s not too bad compared to what you’d pay in a restaurant.

Millionaire's Spaghetti with Truffles
serves 3 to 4

Millionaire's Spaghetti with TrufflesINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of spaghetti
  • Sea salt
  • 1 50-gram jar of preserved black truffles
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup cream
  • A drizzle of black truffle oil
  • Freshly grated good Parmesan

PROCEDURE

Get the pasta cooking in a big pot of boiling salted water—until al dente.  Meanwhile, prepare the truffles.  Grate one on a microplane grater—the same you’d use for the Parmesan.  Then slice the other two (there were three truffles in my 50-gram jar) thinly on a mandoline or with a knife.

When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.  Add ½ cup of reserved pasta water back into the pasta pot, and put over medium-high heat.  Cut the cold butter into small cubes, and whisk them into the bubbling pasta water a little at a time.  Whisk in the cream, and finally, the grated and sliced truffles.  Season with salt, take off the heat, and add the pasta.  Use tongs to wrap the sauce all around the pasta strands.  If you need to thin out the sauce, you have some extra pasta water with which to do so.  Serve right away (this won’t wait!) with a bowl of grated Parm on the side.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meatless Mondays, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Happy Thanksgiving

The unthinkable has happened!  I woke up this morning, on Thanksgiving, only to go to work!  Such is living in London.  Maman is coming over from the States, and so we will be able to have about half our family set together to do our traditional Champagne ‘I am thankful for…’ toast.  But, as career pursuits in London have robbed me of my usual cooking time, we are doing it in a restaurant!

I will seriously miss the pumpkin pie and stuffing, but since we usually do a half French Thanksgiving, I booked us into a cozy, hearth-warmed French restaurant here in London.  And tomorrow, off to Paris for more eating adventures.  But in the meantime, just know, I am highly jealous of you all back home having real Thanksgivings with real American food.  Please comment and let me know what you’re making or have made so I can live vicariously.  And if you need some last minute inspiration, here are some recipes I hope are worthy of the day.

Thanksgiving Collage

To Start

Turkey

Sides

Desserts

The Morning After

Bon app!

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Categories: Guides
 

An American Appetite in Princeton Alumni Weekly

PAW Illustration

Illustration by Catherine Meurisse

One of my first writing jobs (you know, the kind that actually pay you) was for Princeton Alumni Weekly, writing alumni profiles.  So when they contacted me last month to write a feature essay on anything I wanted about food, I was over the moon.  I thought to myself, “Now I’ve made it!”

I think my editor expected something foreign and fabulous from an ex-pat alum, who spends her life italicizing French dishes and phrases on this blog.  But it was for the November issue, and as always when that time of year rolls around, my thoughts turned homeward.  Many a weeknight will find me raving around my apartment (or, rather, flat), shouting at Mr. English while we try to put together our Ocado order (that’s British for Fresh Direct), in disbelief over the unavailability of key, essential items.  Half sour pickles.  Jumbo shrimp (seriously).  Thick slabs of steak.  Blue cheese dressing.  Corn bread.  Rainbow cookies.

It feels like such a deprivation that when I go home I plan my meals out months ahead of time, and never miss an opportunity for a real American hot dog, or a giant wedge salad, or a ice-packed shrimp cocktail.

The essay will give you my perspective on why, though I left the States and pursued a love for French cooking, American cuisine is not only my absolute favorite, but also on the rise here across the ocean.  Check it out!

http://paw.princeton.edu/issues/2012/11/14/perspective/

And a huge thank you to Catherine Meurisse who did the fabulous illustration.  It made me feel like a big timer getting a bespoke illustration, and she couldn’t have captured my sentiments more exactly!

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Categories: Finds
 

Niçoise Toasts with Fresh Tuna and Tomatoes

RECIPE: Niçoise Toasts with Fresh Tuna and Tomatoes
Chunky Niçoise Toasts

Chunky Niçoise Toasts

I could reinvent the Niçoise salad a thousand ways, and have.  But what brings me back to it constantly is how punchy it is.  Big flavors.  Big colors.  Big personalities.  This is not a salad of wallflowers–illustrated perfectly by the fact that lettuce is just an afterthought.  Just thick chunks of tuna, briny olives, emphatic little capers, sun-bright lemon.

And that’s what I’ve reduced it to here.  Fresh tuna steaks roasted with salt and olive oil and cut into chunks.  Sweet grape tomatoes, simply halved.  Green and black olives.  Capers for punch.  Olive oil and lemon.  It makes a simple salad, that turns into the topping on this easy tartine.  The only other embellishment on the grilled bread is a swipe of garlic and a simple basil fromage blanc to anchor everything and bring in that taste of Provence.

The taste, even at this time of year, is so fresh and sun-soaked, you can’t help but feel like the sun must be shining somewhere.  Probably in Nice!

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

Niçoise Toasts with Fresh Tuna and Tomatoes
2 servings

Chunky Niçoise ToastsINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fromage blanc
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tuna steaks, 4 to 5 ounces each
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup halved green and black olives
  • 4 teaspoons drained capers in brine
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 1-inch thick slices of rustic bread
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Blitz the basil, fromage blanc, and salt and pepper together in a mini food processor until well combined.  Spoon into a small bowl, and chill until ready to use.

Season the tuna with salt and pepper, and place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Rub with 2 teaspoons of olive oil on all sides.  Bake for 10 minutes, until cooked through.  Cut into cubes.

In a bowl, mix together the tomatoes, olives, capers, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper, and gently stir in the chunks of tuna.

Grill or toast the bread, and rub it while it is still hot with the cut side of the garlic clove.  Spread some of the basil fromage blanc over the top, and top with the tuna and tomato mixture.  Serve right away.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series