Bagna Cauda French Beans & Tilapia

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So many happy family memories are tied to food. Boeuf bourgignon reminds me of the no-kids-allowed dinner parties my parents would throw, the rich scent wafting upstairs as the grown ups chuckled around the dining table. Serving brownies instead of cake at my brother's birthdays because they are his all-time favorite. My sister and I shucking corn on my grandparents' back deck in summers as my grandfather fired up the grill for swordfish steaks, my grandmother mixing up the most perfect sauce for the fish. It's an old secret family recipe. I do not remember an occasion growing up where fish was served without this sauce on the table.

I was having a nostalgic day last week thinking about Thanksgiving and essentially planned dinner around The Family Sauce. I gave J a short shopping list: tilapia and French beans. I loved my grandmother dearly, but she was absolutely dreadful at preparing green beans - they were always mushy and overcooked. Still, these were created in her honor.

I preheated the oven to 350° and prepared two baking sheets with tin foil. On one, I placed the two fillets of tilapia (about a pound total), drizzled a little olive oil on top, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and some ground coriander. On the other, I tossed the French beans and a sliced shallot in a touch of oil and laid them out flat.

Both went into the oven for 15 minutes. Around minute 10, I started the bagna cauda (anchovy butter) for the beans. I put 3 anchovy fillets, two tablespoons of unsalted butter, and a shake or two of crushed red pepper into a deep sauce pan. The butter and anchovies melted together as I stirred and the whole kitchen was overpowered with a rich, salty aroma. When the melted butter mixture starts to slightly darken in color, remove the pan from heat. At this point (about minute 13), I took the beans out of the oven and tossed them to cover with the bagna cauda.

The legendary family sauce? It's ketchup and mayonnaise. Mixed together. That is is and it is perfect, especially on a light flaky fish like the tilapia. The simply seasoned fish, the ultra retro sauce, and the easy-but-fancy beans all made for a filling and flavorful weeknight meal in under 30 minutes.

Spicy Cranberry Apple Chutney

Monday, November 24, 2014

It is Monday of one of my favorite weeks of the entire year – Thanksgiving is only days away! Growing up in Massachusetts, we’re gently brainwashed into believing that Thanksgiving is the greatest holiday around and I’m still drinking that Kool Aid. Who can argue with a holiday that focuses on gratitude, family, and food? I’m totally down with it.

Another Massachusetts life lesson? Cranberries are delicious. I whipped up this chutney recently and it’s the perfect mix of fall fruit with a little bit of heat to warm you up as the temperatures dip.

The ingredients:
- ½ white onion
- ½ c champagne vinegar (regular white wine vinegar is OK too)
- 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
- ½ c granulated sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 red chile peppers, soaked and minced, seeds removed
- 1 bag of cranberries
- 3 apples, peeled, cored, and diced

These are the peppers I used:

You can certainly substitute crushed red pepper flakes if you can’t find something similar to these and you can increase/reduce the amount used depending on your heat preference.

Start off softening the onion in oil over medium heat. Then, add in the garlic and peppers. About 2 minutes later, add in the mustard, then the sugar and vinegar.

Stir it well until all of the sugar is dissolved and then add in the cranberries and apples. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, until it thickens up and has this stunning hot pink color.

I served this on roasted pork tenderloin that I seasoned with salt, pepper, and ground coriander and a Brussels sprouts slaw-style salad.

I loved this. It’s sweet, tangy, and spicy all in one, plus the color is absolutely gorgeous. It would be a great topper to leftover Thanksgiving turkey, chicken, or pork like I did. I also snacked on the chutney leftovers chilled on top of goat cheese and crackers. It was certainly the fanciest lunch I’ve brought to work thus far!

Six Minute Eggs

Friday, November 21, 2014

My friend Matt taught us this egg recipe over our Couples Chopped weekend and our breakfast making has been permanently changed for the better. Here are the seven steps of Six Minute Eggs.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
2. Gently -- GENTLY!!! (Imagine Westley saying this to Buttercup) -- use a slotted spoon or other gentle implement to place raw eggs delicately on the bottom of the pot of boiling water.
3. Set your timer to six minutes.
4. Prepare a bowl of ice water.
5. When the six minute timer chimes, remove the eggs and submerge in the ice water.
6. Once they've cooled 30 - 60 seconds, gently -- GENTLY!!! -- crack the shells and peel off.
7. Serve and be ready to enjoy the most perfectly gelled whites and creamy warm yolks.

This time? I'd run out of French bread but had a sweet potato hanging out. I finely cubed it and diced a shallot and made a delicious honey-and-sriracha kissed hash. Two Six Minute Eggs over the top? Brunch! Not pictured: a bellini. Because sometimes you need booze on Saturday mornings without a special reason. Sometimes surviving the work week is enough.

Naan Pizza with Bresaola, Peaches, Blue Cheese, & Caramelized Onions

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed Weird Flavors. I vividly remember one of my go-to sandwiches in middle school -- pesto sauce, deli mozzarella, and pepperoni. What 13 year old asks for that!? Sure, looking back now, it is basically cold pizza and utter genius, but of the many reasons I was teased in middle school, my weird ass sandwiches were certainly one.

Luckily, in Adulthood, I've learned about deep conditioner and a boar bristle round brush, (mostly) outgrown acne, and channeled my Weird Flavor Mashups into foods that I think are gourmet-adjacent. Take this pizza I made! I had Greenmarket peaches, slow-cooker caramelized onions, and blue cheese in my fridge. On my way home from work, I picked up a pack of naan bread and some thinly sliced bresaola.

Sugary peaches. Sharp cheese. Sweet caramelized onions. Salty bresaola. This was a "What Do I Have In My Fridge?" knockout.

I mean, look at that shit. It's perfect pizza, baked at home. BYOChardo.

NYC Local: T-Bar Inspired Steak Au Poivre & Vietnamese Shrimp Noodle Salad

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hey, you guys! Long time no see, and this is totally my bad. I've been drowning at work (and subsequently drowning in chardonnay at home) which leaves little time for taking Food Pictures or writing Blog Posts About Food. But I'm back and want to catch you up on some food I definitely cooked this fall but haven't actually recapped until now. Let's do this!

Like all White Girls Of Privilege, I overuse "literally". But bear with me -- I was inspired to make this dinner literally in August. J and I sadly had to attend a wake on a Friday afternoon and headed to a very early happy hour afterwards. We headed to one of our favorite Upper East Side places, T-Bar. It's a steakhouse on 73rd and Third, has a great bar, and a rollicking elderly Early Bird crowd.... with whom we dined the night in question.

We sat at the bar, ordered some drinks, and chose their Vietnamese Shrimp Roll to nosh upon. It was cool and crunchy and the dipping sauce was salty, rich, and absolutely to die for. By the time we finished the app and our drinks, we had decided to snag a table for dinner - it was probably ten minutes to 6 pm. Glorious!

The biggest inspiration from our impromptu night out? The rosemary olive French bread. Their bread basket has a broad selection of carbs, but the olives in focaccia directly lead to that recipe. We each had filets, doused bite after bite in their immaculate au poivre sauce, and filled in the blanks with their sautéed corn and feta casserole.

Days later, I realized I wanted to re-create all of the deliciousness. The menu had two main parts and a side dish.

Part 1: Vietnamese Shrimp Roll 'salad'
- 1 lb cleaned, deveined, tail-on shrimp
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 medium cucumber
- fresh mint
- 1/2 box Annie Chun's maifun rice noodles (not a paid endorsement, they're just skinny and delicious!)

Hoisin lime Sauce:
- juice of one lime
- 2 T hoisin sauce
- 1 T rice wine vinegar
- 1/8 tsp Chinese five spice
- squeeze of sriracha
- 1/3 cup canola oil

First, I boiled some water and poached the shrimp for about 3 minutes, reserving them into a colander and squeezing off the tails. Then, I cooked the rice noodles in the shrimp poaching liquid (cooking with the tails on add a TON of flavor, FYI). Then, I shredded the carrots and cucumbers in my food processor. I mixed the hoisin lime sauce, chiffonaded the mint, and then tossed all of the ingredients together.

Part 2: Schezuan Peppercorn Steak Au Poivre
Inspired by our filets mignon with au poivre sauce, I took a cue from the Vietnamese salad and chose Schezuan peppercorns.

First, I generously coated the steak with the peppercorns. They're a little spicier than regular black peppercorns. Imagine the faintest red chili pepper flavor in the background of that big, bold, spicy black pepper flavor. It's so fabulous.

I seared the steaks in a skillet - it looks like tuna, right?? - and weighed them down with a cast iron pan on top to be sure that the peppercorns really baked in. Once seared, I transferred them to a baking dish to finish cooking in the oven.

For the 'au poivre' sauce:

1/3 cup beef stock
1 cup heavy creap
1 T Dijon mustard

I poured the beef stock into the same pan where I seared the steaks to soak up all of that delicious peppercorn flavor. I then melted the mustard and whisked in the heavy cream.

Woo! Are you still with me? I also re-made T-Bar's corn and feta side dish. I cut kernels off of a fresh ear of corn. I love this tip I've seen on TV -- put a tiny bowl in a big bowl, stand the ear of corn on the tiny bowl, and when you slice off the kernels, they fall into the big bowl. Easy peasy.

I heated the corn in oil, seasoned with a pinch of salt and a few twists of cracked black pepper, and mixed with about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese. Sweet and tangy perfection.

I will say this -- there are few things on this planet that I love more than dining out at a fancy Manhattan steak house. There is nothing like it. That said, this 'knock off' meal was a hit! For a Saturday night at home, each piece of this was so sublime and tasty. The steak? Perfectly cooked with that super spicy peppery flavor. Full disclosure: the whole peppercorns will probably break your teeth out of your jaw, which I learned after my first bite, so I ended up scraping most of them off and relying on the mustard cream sauce. But the searing process sealed in so much of the peppery flavor so taking off that rock solid crunch was a good thing! The Vietnamese shrimp noodle salad? Holy cow. There were a lot of leftovers of this that I brought to work for lunch. It is perfect served room temperature. The soft, tender noodles paired perfectly with the nice bite of shrimp, and the spiciness of the sauce mixed beautifully with the sweet carrots and cucumbers. Oh, and corn + feta is math I can do. The whole meal was a home run!

Wine Wednesday: J. Bouchon, Red Blend "Canto Sur" 2012

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Remember my Rut? This was the second bottle of wine I grabbed at that Astor Wines outing.

To go with the spicy pork chops and stuffed peppers, I wandered to the Chilean aisle. I have a deep love of Chilean wines - they're always so bold and spicy, to me. A girlfriend of mine just took a wine tasting trip to South America with her husband and was completely blown away. This carmenère/merlot/cabernet sauvignon blend definitely met my spicy expectations.

On the nose, I got a lot of leather, black pepper, cinnamon, and currants. Once sipped, it had a big juicy cherry pop with notes of crisp green pepper. The sign at Astor Wines noted tobacco and Indian spice flavors - I think my descriptors are right in line with those! I got this for $14.96 and 100% would purchase again!
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