Monday, April 23, 2012

Strozzapreti with Duck Egg-Herb Carbonara

Now, let me ask you this:  If someone handed you fifty-four duck eggs, what would you say?  And, then assuming you accepted them, what exactly would you do with them?  Add in these two factors- duck eggs are at least twice the size of chicken eggs plus twice as rich, and you have at least two dozen chicken eggs in your cooler at home.  Thoughts?  Opinions anyone?  No?

I was presented with this exact issue this weekend.  And for those of you that know me personally, you already know that I accepted all of them, with glee and gushing thanks, not considering the two factors presented in the third sentence above.  So it begins...I managed to give away quite a few of them to unsuspecting neighbors, and am about half way through the rest.

The first recipe I made was a chipotle scramble with green onion and tomato on buttered toast.  It was pretty good, but it didn't necessarily highlight the unique richness of the duck egg.  The second item I made with the eggs was a play on pasta carbonara from the Herbfarm Cookbook.  It uses a whole bunch of herbs (surprise!) instead of pancetta, and I adjusted it slightly to accommodate what I had available.

Strozzapreti with Duck Egg-Herb Carbonara
yield: 4 servings

    • 4 large egg yolks  (or two duck egg yolks)
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream  (or some awesome unfiltered organic extra-virgin olive oil)
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chervil if available
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 12 ounces dried strozzapreti or fusilli
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

    • Directions
    • 1. Setting up. Fill a large (8-quart) pot with water, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Whisk together the egg yolks and cream (olive oil) in a large stainless-steel mixing bowl. Stir in the herbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a generous grind of pepper.
    • 2. Pasta. When the water is at a boil, stir in the pasta and cook at a steady boil until tender but still firm. While the pasta is cooking, warm the egg yolk mixture by briefly holding the bowl over the pot of boiling water and whisking rapidly. Heat the mixture just to lukewarm; don't let the eggs cook. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the egg mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and toss well. The egg yolks will cook from the heat of the pasta and form a thick sauce.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

I have to say that the meal I had at Blue Hill at Stone Barns this past weekend ranked in the top two meals I have ever eaten, and may quite possibly be the top one.  The other meal was at The French Laundry, on the last night of my internship, when the sous chef's sat me down in the chef's box and fed me until I could not eat another bite...maybe it's a tie...

Before I get to the menu, I'll share a couple of thoughts.  First, I really enjoyed the fact that the restaurant is located in an agricultural area with a working farm that the guests are encouraged to tour.  Many people grow up and live in suburbia or in cities, far removed from the food production system.  Even though the farms at Blue Hill are not exactly an accurate representation of our modern industrial agriculture, I think there is still great value in people getting to see a pig in the mud, a carrot in the ground, and a barn full of chickens.  It all looks quite different than these "products" do at the grocery store, wrapped in cellophane, and very much un-alive.  Second, I thought we received better, more attentive service here than at many "higher" rated restaurants.  The waiter:guest ratio was outstanding and their attention to detail was greatly appreciated.  Lastly, the way the chef composes meals is very interesting.  You choose the number of courses (5, 8, or 12), give any dietary restrictions/preferences, and they take it from there.  As we observed service as the night went on, we noticed that while there were some common dishes, almost every table had at least one unique dish.  This must be a huge burden on the prep staff, but it meant that every meal is completely different from the one before.  And, every table has a specific experience that is not shared by the rest of the night's guests.  That's pretty darn cool.  Now, on to the good stuff.  Please forgive the photography; I was using my phone, trying to be inconspicuous, then the sun went down, and I didn't want to be "that table" using the flash every time a course arrived...! 

The View From My Seat
Spring Vegetables (carrot, radish, red lettuce, bloomsdale spinach, icicle radish) brushed with Vinaigrette, and Sunchoke Puree Soup with Ale Foam
Baby Turnips with Brown-Butter Butter (yes, they are set in shot glasses over a bowl of dirt) 
Pea Shoots with Citrus Vinaigrette (each table gets it's own set of shears)

"Dried Vegetables" (sheets of carrot and parsnip, kale and sweet potato chips suspended on metal [bronze?] branches)
Fish Balls on Lettuce with Phytoplankton

Beet Yogurt with Homemade Grape Nuts and Grated Beet Sugar, Pig's Heart and Liver Terrine with Salt and Bittersweet Chocolate
Mullet with Crispy Skin, Purple Mizuna, Watermelon Pickle Brunoise (I think...), Watermelon Molasses

Donko Mushrooms (the first flush of shiitake in the spring), Ramp and Walnut Marmalade, Spring and Micro-Greens with Blossoms served  on a polished cross section of a tree

Grilled Ramps and Spinach with Chorizo Vinaigrette, Honey Almond Puree, and a Dry Vinaigrette of Shaved Lardo and Immature Eggs
Brioche with Spinach and Currants, Cracked Black Pepper, and Fresh Ricotta

The Ricotta of Fifteen Pampered Cows
An "Onion That Want's to be a Shallot," Charred, served with Yogurt and Pumpkin Seeds, Greens Vinaigrette, and Curried Almonds

Parsnip Steak with Beet Ketchup and some sort of cayenne-black pepper sauce

Butter Service: sweet corn salt, parsnip and sage salt, whipped lardo (this had the texture of soft meringue), local butter

At this point, it became too dark for the photos to be of any worth, so I will simply list further items below:

Soft Poached Hen's Egg, Cheesy Potato Puree, Fried Hops Shoots
Goose Egg Pasta, Balsamic Reduction
Pork Loin and Belly with Salsify and Hazelnut
Seared Sea Scallop (the size of my fist, I swear...), Lobster, Mussels, with a Parsley "Chowder" sauce
San Andreas with Three-Apple Gelee, some Creamy Gooey Cheese with a Cinnamon Poached Crab Apple, Pretzel Bread
Poached Slice of Apple, Apple Brunoise, Honey Gelee, Some Sorbet, Candied Fennel
Chocolate Honey Torte, Beet Gel, Candied Beet, Yogurt Sorbet, Chocolate Sticks
Chocolates with Pear Brandy, Honey-Chocolate Marshmallows, Flax Candy, Chocolate Sables
Lemongrass Infusion

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Asparagus Means Springtime

Even though the asparagus we are seeing all over the markets now is from Mexico at best, this vegetable still indicates the beginning of spring in my book.  It is hard to suppress the urge to buy it every chance I get, lest I become tired of the delicate flavor before our local asparagus shows it's gorgeous stalks in May.  Really it is worth the wait for the local stuff, but after months of kale and Brussels sprouts, the temptation is too much to resist!

Mimosa is a classic technique/topping that has absolutely nothing to do with orange juice, champagne, or ladies at brunch.  It is, simply, sieved hard boiled egg yolks.  You can see in the photo that I deviated from tradition and used the whites as well.  This is not proper!  If you want to be true to the term, keep the whites for some other use and keep the mimosa pure.

Asparagus Mimosa
yield: 2-3 servings

1 pound medium asparagus

Kosher salt

2 large eggs, hard boiled, whites reserved for another use

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 T red wine vinegar

2 T olive oil 

1 t dijon mustard

First, rinse your asparagus (or immerse it in a bowl of clean water) without removing the rubber bands, then take your bunch and lay it on your board, leaving one rubber band to hold the bunch in tact.  Take a length of 100% cotton butcher's twine and secure it about 3" from the stem end, and wind it up towards the blossom end, tying it off and removing the rubber band.  Cut the stem end about 1" below the lowest loop of twine.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then lightly salt the water.  While the water is reaching the proper temperature, set up an ice bath for shocking the asparagus.

Blanch the asparagus for about four minutes, or until a knife inserted in the base end pierces the stalk easily.  Immediately transfer to the ice bath to stop the cooking and crisp the stalks.

After the asparagus has cooled, remove from the water, cut the string, and lay out on paper towels to dry.  

While the asparagus is drying, make the vinaigrette by whisking the dijon, vinegar, and oil together in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  For the egg yolks, take a fine mesh strainer and force the  yolks through the wire into a small bowl.  Try not to stir the sieved egg as it will just turn in to paste.

When you are ready to serve this delectable side dish, you can either toss the spears with the dressing, or lay the spears out and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Your choice...both ways work.  Arrange the asparagus on nice plates, and then spoon the mimosa over the top.  If you like, you can garnish with a bit of chive or something of the sort.