Pseudo-Ranch

10 05 2010

Or if you’re feeling fancy, call it buttermilk-shallot dressing.  It seems obvious to say, but when you live abroad, you get cravings from time to time for a taste of home.  Case in point: Nick came home last night with a gorgeous piece of paleron (known in English, I think, as top blade steak).  He’d been looking for bavette (skirt steak) because he had a hankering for some carne asada.  But he saw the paleron and it was so beautiful that he had to buy it instead.  I was a little concerned, because I was pretty sure that paleron is more of a braising cut, we were planning on going to the movies, and I didn’t want it to be too late of a night, it being Sunday and all.

Upon inspection, the meat did indeed look like it would grill or sear up nicely, so I put my fears aside and covered it in a rub composed of salt and three kinds of chili powder (guajillo, pasilla, and california, for those who want to know).  I suggested making sandwiches out of the steak once it was cooked, to which Nick was amenable.  (Lest you think that he just brings things home and expects me to cook them, I feel that I should note that while I was preparing dinner, he was building and installing a medicine cabinet, so in the end, we both win.)

We definitely wanted salad with our beefy sandwiches, so I washed and tore some lettuce, thinking that I already had some vinaigrette in the fridge that I could use.  But then it occurred to me that I also had a carton of buttermilk, and wouldn’t ranch dressing be so much more appropriate with our tortas than a French-y vinaigrette?  I mentally went through the ingredients for ranch dressing, and the only thing I was missing was parsley.  I decided it wasn’t totally necessary, and added a little shallot instead, because I like shallots, and because I have a bit of a surplus of them at the moment.

So, dressing, salad, ready.  Cook steak to medium-rare (more practice with the induction stove).  Meanwhile, stir some chipotle sauce into mayonnaise and jalapeno sauce into mustard.  Slice meat, pile on bread slathered with condiments.  Bring extra dressing to the table, you’ll probably need it.  We had it on Sunday, but this would be an ideal weeknight dinner.

Buttermilk-Shallot Dressing

Also known as “pseudo-ranch,” this dressing is a nice change from typical vinaigrettes, and is particularly complimentary to American Southwestern-inspired meals.  To turn it into “real” ranch dressing, omit the shallot and add a Tablespoon or so of chopped fresh parsley.

1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 small shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
A couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A dash of Tabasco (optional)
½ cup / 120 ml buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  This gets better as it sits, so if you can make it an hour ahead of time, so much the better.  Serve over salad greens.

Makes enough for about 4 side salads or two big ones.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Talking (Leftover) Turkey

28 11 2009

When Nick went to the butcher on Thursday to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey, he was met with an unpleasant surprise.  The 4-kilo turkey I had ordered was actually 5.4 kilos!  After some debate and bargaining with the butcher, it came out that that was the smallest bird they had received that day, and they had indeed reserved it for me.  A three-pound difference might not sound like a big deal, but when the bird costs 6 euros 50 a kilo, and we were already unsure if a whole turkey would fit into our tiny oven, and it was already 3pm on Thanksgiving Day, it felt disastrous.

After some oven reconfiguration, we managed to get the turkey in without it touching the heating element, and it roasted up beautifully – since turkey isn’t the commodity in France that it is in the US, the ones you get here are never frozen or wrapped in plastic.  The air-dried skin browns and crisps like no other turkey I’ve made, and the flavor, like that of French chickens, is somehow just more.  The menu went off just as planned, except in lieu of the brittle I served the potimarron pie with bourbon-maple whipped cream.

We were joined by five friends, and actually have very few leftovers (one scoop of mashed potatoes, one spoonful of Brussels sprouts, one sliver of pie…) except for the turkey, of which about two and a half pounds remain.  Having spent 35 euros – that’s right, upwards of 50 bucks – we don’t want to let a single scrap go to waste.  Yesterday afternoon I made stock from the carcass, after Nick had cleaned it of meat.  Meanwhile, he simmered a piece of kombu in a pot of water in preparation for a very welcome light lunch: turkey miso soup.

Post-Thanksgiving lunch, photo by Nick

If you’ve never made miso soup before, you’re missing out on one of the simplest, fastest, and tastiest soups around.  It’s as easy as whisking a couple of spoonfuls of miso into a pot of hot dashi (the Japanese staple broth made with water, kombu seaweed, and bonito tuna flakes – which we have as yet been unable to find in Paris, so we did without – steeped for about five minutes) and garnishing with a few little pieces of whatever.  It should be brothy.  In this case, we used a bit of shredded turkey and some snipped chives, leftover from the mashed potatoes.  It made a fantastic day-after-Thanksgiving lunch.

But there’s plenty more turkey to be eaten.  As soon as I’m done writing, I plan on heading down to the kitchen and mixing up a big batch of herbed turkey salad: mayo, sage, chives, parsley, maybe a bit of crème fraîche and shallot.  I’ll eat it for lunch on top of some lettuce with a dollop of cranberry sauce, and hopefully there will be enough left to make a couple of weekday sandwiches.

Tonight or tomorrow I’ll put that fresh turkey stock to use in a turkey risotto.  Garnishes will include the rest of the fresh sage, chopped turkey (duh) and grated aged provolone.

So what are you doing with your turkey leftovers?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Potatoes or Green Beans?

23 07 2009

Does this ever happen to you?  You’re going through your workday, thinking about dinner, picturing the oven fried fish and homemade tartar sauce you have planned, but when it comes to the side dish, you’re stumped.  On one hand, you have some lovely little haricots verts rapidly going south in the fridge, and on the other, you have some freshly dug new potatoes doing the same in the cupboard.  A quick green bean sauté sounds easy and virtuous, but maybe steamed potatoes in an herby vinaigrette would be better.  You remember that there are no fresh herbs in your kitchen, but now you really want those potatoes.  It would really be a shame to see those green beans go to waste.  Potatoes or green beans?  Green beans or potatoes?

What if...?

So there I was, with the great potatoes-or-green beans debate waging on in my head, when lunchtime rolls around.  After the 10 minutes it takes me to eat my sandwich, I have the better part of an hour to kill.  I decide to check my email on my phone (ah, the wonders of technology!) and lo and behold, a friend has sent me a link for a peach pie recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I’m sure it was mouthwatering, but what immediately caught my attention was the link at the top of the page to the previous recipe, entitled, “arugula, potato and green bean salad.”  Wait!  Of course!  I can use both!  Why didn’t I think of that before?  I loved the idea of a yogurt-based dressing – it sounded so fresh and healthy (which is good, seeing as I’m still struggling a bit with that vacation weight), as well as creamy, tangy, and malleable to my palate’s desires.  And what my palate desired was tarragon.  I remembered it working so well with the yogurt in my French coleslaw recipe, and fortunately, I almost always have tarragon vinegarin the cupboard.  Yay!  With some shallots, Dijon mustard, and hazelnut oil, maybe some toasted almonds… can you tell I was getting excited?  After work I hurried home to get cooking. 

It looks like mayo, but brother, it ain't mayo.

The resulting salad was just what I was looking for.  I am absolutely making this one again.  Repeatedly.

French Potato and Green Bean Salad 

Never again succumb to the starch-or-vegetable dilemma!  This salad marries them beautifully.  The yogurty dressing looks rich, but tastes light – an excellent summer side dish.  As for the title, something about the combination of tarragon and nuts strikes me as so French.

For the dressing:

125 g / 4½ oz. plain yogurt
1 medium shallot, minced
2 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. hazelnut oil

  1. Combine the yogurt, shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk in the oil and season to taste.

For the salad:

200 g / 7 oz. haricots verts (or thin green beans), washed and broken in half if long
360 g / 13 oz. small, waxy potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into rounds 65 mm / ¼” thick
50 g / ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Place the green beans in a strainer or pasta insert and cook 2-3 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender.  Remove them from the pot and give them a quick rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain.  (You may need to do this in two batches if your strainer is small like mine.)
  2. Add the potatoes to the pot, return to a boil, and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.  (No need to save the water this time.)
  3. Transfer the hot potatoes to a salad bowl and toss with the green beans and the dressing.  Allow the flavors to meld for at least 20 minutes.  Just before serving, sprinkle in the almonds and stir to distribute.  Serve at room temperature.

Serves 3 as a side dish.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Picnic Pesto

18 05 2009

Picnicking season is finally upon us.  Our blanket is at the ready, our supplies of wet naps have been replenished, and a bottle of rosé awaits in the fridge at all times.  I love the impromptu nature of the picnic.  It’s the sort of meal where Nick can call me from work on a particularly sunny afternoon and ask me to throw together a salad and get out the cheese, tell me he will pick up a baguette on the way from work, and we meet at the canal for a light, leisurely supper.

Ingredients for a springy pesto.

Even when you plan a picnic, like I did a few weeks ago with Hope, it’s nice to have dishes you can throw together at a moment’s notice.  Pasta salad is a picnic favorite in our house, and ever since I learned the trick to making pesto that doesn’t separate and clump when served on cold pasta (hint: it’s mayonnaise), I’ve been experimenting with different combinations of herbs and vegetables.  I usually employ a clean-out-the-fridge method of pesto-making.  Any fresh herbs I have lying around get thrown in, and the results are always tasty.  This time around, I happened to have two bunches of mint that needed some attention.  I had purchased them at the market because they smelled so refreshing, forgetting that I had used up the last of the rum making vanilla extract.

Mint pesto, peas, pasta

I added some parsley to the mix to help maintain the green color, and a handful of peas came along for the ride.  Because what says Spring more than peas and mint?  With the exception of cheese, the rest of the Usual Suspects were there: pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice.  Tossed with twirly pasta, toasted pine nuts, and more peas, it was a hit at the picnic.  The fresh, green flavor helped us all feel a little better about sitting around eating while watching the joggers in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont.  I’ll be sure to make this again, next time I have mint lying around.  Or I may even buy some for the occasion.

Perfect Pesto Picnic Pasta

Pea and Mint Pesto Pasta Salad

 Delicious, refreshing, and utterly springy, this is the perfect dish for the first picnic of the season.  The addition of mayonnaise to the traditional pesto helps it cling to the cold pasta.  If you start the pasta first, you can have this salad ready to go in around 20 minutes.

 For the Mint Pesto:

2 bunches mint, washed and leaved (about 2 cups/450 ml packed leaves)
½ bunch parsley, washed and picked
1-2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
¼ cup/60 ml peas (use fresh if they are young and sweet, otherwise use frozen, thawed)
¼ cup/60 ml pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A little reserved pasta cooking water, if necessary

  1. Combine all ingredients except pasta water in a tall container.  Purée with an immersion blender, adjusting the consistency if necessary with a little of the cooking water.  Taste and tweak the seasoning as you desire.

 For the Pasta Salad:

7 oz./200 g pasta (short shapes with lots of surface area are best – think fusilli or farfalle)
1 recipe Mint Pesto
½ cup/120 ml peas (see note above)
½ cup pine nuts, toasted

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water to just past al dente.  (You’re going to be eating this cold or room temperature, so it should be tender.)  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.
  2. Toss the pasta with the pesto, peas, and pine nuts.  Pack into a reusable, picnic-friendly container and get outside!  Serve on a picnic blanket with plastic utensils.

 Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


Delicious submit to reddit
Digg!

(Sharing buttons are in the trial phase.  Bear with me.)





Torta Salads

12 09 2008

In a previous life, Nick and I used to frequent a place called Tio’s Tortas.  I affectionately refer to it as “Uncle Sandwich,” which is a blatant and deliberate mistranslation (although I’m not sure “Uncle’s Sandwiches” is any less silly).  At any rate, this place made about 14 different kinds of tortas, or Mexican sandwiches, which were piled high with delicacies such as smoked sausage, refried black beans, and chiles rellenos.  Plus they had a great condiment bar filled with house made condiments.  These included chipotle ketchup, jalapeno mustard, roasted garlic, red onion confit, zucchini pickles, and a variety of mayonnaise-based sauces.  For 4 to 6 dollars you could get a substantial and satisfying meal, and beers were less than 2 bucks!

Anyway, one day we noticed that they had added an option to their torta menu: you could choose to have the ingredients of any torta served over rice or as a salad.  The salad idea took off in our house, where we would grill Hatch chili sausages and serve them over lettuce with leftover black beans, caramelized onions, and whatever else we had lying around (or had managed to sneak home from Tio’s).  Mmmm… sausage salad.

Well, we recently decided to revisit the Tio’s salad, when we were fortunate enough to be in possession of some delicious leftover beef chili verde and refried black beans.  We almost always have a head of lettuce in the crisper and a couple of tomatoes in the fruit basket, but I thought the salads needed something more.  Corn popped into my head and I headed to the store.  Malheureusement, the fresh corn here totally sucks.  It’s starchy and waxy and sticks to your teeth like paste.  So I bought a can.  Sue me.  I also picked up some gorgeous piquillo-looking peppers and some long green ones that I hoped would pack a punch.

I got home and set about putting together a corn salsa for the salads.  I drained the corn and dumped it into a bowl, followed by some diced onion.  I thought one of each pepper would look pretty as well as giving just the right amount of heat.  When I cut into the red pepper, I got a big surprise – no ribs or seeds!

Are they breeding seedless peppers now?

Nonetheless, the corn salsa looked great and tasted just as good.  It would actually stand on its own as a salad, but I had bigger ideas.

Corn Salsa/Salad

Indeed, it was even better sprinkled over a salad loaded with slow-cooked beef, black beans, tomatoes, crème fraîche, and chipotle vinaigrette.

What happens when you turn a torta into a salad?  Good things.

Apologies for doing two salad posts in one week, but I think this is miles away from Tuesday’s refined Mediterranean salad.  Don’t you?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Easy Tapenade Salad Dressing

9 09 2008

Who was it that said, “Sloth is the mother of all invention”?  I came up with this dressing sometime last week when I didn’t feel like chopping up a shallot for a vinaigrette.  Searching the kitchen for alternatives, my eyes landed on a recently acquired jar of black olive tapenade from Provence.  What if I just thinned it out a bit with some oil and vinegar?  I bet that would be good!

You know what?  It was.  So good, and so irresistibly easy, that I made it again a couple of nights ago for a salad that accompanied a gooey chorizo and mozzarella pizza.

Feuille de Chêne lettuce, tapenade dressing, and toasted pine nuts

Tapenade Dressing

This super-easy dressing will make even the most boring of lettuces feel decked out, but it would also be great on arugula, spinach, frisée, or just about any salad green.  Garnish with toasted pine nuts, tomatoes, and feta cheese for a more substantial salad.  Grilled or marinated vegetables would most certainly be welcome, as would any number of cured pork products.

2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. tapenade (You can make your own if you’re feeling adventurous, but a good jarred tapenade is perfectly acceptable.)
1 Tbsp. red wine, balsamic, or sherry vinegar (Rosemary-infused vinegar is a nice touch)
4 Tbsp. good olive oil

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk.
  2. Drizzle over salad greens of choice and toss before serving.
  3. Garnish as you see fit.

Makes enough to dress 4-6 salads.  Leftovers will keep several days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Happy 4th of July!

8 07 2008

OK, so I’m a little behind the times, but better late than never, right?  For the 4th last Friday Nick invited some students who are doing a Summer program in Paris over for some good old-fashioned cheeseburgers.  He bought freshly ground beef from the butcher while I procured potatoes and appetizer fixins.

When I got home from work I started a batch of brioche dough with which to make hamburger buns.  Nick made his famous potato salad – with a few changes.  Usually he uses Russet potatoes, but starchy-type potatoes are thin on the ground over here, so this time they were red.  We also made the mayonnaise from scratch, and the sweet pickle relish that often goes into the salad was absent.  But it tasted like home nonetheless. 

For the apéro, I decided that onion dip would be suitably Classic American Cookout to serve at our 4th of July party.  My friend Pete recently told me about his onion dip, made with bacon, caramelized onions, and sour cream.  I loved the idea, so I did just that, with the minor substitution of crème fraîche for sour cream.  No one complained.  In fact, the entire batch (500 g crème fraîche, 4 small onions, and a few ounces of bacon) was gone by the end of the night.  We will definitely be making that one again.

Having found a fairly reliable source for cheddar, we knew exactly what to put on our burgers.  That, along with some sliced tomato, red onion, and lettuce leaves, and we were in business.  (We realized just slightly too late that we had neglected to purchase ketchup – d’oh!)

Cheeseburger and potato salad

And of course, we washed it down with some All-American beer.  (Although these particular beers were brewed in Spain and they have to shorten the name in Europe because some Czech brewery got the name first…)

Budweiser, King of Beers

Happy 4th, everyone!  (Or 8th, or whatever.)








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 317 other followers

%d bloggers like this: