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.

 

 

 

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.

Petaled Red & Yellow Potato Gratin

I’m half Irish – on my dad’s side. And I think there may be some residual potato famine related hoarding issues I need to work through, because I always have potatoes lying around. In all colors and sizes.

Yukon Gold potatoes, in my opinion, are the vegetable equivalent to butter.

Mashed, fried, baked, even grated and fried. You name it. And the best part is depending on how you prepare them, you can eat them for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

Have you seen those gorgeous ratatouille presentations where the zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes & whatever else are layered so prettily? I get off on stuff like that.

Like this one from The Petite Cook.

I attempted to go for a similar look here. Using a mandolin I sliced equal parts Yukon Gold and Red Bliss potatoes and let them marinate in the fridge a while before arranging. The marinade consists of the usual suspects you’ll find in most gratins – half & half, garlic, nutmeg, herbs, cheese and salt & pepper.

There’s a lot of room for variation. A lot. Share some of your favorite gratin recipes here if you’d like. I’m very, very open-minded about these things.

It took every ounce of strength not to layer a half pound of shredded gruyere on top of this. But I really wanted to be able to see the crispy bits of the potato rounds when I pulled it out of the oven.

It’s all good, though, because the outrageous amount of half & half & cheese layered into this dish made it fattening enough to meet my high dairy-based calorie needs. I didn’t even put butter in it. Crazy, right?

I hope you enjoy. And get yourself seconds, and then thirds, and then fourths.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 medium-sized Red Bliss potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 / 3 cup gruyere, shredded
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *375.
  2. Slice the potatoes with a mandolin, or carefully as thin as possible with a sharp knife. Soak the potatoes in cold water for 30 minutes to remove the bulk of the starch. After 30 minutes, strain the potatoes and pat them very, very dry with paper towels.
  3. Place the potatoes in a large bowl with the half & half, gruyere, garlic, nutmeg, thyme and salt and pepper. Let marinate in the fridge for at least a half hour.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the fridge. In an oven-proof dish, layer the potatoes in alternating colors, starting on the outer edges of the dish. Toward the end when you’re running out of potato slices, start sticking them in the gaps so they’re all packed tightly.
  5. Pour the remaining liquid, including the cheese and flavorings, over the top of the gratin. Sprinkle with additional fresh thyme, and pepper, if desired.
  6. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes, sprinkling additional cheese at this point if desired 😉.
  7. Enjoy bubbling hot.

 

 

 

 

Capered Salmon en Papillote

We’ve all heard the stereotype that French recipes are notorious for being highly complex – requiring hours and hours of preparation, expert-level tempering and knife techniques. But so much of their cooking is incredibly simple and so damn elegant.

It’s why France is arguably the global mecca for foodies. With an added emphasis on the word arguably.

One preparation they use for fish encloses it in parchment paper with aromatics and seasonings, and bakes it in the oven, often with in-season vegetables.

It makes for a beautiful presentation, and because it’s fish, there’s not much actual cooking time involved.

I had been wanting to try this technique for a while and finally got around to it. I wasn’t sure how achieve the moon-shaped package with a square piece of parchment paper, so I sourced a technique from the New York Times.

There’s an undeniable wow element when you’re served the fish enclosed in the package and opening it up to see what’s inside.

Just human nature I guess. Must be why wrapping paper exists. Or in my case, newspaper.

Because brine is life, I went hard on the capers. I mixed together a simple sauce to accompany the salmon with capers and thyme, to mirror the flavors used with the fish.

I remember to tell myself – simple can be incredibly elegant. The French taught us that much. I hope you enjoy this. Let me know what your other go-to herbs, vegetables and seasonings you like to use on salmon –  I bet they’d be great here.

I’m thinking an Asian-inspired version? Soy sauce, chili oil, scallions & sesame seeds?

Bon Appetit!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 6 – 8 oz. filets salmon, silver skin removed
  • I small shallot, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  C a p e r  S a u c e

  • 3 oz. crème fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon capers, minced
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon minced thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *400.
  2. Cut two pieces of parchment paper, about 1 1 / 2 foot long, into large heart-shaped pieces.
  3. Place the salmon filets on one half of the parchment paper, folding over to ensure there’s enough paper to completely enclose the fish.
  4. Once it’s correctly placed, sprinkle the filets with salt and pepper.
  5. Top with slices of shallot, capers, several springs of thyme, and 1 tablespoon of butter per filet.
  6. Fold over the edges of the parchment paper starting at the bottom of the heart shape, until the fish is completely enclosed. It’s a similar technique you would use to crimp the edges of a pie so that the filling doesn’t escape while baking.
  7. Cook the fish for 12 minutes for medium-rarish, 15 minutes for well-done.
  8. In the meantime, combine the caper sauce ingredients. Serve in small ramekins.
  9. Remove the salmon from the oven & serve it immediately plating it, parchment and all, with sauce on the side.
  10. IMPORTANT: Stick your nose in and inhale that first whiff when you tear open the package.

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.

Beef Bourguignon-Inspired Risotto

Cold weather food. There must be something instinctive about craving it. Even two hundred years ago, if you wanted fresh produce in the winter, you were probably shit out of luck.

Instead, you were most likely consigned to eat some stew with tough cuts of meat from the animal you slaughtered last season, and cooked it for hours or days with a bunch of vegetables and dried herbs.

Speaking of, have you ever heard of perpetual stew?

My appetite has recently led me to cook stewed beef and warm, tomato-y pasta dishes. Things that cook low-and-slow, and have little bit more oomph than yet another “30-minute meal.” Although, I know those recipes have their time and their place. No judgement here.

As I’ve been doing lately, I frankensteined two of my favorite dishes together – this one satisfies the craving for both beef bourguignon and risotto.

I basically drew out the elements of beef bourguignon – the traditional vegetables, herbs and beef – and put them into a red-wine and beef stock infused Arborio rice, cooked in the same style as traditional Italian risotto.

Let the vegetable sautee meld flavors together!

This of course can and should be tweaked according to your own favorite, passed-down beef bourguignon recipe, if you have one. I’m using a variation of Ina Garten’s beef bourguignon here, which if I remember correctly she adapted from Julia Child.

Trust me, when you serve this dish at the right time in the right place, it will hit the spot.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This recipe serves 2, double the recipe to serve 4, and so on. 

The only caveat is the more rice you add, the longer it takes for the risotto to cook, so adjust accordingly.

  • 2 high-quality beef filets
  • 4 oz. good quality bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 lb. porcini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and medium diced
  • 1 / 4 cup water
  • 1 / 2 bag frozen pearl onions (or fresh pearl onions, if you can find them)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine (Cote du Rhone is best for this dish)
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 / 2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for vegetable sautee
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 375*.
  2. Remove the filets from the fridge and allow to sit until they are room temperature. Pat the filets dry and season liberally with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. Brown the bacon on medium low heat until crispy in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the butter. Once melted, stir in the rice, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes or so until the rice has had a chance to warm through and toast.
  4. In the meantime, pour the beef stock into a small saucepan and heat until just simmering. Keep it at this temperature throughout the cooking process.
  5. Next, add the red wine, thyme and minced garlic to the pot with the rice. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine has been absorbed.
  6. Start ladling in the warmed beef stock, one ladle at a time, waiting until the rice gets slightly dry to add the next ladle of stock.
  7. In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan. Add the water, and sautee the carrots on medium heat until they’ve tenderized, stirring often, for about 20 minutes or so. This is where, if you have fresh pearl onions as opposed to frozen pearl onions, you would add them as well to give them a chance to cook through. Salt the vegetables liberally.
  8. Add the mushrooms after 20 minutes of cooking the carrots and onions, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Set aside the vegetables and juices to a separate plate.
  9. Heat a cast iron pan until searing hot. Add the vegetable oil to the pan. Just before the oil begins to smoke, add the filets and cook on each side for approximately 1 to 2 minutes, so that the filets achieve a dark crust on all sides. Make sure you turn your overhead vent on, it will be smoky!
  10. Finish the filets in the oven and cook until desired doneness – for medium rare, this will take about 7 to 8 minutes.
  11. Once all the beef stock has been incorporated into the risotto, start to test the rice to make sure it’s achieved al dente consistency. This entire process should take anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes.
  12. Once the rice is done, add the carrots, mushrooms, 1 / 2 bag frozen pearl onions (if using), all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano, stirring lightly until everything is heated through, about 10 minutes.
  13. Remove the filets from the oven and let sit on a plate covered in foil. Once the steaks have set for 5 to 10 minutes, slice thickly against the grain.
  14. Serve the dishes hot topped with the sliced filets, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a sprinkle of fresh minced parsley.