Aillets & Orange sanguine, really?

Aillet is a typical southern French vegetable, possibly falling into the category of an aromatic. It’s akin to green onions or Spring onions or scallions [Allium cepa, Allioideae] but based on tender garlic shoots [Allium sativum, Allioideae] sometimes called “green garlic”. I don’t know if they are available in the Americas, but aillets are being sold all across our produce market stalls here in Saintes lately.

I was perambulating through the market on Saturday morning, enjoying the near-Spring sunshine while hoping for inspirations for our weekend dinners. Watching one of the fishmongers rapidly shucking coquilles Saint-Jacques for his customers, a menu began to take shape in my mind.

At a stall dedicated to citrus fruit, I picked up blood oranges and at another stall two heads of lettuce, to last through Monday, a small fennel, one red pepper, some flat parsley, a half-a-kilo of Brussels sprouts, and two bundles of aillets. Inside the Market Hall, I went to the beef butcher to buy 500 g of bavette which translates to flank steak, followed by a trip to a dairy counter to get locally produced sweet butter and three varieties of cheese. A section of brie from a nearby farm, one nice wedge of cheese made from raw sheep milk in the Basque country, my favorite, and a chunk of Savoie Emmental. And yes, I also stopped at a bakery counter to buy two Rosinenschnecken – you work out yourselves what that is 😎 Lastly, I bought eight coquilles Saint-Jacques before heading home with my treasures.

As is my want, I took pictures of all the stages of the preparation and cooking processes to create a record of the proceedings. But a funny thing happened on the way to the table, actually after dinner. I discovered that my camera hadn’t recorded a single picture. The card contained one solitary image taken two days earlier. That day, I had changed several camera setting and subsequently took a number of shots to compare these new parameters against the previous settings. I transferred the test images to my computer immediately and, satisfied with the results, kept the new camera settings. Ominously, every picture I took subsequently did not record. Oh well, I’ll work it out! But sadly, I have nothing with which to document my newest kitchen endeavor:

Scallops with Blood Orange Confit

  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 stalks aillets [green garlic] finely sliced
  • 1 small fennel, roughly diced
  • chopped flat-leave parsley for decoration
  • 2 blood oranges: zest of one orange plus its juice, the second orange peeled and sectioned, the sections skinned; they will separate into uneven bits, all of it collected in the same bowl
  • 2 – 3 Tbls of Vermouth
  • salt, pepper, powdered ginger to taste
  • 8* freshly chucked and cleaned coquilles Saint-Jacques, or similar sea scallops. If you have to buy them from a supermarket, make sure they’re “dry” scallops. So-called “wet” scallops were injected with a phosphate solution that plumps them up to bright-white splendor. And a slightly soapy flavor. And it makes them heavier (!) And they will be impossible to pan-sear because they’re filled with fluid.
  • Ghee or clarified butter; sweet butter; olive oil
  • A side dish of your choice, like mashed root vegetables or potatoes, rice, etc.

*  I bought only 8 scallops because I was planning to use them for our appetizer. If you want the scallops as your main dish, adjust the number of scallops up and the amount of the other ingredients accordingly. Also, the very best and most costly are diver’s scallops, definitely worth the expense for a special occasion.

Keep the scallops dry on paper towels and let them come to room temperature before cooking. Prep all the vegetables and have ghee & butter at room temperature & your chosen side dish ready to go.

Heat some ghee and olive oil to medium in a frying pan, add onions, turn down the heat to low and cook gently, stirring often for about 10 min. Add the aillets, cook for another 5 mins before adding the fennel. Add a little salt and a dusting of ginger. Total cooking time roughly 20 minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium-high and pour the Vermouth over the veggies. creating a satisfying sizzle. After a minute, add the blood orange juice and meat all at once, stirring vigorously before turning down the heat to medium-low. Allow the witches cauldron to bubble and burp for a few minutes before adding a few chunks of butter to thicken the melange. Turn the heat off and transfer the blood orange confit to a bowl to keep warm while you cook the scallops.

For the scallops, simplicity rules. In a frying pan, heat ghee to almost smoking hot. With tongues add the scallops to the hot ghee quickly, making sure to leave spaces between the bivalves. Once the underside is golden brown, about 2 minutes, turn the scallops over one by one, turn down the heat a fraction and let them fry another minute. That’s all.

Like so many fruits de mer, for example, squid and octopus, our scallops turn rubbery either when overcooked or left sitting around for too long after cooking. It is, therefore, imperative to have everything ready to serve – and your guests ready to enjoy – before dumping the little devils in the hot ghee. Proper planning is the key to an amazing dish! We had a little left-over Risotto Milanese from the previous night, revived with a dollop of butter & freshly ground Parmigiano, to go with our scallops and confit, perfect in size and flavor composition …

… except for the vanished pictures. Désolée mes amis ! Tomorrow night, it’s the turn of the bavette, the red pepper, and the Brussels sprouts. Are you curious?

 

 

 

 

 

SweetPotatoSoup with a Secret Ingredient

Since it’s a little cooler this weekend, it’s definitely soup time again. As a means of recalling which combination of veggies, mostly, I’ve used to make this soup, I’ll just string some pictures in the sequence of use, adding a comment here or there.

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The sweet potatoes were Honduran, while all the other veggies, as well as the bacon, were French-born.

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Here we have the line-up of ingredients and the prep waste. Clockwise from top left: leeks and the thick ends of the carrots, some elderly potatoes, and the sweet potatoes [in cold water], olive oil, carrots and cubed celery root, garbage in a bio-degradable pseudo-plastic bag [merchants are no longer allowed to use actual plastic bags in our community. We don’t have a garden, so we can’t compost], bacon, seasonings, chopped garlic, and chopped onion.

The bacon is the first candidate to jump into the hot olive oil, closely followed by onions and garlic to be gently sautéed.

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Next up are the celery and carrot pieces to be browned for a little while with the onion base, before I turn up the heat just so that I can dampen it with a splash of red Bordeaux, scraping up any brown bits, stirring vigorously before turning down the heat again. Now it’s time to add the secret ingredient I prepared earlier, Haricot Tarbais, white runner beans from Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrénées. This is the type of bean I usually use for my cassoulet.

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Truth be told, these particular beans were leftovers from the 2016 harvest and I’ve used them a few time as weights to “blind-bake” dough. Nevertheless, they are Tarbais beans and as such, even pre-owned, cook to a perfect al dente and are exceptionally flavorful.

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All that’s left to do now is adding the remaining fresh ingredients, the seasoning, and water.

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Maille brand balsamic vinegar syrup adds sweetness

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I’m lazy, so commercial bouillon work just fine for me

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In addition to freshly grated nutmeg, I used ground coriander seeds and powdered ginger

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Water as needed, about 750 ml

And 30 – 45 minutes later, we’re ready to slurp!

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Ingredients:

  • 100 g of poitrine fumée [smoked pork belly], diced
  • 2 skinny leeks, sliced into 2 to 3 cm rings, white and light green parts only
  • 4 carrots, cut into triangular pieces
  • half a celery root, peeled, brown parts cut off then roughly diced
  • a few peeled potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • ditto for sweet potatoes
  • 3 large, fresh cloves of garlic – not the dried out Chinese crap!
  • 2 small yellow onion, diced, more is great
  • 1 cube of court-bouillon, 1 unit of chicken bouillon [if I were in the US, I would use a quart of chicken broth instead. I loved the convenience of broth in handy tetra packs. Unfortunately, they’re not available here]
  • nutmeg, ground coriander seeds, powdered ginger [or fresh, of course], salt if desired
  • a little red wine, a little Velours Balsamique [thick syrup of balsamic vinegar]
  • enough hot water to comfortably cook the veggies at hand

Note to self: next time, double the amount of sweet potato and use goose fat instead of olive oil.

 

Soup

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I haven’t cooked anything new and exciting for some time, except maybe that recent tomato tart that worked out so well for us the first time I baked it, but when I made it again for a party at our house, it turned out all soggy. Such is life! Nevertheless, I felt inspired to dice and slice last weekend, so I made some soup.

I invented a new fish soup, rather a vegetable soup with fish and, lucky us, it turned out quite tasty. Since my dear husband claims I can never repeat a dish, the proof of the pudding being my recent tart, I shall endeavor to record the making of this delectable little soup right here and now when the workings are still fresh in my mind – as far as that goes!

Firstly, you visit the market of a Saturday morn’ and purchase leeks and yellow onions, carrots, and fennel, also potatoes and rustic apples.  Then you meander over to the fishmongers in Les Halles where you buy dos de cabillaud which are very thick and juicy pieces of cod from the northern Atlantic. Oh, a Chinese cabbage landed in my pull cart as well before I headed back home.

Except for the cabbage, the potatoes, and the apples, I prepped the veggies ahead of time on Saturday. I cleaned, trimmed and chopped the vegetables into larger-than-bite-size pieces and stored them in ziplock bags in the fridge for the following day’s cooking. I like to separate my ingredients into their personal little baggies, that way I can line up everything according to the cooking sequence when the time comes:

Bacon bits – onion – leeks/fennel/carrots – potatoes – cabbage – apples – fish

An organized kitchen is half the battle! In the largest bag, I layered leeks, fennel, and carrots in that order, with the carrots on top. I’ll explain later why I like my carrots close to the zipper 😎

When it’s time to cook the soup, boil some water in your electric kettle and use 500 ml of boiling water to dissolve one cube of Court-Bouillon. Keep the rest of the water on standby if you need more fluids. Equally on standby should be a glass of dry white wine [in addition to the one you might be drinking while cooking the soup] and the juice of one-half of a large lemon.

In the spice department, I used salt, pepper – very little, freshly ground black pepper, ground coriander from a supermarket spice rack, ditto for ginger powder, freshly grated nutmeg, and a heaped teaspoon of crushed, dried marjoram. I’m incapable of cooking any savory dish without coriander and marjoram, it’s a personal choice as I love the bare hint of a Mediterranean citrus aroma they lend to a dish. Others might prefer to use tarragon with fish which I dislike. Sadly, I forgot to buy parsley. It should have been part of the soup.

As mentioned before, I like to have everything ready at hand, so I line up my bags, squeeze the lemon juice, pour the wine [both glasses], dissolve the court-bouillon, and marinate the fish before I fire up the largest gas ring on the cooktop. For the cod brine, I spread a little olive oil on a plate and sparingly grind some pepper over the oil, before placing the fish in the oil puddle. With a brush, I collect some of the oil and moisten the surface of the cod pieces with it, adding a little more oil as I go. Then I sprinkle ginger powder and grind some fresh nutmeg over the oily surfaces. In the picture, you can see that my piece of fish received a larger amount of spices than my husband’s who likes it better au natural. My piece is also a little thicker, but shorter, than his because he likes his fish a smidgen further “done” than I do. These pieces, by the way, weigh a little over 600 g total, so we had some leftover for another meal.

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In a large conic sauteuses, I heated some olive oil at medium and cooked the bacon bits. When they were starting to brown, I added the onions and slowly softened them in mid-low heat. At that point, I added the first installment from the leeks/fennel/carrots bag. Specifically all the carrots and a few stray leek and fennel pieces. I simply like to glaze the carrots with the onion and the bacon grease to give them a nice shine and bring out a more intense sweetness before adding the main portion of the veggies to the pot. Now you know why the carrots have to be closest to the zipper!

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Turning up the fire and stirring the vegetables and the bacon frequently, I let them soak up the heat till they glisten happily, about two minutes or so. That was the perfect time to douse the sizzle with the white wine, scrape up any brown bits and turn the heat back down to mid-low, before adding the remaining fennel and leeks, closely followed by the potatoes.

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I mixed the vegetables thoroughly before seasoning with salt, coriander, and marjoram. Then I poured the hot bouillon slowly over the veggies so that salt and spices distributed their flavors across all those cut surfaces. Turning the heat up a notch, I put a lid on the sauteuse and let the bouillon come to a brisk boil. Stirring once more I put the lid back on, before turning the heat down as low as it will go and allowed the soup to bubble contentedly for ten minutes.

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This interval is a good time to check your email, make a clandestine call to the boyfriend and open the wine you want to serve with your soup, in our case a lovely Terres Ocrées Bandol.

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Grape varieties: Cinsault noir – Garnacha negra – Mourvèdre

The last couple of steps are a repeat of the previous dance. First, I added the cabbage and

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let it shrivel a bit before mixing it in, then I added the apple chunks to my soup.

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When all the vegetables were in place, I put the lid back on and turned the heat to medium. Waiting a few moments to let the heat build up nicely under the dome of the lid, I removed it just long enough to gently, ever so gently, slide the two magnificent pieces of fish into the sauteuse. Quick, quick, on with that lid! Keeping the heat at medium to restore temperature, I then turned it down to the lowest setting.

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Did you hear the sigh of contentment as the fish soaked up all those lovely vegetable flavors?

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Our Happy Kitchen

Five minutes later, I took a peek to evaluate doneness. These were thick cuts of fish, so they needed a little longer under the dome. Before replacing the lid, I drizzled some lemon juice over the cod. After another minute, I turned the burner off and let the hot soup do its magic while I heated the plates and poured the wine. By then the fish had turned to opalesque whiteness and flaked easily. Perfect!

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The reddish trim on the fish was red onion confit, a welcome leftover from yesterday’s Sweet Potato & Red Onion Tart. But that’s another recipe ….

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Soup Ingredients:

  • 75 g of commercially packaged, pre-cut bacon bits [lardons fumés]
  • 2 large yellow onion, quartered, each quarter cut in 2 or 3 pieces
  • 3 medium-sized carrots, sliced thickly at an angle
  • 2 leeks, sliced into 3 – 4 cm pieces, excluding very dark green ends
  • 1 very large fennel, sliced [or a couple smaller ones]
  • 6 smallish, thin-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered, skin on
  • 3 apples [e.g. Reine de Reinette or Cox], cored, sliced thickly, skin on
  • Per person: 200g thick filets of cold-water fish [e.g. cod, haddock or hake]
  • 1 cube of Court-Bouillon dissolved in 500 ml of water
  • more water if needed
  • 150 ml of dry white wine
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt & spices at will

 

 

 

To Ragù or to Sugo ?

Just one post ago I was talking about soothing my heartache with tomato sauce when a reader suggested I should publish my recipe. Hell, why not!

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However, this recipe is neither new nor special, simply a recreation of a sauce I posted some time ago. A Winter version of the Costa Rican dish you might say. There, we were blessed with an abundance of fresh tomatoes, but now that autumn has descended upon us in Europe, we have to reach in the pantry for canned, peeled and crushed tomatoes instead. This iwas my original post:

Homemade Tomatenkompott à Tim Mälzer,

whilst below you’ll find the new writeup – in German!! I received the request from a German language group, so I thought it might be fun to actually write in German for a change.

Ragù Chez 2 Lions

Was drin ist

  • 1 850 gr Dose “geschälte Tomaten in ihrer eigenen Flüssigkeit”

     [tomates entière pelées au jus, 800 gr netto Gewicht*]

  • 1 400 gr Tetrapack “Tomatenbrei”

     [Pulpe de tomates*]

[*Ich lebe in Frankreich, daher diese Produkte. Man nehme die lokalen Lieblingsprodukte.]

  • 350 gr grobes Rinderhack 5% Fettanteil
  • 2 ordentliche Möhren, geschält & drei-kantig grob gewürfelt
  • 1 faust-große, jugendliche Fennelknolle als Aromaverstärker, kleingeschnitten wie’s kommt
  • 3 oder mehr Knoblauchzehen [ungefähr 3 gehäuft Teelöffel, also mindestens 20 gr – frische Ernte, nicht das altersschwache Zeug aus China!]
  • 350 gr gelbe Zwiebeln, grob gewürfelt [Fleisch- und Zwiebelmengen sollten ungefähr gleich schwer sein]
  • 1 gestrichener Eßlöffel getrockneter Koriandersamen
  • 1 gestrichener Eßlöffel getrocknete “Provençal Kräutermischung” oder schlicht getrockneter Thymian
  • frisch gemahlener Pfeffer

            weiß für die Zwiebeln

            bunter oder schwarzer Pfeffer für’s Fleisch

  • 100 – 150 ml trockener Rotwein, Bordeaux oder Côtes du Rhône, mittlere Preislage
  • 1 gehäufter Eßlöffel Tomatenmark

Salz nach Geschmack – ich benutze unser lokales Meersalz der Île d’Oléron, was man bestimmt woanders nicht so ohne weiteres bekommt. Da all diese unterschiedlichen Salzvarianten ja ein relative neuer kulinarischer Spaß sind, würde ich sagen, einfach Meersalz tut’s schon. [Whatever rocks your Everest! Salz aus dem Himalaya ist ja angeblich das gesündeste!!]

ODER statt Salz:

1 Teelöffel Anchoviepaste. Einköcheln lassen, probieren und vielleicht noch ein bißchen mehr zugeben.

Anchoviepaste schmeckt eigentlich viel besser als Salz. Leider hatte ich aber keine Tube im Haus. Anchovies bereichern eine Tomatensosse enorm und verstärken den eigentlichen Geschmack ohne fischig zu sein. Ruhig mal ausprobieren!

  • Pflanzenfett, wie z.B. Sonnenblumenöl – die ‘HeartSmart’ Variante, oder
  • Olivenöl mit etwas Butter – die mediterrane Variante, oder
  • Graisse de Canard* [Entenfett] – meine Variante, die wie die Fischchen das Aroma hebt.

Auf geht’s zum Herd

Man nehme seine beste Sauteuse und setze sie liebevolle über die Gaskochstelle ohne jene vorerst anzuschmeißen. Die Koriandersamen und den getrockneten Thymian oder die provençalischen Kräuter muß man im Mörser ordentlich zerstampfen und reiben, bevor man Selbige über den trockenen Kochboden des Topfes verteilt, das Gas entzündet und auf ‘mittel-klein’ einstellt. Dies dient der Aktivierung ethærischer Öle in den Gewürzen, die vorerst nicht in Fett schwimmen dürfen. Wenn der Topf etwas erhitzt ist, sollte man die Gaszufuhr auf das Minimum zurückdrehen. Sobald man die herben Aromen schnüffeln kann wird es Zeit die Zwiebeln dazu zugeben. Nein, nein, kein Fett! Nur die Zwiebeln, und unbedingt weiterhin minimale Hitze beibehalten.

Ach, Ihr wolltet ein schnelles Ragù zaubern? Bitte Rezept wechseln! Für mein Ragù sollte man sich am besten schon am Nachmittag die Schürze umbindet.

Während die Zwiebeln leise vor sich hin schwitzen hat man Zeit den Salat zu waschen und den Wein zu probieren. Es genügt völlig, die Zwiebeln ab und zu per Spachtel in der Sauteuse umher zu schieben, so daß sich alle Zwiebelchen gleichmäßig erwärmen. Wenn die Zwiebeln anfangen glasig auszusehen, nach etwa 10 Minuten oder so, ist es Zeit sie mit etwas Fett zu füttern. Wie schon erwähnt, die Alternativen sind jederman’s Wahl. Ich zieht Entenfett vor weil ich mir einbilde es fördert den Geschmack der Zutaten. Ausserdem braucht man weniger Fett, da 2 Teelöffel durchaus ausreichen, diese Zwiebelmasse glücklich zu machen.

Wenn das Fett schön geschmolzen ist, den Knoblauch einrühren und für ein paar Minuten erhitzen und mit den Zwiebeln vermischen. Jetzt kann man auch ruhig mit Pfeffer und einer Prise Salz würzen. Die Hauptidee hier ist die Zwiebeln und den Knofl nicht zu bräunen, sondern zu karamelisieren so das sie zuckerig miteinander verschmelzen. Nach ein paar weiteren Minuten dürfen dann Karoten und Fenchel in die Sauna hüpfen und genüßlich mitschwitzen. Geduld, Geduld, solch eine Aromaentfaltung dauert einfach ein Weilchen! Wenn man dann das Gefühl hat die Gemüse sind genüßlich vereint in ihrer Pfanne – das dauert schon so 30 min –  Dann muß die Masse aus der Sauteuse in ein Töpfchen transferiert werden, um Platz zu machen für’s Fleisch.

Übrigens, wer kein Fleisch mag kann diesen Schritt problemlos übergehen! Einfach die Zwiebeln im Topf lassen und zum übernächsten Schritt avancieren 🙂

In der gleichen Sauteuse, die gerne noch Spuren der karamelisierten Zwiebeln zeigen darf, sollte nun ein wenig mehr Fett geschmolzen werden, vielleicht ein gestrichener Teelöffel, dem man dann ganz schnell das Hack zugibt. In meiner unbeschichteten Sauteuse muß ich geduldig sein und das Hack in aller Ruhe bei mittlerer Hitze bräunen. Dann löst es sich ohne weiteres und man kann es drehen und wenden bis der ganze Fleischbatzen angebraten ist, bevor man die Masse mit zwei Holzlöffeln zerpflückt. Ein bißchen frisch gemahlener Pfeffer und eine Prise Salz darf da ruhig auch mitmachen.

Der nächste Schritt ist echtes Action-Kino. Hitze aufdrehen und wenn das Fleisch brutzelt den Wein in die Sauteuse gießen und jene schütteln und rüttlen um die Flüssigkeit zu verteilen. Dann ganz schnell das Tomatenmark und die Anchviepaste verteilen. Mischen, mischen, mischen und das Feuer wieder runter drehen. Wow, das war kritisch!

Die Tomaten hinzufügen, etwas einköcheln, dann die reservierten Zwiebeln und ihre Gemüsefreunde unterrühren und die Flamme auf klitzeklein stellen. Von jetzt an wird’s gemütlich, denn der Herd besorgt das restliche Kochen. Für die nächste Stunde sollte man nur ab und zu mal das Ragù ein bißchen agitieren, dann wieder Deckel drauf und vergessen. Man kann auch ruhig den Herd abstellen und die Sosse durchziehen lassen, bis es Zeit wird alles wieder aufzuwärmen, entweder am Abend oder am nächsten Tag. Wenn man das Ragù übernacht kühl, und dann wieder erhitzt schmeck’s noch besser! Es läßt sich auch prima portionsweise einfrieren.

Guten Appetit!