Monday, January 28, 2008


Busy with work, I was looking for something simple to make, yet full of interesting flavors, not too heavy, and would go well with a nice bottle of Lagunitas Maximus beer. A friend of mine had read my post recommending cookbooks for the holiday season and he brought up a book I had perused but hadn't purchased, Stephane Reynaud's, "Pork & Sons". I picked up the book over the holidays and fell fast for it. Reynaud educates the reader on the annual tradition of the pig kill in France. The book is filled with beautifully photographed food and interesting and entertaining musings on the rich history of this rustic tradition. The book covers the pig nose to tail and like another book close to my heart, Martin Picard's, "Au Pied De Cochon - The Album," it demonstrates a deep respect for the animals and how they are raised through the methods of their slaughter. It's basically a celebration of all things porcine, containing recipes that act more as guide than ones set in stone, allowing room for improvisation and substitution. There are recipes ranging from sausages, charcuterie, roasts, salads, and a great section on offal, which most Americans are averse to, yet we should learn to appreciate more out of respect to the animals that we eat. Waste not, want not.

While flipping through the book, a recipe caught my eye immediately, a sandwich layered with ham, prosciutto, anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes and black olive tapenade tucked between two toasted slices of crustless white bread. I'm a sucker for anchovies, so I had to make this sandwich. They add such a nice touch when combined with certain meats, but that's for another time. My bottle of beer had found its companion.

I adapted Reynaud's recipe for two people and made some small changes. It calls for Jambon de Paris, which I couldn't procure without driving all around the city, so I used some wet-cured, unsmoked sliced ham. Plus, I am trying to buy locally produced meats as much as possible. Jambon de Paris is basically the square loaf fully-cooked sandwich ham that most American kids were familiar with, but of a higher quality. (Much the same as Chipped Ham, for those of you from the Pittsburgh area, yet sliced thicker) There are local producers, but it's not something widely available, but almost any good quality sliced ham could be substituted. Another thing I changed was to use shallots instead of onions. That was just a personal preference. In addition, I used some really nice oven-roasted tomatoes I had in the fridge instead of the sun-dried ones in the original recipe. Sun-dried would work as well. The recipe has instructions for a quick tapenade without anchovies, but in the name of ease, I used a jarred tapenade that I had on hand. Good olive tapenades are so easy to find nowadays and so useful, I always seem to have a jar in the fridge or pantry. I used some nice salt packed anchovies from the deli section at our Whole Foods. For prosciutto, I used the buttery luscious, La Quercia Rossa - Heirloom Breed Culaccia. The La Quercia Prosciutto Americano is amazing and would work just as well. La Quercia is a small earth-friendly artisan meat company located in Iowa. They use humanely raised animals and cure using traditional methods instead of using nitrates, nitrites or vegetable derived substitutes. I highly recommend searching out their products and supporting this great company.

I've been a big fan of the Northern California, Lagunitas Brewing Company for a long time. Their Maximus is one of my favorites. They describe it as an "IPA Maximus," but it probably falls more into the somewhat disliked label of "Extreme Beer" than an IPA. I'm going to call it a Double IPA, because at 7.5% abv, I feel it's a little low in alcohol to call it an Imperial IPA or Triple IPA. I guess Extreme Beer is just as easy a name because it's simpler to remember and it seems to encompass all those other labels. Maximus is very aggressively hopped, so, it's not for the faint of hops. It wears it's bitterness like a badge of honor. Surprisingly, it maintains a shimmer of a malt balance, though the piney and grapefruity hops keep lingering on. There is definitely some nice sweetness that comes out as the beer warms a bit. Not a beer for everyone, but that's okay. That's what makes life fun. We're all different. Plus, there'll be more for me.

A perfect light fulfilling dinner or an elegant beer snack. However you may look at it.

Jambon de Paris, Prosciutto, Anchovy Sandwich
adapted from "Pork & Sons" by Stephane Reynaud
makes 1 (easy to figure out how to make more)

2 slices white bread with crusts cut off
1 jar black olive tapenade
2 thin slices prosciutto - cut into strips
1-2 slices jambon de paris (basically, unsmoked ham, sandwich ham) - any kind of wet cured will work.
oven roasted tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes cut into strips
2 salt packed anchovies (much better than using oil packed)
1 shallot sliced into rings and separated

Pan fry the shallots in butter or olive oil. Don't let them burn or they'll become bitter. Slowly fry them till their golden. Remove them from pan onto paper towel to drain. Toast the bread. Spread tapenade on one side of each slice. Layer the ham strips on top, then the prosciutto, tomatoes, fried shallots, anchovies and finally the other slice of toast.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Long time no post. The holidays got in the way to say the least. That and the fact that I was under the weather most of the time. I did get to do my fair share of food blog and cookbook reading, though. My wife and I visited family in Pennsylvania and I did close to no cooking the entire 18 days we were away, with the exception of eggs with pickled peppers and lots of impromptu sandwich creations. Upon return to Southern California, I wanted to cook, but I didn't have the stamina to cook anything slightly connected to the cold rainy weather we were having. This because I was still recovering from the holiday heavy food bludgeoning we had endured. Both my wife and my families live in the same town, so we split time between them during our annual holiday trip. The result of this is us eating 2 Christmas and 2 New Year's dinners. Actually, we couldn't possibly eat anymore on New Year's, so we saved our plates for breakfast the next day. Double family meals, holiday parties, restaurant dinners, lamb roast, Pittsburgh Italian sausage, Primanti Brothers sandwich, espressos, cookies, biscotti, artisan made schinken, bathtub Slivovitz, holiday release beers, and my achilles heel, homemade Chex Mix.... I'm sure you get the idea.

I digress. What to cook? I searched through cookbooks and landed on of all things, Suzanne Goin's terrific, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I say "of all things", because I usually consider these recipes to be very rich and not afraid of olive oil, butter and exactly what I wasn't looking for. Her decadent Pork burger recipe almost killed me. Regardless, I found a clean sounding recipe for Halibut, despite the horseradish cream. It was a delicious first cooking experience of the year (not counting our normal salads from our garden and brussels sprouts with pancetta I made the night before this fish, also from Sunday Suppers - fantastic recipe).

I used amazing golden beets from our local farmers' market. The beet recipe alone would make a delicious salad with the addition of some arugula or other spicy green. Keep a close eye on the fish. Overcooking it will ruin the dish and it can happen on you very quickly. Better to take it off a little too soon and then deal with it (it'll keep cooking for a few minutes from it's own heat) rather than too long and barely being able to swallow it down without the aid of liquid.

I adapted this recipe for 2 people. The unadapted recipe can be found here.

Sautéed Halibut with Arugula, Roasted Beets, and Horseradish Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

2 halibut fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each
1/2 lemon, zested
1/2 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch arugula, cleaned
Roasted beets with horseradish crème fraîche (see below)
1/2 to 1 tablespoons super-good extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle the fish all over with the lemon zest, thyme and parsley. Cover in the refrigerator overnight.

Bring the fish to room temperature before cooking - about 15-20mins depending on how cold your fish was and how cold your house is. Ours is freezing right now.

Preheat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes (non-stick would be good with the fish). Salt and pepper both sides of fish to your liking. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil into the pan and wait about a minute. Add the fish carefully to the pan, and cook about 3 minutes. It should be lightly browned. Turn the fish over, and cook at medium-low for about 2 more minutes. As usual with fish such as Halibut, be careful not to overcook. It can change on you very fast. You'll know it's done when the fish will start to flake a little. You want the center to still look slightly undercooked because it will cook a bit on it's own as it rests while you finish assembling the last part of the dish.

Scatter half of the arugula over a large platter. Scatter the beets on top of the arugula and drizzle with half the horseradish cream. Place the remaining arugula in between the beets. Place the fish on top of the salad, and spoon a little horseradish cream over each piece. Lightly drizzle lemon and the good olive oil over the whole dish.

Roasted Beets with Horseradish Crème Fraîche

1 bunch fresh whole beets (I used golden beets)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon diced shallot, plus 1/8 cup sliced shallots
1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/4 cup goat's milk yogurt or plain yogurt from the animal of your preference
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Trim the beets, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stems still attached. Clean the beets well. Toss them with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Put the beets in a Dutch Oven (I used a 5.5qt) with a bit of water in the bottom. Put the lid on the Dutch oven, and roast for about 40-45 minutes, until they’re tender when you pierce them. When they're done, let them cool, and peel them. You use your fingers to slip off the skin. Cut them into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.

While the beets are in the oven, mix together the diced shallot, both vinegars, 1 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Let the flavors combine for about 5 minutes. Then whisk in the 1/4 cup olive oil. Season to taste.

Make the horseradish creme fraiche. This recipe is for the whole 6 portion recipe. I knew I would find a use for the extra. You could make less, but Bellwether Creme Fraiche comes in 8oz containers, so that would be a waste. (this stuff would be great on a cold roast beef sandwich or steak sandwich with some shallots pickled in red wine). Whisk the crème fraîche and horseradish together in a small bowl. Stir in the yogurt (she uses heavy cream - I thought the whole thing was already rich enough), remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper.

Toss the beets and sliced shallots with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.