Butter Bleu

November 29, 2010

Eat butter first, and eat it last, and live ’til a hundred years be past.
~Dutch proverb

The average intake for Thanksgiving Day in this svelte land is a mere 4,500 calories…followed by a sedate evening of potatoing. Here is some buddah to slather on your meat should you may have fallen short of conspicuous consumption goals this past weekend. Huah!

BLEU COMPOUND BUTTER

8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 C Roquefort or Bleu d’Auvergne cheese

1/2 T fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/2 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1/2 T plump fresh garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
Multi-colored freshly ground peppers (red, green, white)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor or standing mixer, whip butter and cheese together until well combined. Add thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Season to your liking with salt and peppers and mix further by pulsing until smooth.

Place butter mixture down the center of plastic wrap enveloped by parchment paper and roll the butter forming a 1 1/2″ diameter log. Discard paper and chill plastic wrapped butter log overnight in refrigerator. Remove compound butter from refrigerator, slice into 3/4″ discs, and allow to rest about 20-30 minutes before use. Place one or two slices of compound butter on each slab of hot grilled, roast or sautéed meat and allow to melt.

Pourboire: Compound butters can also be readily frozen for up to a couple of months.

If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.
~George W. Bush

Some foods naturally have genial, soulful connections. Think proscuitto and figs. Jocund flavors who jive…acid, tang, tart, sweet, pungent, bitter, twang, vim, pepper, fruit, earth…all meeting on one plate. This crisply textured and vibrant medley does not disappoint. A salad with spizzerinctum.

Endive, Cichorium endivia, is a slightly bitter, leafy vegetable which belongs to the daisy family and the chicory genus. One variety of endive, escarole, has broad, pale green leaves and tends to be less bitter than its curly cousin, frisée.

Should you complain about President Obama, lest we forget George “W.ar” Bush. In a parting shot at that Gallic crew who refused to support his ill conceived invasion and conquest of Iraq, the Bush administration imposed a 300% duty on Roquefort (Occitan: ròcafòrt) as one of his final acts in office. Designed as a tariff retaliation for an EU ban on imports of US beef containing hormones, the ever bellicose president decided to punish the thousands of people who herd select ewes in the harsh terrain of some 2,100 farms, all of whose livelihood entirely depended on Roquefort. Boy George and his wars on everyone and everything—from french fries to the Taliban. “(T)he answer is, bring ’em on”…one conflictual kid, even at the ripe age of 64.

As the quantity is minute, bring on your finest cold pressed, unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil.

RADICCHIO, ESCAROLE, PEAR, WALNUT & ROQUEFORT SALAD

1 C whole walnuts

Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
4 medium beets
Balsamic vinegar
Honey

1 Bosc pear, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 head of radicchio leaves, roughly torn
1 head curly escarole, cored and halved crosswise
Freshly ground pepper
1 C Roquefort cheese, crumbled

Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for a couple minutes, until fragrant. Let them cool, then coarsely chop.

Trim ends off beets, and rinse. Halve and then arrange them in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and lightly splash them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of honey, and cover dish tightly with foil. Roast until cooked through, about 45 minutes or so, depending on the size of the beets. When done, they should be firm, but a fork should slide in readily. Allow beets to cool uncovered, peel and slice into roughly hewn juliennes.

In a small bowl, toss the sliced pear with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. In a large bowl, toss the radicchio and escarole with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Mound the salad on plates and top with the beets, pears, walnuts and Roquefort. No need to salt as the Roquefort brings a salty tang to the mix. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…
~William Shakespeare, (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is derived form the Latin for ‘dew of the sea’, a reference to its pale blue dew-like flowers and the fact that it often grows near the sea. Native to the Mediterranean basin, rosemary is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant and silvery evergreen-needle leaves.

Sprigs of rosemary have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 3,000 BC. Ancient Greek students would wear garlands of rosemary or braid rosemary into their hair in order to enhance memory, thus leading to rosemary being dubbed the “Herb of Crowns.”

Recent research has even suggested that rosemary contains an ingredient that fends off free radical damage in the brain. This active ingredient, known as carnosic acid (CA), can protect the brain from stroke and neurodegeneration that is due to toxins and free radicals which are thought to be one of the contributors to stroke and conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The leaves of this strongly fragrant herb possess a pungent flavor that is a cross between lemon and pine which is why it marries well with lemons.

This delicate, summer fettucine can be made with dried pasta, but fresh is much preferable. Consult the post on Basic Pasta Dough (06.10.09) for both machine and hand made pastas. For your convenience, I have repeated the machine method below.

FETTUCINE WITH ROSEMARY, ROQUEFORT & LEMON

Sea salt

1 lb fresh* or dried fettucine or tagliatelle

3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
3 T Roquefort cheese, room temperature
Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed

3/4 C reserved pasta cooking water
Grated nutmeg to taste
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced

Freshly ground pepper
Parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated

In a medium glass bowl, combine the butter and Roquefort by mashing with a fork, adding lemon juice along the way. Set aside.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat and add a liberal amount of sea salt. Cook fresh pasta until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. For dried pasta, follow the cooking directions on the package. Drain the pasta through a colander, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.

Place the pasta in a large bowl and add the mixture of butter, Roquefort and lemon. Toss gently until pasta absorbs the mixture and then slowly add the cooking water by spoonful until the pasta is evenly coated. Season generously with pepper, then add nutmeg, lemon zest and rosemary. Toss again, lightly grate with parmigiano-reggiano, and serve.

*Basic Pasta Dough (with machine)

Attach the flat beater to your stand up mixer, then add half of the flour mixture and the eggs, turning to a low speed and mix 30 seconds. Add the rest of the sifted flour mixture and mix an additional 30 seconds, adding sprinklings of water as needed. Variables such as humidity, temperature, egg size and gluten content of the flour will govern water needs.

Note: To test for correct consistency, pinch a small amount of dough together after mixing with the flat beater. If it stays together and not gluing to your fingers, the dough is in good shape. It may be necessary to adjust by adding flour or water to reach the proper harmony.

Exchange flat beater for the dough hook. Again turn to a low speed and knead for 2 to 3 minutes, until a dough ball is formed. Remove dough from bowl and on a lightly floured surface hand knead for a couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight hint of stickiness. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap to prevent a dry skin from forming. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before dividing, rolling and cutting.

Divide the dough, but cutting into 4 pieces, wrapping 3 of them in plastic or covering them with a towel. Flour the dough very lightly then flatten until it is about 1/4″ thick. Set the rollers of the the pasta machine to the widest setting. Feed the dough into and through the machine with your hands. As the flattened dough comes out of the machine, retrieve it gently with your open palm. Avoid pulling the sheets of dough out of the machine; instead allow the pasta to emerge and support it lightly with your hand. Fold the dough into thirds, flatten it slightly with your hands and roll it through again and repeat this process 4 or 5 more times.

If throughout the process the pasta sheets become become too long to work with, cut into two pieces and continue.

Set the rollers to the next thinnest setting and lightly flour the dough, but do not fold. Pass the dough through the machine on each progressive setting until the dough is at desired thinness (usually the next to last or last setting). Repeat the entire process with the remaining pieces of dough.

Let the dough rest on towels or a floured work surface. Use machine to cut into desired fettucine strands.

Veal—An Utter Delicacy

April 23, 2009

Roquefort is one of the most distinctly regal of all cheeses.

It has a cylindrical shape with a sticky, pale ivory, natural rind. Once ripened, roquefort is creamy, thick and white on the inside with characteristic blue veins. The ripening process occurs in natural, damp aired limestone caves found under the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in southern France. The precious milk from specially bred sheep, the processing of the curd, the addition of Penicillium roqueforti and finally the aging in natural caves together coalesce to create this magnificent cheese.

Roquefort has a robust bouquet with a with a creamy yet sharp and tangy, almost metallic, pungent finish. Absolutely divine with bread and a glass of good red or port, it also cooks well…producing tiers of earthy flavors.

VEAL LOIN CHOPS WITH LEEKS, TARRAGON & ROQUEFORT

3 T butter
6 C leeks, tops cut retaining white and pale green parts only, then halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2″ pieces (about 6 cups)
1/2 T organic honey
1 C fresh tarragon leaves, stripped from the stem
2-3 tarragon sprigs, intact
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 C chicken stock , boiled until reduced to 3/4 C

4 – 1 3/4″ thick veal loin chops
Pinches of dried tarragon
4 fresh tarragon sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil

1/2 C brandy
3/4 C heavy whipping cream
4 T unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, room temperature
1/2 C roquefort or other similar blue cheese, such as bleu d’auvergne
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Several fresh sprigs of tarragon

Preheat oven to 400 F

Reduce chicken stock as directed.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and tarragon, drizzle with honey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until liquid evaporates and leeks begin to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes; do not brown. Stir leeks, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook until leeks are very soft and lightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Remove full tarragon sprigs and discard. Puree caramelized leeks, remaining tarragon leaves, and stock in processor or blender until smooth. Set aside.

Season veal with dried tarragon, salt and pepper. Melt 3 tablespoons butter and 1 T olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add fresh tarragon sprigs, then veal and cook over medium high until just pink inside, about 4-5 minutes per side. As with pork, take care not to overcook, as they will be dry. Transfer to plate and tent. Remove tarragon sprigs and discard.

Add brandy to skillet and deglaze until liquid is almost evaporated, scraping up any browned bits. Add pureed leek mixture and cream and bring to simmer until reduced. Whisk in 4 tablespoons butter, 1 piece at a time. Add roquefort and any accumulated meat juices and whisk until smooth and thickened to sauce consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

(If necessary, place veal chops on baking dish in oven and roast a few minutes until done, depending on their thickness.)

Plate veal chops, spoon sauce over and garnish with fresh tarragon sprigs.

A Cupboard Not Bare

January 19, 2009

Even the most resourceful housewife cannot create miracles from a riceless pantry.
~Chinese proverb

Before traipsing into the kitchen or addressing the grill, some thought needs to be given to the provisions on hand. Not only would it be unrealistic to expect all ingredients to be locally fresh throughout the year, but the time constraints of daily life often demand an impromptu table. Having a well supplied (and periodically restocked) pantry is simply essential for home cooks to produce remarkable meals without a last minute forage at the neighborhood market. Some cupboard items can even prove superior to the fresh versions in certain seasons or preparations while others only come in pantry form.

The list below is not exhaustive, but is intended to be fairly comprehensive for the lay cook. Of course, you will tailor your pantry to suit your palate and home cuisine. However, before you reject this list due to storage size restrictions alone, please keep in mind that almost all of these items are carefully housed in the cabinets of our minimalist urban kitchen with a small frig.

Oils –- extra virgin olive, canola, peanut, grapeseed, vegetable, white truffle, avocado, walnut, sesame

Vinegars — red wine, balsamic, champagne, apple cider, sherry, port, rice wine

Spices & Herbs — black peppercorns, white pepper, green peppercorns, pink peppercorns, mixed peppercorns, cayenne pepper, salt (sea, gray, kosher), herbes de provence, fine herbes, ras el hanout, za’atar, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, tarragon, fennel seeds, fennel pollen, savory, celery seed, mustard, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, pimentón, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, curry powder (homemade) & curry paste, fenugreek leaves, garam masala, caraway seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon (sticks/ground), chipotle chile powder, ancho chile powder, star anise, sesame seeds (black, white), allspice, anise seeds, saffron threads, wasabi powder, rubs (i.e., asian, ancho chili, dried mushroom, rosemary & pepper, tandoori, basic barbeque), local hot sauce(s), barbeque (preferably near home) sauces

Grains & Pastas — rice (white long grained, wild, brown, jasmine, basmati), polenta, risotto, pastas (potentials: taglilatelle, linguini, spaghetti, penne, lasagne, orzo, tortellini, orcchietta, capellini, farfalle, capaletti, cavatappi, cavatelli, fusilli, gnocchi, macaroni, papparadelle, ravioli, vermicelli), couscous, Israeli couscous, rice (cellophane) noodles (vermicelli–bun & sticks–banh pho)

Asian –- soy sauce, shoyu, white shoyu, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce/paste, sriracha, nuoc mam nhi(fish sauce), nuoc mam chay pha san, hoisin sauce, red, yellow & green curry pastes, mirin, sake, coconut milk, miso pastes (white, red), oyster sauce, wasabi paste/powder, five spice, tamarind paste, mirin, rice flour, panko bread crumbs, kochujang, gochu garu, konbu

Garlic, shallots, ginger, potatoes, yellow & red onions, dried chiles

Mustards, chutneys, capers, sun dried tomatoes, anchovies, tomato paste, harissa, tahini, creme fraiche, pickles

Canned tomatoes (san marzano + homemade), stock (homemade/canned)

Legumes –- lentils (several colors + lentils du puy), garbanzos, cannellinis, white beans, black beans, navy beans

Booze — red & white wine, cognac (brandy), port wine, Madeira, sherry, eau de vie

Baking — flour, sugars (white granulated, raw cane, light brown, confectioner’s), baking powder, cornstarch, cornmeal, yeast, cocoa, dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa)

Flavorings –- almond extract, vanilla beans, vanilla extract, Tabasco, Worcestershire

Dried fruits — currants, apricots, figs, prunes, currants

Nuts –- pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, unsalted peanuts

Honeys (local, raw, unprocessed), mi-figue mi-raisin, raspberry and strawberry preserves, apricot jam, pure maple syrup, peanut butter

Dairy –- whole milk, unsalted butter, eggs, buttermilk, heavy whipping cream

Fruits –- lemons, oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, heirloom tomatoes

Cheeses –- parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, gruyère, marscarpone, roquefort or gorgonzola, feta, fontina, manchego

Meats proscuitto, serrano

Spreads tapenades, caponata, hummus