Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bisque de Crabbe

My little corner of essentials.

From left to right:
A nice tequila, infrequently used for margaritas but frequently for shrimp done the way I like.
Toasted sesame oil from Central Market (plain red vinegar behind it)
Pumpkin oil: expensive but well worth it. A tiny bit adds a ton of unique flavor.
Plain white vinegar, then champagne vinegar.
Peanut oil, then plain Wesson oil (for Mom's killer flank steak sauce)
Walnut oil: preferred oil for salad dressings.
Regular Berio olive oil, and a leftover partial bottle of wine (sort of a demi-vinegar)

Peterson's technique for bisque is, in my limited experience, unsurpassed. I've done this a few times and all have been stellar. First you collect shells from shrimps & crabs for a few weeks. If you're not hopelessly addicted to crustacea, it could take a couple months to get a gallon or so of these. You sauté a standard mirepoix and then put the shells in with 3-4 chopped tomatoes, white wine, cream, and a couple cups of stock. Another cup of stock should be pureed with toasted or stale bread until it's perfectly smooth.

Simmer the big pot with all the stuff in it for at least 30 minutes, then strain it. Yes, you have to do it in batches, pushing hard with a spoon, to squeegee teh flavor out. Then whisk in the bread/stock pureé and that's pretty much set to go. Flavor with lemon juice and (optionally) decorate it with expensive things:

My next victim:

I was a little worried that buttery creamy bisque wouldn't give me a heart attack quickly enough, so we also had some soft shell crabs. These rule; plus they were on sale. You just dredge them in salted flour and fry them in lots of oil, then pour melted lemonian garlic butter over 'em. Then you give them to Otto, who goes nuts:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Salade de Basilic, Morue, d'Aneth, et d'Awesome

Oof, I went six days without posting; I suck.

The title translates "Salad of Basil, Cod, Dill, .." and you can probably figure out the rest. Awesome includes prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, and I forget what else.

Later I'll get the latest photos so we can get back to Peterson, starting with Bisque de Crabbe.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Royales with Cheese

So, Wednesday night we just made hamburgers. Scrumptious, but not-so-French, and the boys seem to like it. Last night, though, things got pretty serious as my sister and her daughters came to town for some feasting. And someone's birthday party, I think.

I was off-book for that one too, but I'll tell the tale. There's a well-kept (unless everyone just forgot to tell me) *super secret way to get pork tenderloin perfect: slice the thing lengthwise horizontally. Like if the tenderloin is a bus you're cutting all the passengers' heads off.

The result is just the right thickness so that you can marinate and grill it, basting all the while, and have a nice crisp crust on it, the interior safely cooked through, and *not (so so not) dry it out.

For marinate I just did vinegar, olive oil, fresh tarragon, salt/pepper, and herbs de provence.

The white sauce is yogurt with fresh tarragon and a touch of the leftover aïoli. Also pictured are straightforward blanched green beans and shiitakes sauteed in butter then simmered in stock until all the stock was inside the shiitakes. This made people happy:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grand Aïoli

Now we come to one of my favorites. I've made grand aïoili quite a few times, but never before with salt cod that I had also made. Honestly, though.. not much difference other than this came out around $10/lb. instead of the usual $14. So worth it, I guess. And making salt cod is easy.

Also making mayonnaise is easy. You squish a couple of garlic cloves in the molcajete that Amy gave you. Then you whisk in oil, slowly. Slowly. Peterson's recipe looked like it was going to make 4 cups, so I less-than-halved it.

Then I halved the result, because I wanted one bowl with the anchovies and one without, to accommodate people:

Now for the vegetable plate. I didn't have any of the traditional stuff (broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke hearts) on hand, but frankly you could dip cardboard into this stuff and have a satisfying meal of it.

Clockwise from left: raw carrots, portabellas sauteed in a little butter, raw red bell peppers, the salt cod, having been poached for about 10 minutes (awesome, btw), and blanched leeks. Yum.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Lest anyone think this is a blog for rabbits, I *did take advantage of the T-bone steak special at Central Market, and we'll get to those later.

For those of you just joining us, I'm cooking through Glorious French Food by James Peterson, though not in any regimented way. JP suggests something I hadn't heard before: grilling oysters. Then topping each with a little curry butter before eating. Sounds awesome, but as I have no curry powder I made do with melting butter and adding turmeric, cumin, and a bit of paprika.

Also I didn't feel like lighting the grill, so i used my tava:

He said they'd let go of their shells and I could just pull off the top half, but this was 84% false (based on my sample size of 8 oysters, only one of which cooperated). For the others I just used my clam knife ..

.. which JP said wouldn't work, but which worked fine.

Incidentally these are all for me, 'cause for an inexplicable reason no one else in the family can hang with oysters. Their loss:

The other lunch item was pretty enough for a big pic. Salad of almond-crusted tuna with tarragon and baby spinach. Basic champagne vinaigrette on it, and I think the black spots are called lava salt, although they probably don't contain any actual lava. Bam!

This was also seared in my tava. Tava tava tava tava tava!

Now with Pics!

Alright, I've got some catching up to do. I've been off the book a bit, technically speaking, but continue to incorporate Peterson's advice into the daily ritual. Here's your basic cucumber and basil salad, plus these miniature heirloom tomatoes that I love love love.

I'll work on making the pictures a bit better..

Okay also noodles with asparagus, prosciutto and morels, making this another unintentionally vegetarian meal (it was Thursday). The half-and-half basically broke when I added it, but these tasted good anyway:

Friday we had shrimp two-ways, but I got no pictures. One way was with lots of masala powder, tomatoes, and more half-and-half which didn't break this time. The other way was just sauteed in shallotty oil then finished with a shot of tequila. I love this way of doing shrimp.

Okay, today is actually Saturday and I just finished a lunch that I'm proud of, so will make a separate post for that.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


When it comes to food, I fall somewhere between frugal and absurdly-stingy. Expiration dates have little swaying power when I'm looking at a $14 package of sausages that got buried and forgotten in the meat drawer.

So I was delighted to discover that the French have a version of leftovers casserole, analogous to the only Italian dish I make regularly, pasticcio. Pasticcio is basically cooked rice mixed with your leftovers, combined with cheese and breadcrumbs, and baked. Miroton is the same, but Frenchified.

My "leftovers" were some of last night's pasta, half a tomato, a cup or so of rich stock, a bag of potatoes that were going soft, and a (surprisingly good) baguette from wal-mart that was going stale. Perfect. I caramelized an onion in my tava (more on how much I love my tava later), while boiling two of the potatoes. This went into a skillet with the noodles, tomato, stock, and a lump of buerre manié to thicken, while I sauteed diced baguette in butter.

Whoops, the potato slices were supposed to be on the bottom. I push them down under the other stuff then poured in some half-and-half. I wish I had a Frencher cheese to coat the top, but tonight it'll have to be Great Value shredded cheddar, also from wal-mart.

This wasn't very photogenic (sorry, Amy) but tasted good.

Reaction Rundown:
Everyone ate this except Sasha, who ate cereal and sesame sticks from CM. Then the boys played Star Wars Wii and I went to Willhoite's for poker.
I pushed all in with a pair of fours 'cause I was pretty sure the other guy was drawing to hearts. I was right, but he got his heart and I went home in 10th place or so.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oeufs en Meurette

"Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce"

JP1 (Julie Powell) and JP2 (James Peterson) are both right about one thing: poaching eggs is *hard.

To my knowledge, JP3 (J.P. II) never held forth on this topic.

Three eggs went into the simmering water. Fine so far. The white part had two sections: a disc across the bottom of the pan, which I assumed would be discarded, and a little cloudlike shape around the yolk, which I think is the part that was correct. Then these went into a bowl of ice water (really? ok) and into the fridge.

The meurette part was kinda familiar to me, as I made an attempt at this red-wine sauce several months ago. That attempt was way too acidic/sour, and Peterson suggests fixing this by sauteeing mirepoix with a slice of prosciutto end until it's caramelized and somewhat sweet. Plus salty.

Central Market sells prosciutto ends ("Central Market" is the Texan word for "Paradise on Earth"), so I got one, plus a dozen normal slices for a use to be determined later (Endives au jambon, maybe?). This technique worked pretty-much perfectly; I added a cup of red wine, boiled this down to syrup, drank one cup of red wine, and then added the other cup to the sauce (a bottle contains 3 cups). This cooked for 30 minutes, and then thickened with buerre manié

Making buerre manié is fun. you get a chunk of butter in one hand and a bunch of flour in the other and you smash them together. Quickly, so that you don't melt the butter with the heat from your hands. You get something like soft dough which would probably be tasty to just eat. But don't.

The poached eggs, 2/3 of which fall pretty much apart as I take them out of the ice water, go onto slices of bread sauteed in butter and look awesome. Then the purple meurette goes over them, and you stick it with your fork, and the yolk bursts and everything blurs together into a gory mess. Which is delicious.

Peterson also recommends making green salads with mostly arugula and basil. Sounded odd to me, but these leaves have a lot of flavor and worked great with some spinach.

Reaction Rundown:
Ben and Sasha forewent the oeufs en meurette and had pasta.
Otto loved the oeufs -- they remind him of Mimi's Toast and Eggs. He stressed out about the arugula though.
Sarah seemed happy, which surprised me 'cause I think she hates runny eggs.


I couldn't think of anything to write a blog about, so I am reusing someone else's idea. So?

About a year ago, I went to the library hoping to find an interesting cookbook. "Interesting" in this context means:

-Can be read for the pure joy of reading, away from the kitchen
-Is about a cool region of the world, but mostly talks about cooking technique
-Rachael Ray is not on the cover

While I'm looking, Otto the great chimes in with "you should get this one" and has retrieved what looks like an encyclopedia. I take a look and realize he's right. I should get this one. It's Glorious French Food by James Peterson and it becomes the best cookbook I've ever held in my hands.

As I read, the style seems familiar, and to confirm a suspicion I hunt down an old issue of Saveur and realize that, yes, Peterson wrote one of my favorite articles ever, about Escoffier-style sauces yielding to the nouveau cuisine approach in the late 20th century. Awesome.

So I thought: I know! I'll cook every recipe in this book, blog about it, and sell the movie rights to Norah Ephron.

Just kidding. I figured it'd be Werner Herzog.

After a few weeks of fiddling around and loving every minute of it, I had to return GFF to the library and pay a late fee. Fast forward to me receiving an amazon gift certificate for Christmas (2009), from my boss. And for a mere $13 + shipping I've got my very own 742 pages of scrumptious. There are even a dozen or so blanks at the back for "Notes", which I can write on 'cause this is mine all mine!

I'll introduce myself more completely later if you want. For now you can do a background check by googling "Mateo_LeFou".