Wednesday, April 7, 2010

birthday menu

While all of these recipes easily merit their own post, it seems more appropriate (and more efficient) to present the remainder of A's all-star birthday menu in situ.


Ragoût of Morels with Crème Fraîche, Herbs and Toasted Brioche
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin

Brioche, butter, crème fraîche, heavy cream, morel mushrooms...more butter. This dish does not demand a lot of imagination. It's delicious because, well, how could it not be? As with most of Goin's recipes, the ingredient list is more aspirational than compulsory. We made do without the chervil, for instance.

1 tablespoon tarragon
1 tablespoon chervil sprigs
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons 1/2-inch-snipped chives
3/4 pound fresh morels, trimmed and cleaned
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 cup mushroom or chicken stock
Three 3/4-inch-thick slices brioche
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons crème fraîche
kosher salt and black pepper

Toss the tarragon, chervil, parsley leaves and chives together in a small bowl and set aside, covered with a damp paper towel, in the refrigerator. If the morels are large, cut them in half lengthwise.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons butter, and when it foams, scatter the morals into the pan. (Do not overcrowd them.) sauté 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Turn down the heat to medium, and add the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are crispy on the outside, yet still tender—about 6 to 8 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon butter, and stir in the shallots. Cook about 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent and tender. Turn the heat up to high, add the broth, and reduce by half. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, lightly butter the brioche on both sides. Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat and toast the slices on both sides until golden brown. Cut each slice in half diagonally, and divide between six plates.

When the brioche is ready, return the mushrooms to medium heat for a minute or two. Stir in the cream and season to taste.

Spoon the morels over and around the toast. Dollop each toast with crème fraîche and scatter the herbs over the top.


Pork Tenderloin with Crystallized Sugar and Ginger Sauce
Adapted from Jeremiah Tower Cooks, by Jeremiah Tower

Given my penchant for sweet things, it's only natural that I would respect a recipe calling for a “crystallized sugar and ginger sauce”—even when applied to pork tenderloin. I think this may be the savory, 1980s equivalent to the current bacon-caramel trend. The original recipe calls for a 45-minute brine prior to the marinade—a step which we omitted. Likewise, K. wisely did away with the “jasmine-ginger-chili oil” garnish. Like I said, totally 80s. But also extremely tasty.

Two 1-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1 large stalk fresh basil, stemmed, stems chopped, leaves reserved
1/2 cup superfine sugar
6 star anise
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the ginger, garlic, and chopped basil stems in a small bowl, mix together, and then rub onto the tenderloins. Cover them and let marinate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, put the sugar in a 10-inch nonstick sauté pan and heat slowly until it caramelized and just turns light brown (but beyond gold). Add the star anise. Let the caramel cool for 2 minutes, then add the stock and vinegar [be careful: it may spatter] and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the star anise.

Preheat the grill.

Wipe the marinade off the tenderloins. Season them lightly with salt and pepper, rub with the olive oil, and grill for 8 to 10 minutes, until done. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Chop the fresh basil leaves. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Stir in the crystallized ginger, basil, and sesame oil and season to taste.

Slice the tenderloins and pour some of the sauce over the slices, passing the rest.


Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts

Adapted from All About Braising, by Molly Stevens

Contrary to popular belief, you can over-braise a Brussels sprout—particularly mid-board game. These sprouts spent a bit too long in their simmering cream bath, making them more spoon-tender than fork-tender. But, while I wouldn’t recommend repeating our mistake, I can't say I regret it. I now know what creamy mashed Brussels sprouts taste like, and they’re pretty freaking great. Don't omit the lemon—it makes the dish.

Serves 4

1¼ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper (preferably white pepper)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 lemon

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half from stem end to tip, and then cut each half in half again. Ultimately, you want little wedges, no more than ½-inch across.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are nicely browned in spots, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the cream, stir to mix, and then cover the pot. Reduce to a low simmer. Braise until the sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 30-35 minutes. The cream will have reduced some and will have taken on a creamy tan color.

Remove the lid, and add the lemon zest and juice (or to taste). Adjust seasonings. Let the pan simmer, uncovered, for a minute or two to thicken the cream to a glaze. Serve immediately.


Roasted Carrots with Garlic and Thyme
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

I don't think this would make my shortlist for best-ever carrot recipes, but it's simple and classic. Next time, I might add some toasted almonds for additional texture, or substitute a few sprigs of rosemary.

Serves 4

1 1/2 lb carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
10 cloves garlic
Several thyme sprigs
Chopped thyme or parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the carrots with the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Put them in a baking dish or roasting pan with the garlic and thyme sprigs. Add 2 tablespoons water; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until tender, 25 to 45 minutes. Check at least twice while they are cooking to make sure there is a little moisture in the pan—and give the pan a shake to redistribute the carrots.

Toward the end, remove the foil and continue roasting until the liquid is reduced and the carrots are browned. Serve with chopped thyme or parsley.

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