Nightmarish triplets no doubt conceived by Food Networkpesto, quiche, then crab cakes.

CRAB CAKES WITH CITRUS BEURRE NANTAIS

2 lbs high quality crabmeat (Maryland, Peekytoe, Dungeness)

2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small to medium red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely diced

2 large eggs
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
3 T Dijon mustard
1/4 C crème fraîche or sour cream
2+ T all purpose flour, sifted
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil

Place the crabmeat in a strainer to remove any excess liquid. Allow to drain for several minutes, then transfer the crabmeat to a large bowl. Pick over the crabmeat to remove any bits of shell and cartilage, being careful not to break up the lumps of crab.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high and cook the onion, garlic and jalapeños until the onion is softened and translucent. Transfer to bowl, set aside, and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together first the eggs, then Worcestershire, paprika, cayenne, mustard, and crème fraîche until well combined. Then, stir in the cooled onion mixture. Add the crabmeat, and 2 tablespoons of the flour, gently fold to combine, and season with salt and pepper. If the mixture appears too wet, loose and liquid like, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. Refrigerate, covered for at least 2 hours, even overnight.

Divide the chilled crab mixture into 8 patties about 1/2-inch thick.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick pan over medium high heat and sauté the cakes until crusty and lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side.

CITRUS BEURRE NANTAIS

1 C dry Riesling, Vouvray, or Sancerre wine
2 T lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 T ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 C heavy whipping cream

1/2 T sugar
1/4 C fresh grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 C lime juice, freshly squeezed

12 T unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), chilled and cut into small cubes.
Sea salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

In a sauce pan, combine the wine, lemon juice, and ginger. Reduce until about approximately 3 tablespoons of liquid remains. Add the heavy cream and gently reduce by half.

Meanwhile, in a separate sauce pan, reduce the sugar, grapefruit juice, and lime juice together until thick and syrupy. Whisk into the reduced cream mixture.

With a wire whisk or an immersion blender, purée the “sauce” while slowly adding the butter a few cubes at a time until all of the butter is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle over crab cakes.

Advertisements

The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community.
~Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895

In honor of Bastille Day, le Tour ramblings roll on…but the sole focus here is food. This race is not just about wheels, legs and lungs. Food and water are just as crucial to a rider’s grit, often making the difference between a podium spot and an abysmally dismal welcome to the offseason.

Throughout the Tour, riders constantly strive to store and restore glycogen, a readily oxidized sugar, inside muscle cells. Muscle glycogen levels before and during a stage are a very good predictor of the day’s performance. So, a pivotal nutritional challenge of the Tour is not only eating to achieve full muscle glycogen recovery off the bike, but to also assuage the demands of glycogen depletion while humping—an uphill task given the intricacies of race dynamics, individual nutritional demands and tolerances, coupled with the enormous fuel demands and fluid losses that occur during just one single stage.

Those who fail to consistently replenish risk bonking.

To offset fuel depletion, Tour riders consume a stunning average of between 6,000 to 8,000 calories daily—sometimes even 10,000 calories on unusually grueling stages. Their carbohydrate intake averages about 6 grams per pound of body weight (155 lb rider = 930 grams per day). Riders conventionally attempt to get 70 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrate, 15 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein.

(Teams even employ their own chefs to optimize their riders’ nutritional needs.)

A typical day begins with a hearty breakfast which not only raises liver glycogen stores and blood glucose levels, it can also top off soon-to-be-depleted muscle glycogen stores. The morning’s fodder can consist of cereal, dairy, rice, almond or soy milk, fruit juice, croissants or toast with plenty of carbohydrate rich jams. Riders often add protein from eggs and egg whites, protein powder, and even toss in a heaping bowl of rice or pasta. They keep nibbling and drinking up to start time.

On the bike, riders eat a mixture of energy bars, gels, pastries, sandwiches, and fruit. The soigneurs (personal assistants) prepare cotton musette bags with the rider’s fancied victuals, including energy bars and gels, rice cakes and sandwiches. Throughout the stage, riders are drinking about 2-3 bottles per hour with about half of that being sports drink—critical sources of carbohydrates and electrolytes.

After each stage, the riders immediately down a recovery drink of mainly carbohydrate and some protein. They then usually graze steadily until dinnertime on energy bars, sweets, fruits, and fluids, with a focus on constant refueling and muscle glycogen re-synthesis.

In the evening, riders dine on a full bore meal consisting of chicken and/or fish, mounds of pasta or rice, sandwiches, yogurt, vegetables, salad greens, bread and sweets. Their fat intake results from dish preparation.

Bedtime snacks may include energy bars, chocolate and more hydration. Save for sleep, the grazing rarely ceases.

POULET ROTI AUX AGRUMES (ROAST CHICKEN WITH CITRUS)

1 5 lb. whole roasting chicken, necks and giblets set aside
1 orange, halved
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 T dried thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 orange, quartered
1/2 lemon, quartered
1/2 lime, quartered

2 heads plump fresh garlic, halved crosswise, each studded with 2 cloves

1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/4 C fresh orange juice
1/4 C fresh lime juice
3 T Dijon mustard
3 T organic honey
1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter, melted
3 cloves fresh, plump garlic, peeled and finely minced

Chicken stock
Cognac or brandy
Fresh orange juice
Fresh lemon juice
Fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 F

Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for at least 1/2 hour. Rub the chicken inside and out with the halved orange. Thoroughly rub the chicken inside and out with butter and liberally season inside the cavity and outside with salt, pepper and dried thyme. Place 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 sprigs thyme, and the orange, lemon and lime quarters inside the cavity of the chicken. Truss the bird, securing the wings and legs of the chicken to the body with trussing string.

Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, mustard, honey, olive oil, melted butter, minced garlic. Use this mixture to brush over the chicken along with roasting juices used for basting.

In the bottom of the roasting pan, lay out the neck and studded garlic heads with cut side up. Put the rack with the chicken on its side onto the roasting pan, and place into the center of the oven; roast for 20 minutes, uncovered, basting throughout the entire roasting process. Turn the chicken to the other side for 20 minutes, still basting. Then, turn the chicken breast side up and roast for 20 more minutes. During this last 20 minutes, drop in the remaining giblets.

Reduce the heat to 375 and continue roasting with breast side up for 15 minutes more, still occasionally basting, until done. The bird should have a robust golden tone, and juices should run clear, yellow (not pink) when the thigh is pierced with a carving fork. Remove the herb sprigs and citrus from the cavity. Remove the cloves, and set the roasted garlics aside to serve.

Place an overturned soup bowl under one end of a platter or cutting board so it is tilted at an angle. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and turn the chicken so that the juices in the cavity are emptied onto the pan. Then, transfer the chicken to the angulated platter or board, with breast side down and tail in the air. This allows gravity to do its job as the juices flow down into the breast meat. Cut the trussing string free and discard.

Loosely tent the chicken with foil and let rest on the incline at least 20 minutes—it will actually keep cooking some, and the juices will disperse evenly throughout the meat.

Place the roasting pan over moderate heat in order to heat the juices. With a wood spatula, scrape those bits stuck to the surface of the pan. If the pan is a lacking some liquid, just add some chicken broth. Then, when the pan is sufficiently hot, add some fresh citrus juice, several tablespoons of brandy to deglaze and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer several minutes until it coats the spatula.

While the sauce is reducing, carve the chicken. Strain the sauce, preferably through a fine chinois sieve, which will produce a velvety end product.

There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.
~William Shakespeare, Hamlet (scene V)

Why is fennel such a neglected child? A culinary tragedy of sorts.

It seems incongruous that this versatile perennial herb always warms the bench in cooks’ imaginations…especially given fennel’s illustrious past. In Greek mythology, the wily titan Prometheus smuggled fire to humans inside the hollow wand of a fennel stalk. The decisive battle of Marathon between the Greeks and the Persians (490 BC) was allegedly waged on a plain covered in wild fennel. Roman author, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder lauded its medicinal properties, and had numerous herbal remedies linked to fennel. The almost omnipotent medieval king, Charlemagne, had fennel cultivated in his garden to serve the household, perhaps to be shared by each of his nine wives. He later regally mandated that fennel be nurtured in every imperial garden. During this era, fennel was used to protect against witchcraft and evil spirits. Later, in the new world, Puritans chewed fennel seeds during church services, calling them “meeting seed.” (Only Puritans would fail to grasp that double entendre, but perhaps Charlemagne was on to something.)

The fennel found in your local market is Florence fennel, or finocchio, which are topped by fragrant, delicate emerald fronds attached to stout stalks that resemble celery. The edible white “bulb” is actually not that at all, but rather concentrated stacked leaves that unpack like the base of a celery stalk.

You are not alone if you have never cooked with fennel, but I implore you to re-evaluate. Fennel has a subtle flavor that is enticing enough solo, but it also blends well and enhances the flavors of nearby foods. It is eaten raw (often shaven), sautéed, steamed, braised, roasted and grilled with a whole host of food mates—a versatile one.

BEET & FENNEL SALAD WITH CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

6 medium beets
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 T organic honey
1 T lemon juice
1 T orange juice
1 T grapefruit juice
Sea salt
1/4 t lemon zest
1/4 t orange zest
1/4 t grapefruit zest

1/2 C hazelnuts, roasted and chopped

1 fennel bulb, quartered and cored
1 C frisée, torn in pieces
1 C watercress

Preheat oven to 400 F

Trim ends off beets and rinse. Arrange them in a baking dish, lightly splash them with water, and cover tightly with foil. Roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Allow beets to cool uncovered, then peel using a paper towel. Cut into wedges, put them in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil, then toss.

In the meantime, wash and dry greens and carefully shave the fennel quarters on a mandoline or slicer.

In a bowl, whisk together the shallot, white wine vingar, honey, citrus juices, and a pinch of salt. Allow to rest and macerate while grating the citrus for zest and preparing the hazelnuts. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the bowl while whisking constantly and then stir in the zests and hazelnuts to complete the vinaigrette. If necessary, add salt to taste.

In a large wooden bowl, gently toss beets, fennel, and frisée and watercress in vinaigrette to lightly, but thoroughly, coat. (The French believe it takes 33 turns for a salad to be properly dressed.) Drenching a salad with vinaigrette is a cardinal sin which carries a sentence of temporary banishment from the kitchen.

Chilled Asparagus

May 8, 2009

…my greatest pleasure was the asparagus, bathed in ultramarine and pink and whose spears, delicately brushed in mauve and azure, fade imperceptibly to the base of the stalk—still soiled with the earth of their bed—through iridescences that are not of this world.
~Marcel Proust, Du Côté de Chez Swann, vol. I of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

Is it overly evident that (eons ago) my favorite professor was a renowned Proust scholar? On reflection, he may have been partially responsible for my prolonged asparagus addiction. I have a passion for many foods, but a particular fondness for cold asparagus whether served with varied vinaigrettes or this juxtaposed citrus and garlic dressing.

CHILLED ASPARAGUS WITH CITRUS & GARLIC

2 lbs thick asparagus, bottoms snapped off
Water
Sea salt

Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 grapefruit
3 plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 T parsley, coarsely chopped
3 T mint, coarsely chopped
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Bring water to a boil in a large stock pot and add a liberal dose of salt. Put the asparagus into the boiling water and cook briefly until crisp, less than 2 minutes. Remove and immediately plunge into an ice and frigid water bath for a couple of minutes, stirring some. Make sure the ice bath is sufficiently cold as you want to halt the cooking process abruptly.

Remove and immediately drain asparagus on towels, then transfer to a large baking dish or large platter. Add the lemon zest and juice, orange zest, grapefruit zest and juice, garlic, parsley, mint, salt and olive oil and gently toss. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator, allowing all of the flavors to meld. However, do not allow to chill too long as the spears can become a bit soggy.

Duck—Monogamous or…?

April 23, 2009

It is to be regretted that domestication has seriously deteriorated the moral character of the duck. In a wild state, he is a faithful husband…..but no sooner is he domesticated than he becomes polygamous, and makes nothing of owning ten or a dozen wives at a time.
~Isabella Beeton

Is domestication at the root of multiple partners? Does this polyamorous feathered wall of shame really include Donald, Daffy and Howard the Duck…even the Ugly Duckling once he reached manhood?

However unfettered their mating proclivities may be, ducks are supreme eating with tender flesh and skin that gleams and crackles. I am admittedly addicted to fatty, crisp duck skin which should be considered neither one of my shortcomings nor character defects.

Domesticated ducks have a long history on the world’s tables. During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Era (907-960), cultures in China became the first to raise ducks in captivity for food use.

Although there are varied species of ducks, all commercially produced ducks are descendants of two types––mallard and muscovy. The white feathered, full breasted Pekin (Long Island) duck, known for its dark, succulent meat, is the most commonly reared duck in the United States. Pekin ducks (which in this country are predominately bred in Long Island, NY) are all progeny of three ducks and a drake that arrived from China on a clipper ship in 1873. Some specialty breeds have become more popular in recent years, notably Muscovy and Moulard ducks.

(Why does Long Island keep getting parenthetical treatment?) Well, at least blog “style” rarely demands footnotes or endnotes, id, ibid, op cit, etc.

This dish will permeate your home with blissful citrus, roasted poultry, honey and wine vinegar aromas for days to come. A house favorite.

ROAST DUCK WITH CITRUS, HONEY & CIDER VINEGAR

1 duck (3 to 4 lbs), liver reserved & trimmings (neck, heart,
wing tips) chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 t dried thyme

6 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into diagonal slices
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
4 sprigs fresh thyme

Grated zests of 2 oranges, 2 limes and 1 grapefruit

1-2 T honey
4 T apple cider vinegar
½ C cognac or brandy
4 T unsalted butter, chilled

Preheat oven to 425 F

Remove the fatty glands from the upper side of the bird’s tail. Season the duck inside and out with salt, pepper and thyme. Place the liver in the duck and truss with string so it will retain shape. Place the duck on one side in a large heavy roasting pan with a rack, and set it in the oven with the breast side facing toward the back. Roast, uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn the duck on the opposite side and roast for 10 minutes more. Turn the duck on its back and roast for 10 minutes more.

Remove the roasting pan and strew the chopped trimmings, garlic, carrot, onion and thyme under and around the duck. Remove the trussing string. Return the pan to the oven and roast the duck for a total of 13-15 minutes per pound (the time varies on the size of the bird—more time per pound for a smaller duck, less time per pound time for a larger duck). Baste several times while roasting.

(The duck is done to medium rare if the juices from the fattest part of the thigh run faintly rosy when the skin is pricked, and when the duck is lifted and drained, the last drops of juice from the vent are pale rose. The duck is well done when the juices run pale yellow.)

Once done, transfer the duck to a platter which is propped up at one end at an angle with breast side down and tail in the air; reserve contents in roasting pan. Tent loosely and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. Remember, the bird will continue to cook as it rests.

Put the zests in a fine mesh sieve and lower into boiling water for 2 minutes to blanch. Rinse under cold water, drain and set aside.

Place the roasting pan with the trimmings over high heat. Cook until nicely browned, about 1-2 minutes. Drain and discard the liquid in the pan, add the honey and cook 1-2 minutes more. Deglaze with several tablespoons of vinegar for about a minute, then add cognac and simmer for 5 minutes more.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve place over a clean pan and press down on the trimmings. Add any juices that have drained from the duck as it was resting. Bring to a soft boil over high heat, and add another couple of tablespoons of vinegar, and reduce a minute or less more. Remove from the heat and add the chilled butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking so that the butter melts gently to slightly thicken the sauce. Stir in the reserved zest.

Carve the duck and arrange on a platter or plates. Spoon some sauce over and pour the remaining into a sauceboat. Serve with a fine red Rhône, French burgundy or Oregon pinot noir.

Life, Chicken & Potatoes

April 10, 2009

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
~Mae West

Food and friends, past and present, in chronology.

pho-bi-a, n. a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it. [1780-1790; extracted from nouns ending in -PHOBIA]

My amigo soulmate of years ago, Joe, died suddenly and unexpectedly at a much too young age. It was a spirit-shattering, life-bending, scarring tragedy for all of us who adored him. An eternal gut punch. So many things sadly unsaid and experiences lost.

Before his untimely exit, Joe schooled me on the perserverance and confidence needed to grill poultry. Until I studied him manning the ‘que, I suffered from that common, yet unfounded, psychic malady—fear of burned chicken. I listened and watched intently as he fostered patience, steadiness, forbearance and fearlessness at the grill.

A few learned tips: (1) have a somewhat gentle, but not waning, fire (2) stoically resist the natural temptation of repetitive turning, moving, pressing the chicken as this releases those ambrosial juices—potentially causing wildfires and also drying the bird; (3) open the bottom vents on the barbeque, but keep any top or side vents closed while cooking; (4) keep the lid on the kettle as much as possible as the heat and grilling smoke which is “basting” your fowl will simply evaporate into thin air; (5) somewhat contrary to (4), stand sentry—keep an occasional eye on the meat to assure no raging bonfires have developed; (6) do not apply glazes or sauces that have a sugar base until the very end of the cooking process, and paint on in layers, creating tiers of caramelized flavors. (Also, see the post On Grilling).

Since his euphemistic passing, many have unknowingly reaped the benefits of Joe’s tutelage.

GRILLED CHICKEN

Citrus glaze:
1/2 C fresh lime juice
1 1/2 C fresh orange juice
1/4 C soy sauce
1/2 C honey

In a small heavy saucepan, boil ingredients until reduced to 1 cup. Set aside.

Marinade:
1/2 C fresh lime juice
1/2 C fresh orange juice
3 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and minced finely
1/3 C fresh oregano, chopped
1/3 C fresh cilantro, chopped
3 fresh jalapeños, stemmed and diced
2 t dried red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 C extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together first ingredients until well mixed. Then, slowly drizzle in olive oil in a narrow stream while whisking vigorously. Set aside.

Chicken:
Fresh, organic, free range chicken (either leg thigh quarters or whole chicken cut into 8 pieces)
Several sprigs of rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in large flat dish and pour marinade over, turning to coat liberally. A large ziploc bag works well too. Cover, refrigerate and let chicken marinade, turning occasionally for a few hours or even overnight. Bring to room temperature in marinade before grilling. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade.

Prepare grill to medium (to medium high) heat. Before placing the chicken on the grill, arrange some rosemary sprigs on the edges of the fire. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Brush thoroughly with glaze and grill 2-5 minutes longer. Remove and transfer to platter.

POTATO SALAD CHEZ ARLENE

My dear friend Arlene lives in the country on a horse farm…a serene, pastoral setting with verdant pastures, specked with ponds and crisscrossed with wooden fences. Her home is perched at the summit of an otherwise flat county, sprawling with almost nothing but windows facing western skies reminiscent of Constable canvasses—blue sunrises, fierce orange, light grey and cobalt sunsets, potent anvil-head storms rolling in from the plains bearing who knows what, puffy white clouds dotting the tranquil sky, lunar bathings. All is centered around these immaculate horse stables, housing tmagnificent, neatly groomed, finely pedigreed beasts who do this ballet called dressage.

A wing of the home is devoted to music. It has soothing curved ceilings, an audiophile’s dream of a sound system with speakers larger than a grown man, ergonomic chairs—a room lined with exalted fine art, books, CDs and, of course, brimming with music. Listening to Mahler’s No. 6 there may well best a symphony hall. A night at Arlene’s is spent cooking, eating, imbibing, and retiring to the Music Room, discussing the world’s feats and woes well into the morning hours.

Arlene and I really met during dark moments in both of our lives. She coddled and helped to heal me. Along the way, she introduced to me to an unparalleled potato salad.

3 lbs red potatoes
6 organic, free range eggs

1 large bunch fresh radishes, rinsed, scrubbed and thinly sliced
2 small bunches green onions, rinsed and sliced, 2″ of tops trimmed off

1 C mayonaisse, either homemade (see Mayonaisse post) or Hellman’s prepared
1/2 C dijon mustard
3 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 C capers

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Place potatoes into a large heavy bottomed pot. Cover with cold water and place over high heat. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and remove lid. Gently simmer until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and place in an ice bath to cool, then promptly drain and dry thoroughly. Slice potatoes, but not overly thin.

Place eggs in a heavy large saucepan. Cover with cold water, cover with lid and place over high heat. At the first serious boil, remove the pan from heat and let stand 14 minutes, still covered. Drain and place in an ice bath to cool, then remove and dry. Thinly slice the boiled eggs.

In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard and balsamic vinegar to taste; then add the potatoes, radishes, green onions, boiled eggs and capers. Roll up your sleeves and mix well with both hands (or employ a friend). Season with salt and pepper early on so you can taste to your liking. You may need to add more mayonnaise and mustard to reach the right moisture level. As with all salads, the ingredients should be nicely coated, but not swimming or soggy.