My last spring Lucques menu! Yes I know it's summer now but I just had to get one more in there. Duck confit has been on my list of dishes to make for a very long time now. It sounds hard though, doesn't it? Confit. Yip, sounds very hard. The Lucques recipe pairs duck confit with a savory cherry compote. How could I resist?
Upon reading the recipe and trying to get a mental to-do, I realized duck confit is so easy to make! Why had I put it off for so long? Never having tasted it was one but just fear of messing up this southwest France meat preservation method was the other. But this recipe is definitely a keeper, especially with the savory fruit compote.
A meat confit (usually geese, duck or pork) is when a meat is salted and cooked in its own fat in low heat. When the meat has finished cooking it can be stored up to a few months covered it its own fat which acts as a seal. Stuff like tomato confit and tuna confit will require the use of olive oil instead of animal fat.
In the same Lucques menu there is also a starter of white asparagus, ramps and morels with polenta. The use of cherries for the duck confit is a spring highlight but the starter would really emphasize the seasonality of this menu. So check!, added that to grocery list also.
The duck and cherries were easy to find but white asparagus, ramps and morels were nowhere to be seen. In fact, most of the farmer's market vendors I asked about ramps didn't even know what they were. Wish I rememebered that it was also called "wild leeks" so they could at least tell me where I might be able to find it or if it was already gone for the season.
Even before I went shopping I was pretty sure white asparagus would be out of my reach. But morels? I was optimistic since they are still being served at AOC. But nope, the mushroom vendor said morels were already out. Spring 2006 has been pretty much non-existent so I guess my expectations were a little bit too high, especially a few days into an already pretty hot summer.
Arg. So what's a girl to do? I mean, this is supposed to be a spring menu right?Well, I had to suck it up and just do my best. Here is what I served...
I started the meal with an impromptu salad with romaine hearts, crispy Neuske's bacon, goat cheese, and pea shoots with a simple dijon vinaigrette. For a salad that was put together last minute with stuff in the fridge it was pretty good, refreshing and pretty at the same time. I think a little more bacon wouldn't have hurt. But when does having more bacon ever hurt? God, I love bacon.
Next up was the revised polenta dish. I made a super soft polenta but rebelling against the instructions in the cookbook. I swear the total amount of time in the recipe was over 2 hours or something! I'm not that crazy. I made mine in 20 minutes and and it was completely delicious. Topped it with a more humble grouping of vegetables and mushroom with green asparagus, spring onion and cremini mushrooms. Still springy I believe. If I had a readily useable grill I would have added grilled leeks. The polenta was super fluffy, light and perfect with the vegetables and mushroom.
Then finally, duck confit. My goodness, my whole house smelled like deliciousness! Especially with some black rice and savory cherry compote simmering away on the stove. The recipe instructs to take the duck legs out of the oil when it's done and fire it away for 10 minutes or so in a very hot oven to make the skin crispy. Brilliant!
The duck leg meat was so tender, falling off with just a gentle pressure of the fork. I was gnawing on the bone to get every little bit of carmelized skin off. The briny black rice was a nice complement to the rich flavor of the duck and the sweet and savory cherry compote brought everything together. Just imagine that - briny, , nutty, sweet, savory, earthy. Crispy, tender, creamy. Brilliant!
Yumm, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
But now I must say goodbye to spring and jump in head-in into the summer menus. So many different dishes caught my eye already while I was browsing through the book. I'll be more on top of things this time though. No slacking off and procrastinating until the last month of summer! Lest I wish to face the doom of unavailable produce again.
A while back I saw a recipe for almond croissants on Chocolate & Zucchini. Up to this point I had never even imagined that almond croissant was something that was done at home or that could be. It looked so delicious and just the thought of the warm aroma of almond croissants wafting through the kitchen got me all excited.
Armed with 6 croissants from Maison du Pain I finally gave the recipe a go. I dipped the croissants in a light sugar syrup, sliced it in half, and filled it with the almond cream made with almonds, butter, egg & sugar. Placed the top back on, spread a little bit on top and sprinkled sliced almonds over it. Popped it into the oven.
Out came out smelling delicious. But looking a little bit flat. Uh oh, I peeked under on of the croissant halves - the almond cream didn't set! Yikes, I don't know what the hell happenened but inside the croissant was watery and soggy. :/
I still ate one though. Well ate around the sogginess at least. (Maison du Pain croissants are delicious by the way). The almond croissants were supposed to be part of a gift for a friend but no way these were leaving my house. Instead I turned them into bread pudding and they got all puffy and pretty. The day was saved.
I love cucumbers! I like it simple, cut into spears and dipped into spicy gochujang as a snack or a refreshing side. Marinated in gochujang, sesame oil, scallions and garlic for a spicy zingy crunch. Or tossed in creme fraiche with herbs, preserved lemon and spices.
This time I took a more smoother route, making Chilled Cucumber Soup (Emeril) to be served in little glasses for sipping in between nibbles of Smoked Trout on Pumpernickel. The chilled soup was refreshingly herby with green onion, cilantro, mint, dill. And it had a nice kick of heat from the jalapeno which was nicely balanced by yogurt and sour cream.
I based this smoked trout composition on a similar dish I had at AOC not too long ago. I just took the main ingredients, smoked trout and pumpernickel, and added my own grouping of herbs. So cilantro, parsley, chives, dill, and then slivers of red onion soaked in lemon juice to break it down a little bit. Then dollops of creme fraiche. A simple and delicious complement to the chilled cucumber soup.
A catered menu for www.writingpad.com
Roasted Leg of Lamb with Chorizo Stuffing & Romesco Potatoes; Vanilla Semifreddo with Rhubarb Compote
Oh my god it's summer! Yesterday, June 21, was the summer solstice and also my deadline to cook as many of the spring Lucques menus as I possibly can. Unrealistically, I wanted to make an entire menu every week. Well I lagged, panicked when I was running out of time, then completely ignored my other cookbooks and started cooking finally about a month ago.
Let's see... so far I've made the watercress soup with gentlemen's relish toast (delicious!), endive salad with cured olives & meyer lemon cream (delicious!), an adapted saffron risotto with peas & pea shoots (delicious!), grilled skirt steak with black olive aioli and artichoke-potato hash (delicious!), fava bean puree with oil-cured olives & feta (delicious!), hawaiian snapper with green rice & cucumbers in creme fraiche (delicious!). And for my last official spring menu of spring, Roasted Leg of Lamb with Chorizo Stuffing & Romesco Potatoes (delicious!). Okay, so that doesn't add up to twelve fabulous menus but they were all delicious! I think I'll tack on another spring menu this week just to go out with a bang. And so I don't feel bad but being a bad goal executor.
But let's discuss the meal at hand. I marinated a butterflied leg of lamb with rosemary, garlic and parsley for about 4 hours, instead of overnight 'cause I midread the instructions and also because I was lazy. Meanwhile I got making the chorizo stuffing and romesco potatoes.
The chorizo stuffing uses mexican chorizo, the crumbly soft kind rather than the harder cured Spanish variety. I don't know why but Whole Foods does not carry mexican chorizo. What's up with that. So I went over the Hungtington Meats in the Farmer's Market (yay!) they had some really great looking ones. I processed some ciabatta to make the required fresh breadcrumbs and toasted it before tossing with some sauteed onion mix and cooked chorizo. The stuffing had such a great punch of spice to it from the well seasoned chorizo, I loved it!
For the romesco potatoes, 1.5lbs of yukon golds were covered and roasted in the oven with some garlic and thyme. And then crumbled by hand when cooled, crisped up in a saute pan with more thyme, the roasted garlic cloves, then tossed gently with generous amounts of the delicious Catalan sauce of tomato, pepper, bread and nuts. Just thinking about this meal is making my mouth water at 9:30 in the morning.
The leg of lamb roasted in the oven for about 1.25 hours and delicious aroma filled the kitchen. The instructions stated the internal temperature to be about 120 degrees when the meat was done. I poked my brand new thermometer into the middle of the meat but its arrow was pointing to way over 120 degrees! Maybe it was all the residual heat, I don't know, but it retardedly made me all paranoid that I overcooked the lamb even though I followed the instructions like a good little girl.
But the lamb was perfect! Moist and pink on the inside and filled in the middle with the spicy chorizo stuffing. Then whie the meat was resting I heated up the remaining chorizo stuffing in the oven. As time consuming as these Lucques recipes are the results have been phenomenal. The chorizo stuffing is definitely one of my favorites bits in the book.
An herb salad parsley, mint and cured olives dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sqeeze of lemon accompanied the above hearty dishes for a nice salty and herby bite.
I also made vanilla semifreddo with rhubarb compote, also from the same menu. Semifreddo is an Italian dessert which means semi-frozen. It was pretty simple, which was a yay for my tired feet. I beat some cream to stiff peaks. Then beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla. Then beat egg whites to stiff peaks. (In thoroughly cleaned bowl of course). Then folded those things together and froze it in a plastic wrap lined pan. The rhubarb compote was as simple too. Just make syrup, add half of rhubard and cook until "jammy", then add the other half and cook until tender. Strain and reduce the liquid until glossy. Then chill.
If I had just made the endive salad again I would have finished an entire menu!! :D But my tired feet and dry hands may have objected. It was a lot of work but when I took that first bite, I knew it was all worth it. Yes, it was that good.
I am like a crostini peddler, aren't I? But it's a perfect form of appetizer! I had to switch it up and make something new though for this particular class because LA Weekly's La Vida writer, Linda Immediato, was coming to check out the class. Yikes!
I made an crostini with roasted asparagus topped with romesco and gruyere then broiled for just a moment to achieve that browned cheese melty ooey goodness. There is something that just makes me so giddy and happy when I see cheese bubbling, getting crispy and brown in just the few right spots.
I also made a warm arugula salad with bacon, red onion and balsamic vinegar. This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver's in one of his cookbooks. Dude there is bacon in it and then it's topped with parmigiano reggiano and toasted pinenuts. How can it not be good? I have some pancetta lying around in my fridge. I think a warm salad is in order.
Marilyn's dessert: Mini Mile High Strawberry Pies
A catered menu for www.writingpad.com
Aren't these a beauty? I got them at Surfas, my favorite place in the whole wide world. I go there all the time anyways but it's especially a treat if I'm having a bad day. It cheers me up to go down every aisle and check meticulously for any new products they have in stock or if something jumps out at me that I previously overlooked. Hey, buying a pack of Nueske's bacon to look pretty in my fridge is better than looking down an empty pint of Ben & Jerry's right?
Anyhow, I thought mac & cheese for Boy and I for a Friday evening would be perfectly comforting and relaxing, which is definitely in order at the end of a work week. Plus I got to use up all the cheese that had been sitting around my fridge which included pepper jack, pecorino and parmesan. The pepper jack actually got kind of moldy but I just cut those parts off and still used it. I have never made a proper mac & cheese before and my version definitely wasn't proper at all. First off the base, the white sauce, was too watery. Too little roux (flour and butter cooked together over heat) and too much milk! But it's mac & cheese, how can you make it wrong unless you overcook the pasta?
I didn't overcook the pasta but Boy didn't have any salt at his apartment except for a measly teaspoon of sea salt I left there way back in the day! It was bland but still yummy. I took the leftovers home and reseasoned it, thank god. Lots more salt, black pepper and a gentle sprinkle of cayenne. Then froze it for another day since I'm supposed to be eating extra healthy.
Well except today since I brought it for lunch!
While referring back to the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook I noticed a few pleasant details that previously escaped me - the title of each recipe is in lower case and color-organized by seasons. I liiiike! This particular dish's name was dressed in a springy green. :) Enough of my random musings... this grilled skirt steak dish was delicious!
Delicious with some artichoke-potato hash, black olive aioli, and a sprinkling of arugula. Delicious under the cool LA sky at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In fact it was the perfect meal paired with Maharaja IPA to fill our tummies before watching The Philadelphia Story presented by Cinespia at, yes, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It was a lovely time indeed and Boy loved the dish. Oh yes, this was a little outing I planned and kept a surprise for Boy. I thought it would be fun to take turns each month planning a little outing or a little surprise for each other. So I made some food, packed up a blanket, told Boy to pack a beer and picked him up and drove over to this lovely summer event. :)
The dish itself was not hard to make although I could think of a thousand things better to do than prep artichokes. I got through it ok though - there were only 12 baby artichokes and also The History Channel's UFO show kept me entertained. Although there were only 12 baby artichokes, it felt like it took forever! And it also looked like it took forever too because a lot of the artichokes got brown spots even in the lemon water. I think less water, smaller bowl, and more lemon would be a good idea next time. Oh and faster work by my hands definitely.
The skirt steak, browned baby artichokes, crispy on the edges crumbled Yukon Gold potatoes, the aioli with smashed up oil-cured olives (I took the easy road and used mayo), and the peppery arugula leaves all came together deliciously in each bite. How can one not like hash?! Especially when it comes with all the fixins! The layering of flavors in many of Suzanne Goin's recipes prove to be just way delicious! And deliciousness makes me happy. And it makes Boy happy too.
I had some saffron butter leftover from way back when early spring when I was cooking some English peas. It's been sitting in my fridge since then getting pretty bored. So I finally decided on a job and made Saffron Risotto. I adapted the recipe from the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook using whatever amount of saffron butter I had and a mixture of leftover onion and shallots but preserving the proportion of rice to liquids.
In the book, the saffron risotto is paired with osso bucco with peas and pea shoots. In trying to keep intact my affinity for cooking ease as of late I skipped the osso bucco part and crowned the risotto itself with peas and pea shoots. You can probably tell from the color of the risotto that I could have used more saffron/saffron butter. But it was still good!
I enjoyed this rather delicious dish with a glass of Familie Bauer Gruner Veltliner which I purchased at Silverlake Wine Co a few weeks ago.
In terms of my experience with risotto, I've only had it once at a restaurant and that was merely 6 months ago back when I had an amazing meal at Chez Panisse. I've cooked it a few times prior to having it out but having a proper risotto really blew me away. The Chez Panisse risotto had such a perfect coating of starch on each grain of rice and tender but with a pleasant bite in the middle. of course mine wasn't up to that standard but it was still good eating.
I'm scared to go out and start trying other risottos now to avoid disappointment. But then again this would make for a very delicious project! :] Meanwhile I will keep practicing.
This recipe was one of the first ones I was eyeing from the spring menus in the Sunday Suppers at Lucques cookbook. More specifically, the main attraction for me was the cucumbers in creme fraiche. The combination of ingredients mentally tasted so delicious. The refreshing - preserved lemon, shallots, mint and creme fraiche. And the savory and deep - cumin and fennel seeds.
Just as I suspected - awesome! I couldn't help but keep spooning over more cucumbers over the flaky moist snapper. Plus I needed a cucumber with every bite of fish and green rice, for the refreshing crunch and the tangy creme fraiche. Mmmm.
The cucumbers slices were spooned on and below the warm snapper, causing some of the creme fraiche to melt onto the fish and rice. The sprinkling of arugula under the warm fish provided a nice bite of pepperiness, even wilting a tiny bit to my pleasure.
And the green rice, made with a herby broth with chives, cilantro, mint, and parsley, was the perfect base for the snapper and the cucumbers. No one herb took over the broth and even the fennel seeds didn't hijack the dish with its strong licorice flavors, although this may be because I didn't use fennel bulb as the recipe required. I just wanted to be safe since too much licorice would definitely ruin my dinner.
The flavors of each component of the dish balanced so well and came together to make happiness in my mouth. Yay! Warm snapper, marinated simply with parsley, black pepper and lemon zest. Crunchy, refreshing Persian cucumbers in tangy creme fraiche with refreshing mint and preserved lemon. Nutty basmati rice flavored with a medley of herbs.
The next day I took a generous portion of the leftover cucumbers in creme fraiche and made a sandwich at work with a small sprinkling of arugula. It was one of the best lunches I've had lately.
*Check out Grant's blog Well Fed for his post of this recipe. A Suzanne Goin fan too! Grant's way more diligent with his posts though with the step by step pictures and instruction. :) I am kind of lazy.
Isn't he adorable?! That my friends E&T's dog Nicky. I house/dog-sat over the memorial day weekend and what an easy and awesome job that was. E&T stocked up their fridge with holy amounts of beer and also edible goodies including cheese, which they know I love! Seriously, how awesome is that? And Nicky is such an angel too. Can't you see the bright halo lighting his head in the photo above?
Saturday morning I woke up and I had some of the artisan flatbread and huge chunks of Saint Andre triple creme cheese for breakfast. Ahh, life is good. It was a relaxing weekend of hanging out with the dog and watching marathon-high numbers of Sex and the City dvds, much to Boy's misery.
I perused through a few of E's cookbooks including Nigella's, whose cookbooks are always a pleasure to read, being uber casual and non-fussy about food. But I spent the weekend being super lazy, eating Mexican food, Jack in the Box and more cheese. But the last day I decided to cook a little bit and leave something yummy for E&T when they got back from their trip Monday evening.
So here's what I made with a few stuff that was at their place and a few stuff I brought with me:
Linguini with Bacon, Peas and Piave...
I think I meant to make a carbonara variety but now that I look back I don't recall using an egg! This also needed more cheese but I got sick of using the vegetable peeler and couldn't find the cheese grater which was in fact right in front of my face. It was hanging right next to my head on the pan hanging rack. I think I added too much cream too. I kept adding more to the egg and cheese mixture thinking maybe a little bit more. Then it was too much. :/ But the pasta still tasted good though, but it wasn't a carbonara.
roasted off in the oven with a few drizzles of olive oil. E&T had some asparagus lying around their crisper so I thought it would be yummy to simply roast them wrapped in some prosciutto I brought over.
And for dessert, Berry Crumble...
topped with using the fresh strawberries stocked by E&T and a little bit of their TJ frozen berry mix. I eyeballed a crumble recipe in one of Nigella's book and crossed my fingers that it would come out ok. Then I added roasted peanuts and a crumbled coconut-cashew cookie. Boy tasted the pasta and the berry crumble and he gave thumbs up.
Then Boy and I left and got gluttonous amounts of Mexican food with mountains of crema from El Gran Burrito. Leisure + Mexican food + beer=great weekend.