COUTURE

Crisp radishes with butter and sea salt — a classic pairing exuding effortless elegance. Only a radical would think of tinkering with it. That’s what Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park did at The NoMad by fitting diminutive radishes in strapless white dresses. Now it seems like a given to adorn radishes in this simple — yet deceptively demanding — way. You have to get the butter to just the right consistency so that it clings flatteringly to the radish without slipping right off (no one wants a wardrobe malfunction). Successfully executed, it is a thing of real beauty.

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BUTTER-DIPPED RADISHES with FLEUR DE SEL 
(recipe by Daniel Humm from The NoMad, NYC)

32 farmer’s market baby radishes with greens intact*
1 pound of fine unsalted butter, room temperature**
2 1/2 tablespoons fleur de sel 

*This dish works best with baby radishes or French (“breakfast”) radishes purchased at a farmer’s market, since they’re the perfect size and are far more likely to have their greens intact. Radish greens don’t keep well, so you’ll want to use them the same day if possible. If you can’t find radishes with attractive greens, you can simply cut the bruised greens off leaving a little green stem. They’ll still be wonderful!

**Do not use old butter that’s been sitting in your refrigerator, since butter picks up odors easily.

Dip a sponge in ice water and gently rub dirt off the radishes. Let the radishes dry. Temper the butter by placing it in a flame-proof glass or metal bowl over a small pot of gently simmering water on medium-low heat. As it heats, whisk the butter occasionally until it thickens and stabilizes to the consistency of melted chocolate or room temperature mayonnaise. Tempered butter should not resemble melted butter, which is too greasy and will not properly coat the radishes. If the butter melts, chill it and start over.

Prepare a plate or baking sheet lined with wax paper. One by one, dip the bottom half of each radish into the butter. Dip again to coat evenly. Shake them to remove excess butter. You can also use your finger to straighten the butter “line,” giving it a cleaner appearance. Place the coated radishes on the wax paper, sprinkle some fleur de sel over them, and chill them in the refrigerator until the butter is set, about 15 minutes. Serve on a flat surface with additional fleur de sel.

Screen shot 2014-06-21 at 1.26.05 PM(Eva Herzigova in Dior)

See alsoStella McCartney-inspired cake.

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TEA PARTY

Not that kind of Tea Party.

My Tea Party is all the things a reactionary political movement is not –subtle, evocative, and charming. It showcases a trio of tea-flavored Panna Cotta, including genteel German Chamomile, heady Matcha Green Tea, and stalwart Earl Grey. Of course you can make just one, but how insane is it to offer your guests a selection?

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CHAMOMILE, MATCHA, & EARL GREY PANNA COTTA 

for one type of panna cotta (4 half cup servings):
2 cups of the best heavy cream*
¼ cup of superfine or granulated sugar
tea of your choice
(4 tbsp dried chamomile; 2 tbsp Matcha green tea powder; 2 Earl Grey teabags)
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water

Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan on medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is steaming. Remove from heat and stir in the tea of your choice. Let this steep for about 15-30 minutes depending on the tea (Matcha and Earl Grey will be relatively quick, chamomile needs longer). In a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and stir to mix. Add the warm cream mixture to the gelatin water and stir to combine. Pour the Panna Cotta mixture into jars or cups and chill until firm, 2-4 hours. If desired, you can mix concentrated tea with gelatin to add a layer of color to the top of the Panna Cotta. *You can substitute with milk if you don’t want the Panna Cotta to be super creamy.

LEMON POPPY SEED SHORTBREAD
(recipe source)

for about two dozen cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted high quality butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat well. In another bowl, combine the sifted flour, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Do not over mix. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 3 hours (up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months). Preheat oven to 325° F. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle.  Return dough to refrigerator for an additional 30 minutes. Cut the shortbread with a cookie cutter or use a knife to slice the dough. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. If your dough has become warm, return it to the refrigerator until it’s nice and firm (keeping the dough cold means it will not spread as much during baking). Bake until pale golden all over, 20-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

SAVAGES

Corn-on-the-cob. In public we’re obliged to nibble at it, row by tedious row, taking care to wipe our faces clean and hide our kernel-studded grins. In private, the veneer of civilization disappears. We tear greedily into these things as if they were about to vanish forever. Our faces smothered, eyes bloodshot, gasping for air. Behind every man, woman, and child — corn carcasses piled high.

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GRILLED CORN MEXICAN STYLE 
mayo, cotjia, chili powder, lime

for 4 servings:
4 white corn on the cob, husked
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
Cotija cheese (or ricotta salata), crumbled
chili powder or cayenne
lime wedges

Drizzle the corn with olive oil and grill or broil, turning the corn to cook it all over. When it is nicely charred, set the corn on a tray. Slather the mayo + crema mixture all over the corn. Roll the corn in the Cotjia cheese, sprinkle with chili powder, and serve immediately with lime wedges.

BAJA-STYLE

The fish tacos at Tacos La Bufadora in El Monte, California aren’t fussy. On Wednesdays, they’re a dollar each. Beer battered tilapia with shredded cabbage, crema, and occasionally pico de gallo in white corn tortillas. This is the way it’s done all over Baja California, Mexico, and this is the way I like to make them at home. No mango salsas, no “blackened” fish, no jicama, no Sriracha. Best enjoyed with a cold beer or a pitcher of watermelon agua fresca.  

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BAJA FISH TACOS

for 4 servings or 16 tacos: 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
zest from 2 limes
1/2 a small head of green cabbage, finely shredded
1-2 avocados, peeled/pitted/sliced
16 (small) white corn tortillas, warmed
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
about 1 bottle of lager, such as Negra Modelo
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon white pepper powder
2 pounds firm fish fillet, such as cod, flounder, tilapia, halibut
canola oil for frying
3 limes cut into wedges
cilantro (optional)

Combine the mayonnaise, crema, chili powder, garlic, and lime zest and refrigerate. Mix the batter by combining the flour, beer, salt and white pepper. Portion the fish into strips, about 3-4 inches long. Heat the oil in a heavy pot on medium-high flame. Dip the fish in the batter and fry in batches until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack. To assemble, place some shredded cabbage and one slice of avocado in each warmed tortilla with the fish on top. Spoon the sauce over the fish. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

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WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA 

1 seedless watermelon, cubed
fresh lime juice (1/4 cup for every 4 cups of watermelon)
honey (to taste, optional) with 1 teaspoon warm water
fresh mint leaves and lime wheels for garnish
ice

Puree the watermelon in a food processor or blender and pour through a sieve to retain the juice. Discard the pulp. Stir in the lime juice. If the watermelon is already very sweet, you will not need to add the honey. Pour the agua fresca into glasses with ice, mint, and a lime wheel.

CODDLED

“How would you like your eggs prepared?”

“Coddled.”

That’s the exchange I imagined as I was whipping up this insane little dish from the popular Los Angeles eatery Eggslut. Buttery, silken potatoes topped with a single hopelessly coddled egg which has never had to earn a wage, pay rent, or do heavy lifting. Could brunch get any more bratty? No matter. It’s so right.

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CODDLED EGG with POTATO PUREE
(recipe slightly adapted from Eggslut, Los Angeles)

for four servings:
1 pound Russet potatoes, peeled & diced
5 ounces unsalted butter
sea salt and white pepper powder
4 small Mason or Weck jars
4 large free-range eggs
4 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
1 baguette or ficelle
extra virgin olive oil

In a large pot, bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the diced potatoes and cook until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a food processor or blender (leave the water in the pot and keep the water simmering). Pulse the potatoes until completely smooth. Add the butter. The potato puree should become silky smooth. Season with salt and white pepper, ensuring that the salt does not overwhelm the potato flavor. Pour the puree into the jars, filling each jar about halfway. Crack 1 egg into each jar on top of the puree. Cover the jars with lids and place the jars in the simmering water (remove water if it goes above the brim of the jar) to cook for about 10 minutes until the egg just begins to set but is still soft. As the egg is cooking, brush several pieces of rustic bread with olive oil and place under the broiler until golden brown. Remove the jars from the water, wipe dry, and remove lids. Garnish with a small pile of chives and sea salt. Serve with the bread. Diners should thoroughly mix the egg and potato puree with the chives and salt.

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THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS

You know what they say about the classics: Don’t mess with them. So unassailable. So proud. They’re classics for a reason. But doesn’t that just make you wanna mess with them?

Tonight I tinkered with tomato soup + grilled cheese by swapping in gorgeous yellow peach tomatoes and by tucking avocado and minced jalapenos under the cheese. Not exactly a paradigm shift, but incrementalism comes before revolutions…

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GOLDEN TOMATO BISQUE with AVOCADO JALAPENO GRILLED CHEESE 

for 4-5 generous servings of soup:
6 large yellow peach tomatoes, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup of whole milk (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary leaves (optional)
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

for 4 grilled cheese sandwiches:
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
8 thick slices of rustic bread
slices of white cheddar or gruyere
2 semi-ripe avocados
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and minced
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Bring the tomatoes and garlic to a simmer in a large pot on medium-high flame. After 10-15 minutes when the tomatoes resemble a soup, add the milk and rosemary (optional), and transfer soup to a blender or food processor. In batches, carefully blend the tomatoes until smooth. Return to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Take care not to overwhelm the tomato flavor. Drizzle with olive oil and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a skillet on medium-low flame. Layer the cheese, avocado, jalapeno, salt and pepper between two slices of bread. Place the sandwich into the skillet and fry each side until nicely golden brown. Serve immediately with the soup.

 

THE GIFT

I love an opportunity to give a gift. Little, playful gifts for everyday occasions. A box of sea salt for a friend I haven’t seen in awhile. A tin of anchovies for a gracious host. A haunting book of photographs as a signal of my affection.

As a child, I observed that my parents never let dinner guests leave empty-handed. They’d instinctively offer a bag of tangerines from our backyard or a carton of delicious leftovers. All of my aunties did the same. There was an exclamation of gratitude for this kind of hospitality in Chinese — 又 吃, 又 带 (yòu chī, yòu dài)– “not only eat, but take away as well!” I dig this gifting custom. It’s like the old innkeeper wrapping up a hunk of bread and cheese for a voyager’s sojourn ahead — a gesture of goodwill and fellow feeling.

This granola is exactly the kind of thing to send your guests home with. It’s generously packed with pistachios and sour cherries, just sweet enough and a little salty, perfect for a snack or a wholesome breakfast. It says, “I’m looking out for you, my friend.”

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GRANOLA with PISTACHIOS & SOUR CHERRIES 
(adapted recipe from Eleven Madison Park)

for 6-7 cups:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup shelled pistachios*
1 cup dried sour cherries
1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar**
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and salt. In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the sugar, maple syrup and olive oil until the sugar has just dissolved, then remove from heat. Fold liquids into the mixture of oats, making sure to coat the dry ingredients well. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and spread granola in an even layer. Bake until dry and lightly golden, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring granola a few times along the way. Remove granola from oven and allow to cool completely before mixing in the dried sour cherries. Transfer to a storage container.

*If you are using toasted pistachios, add them to the mix after the oats have been baked. If you are using salted pistachios, cut the salt.
**The brown sugar can be cut for a lighter granola. I prefer to use more maple syrup and less sugar.

 

SO COOL / SO HOT

When I began to take cooking seriously, one of the first books that I added to my library was Dornenburg & Page’s Culinary Artistry. The genius of this book is that it articulates the intuition behind effective menu planning. You should definitely buy the book, but here’s the punchline: CONTRAST. The most effective menus — from picnics to luncheons to multi-course tasting menus — consciously feature contrasting flavor profiles, contrasting colors, contrasting textures, and contrasting temperatures to keep diners’ senses fully engaged. This pairing of chilled pea soup with curry fried chicken, drawn from a recent smorgasbord party menu, checks all the boxes. Sweet, vegetal, bright green, velvety, and chilled…versus spicy, rich, golden, crunchy, and hot. Contrast! Remember it, and take no prisoners.

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CHILLED PEA SOUP & CURRY FRIED CHICKEN 

for 8 generous servings of pea soup:
6 cups of water
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 handful of fresh mint leaves
3 pounds of frozen peas
juice from 1 lemon
kosher salt and white pepper powder
plain yogurt for garnish
cornflowers (“Bacherlor’s Button”) for garnish

Fill a stockpot with water and bring to a simmer. Prepare a large ice bath by filling a large bowl with iced water. Add the peas to the simmering water until they are tender and bright green. Pour out the hot water and immerse the peas in the ice bath (this will “lock in” the green color). When the peas are no longer warm, drain them. In batches, puree the peas, water, garlic, and mint in a blender or food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. The soup should taste bright and well-seasoned. Ladle the soup into small bowls or cups, add a dollop of yogurt, and garnish with mint or blue cornflowers.

for about 8 servings of curry fried chicken:
8-12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup of Madras curry powder, plus 2 tbsps.
1 quart buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
canola oil for frying
wood skewers

Cut each chicken thigh into two strips. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the curry powder. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl. Prepare a wire rack or paper towel-lined platter for draining the fried chicken. Heat about 3-4 inches of oil in a large, heavy cast iron pot on medium-high flame. Press the chicken strips into the flour mixture, then into the buttermilk, and again into the flour mixture. Fry the chicken in the oil in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Turn them over once in the oil. When the chicken is deep golden brown, remove them and drain on a wire rack. Season with salt, skewer them, and serve immediately.

SMORGASBORD

Who, after all, is good at saying goodbye? In a few weeks, after 14 years on the East Coast, I’ll be loading all of my belongings onto a truck and moving to California. Instead of farewell, I wanted much more to say “thank you” to my friends, old and new, so one evening last weekend I threw a smorgasbord party featuring some of my favorite things: French 75s, curry fried chicken, and blueberry ice cream.

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SMORGASBORD MENU

RADISHES with BUTTER & FLEUR DE SEL

OLIVE OIL TORTAS with AVOCADO, MANCHEGO & SPICED PEPITAS

ROASTED CORN & SCALLION EMPANADAS

CHILLED PEA SOUP with HAM BISCUITS & BLACK PEPPER HONEY

FRESH TOMATOES

CURRY FRIED CHICKEN SKEWERS

BLUEBERRY ICE CREAM CONES

LEMON MADELEINES

LOCAL STRAWBERRIES

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FRENCH 75s

1 ounce cognac
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces dry sparkling wine
1 lemon twist

Shake cognac, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice.
Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe or flute.
Top with chilled sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon twist.

MADRAS CURRY FRIED CHICKEN SKEWERS 

8-12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup of Madras curry powder, plus 2 tbsps.
1 quart buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
canola oil for frying
wood skewers

Cut each chicken thigh into two strips. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the curry powder. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl. Prepare a wire rack or paper towel-lined platter for draining the fried chicken. Heat about 3-4 inches of oil in a large, heavy cast iron pot on medium-high flame. Press the chicken strips into the flour mixture, then into the buttermilk, and again into the flour mixture. Fry the chicken in the oil in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Turn them over once in the oil. When the chicken is deep golden brown, remove them and drain on a wire rack. Season with salt, skewer them, and serve immediately.

BLUEBERRY ICE CREAM

for 1 quart:
2 1/2 cups picked-over blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

In a saucepan bring blueberries, sugar, and salt to a boil over moderate heat, mashing berries and stirring with a fork. Simmer mixture, stirring frequently, 5 minutes and cool slightly. Purée the blueberry mixture in a blender or food processor. Pour the purée through a sieve into a bowl, preferably twice, pressing on solids with back of a spoon. Discard the solids. Combine the blueberry puree with the milk and cream. Chill this mixture, covered, at least 2 hours, or until completely cold, and up to 1 day. Freeze mixture in an ice-cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.