Archive for April, 2008

Better variety. Not just greens. With soufleé.

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Cheese SoufleéEvery week there’s more to choose from. I couldn’t decide between baby beets from Jay Hill Farm or the very first asparagus of the season from Miller Farms (picked at 5am Saturday morning!) … so I bought both. What could be a better foil for simple vegetable dishes than a classic soufleé prepared with local cheese from Haystack Mountain? Queso de Mano is Haystack’s first raw goat’s milk cheese, very reminicient of manchego, and it substitutes perfectly for the gruyère in a classic cheese soufleé.

AsparagusPrepare the asparagus by snapping off the lower, woodier part. Bend firmly, and the stalk will naturally break at just the right place. Rustics leave the skin on, but I prefer to peel the lower part of the remaining stalk with a vegetable peeler. Slather the asparagus with olive oil, add kosher salt, then grill or broil until done. Asparagus cooks very quickly: use tongs and turn often until nicely colored, and don’t leave unattended.

Baby BeetsBaby beets also deserve a light touch. Reserve the greens, discard the stems, and peel the beet proper and slice thin, about 1/8″. Sauté in olive oil for a few minutes, then add greens and cook a few minutes more. Add kosher salt to taste.

A dash of soy would add that certain umami je ne sais quoi, but the delicate flavor of the tender young beets might not show through.

Soufleé is enjoying a second 15 minutes of fame: millions watched as Top Chef contestants completely butchered this simple, classic dish. These chefs are certainly competent, but their lack of familiarity shows just how far this preparation has fallen out of fashion. Revive the soufleé!

Cheese Soufleé

  1. 3 Tb butter
  2. 3 Tb flour
  3. 1 cup milk
  4. 3 large eggs + one white
  5. 1 cup queso de mano (or gruyère), grated
  6. 2 Tb parmesan cheese, grated fine (or flour)
  7. pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Separate the eggs, reserving both whites and yolks. Combine whites, adding one extra. Butter inside of a charlotte pan, and coat evenly with grated parmesan cheese or flour (more classic). The coatings are optional, but either will help to achieve a nice side-crust and discourage sticking.

Melt butter and mix well with flour to a smooth paste but do not color. Whisk in milk, and simmer until thickened. Whisk in cheese. Off heat, whisk in egg yolks one by one. Add pepper to taste.

Whip four egg whites in mixer to stiff peaks. Quickly but gently fold in egg whites, mixing well. Pour result into prepared charlotte pan. Reduce oven to 350 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes. The top should rise and brown attractively – do not overcook.

Sources

Haystack Mountain

Miller Farms

Jay Hill Farm

Got eggs? In a pinch. Carbonara “coconstructed.”

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Carbonara Co-constructedTravels kept me away from the Farmer’s Market this week, but happily there are local eggs in the house and also a little La Quercia “Crumble.”

Like foams, “deconstructed” dishes were all the rage for a while. Ferran Adria popularized the idea of breaking a dish into its constituent parts then reassembling them in unexpected ways that still preserve, in his words, the “spirit” of the dish.

The familiar carbonara recipe sautés garlic then pancetta, adds and reduces a little white wine, and tosses the result with cooked pasta, beaten egg, and grated parmigiano-reggiano and romano cheeses. Here we modestly reinvent the classic, “coconstructing” the first part of the dish, then serving the rest of the “sauce” in the form of a lightly poached egg.

“Coconstructed” Pasta Carbonara

  1. 1 lb pasta
  2. 4 fresh eggs
  3. 1/4 cup white wine
  4. 3 garlic cloves, peeled then crushed
  5. 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  6. 2 Tb flat leaf parsley, chopped
  7. 4 ounces guanciale, pancetta, bacon, or “crumble”
  8. 2 Tb olive oil, plus
  9. Pepper, to taste

Start the pasta boiling. Spaghetti is the classic choice, but follow your heart. Warm 4 serving bowls.

Sauté crushed but whole garlic cloves until golden, remove from pan and discard, then add the cured pork of choice. Guanciale is the classic ideal, with pancetta a close second. Smoked bacon is fine too, or La Quercia Prosciutto “Crumble,” which I used here. Render a bit of fat into the pan, add white wine, reduce to a glaze, then remove from the heat.

Poach 4 eggs until the whites are just set, and the yolks warm and still liquid.

Add pan contents to the cooked pasta, toss with grated cheese, and season with pepper. Portion equally in the heated bowls, top each serving with a poached egg, and garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately. Breaking the egg “reconstitutes” and completes the sauce, and the texture is quite amazing.

La Quercia. Iowa or Italy? Try “Crumble.”

Monday, April 21st, 2008

La QuerciaLa Quercia are a group of fanatics making world-class cured pork products in Iowa. Their Prosciuttos and other cured meats are on par with the best of Italy, and some feel that they outshine anything that is imported into the US.

Quite ingeniously, the trimmings from these noble salumi do not go to waste: La Quercia coarsely chops and packages these as Prosciutto and Speck “Crumble.” This is pure evil-genius stuff: a tablespoon or two of your newest secret ingredient will effortlessly add an astonishing depth of flavor  to egg dishes, soups, and pasta.

La Quercia’s products are used and endorsed by a veritable who’s who of American chefs, see their  website for much more information. Prosciutto (in many variations), Speck, Pancetta, and Guanciale are all available, but an excellent place to start is with a “Kitchen Sampler” which includes smaller quantities of Pancetta, Guanciale, and Prosciutto and Speck “Crumble.”

Sources

La Quercia

Try local. A global bounty. Essential ingredients.

Monday, April 21st, 2008

All power to the true locavore, but in most of the United States an all-local diet would not include salt, olive oil, many spices, a surprising number of very common fruits and vegetables, or seafood of any kind; very little produce would be available year-round. Even the luckiest and geographically best-positioned Americans (most likely those living in California) would enjoy a relatively limited variety of foodstuffs, not to mention no Parmigiano-Reggiano, Époisses, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, Barolo, Puligny Montrachet, Champagne, Cognac, or Laphroaig 30 Year. Globalism provides us with all these things and more, and a pure locavore lifestyle would demand sacrifices indeed.

Salt, spices, olive oil, and out-of-season produce are certainly assumed by the modern life, but it’s still a worthy effort to buy food that is as local as possible.

A new thread, Essential Ingredients, will highlight world-class items that may or may not be local, but will hopefully expand and enhance your repertoire.

Skirt steak. Tough but delicious. Add chimichurri.

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri SauceColorado’s Best Beef is local and family-owned, providing all natural beef that is raised humanely with no antibiotics, no growth hormones, and no steroids. Charolais (and crossbred) cattle are grass-fed and finished on grain, and the meat is dry-aged for 14 to 21 days.

I selected skirt steak, a tough but flavorful cut that is increasingly popular in groovy bistro-influenced restaurants. Skirt, and very similar hangar, flap, and flank steaks are best marinated, then cooked hot and fast to about medium-rare. “Grass-fed” immediately evokes Argentina, and what better marinade than a classic chimichurri sauce?

Chimichurri Sauce

  1. 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
  2. 5 garlic cloves
  3. 3/4 cup olive oil
  4. 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  5. 3 Tb lemon juice
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 1/2 tsp black pepper, or more to taste
  8. 1/2 tsp cayenne, or more to taste

Combine and process well in a blender or food processor, but do not liquify. This makes over 1 cup of fairly loose chimichurri sauce, enough for at least 2 lbs of meat. Make it your own: substitute any spicy greens for the parsley, and varying the spices and acid ingredients can provide infinite variations.

Skirt steak is usually thin cut, but can also be pounded to a uniform thickness. Marinate with chimichurri sauce in a ziploc bag, an hour or two is fine. Be sure to reserve some sauce for final prep and the table.

Grill or broil the steak to taste on a hot fire, hopefully gaining a bit of char. Rare skirt tends to be chewy, but medium-rare seems to hit the sweet spot. Carve in diagonal slices against the grain, slather with reserved sauce, and serve.

Sources

Colorado’s Best Beef

On titles. “Pollanisms” are fun. Foodie haiku.

Friday, April 11th, 2008

The astute reader has doubtless noticed the Pollan-esque titles. This practice will continue, however annoying, at least for a while.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” is the now familiar tag line for In Defense of Food.  It’s Pollan distilled, seven words in a terse 2-3-2 form that has inspired much imitation and even a contest. Like haiku, a few words can have unexpected power.

Red chard. Jay Hill Farm. Add umami.

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Red ChardIt’s early, so greens are the order of the day, and greenhouses. Jay Hill Farm had some gorgeous baby red swiss chard, our inaugural ingredient. This is how I almost always prepare chard: a simple Italian-style sauté, but with a modern twist at the end.

Umami, the so-called “fifth” taste (in addition to sweet, salty, sour and bitter), is often described as “savory”. Only recently recognized in western cuisine, umami was named and understood many years ago in Japan. Fundamental taste or not, umami enriches flavors and is associated with ingredients like MSG, soy sauce, aged cheeses such as parmesan, and even ketchup.

Red Chard Sauté

  1. 2 small bunches red chard
  2. 1 Tb garlic, minced
  3. 2 Tb olive oil
  4. soy or tamari sauce

Remove stalks from chard, and chop into 1″ strips cross-wise. Heat olive oil until just before it smokes, add garlic, toss briefly then add chard. Cook for a minute or two, a bit more time that you would with spinach, but do not overcook. Add a splash of soy or tamari, toss, and serve immediately.

Some people cut some of the stalks into a 1/4″ dice and include in the sauté. I don’t, preferring the texture of the greens alone.

Sources

Jay Hill Farm

Market opens. Spring has sprung. Mostly greens.

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Opening DayThe Boulder County Farmer’s Market opened today. A warm, beautiful day, and a good turnout. Various early greens are in, with many items coming from the greenhouse. The usual non-seasonal suspects are all back: cheeses, mushrooms, bread and other baked goods, meat, wine, plants, cut flowers, even popcorn!

Slow food? A locavore’s dilemma. One approach.

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

With the help of Michael Pollan’s books, Slow Food and the locavore movement are now firmly entrenched in the zeitgeist. It’s not just about food: issues of health, lifestyle, sustainability, and appropriate technology all come in to play. But you have to start somewhere.

Choosing seasonal, local food has obvious appeal, yet it is surprisingly difficult to  put this idea into daily practice. Beyond shopping mindfully at your local Whole Foods, what’s an aspiring locavore to do?

In Boulder, Colorado we have a vibrant local farmer’s market, and with some luck you may have one too.  The idea behind this blog is simple: choose a main ingredient from the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning, decide how to cook a dish with it, and report on the results here. From BCO, fresh, every week.