Surf and Turf Revisited

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Even the best foods can become tiresome, which is the only reason you would ever do anything with oysters other than opening and swallowing them. For something almost as primitive, the people of western France, where some of the world’s best oysters are produced, perfected the idea of teaming them with sausage.

I was introduced to this combination in Brittany years ago. It happened before dinner, as an appetizer, and came just a few hours after a lunch that consisted of four dozen of the region’s finest.

Oysters go down easy, so I didn’t see this as a problem. If I was puzzled by this incongruous-looking duo, that lasted only until I started eating. The combination of crisp, hot, spicy sausage and cold, creamy oysters may have been unpredictable, but it was as sensible as waffles and ice cream.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here.

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Every ‘Which Way

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For something that has almost unlimited potential, the sandwich has become staid and unimaginative. In part this is because we don’t have as many leftovers as we once did (we don’t cook as much), so a meatloaf sandwich is nowhere near as common as it once was. But it’s mostly because we’ve allowed sandwich-making to become something that is either done by someone else or a task to be squeezed in between breakfast and taking the kids to the bus.

But now and then, for a brunch or a party or a laugh, it’s worth showcasing a variety of unusual ingredients and allowing individuals to throw them together, producing post-Dagwood creations that are beyond the ability of others to imagine. Given the same array of options, you and I would surely come up with radically different creations.

It all starts with good bread, a commodity that’s easy enough to find. It continues with spreads, which need not be that out of the ordinary but should be seasoned assertively enough to not disappear. The “body” of the sandwich — which may be open-faced or not — is the key, of course, and it’s here that it pays to open the vault: not just tuna but anchovies, not just ham but prosciutto, not hamburger but beef tartar and so on.

Toppings can make a huge difference, and if you don’t have time to crisp-fry some onions or mushrooms, you can grate some radish or chop some chives or even some olives. Making sandwiches, after all, isn’t so much about cooking as assembling.

Read the rest of this article here.

Conjuring Warmth in Winter’s Kitchen

This sauce/side dish — a simple combination of fennel, tomatoes and olives — is magical. Not because it’s the best thing you ever ate, but because it’s transportive: you eat it and you’re in the Mediterranean. This is even true with winter tomatoes (though of course it’s better with those of summer, and see my suggestion below), because the dominant flavors are fennel and olives.

The fennel is cooked until almost jammy. It will never become as tender as onion, but it gets close. The heat barely diminishes its distinctive anise flavor and gives the final compote a lovely texture. Garlic, thyme and capers are all supporting cast members.

The olives are really the stars. If you use good olive oil, so much the better, but the oil that comes out of plump, juicy and unpitted olives is really sensational, and yes, I honestly believe that the pits contribute a flavor that isn’t there otherwise.

Read the rest of this article here, and get the recipe here.

Yukon Gold Standard

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There are the up-and-coming root vegetables with near-celebrity status — celeriac, parsnips, beets — and then there is the potato. Simultaneously beloved and despised, the potato is our most-grown and most-eaten vegetable and the one that is sometimes seen as a leading villain in the obesity pandemic.

O.K., but chips and fries are not the only ways to eat potatoes. A good potato can be incredibly delicious sautéed in a little garlicky olive oil, simmered in stock, boiled and drizzled with the tiniest amount of butter and a sprinkle of mint or mashed with greens. No one is going to convince me that these preparations are going to make us fat.

And those are just the start. In the something like 10,000 years since the potato was cultivated (it has been in the hands of Europeans and their descendants for only 500), there have been something like 10,000 different ways of cooking it. Here are a mere 12, but at least a few of them are bound to be new to you. All of these recipes are based on about two pounds of potatoes, roughly four medium to large spuds.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here.

A Winter’s Cornucopia in Wales

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THE predicament I found myself in was also an opportunity, and not unlike the puzzle that faces C.S.A. participants each week: I had a pile of vegetables and I had to figure out what to do with it. (A C.S.A. — for community supported agriculture — is a scheme in which participants share in a farmer’s risk and bounty, putting money down upfront and getting a periodic share of the crop in

I was in western Wales at Blaencamel, a 50-acre farm owned by Peter Segger and Anne Evans, friends of my friend Patrick. The couple began growing food organically nearly 40 years ago, and work 15 acres in vegetables plus an astonishing acre of greenhouses. I’d offered to cook dinner, not knowing exactly what that meant. And in the shed that housed the little honor-system shop on the farm (on Dec. 1, mind you), I was overwhelmed by all those greenhouses produced. All I needed to do was choose and cook.

As usual, I began with no idea of what would eventually wind up on the table. But I did have my standard plan: I’d choose what seemed most appealing and figure out what to do with it when we got to the kitchen.

Read the rest of this column here.

The 2-D Thanksgiving

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Believe it or not, there is more than one way to roast a turkey. First, you must ask yourself what you really want. I’ll offer you three options: A fast, crisp-skinned bird, moist and not overcooked, served with roasted vegetables; a leisurely braised bird, also with veggies; or the classic stand-up roast, presented beautifully in all its glory, prepared in a straightforward manner.

If you want speed and don’t mind a novel look, choose the flattened bird, which employs a method that goes by the quaint name of spatchcocking. It takes a little work at first, because it’s a little more physical than other techniques: you have to remove the backbone, flatten the breast and dislocate the thigh joints from their sockets. None of this is difficult, but it may be a bit much for some. The reward is a lovely roasted bird with a not-overcooked breast and perfectly done legs; it also cooks in about an hour — yes, you read that right: an hour. The downside, apart from the butchering, is that some might consider it weird-looking.

Read the rest of this article here, and get the recipes here (braised), here (split-roasted) and here (classic).

Bacon 25 Ways

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To cook bacon, you usually toss some strips in a pan, fry them and eat. If you start with good pork, there are (for omnivores, at least) few things better. But the uses of strip bacon beyond ‘‘plain’’ are legion. Strips are ideal for swaddling fish, chicken, fruit (anything, really). And there is always the B.L.T.

Once you get into slab bacon, though, things become interesting. Slab bacon offers not only more flexibility but also better quality. And it’s far easier to cook to the optimum level of doneness for any given recipe.

All bacon — slabs, strips, chunks or bits — can be made any way you like: low to medium heat on the stove; roasted or broiled in the oven; grilled; even microwaved. Keep the heat low, and you have more control; use olive oil in the pan, and you’re less likely to burn the outside.

In these recipes, don’t forget salt (less if the bacon is salty) and pepper. And remember that when it comes to bacon, people tend to eat a lot.

See all 25 recips here.