The Secret Ingredient (Dijon Mustard) Part 3: Filet Mignon with Mustard Butter

RECIPE: Filet Mignon with Mustard Butter
Steak with Mustard Butter

Filet Mignon with Mustard Butter

I think, since Dijon mustard is a French invention, that it’s only appropriate to use it in a French preparation.  Steak with butter.  Genius.  Tender, but firm, meat, dripping in rivulets of melting cream-sweet, soft butter, that contrasts but complements the meat in flavor and texture.  Heart stopping in more ways than one.

French steaks are often seared in butter, and one way to serve them is with Beurre Maître d’Hôtel: coins of cold butter, flavored with garlic, parsley, and lemon, left to melt on top of hot seared steaks.  I can’t tell you how simple but perfect it is.  I tried flavoring the butter with mustard, instead of herbs and garlic, and the result is a steak that is flavored not only with the sweet cream of butter, but also with the tangy bite of white wine, and the acidic, spicy whip of both Dijon and whole grain mustards.  Again, simple, but heart stopping.  Maybe even better than the prototype.  I like to serve two little round medallions of tenderloin per person, with simple steamed new potatoes to soak up the butter and the juices that escape from the meat.  Carnally satisfying. Continue reading

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient

French in a Flash: Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar

RECIPE: Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar
Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar

Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar

One thing (one of the many things) I love about France is the way the French Frenchify everything that they can’t already lay claim to.  Last week on my blog, I wrote about how the French have even managed to Frenchify McDonald’s into the one and only McDo.  But aside from colonizing American fast food, the French have a funny little way of smuggling pasta away from the Italians and turning it decidedly French.

In the South of France, pasta is on every menu.  And not surprisingly.  When I was in Menton a few weeks ago, I could walk to Italy.  The Southerners have a huge predilection for tagliatelle, tossed with, truly, very French sauces.  No marinara or pomodoro in sight.  I saw tagliatelle tossed with Roquefort and cream, with mushrooms, with Provençal red pistou instead of the Italian pesto—which inspired my tagliatelle with yellow zucchini flower pistou.  I had penne topped with a huge scoop of leftover ratatouille.  And had ratatouille baked into lasagna, slathered with an oozing, collapsing layer of mozzarella mixed with toasty Gruyère.  The trend seems to be to take French condiments, or in the case of the mushrooms, traditional French flavor combinations like Forestier, and just toss them over pasta.  And it really works.  I love pasta.  With this, it’s like coming back to you home as a child, and realizing that there was a whole attic you had never discovered before where you could play for hours on end without losing an ounce of fascination.

In my next interpretation of this very easy, cheap, and best of all delicious attic foray, I toss campanelle pasta with caviar d’aubergines.  Caviar d’aubergines, or eggplant caviar, isn’t caviar at all, but instead is a garlicky spread, made from charred eggplants, puréed until smooth and thick, and accented with a touch of vinegar, olive oil, and sometimes a bite of chili.  It is so good.  Mr. English and I have a tradition whenever we’re in France, where we buy a container of the stuff premade, and a baguette, and plop down in the nearest pretty place for an immediate picnic.  For this version, I purée roasted garlic, basil, and a touch of chili with the eggplant, and toss it over trumpets of campanelle pasta, studded with toasted little pine nuts and laced with strings of fresh basil.  It’s so unusual, and hearty, and you could even serve it to vegans.  Plus, the one thing I really took to heart when I was in France this summer is how much fun it is to cook seasonally.  There, you don’t have much of a choice: frequenting markets means you make do with what’s on offer.  Eggplant is in season in the late summer, along with basil, so now is the time when this dish is cheapest and best.  Don’t waste another second!

This story and recipe are excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Click HERE for this post.

Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar
serves 2 to 4

Campanelle with Eggplant CaviarINGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large eggplant)

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 head garlic

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for garnish

  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

  • 10 leaves basil, plus more for garnish

  • A pinch of chili flakes

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1 pound campanelle pasta

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Cut the tops off the eggplant, and cut the eggplant in half lengthwise.  Sprinkle the cut surfaces of the eggplant with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and leave in a large colander in the sink to drain for 30 minutes.

Cut the top fifth off the head of garlic, and wrap the garlic tightly in foil.  Place the garlic in the oven.

Once the garlic has been in the oven and the eggplant has drained for 30 minutes, pat the eggplant dry and toss the eggplant halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Place the eggplant cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Place the eggplant with the garlic in the oven, and roast for 30 minutes (the garlic will roast for a total of 1 hour), until the eggplant flesh is completely soft.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.  Once the eggplant and garlic have come out of the oven, scoop the flesh away from the skin of the eggplant, and place the flesh in a mesh colander over the sink to remove any excess liquid.  Squeeze the roasted garlic into a food processor, and add the drained eggplant.  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the vinegar, basil, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Run the machine until the eggplant mixture is smooth and velvety.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta until just al dente, and reserve a cup of pasta water before draining.  Add the pasta back to the pot, and add the eggplant caviar, a half a cup at a time, until you’ve dressed the pasta thoroughly, but lightly.  You may add some of the reserved pasta water, spoonful by spoonful, to thin out the sauce if necessary.  Put the hot pasta in a big bowl, and top with the pine nuts, ribbons of fresh basil, and an extra drizzle of olive oil.  Serve right away, next to grilled fish, or on its own.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian

From the Working Girl Vault: Rare Sesame Seared Tuna

RECIPE: Sesame Seared Tuna
Sliced Sesame Tuna with Asian Salad

Sliced Rare Sesame Seared Tuna

This video was shot back in Florida.  More London videos to come in October!

I have a bone-deep weakness for anything that looks hard but is confidentially easy.  In food, in fashion, in any part of life.  It gives me such secret, sneaky thrills.  I love anything that I can be described as artless, or effortless, inadvertently fabulous, or accidentally perfect.  I just sighed as I typed that.  I’m serious.  It’s a little but proud triumph when having a sharp mind on the inside can make the outside look artless, effortless, fabulous, and perfect.  I just sighed again.

This recipe is all those things: artless, effortless, fabulous, and perfect.  I very often order seared sesame tuna when I’m at a restaurant.  And for many years, that’s the only place I ever ate it.  The outside is crusted with nutty, toasted sesame seeds, and the tuna on the inside is cooked ever so slightly more than sushi rare.  It’s light.  You feel healthy eating it.  The texture is so delicate it’s almost lacy, and with soy sauce or ponzu, and some pickled ginger, the flavor is phenomenal.  When I swear to you that seared tuna is the easiest thing on Working Girl Dinners so far, save maybe the Tortellini Soup, you’re no going to believe me.  But it’s artlessly, effortless, fabulously, and perfectly true.

The whole thing is done to restaurant perfection in three minutes, and I like to serve it with a quick Asian pickle (like in the video) or a big Asian salad (like in the photo).  It’s virtuous, but it’s also really impressive.  If you invite your friends over, they won’t believe you made it.  But you can say, artlessly and effortlessly, “Yes, I made this fabulous and perfect tuna all by myself!”

The only thing you need to think about, probably what you are thinking now, is about the tuna.  Go to a good supermarket or a fishmonger or a gourmet store.  You know the one–the one that’s probably slightly more fashionable or expensive than the other one near you.  Ask for tuna steak, sushi grade.  The flesh of the tuna should be red, not gray.  If you have any doubts, ask the person behind the fish counter if they would be happy to eat the tuna raw.  Trust yourself.  You know what fresh fish looks like, just by animal instinct.

Whole Sesame Tuna

Sesame Seared Tuna
serves 2 to 3


  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and sliced thickly on an angle

  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar

  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce

  • (optional: sliced fresh chilis or scallions)


  • 3/4 pound Ahi tuna steak

  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or just 6 tablespoons of white sesame seeds!)

  • Vegetable oil

  • Soy sauce or Ponzu sauce


  • Mixed greens (eyeball as much as you want and top with veggies accordingly)

  • Shredded carrots

  • Grape tomatoes, halved

  • Yellow pepper, cut very thinly

  • Cucumber, sliced

  • Ginger dressing (recommending: Makoto)


If making the Asian Insta-Pickle, toss the cucumber slices with the vinegar and soy sauce (and chili or scallions if using), and set aside to marinate.

Get to work on the fish.  Cut the Ahi tuna steak in half, and roll both halves in the sesame seeds so the seeds coat the entire exterior of the fish.  Pour just enough oil into a wide pan to coat the bottom.  Heat on medium-high until smoking.  Sear tuna 30 to 45 seconds on each of 4 sides.  Slice thinly.  Serve with soy or ponzu sauce.

If making the salad, toss salad and vegetables with ginger dressing, and serve on the side of the tuna.


If you are faced with a choice between sesame seeds and toasted sesame seeds, get the UNtoasted ones.

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

The Secret Ingredient (Dijon Mustard) Part 2: Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

RECIPE: Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

Okay, so strictly speaking, this recipe does not use Dijon mustard. But if we change this month’s ingredient to Mustard from Dijon, then this still counts. These green beans make use of old-fashioned mustard (moutarde à l’ancien) from Dijon, and I’ve always loved the name “moutarde à l’ancien” because it makes it sound like it’s the true, original Dijon mustard.

The truth of the matter is, I hardly ever use one without the other. I add a spoonful of Dijon mustard for creaminess, and spice, and then a spoonful of whole grain mustard for texture and visuality. Whole grain mustard from Dijon has a very similar flavor profile to Dijon mustard—the tang and acidity of the wine, the spice of the mustard, but the mustard seeds are left whole, and so it has that crunch, and the beautiful look of being studded with golden mustard seeds.

I was inspired to make my own version of this dish after seeing something similar in a French cooking magazine. Warm blanched haricots verts, tossed in a warm vinaigrette of soft shallots, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and grain mustard. I love that the white wine vinegar serves to enhance the acidity of the white wine within the mustard, giving the salad a new-pickled quality. The shallots, and even the chervil on top, are somewhat sweet, and counter that acidity. It is so good, if you’re looking for a different kind of vegetable, look no further. This is my holy vegetable grail.

The recipe and writing are excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.  Click HERE for this post.

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard
serves 4

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and MustardINGREDIENTS

  • Kosher salt

  • 7 ounces trimmed haricots verts

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon grain mustard

  • Black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon fresh chervil, torn


Bring a pot of water to boil, salt the water, and blanch the haricots verts for until tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain.

Put the pot back on medium-low heat, and once the pot is dry, add the oil.  Add the shallots, and sauté, stirring often, until just soft and fragrant, but not golden, about 4 minutes.  Add the vinegar, mustard, and black pepper.  Stir to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add the haricots verts back to the pain, and toss with the warm vinaigrette.  Plate the beans, and top with the chervil.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetables, Vegetarian

French in a Flash: Herby Goat Cheese Ball (with multigrain baguette!)

RECIPE: Herby Goat Cheese
Herby Goat Cheese

Herby Goat Cheese

Right now, all I want to do is eat outside.  Al frescoEn plein air.  It’s summer, but it’s also August, which means summer’s a temporary situation.  And I’m not one to let anything pass, a sample sale or a season, without taking full advantage.

I live on a little garden, and I’ve been making picnic foods for most of my meals.  Taking them outside, sitting on my blanket made out of sweatshirt fleece, and feasting.  This recipe is simple enough, and maybe it’s not the first time you’ve seen something similar, but it’s all I’ve wanted, cold and fresh, accompanied by icy champagne and lazy conversation.

My inspiration was Boursin, a family favorite in our house: a crumbly, creamy cheese studded with fresh herbs and garlic.  I roll fresh chèvre cheese into a round, and roll it in chopped fresh basil, purple basil, mint, parsley, chervil, chives and thyme.  And some grated garlic.  You can use whatever fresh herbs you fancy.  Then, I get a knife, and some multigrain baguette, and get eating.  C’est tout.  Perfect for déjeuner, or dîner, sur l’herbe.

Herbed Goat CheeseThis story and recipe are excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

Herby Goat Cheese
serves 6 to 8

Herby Goat CheeseINGREDIENTS

  • 9 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature

  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, chervil, chives, mint, basil, purple basil

  • 1 small clove garlic, grated

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/2 multigrain baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds


Spray a ramekin with nonstick spray, and line it with plastic wrap.  Smooth the goat cheese into the ramekin, pressing down to form it to the shape of the little bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.

Mix the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper.  Unmold the cheese, and press the herb mixture so it sticks on all sides of the cheese.  Set the herbed cheese on a plate, and scatter the multigrain baguette slices all around.  Allow to come to room temperature for 15 minutes, and serve.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bread & Butter, Dips, Spreads, Preserves, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian

Working Girl Dinners: Cheapskate Spaghetti

RECIPE: Cheapskate Spaghetti

Cheapskate Spaghetti

Cheapskate Spaghetti

I just moved into a new apartment in London with Mr. English.  And I’ve been doing a lot of what I call “apartment cooking.”  I don’t have all my pots and pans yet, the kitchen’s small, and frankly, I just want to feed us, not Cook with a capital C.  I’ve stocked my little pantry, and I’ve been referring to it every meal time as if it were the Bible.  That’s how I came up with Sunday’s Tuna Bruschetta, and that’s how I came up with cheapskate pasta.

It’s not a total original–it’s something I’ve heard of, but never had, and never made.  It’s spaghetti, with olive oil, garlic, chili, anchovy, and parsley.  While the spaghetti is boiling away, the oil is infused over the heat with the garlic, chili flakes, and anchovy paste.  Long before the pasta is done, the sauce is ready.  And then you have a spicy, salty, nutty, light pasta that you want to eat way too much of.  I’ve made it, including for this video, four times this week.  Last night, we finished the whole pot between the two of us.  And the other time, when we had some leftovers, Mr. English caught me red handed, standing in front of the open fridge, shoveling it cold into my mouth.  (Tastes just as good that way, you’ll be happy to know).

Don’t let the anchovy paste intimidate you–you won’t even know it’s in there, except that something in the background tastes really, really good.  And if you’re having company, serve this along with some roasted whole fish.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather eat right now.

Cheapskate Spaghetti
serves 2, with leftovers if you're lucky

Cheapskate SpaghettiINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound spaghetti

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 5 cloves garlic, grated

  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste

  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

  • Small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Parmesan


Bring a big pot of water to boil, salt it well, and drop in the spaghetti.  Stir, and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a big sauté pan, heat the oil on medium heat and add the garlic, chili, and anchovy, stirring to break up the anchovy paste and spread out the garlic.  Cook until the garlic is super fragrant, but not yet brown, no more than 3 minutes.  Shut off the oil, and let it sit off to the side.

Drain the spaghetti, and toss it with the olive oil, garlic, chili, and anchovy.  Add the chopped parsley, and stir it through.  Season with salt and pepper, lightly, and top with grated Parmesan.  Serve!

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



The Mirepoix Town Hall

I loved the little town of Mirepoix, even though I guess, strictly speaking, it doesn’t have the grandiosity of Monte Carlo, or Cannes, or St. Tropez.  The breathtaking, terrible beauty of the Provençal perched villages of Les Baux, or Eze.  Or the charm of the little fishing villages like Cassis.  What I found in the Midi-Pyrenées region was, instead, a kind of rustic simplicity and nonchalance that was completely disarming and refreshing.


The Market Square

I think of being in the Midi-Pyrenées as like being in the Deep South, for two reasons: pork fat, and a thick accent.  And both of those are meant to be sincere compliments.  Mirepoix is a small medieval town in the heart of the region.  There’s not much to it…a modern outer town that leads up to a casual fortress.  We walked through a parting in the stone walls, and down a close little corridor-lane.  Suddenly, the square was upon us.  Leaning little plaster and beam houses, bordering a perfect square, laced up with swinging, hanging lights, brimming with stalls, dancing to a little four piece band that consisted of a washboard, a clarinet, a tuba, and a fiddle.


The Old Ad Vendor

MIREPOIX Cheese and Sausage

The Cheese and Sausage Vendor, with the best free sample policy ever

MIREPOIX Caviar d'Aubergine

I spread some of this spicy eggplant dip on toasted baguette...delicious.

MIREPOIX Pain d'Epices

I had the pain d'épices for breakfast, with yogurt.

Somehow, although no one had a squire or a coat of arms, it was just as I pictured the Middle Ages.  A bustling market and drunken jollity.  We stopped at every stall.  We tasted cured hams, coppa, rosette, Bayonne, smoked saucisson, until we were full.  We bought some gorgeous and unidentifiable cheese.  I bought a pain d’epice, or gingerbread loaf, that was made with exactly 50% honey.  I stopped at an ad vendor, who sold black and white ads torn with precision from magazines from the 1910s to 1940s, for 5 Euros.  I bought a fabulous pen-sketched Hermes ad from 1930, and have since framed it and hung it over my dresser.

MIREPOIX Cassoulet

My first cassoulet...

The sun was setting as we took our seats at the outdoor café.  I ordered the cassoulet, the one from a jar that I mentioned in this post.  As I spooned beans and pork fat scrumptiously into my mouth, the band came over and tooted a tune, something I seemed to recognize, that swung around in my head like Cole Porter for the next week.  The bulbs of the swinging lights winked overhead, my Hermes ad and pain d’epice nestled against my leg.  And there was something to uncommonly special about this very common town.  It was spirit, a desire to be out, and about, and part of everything, that kept the town alive, and lively, for literally a thousand years.


And the band played on...

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Categories: Toulouse, Voyages