Pan-Seared Foie Gras Mousse Au Poivre

Whoever first had the idea to whip fatty goose liver with heavy cream, and then proceed to add a cap of hardened butter on top – I praise you.

I find myself saying so and so is my favorite food, then a minute later claiming something else is my favorite food.  “Pizza,” “mashed potatoes,” “bacon,” “tacos,” “macaroni and cheese,” “oysters,” “pickles,” “queso,” “Chipotle burrito bowls” and “any cheese on the face of the earth” have come out of my mouth at some point in response to that question.

But if I’m being honest, foie gras is my favorite food of all time. I mean it.

There’s really not much you can do to make foie gras, in whatever form it comes in, better than it already is. So my idea here was to leave the mousse completely unadulterated, and treat it like a steak. So I seared it on high with an au poivre coating, which if you don’t know what that is – is just a fancy way of saying crushed black peppercorns – and it was hard not to inhale the whole thing Kirby-style.

foiegras.jpg

The quality of the foie gras mousse, or any foie gras product you’re purchasing, should always be sky-high. Go ahead, skimp on the fresh shrimp for the frozen shrimp. But I’d never mess around when it comes to foie gras. With all the intense animal flavor in there, there’s not much room for error. And you don’t want to gross any other eaters who are already tentative on trying it.

Whole Foods sells a great brand – Greenwich village-based Trois Petite Corchons. But any high quality brand would be delicious here.

My next move? Making my own foie gras mousse! Stay tuned. But before I give it a go, any pointers?

 I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 to 6 as an hors d’oeuvre.

  • 8 oz. foie gras mousse, of your choosing
  • 6 to 8 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *450.
  2. Right from the fridge, slice the mousse in long pieces, and distribute the peppercorns evenly on side of the mousse. Press down on the peppercorns so they embed.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Place the mousse slices in the oil, searing for 2 minutes on each side, browning the mousse slightly. Be careful when flipping, as the mousse can fall apart. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. To make the crostini, put the slices of baguette on a sheet pan and brush each piece with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the preheated oven and broil until the crostini are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Arrange the seared foie gras mousse on a serving plate alongside the crostini. Serve with parsley for garnish, if desired.

 

 

 

Garlicky Spinach, Crab & Artichoke Dip

Your classic all-American dips, the ones you’ll see at any football party – onion, buffalo chicken, bean & cheese, bacon, ranch, spinach-artichoke, crab-artichoke – have been a socially acceptable excuse to eat what is typically just a hot, cheesy mayonnaise mixture. One of the many reasons I love the country we live in.

The spinach-artichoke or crab-artichoke dip you’ll find in restaurants everywhere is no exception. We inhale chipfuls of it under the guise of eating vegetables.

Sometimes I’ll make a skillet of dip for dinner. What else do you need? I get so full on it, the main course ends up being out of the question anyway.

And what’s the deal with the imitation crab meat? Why do I love it so much? I knew it was made of pollock, but I learned it’s essentially a manufactured paste formed into sticks and dyed red to mimic the appearance of those nice, long pieces of crab meat you’ll pull out of crab legs. I do have a serious love for processed meats, so it makes sense I’d have a love for processed seafood.

Imitation crab meat may imitate too well, because I prefer it over actual crab in this recipe. It makes it much more of a dip you would’ve eaten while you grew up. Plus, it’s cheaper.

So much garlic is required to help this dish reach its potential. I’m talking double the amount of garlic you think you’d need. Not a whole bulb, but a whopping eight to ten cloves. You’ll be surprised how the garlic still manages to linger in the background with all the other flavors in here.

The other musts? Citrus and Old Bay seasoning.

I love lemon, but I find lime doesn’t get as much action in savory cooking that isn’t Tex Mex, and it’s a match made in heaven with any seafood. So I added the juice and the zest of both in here.

And do I need to explain why I’m adding Old Bay? Because this is a crab dip, dummy! 😊

What is the best chip for this dip? That’s the million dollar question. But I think if this question were posed in an episode of Family Feud, pita chips would win out. It’s just the classic go-to for accompanying spinach artichoke dip – probably since cavemen roamed the earth.

Homemade pita chips are a cut above the store-bought pita chip brands. Here I bought a stack of packaged pita bread, cut the rounds into eights like a pizza, brushed the triangles with olive oil, and sprinkled them with salt & pepper. Then just broil until crisped.

Don’t worry about getting too full on this – if you’re not having a main course, that means you can eat the entire skillet for dinner! And no one can judge you for it. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  D i p

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 1 / 2 cup parm reg, shredded
  • 8 – 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 8 oz. quartered artichokes, in oil or water
  • 6 sticks imitation crab meat, chopped roughly
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 1 / 4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

F o r  t h e  P i t a  C h i p s

  • 1 package pita bread
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *450 (you will later lower the temperature to *375).
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, and add the frozen spinach, artichokes, garlic, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee on medium-low heat for about five minutes.
  3. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, parm reg, imitation crab meat, juice and zest of one lemon and one lime, fresh parsley, Old Bay seasoning, a heavy pinch of salt and a heavy pinch of pepper. Combine & set aside.
  4. Cut the pita bread into eighths. Lay the triangles on a sheet pan, brushing both sides with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Broil in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Reset the temperature on the oven from *450 to *375.
  6. After five minutes of sautéing the vegetables, remove the mixture from the heat, adding it to the mayonnaise mixture. Combine.
  7. Pour the dip into a medium-sized skillet, evening out the surface. Put the dip in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until the dip is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Drizzle with olive oil for garnish. Serve alongside the pita chips.

Brie Wheel Fondue with Wacky Dippables

Who doesn’t remember their first trip to The Melting Pot?

We ordered the traditional fondue with the garlic & white wine and a separate pot with Wisconsin cheddar & beer. I remember undercooking the beef, on purpose, by an unsafe margin. That, and being so full that I felt sick for the next three days.

I’m going to eat like a goldfish if you put a pot of boiling cheese in front of me – I will eat until I explode.

But all that aside, I loved it. I recognize that as an American food chain, the dippers are going to have to appeal to just about everyone. Enter the beef, chicken, shrimp, slices of bread, pasta, crackers, broccoli, asparagus and mushrooms. And don’t forget – you can get the ahi tuna and lobster platter for an extra $7.50!

This is dandy for a family with picky eaters, and me for that matter – but I wanted to do something unconventional here. Which was essentially an exercise in me imagining all the foods I want to, but haven’t yet smothered in cheese.

The dippers I made here are the weird cousins of the family, but each has an element that balances out the heaviness of the cheese – the char of the peppers, sharpness of the pickled shallots, crunch of the ramen noodles, acidic tang from the chips, and the hot dogs and corned beef are there because… I mean, doesn’t that sound good?

And the cheddar-fried green tomatoes are just overkill, and I know it.

A wheel of brie (or in this case, cube) is the perfect, money-saving solution for those of us who are fondue pot-less – because it comes in its own pot!

I don’t know about you, but I love wheels of cheese. I’m looking into serving pasta like they do at Cacio e Pepe in New York, where they mix the oozy pasta inside a cheese wheel.

I’d also wear a cheese wheel as a hat.

I hope you have a “fun”-due time making this – now eat up! 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S  &  D I R E C T I O N S

Serves 2 – 4 as an hors d’oeuvre or light dinner.

F o r  t h e  F o n d u e

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 wheel brie
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut into the brie wheel (or cube) around the edges, leaving the outside rind and being sure you don’t cut through the bottom of the wheel (this will ensure the melted cheese doesn’t escape).
  2. With a spoon, remove the cheese and put into a microwave-safe bowl, being sure to discard the top of the rind. This will not melt well. Fold in the minced garlic.
  3. Heat the cheese in the microwave for 1 minute and thirty seconds on high heat, immediately pouring the cheese into the brie mold. Plate the fondue wheel in the center of a large platter, circling with the dippers.
  4. Serve while the cheese is bubbling hot!

F o r  t h e  W a c k y  D i p p a b l e s

  • Charred Shishito Peppers, recipe below
  • Pickled Shallots, recipe below
  • Cheddar-Fried Green Tomatoes, recipe below
  • Corned beef, cubed
  • Cooked hot dogs, cut into pieces
  • Uncooked ramen noodles, broken into chunks
  • Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips, recipe below

F o r  t h e  C h a r r e d  S h i s h i t o  P e p p e r s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 bunch Shishito peppers

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Put the Shishito peppers in a very hot skillet. Allow peppers to char, turning a few times in the pan. The entire process should take 5 to 7 minutes.

F o r  t h e  P i c k l e d  S h a l l o t s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 10 small shallots
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Peel the skins of the shallots, removing the ends. Cut the shallots in half and put in a bowl.
  2. Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Pour over the shallots, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

F o r  t h e  C h e d d a r – F r i e d  G r e e n  T o m a t o e s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large green heirloom tomato
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 / 4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper and put in a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  2. Shred the cheese and put in a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the tomato. Set aside.
  4. In a line, dip the tomatoes in the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then the cheese mixture, being sure to press down the cheese so it sticks to the tomato on both sides.
  5. Add olive oil to a non-stick pan, and sautee the cheesy tomatoes on medium heat until the cheese begins to brown. With a metal spatula, flip the tomato, letting the cheese brown on the other side.
  6. Remove from the pan and cut each tomato in half.

F o r  t h e  S a l t  &  V i n e g a r  P o t a t o  C h i p s

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 large Yukon gold potato
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 4 cups canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Slice the potato with a mandoline, placing the slices in a large bowl with the vinegar. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the canola or vegetable oil in a large shallow pan. To test the oil, put a slice of the potato in the oil. When it bubbles and starts to fry, add the rest of the potato slices.
  3. Fry on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the chips are golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels, and sprinkle immediately with salt.

Beef Wellington Tartare

What’s the opposite of a picky eater? Whatever it’s called, I’m that. But I won’t preach perfection. Black licorice, pretzels, grape juice, mint or, and here’s the kicker – puff pastry – don’t do it for me.

Beef Wellington should absolutely fall in my wheelhouse. Mushrooms, filet mignon, Dijon mustard, ham, Pâté, shallots & garlic. And it’s a gorgeous presentation to boot.

This sans-pastry recipe let’s me have my cake and eat it too. And the runny egg doesn’t hurt either.

Chances are you like puff pastry. I wish I did. But this dish encapsulates the essentials of the classic, with a lot less hassle. I’ve heard several horror stories – one that involved waking up at 6 AM to mince mushrooms. Another recalled a burnt pastry and undercooked beef situation.

Speaking of holiday cooking disasters, does anyone else watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation year-round and think it’s wildly underrated? I can recite that entire damn movie line-by-line. That dinner scene when Clark goes to carve the turkey Ellen’s sister put in the oven too early, and it cracks open with a puff of smoke, makes me howl every time.

I’ve eaten everything from grasshoppers to alligator to pig eyeball. And a lot more weird stuff that I can’t remember. I’ve liked every single one of those food experiences. But I still can’t stomach puff pastry. Go figure.

To quote cousin Eddie at that famous dinner scene…

Save the neck for me, Clark.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 2 tartare servings.

  • 1 6 oz. filet mignon, chopped finely
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 4 oz. foie gras Pâté, or another Pâté if preferred, sliced 1 inch thick
  • 4 oz. Parma ham or prosciutto
  • 2 quail eggs yolks
  • 8 button mushrooms, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 / 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, minced, plus additional for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Flatbread, for serving with the tartare

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the beef, half the shallot, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Set in the fridge to marinate.
  2. On medium-low heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sauté the mushrooms, the rest of the shallot, garlic and thyme. Add a pinch of salt to render some of the liquid from the mushrooms.
  3. Once the mushrooms are lightly browned, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. To arrange the tartare, take a 3 inch round mold and press down on a layer of Pâté. This will be the tartare base. Brush 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on top. Then add a slice of Parma ham or prosciutto of similar size and shape, followed by half the cooled mushroom mixture. Finally, top with half the chilled beef mixture, pressing down in the mold to form into a circular shape. Repeat for the second tartare.
  5. Place both plates, while still in the round mold, in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
  6. Remove from the fridge, slide the tartares out of the round molds, and create a slight indent on the top with your thumb, sliding a quail egg yolk into the indent.
  7. Sprinkle with minced thyme, serving immediately alongside flatbread for scooping.

Crostini with Whipped Goat Cheese & Summer Herbs

Unlike cow’s milk, which much of the commercialized world is accustomed to for its milder taste, goat milk and cheese products have more of a musty and acidic flavor.  I’m talking about the French-imported, preferably unpasteurized chèvre.

Anyone else obsessed with Bucheron?

With goat cheese, the flavor can be very intense. Tasting it, you can just imagine some dairy farmer drawing milk from the goat’s teat that transformed into the cheese you’re eating at that moment.

It’s the same thing I’ve noticed with people who prefer dark meat and lamb meat – it tastes gamey and a bit funky. That’s why I like it.

For those on the fence about goat cheese, I discovered Ina Garten’s Salad with Warm Goat Cheese. I’ve been cooking that recipe for years now for any picky eaters who claim to hate the stuff.

No matter the vehicle it’s served on, you can’t go wrong with a slathering of whipped, soft cheese infused with flavored oils, spices, herbs and whatever else feels right. Ina Garten published a Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta recipe that is out-of-this-world. I fully disclose I drew inspiration from her with this recipe here.

The lighter texture achieved by the whirring in a food processor makes it more spreadable, and gives it a lighter consistency more appropriate as an hors d’oeuvre for outdoor eating in the summer.

Just like vegetables and fruits can be in-season, herbs can be categorized the same way, to some extent.

The heartier herbs, which you can probably already guess, like rosemary, thyme and sage tend to thrive in cooler and drier climates and temperatures. Herbs like basil, tarragon, chives and the those with more delicate leaves are typically unable to survive once temperatures plummet.

Basil is a universal go-to summer herb. Tarragon and chives and dill taste like summer to me, too, because I plant them every late spring.

Let me know if you have a different recipe for a cheese-topped crostini on-hand. I’d love to hear about it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 to 6 as an hors d’oeuvre.

F o r  t h e  C r o s t i n i

  • 1 crusty French baguette, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Olive oil, for toasting
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  W h i p p e d  G o a t  C h e e s e

  • 12 oz. high-quality goat cheese*
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

*Montrachet is a great French-imported brand to use, and can be found in most grocery stores. But if you can find a more uncommon variety of soft goat cheese at a specialty food store, it will be that much yummier. Humboldt Fog, Bucheron, Bonne Buche from Vermont Creamery (with rinds removed) would all be great as well. Appreciative of Serious Eats for their listing of goat cheese varieties beyond chèvre.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat your oven to *425.
  2. Cut the baguette on the diagonal, about 1 / 4 to 1 / 2 inch thin.
  3. Rub each piece with the garlic clove, and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle the baguette slices with salt and pepper.
  4. Toast the crostini for 7 to 8 minutes in the oven.
  5. In the meantime, place the goat cheese, herbs, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, half the lemon zest and salt and pepper in a food processor. While pulsing, pour in the olive oil.
  6. Pulse continuously for 30 seconds or so, until the mixture is combined and has emulsified & has thickened.
  7. If serving family style from a bowl, top with additional minced herbs of your choice, lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil. To make it easier for folks to grab-and-eat, smother each crostini with 2 tablespoons of the spread and place on a large platter, sprinkling with lemon zest and minced garnishing herbs of your choosing. This tastes best served room temperature.

Tuna Nicoise Deviled Eggs

Isn’t it weird they’re called “deviled” eggs? I think this characterization of them as being somehow affiliated with the devil himself, is wholly appropriate. I think of Momofuku’s Crack Pie.

Some foods are just so good that they’ll ruin your life. Just kidding.

And being curious, I looked it up. In the 18th century the term “deviled” originally referred to any food that was flavored in some form, usually made to be spicy or heavily seasoned.

But I discovered and was surprised to learn that deviled eggs have their roots in Ancient Roman cuisine – and would be served as an appetizer for nobles. They’d combine it with some liquid – wine, broth, and some spice – usually pepper.

They have evolved a lot since then. And other cultures have adopted different variations.

Lucky Peach, which was an amazing publication that I miss so damn much, posted a recipe several years back that I can’t locate online. But it was a traditional take on a home-style version of Asian stuffed eggs (I cannot remember which country it was indigenous to), and it was a presentation I was entirely unfamiliar with. The stuffed eggs were served whites side up, garnished on top with a thin slice of carrot, with rolls of sliced mozzarella cheese served in the middle of the plate.

For some reason its simplicity appealed to me. I think that’s why deviled eggs have stuck around for so long.

Regular American deviled eggs nowadays, the sad, couple-day old ones you find sitting in the prepared food section of your grocery store, will typically combine the yolks, go heavy on the mayonnaise, of course – because, why not – toss in some yellow mustard and sprinkle a bit of paprika.

Do not get me wrong, I love the classic good-old-American deviled egg.

But for those looking to expand their deviled egg horizons, here’s a fun, more elevated version of the classic. I hope you’ll like it. There’s infinite ways to transform the incredible, edible egg.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This recipe will produce 12 deviled eggs. Double (or triple) the amount as necessary. 😊

  • 6 high-quality fresh eggs (the larger the egg, the better)
  • 2 oz. high-grade raw tuna, finely minced
  • 1 1 / 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 Teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon capers, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 anchovies, finely minced
  • 4 Nicoise olives, finely minced*
  • Pinch of pepper

*If you don’t have Nicoise olives (I know I can’t always find them), black olives will work just as well as a substitute.

O p t i o n a l

For those of you anchovy lovers like me, in addition to the tarragon leaf, top each egg with an anchovy filet cut in half for extra salty and fishy goodness.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Submerge the eggs in cold water so all the eggs fit in one layer in the pot, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover. Once boiled, remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, submerge the eggs in ice water until they are cool enough to peel.
  2. In my experience, the easiest way to peel boiled eggs is to lightly smash either side of the egg, roll it lightly from side to side, and then peel the shell off.
  3. Slice the eggs in half, removing the yolks into a small bowl. Arrange the egg whites on a plate and put them in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
  4. Vigorously combine the egg yolks with the rest of the ingredients with a fork until fully incorporated. Taste for seasonings. They’re shouldn’t be a need for additional salt, but add if needed.
  5. Remove the egg whites from the fridge. With a small 1-inch scoop, fill each egg white half with the filling.
  6. Garnish each egg with a tarragon leaf. Place the eggs back in the fridge for at least 15 minutes so the flavors have a chance to combine and the eggs have a chance to chill. If you can’t wait, room temperature works too.
  7. Serve, making sure you eat one (or two) first, because you never know how quickly they will disappear. It’s been known to happen.