Sweetbread or Ris de Veau with Madeira and Truffle

A starter to remember

A culinary treat that is delicate, balanced and overwhelming yet subtle. In a restaurant you will probably get Ris de Veau that was dusted with flour (okayish) or breaded (awful idea, it’s not a Wiener Schnitzel). In some countries the Ris de Veau is grilled which is an interesting idea. We stick to a very traditional approach that works extremely well because it’s all about the taste of the sweetbread in combination with Butter, Cream and Madeira. You could add some slices of fresh truffle to make it even better tasting.

The sweetbread should of course be hot and soft on the inside and brown and crispy on the outside. Just use your non-sticky skillet and a bit of butter for a beautiful result.

Ris de Veau should be between rose and well done. It requires a bit of attention, but it’s hard to overcook Ris de Veau. Although some restaurants are very capable of creating rubber.

It is essential to clean the Ris de Veau. For some reason the process of removing the membrane from sweetbread is intimidating, but don’t be put off.

Wine Pairing

First the Madeira: don’t be tempted to buy so-called ‘cooking Madeira’. This is some horrible, sweet liquid that is not even close to Madeira. One for the bin. We bought a bottle of Santa Maria Madeira, medium dry. It is perfectly suited for this recipe. The story behind Madeira is complex so if you get the chance to buy one that is 10 or 15 years old, please give it a try. Just sip and enjoy.

We’re looking for a wine that will be supporting the delicate taste and the sweetness, earthiness and the slight nuttiness of the sauce. If you want to drink a glass of white wine, then it should be a full-bodied Chardonnay, although not too oaky. Chablis will be a good choice. If you go for red, then we recommend a Beaujolais Cru (St. Amour or Fleurie) or a Bourgogne. It’s about soft tannins, aromas like dark cherries and licorice and on the palate a lean texture and dry.

What you need

  • 200 grams of Ris de Veau
  • Two leaves of Bay Leaf
  • Crushed black pepper
  • Shallot
  • Butter
  • Veal Stock
  • Madeira
  • Jus de Truffes

What you do

Start by filling a big pan with water. Add the crunched pepper and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Now add the sweetbread and make sure the water remains close to a boil. Blanch the sweetbread for let’s say 3 – 5 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the sweetbread.
Transfer the sweetbread to a large bowl with ice-cold water and cool the meat as quickly as possible.
Now it’s time to clean the sweetbread. Remove the bits of fat, the fleeces, any membrane, the veins and anything else you don’t like. Best way to do this is with your hands and a very sharp small knife. Once your sweetbread is clean, you will be able to see how to slice it later on. But first put it on a flat plate, seal it with plastic foil, put a similar flat plate on top of it and put something heavy on top of the plate. Transfer to the fridge and leave it for a few hours. The idea is twofold: on the one hand the sweetbread will be firm and easy to partition. And it will lose some liquid because of the weight.
With the sweetbread in the fridge it’s time to think about your sauce. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze in butter. Add veal stock and Madeira. Mix and reduce. Transfer to blender and mix. Pass through a small sieve and warm what is the beginning of your sauce. Add Jus de Truffes. This is an essential ingredient because it brings volume and depth to the sauce. It’s not to be confused with Truffle Oil, which in most cases is some kind of horrendous chemical invention. Taste and perhaps add some more Madeira or stock. A pinch of pepper may also be helpful. Keep warm for 5 or 10 minutes, stirring regularly. You will notice that the sauce becomes more intense and mature, which is exactly what you want.
In parallel you will have cut 2-3 cm thick slices of sweetbread. Fry them for 5 minutes or so in a very warm (but not hot), non-sticky skillet with butter. It’s simple: when the sweetbread is golden and beautiful they are ready to be served. If in doubt: there is bound to be a small slice, one that you can use to test. Remember it’s offal, so you don’t want to take a risk.
Take two warm plates, add sauce and carefully put the slices of sweetbread on the plate. You could add slices of truffle on top.

 

Let’s Mash!

We do like our mashed potatoes, for instance with a nice, hearty stew or with a wintery Choucroute. But isn’t it a bit too obvious, mashed potatoes?
Of course it is! Especially during the colder months your green grocer offers a range of vegetables that are ideally suited for making a purée.

A purée of Jerusalem Artichokes is savory, sweet, delicate and nutty. Great with game, pork stew and choucroute.
The mash of Celeriac and Lemon is a great accompaniment of many a dish. It’s fresh and light. Simply serve it whenever you think ‘let’s serve with mashed potatoes’. Give it a try when you want to eat roast cod.
A purée of Parsley Root and Parsnip has an intriguing taste. Yes, definitely parsley, but more complex, more lasting. Excellent when combined with a stew or roasted pork-belly.

Jerusalem Artichokes and Parsnips contain (like potatoes) a significant amount of starch, however different from potatoes you can use a blender when preparing the purée.

What you need

  • Jerusalem Artichokes and white pepper
  • Or Celeriac, four slices of Lemon and nutmeg
  • Or Parsley Root, Parsnip and white pepper
  • Cream

What you do

Clean and dice the vegetables and cook (with the lemon) until nearly soft. Drain (and remove the lemon) and add some cream to the pan. Leave on very low heat for 10 minutes or so. The idea is that the vegetables will absorb some of the cream. Mash (or blender) until smooth and pass through a sieve to make it perfect. Serve with white pepper and nutmeg (if required).

Parsnip, Celeriac, Parsley Root and Jerusalem Artichoke © cadwu
Parsnip, Celeriac, Parsley Root and Jerusalem Artichoke © cadwu

 

Matsu Take with Ginger and Spinach

Autumn

A very special mushroom, to say the least. Well known throughout Japan, China and South Korea as a true delicacy.  Matsu Take smells like a pine wood forest and its taste is intense, aromatic, lasting and unique. As if you could taste Autumn.
It’s an expensive mushroom (around 125 euro per kilo) with very limited availability. But if you happen to find it, be sure to buy it. Between 75 and 100 grams is fine for two.
The Matsu Take makes this into an unforgettable dish. It will bring you back to earth in a split second. Smell it, taste it and feel how satisfying and relaxing it is.

Wine pairing

Best served with a dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. This fine sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the Matsu Take.

What you need

  • 75 – 100 gram of Matsu Take
  • Some Spinach (preferably what is called the ‘wild’ version, cleaned and without the stem)
  • Spring Onion
  • Touch of Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Soy Sauce (reduced salt)
  • Chicken Stock
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Oil

What you do

Warm the chicken stock, add soy sauce, a touch of sesame oil and flavour with slices of ginger. Allow to stand on a low heat for 10 minutes. Taste and then remove the ginger. Clean the Matsu Take and cut in small dices. The size you would like to eat them (Matsu Take doesn’t shrink like many other mushrooms; it remains firm). Fry them gently in a skillet in some olive oil, no longer than 3 minutes, together with the thinly sliced white of the spring onion. Add the garlic. In parallel blanch the spinach in the liquid. Quickly drain the spinach and set aside. Reduce the liquid and taste. In parallel chop the spinach.
Put spinach on a plate, sprinkle the Matsu Take over it and gently add some sauce.

Chicken a la Carolus Battus

In the year 1593

The history of food is interesting for a number of reasons. Following old recipes provides you with the opportunity to discover new combinations, techniques and new flavors, or better said, forgotten combinations, techniques and flavors.
The University of Amsterdam is home to the Special Collections, the material heritage of the University. One of the collections is related to recipes, cookbooks, books on etiquette, nutrition, food et cetera. The oldest cookbook is Eenen seer schoonen ende excelenten Cocboeck, inhoudende alderley wel geexperimenteerde cokagien, van ghebraet, ghesoden, Pasteyen, Taerten, toerten, Vlaeijen, Saussen, Soppen, ende dier-gelijcke: Oock diversche Confeyturen ende Drancken, etc. by Carel Baten (Carolus Battus) published in 1593. The book contains some 300 recipes for a range of food and drink. It was published as an annex to his Medecijn Boec, after all he was a medical doctor.

In 2018 Onno and Charlotte Kleyn published Luilekkerland; a great book on 400 years of cooking in the Netherlands. They must have spent months at the Special Collections going through various cookbooks and manuscripts with recipes. Many thanks for creating ‘a magical mystery tour’ through the kitchens of the past.
In the book they describe one of the recipes of Carolus Battus: een sause op eenen gesoden capoen. Or in English: poached Capon with sauce.
The short version: make a poaching liquid with carrot, leek, celeriac and onion. Add the capon and poach it until it’s done. In parallel combine old breadcrumbs with white almonds, white wine, ginger powder and sugar. Create a sauce by gently warming the mixture with some of the cooking liquid and serve.

Capon is very expensive, so like Onno and Charlotte we go for chicken. Our recipe is for 2 chicken thighs, but we could also imagine making a roulade and then serving a slice of chicken roulade with the sauce as a starter.
The surprise is in the sauce: the combination of bread, ginger and almonds is tasty and complex. The sauce may appear to be filming and fat, but actually it’s not. The texture of the sauce is interesting as well: the bread will make the sauce a bit porridge like and the crushed almonds prevent the sauce from being smooth.
Our version of the recipe is a bit closer to 2018: we’re not the biggest fans of poaching and we don’t see the need for sugar. Plus why use powder if you can get fresh ginger?

Wine Pairing

Best is to go for a white wine with a touch of sweetness, for instance a Gewurztraminer. This will combine very well with the somewhat unusual flavors in the dish. If you go for a glass of red wine, then we would suggest a pinot noir, nice and earthy.

What you need

  • 2 chicken thighs
  • Chicken stock and optional
    • Leek
    • Carrots
    • Celeriac
    • Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 15 grams of white Almonds
  • 1 – 2 cm of Fresh ginger
  • 1 dl of Dry white wine
  • Slice of toasted Bread

What you do

If your chicken stock needs a boost, then add the vegetables and let simmer for 15 minutes or so. In a small skillet heat the butter and olive oil. Fry the chicken until nearly done. In parallel blender the almonds and the toasted bread. Grate the ginger. Add the white wine and the ginger to the mixture and blender. Add some stock and blender for a few seconds. Transfer the mixture to a pan and warm over medium heat. It requires attention, so keep an eye on the sauce and stir every minute or so. The sauce will thicken so you will probably need to add more stock. Transfer the chicken to a warm oven and let rest. Deglaze the pan with some stock and add this liquid to the sauce. Stir well. Now it’s time to taste. Remember the taste is new, so take your time. Almonds? Bread? Hint of acidity? Ginger? Chicken? Overall? Serve the chicken with the sauce.
We enjoyed the chicken as a main course with some Brussels sprouts, olive oil and nutmeg.

 

Lamb Shank with Rosemary

When In Paris…

A few years ago when attending a business lunch in Paris (the things we have to endure in life…) we were overwhelmed by the menu. We quickly decided to go for Lamb and told the waiter in our very best French we would like to taste Souris d’Agneau au Vin Rouge et aux Herbes, although not exactly knowing what a Souris might be. So during that lunch we discovered the joys of Lamb Shank.
Most recipes recommend preparing lamb shank in a hot oven (200 °C or so) but that’s actually not the best way to do it. Too hot, too fast, too dry.

Lamb shank has a generous amount of fat which makes it ideal for slow cooking. Our preferred option is to use a pressure cooker. Within 45 minutes the lamb shanks will be perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a glass of Bordeaux with the lamb shank. The Bordeaux is in general a classic blend with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine should be well structured with lots of fruit. It should support the sweetness of the dish (carrots, lamb, leek). Soft tannins, a smooth texture and sufficient length. We very much enjoyed a glass of Chateau Beaulieu (2012) with our lamb.
Remember to use the same wine for cooking the lamb!

What You Need

  • 2 Lamb Shanks (with fat, please!)
  • 2 Shallots
  • Carrot
  • Leek
  • Celeriac
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni, for instance:

    • Bay Leaf
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • lots of Rosemary (and 2 extra sprigs)
  • Red Wine
  • Water
  • Black Pepper
  • Brussels Sprouts or Carrots

What You Do

Start by colouring the lamb shanks in olive oil. Transfer to a plate and then gently fry the shopped shallot, the leek, the carrot, the celeriac and the garlic. When ready add the red wine and some water, depending on your taste. Add the generous bouquet garni with extra rosemary and some cooked garlic. Transfer the lamb shanks back to the pan and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of the shanks. Transfer the shanks to a warm plate, pass the cooking juice through a sieve (discarding the vegetables), check the sauce, reduce if necessary,  and serve the shanks with a classic branch of rosemary, Brussels sprouts and some bread.
If you want to emphasize the natural sweetness of the dish, then serve with glazed carrots.

 

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin

Such a simple, tasty, inexpensive and vegetarian soup! What more can you ask for? A bit of jus de truffe maybe?
Make sure to buy organic pumpkins. This allows you to use the skin; so two benefits: there is no need to peel the pumpkin and the soup will be better tasting.
Red lentils will become completely soft when cooked for 30 minutes; very different from green or black lentils. We add the lentils not only because of their taste, but also because they improve the texture of the soup.
Give the soup a finishing touch by adding pumpkin seed oil, jus de truffe or truffle flavoured olive oil (for instance produced by Moulins de la Brague).

Here is what you need

  • Small Pumpkin
  • Red Onion
  • Two Garlic Gloves
  • 6 cm Fresh Ginger
  • 2 Chilli Peppers
  • Tablespoon or more Red Lentils
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil, Jus de Truffe or Truffle Flavoured Olive Oil
  • Cilantro

Chop de red onion in smaller but equal sized bits and put in a pan with olive oil. Put on moderate heat and give it some 5 to 10 minutes. Now add the chopped and seeded chilli pepper, the garlic and stir. Continue for 5 minutes on moderate heat. Add the chopped pumpkin and the lentils and stir for another 5 minutes. Peel the ginger, cut in cubes and put on a small wooden stick. This way you can easily remove the ginger later on. Now add boiling water and leave for 30 minutes to simmer or until the pumpkin is very, very soft.
When done remove the ginger. Taste the ginger and decide how much ginger you want to add to the soup. We just love fresh ginger so we would add most of it. Blender the remainder into a smooth soup. You could pass it through a sieve to make sure it’s like a lovely velouté. Cool and transfer to the refrigerator for the next day.
Warm the soup and add a splash of truffle flavoured olive oil or pumpkin seed oil and lots of cilantro before serving.
You can also make a milder version by reducing the amount of chilli and ginger. Then add jus de truffe, a bit of olive oil and maybe some pepper before serving.

Pumpkin Soup © cadwu
Pumpkin Soup © cadwu

Bay Boletes with Brussels Sprouts and Tenderloin

Bay Bolete

The Bay Bolete is a tasty, fairly common mushroom. Its cap is chestnut (bay) brown. They are easy to find under pines and other conifers in Europe and North America (but we’re not mushroom hunters) and unfortunately not so easy to find on the market. The main season for the Bay Bolete is late summer and autumn. Bay Boletes are rarely infested with maggots. They dry very well.
When comparing the taste of Bay Boletes and Cepes we think that Cepes have a more powerful and complex taste whereas Bay Boletes are nuttier.

We remember Brussels sprouts from our youth: over- cooked, greyish, soggy and oh-that-smell (it’s sulphur actually)! Once in a blue moon we take a trip down memory lane and cook them this way, but we prefer a more modern approach, for instance steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil. Nutmeg is a must by the way.

Wine

We very much enjoyed a glass of Portuguese Segredos de São Miguel, a full-bodied, warm red wine, made from grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. You will taste lots of fruit and a touch of toast. A juicy wine with nice acidity and smooth tannins. Fresh and vigorous finish.

You could also go for a Malbec. Taste wise the mushrooms and the sprouts are very powerful, so you’re looking for a wine that will clearly support the beef and will also combine with the nuttiness of the mushrooms and the touch of bitterness of the sprouts.

Here is what you need

  • Boletes
    • 150 grams of Bay Boletes
    • Olive Oil
    • Butter
    • One glove of Fresh Garlic
    • Parsley
  • Brussels Sprouts
    • 200 grams of Brussels Sprouts
    • Butter
    • Nutmeg
  • 150 grams of excellent Beef (Tenderloin is best in this case)
  • Black Pepper

Let’s Start Cooking

We begin with the Brussels sprouts: clean them (don’t cut in half as so many do nowadays) and cook or steam them until they are nearly okay. Set aside and let cool. Clean the mushrooms with a brush and/or kitchen paper. Slice (not too thin). Heat a skillet, add olive oil and butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and fry gently over medium heat. In parallel warm a pan with some butter and add the sprouts. The idea is to coat them with butter and warm them, giving them just the cuisson you prefer. Heat a second skillet with olive oil and butter, fry the beef and let rest for 5 minutes or so in aluminum foil. Season the sprouts with some nutmeg. Back to the mushrooms: add chopped garlic to the pan. Wait a few minutes and then add chopped parsley. You could make a jus in the skillet you used for the beef. Serve on a hot plate with extra nutmeg and black pepper.

Monkfish with Tomato Olive Sauce

Not the kind of fish you want to meet when swimming in the sea, but definitely one you want to meet when shopping at the fishmonger. Make sure you bring some money because monkfish tends to be expensive. Great meat, delicate yet distinctive taste and not difficult to prepare as long as you’re not in a hurry.
The sauce has to be made a day in advance. It needs time to cook and time to integrate.
You will need to remove the skin of the monkfish. There seem to be several layers of skin and one is (when cooked) really rubbery and inedible. So take you knife, start at the tail end and move forwards, thus removing the membrane. You will find useful videos on the Internet. Unfortunately these videos suggest removing the main bone of the fish, which is a mistake for three reasons. You lose taste and meat plus you lose a natural indicator of the cuisson of the fish.
Pitted black olives. Sounds simple but isn’t simple at all. Buy quality, for instance Niçoise or Kalamate and stay away from cheap and canned. Dry-cured black olives (the wrinkly ones like Nyon) can be overpowering.
Monkfish is an essential ingredient of Zarzuela because of its texture and taste. In this recipe we combine the obvious: monkfish and tomato. We add a bouquet garni consisting of rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. The black olives give the required twist to the sauce and the dish as a whole.

We suggest a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the monkfish, provided the wine is not too woody; a light touch of oak will be best. Soave could also be a good combination.

Here is what you need

  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic Glove
  • Olive Oil
  • two Tomatoes
  • Pitted Black Olives
  • Bay Leaf
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Monkfish (200 gram per person, bone included)
  • Black Pepper

Start by making the sauce. Gently fry the chopped shallot in a splash of olive oil. After a few minutes add the chopped garlic. Now add the chopped tomatoes and the pitted black olives (depending on their taste we suggest between 10 and 15). Add the bouquet garni and allow to cook on low heat for a number of hours. Make sure to check on a regular basis. When ready, remove the bouquet garni and transfer to a blender. Pass the mixture through a sieve. The sauce should be as smooth as possible. Transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day.
Use a heavy iron skillet to fry the monkfish in olive oil. When nicely coloured, reduce the heat and start adding the sauce. Since the sauce is cold, you need to do it spoon by spoon. Coat the fish with warm sauce, again, and again. Use your knife to try separating the meat from the bone. When this is possible without applying too much pressure, the fish is nearly perfect. Remove the bone, turn the fish on the side that was connected to the bone and cook for one or two minutes. Taste the sauce; maybe you want to add some fresh black pepper.
Serve on a warm plate with some crusted bread.

Pissaladière

Pissaladière is a very tasty combination of onions, local French herbs, anchovies and black olives. It originates from the South of France (Côte d’Azur) and many a local boulangerie will offer their home-made, original pissaladière. We compared many recipes, enjoyed lots of slices of Pissaladière when in France and are pleased to present our version. It does not include tomatoes, milk, almonds, sugar, coconut oil and is not made with puff pastry.

Best is to make your own pastry (especially because it’s very simple) and use fresh yeast. Since it’s more and more difficult to buy, we use dried yeast. Key to making pissaladière is time. The onions need an hour, they need to cool and the dough needs to proof twice. But we’re not in a hurry!

We combined our pissaladière with French charcuterie; think Paté en Croûte (recipe to follow), Rossette (from Lyon), Rillettes d´Oie, Jambon persillé and cornichons. You could also combine pissaladière with a nice simple green salad.

We enjoyed our Pissaladière with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé made of Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz grapes. Dry, with a touch of grapefruit and wonderfully pale pink.

Here is what you need

  • 600 grams of White Onions (or a combination of White Onions and Shallots)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Bay Leaf
  • Anchovies
  • Halved Black Olives
  • Pastry
    • 125 grams of Flour
    • 2 grams of Yeast (depending on the yeast you use)
    • 75 ml of Water
    • Dash of Salt
    • Some Olive Oil
    • Herbes de Provences (or thyme)

Start by caramelizing the onions. Peel the onions, cut in 4 and slice. Not too thin, the onions will shrink. Fry gently in olive oil and butter. When starting to color reduce the heat, add the bay leaf and allow to simmer for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Check the taste, the bay leaf can be overpowering. Let cool and set aside (for instance until the next day).
Mix flour, yeast, salt and herbes de Provences. Add water and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes. Let proof for 2 hours. Transfer to kitchen top and create a thin rectangular pastry. Coat a baking plate with oil and transfer the pastry to the plate. With a fork make small holes in the pastry (not in the edge). This is important given the fact that the onions are cold and moist. Now add the onions and make a nice pattern with the anchovies and the halved olives. Bake in a hot oven (top half, 220˚ Celsius or 430˚ Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes. Serve warm (or cold) but not hot.

Chicken with Tarragon, Leek and Nero d’Avola

Some combinations are made in heaven. Chicken and Tarragon is such a combination: it simply works brilliantly. Tarragon is a very powerful, aromatic herb, full of flavors such as anise and licorice. It’s the key ingredient of the sauce Béarnaise and it is of course wonderful when combined with vinegar and mustard. For kitchen purposes you need to buy French tarragon. The other well-known variety is called Russian tarragon. It’s a nice plant for your garden or balcony, with flowers and lots of leaves, but the taste is very bland, so not one to use in the kitchen.

We use butter to carry the taste of the tarragon to the chicken and to the sauce. It’s the principle behind enfleurage and maceration in the perfume making industry: fat is used to absorb the fragrance. So yes, you need an excellent chicken with lots of fat under the skin.

This recipe works with a whole chicken, with breasts and legs, provided they come with a skin. The crux of this recipe is to create a layer of tarragon butter between the meat and the skin, allowing for a crispy skin in combination with rich, flavored meat. You can stuff the chicken in the morning or the day before. Ideal when you’re having guests!

The sauce is very rich, so instead of using flour or cream, we create an emulsified sauce by blendering the mixture. The result is a velvety, filming sauce.

We enjoyed our chicken with a glass of Inycon Nero d’Avola. The wine is elegant, fruity, not too full bodied and it has soft tannins and a gentle acidity. You will also taste licorice, which is a nice reflection of the tarragon and the Pastis. The balance of the acidity of the wine and the filming structure of the sauce is essential to the dish.

Here is what you need

  • 2 Chicken Legs
  • 8 Sprigs of Tarragon
  • 20 + 10 grams of Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Pastis
  • Chicken Stock
  • Optional: Leek, olive oil and water

Strip the tarragon leaves from the stem and chop. Let’s say you need one or two sprigs of tarragon per chicken leg. Use a fork to make the tarragon butter. Use your fingers to create space (a pocket) between the skin and the meat. Start for instance in the middle of the leg (outside) or at the rear of the whole chicken. Be careful not to open the edges, otherwise the tarragon butter can’t do its work. Put some of the butter between the skin and the meat and use your fingers to create a thin layer by pressing the butter to the sides. Coat the bottom of a shallow baking pan with olive oil.
Transfer the chicken legs to the pan. Add some additional butter to the pan (not on top of the chicken). Also add the sprigs you haven’t used. Put the pan in an oven of 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken legs and two sprigs of tarragon to a plate and keep them warm in the oven (just switch it of and keep the door open). Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and Pastis. Deglazing simply means that you add a liquid and then by stirring the mixture you capture the residue in the pan. As if you are cleaning the pan. Blender the mixture and poor through a sieve into a small saucepan. You now have a homogenous, emulsified sauce. Warm the sauce and stir occasionally for five minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce, the fried sprigs of tarragon and the briefly cooked leek.

(P.S. Clean the leek, making sure you have removed the sand and dirt. Slice thinly and cook with some olive oil and a drop or two of water. Five minutes maximum should do the trick.)

Neck of Lamb with Star Anise, Ginger and Djeroek Poeroet

We can hear you thinking, ‘Shouldn’t that be rack of lamb?’.
Isn’t it interesting how much we are focused on specific parts of an animal? We love our steak, but what to do with an oxtail? We love pork loin, but how about the pig’s nose? And we enjoy grilled rack of lamb, but how about the lamb’s neck?
Supermarkets and butchers know all about our focus. So if you would like to cook pig’s feet (or trotters), kidneys, liver, sweetbread or lamb’s neck: where to go? Try finding a ‘real’ butcher, one that buys the whole animal, not just the parts that can be sold directly.

Lamb’s neck is very underrated, inexpensive and tasty. Some feel it’s okay for your dog only, but we completely disagree. When cooked slowly for hours it is great. Tasty, well structured, juicy and tender.

Feel free to replace the neck of lamb with 2 lamb shanks.

The obvious way to prepare the lamb is to fry it briefly in oil en butter and then cook for hours in red wine with a bouguet garni of rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. Maybe add a small tomato to help the sauce. We take a different approach by adding strong tastes like ginger, cilantro seeds, star anise, soy sauce and the leaves of the Kaffir lime (also known as Djeroek poeroet or Djeruk purut). You will get a full, complex sauce in combination with lovely, aromatic meat.

We very much enjoyed our Neck of Lamb with a glass of Alsace Gewurztraminer, Cave de Beblenheim, 2016. The wine has a beautiful gold colour, and an expressive nose with rose notes. The palate presents a nice structure with a fruity and spicy association which of course goes very well with the oriental twist to the stew. In general we suggest an aromatic white wine with just a touch of sweetness.

Here is what you need

  • 300 grams Neck of Lamb
  • Shallot
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh Ginger (4 cm, depending on your taste)
  • 1 red Chili
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Noilly Prat
  • Cilantro Seeds
  • Star Anise
  • Low Salt Soy Sauce
  • 4 leaves of Djeroek Poeroet

Cut the meat in cubes. Not too small since they will shrink during the cooking process. Fry the meat in butter and oil, giving it a nice colour. If so required, do so in multiple batches. In the mean time cut the shallot, peel the ginger and slice, remove the seeds from the chili and cut the garlic glove (but not too fine). Remove the meat from the pan and glaze the shallot, chili, ginger and garlic. Add the Noilly Prat, crushed cilantro seeds, star anise, some low-salt soy sauce and the djeroek poeroet. Stir. Transfer the meat back to the pan and add some water, making sure the meat is just covered. Leave to simmer for 6 hours in total. Check the pan every hour and add water is so required. Also check if the djeroek poeroet is not overpowering (this very much depends on the quality of the leaves). After 5 hours check the taste, add soy sauce, remove the djeroek poeroet or the star anise if so required. After 6 hours cool the stew and transfer to the refrigerator. You could also decide to transfer it to the freezer for use at a later date.
The following day remove as much of the fat as you prefer. Warm the stew, check taste and tenderness and continue to simmer if so required. When the meat is ready you may want to reduce the liquid.
Serve with steamed Pak Choi, tossed with sesame oil.

Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon

Caesar’s mushroom (or Amanita Caesarea) is a true delicacy, especially when eaten very young. And raw. Since the young ones have the shape of an egg, they are called ovoli in Italian. It is not recommended to pick these young ones yourself, unless you’re an expert. The young Caesar’s mushroom looks very similar to young Fly Agaric, Death Cap or Destroying Angels. Ones we would not like to see on (y)our plate. The mature Caesar’s mushroom looks very distinct from these very dangerous mushrooms, so fewer risks involved.
When you’re in North America, you will probably be able to buy Amanita Jacksonii or Amanita Arkansana, which seem to be very similar, but not completely. As far as we know eating cooked Amanita Caesarea and Arkansana is not a problem; eating them raw could be.

The classic recipe for ovoli is to include them in a salad, with shaved white truffle, parsley, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Another option is to add them to your risotto.

In this recipe we combine the delicate flavour of the Caesar’s mushroom with lots of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a touch of garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Best would be to use Calamintha Nepeta, but using thyme will also do the trick. A garlic glove must be added because the garlic will turn black if your mushrooms are poisonous (not a story to rely on).

Ideally served with Japanese udon because the noodles will be nicely coated with the cooking juices, but feel free to use good pasta as an alternative. One of the benefits of udon is that it is really white, allowing for the yellow of the mushroom to be more present.

We enjoyed our Caesar’s mushrooms with a glass of traditional Burgundy wine from France (100% pinot noir). The wine should have delicate fruit aromas (black cherries, plum) and some earthiness. The wine should be medium bodied and have a crisp acidity. Not too much oak, because oak will overpower the mushrooms. The pinot noir should also be relatively light, allowing for herbal and floral tones.
Pinot Noir wines from the new world are in general rounder and higher in alcohol, making these wines more like Syrah or Malbec. We don’t recommend these wines, however tasty, in combination with the dish.
A glass of Chardonnay is also an option provided it’s fresh with just a touch of oak and butter.

Here is what you need

  • 200 grams of Caesar’s mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Garlic glove
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Japanese Udon (for instance from Hakubaku)

Clean the Caesar’s mushrooms and remove the white veil (or volva). Make a bouquet garni with lots of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Start by making flavoured olive oil by warming the olive oil in a large skillet and adding the herbs and the garlic glove. Not too hot, you only want the flavours and essential oils to be added to the olive oil. After 15 minutes or so remove the garlic and the bouquet. Now add the sliced Ceasar’s mushrooms and very gently fry them. Just cooked is perfect. In parallel cook the udon. When ready (12 minutes in our case, you don’t want the udon to be al dente), drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. If there is too much starch on the pasta, then think Japan and wash your pasta with cold water. This will remove the starch and allow for a better result. Remove the Caesar’s mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the pasta to the pan, stir and make sure the pasta is fully coated. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid to the pan. Add some grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Transfer the Caesar’s mushroom back to the pan and stir very gently, making it into one yellow, tasty mixture. Just before serving sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.

Clafoutis: A Summer Classic

Cherries, cherries, cherries! We love them! The rich, sweet taste in combination with the right texture! They just want to be eaten, one after the other. So what better summer dessert than Clafoutis?
Small, black or dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. We used very taste Dutch cherries, but these can be a bit oversized (but so tasty!). Don’t use candied cherries, Maraschino or anything canned or jarred.
Clafoutis is made with milk and eggs, so in a way familiar to Crè­me Brûlée and Far Breton. But in case of Clafoutis you only need to whisk and wait for it to bake in the oven. That’s all.
There are many recipes for Clafoutis, some with cold milk, some with hot. Some use milk and cream, others just milk. We use warm milk because you get a better feel for the consistency, but cold milk will also do the job.

Some add Kirsch and others add Vanilla. We can’t see the benefit of adding Kirsch when using tasty cherries. Vanilla is distracting, so not recommended.

Another decision to make: use whole cherries or pitted ones? Not removing the pits is less work (obviously) and it reduces the risk of a soggy Clafoutis. The pits contain amygdalin, a toxic compound that can also be found in almonds, apple seeds and apricot stones. Amygdalin has the taste of almonds. In this recipe we pit the cherries and compensate for the lack of almond taste by using some almond flour.
If you decide to pit the cherries, make sure you remove all of them!

Finally, yes, you can replace the cherries with fresh apricots, berries, peaches or prunes. Then it’s called a Flaugnarde. But nothing as tasty as Clafoutis made with fresh cherries!

Here is what you need:

  • 2,5 dl of regular Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 30 grams of plain Flour
  • 10 grams of Almond Flour
  • 20 grams of Sugar
  • 500 grams of Cherries, pitted
  • 10 grams of Butter

Pre heat the oven to 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, plain flour, almond flour and sugar. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Stir the milk into the mixture. Butter a large, shallow baking dish, add cherries to the dish and make sure the bottom is nicely covered with cherries. No need to have two layers of cherries. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Bake (lower third of the oven) for 20 minutes, add a few dots of butter, continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the Clafoutis is golden. Leave to cool for 60 minutes or so, this will enhance the taste. Clafoutis should be served luke-warm. You could decorate the clafoutis with icing sugar, but it’s not essential.

Fried Large Prawns

Shrimps and Prawns, delicacies from the sea, just like lobsters, scampi and crabs. Popular food in many countries, just think shrimp cocktail, paella, salad with shrimps, pasta with seafood, stuffed eggs with shrimps, curry with prawns and of course, fried shrimps with garlic and lemon.

We think shrimps and prawns are as subtle, delicate and tasty as lobster. The prawn should be at the center, not just another ingredient of your fish soup. Not hidden by loads of garlic and lemon. Or even worse, wrapped in bacon (whoever came up with the idea of wrapping prawns and oysters (angels on horseback) in bacon is not a seafood lover).

We will use the shell, the legs and the so-called swimmerets of the prawns to create a sauce; a bisque like sauce.

We enjoyed our fried large prawns with a glass of rose. This Italian rose (from Garofoli) is made from 100% Montepulciano. It comes with beautiful scent of cherries and peaches. The flavor is full, velvety, present and balanced. A great companion for seafood. Other options are Chablis and Soave. A Viognier will probably be too fruity.

Here is what you need

  • Two large Prawns, either wild or organic
  • One small Shallot
  • Chili Pepper
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Armagnac or Cognac
  • Garlic
  • One Cherry Tomato
  • One Saffron Thread
  • Water
  • Bouquet Garni (Thyme, Parsley)
  • Black Pepper
  • Crusted Bread

We start by making a bisque-like sauce, using the shell of the prawns.
Chop the shallot and a bit of chili pepper and glaze gently for 10 minutes in butter and olive oil. In parallel use scissors to cut the shell of the prawn. Start behind the head and cut towards the tail. Just before the tail turn 90 degrees and make a cut around the prawn. This allows you to remove the shell and the legs of the body but keep the head and the tail on the prawn. Remove the black vein (the prawn’s intestines) and the slurry in the head (if any). Since you serve the prawn with the head (and tail) it is essential that the prawn is clean. You could gently rinse the prawn if you want to be absolutely sure about this. Transfer the prawns to the refrigerator.
Break the shell into smaller chunks. Add these to the pan and fry for a few minutes until red. Add a small splash of Cognac or Armagnac and flambé. Never do this when using the exhaust or range hood. Add one garlic glove, water, the quartered cherry tomato, the bouquet garni and the saffron. Stir well, cover the pan and let rest on low heat for 30 minutes.
Remove the bouquet and the shells from the pan and using a spoon and a sieve squeeze the juices from the bouquet and the shells, then discard. Blender the mixture and pass through a sieve. Taste the mixture, add pepper if so required. Leave for another 30 minutes on very low heat, allowing for the flavors to integrate and for the liquid to reduce.
Dry the prawns and fry them in a skillet in oil (depending on the size maximum 4 minutes in total) on both sides and on the back. Use warm plates, and serve the prawn on top of the sauce. Touch of black pepper on the prawn is fine. Enjoy with crusted bread.

Tellines with Parsley

This Week’s Special

Many, far too many years ago we were walking along the Mediterranean coast, enjoying the sea, the sun and the company of a dear friend. She asked us if we would like to eat tellines for dinner. Of course, we replied, but what are tellines? She smiled and said I’ll show you. She walked to the sea and kneeled down, just where the sand and the sea meet. All you needed to do was move your fingers through the sand, just under the surface and feel. She harvested a few tellines, opened them with her fingers, washed them in the sea and that’s how we enjoyed our very first tellines, fresh from the sea. So simple, to tasty, so good.
We harvested many more and went back to her house where we cooked the tellines in a hot skillet and enjoyed them with a beautiful local ro­sé.

Harvesting tellines (or in France tenilles) is simple; knowing where you can do this is the challenge. Fortunately you can (occasionally) find them on the market.

It’s possible to use other small clams, but the fun of tellines is that they open quickly when in the pan, making sure they remain juicy.

Here is what you need:

  • 300 grams of tellines
  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic glove
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley
  • White Wine
  • Black Pepper

Wash the tellines, preferably using salted water. Discard ones with a small hole and ones that are broken. Chop the shallot (you probably need half of it) and the garlic very fine. Heat the skillet, add the oil, the shallot, the garlic and the tellines and cook until the tellines are open. You probably want to add a splash of white wine during the cooking process. Serve the tellines on a warm plate with black pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Enjoy with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé, for instance an Estandon from the Var region. No cutlery needed!

 

 

 

 

 

Salad of White Asparagus with Chervil

A salad can be a very rewarding starter of your lunch or dinner on a nice summer’s day, provided it’s one with lots of flavour and gentle acidity. Salade Ni­çoi­se, Salade Caprese or a salad of White Asparagus with Chervil.

Combining salad and wine is not straightforward. Especially the acidity of the dressing creates a challenge. One solution is to use verjuice and not vinegar. Verjuice is made by pressing unripe grapes. The idea is that verjuice links to wine, whereas classic vinegar or lemon juice would compete with wine. In this case we choose a wine that reflects the flavours of the salad: a hint of anise, a touch of sweetness and florality. Typical notes you will find in a wine from the Alsace region, for instance a Pinot Blanc or a Pinot Gris.

Chervil is a very delicate herb. Its taste is like anise, but much more refined. The salad needs to be prepared well in advance, allowing the chervil to be overall present. Chervil looses it’s taste almost immediately when heated, so one to be used in cold dishes.

Honey can easily ruin a salad. (And sugar will always ruin a salad.) In this case we use only a touch of honey to create an environment for the sweetness of the white asparagus. The honey should act as a trigger.

The salad is a great example of the complexity of white asparagus: you will taste the sweetness and the freshness of white asparagus. The mouth feel of the salad is very nice, because the asparagus will be both juicy and crispy, with the chervil, honey and vinegar in a supporting role.

After having mixed the salad you will notice that the asparagus and chervil absorb the dressing. During the time in the refrigerator the asparagus will loose some juices, which is actually the beginning of a great dressing.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 White Asparagus per person
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • White Wine Vinegar or Verjuice
  • Lots of Chervil
  • Touch of Honey
  • White Pepper

Steam the asparagus for 10 minutes. Let cool. Dry with kitchen paper if needed. Prepare a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar. Chop the chervil and add to the dressing. Add a touch of honey and stir well. Add some white pepper. Taste the dressing: it should be a balance, meaning that none of the ingredients is overly present. Now slice the asparagus in nice chunks, let’s say 3 centimetres long. Mix, cover and transfer to the refrigerator for 6 hours. Mix the salad every two hours. Check the taste after 4 hours, you may want to adjust. Mix the dressing just before serving.

 

 

Last Week’s Special

We enjoyed this dish as a starter when in Milan, on a beautiful evening, eating al fresco and enjoying the wonderful combination of the sweetness and bitterness of the asparagus, the slightly caramelised sugars as a result of grilling the asparagus and the salty and sweet cheese. A glass of Pinot Grigio was all we wanted. In Milan they served us green asparagus, but it works even better with white asparagus.
This is typically a dish you would make when the asparagus season is at its high and outside temperatures feel like summer. You could drink a Pinot Grigio, a Muscat from the Alsace region or a Rose with character. Remember the wine needs to combine with a range of very diverse flavours in the dish.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Asparagus per person
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

Peel the asparagus and cook or steam until slightly tender. Depending on the size we would say 10-15 minutes in the Russel Hobss steamer. Leave and let cool. Take a plate, add some oil to the plate and use it to cover the asparagus in oil. Heat the pan and grill the asparagus for 4*1 minute, making sure you have a lovely brown (not too dark) pattern. Serve on a plate, add some grated Parmesan cheese and pepper. Add a generous drizzle of very good olive oil.

 

 

 

Last Week’s Special-20

Rape a la Marinera or Monkfish Spanish Style with Verdejo (Monteabellon Rueda 2016)

In October 2016 Jamie Oliver was criticised for making paella the wrong way. He dared adding chorizo to one of the most Spanish dishes ever. Paella should be rabbit, snails, chicken, beans, saffron and rice. How dare he insult all of Spain by adding chorizo to such a traditional recipe! Naked chef or not, ambassador of healthy food or not, no one touches Paella.

Which triggers the intriguing question what is actually traditional and original. Isn’t traditional sashimi salmon, tuna and sea bream? Isn’t it?
In the 1970s, Japan did not import a single piece of fish. Salmon would first be marinated in sake and then salted or dried before being grilled. In these days in Japan salmon was always wild salmon and not eaten raw because of the possibility of parasites in raw wild salmon. So salmon was not used for sushi and sashimi. That all started to change in the 1980s after a Norwegian seafood delegation visited the country and Project Japan started. In 1980 the first salmon was imported and it took until 1995 for the public to accept raw salmon for sushi and sashimi. Today salmon is the sushi fish of choice among young Japanese.

Going back to Paella: how often did you have snails in your paella?

Rape a la Marinera is among our favourites because it’s all about monkfish, which is such a tasty fish. It can be compared with lobster (but we admit, you need a bit of imagination). The monkfish is presented with a generous tomato sauce, gamba, vongole’s and bread. What better way to enjoy life!

We very much enjoyed a glass of Spanish Verdejo. In our case a bottle of Monteabellon Rueda 2016. In general wines made from the Verdejo grape combine very well with fish. The wine comes with the right acidity, giving freshness to the wine. It has floral aromas typical for the Verdejo grape. You may recognize the aromas of banana and exotic fruit.

In this recipe we will probably do a few things very wrong, but never mind, simply don’t tell you Spanish friends.

The day before serving Rape a la Marinera we make the tomato sauce.

Here is what you need:

  • 4 Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • ½ Chilli
  • 1 Onion
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • ½ Glass Red Wine
  • 1 Anchovy Fillet
  • Few Black Olives
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf)

Prepare the tomatoes by peeling them, removing all the pits and slicing the remaining meat. What’s left over goes into a sieve and with a spoon you squeeze out the juices. You will be amazed how much juice you will get (and how little is left from the tomatoes). Peel the onion and cut in smaller bits. Add olive oil to the pan and glaze the onion for 10 minutes or so. Add the chopped garlic clove. Stir a bit and then add the sliced bell pepper and the sliced chilli. Let cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Add the halved olives, the sliced anchovy fillet and the sliced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato juice, the red wine and the bouquet garni. Leave for 2 hours to simmer. Reduce is so required.
Remove the bouquet garni, blender the sauce and transfer to the refrigerator.

Now for the Rape a la Marinera:

  • Monkfish
  • Olive Oil
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Saffron
  • 2 Gamba’s (large Shrimps)
  • Vongole (clams, Vongola Veraci)
  • White wine
  • Bouquet Garni

Start by cleaning the monkfish and removing the skin where necessary. Clean the gamba’s by removing the intestinal tract. Leave the head and the tail. Check the vongole and discard ones that are broken. In general vongole don’t need much cleaning. As for spaghetti vongole, buy clams that are a touch sweet and juicy. Vongola Verace is best for both dishes.
In a large skillet fry the monkfish. When coloured add the sauce. Cook the fish by warming the sauce and covering the fish with the sauce. Maybe you want to add a bay leaf or two. A bit of saffron is a great addition but be careful; saffron can be very overpowering. In parallel add some white wine to a pan with a bouquet garni, let cook for 5 minutes. This is the cooking liquid for the vongole.
Now it’s about timing: add the gamba to the sauce and cook fish and gamba to perfection. Just before that moment, add the vongole to the pan with white wine, close the lid, cook for a few minutes until you see steam coming from the pan, remove the lid, check the vongole, add some vongole juices to the sauce with the monkfish and gamba’s, stir, taste, maybe add a bit more vongole juices and finally add a touch of pepper.
Serve with crusted bread.

 

 

Mussels with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Moules marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Anise, Mussels with Cream, served with crusted bread or with French fries: mussels are great to combine. Mussels with Spicy Tomato Sauce is a nice, spicy surprise, provided the mussels are really tasty. If not, then the spicy sauce will overwhelm the mussels and it will be an unbalanced dish. Best to make the tomato sauce a day before. You could also go for Piri Piri, but please make your own. The industry-made Piri Piri is never as tasteful.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants. Let’s explain the name: the grape is called Picpoul Blanc. And the vineyards belong to a village called Pinet; close to the Etang de Thau in the south of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil, clay, quartz) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and hopefully some bitterness, which will make it into a really interesting wine. To be combined with oysters, mussels, fruit de mer, skate and fish in general.

What You Need

  • For the Mussels
    • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
    • Olive Oil
    • 1 Shallot
    • 1 Garlic Glove
    • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)
    • White Whine
  • For the Sauce
    • 4 Ripe Tomatoes
    • 1 Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 3 Garlic Gloves
    • 2 Chili Peppers
    • Red Wine
    • Bay Leaf
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Please remember to read our mussel basics. Start by making the sauce. Remove the pits from the tomatoes and cut the meat in small chunks. Remove the seeds from the peppers and slice. Peel the onion and garlic gloves and chop these. Glaze the onion, garlic and chili pepper in olive oil. Ten minutes on low heat will do the job. Add the tomatoes , the tomato juice (simply put the pits and the left overs from the tomato in a sieve and use a spoon to squeeze out all the lovely juices and flavors), some red wine and the bay leaf. Cook for at least two hours, remove the bay leaf, transfer to the blender and make a very smooth sauce. Pass through a sieve. Transfer back to the pan and reduce until it’s a nice, rich sauce. Cool quickly and transfer to the refrigerator for the next day.

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in olive oil. Then add the chopped garlic. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the flavours to integrate.
Turn up the heat to maximum and when really hot add the mussels and close the pan with the lid. Listen and observe: you will be able to hear when content of the pan is becoming hot again. You will see steam, more steam. Check the status of the mussels. Close the lid, listen and observe. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon, transfer to a warm soup dish and serve with the warm and spicy tomato sauce and crusted bread.

Saumur Champigny with a Salad of Oyster Mushrooms and Smoked Breast of Duck

The Loire

One of France’s most beautiful and interesting rivers. It flows from the Massif Central to the Atlantic Ocean and its valley is linked to towns like Nantes, Blois, Tours and Saumur and castles like Chambors and d’Azay-le-Rideau. Its banks are rich, just think of the many vineyards, farms and orchards. So much history, so much gastronomy. The river inspired many, including Hilaire Walden who wrote Loire Gastronomique in 1993. She followed the river and describes its gastronomy in this travelogue. The book features the typical food of the region and the recipes are authentic, easy to follow and delicious. Highly recommended!

Saumur is also a wine region and well-known for its sparkling wine. Another wine made in the region is Saumur Champigny, made from Cabernet Franc. Smell your Saumur Champigny and think of sharpening a pencil. Graphite, cedar wood. Exactly. That’s the specific aroma of Cabernet Franc. The Saumur Champigny wines are typically light or medium-bodied, have a crisp acidity, are easy to drink and they come with flavours and aromas of berries.

Food pairing

Saumur Champigny Les Hauts Buis, 2017, has a red colour with a touch of violet. Soft aromas that made us think of raspberries and cherries. Easy to drink, fresh acidity and soft tannins. Earthiness, lots of red fruit and cherries; with a nice finale with more red fruit. This is a well-balanced wine. Ideal to combine with charcuterie as apéro, a salad and perhaps with couscous. We decided to combine the wine with a salad. A salad that would bring juiciness, nuttiness and sweetness. Gently fried Oyster Mushrooms, smoked Breast of Duck and perhaps Quail Eggs. A few days later we combined the wine with roasted chicken. Again, very nice, light and inspiring.

What You Need

  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Mesclun
  • Shallot
  • Smoked Breast of Duck
  • (Optional) Quail Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Tear the oyster mushrooms into smaller bits, following the lamellae. Don’t use a knife to do so. Make sure the mesclun is ready to be eaten. Slice the breast of duck into smaller bits if so required. Gently fry the oyster mushrooms in olive oil, just to give them warmth and colour. Cook the quail eggs until just set. Make the vinaigrette with olive oil, white wine (or cider) vinegar, black pepper and the thinly chopped shallot.
Create the salad by tossing the mesclun and the vinaigrette. Serve with the mushrooms and the breast of duck on top of the salad. Serve with crusted bread and of course a generous glass of Saumur Champigny.

 

Oysters With Tarragon

Not Just Any Oyster

The best way to eat an oyster is to eat it raw. You will taste the saltiness, the texture and all of its flavours. The usual way to counter the saltiness is by adding a bit of lemon or mignonette but you could also go for something spicy like Tabasco, horseradish or perhaps wasabi. Don’t add something sweet because the oyster has its own sweetness.
Enjoying an oyster begins by deciding which oysters to buy. Should they be small or large, should the taste be creamy, sweet or more lean and juicy? The rule is simple: if an oyster looks creamy (opaque) then it will taste creamy.
The next step is opening the oysters and then you’re good to go. Please remember, as always: eating means chewing and tasting. Some people think they should drink an oyster. And then state that an oyster is just a bit of salt water.
Be careful if you see cooked or steamed oysters on a menu. In most cases the oysters will be covered with lots of overwhelming ingredients, in an attempt to hide the taste of the oyster. Plus if the oyster is overcooked its structure will be rubbery and nasty. Feel free to go for Steamed Oysters with Black Bean Sauce at your Chinese restaurant, or for Oysters Rockefeller (when you trust the chef) of for our quick and delicious Oysters with Tarragon.

Wine Pairing

When eating oysters, your wine must have some minerality. Think Chablis, Picpoul de Pinet, Sancerre, Sylvaner, and Champagne. We enjoyed a glass of Sylvaner Reserve 2017, Fernand Engel. It has a nice yellow colour with aromas such as citrus. The taste is fresh with an elegant acidity and fruit. It’s a very open wine and one that combines very well with the flavours of the oysters and the tarragon.

What You Need

  • 6 oysters (or 12).
  • Butter
  • Lots of Tarragon
  • White pepper

What You Do

We will add butter to the oyster, so buy ones that are lean (so not creamy), for instance the ones from the Île de Ré. Pre-heat your oven and set to grill. Combine the butter and the finely chopped tarragon with some white pepper. Make 6 equal sized lumps. Set aside and keep cool. Scrub each oyster under cold, running water. Open the oyster. Use your knife or a spoon to detach the muscle underneath the oyster from the bottom shell. Remove any small bits of broken shell or sediment. Remove some of the liquid, top with the tarragon butter. Make sure you have everything ready for serving the grilled oysters (plate, tongs, wine, guests). Place under the grill for 1 minute and serve immediately.

 

Scallops with Winter Truffle

Just One?

Scallops, or Coquilles Saint Jacques, can be delicate, special and tasty. But very often they are basic, chewy and tasteless. The reason is very simple: the ready-to-cook scallops were frozen, shipped from Canada or China and quickly defrosted, maybe days before you bought them as ‘fresh’. The result is on your plate.
The solution is also simple: buy fresh scallops. Then the flavours and aromas will overwhelm you. The structure of the meat (either raw or cooked) will be exactly as it should be.
Agreed, fresh scallops are much more expensive. But the advantage is that one per person is all you need, so yes, just one per person.

Combining fresh and thinly sliced raw scallops with thinly sliced black winter truffle is a marriage made in heaven. Just a few drops of olive oil and black pepper and your starter is ready. We go for a slightly more complex preparation, bringing various flavours together: earthiness and umami from the truffle with sweetness, light acidity and bitterness of the Noilly Prat, with the sweetness and sharpness of the leek, the crispiness of the leek and the truffle with the soft structure of the scallops. And of course: the colours are amazing as well.

And in case you’re not sure how to open and clean a scallop: this is an excellent video that will show you how.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our scallops with a glass of Chablis, Antonin Rodet, Premier Cru, Montmains, 2016. It has a clear and pale golden colour. It comes with mineral notes and a touch of lemon. The taste is delicate and persistent with aromas of fresh citrus. It goes very well with the ‘long’ taste of the dish and the citrus is ideal with the scallop and the Noilly Prat. Combining the scallops with a Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris will also work, as long as the wines are delicate, fresh and not sweet.

What You Need

  • 2 Scallops
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • White of Leek
  • Noilly Prat
  • White Pepper
  • Black Winter Truffle

What You Do

Begin by opening and cleaning the scallops. Clean the two bottom shells because we will use them to serve the scallop. Now thinly slice the leek. Warm the Noilly Prat, allowing for the alcohol to evaporate. Add the leek and allow to cook very gently for 5 minutes. Use a non-sticky skillet with a dash of olive oil and a little butter to fry the scallops. The trick is to fry them until 1/3 has changed colour, then turn them and fry the other 1/3. Add some leek to the shell, a bit of sauce, then the scallop, a touch of white pepper and the thinly sliced black winter truffle on top.

 

 

Veal Cheeks with Pak Choi (Bok Choy)

Joue de Veau

You may have spotted this in a French Boucherie or Supermarket. Probably close to the Ris de Veau, the Collier D’Agneau and the Abats de Porc. Not the most obvious choices, but in reality the Joue de Veau (Veal Cheek) is a true delicacy. The meat requires a few hours to become tender, but it’s worth the wait. When you serve it you will pleasantly surprised: the meat is extremely tender, juicy and a touch of pink on the inside. Which makes it a great idea to serve it sliced, especially because the outside of the meat is deep dark brown.
The Joue or Cheek requires cleaning. Best is to ask your butcher to do this or use a very sharp knife.
We use a classic combination carrot, onion, leek and celeriac plus red wine and a bouquet garni. Don’t make the bouquet too powerful; the idea is to support the meat, nothing else.
No need to use an expensive wine for the stew. A simple, red wine is fine. Some people will argue that the wine you use for cooking must be the one you serve with the food. Nonsense. Feel free to drink a Baralo (like we did) with the Veal Cheeks, but don’t waste half a bottle of it by using it as a cooking liquid.
The Pak Choi works really well with the Veal Cheeks. It brings the bitterness of cabbage, balancing the sweetness of the meat and the deep taste of the sauce. Plus the fried Pak Choi is a bit crispy, both the leaves and the stem, which is great in combination with the moist, tender meat.

Wine Pairing

A full-bodied red wine with clear tannins, a delicate smell and red fruit aromas will be an excellent choice. Velvety and smooth. As the Veal Cheeks: simple yet complex. We drank a glass of Barolo San Silvestro, Serra Dei Turchi, 2014. A perfect match with the braised veal, the sauce and the cabbage.

What You Need

  • 2 Veal Cheeks (one per person)
  • Carrot
  • Celeriac
  • Onion
  • Leek
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni
    • Bay Leaf
    • Thyme
    • Parsley
  • Red Wine
  • Cognac
  • (baby) Pak Choi (Bok Choy)

What You Do

Start by adding oil to the pan. Fry the Veal Cheeks until they have a nice, golden colour. Transfer to a plate. Add more oil and fry the chopped vegetables. Be careful not to add too much carrot or celeriac. Stir for a few minutes and then add the meat. Add wine and the bouquet garni. Leave on a low heat for 4-6 hours until tender. Make sure to turn the meat every hour or so. Cool the stew and transfer to the refrigerator. The next day remove the fat (if any) and warm the stew. When warm, transfer the meat to a plate and keep warm (for instance in an oven of 70 C, the ideal temperature for your plates as well). Remove the vegetables and the bouquet. Reduce the liquid with one-third or more. Taste the sauce. Add a splash of cognac. Black Pepper? Cook a few minutes longer allowing for the alcohol to evaporate.
In a non-sticky pan heat some oil and fry the Pak Choi for 2 times 2 minutes, maximum. In parallel fry the meat in a non-sticky pan, one or two minutes in total. This will give the meat a crispy touch and an even deeper dark brown colour. Serve the Joue de Veau with the sauce, crusty bread and the Pak Choi.

Roulade of Turkey with Chestnuts, served with Brussels Sprouts and Madeira Sauce

 

Time to start cooking for friends!

This exciting dish is a combination of classic ingredients, things you love to eat in December: turkey, Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts. Our version of Roulade of Turkey with Chestnuts, served with Brussels Sprouts and a Madeira Sauce is tasty, tender and juicy. The pancetta and the chestnuts in the roulade combine extremely well with the sprouts (tip of the day: steam Brussels sprouts, let cool and set aside. Warm butter gently in a skillet and add sprouts, crumbled chestnuts and slices of bacon or pancetta. Bit of nutmeg on top and a it’s ready to serve.)
The dish does require a bit of preparation, so make sure you start early or even better, start the day before.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our roulade with a bottle of 2016 Malbec, produced by Kaiken, Argentina. The wine comes with a hint of plum. It is soft, intense purple-red, has velvety tannins and is round in its taste. This combines very well with the sweetness of the chestnuts and the Madeira. In general you are looking for an intense but not overpowering red wine, one that is both soft and present. 

What you need (Chestnut Butter)

  • 250 grams of fresh Chestnuts
  • Butter

With a sharp knife make a cross in the chestnuts. It doesn’t really matter where you do this; it’s just to help you remove the outer shell later on. Wash the chestnuts and cook them for 10 minutes or so. Cool and remove the shell. Transfer back to a pan of water and cook them for another 30 minutes or so. Let cool and peel of the skin of the chestnuts. This requires patience! Blender half of the chestnuts with some butter until you have a nice, tasty chestnut butter.

What you need (filling)

  • 350 grams of Chestnut Mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • 50 grams of Pancetta
  • Cognac
  • Chestnut butter
  • Chestnuts

Clean the mushrooms and cut into smaller chunks. Fry the mushrooms for a few minutes and then add the very thinly sliced pancetta. Fry for another few minutes. Add the cognac and allow for the alcohol to evaporate. Crumble the chestnuts. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and combine with the chestnut butter and the crumbled chestnuts. Season with a bit of pepper. You will now have a dough like mixture of mushrooms and chestnuts. Let cool before using it.

What you need (Roulade of Turkey)

  • Two whole legs of Turkey
  • Pancetta
  • Filling
  • Kitchen twine and needle

Remove the bone from the legs and ‘unfold’ the meat, making it longer. Combine the two parts into one, making sure they are overlapping and that the meat on the outside is covered with skin. This can be a bit of a puzzle! Make a strip of pancetta from left to right, one-third from the bottom. Put the filling on top of the strip and then spread it out, making sure the top and bottom are not covered. Put 4 or 6 strings of kitchen twine underneath the roulade and start rolling. Not too tight. We closed the two sides of the roulade using a meat-stitching needle. After all, the filling needs to be inside the roulade. Wrap the roulade in plastic foil and keep in the refrigerator for 6 hours minimum.
Ready to cook? Fry the roulade to give it a nice colour and then transfer to an 180˚ Celsius oven. It’s ready when the centre has reached a temperature of 80˚ Celsius. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. In the mean time gently fry the steamed Brussels sprouts and in parallel create the Madeira sauce.

What you need (Madeira Sauce)

  • Chicken stock
  • Carrot
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay leaf
  • Madeira (medium dry Madeira is fine. Keep the dry Madeira as an aperitif)

Creating a true Madeira sauce actually requires a Sauce Espagnol (which is funny because Madeira is part of Portugal) but we take a short cut by pimping chicken stock. Cook the stock with a few slices of carrot, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. After 30 minutes you will have the most powerful chicken stock ever. Pass through a sieve. Combine Madeira, stock and the juices of the cooked Turkey in a pan, reduce the liquid for 10 minutes or so and then stir in two or three lumps of very cold butter.

Serve two slices of Turkey Roulade per person with the sauce and some Brussels sprouts. A touch of black pepper on the turkey and some fresh nutmeg (from Sri Lanka, of course!) on the sprouts.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!