Salt-Baked Fish Stuffed with Herbs and Lemon

RECIPE: Herb-Stuffed, Salt-Baked Bream
Salt-Baked Bream

Salt-Baked Bream

Mr. English and I just got back from a trip to France to visit our wedding caterer. The day of our tasting may have been the best day of my life. I’m not sure the actual wedding can beat sitting down to 11 different versions of every possible French menu item. We’ll see if love really does conquer all next fall.

But until then, I decided to recreate my favorite dish of the list: salt-baked sea bream. I’ve made it in cooking school, but I’d forgotten how mind-blowing and inimitable salt-baked fish really is, in addition to being criminally and deceptively simple. Here, a whole bream gets stuffed with herbs (the caterer used thyme, fennel, and tarragon; I use thyme and lemon) and then baked in a hard shell of packed salt. The salt adds only a little salinity to the fish itself, but as the salt shell hardens in the oven it seals in the steam and juices from the fish and the flavor from the herbs and citrus. Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Holiday Fennel-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Red Onions for Two

RECIPE: Fennel-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Red Onions
Fennel Roasted Pork

Fennel seed- and thyme-crusted pork tenderloin with sweet roasted fennel and onions

Sometimes, like this year, I have holidays à deux.  And this column is, of course, about eating terrific, but realistic, dinners for two.  So if this year you find yourself celebrating as a twosome, here is one option I propose: a fabulous, easy, lean roast loin of pork crusted in fennel seeds and fresh thyme with fabulous, soft caramelized fennel and red onions roasted alongside.  Instead of gravy, I top it with a light drizzle of simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The whole dinner takes an hour, so slightly long than our usual Dinners for Two, but, it is a holiday meal after all.  But only about ten minutes of that hour require any effort on your part.  The vegetables roast in the oven with some olive oil for half an hour until they start to soften, and then the pork, coated in fennel and thyme, is simply place in the pan alongside for another 25 minutes.  The vegetables come out collapsingly sweet and soft, and the pork comes out juicy—and the seeds and herb around the outside makes up for the fact that we didn’t spend time searing the pork beforehand.  My little vinaigrette replaces a gravy, but it’s far more punchy and appropriate here.  I serve it with a little mache and pistachio salad.  So impressive for absolutely no effort.

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

Fennel-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Red Onions
serves 2 to 3

Fennel Roasted PorkINGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut into sixths
  • 2 red onions, cut into sixths
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1-pound pork tenderloin
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a large rectangular metal or enameled baking dish in the oven to heat along with the oven while you prep the ingredients.

When the oven is hot, take the baking dish out, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the fennel, onion, and salt and pepper.  Toss to combine, and return to the oven, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep the pork.  Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and crust in fennel seeds and thyme leaves.  Pull the baking dish out of the oven, and move the vegetables to the sides of the dish.  Place the pork in the center and roast all together for 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of the pork is 145 degrees F.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

While the pork is resting, whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  Slice the pork into thick rounds, and plate along with the roasted fennel and onion.  Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the top, and serve right away with roasted or mashed potatoes or good, crusty bread.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series
 

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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