The Secret Ingredient (Squid Ink) Part I: Crab Ravioli with Black Brown Butter and Tarragon

RECIPE: Crab Ravioli with Black Brown Butter and Tarragon
Crab Ravioli with Black Brown Butter and Tarragon

Crab Ravioli with Black Brown Butter and Tarragon

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

When I graduated from college in 2005, my mother and stepfather took me on what should have been a dream vacation: Rome, Florence, Tuscany, and Venice.

None of us had ever been to Italy before. As soon as I left Princeton, I threw myself into planning mode with the same pluck and tenacity I had used to survive my thesis and comprehensive exams. I bought two guidebooks and read them both. I watched Molto Mario religiously for two straight weeks. I practiced making risotto. With every final flourish of extra virgin olive oil I felt more and more like Gina Lollobrigida.

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

French in a Flash: Drunken Angel Hair with Leeks and Cream

RECIPE: Drunken Leek Pasta
Drunken Leek Pasta

Drunken Leek Pasta

I remember the first time I was drunk very clearly. Which is, from what I have seen of drunkenness ever since, quite a feat. I was three.

I was, of course, with the famille. My cousin Patricia was having a great big wedding, and we’d flown across the Atlantic just to be there. It was the first time I’d ever been to Europe, and we stayed the whole summer.

I remember many things from that summer. Buying strawberry ice cream off the corner, wearing a black and white millerais bathing suit that left a striped tan line, and discovering Coca-Cola in glass bottles for the first time. But the night that stands out most distinctly in my memory was the wedding night. The bride’s parents’ house was turned into a den of delirium and revelry, with white lights strung from every tree and every beam, and I was perkily sitting by Maman and Mémé and a slew of other distant relatives at a table. I had finished my dinner.

“Maman, what is that!?” I demanded loudly of the garnet colored liquid in her tall, elegant glass. She looked so fabulous in her navy silk and red lipstick, holding the ball of the glass, the stem dangling between her long fingers.

“It’s wine” she declared, as though I should have known it all the time.

“Can I have some?”

I don’t know if it’s the same in all French families, but in ours, wine was never denied. It was only rationed. “You can have just a finger!” She stuck her finger into the glass, and pulled it out again, dripping and dangling tantalizing ribbons of Merlot. I knew this was an occasion. An initiation. I could feel it. I wrapped my lips around her finger, and pulled off the wine. I swallowed.

“What do you think?”

I knew there was only one acceptable answer. “I love it!”

And because I could tell it was forbidden, as soon as Maman turned her head, I stuck my finger back in the glass, and had some more. Then I darted off into the party before she had noticed the difference.

Everything was fine, at first. I felt very grown up. But soon, too soon, I because very, very sleepy. I found a couch, and sat down alone. The white lights hanging from the beams started to sway and blur. The next thing I knew, I was being shaken awake, Maman and Mémé standing over me, concerned. “Kerry, are you alright?”

I was disoriented, and dreamy. The picked me up, and carried me off. I didn’t wake up again until the next afternoon. I was sleeping off my first hangover.

I graduated from fingers of wine to glasses of a splash of wine mixed with water, and that’s what I do with the pasta in this week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats. I buy an inexpensive bottle of French white table wine, and I boil in the angel hair in it, with some water, to flavor the pasta. I then make a sauce of some of the white wine I’d set aside, sweet, soft, sautéd leeks, and cream. It’s so decadent, and really unexpected. Like a drunken Vichyssoise with pasta instead of potato. It makes the perfect side dish to a simple grilled fish. I suppose that if you’re young, or you’re pasta, being drunk isn’t the worst thing in the world after all.

For the Serious Eats post, and recipe, click here!

Drunken Leek Pasta
serves 4 to 6

Drunken Leek PastaIngredients

  • 3 small to medium leeks, whites and light greens sliced into julienne
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup water, plus extra if needed
  • 1 bottle of white wine, 3/4 cup reserved
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon chervil, chopped
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Procedure

  1. In a wide, preferably nonstick sauté pan, melt the butter in 1/4 cup water on medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cover with a lid, lowering the heat all the way down. Cook until soft and spaghetti-like, about 20 minutes, adding water whenever the pan gets too dry, to avoid burning the leeks, and conversely evaporating off any extra liquid once the leeks are soft and sweet.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add all the wine in the bottle except 3/4 cup, and a handful of coarse salt. Add the angel hair to the boiling water and wine, and cook until al dente, just a few minutes.  Drain.
  3. Heat the remaining wine and cream with the leeks.  Toss with the angel hair, and garnish with Parmesan and chervil.  Serve immediately.
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Categories: Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Grilled Lamb Chops with Port Syrup, Garlic Confit, and Sauce Vierge "Persillade"

RECIPE: Grilled Lamb Chops with Port Syrup, Garlic Confit, and Sauce Vierge "Persillade"

Lamb with Port

Lamb with Port Syrup

This is a draft I wrote of this week’s French in a Flash over on Serious Eats. But it’s more of a personal blog post than a column, so I though I’d put it up here. I hope you enjoy….

Click HERE for the column on Serious Eats and the recipe!

City Slickers

When I was a little girl, I lived on a shady, old-fashioned, leaf-lined side street in the great city of New York.

The thing I love most about my city is the inimitable ability one has to walk absolutely anywhere. This is not the old, “I used to walk two miles to school every day uphill in the snow” sob story in the arcane lore of parent-child relations (even though that’s exactly what I did!), but I think I am old enough now to decry that my best friend and neighbor Polly and I used to hike to school in our kilts and knee socks in the blistering cold until the veins in our legs ran bluer than the ink that leaked through our schoolbags. But we wouldn’t have had it any other way because when you walk in New York City, you never know who or what you’ll see next around the corner. And on the way to eight hours in a schoolhouse, a little adventure can be much welcome.

Unless, of course, you’re me, and you’re a creature of habit. Not knowing what was around most corners, I was comforted to know what was around one specific corner. At the end of my block, just at the avenue, I knew that if I turned the corner I would end up at the Love drugstore, a relic of 1980s New York pharmacies. And in the great crowd of people in which Polly and I always staged our grand adventures, it was nice to know that one face would light up in a smile whenever it saw us.

Lamb with Port Zoom

I Heart NY

I met Rita on my first day of my new school. Our school bus stop was just in front of the Love pharmacy on the corner, and I was waiting for Polly because she was the only girl I knew in what would be a sea of girls who all knew each other. I had never been on a school bus before, and, come to think of it, never would be again. I was shaking in my penny loafers—and was trying hard not to let anyone see me cry.

I went into the drug store to buy a pack of tissues. As I scrambled to collect enough coins to pay the bill, I heard her ask, “What’s your favorite flavor?”

I looked up bleary-eyed, and saw a tall, dark lady with crimson lipstick framing a perfect white smile that glowed against her complexion, and cheekbones high as a cat’s. She was dressed in a flowing skirt that fell from her waist to just below her knees, and a high-necked silk blouse, secured with a silk scarf. She motioned to a box of Charms Sweet Pops, another 1980s relic of a lollipop that I still love and still insist on finding to give away every Halloween. I smiled shyly: “grape.”

She plucked a purple pop from the box, and leaned across the counter with it. “For later,” she said with a wink.

 

Parsley and Garlic

Parsley and Garlic: Persillade

Our Town

Unexpectedly, I smiled. I tucked my sweet pop away in the bowels of my school bag and sighed, thinking of all the hours that would pass until I could reward myself for surviving my first day at a new school. I met Polly, and we took the bus, arriving at the old brick schoolhouse. All the other girls did know each other, and I didn’t get any gummy bears for finishing my subtraction mad minute in time. But in the afternoon, the teacher did read from Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, and we had roast chicken for lunch, so the day wasn’t a total loss. Back on the bus in the afternoon, I reached into my bag and fished around amongst pen caps and broken pencil shards until I unearthed my lollipop. I unwrapped it and smiled, sucking happily away as I stared out the window at the thronging streets.

“Where’d you get that?” demanded Polly.

“From Rita!”

From then on, every morning for years, our journey commenced with a visit to Rita. I would buy my lollipop, and Polly would buy some chewing gum, and then off we would set, armed against the world. And one time, when Polly was sick with strep throat and I had to journey alone, Rita insisted I take two lollipops—medicinally of course.

I often see out-of-towners who come to visit New York staring up at the great buildings, and turning around at the grand avenues. Perhaps, to them, it seems like the biggest city in the world. But it is, I swear, a very small town.

Grilled Lamb Lollipops with Port Syrup and “Persillade” Sauce Vierge

These are lamb lollipops, Frenched chops cut from the bone, which create perfect grilled finger food for these hot summer months. They are marinated with herbs and port and then grilled until they are pink inside, and crusty and charred on the outside. I sweeten them up with a drizzle of port syrup, and serve them with a persillade sauce vierge. Persillade is a French culinary expression that means that something is done with garlic and parsley—a common crust for lamb or filling for baked shellfish. In this version, I confit the garlic on the stove in olive oil, until it is soft and sweet. Then I use the garlic oil to create a sauce vierge, a slightly acidic raw sauce to which I add freshly chopped parsley. The flavors are complex and sophisticated, and though the recipe appears to have many components, it’s still French in a Flash. It’s even more of a flash if you plan ahead and put the lamb to marinate and the garlic to confit the night before while you’re in the kitchen having dinner. Then everything will be ready for the next day, and the recipe will take minutes!

Lamb chops or lollipops. Tastes may change, but I have always loved the sweet life.

For the recipe, click HERE!

Grilled Lamb Chops with Port Syrup, Garlic Confit, and Sauce Vierge "Persillade"
serves 2 to 3

Lamb with PortGarlic Confit Ingredients

  • 1 head of garlic, minus the three cloves you will use for the marinade, all skinned but intact
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Lamb Ingredients

  • 1 1-pound Frenched rack of lamb, well trimmed of any fat or nerves, cut into chops
  • Salt

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup port
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 bunch of parsley stems (reserve the leaves for the sauce vierge)
  • 1 twig of rosemary, snapped
  • A good amount of coarsely ground black pepper

Sauce Vierge "Persillade" Ingredients

  • 1 head of confited garlic
  • 1/2 cup garlic oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or lime juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • The leaves from 1 stem rosemary, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Port Syrup Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup port
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Procedure

  1. Begin by placing the peeled garlic cloves and the olive oil in a small saucepot. Sit over low heat, and begin counting 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The garlic will begin to look translucent in the oil, and will be soft to the point of a knife. At this point, take it off the heat, and leave to infuse and come to room temperature. The only thing to keep in mind is that you are not cooking the oil; just heating it. There should be no sizzling or browning of any sort! At the end, the garlic will be absolutely soft and sweet.
  2. Mix marinade ingredients in a pie dish. Arrange the lamb chops in it, making sure the lamb touches the liquid and not just the parsley stems. Cover with plastic, and put in the fridge for an hour. After an hour, turn the lamb over in the marinade, and cover and refrigerate for another hour. You could certainly marinate the meat longer, but this is the minimum.
  3. For the sauce vierge, simply combine all the ingredients and allow to sit while the meat is grilling.
  4. For the port sauce, simply set the port and sugar and a pinch of salt in a saucepot over medium heat. The sugar will dissolve, and the port will reduce. You should be left with about 1/3 the volume of liquid from which you started, and it will be thick and sweet like a syrup.
  5. Heat a grill pan or a grill to medium-high heat. Blot the lamb on paper towel to remove excess liquid from the marinade, and salt the meat. Drizzle the chops with a touch of olive oil, and sear until golden, about 3 minutes per side for medium rare.
  6. Drizzle the chops with the port syrup and spoon the confited garlic over the top. Serve the sauce vierge on the side.
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Categories: French in a Flash, Recipes, Series
 

Julie & Julia, and Me

Stanley Tucci as "Paul Child" and Meryl Streep as "Julia Child"

Stanley Tucci as "Paul Child" and Meryl Streep as "Julia Child"

Last night I, along with every other foodie in America, went to see Julie & Julia. I loved the movie, but then, it was hard not to. I loved that look of satisfaction on Meryl Streep’s face as she triumphantly grinned at the bird-beak of meringue that hung smugly from her balloon whisk. I loved the frenzy over Sole Meuniere. I loved the night cap of mignonette and oyster shooters. I loved it because I was salivating, and dying to be back in Paris. I loved it because they got it right, and because it celebrated what I love most in all the world: French food.

As I drove home, I got to feeling ashamed. Over several things. I’ve been so busy with cooking school, and writing my column, that I haven’t spent the time I should have been spending on this blog, the blog that, like Julie in the movie, was started by my boyfriend and which started it all for me. So, readers, I apologize for that. But I was also ashamed because I, who preach the gospel of easy French food for American cooks, have never read or seen one recipe by the grande dame herself, Julia Child. I didn’t know that my “bon app” signature is just slang for Julia’s valedictory “bon appetit”! I didn’t even realize the extent to which I should have known all of this.

Julie and JuliaI always write how here in America, we hold French food up as the gold (butter gold) standard. That even provincial French cooking achieves the effortless elegance of a svelte, scarved Parisian woman. It is a passion that consumes me, and which I happily consume. But I have never really been influenced by the woman who changed everything, I now realize, and who made what I do possible, relatable, and I hope, to someone out there, important or inspiring or just sweet fun.

In some ways, I think the lack of influence is a good thing. Julia and I do very different things. We both may have started at the Cordon Bleu, but, from what I understand, she perfected French traditional cooking, where as I interpret the food on which I was raised into what I hope is something a bit tongue-in-cheek and even more accessible, in a world which has changed, as far as I can tell, very dramatically in the last forty or so years. But now I am fascinated, charmed, and beguiled. I ordered the DVDs and Mastering the Art of French Cooking on Amazon last night, and I am salivating again just thinking about its arrival.

I’ll let you know when they get here. Until then, bon app mes amis!

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French in a Flash: Citrus Oreillettes

RECIPE: Citrus Oreillettes
Citrus Oreillettes

Citrus Oreillettes

In love, a man whispers sweet nothings into a girl’s ear. In food, I like to fry up some sweet nothings to crackle into my man’s mouth.

This week’s French in a Flash over on Serious Eats is Citrus Oreillettes. Oreillettes are deep fried shards of pastry, snowballed in powdered sugar. They are light as air, but I still managed to eat my weight in them in Provence this past spring. For my easy, renovated version, I fry wonton skins for just seconds, and then toss them around in a brown paper bag filled with powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, and the colorful confetti zests of lemon, lime, and orange. I’d like to say that I’ve learnt restraint over the summer, but, I can’t. The four of us finished the entire batch watching late night TV in bed. And so I fell asleep on a cloud of powdered sugar. Very sweet dreams.

Some of my column readers have commented that they want to try cinnamon or savory versions with cumin or paprika or chili. You could even try Parmesan or fresh vanilla. Let me know what you come up with…

Citrus

For the full story and recipe, click here. Bon app!

Citrus Oreillettes
serves a crowd

Citrus OreillettesIngredients

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • The zest of 1 orange, 1 lemon, and 1 lime
  • Pinch of salt
  • 24 wonton wrappers (about half a pack)

Procedure

  1. Heat about 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet, or saucepan, to 325°F.
  2. Cut the wonton wrappers into triangles by slicing them in half across the diagonal. Fry a few of them at a time, about 4 or 5 depending on the size of your pan, for about 10 to 20 seconds per side, until they are just turning golden. They will harden and even darken a touch when you remove them to a paper towel to drain.
  3. Pile up the oreillettes on a plate, and top with more freshly grated orange, lemon, and lime zest. Serve with tea or aperitifs in the afternoon.
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Desserts, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series
 

French in a Flash: Rustic Roast Duck with New Potatoes, Sugar Snaps, and Spring Onions

RECIPE: Rustic Roast Duck with New Potatoes, Sugar Snaps, and Spring Onions
Roast Duck Legs

Roast Duck Legs with Potatoes, Green Onions, and Sugar Snaps

Last week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats is the dish I make for Mr. English when it’s been a long day. It’s so hearty and earthy, but you hardly have to lift a finger. Plus, duck makes it feel like a special occasion, which dinner always is with Mr. English. I crust the duck skin in salt and herbes de Provence, sear it to crisp it, and then perch it on a nest of soft-crisp new potatoes, roasted sweet sugar snaps, and garden-fresh green onions. The vegetables bathe in the melting fat of the duck, and the duck stays crisp and juicy and hot.

We curl up on the couch and pretend that we live in a French farmhouse with a roaring fire. C’est si bon.

For the recipe and full story, click here.

Rustic Roast Duck with New Potatoes, Sugar Snaps, and Spring Onions
serves 2

Roast Duck LegsIngredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Jersey Royal potatoes, or other small boiling potatoes, sliced in thirds
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas
  • 7 scallions, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 duck legs, thighs attached
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the vegetables by slicing the potatoes and scallions into thirds. In a roasting pan, toss together the potatoes with the fresh thyme, 1 scant tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper. Put into the oven to begin softening.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the duck. Trim the duck of any excess fat, and reserve. Rub both duck legs with 1 teaspoon of olive oil total, just to give it a light coating.
  4. Sprinkle the duck liberally on both sides with herbes de Provence, and season well with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat a sauté pan on medium-high heat, and add in the reserved duck fat so that it begins to render. Place the duck legs skin side down into the hot pan, and sear just about 4 minutes until the skin is nice and golden. Flip the duck, and sear another minute.
  6. Open the oven, and toss the scallions and sugar snap peas in with the potatoes, coating the green vegetables with the seasoned potato oil. Place the duck legs skin side up on the bed of vegetables, and roast for 30-35 minutes, or just until the juices run clear. Garnish with stems of fresh thyme.
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Categories: 60 Minutes, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series
 

Moroccan Carrot Salad

RECIPE: Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot SaladKitchen Caravan recorded my first ever cooking shows, and now they’ve allowed me to contribute a recipe to their Moroccan collection this month. Meme has always made a traditional Moroccan carrot salad for big family dinners, where thick copper penny slices of carrot are boiled and then tossed with ground cumin, salt, and lemon juice. It’s delicious. But, I wanted to give it a bit of a facelift. So, I created ribbons of carrot and just blanched them until still crisp, but not raw, and created a vinaigrette with whole cumin seeds and citrus and honey. Whole cilantro leaves finish it off. It’s refreshing and light, but exotic. I hope you try it! Here’s the link to the recipe.

Moroccan Carrot Salad
serves 4 to 6

Moroccan Carrot SaladIngredients

  • 10 medium carrots, stripped into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted for 20 seconds in a hot dry pan
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro to taste

Procedure

  1. Use a Y-peeler to strip an already peeled and trimmed carrot again and again into thin ribbons.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Blanch the carrots ribbons for 45 seconds, then drain, and set aside.
  3. Quickly whiz together the cumin vinaigrette by combining the cumin seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper in the blender. Blend until the dressing emulsifies and the cumin seeds are broken up into shards.
  4. Toss the warm, dry carrots ribbons lightly with as much vinaigrette as needed. Place in whole cilantro leaves to taste.
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Categories: Eat, Kitchen Caravan, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad