Seared Hanger (L’Onglet)

February 25, 2010

The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook.
~Julia Child

Divine, succulent bistro fare at home. For those ever busy beings, this is peerless cuisine à la minute.

Hanger steak (onglet) is a beef cut which “hangs” from the diaphragm, below the ribs of the steer, which is essentially an extension of the tenderloin. Not surprisingly, it is silken and has a chewy tenderness which finishes with a savory and subtle almost offal-like flavor. Kidney contiguity?

Often called the “butcher’s piece” (la pièce du boucher), as there is only one hanger per steer, the butcher would often quietly pocket it home rather than offering the cut for sale. Onglet is usually butterflied by slicing the meat transversely through the middle. It should be quickly seared, only to medium rare, to avoid toughness—both rare and medium are just out of bounds. Exquisite just standing alone, there is no need to over adorn.

Hanger steak has always enjoyed immense popularity elsewhere: France (onglet), Britain (skirt), Italy (lombatello), Spain (solomillo de pulmon), Mexico (arrachera), to name a few. Only recently garnering some celeb status in the States, luscious hanger may no longer be subjected to that heinous act of being ground into hamburger. Almost makes a grown man cry.

HANGER STEAK (ONGLET)

2 hanger or flank steaks, about 1/2″ thick
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil

2 T unsalted butter, divided
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T high quality red wine vinegar
1/2 C dry red wine

1/2 T tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1/2 T parsley leaves, finely chopped

Heat a large heavy sauté pan or skillet over high heat, then add the olive oil for about 1 minute. When the oil is hot and shimmering, season the steaks with salt and pepper, slip them into the pan, and brown evenly, turning as needed, until medium rare, about 2-3 minutes per side, and longer for medium. Transfer the steaks to a heated serving dish, tent, and set aside to allow the juices to retreat back into the beef. (Please heed my nagging advice to take into account that the meat will continue cooking while at rest.)

Place the same pan over medium heat and add 1 T of the butter and the shallots. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 mintues, until the shallots are softened but not colored. Add the vinegar and cook until it evaporates, then add the wine. Bring the wine to the boil and allow it to cook down until it is reduced by at least half. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl, whisk in the remaining 1 T butter. Then, stir in the chopped tarragon and parsley.

Carve each steak across the grain on the bias into thin slices. Drizzle the warm shallot sauce over the meat and serve promptly.

Bis, Bis! Fennel

February 19, 2010

Fennel, which is the spice for Wednesdays, the day of averages, of middle-aged people. . . . Fennel . . . smelling of changes to come.
~Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, from The Mistress of Spices

In life, beware of haggard bulbs. Look for fennel that is clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting, bruising or spotting. The bulbs should be whitish or pale green in color, and the stalks should be relatively straight and closely superimposed around the bulb. Both the stalks and the leaves should be green in color. There should be no signs of flowering buds as this suggests that it is past its prime. Fresh fennel should have a fragrant, subtle aroma with hints of anise.

Once the somewhat unwieldy fennel is home, cut off the stalks slicing close to the top of the bulb. Then, peel any stringy fibers off the outer layer of the bulb with a sharp paring knife. If the bulb is bruised or seems very tough, remove the outer layer altogether. The very bottom of the bulb may be tough and slightly dirty in comparison to the greenish-tinged whiteness of the bulb itself, so thinly slice or shave it off with a chef’s knife.

If slicing the bulb for a recipe, remove the core, but leave it intact for wedges as the core will keep the individual layers together. Always save the lacy fronds for garnish and refrigerate the stalks for making stock.

These two sumptuous sides will pair well with hearty winter roast or braised poultry, beef or lamb. Maybe not centerstage, but this is food that makes you smile inside out; so often the supporting cast steals the show.

MASHED POTATOES & ROASTED FENNEL PUREE

3-4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed of stems and fronds, cut into 8 wedges
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1/2 C milk, warmed
1 C heavy whipping cream, warmed
6 T unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F

Coat fennel with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Arrange fennel in dish and roast for 30-40 minutes, until the fennel softens and before it begins to caramelize. Allow to cool some. Transfer fennel wedges to food processor and blend until puréed. Set aside.

Place potatoes in a large heavy pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

When done, drain potatoes well, return to pot, add milk, cream fennel purée, butter, salt and peppers, mashing vigorously until almost smooth or smashed until slightly chunky—whatever whets your whistle that day. The butter, milk and cream amounts will likely need to be adjusted to suit the texture of your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Lightly grate some parmigiano-reggiano over the top of each serving.

BRAISED FENNEL WITH CREAM

3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, and cut vertically into quarters

2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 C vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/4 C heavy whipping cream
1 T fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the fennel, arranging them in a single layer with cut sides are down. Cook gently over medium heat until browned, 5-8 minutes. Avoid the temptation to play with the fennel in the pan so they achieve a nice brown hue. Gently turn the fennel, and brown the other side.

Season with salt and pepper, add stock and cover pan. Turn down the heat and braise the fennel until it is very soft and most of the broth or stock has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Check on occasion and add a little more stock if the fennel is overly dry and not completely soft.

Remove the lid and pour in the cream. Simmer gently until the cream starts to thicken and glazes the fennel, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, shaking the pan. Taste for seasoning.

Corsica…an isolated and singular land, both island and mountain.
~Friedrich Ratzel, Anthropogeographie

Lamb is on my mind. Surprise, surprise.

Today my thoughts wandered to a quaint, dimly lit Corsican restaurant on a narrow cobblestone street in Paris’ 5ème. Through the wine haze of a late evening and time gone by, I recalled (with able help) scrumptious roast goat and lentil salad served by the beguiling and barefoot co-owner, manager, hostess, cashier, waitress and wife. A one woman band with the exception of her husband, the chef. The theory that food is better in bare feet was borne out again—even if they were her naked toes, and not ours.

Later, I meandered to a couple of visits years back to that magical French offshore région which is metaphorically shaped like a cluster of sun dappled, vine ripened grapes: Corsica.

La Corse, sometimes called L’Île de Beauté, has stunning palm fringed bays, daunting limestone cliffs, unspoiled beaches and intimate coves— nearby, Corsica’s landscapes open onto thickly shrubbed and flowered maquis—then the island rises up to the interior’s snow capped alpine peaks, plunging ravines, rushing torrents, lofty pine forests, glacial mountain lakes, high pastures, and red roofed villages perchés. An idyllic venue where, on the same day, a brisk morning alpine hike amidst fragrant evergreens and gurgling streams can morph into a tranquil afternoon by the beach, awash in the shimmering Mediterranean.

A fragrant, mystical mountain with rocky shores jutting from the sea.

The fiercely proud people of Corsica have endured a rather tumultuous past of invasion, occupation and also isolation. The Greeks had a brief foothold in Corsica with the foundation of Aleria in 566 BC until they were expelled by an alliance of the Etruscans and Carthaginians. In the 2nd century BC, it was taken over by the Roman Empire which had a profound influence, colonizing the entire coast, permeating inland and changing the indigenous language to Latin.

With the fall of Rome centuries later, the island passed through the hands of the Goths and Vandals until it assumed Byzantine rule in the the 5th century AD. After the Byzantine Empire’s collapse, Corsica found itself governed by the Moors and then by the Vatican. In 1282, it came under lengthy rule by the Doges of Genoa, with brief interruptions from Aragon and France, to whom the Mediterranean island was sold in 1768. Almost 500 years of Genoan reign along with the earlier Roman dominion has imparted a distinctly Italian flair to the island.

Some have opined that some 10,000 — 12,000 Corsican stoic sons perished in WW I, much more disproportionate given the small population there.  In most villages, there is a stone monument to the fallen in The Great War.

In the last several decades, Corsica’s relationship with the mainland has been uneasy and problematic at times. The early 1970’s saw the rise of a nationalist movement in a reaction to years of cultural indifference and economic neglect, and separatists still wage a violent struggle against the central government. Successive French administrations have been unwilling to offer meaningful regional autonomy, including official status for the Corsican language and recognition of the Corsicans as a distinct nationality. In an effort to diminish tensions, the central Parisian government has created an elected local assembly to give voice to Corsican regional aspirations.

Corsica’s cuisine is as divinely robust as its citizens—smoked hams from chestnut fed pigs, wild boar sausage, pork cuts and charcuterie, fresh herbs, rustic red and white beans and the local goat’s milk cheese, called brocciu, both fresh and aged. Animals are butchered nose to tail, so offal abounds. Cafés teem with locals and tourists alike quaffing red wine and eating artisanal bread spread with slabs of pâté de grives (thrush) and briny green Corsican olives. The flowers of the aromatic Mediterranean scrubland there offer bees with countless nectars, producing brush, arbutus and chestnut flower honey. And the isle is Europe’s main producer of clementines.

As an island region, seafood is naturally a central part of Corsican life: red mullet, pandora, red scorpionfish, sea bream, monkfish, rock lobster, spider crab and squillfish. There is also mullet roe, cured and dried to make boutargue, known as “Corsican caviar.”

The maquis fed young lambs (abbacchios) and goats (cabris) are superlative—tender and succulent from their free range mountainside habitat.

CORSICAN ROAST LEG OF LAMB

8 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
6 high quality anchovy fillets, chopped
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 C Lucques olives
Juice of 1-2 oranges
3 T Dijon mustard

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, stripped and leaves chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped and leaves chopped
2 T dried oregano
2 t red pepper flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 6-7 lb leg of lamb, bone in
3 C Corsican or Bandol dry white wine
4 T unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pads

Place the garlic and anchovies into a food processor and pulse to a fine paste; add the olive oil in a narrow steady stream and while pulsing, add the olives, orange juice and mustard. Add the rosemary, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the mixture, again pulsing to a paste.

Liberally season lamb with salt and pepper, cover well with marinade and place into a heavy plastic bag. Squeeze out as much of the air as possible from the bag and seal. Wrap again with another plastic bag to ensure that the marinating lamb does not leak. Marinate for overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the lamb, still in its marinade bag, from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before putting in the oven to bring the lamb close to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat oven to 450 F

Remove the lamb from the marinade bag and place on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 F and continue cooking for an additional 1-1 1/2 hours (10-12 minutes per lb). While cooking, periodically baste the lamb in the pan juices. However, remember every time the oven door is opened, you will need 10 minutes or so to bring the oven back up to temperature, thus slowing the cooking process.

(If you think the skin is becoming too dark but the internal temperature of the lamb is still too rare you can loosely cover the lamb in aluminum foil while the lamb continues to cook.)

Check with an internal thermometer and remove from the oven anywhere from 130-135 F for medium rare. Lamb should never be cooked until well done or it will be too dry.

Remove the lamb to a platter or board and let stand at least 15 minutes before carving. Retain the cooking juices in the roasting pan and spoon off some of the excess fat. Then, place the roasting pan on the stove top and heat to a boil. Add the wine, cook down rapidly and reduce the sauce by more than half. Thicken the sauce by vigorously whisking in butter just before serving.

Position the leg roast so that the meatier side faces down. Using a long, thin-bladed knife and holding the end of the shank bone, remove a few strips of meat from the top side, working parallel to the bone.  Rest the leg on the flat area you and cut slices to your liking perpendicular and all the way down to the bone, starting at the end farthest away.  Starting at the top, slide the knife underneath the slices just made. Remove in one long sawing motion.  Rotate the bone and repeat with the less meaty side; trim any remaining meat from the sides of the bone.

Serve slices over polenta, artisanal noodles or white beans, spooning sauce over.

To eat steak rare…represents both a nature and a morality.
~Roland Barthes
, French literary theorist & critic

The lord of steaks.

As befits its name, the ribeye is a cut carved from the beef rib, mostly comprised of the latissimus dorsi muscle. Well marbled and exquisitely tender, ribeyes are lush, juicy and robust. Brazen and dangerously good. When grilling, I prefer the bone in version (“cowboy ribeye”), but when seared in a pan the boneless variety is the chosen one.

The Delmonico steak, which originated in the mid 19th century at the celebrated Delmonico’s restaurant in lower Manhattan, is synonymous with the premium house cut. Before Delmonico’s opened, American diners ate at cafes and boarding houses or inns, where the food was simply the daily farm fare with no choice of dishes. Delmonico’s changed the dining world in this country. It was the first diner called by the French name “restaurant,” the first where patrons sat at their own separate tables, the first where printed menus were offered to guests, and the first eating establishment with tablecloths. Delmonico’s has staked claim to several originals: oysters Rockefeller, lobster Newberg, baked Alaska, eggs Benedict and Delmonico potatoes. Upper crust fare of late Victorian America.

Debate exists as to the exact cut of beef that was the original, authentic Delmonico steak. Over the years, differing authorities have asserted that at least 8 different cuts are the real deal…ranging from bone in to boneless, from strip to top loin to ribeye. The best money says that the aboriginal Delmonico steak was a boneless, dry-aged top loin steak cut from the front of (anterior to) the short loin. The source for this theory is none other than the former Delmonico chef de cuisine, the esteemed Charles Ranhofer—from his culinary magnum opus, The Epicurean (1894).

In restaurant and street parlance, 86’ing means to remove, end usage, or take something away—whether a special, menu item or unwanted mate. Some claim that this numerical phrase actually originated at the same revered Delmonico’s restaurant. Delmonico steak was item no. 86 on the menu and, when sold out, it was “86’d.”

However, others suggest different origins for this phrase. Chumley’s, a famed New York pub and former speakeasy, is located at 86 Bedford St. During Prohibition, an entrance through an interior adjoing courtyard was used, as it provided privacy and discretion for customers. As was tradition, the police were on the bar’s payroll and would give an advance ring before a raid. The bartender would then bark the command “86 everybody!”, which meant that all should promptly exit the 86 Bedford entrance because the cops were bursting through the courtyard door.

RIBEYES WITH SHALLOT & CAPER VINAIGRETTE

2 boneless ribeye steaks, thick and freshly cut
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
2 pinches of dried thyme

1 C balsamic vinegar
1/2 C minced shallots, peeled and minced
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t dried crushed red pepper

1/2 C fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 C capers, rinsed and drained
4 t fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

2 T olive oil
3 T unsalted butter
4 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and gently smashed

Liberally season steaks with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of thyme to one side of each ribeye and set aside. The meat should be close to room temperature before cooking.

Meanwhile simmer vinegar in small pan over medium heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add shallots, olive oil, and crushed red pepper; return to simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat; then whisk in parsley, capers, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Add smashed garlic, olive oil and butter to a large, heavy sauté pan over medium high heat—do not allow garlic to turn dark brown or it will become bitter. Remove and discard smashed garlic cloves, then add steaks, cooking to medium rare, usually 3-5 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the cut, of course). Let stand at least 10 minutes before carving on the bias. Spoon warm vinaigrette over sliced steak.

Salmon on Cedar

February 13, 2010

I’ll love you dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street.
~W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

The Vancouver Winter Olympics have been unleashed, albeit with a tragic opening on the luge course. Young slider, Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia, suffered a fatal crash on a training run on day one. A sad, somber start to these games which are so brimming with hope and passion.

First Nations refers to the indigenous peoples of what is now Canada, with the exception of the arctic Inuit and peoples of mixed ancestry called Métis. The Pacific Coast First Nations refer to those those that trace their ancestry to the aboriginal people that inhabited the land that is now British Columbia prior to the European invasion and brutal colonization of the Americas. Centuries of scorched earth policies and ethnic cleansing followed. Indigenous civilizations under European occupation were severely dismantled, many eliminated, and vast numbers of the people exterminated.

A sumptuous pairing of earth and ocean, cedar plank grilled salmon likely originated with natives in the Pacific Northwest, including those who inhabited Vancouver Island. The name sockeye is actually believed to be derived from the Coast Salish name “sukkai,” translated as “fish.”

Typically, salmon are anadromous: they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. So, natives would spear or club the then plentiful salmon from the shores of inland streams during the annual spawning runs in the late summer or early fall. The fish were brought back home for cleaning and smoking, then stored for the hard winter months ahead. The catch was hung over open fires or tacked to native cedar slabs and then slowly cooked, absorbing the natural flavors from the smoke, fire and wood. Later, huts were built to collect and further intensify the flavors and aromas.

The earliest written recipe for plank cooking appeared in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1911, authored by the venerable Fannie Farmer.

MISO GLAZED GRILLED SALMON ON CEDAR

1/2 C red miso
1/2 C mirin
3 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T honey
3 T soy sauce
1/4 C green onions, minced
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 T sesame oil
1 T wasabi powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper

4 salmon fillets, 8 oz each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the miso, mirin, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, wasabi powder and cayenne in a medium bowl. Reserve enough of this miso glaze in another bowl to brush on salmon while grilling.

Remove any remaining bones from salmon fillet. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the salmon in a baking dish, pour the miso marinade over, and turn to coat well. (You may prefer to use a heavy, zippered plastic bag.) Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, turning a few times.

Meahwhile, soak cedar plank in salted cold water for no less than 2 hours, totally immersed, then drain.

Prepare grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium high. Arrange salmon, skin side down, on the cedar plank and then place in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. Brush with miso glaze once or twice during the grilling process.

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
it’s always our self we find in the sea.

~e.e. cummings

Escapist fare on a bleak winter day—in the cozy confines of the kitchen, transport yourself to the sun, sand and azure sea of the French West Indies without airfare or hotel.

My young wandering gnome of a son is going to St. Barths for spring break, so I could not help but reminisce about my torrid affaire there with dainty, yet spicy, accras. Now, this is not meant to slight you or cause jealousy, Mme. boudin noir, as our liaisons there were equally ardent. And both of you cavorting on my plate while sharing a viognier or Côtes de Provence rosé overlooking that seductive blue, was resplendent, almost sacrosanct. Spicy, white hot indulgence with curled toes in the sand.

St. Barthélemy (a/k/a St. Barts, St. Barth, St. Barths), an exquisite volcanic speck of some 8 square idyllic miles (ironically contrasted with the 8 square epically demonic miles of Iwo Jima in early 1945), was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and was named after his brother Bartolomeo. The native Caribs, who called the island Ouanalao, ferociously resisted European attempts to settle on the island. In 1648, a colonization foray was made by French settlers sailing from nearby St. Kitts. Several years later, a raid by angry Caribs destroyed the settlement, killing all the invaders. The victims’ heads were mounted on poles lining Lorient beach to discourage others with similar notions.

Around 1660, a second attempt was made to invade and settle the island, this time by French mariners from Normandy and Brittany. Unlike its predecessor, this colony survived and prospered.

The island became a part of the France realm and an archipelago of another French leeward island, Guadeloupe. But, in 1784, the French King Louis XVI ceded St. Barths to the Swedish King Gustaf III in exchange for warehouse and trading rights in Gôteburg. The king dubbed the capital Gustavia, laid out and paved streets, built three forts, and turned the community into a thriving free port. There are still reminders of Swedish rule—such as the capital city (Gustavia), the duty free status, several buildings, a cemetery, assorted street names, and the remains of forts.

In the 19th century, numerous misfortunes including hurricanes, droughts, yellow fever epidemics, and a ravaging fire befell the island. Sweden sold the now burdensome island back to France in 1878 for 320,000 francs. Provisions of this treaty required the island remain duty free and that the population never pay taxes.

After World War II, France reorganized its former colonies and St. Barths became a sous-préfecture (district) of Guadeloupe that is now a Département d’Outre Mer (Overseas Territory). It was not until 2003 that the population voted in favor of “independence.” Since 2007, the islands of St. Barthélemy and St. Martin have been governed under Collectivités d’Outre Mer status.

The first air service came to St. Barthélemy in the 1940s, when former mayor Remy DeHaenen discovered that he could land a small plane on the flat savanna which leads up to St. Jean beach. On one trip years ago, I had the distinct, disquieting honor of being piloted by M. DeHaenen in his later years—no seat belts and one of us seated on a wooden crate on an unnerving, almost harrowing, flight.

St. Barts remained relatively unfettered, almost undeveloped, until the last few decades of the 20th century when celebs began to escape there. But, thanks to building restrictions—no rambling high rise resorts, no casinos, no all inclusives and no golf courses—the island still maintains its quiet grace. A slice of paradise.

ACCRAS DE MORUE (COD FRITTERS)

3/4 lb salt cod
Water, for desalting
Court bouillon

4 green onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 limes, zested and juiced
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
2 t chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and finely chopped

1 C all purpose flour
1/2 C whole milk
2 eggs
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Canola oil, for frying

Rinse the salt cod under cold running water. Place in a large bowl and cover with cold water and then plastic wrap the bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water 3 times in the process until the cod is sufficiently desalted for you. Bear in mind that you can always add salt, but you cannot remove it once the dish is finished. Drain well and set aside.

In a medium heavy pan, poach the cod in gently simmering court bouillon until it flakes easily with a fork, about 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool. Remove any skin, and bones from the cooled cod, then shred it.

In a large bowl, combine the cod, onions, garlic, lime zest and juice, parsley, thyme and habanero pepper.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Then add the eggs one at a time, and finally the milk, mixing well. It should be the consistency of thick oatmeal. Add these dry ingredients to the cod mixture. Stir well to combine.

Heat 3″ of canola oil in a heavy, deep sided pan to 375 F. Spoon out a rounded tablespoon of the batter, scrape it into the oil using another spoon and fry until golden brown and cooked, 2-3 minutes. Keep the fritters well spaced, cooking in batches. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels or a paper bag.

Serve with aioli, harissa or sauce chien (see below).

Court Bouillon

2 quarts water
1/4 C white wine vinegar
1 T sea salt
10 peppercorns
1 carrots sliced
1/2 onion, peeled and sliced
2 celery ribs chopped
Celery leaves, chopped
3 parsley sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a heavy stock pot, bring to a boil covered. Lower heat and gently simmer 20 minutes. Strain through a colander or chinois, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauce Chien

1/4 C fresh chives, finely minced
2 T flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, seeded and finely minced
2 t fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
Grated zest of 1 lime
1/2 t sea salt

1/4 C boiling water

1/4 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl, combine the chives, parsley, garlic, Scotch bonnet chiles (deseeded), ginger,shallot, lime zest and salt. Add the boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in the lime juice and oil. Whisk well.

Sauce chien comes from the French West Indies knife with a small dog engraved on the side which is used for dicing the ingredients.

Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them.
~Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

More white, more chill, more raw drafts, more winter light—with that sometimes dreaded V Day staring you down—all serve to page this comfy stew. So, please don’t lamely bring home those insipid red roses or banal boxed bonbons on Sunday. Instead, usher to the table a bodacious, succulent soul meant to warm your cockles. Peasant fare gone haute cuisine? Doubtful, but that does nothing to diminish the luscious carnality, even nobility, of this dish.

Never forget that careful kitchen caresses often reap sensual rewards.

Bourgogne (Burgundy), a région encompassing the départements of Côte-d’Or, Saône-et-Loire, Nièvre, and Yonne, is a diverse historic region in east central France—a mere 1 hour 20 minutes due southeast of Paris by TGV rail.

The Burgundians were a Scandinavian people whose original homeland lay on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea, where the island of Bornholm (Burgundarholm in the Middle Ages) still bears their name. During the 1st century, they migrated westward to the borders of the Roman Empire. There they established a powerful kingdom, which by the early 5th century extended to the west bank of the Rhine River and later centered on Sapaudia (Savoy) near Lake Geneva. The history of Burgundy is rather complicated, convoluted, even twisted at times. So, I will endeavor to address it in segments in later posts — suffice it to say it is more a state of mind than a place.

BOURGUIGNON D’AGNEAU (LAMB BOURGUIGNON)

1/2 lb thick bacon, cut into lardons (1/4″ x 1″)
1 T extra virgin olive oil

3 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 2″ cubes, patted dry

2 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thickly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 T all purpose flour

3 C dry red wine, such as a Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir
3 C beef stock
1 T tomato paste
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled

Braised onions
24 smaller white pearl onions
2 T butter
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C beef stock
Bouquet garni (parsley sprig, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, tied in cheesecloth)

Sautéed mushrooms
1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Freshly parsley leaves, chopped (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 450 F

Simmer lardons for 10 minutes in water, then drain and dry on paper towels. Sauté lardons in olive oil in a heavy large Dutch oven over low medium heat to lightly brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a large side dish with a slotted spoon.

Heat lardon fat in same Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add lamb, well spaced, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Place the browned lamb in the dish with the lardons. Add the sliced carrots, parsnips and onions to the same pot and brown, then pour out excess fat.

Return the lamb and lardons with the carrots, parsnips and onions to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle with flour and toss again to coat the contents lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle of preheated oven for 8 minutes, tossing once or twice.

Transfer Dutch oven to stove top and reduce oven heat to 325 F.

Stir in wine and enough stock to barely cover the meat and vegetables. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a kind simmer on the stove top. Cover Dutch oven and set in lower third of oven. Again, bring to a gentle simmer until fork pierces meat easily, about 3-4 hours. While the lamb is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Braised onions
In a deep heavy skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible, remaining careful not to break the skins.

Add the stock, bouquet garni, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove bouquet garni and set onions aside.

Sautéed mushrooms
Carefully wipe out skillet with paper towels and heat remaining oil and butter over medium high heat. Once butter has begun to bubble but not brown, add mushrooms. Toss until they brown lightly, about 4-5 minutes and then remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the pot into a sieve set over a saucepan in order to make a sauce. Wash out the Dutch oven and return the lamb and lardons, strewing the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

Meanwhile, skim fat off sauce in saucepan, and then simmer sauce for a couple of minutes, skimming off additional fat until reduced enough to coat a spoon. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, whisk in a few tablespoons stock. Taste and if necessary, correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, tossing and basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

Serve with artisanal noodles or potatoes, topped with parsley.

Pourboire: Please do not forget Julia Child’s mantra about browning —
(1) The meat should be thoroughly dried
(2) The oil in the pan should be quite hot
(3) Do not crowd the meat in the pan