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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Last Week’s Special -39

Skate with Capers

When you Google for skate with capers you will find many recipes with capers and brown butter. We think you can do better!
The trick in this recipe is to clarify butter and then deep fry the capers in the clarified butter. The result is a crunchy and salty caper with clear acidity from the brine. This of course works brilliantly with the meaty, fatty skate.
Butter is an emulsion of butterfat, water and proteins. The process of clarification means breaking down the emulsion. The goal is to have pure butterfat, which will not burn and which allows for deep-frying. The water will simply go when you warm the butter. The trick is to remove the proteins. Start by melting the butter and wait until you see the white foam and until the water is gone. Now pour the fat into a jar or cup, carefully keeping the foam in the pan. Option two is to continue warming the butter until the white foam becomes brown. Be careful not to burn it, this will ruin your butter. The now brown foam will sink to the bottom, which makes it easier to pour the butterfat in a jar or cup. If you want to be even more sure of the quality, use a cheesecloth when pouring. The idea is that using the second option will give the clarified butter a more nutty taste.
Please don’t use flour to coat the skate. Simply use a non-sticky pan and a nice combination of oil and butter.

The skate goes really well with a glass of classic Chardonnay with a touch of oak. The chardonnay comes with a velvety taste which is great with the skate and its consistency. The touch of oak combines very well with the fried capers.

Here is what you need

  • Skate wing (let’s say 200 grams for 2 persons)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Capers (in brine)
  • 75 grams of butter (to be clarified)

Clarify the butter and set aside. Fry the skate in a non-sticky pan for 5-10 minutes or so, depending on the size and shape. Please notice that there is more meat on one side then on the other side, so it’s not 10=5+5. Transfer the skate to a warm plate. Heat the clarified butter to frying temperature and in parallel wash the capers and dry them with kitchen paper. Fry the capers until crispy. Serve the skate with some black pepper and sprinkle the capers on top of the skate.