Friday, April 27, 2007

Spotted Skate Wing with Braised Red Cabbage and Mustard Sauce

VO as opening scene unfolds:
"The part of 'Skate Wing' will be played today by 'Halibut'."

I have a confession to make. I went into this dish with extreme prejudice. I love skate wing, but this whole preparation (on paper) looked like something that might trigger the salivary glands to activate and overproduce, and not in the good way if you catch my drift. "But, Carol" I said, "nothing's really been awful so far in this fabulous cooking project of yours, so just make it and shut the heck up." And then I chided myself for talking to myself out loud. But I did that out loud, too, so you know, maybe I need a vacation.

The prep for this dish was pretty manageable, except for the fish part. I called six different local fishmongers the morning I made this, and none of them had skate wing, let alone spotted skate wing. Two fish guys I spoke with said they had gotten some in the day before, but it was bad so they weren't selling it. I was really bummed because like so many of you in the last post's comments section, I really love skate wing -- I love its ropey appearance, I love its texture, I like how it tastes a little like shellfish... it really is one of my favorite fish. One of the fish guys I'd worked with before said that for this dish I could substitute halibut and it would stand up well to the other flavors. I'm also a fan of halibut, so I went ahead and made the substitution.

During prep, I had some flashbacks when I read that this dish included red cabbage because every time I see it in the grocery store, I'm reminded of the time my mom was making some sort of cabbage dish for a family dinner when I was little (probably coleslaw) and the pipe beneath the kitchen sink got clogged. After seeing that the pipes under the kitchen sink were fine, my dad and my uncle went downstairs to the basement to try and loosen the clog in the pipes and when they did, the pipe came loose (I think my mom might've turned on the InSinkerator) and COVERED my dad in shredded red cabbage. When you're seven and seeing this happen to your father, it's 50% horrifying and 50% hilarious and you have to wait to see what his reaction is before you either cry or laugh your head off. Luckily, we got to laugh. We still talk about it every few years at family gatherings, and I'm still afraid to stand in that same spot in my parents' basement, because I do not harbor any secret fantasies of being covered in shredded red cabbage, thankyouverymuch.

So, we're starting off this dish with me thinking I'm not going to like it, a fish substitution I'm not very happy about, and a slight fear of red cabbage and garbage disposals. Recipe for failure, you say? Just you wait, my friends... just you wait.

Let's start with the mise en place for the Braised Red Cabbage:

In the large glass bowl is shredded (not quite a chiffonade) red cabbage that marinated in red wine overnight. I used a 2004 Tyrus Evans Claret, and it was perfect. I am looking forward to having a glass of it later tonight since I only needed a cup of it for this dish.

I melted the butter in my LeCreuset and then lightly cooked the red onion for about 5 minutes. I stirred in the cabbage and the marinating liquid, some shredded Granny Smith apple, and some water. I put this mixture in a 350-degree oven for two hours, with the lid on but slightly askew (I wasn't going to do the parchment lid again since I wasn't happy with it when I used one last time).

After two hours, I removed the cabbage from the oven, added some shredded russet potato and a few teaspoons of wildflower honey. I covered it again with the lid slightly askew, and put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes. When it was finished, I added a little bit of salt and pepper and let it rest on the stovetop while I made everything else I needed for the dish.

I made the mustard powder next which involved grinding and then sifting yellow and black mustard seeds. I couldn't find black mustard seeds, so I used brown ones instead:

The next step was to make the mustard sauce. I cooked the carrot, leek and mushrooms in a tiny bit of canola oil to soften and caramelize them:

I added some vegetable stock and let the vegetables and stock simmer for five minutes. I then stirred in some cream then whisked in 10 tablespoons of butter, chunk by chunk, letting each bit melt before I put in the next one:

Lastly, I strained the sauce through a chinois, discarded the vegetables, returned the liquid to the saucepan, whisked in regular and whole grain mustards as well as some minced chives. Here's the finished sauce:

When I tasted the sauce for seasoning, I has a sneaking suspicion I was really gonna like this dish. Things were looking up.

The last step was to cook the halibut. The fishmonger cleaned and skinned it for me, so I put a light coating of canola oil in my sauté pan and cooked the fish for about 2 minutes on each side.

Now, time for plating. Here are shots of all six plates in a progression as things are added to the plating. First, the mustard sauce:

Next, the cabbage:

Next, the mustard powder:

Last, but not least, the halibut:

And, the final close-up:

So, yeah. I'd make this again. And again after that. And then, probably a few more times after that. And definitely with skate wing. Repeatedly. I tasted my serving of it (okay, I ate the whole thing) before everyone else came over, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was delicious. The halibut worked well in place of the skate wing and the cabbage was hearty and earthy and really wonderful. The mustard sauce will make an encore appearance tomorrow morning since I had leftovers (I think I'll drizzle it over an asparagus and gruyere omelet).

No doubt about it, this dish was a homerun, and everyone loved it. Not a drop, flake, shred or grain was left on anyone's plate. I can't wait to find some skate wing so I can make this again. This might have to be recreated as an entrée for my next dinner party.

Oh, and no one ended up covered in shredded cabbage in my basement. So, turn that homerun into a grand slam, kids. I've reversed the curse!

Up Next: "Candied Apple" (Crème de Farine with Poached Apples and Ice Cream)

Brands Used:
All-Clad and Le Creuset cookware
Produce from Whole Foods and H-Mart
365 organic unsalted butter
McClure's wildflower honey (Littleton, VT)
Halibut from Southern Maryland Seafood at DC's Eastern Market
Cream from Horizon Organic
Grey Poupon dijon mustard
Delouis organic whole grain mustard
Mustard seeds from TPSS Co-op
Tyrus Evans 2004 claret

Music to Cook By: SoKo; NotSokute; SoKo just released her first EP and the only way I can describe her is that she sounds like a French Jenny Lewis. Apologies that the SoKo link takes you to a MySpace page. I know you're not 14.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pan-Roasted Maine Jumbo Scallops with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus Purée

This recipe is a small milestone for all of us here in FrenchLaundryAtHome-land: you, me, the ATM machine, the purveyors I'm getting to know better and better each trip to various markets and shops. This recipe is the 25th one I've completed out of 100 recipes in the French Laundry Cookbook. I'm one-quarter of the way through, and in less than four months. My original goal was to do this project over two years, but it looks like I may do it in 12-18 months at this pace. Wow. Who knew?

Let's dive into the Scallops with Morels, because it didn't require a ton of work, but it also wasn't one of my favorites. Don't get me wrong -- it had potential; I just didn't love it.

Here's the mise en place:

A wee bit of backstory. The only place I could find fresh morels was Balducci's, and when I saw the price tag of $59.99/pound (and triple-checking the recipe to confirm I needed a half-pound), I decided to scoot over to Whole Foods where I knew they had dried morels that I could rehydrate and use. I'm not sure if using rehydrated morels was what made this dish kind of "meh" but it could be. I'm sure you'll let me know if you've had a comparative experience with morels, right? Right.

The first thing I did was cut off the bottom third of the asparagus stalks. I then cut off the tips, and kept the stalks since I knew I had to cook and use both:

Next, I cooked and ice-bathed (separately) the tips and stalks. I puréed the stalks in the blender with a little bit of vegetable stock (still using my own stuff -- it's almost gone, keep yer knickers on). I then spread the purée on a tamis to drain the liquid from it:

After 10 minutes, I pressed the purée through the tamis into a saucepan so I could keep it warm until I was ready to plate the dish. Next up? The morels. Since they were already rehydrated, I skipped the step in the cookbook about sautéeing them in stock until they were tender, because rehydrating them made them plenty tender. I chopped them and put them in a sauté pan with a little butter, a few sprigs of thyme and some smashed garlic cloves. After about two minutes, I removed the thyme and garlic and added the shallots. After another minute or two, I added 4T of butter and minced chives, as well as some salt and white pepper. If you're following along with the cookbook, you'll note I did not include the 2T of brunoise. I thought I had turnips and leeks in my crisper, but when I went to take them out of the fridge, the turnip was the consistency of a Nerf ball and the leek was not in great shape at all. So, I skipped that step -- could that have cause the "meh" result? Methinks not, but what the hell do I know? Here's a photo of what the morel mixture looked like in the sauté pan:

I kept this warm, and also melted some butter in a small pan to warm the asparagus tips. Last step was the cook the scallops. The cookbook said to put some canola oil into (Spoonie, I keep typing "INto" - ha!) a frying pan and cook the scallops for 1-2 minutes on each side. I used a nonstick pan instead and only used a half tablespoon of butter. They didn't brown like the recipe suggested they should, but they were cooked the whole way through and slightly golden brown around the edges. And buttery-licious! Here's a shot of the final plating:

I used two scallops per person and made 4 servings instead of 6, since I knew I'd only have four tasters. I had to salt mine at the table because I didn't season the morels enough for my liking. Was this a disaster like the Third-Time's-A-Charm Grape Jellies or the Great Fish-Slicing Failure of 2007? No. It was fine; it just wasn't spectacular. I probably should've done something differently with the morels. I don't often make scallops at home, even though they are so easy to do. So, at least doing this dish reminded me that scallops are a no-brainer when I'm plumb-tuckered out. I probably wouldn't make this dish again, and I honestly don't think I'd oooh and aaah over it at the restaurant, either. The whole package just wasn't my thang.

Up Next: Spotted Skate Wing with Braised Red Cabbage and Mustard Sauce

Brands Used:
Produce and herbs from H-Mart
Forest Mushrooms Morels from Whole Foods
365 organic butter and canola oil
Scallops from Balducci's

Music to Cook By: Lyle Lovett; Joshua Judges Ruth. The song "North Dakota" is one of my favorites. Sigh.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Purée of English Pea Soup with White Truffle Oil and Parmesan Crisps

English Peas are only available for about 6 minutes in April (yes, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point), so when I saw them at Balducci's, I knew I had to slide this dish into the schedule sooner rather than later. "Carol," you may ask, "do I really have to use English peas to make this soup, or can I just use regular peas instead?"

Don't make me smack you.

Believe it or not, it actually does make a difference when you use English peas. They're sweeter, fresher-tasting, and stay greener when you cook with them. I bought 3 lbs. of them in their pods to yield the 3 C of shucked peas I'd need. I popped The Departed into the DVD player and started shucking. And if I may digress for a moment (like you can stop me), may I just say... Man, is that movie boring. You know a movie is bad when shucking peas is more memorable and enjoyable than the movie. Scorsese must've had photos of various Academy members in compromising positions with goats, because how else could this have won multiple Oscars? I was not disappointed to see Marky Mark (call me!) and Matt Damon on screen together, but the script was all over the place, and I just found myself getting annoyed at the film so I focused more on the peas. So let's continue that theme of being focused on peas and talk about the dish.

The Purée of English Pea Soup is easy easy easy, and if you have some time in the next few days, I suggest finding some English peas and making it. Here's the mise en place:

See the small bowl up front with the clear-ish liquid in it? Yeah. That's white truffle oil. Shiver me timbers, I love that stuff.

To get started, I cooked the peas in two batches in a large stock pot of boiling water (with both salt and sugar in the boiling water; that, too, makes a HUGE difference in how great this tastes, trust me), then chilled each batch in an ice bath before puréeing them in the food processor:

Even without any seasoning, I think I could've been really happy just sitting on the sofa with the food processor bowl full of these mushy peas, a spoon, and some bad Facts of Life reruns and been a very happy camper. But I persevered, and completed the dish. Because, please. There was truffle oil to come... AND parmesan crisps (the scent of which made my dog go apeshit with joy).

I transferred the purée to my blender and added some vegetable stock I made and froze a few months ago before I started this project. I'll get to Keller's stocks soon, don't worry. I'm just trying to use up my stash in the freezer before I make new stocks. After blending the puréed peas and stock, I put it in the fridge to chill:

While the soup was chilling, I made the Parmesan Crisps. I made twice as many as I needed because I knew I'd want to munch on some later tonight and tomorrow (if I can resist temptation enough to make them last that long). I've already documented the process of making these here, but because I know you love cheese as much as I do, here's the before and after:

I served the Pea Soup chilled, and stirred in a little bit of white truffle oil right before serving (more of a "mugging" than a "plating" I suppose. Thanks, I'll be here all week. Enjoy the veal. Tip your bartender.).

Here's the finished product:

What a perfect way to welcome spring. This soup is delicious (even though mine was a little too thick), and when I make it again, I'll serve it both ways -- warm and chilled -- so that my dinner guests can have their choice. And, I'd also take a bath in it. Just for the record. The fantastic Michael Ruhlman also recently made some gorgeous pea soup, so go check it out. But come back. I miss you already.

Up Next: Pan-Roasted Maine Jumbo Scallops with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus Purée.

Brands Used:
All-Clad cookware
English Peas from Balducci's
Parmigiano-Reggiano from Whole Foods
Terroirs d'Antan white truffle oil
Cuisinart food processor
Hamilton-Beach blender
Silpat baking sheet liner
Calphalon baking sheet

Music to Cook By: Jenny Owen Youngs; Batten the Hatches.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Perail de Brebis with Frisée aux Lardons

Work is still ridiculously busy, but I'm in a much better mood than my last post. Thanks for all your kind words of encouragement. This is a busy time of year in my business generally, and it's compounded by special circumstances and overlapping deadlines with a few of my clients, so I'm working 16-18 hours/day and not sleeping well in between. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, thankfully. Having these dishes to plan for and make has been helping me maintain my sanity. I think.

Making the Perail de Brebis with Frise aux Lardons was a breeze. Cheese and bacon? Sign me up. Add some brioche to that? I could've eaten all six servings myself. I already had quail eggs, bacon, chives, frisée and brioche from previous recipes, so the prep was easy. I assumed that Arrowine or Cheesetique would have the Perail de Brebis, but they didn't and it would've taken a week or more to get it. I called a few other cheese counters in town, but they didn't have the Perail or anything comparable so, I relied on my favorite standby cheese source: Murray's Cheese (in New York). A special thanks to the staff, who overnighted the Perail de Brebis, even though I called after their shipping deadline for the day. If you're ever in New York, I recommend a visit to Murray's. The staff is great, and the selection is amazing. Thanks, guys.

Here's the mise en place:

The first thing I did was cook the bacon and drain it on a paper towel.

Yeah, I know you know what bacon looks like when it's cooking, but I'm all in favor of gratuitous bacon porn, because after all, it is BACON!!!!

Next, I mixed the sherry vinegar, mustard and olive oil to make the dressing for the frisée. It's supposed to be separated-looking, because you stir in the olive oil with a spoon instead of emulsifying it with a whisk, and I think I achieved that:

As you recall from the previous post, I was too lazy/busy/annoyed to make Keller's brioche, so I used store-bought Brioche from Balducci's. This dish called for brioche rounds with a one-inch hole in the middle, and as you might have noticed in the mise photo, I started with a stack of slices. I cut my own rounds (with a knife, not a ring mold or cookie cutter) and cut out the holes with a paring knife. Not too shabby a job, eh?

It left me with some brioche crusts, so I'll make an improvised bread pudding, croutons, or something out of those later tonight.

The next thing I did was melt the butter in a large sauté pan and put the brioche rounds into it:

While they were turning a nice golden brown on one side, I mixed the frisée and minced chives, cracked a little bit of black pepper into the mix, and then tossed in a little bit of the dressing. Once the brioche had browned on one side, I flipped them, turned off the heat, and cracked a quail egg into the hole of each one.

I let them cook for a minute on the stovetop and then put them in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for another minute while I started plating. I put a little bit of salad on each plate and topped it with bacon. Next to that went two small wedges of the Perail. Last on the plate went the brioche with quail egg. Here's the final plating:

I had the usual cast of characters over for a tasting and we loved it. G., the 10-year old, walked into my house and called out, "I smell bacon!" The rind of the cheese was not a hit with the under-12 crowd, but they ate the insides and loved it. They also cleaned their plate of everything else. We all did. If you have the ingredients on-hand, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, this is something that is really simple to do. I know it's very similar to Bird-in-the-Nest or Eggs-in-Baskets, but I think the salad with bacon and the side of cheese adds a very nice touch. Oh, and did I mention the bacon, and how great it is? I did? Oh. Well, it is.

Up next: Purée of English Pea Soup with White Truffle Oil and Parmesan Crisps

Brands Used:
All-Clad cookware
Wellshire Farms bacon
Grey Poupon dijon mustard
Benissimo sherry vinegar
Antica Italia extra virgin olive oil
Brioche from Balducci's
365 organic butter
Quail eggs, frisée and chives from H-Mart
Perail de Brebis from Murray's Cheese

Music to Cook By: The Bird and the Bee. This is a duo out of LA and their debut album is self-titled. Prior to this, they released an EP called "Again & Again" which is also the title of one of their catchiest songs. If I were to describe them, I'd say they sound like a futuristic 1960s lounge act with a somewhat Brazilian feel. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Carpaccio of Yellowfin Tuna Niçoise

Let me say from the outset that I did not enjoy making this dish. Why? Because it showed me that I am not perfect (Mom, I can hear you falling off your chair laughing; quit it.). And, really, who needs to have that message reinforced when you've already had a pretty crappy week?

Here are some things I suck at:

1) I suck at thinly slicing tuna.

2) I suck at peeling and julienne-ing bell peppers.

3) I suck at patience (e.g., deboning and thrice soaking in milk then rinsing anchovy fillets).

I suppose I should look on the bright side of things. This recipe did teach me that two jobs I know for sure that I do not want in any professional kitchen are that of Olive Pitter or Pepper Peeler. I could handle the job of Anchovy Deboner because it totally appeals to me in a freakish sort of way. However, this is a dish where I should've had someone come over and help me with the prep because the things I usually find soothing and relaxing (chopping, slicing, etc.) stressed me out even more than I already was. Again, it was a crappy, busy week professionally, and I think it tainted my enjoyment of making this dish. Which bums me out. Alright. Gotta shake it off and get crackin' here.

Let's start with the tuna. Thankfully, I bought two slabs of tuna because I knew I'd probably need a second one as a backup, and I was right. Wow, I had no idea how bad I was at thinly slicing fish. It's something I definitely need to work on if I'm ever going to do this dish again. Here's the tuna before:

And here's the tuna after it's been sliced into 6 thin pieces and placed on oiled plastic wrap for flattening:

Embarrassing, isn't it? I almost didn't post this photo but then just decided I'd better 'fess up about how bad it looked, and that I was going to have to focus on taste more than presentation on this one. Here's what the tuna looked like after it had been pounded and rolled flat:

Yeah. Pretty bad. Oh well. I folded it all up in the plastic and stored it on a tray in the fridge while I prepped everything else. Up next is the tapenade. Here's the mise en place:

I love the smell of this -- oil, olives, mustard and anchovies. Deeeee-lish. You'll see the finished product in the plating portion of our program.

Now, for the salad. Here's the base of it, which is an herb salad of Italian parsley, chervil, chive tips, tarragon leaves and thyme leaves. The recipe also listed chive or thyme flowers which I couldn't find, so I was just generous with the thyme and chives on their own.

After making the herb salad -- which I would like to turn into soap somehow and bathe in it because it smelled so fresh and clean -- I then tossed in some frisée (which still reminds me of dental floss, but I'm hating it less and less these days):

Then, I tossed in the julienned red and yellow bell peppers and fennel, as well as deep fried capers, then drizzled a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and continued to hand-toss it:

Yeah, I know you must be asking yourself, "um, deep fried capers?" Yes. Deep fried capers. I strained a teaspoon or so of capers and fried them for 15 minutes in canola oil that was heated to 250 degrees:

Last but not least were the eggs. I hard-boiled six quail eggs, flattened the bottoms so they'd stand up and dipped the tops in paprika. You can see those in the final plating which is here:

Oh yeah. Forgot to mention the brioche crouton. Because I'd had such a lousy week, I didn't feel like making the brioche from scratch this morning, so I picked up a loaf at Balducci's and made the crouton with that. Yum. I can't wait to make Keller's brioche though, because it sounds great and I bet it'll make the house smell amazing.

I invited the neighbors over for a taste, and we all enjoyed it, but I have to be honest and say that even if I hadn't been in a bad mood today, I don't think I'd make this again. It was good, but not good enough to go through all the prep (and yes, for those of you playing along with the actual cookbook in hand, I also blew off the pepper confetti).

Alright. Let me end on a good note. One good thing that came out of making this dish was all the LEFTOVER TAPENADE which is what I'll have on toasted baguette slices tomorrow morning with a goat cheese omelet (made with the leftover quail eggs and bell peppers, which I'll roast tonight). That with a cup of good, strong coffee and life will be good again.

Before I go, let me take a minute to thank you for your comments and incredibly awesome emails as of late. I love that you are enjoying the site, and I want you to know how grateful I am that you continue to follow along. I'm almost a quarter of the way through the book, and I feel like I'm warmed up enough to try some of the more complex dishes. Glad you're clicking in from all the corners of the world to watch it all happen. Thank you.

Up Next: Perail de Brebis with Frisée aux Lardons

Wine Pairing: Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir, 2004.

Brands Used:
All-Clad cookware
Yellowfin tuna and brioche from Balducci's
Antica Italia olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Quail eggs, produce and herbs from H-Mart
365 canola oil
Paesana capers
Niçoise olives from Whole Foods
Penzeys paprika
Grey Poupon dijon mustard
Bellino anchovies

Music to Cook By: REO Speedwagon; Hi Infidelity. Shut UP. I was trying to cheer myself up. Clearly this album didn't help. But it was fun to sing along with and pretend to be in 7th grade again. This time, sans acne.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bacon & Eggs: Soft Poached Quail Eggs with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

All I needed was to read the word "bacon" to know that I was going to >heart< this in a big way. And, in the French Laundry Cookbook, Keller relates a story about a man who had this in the restaurant and commented that he "could eat ten more." So, they made ten more for him.

I'd never worked with quail eggs before and had some difficulty finding fresh ones. We have a plethora of Asian markets here in the DC area, but only a few of them have reliable meat/egg/seafood selections. So, because I don't think I'd enjoy salmonella, I had to wait until some fresh quail eggs were delivered to one of the stores I trust -- Han Ah Reum, also now known as H-Mart. If you've shopped in Asian grocery stores before, you know the selection can be hit or miss. But, when you get there on a good day and can find everything, the joy is doubled because everything is so cheap cheap cheap! These quail eggs were half the price as a premium/gourmet market, not to mention the selection of herbs and produce. Amazing, and so inexpensive... and you know what? The quality and taste is comparable to some of the organic markets around here. So, there's a little tip from me to you. If you have an Asian market in your neck of the woods, check it out. But as always, buyer beware on meats, seafood and eggs. We now return you to your regular programming...

The Bacon and Eggs dish was so easy to do, and a delight to eat. The recipe makes 6 servings so I doubled it, knowing my friends and I would want seconds. It was the right decision. I could've eaten thirds and fourths and been a happy camper. Let's look at the mise en place:

The first thing I did was poach the quail eggs. Here they are before undergoing my mad serrated knife skillz:

I took each one, laid it on its side, and gently sliced into it (on the wider end) to crack the shell enough to be able to open it up and have it all slide out when I was ready to poach it. I was very proud of myself because I didn't break or lose one egg in this whole process. That's never happened before. Usually when I poach regular-size eggs, I break one or don't poach it long enough and the yolk runs all over the place because the white wasn't strong enough. Not this time. I clearly rock. Tell your friends.

Here's a shot of the poached quail eggs chilling in an ice bath:

They look like boconccini, don't they?

The next step was to prepare the brunoise with the leek, turnip and carrot. I didn't photograph this step, because it's already captured here.

Next step was the bacon. MMmmmmmmmm, bacon. If there were a Bacon Fan Club, I would be the president. And the vice president. And the treasurer. And the entire board of directors. That, my friends, is how much I love bacon. After reading a few articles on humanely raised pork and talking to other food-loving friends and colleagues about it, I'm starting to explore the more humane ways of raising pigs so that I can make better bacon choices, and I look forward to tasting the differences among different farms in this area. Here's a shot of the lovely applewood-smoked bacon that I brought home and indeed was fryin' up in a pan:

Now that all the elements were done, it was time to complete the dish and plate it. I mean spoon it, since it's meant to be served on a spoon for bite-size serving. I melted some butter (I didn't make the beurre monté, sue me), tossed in a dash of water, and warmed the eggs in that. Once they had been in for a minute, I added the brunoise along with a pinch of salt and pepper. I let that warm up for another minute or two and then assembled each serving on an individual spoon: one egg, sauce/brunoise, and bacon. Here's a shot of the finished product:

Photos like this make me love my dining room so much... the way the light comes in at certain points in the afternoon is just lovely.

This dish was so easy to do, so if you're looking for a recipe to kick off your own journey into Keller-land, I'd suggest this one. As usual, I served the neighbors this dish and everyone thought it was a hit. I had a wee bit of bacon leftover, so I split it with the dog. He thanked me by scarfing down his pieces of bacon in 0.000000000000002 seconds and growling at me to give him more. Ungrateful little fartknocker.

Up Next: Carpaccio of Yellowfin Tuna Niçoise

Brands Used:
Quail eggs and produce from H Mart
Wellshire Farms applewood-smoked maple bacon
365 unsalted butter
34 Degrees sauvignon blanc vinegar for poaching process
All-Clad cookware
Calphalon non-stick frying pan

Music to Cook By: Squeeze; Singles-45s and Under. One of my favorite albums of all time. Because I am old.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Lemon Sabayon-Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream

It's been an incredibly busy week here in FrenchLaundryAtHome land, sadly not in the kitchen. Work has taken over and while I'm grateful for the client work, I miss the time cooking. Chopping, cooking, whisking... that's the stuff that relaxes me and alleviates stress. I've been eating takeout all week as I've been going from meeting to meeting to meeting, so I was more than happy to have this to work on today. And, I was even more happy to be able to share it with my friends because it forced me to get away from the computer and the phone, and slow down for an hour or two.

And, before we get started, let me give a shout-out to the excellent staff at Cook's Library in LA, where I did some shopping while I was on the west coast for a few days this week. This is a bookstore I had been meaning to get to for ages and finally made a stop today enroute to dinner with friends at Orso (where, hello, we had a Keanu Reeves sighting). I don't know how else to describe Cook's Library other than to say this: 8,000 books. New and used. And, all about food. And I bought seven of them. So, now they're down to 7,993 books about food. But seriously, if you're in LA and you have an hour to spare, this is a shop you can't miss. The staff is wonderful (and wonderfully funny and snarky), and the selection is delicious. Someday, when I have an entire afternoon to spend there, I will do some serious damage. I did happen to buy the Jill St. John cookbook, which is not exactly the foodie compendium, but I'm sure I'll get some great hairstyling tips from it. You may think I'm joking, but I really did buy this book. It is so awesome in so many ways.

But enough about me. After the April Fool's posting, I know you must be hankerin' for a post about some real food from the French Laundry Cookbook. Let's talk about Keller's Lemon Sabayon-Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream and let's start with the pine nut crust. Here's the mise en place:

I pulsed the pine nuts in the food processor, then added the sugar and flour and continued to pulse until the pine nuts were finely ground:

Next, I poured the flour/pine nut mixture into my mixer and added the butter, egg and vanilla extract:

I know I say this in almost every post, but I beg you... someone... anyone... please invent Smell-o-Vision for the Internet. Pine nuts and vanilla? Sweet fancy moses....

When the crust was mixed, I separated the dough into three equal parts, wrapped it in plastic wrap, froze two of them and kept one in the refrigerator until I was ready to make the rest of the tart:

The next step was to butter and flour the tart pan and put it in the fridge to chill while I pre-heated the oven and made the Honeyed Mascarpone Cream. Here's the mise en place for the Cream:

I whisked the cream in a bowl resting in a bowl of ice until it was frothy (about two minutes), then added the mascarpone cheese and honey and whisked it for another few minutes until it was thick and creamy.

The oven was pre-heated and the pine nut crust was chilled. Time to make the crust. I pressed the dough into the tart pan and put it in a 350-degree oven for ten minutes, rotated the pan, then baked it another 10-15 minutes until it was golden brown:

While the crust was cooling, I put together the mise en place for the Lemon Sabayon:

The first step was to bring a little bit of water up to a boil in a saucepan. While the water was heating, I whisked the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a glass mixing bowl. The cookbook said to use a metal mixing bowl, but mine were in the attic, so I used the glass one instead.

After creaming the sugar and eggs, I waited until the water was boiling, then put the bowl on top of the sauce pan and whisked it over the heat for about three minutes. Then, I added a third of the lemon juice, whisked until the mixtured had thickened and repeated that process until all the lemon juice had all been mixed in.

I then turned off the flame, but kept the bowl over the hot water. Next, I added the butter, one pat at a time, whisking until the butter was melted. Then, I poured the Sabayon into the crust:

The final step is to fire up the broiler and put the tart under the broiler and, keeping the oven door open, rotate the tart to brown the top evenly. The cookbook indicated the browning process would start in "a few seconds." It took about 45 seconds for it to start, but it was quick, and I think I achieved a nice, well-rounded browning:

Here's the final plating of the tart with the honeyed mascarpone cream on top. We ate it at my neighbor Holly's house so that we could sit outside and enjoy the sunny afternoon on her deck while the kids played and the dogs romped.

The honey, cream and lemon play well together, and the texture of the Sabayon was light and delicious. The pine nut crust was crunchy, toasty and delicious, too. I would definitely make this again. In fact, because I had a few leftover lemons, I made another one the next day and gave it to my neighbor. It's a great dessert, and can be made a few hours ahead of time if you need to. It's best served at room temperature about an hour or two after browning it under the broiler, but it's not bad chilled, either. This tart really is easy to do -- so easy, in fact, that I didn't even need to read the recipe the second time around. The ingredients are simple and the preparation is really easy. I'd like to do a key lime version of this sometime, too. That would be fab.

Up Next: "Bacon and Eggs," Soft Poached Quail Eggs with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

Brands Used:
All-Clad cookware
KitchenAid mixer
Cuisinart food processor
Domino sugar
365 butter
Lemons and pine nuts from Whole Foods
Eggs from Jehova-Jireh Farm
Organic Valley cream
Vermont Butter mascarpone cheese
Gunter's honey
Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract
King Arthur flour

Music to Cook By: Mika, Life in Cartoon Motion. I know I'm probably late in jumping on the Mika bandwagon, but I just love this kid. A little Robbie Williams, a little I don't know what. Jake Shears, maybe? Anyhoo, it's a great album and will be a great addition to my playlist for the treadmill. If you haven't heard Mika yet, I encourage you to have a listen. I think you'll like him. If not, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU??!!!??!? (kidding... love you, mean it.)