Friday, August 24, 2007

Salad of Black Mission Figs with Roasted Sweet Peppers and Shaved Fennel

"Shot through the heart, and you're to blame, darlin' you give love a ....."

No, that's not right.

"I'm a cowboy, on a steeeeeel horse I ride... I'm wanted (want-eh-eh-ed) dead or..."

Nope. That's not it either.

Wait a minute. I think I got it.

"Whoooooooooaaaa, we're halfway there... whoooooaaaa-ooooa, livin' on a prayer..."

That's more like it.

Folks, today we've reached an important milestone here at French Laundry at Home -- no, not a guest appearance by Jon Bon Jovi, but instead, the halfway point of my French Laundry at Home project. Today's entry will recap the 50th French Laundry dish I've recreated and written about here on this humble little blog of mine.

50 dishes = almost 6 trips to The French Laundry. Wow.

I know #51-100 will be more challenging (hello, sawing a pig's head in half, and butchering a whole baby lamb), and I hope they'll be just as much fun. Thanks to all of you who keep reading and commenting and emailing me, and in general being so supportive of this project. You guys make it all worthwhile.

I'm still going through the re-entry phase of getting back from vacation, so my head's a bit hazy and I didn't take photos of every step in the process of making this salad. Bear with me... I think you'll get the gist.

Remember the figs?

Well, this time, I used only Black Mission figs, which are the really dark ones in that photo. I sliced 8 of them into quarter-inch rounds, placed them on a plate and drizzled them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, gray salt, and finely minced shallots:

While those marinated (for about an hour), I got the peppers ready. I roasted a red and a yellow bell pepper over an open flame:

I rotated them and roasted every nook and cranny until their skins were popping and cracking and came off easily. I julienned them and put them in a bowl with some more minced shallots:

Sorry I don't have a photo of the shallot preparation process... but you guys are becoming old pros by now, aren't you? You know what a shallot looks like. It's this:

Oh, I just crack myself up. See what going out of town for a week does to me? Turns me into Henny Youngman, only not.

Alright, where the hell were we? Oh yes, peppers and shallots in a bowl together. I added some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little bit of salt and tossed it all together so it, too, could marinate for an hour:

Here's where I'm a dorkus malorkus and completely left my camera IN THE OTHER ROOM (why I even took it out of the kitchen I have no idea) so there's no photographic evidence (other than the plating) of the fennel salad. Although, it's kind of a misnomer to call it "salad" because all I really did was take a small bulb of fennel, trim off the ends, level the bottom, and slice it very thinly on my mandoline. I then put the slices in a bowl and tossed them with -- you guessed it -- olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt!

I also mixed a little bit of fennel oil with a teeny-tiny bit of balsamic glaze, which you'll see in the final shot -- it looks really cool.

Time for plating (and for me to take a nap because clearly my brain is still on vacation). It's a layered dish with a fig slice on the bottom, topped with pepper, then another fig slice, then some more pepper, then topped with a fig slice. Then on top of that? Some fennel salad. Everything smelled so fresh and delicious. I sprinkled a bit of fennel powder on each plate (which I made by grinding then sifting fennel seeds), and some of the fennel oil/balsamic glaze combo. Here 'tis:

I love serving these French Laundry dishes at certain times in the afternoon when the sun shines into my dining room just so. That light was just gorgeous this afternoon. So, how'd the fig and fennel salad taste? I thought it was delicious. I think my tasters agreed. One of them took some home for her husband and I got a rave review from him a few hours later. I liked the crunch of it, and I liked that nothing really overpowered anything else. There was balance in this dish between sweet and savory and different textures of crunchiness and chewiness that I loved. Not sure I'd make this again because I don't really love peeling peppers, but I'd entertain the notion of doing something else with these flavor combinations that's for sure.

Alright, y'all... I'm wiped. Be back in a couple of days when my brain has rejoined the rest of my body and I no longer have sand in between my toes.

Up Next: Cream of Blueberry Soup or that Red Beet Ice Cream/Chocolate Cake Thingy. Not sure yet which one I'll get to first, but both sound amazing.

All produce from Whole Foods
Antica Italia olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Fennel seeds for fennel powder from the TPSS Co-op

Music to Cook By: Bon Jovi; "Slippery When Wet", and the new one "Lost Highway" which I will confess to liking more than I thought I would. It's nothing like the music from their good old days of 1986, which HOLY CRAP WAS 21 YEARS AGO (Marisa, it's been nearly 21 years since we walked home from The Black Rooster at 3 a.m. singing "Living on a Prayer" with its "ooo-wah-oo-wah-oo" bass line open, followed by our re-enactment of all the choreography from the entire Janet Jackson "Control" album). Back to Bon Jovi for a second. I had totally forgotten that they did "Runaway" which was one of my favorite songs in 1987. Slippery When Wet is a damn good album. If you haven't listened to it in awhile, dig it out or download it from iTunes or something and enjoy. As for the new album, some reviewers have called it Bon Jovi's "country album" which it is not. It's more Americana roots rock, which is very different. And it's good -- there are two tracks in particular I love; one is "Seat Next To You" and the other is "Whole Lot of Leavin'." I just realized that I have been listening to Bon Jovi for more than half my life. With that revelation, I must now spend a few hours in front of a mirror looking for gray hairs. Wow, my life is rich and full.


Anonymous said...

Judging from your reaction to the Great SoftShell Crab Defacing of 2007, I wonder how you will handle the pig's head. I envision you in a HazMat suit with tongs.

You can just give me the bowl full of peppers and shallots. Forget the rest, that's what did it for me. I want to dive in with both hands.

And a question: What exactly makes grey salt so different from kosher salt? Taste, texture?

french tart said...

look, i love reading your entries and all, but i have to end the madness here - BON JOVI??

i'm not a fan.

(this coming from the girl who loved duran duran more than life itself in 1983. ugh)

salad looks stellar, though!

Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

Damn, that's a gorgeous plate.

And the ode to Bon Jovi: Priceless.

Anonymous said...

Love the new plates! Very FL...
Nice plating job as well. Lovely.

pdxblogmommy said...

OK, I started the day feeling, ya know, a little decent about approaching the big 4-0 albeit after YOU do. But THEN to have you mention the 21 years...well, I think the gray hairs on my head were fruitful and multiplied.

And just so you know, I am quite confident that YOU remember more of that Janet Jackson choreography than I do to this day.

But I'll never forget the famous Roger Riggle "fah-lapp ball change".


Oh, and that salad looks great.

Nice Gene Shalit reference.

Dolores said...

I don't comment often, but I wanted to congratulate you on this momentous milestone and let you know how much I've enjoyed your adventures with Keller's cuisine.

brian said...

Reading about this salad, and marveling that it didn't sound absurdly involved, motivated me to cook my visiting parents a FL-inspired meal tonight, starting with this very salad (although I burned the balsamic reduction twice by not paying attention, so ended up having to use plain balsamic and it emulsified so my plating didn't look as good.) Then we did the orzo with the lobster broth from the "Macaroni and Cheese" (I love my parents, but not enough to pay $18/lb for live lobster from Central Market, so we skipped the actual lobster meat itself.) After that, the salmon chops, adapted just to have the beurre monte and white truffle oil and a snipping of chives, omitting the other stuff. Dessert was a watermelon-basil sherbet I made because I had both in my garden. But I served them in classy ramekins with slivers of watermelon rind and basil leaves so I could pretend they might show up in the FL cookbook.

Anyway, thank you for sharing all of your hard work. Your photographed platings and mise have been very useful, and your sense of humor and light heart describing your way through the recipes has been inspiring. Otherwise I probably just would have left the cookbook as a coffee table book and figured it would be prohibitively time-consuming to cook out of.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on getting "halfway there". That salad looks beautiful.

Anonymous said...

(You)'ll make it, I swear.

Congrats on the halfway mark!

Unknown said...

Congrats on the half-way mark!! I hope you had a nice peaceful vacation. The salad looks great!!

Anonymous said...

if your going to cook like that you should be listening to Cake...especially when you start on that Pigs head.

Jim said...

(hello, sawing a pig's head in half, and butchering a whole baby lamb)

If those entries are half as entertaining as the soft-shell crab one I won't mind the shudders!

Jennifer said...

I'm kind of sad you are already halfway through... I so look forward to your posts.

Beautiful plating!

Kevin Kossowan said...

Well done. Such an admirable quest.

BernaD*va said...

Absolutely amazing.

Jim said...

Sidenote: if you are a Bon Jovi fan be sure to take in his Oscar-worthy performance in the sequel to John Carpenter's Vampires, titled Dio Los Muertos, and featuring lesbian vampires.

It...really must be seen to be believed. He wears a samurai sword across his back through the entire film and never uses it.

KYPIAKH said...

I am wondering how you are going to survive all this adulation and remain the Diner Girl we have all grown to love. Perhaps after sawing the pig's head you will take up writing.

Anonymous said...

I was reading your latest post and assuming you lived in sunny CA (sun in my kitchen, French Laundrey, etc.), laughing and enjoying your writing. But, no, when you said your fennel seeds were from TPSS co-op, my heart skipped a beat. You are a neighbor (somewhere near!) Great blog!

Carol Blymire said...

Thanks, everyone. It is weird to be at the halfway point...... kind of sad, actually. Thanks for sticking with me. :)