April 13, 2014

BEEF TARTARE WITH GARLIC MAYONNAISE




Ingrid and I were were walking the streets of Paris one recent afternoon and quickly decided on having an evening at home with beef tartare, artisanal potato chips and champagne for dinner. Ingrid Pankonin, a private chef visiting from Berkeley, California, has been popping up in Paris over the last 5 years. We have enjoyed many beautifully crafted meals together.  From road trips to Piedmont, Italy and city escapes to the french countryside, when Ingrid is in town, so is laughter, grub and champagne.

We spent the afternoon collecting ingredients around my neighborhood, while ducking out of the rain and filling our market bags bit by bit. We hit rue de Bretagne and went to my local market to get organic veggies, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered market in Paris. Next to the market, and along the food shops of rue de Bretange, we went to Fromagerie Jouannault, one of my favorite cheese shops, and lastly stopped at the Boucherie du Marais to pick up our beef to hand cut at home for the tartare.

This type of apron on a butcher my quality default check for Parisian butchers, it is the old Les Halles style of wrapping 2 waist aprons with a specific knot used to tie the shoulder stap. This style of apron shows a prideful butcher.

GARLIC MAYONNAISE RECIPE
by Ingrid Pankonin

Equipment you will need:

2-quartish bowl
Whisk 
Optional: A saucepan that will cradle the bowl, plus a towel - line the saucepan with the towel, then cradle the bowl in it for a non-slipping bowl. Also optional: a microplane, or mortar and pestle

Ingredients:

1 egg yolk + 1 extra egg in case the mayo breaks (curdles)
2/3 - 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil - this is not the time for a super-green, spicy olive oil. Use a mild extra virgin or even start with 1/4 cup of neutral vegetable oil and finish with EVO.
1 plump clove of garlic - minced, pounded in a mortar and pestle, or *shortcut* microplaned
salt to taste - 1/2 - 1 tsp
lemon juice to taste

First, make sure the egg is at room temperature!  This is my number one mayo breaker.  If you need to make mayo straight from a cold egg, fear not!  Warm the egg up in a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes, keeping in mind that the warmth needs to make it all the way into the yolk, so it may take a couple of water changes.  I think the egg should feel ever so slightly warm to the touch on the outside.

Now, let's make the mayo!  I'm calling it mayonnaise because some people would argue that aïoli has no acid (and has a TON of garlic!), but I like garlicky mayo to have some lemon in it, and it goes well with the tartare.
Whisk the egg yolk to break it up.  Start by dribbling a few drops of oil in, whisking all the while.  Add a few more drops when the first ones are fully incorporated.  How hard or fast you whisk is much less important than just making sure the olive oil is fully absorbed before adding more.  Continue drizzling and whisking… as the mayonnaise starts to grow in volume, it may become a little too thick - just add a few drops of water or lemon juice.  Now is a good time to add a first pinch of salt, too.  Also, you can start to increase the amount of oil you add each time - moving up to a teaspoon or so for a few additions, then on to a tablespoon or so for the next while.  Again - just make sure it's fully incorporated before adding more!  Taste along the way for seasoning. Keep on like this until you've added all the oil.  Add the garlic, and lemon juice and salt to taste - since the mayo is mostly oil, it'll take a few minutes for the salt to dissolve.  The garlic will also get stronger as it sits, so just taste it again and adjust if necessary.

*If at any time the mayo gets loose and looks curdled, it has "broken".  You have to just start over with a fresh, room temp egg yolk.  Then add the broken mayo in the same manner as the olive oil on the first go-around: a few drops at a time, whisking.  And so on. Store leftover mayo in the fridge for one day.  As mentioned above, cold is the enemy of a stable mayonnaise - so if you want to use it as such, let it warm up a bit.  Or, use it as a base for a little vinaigrette!  Add a little mustard, some more lemon juice or red wine vinegar, and more oil to taste, plus S+P.  Yay!

For the mayo, delicately separate the yolk from your perfect egg and begin the emulsification process.

 
For the tartare, finely chop up some cornichon pickles, shallots and capers and lay them out on each individual plate or on a platter, family style. Other things you can add to the fixins on the tartare table are things like homemade thousand island, ketchup, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper.  For ours, we seasoned the beef and simply used our freshly made garlic mayo along with the pickles, shallots and capers. It was delicious. You can mix up your own personal fave combo.


L'Etivaz, a french alp cheese...and Paris' only local cheese, Brie de Meaux
Valencay, a goat's milk cheese... and Fleur de Maquis, a sheep's milk cheese from Corsica
video

February 20, 2014

NOMA: A DISPATCH FROM THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

View from Christianshavn
Here we have an exclusive report on Copenhagen's famed NOMA restaurant, by a favorite Trail of Crumbs contributor, Janella Fox. Janella is a creative consultant/content producer based in Los Angeles. She has worked in fashion, music, art and entertainment and is the co-creator of  RUBIFOX and FIVE-TO-SEVEN.

You wouldn't expect one of best meals of your life to start with a single red orb on a stick and end with crispy pig skin while sipping coffee with strangers. But mine did.

This happened recently while spending some time in the very charming and very agreeable city of Copenhagen. Just days before leaving for the trip, a friend offered to secure me a reservation at René Redzepi's NOMA, aka THE best restaurant in the world from 2010-2012 and commonly known as being virtually impossible to get into, even a year in advance. I accepted the offer while at the same time assuming there was no chance in helvede it was going to happen. But within a week of my arrival, an email arrived from the kind PR manager of the restaurant confirming that there was a standing reservation for me in 2 days time and would I accept. There was no saying no. Some kind of divine intervention had occurred and the ultimate culinary pilgrimage was in my future.

We arrived to an old and formidable warehouse located along a remote area at the end of the scenic harbor in Christianshavn. It was formerly a trading port that was converted in 2004 into an art and cultural center.  The Nordic Food Lab is located across the way (it too has incredible design elements). NOMA means "Nordic Food" NO = nordic, MAD = food. A rather basic name for what is such a progressive and elevated food establishment. Also in that vain were the chefs I spied around the back of the building in the alley grilling away on classic black Webers behind a small fence near the old loading dock, bike racks and trash cans. Not what I expected but something I was happy to witness. I love a good collision of high/low.

NOMA Entrance
That day happened to be a rare sunny winter day, shedding warm honey colored light onto the sparse building and its other worldly landscape of low grassy mossy mounds and rocks hugging the base of the exterior. It felt as if we had been lured to the edge of the world, in an appealing and mysterious kind of way. Upon entering the bright and rustic interior, we were greeted by the handsome staff, all of whom seemed to be anticipating our arrival by suddenly appearing from the kitchen and other luminous corridors to gather in a group to welcome us with familiar smiles and a hearty hello. The sideways slants of winter light entering the room only enhanced this surreal reception. It was some sort of heaven that I won't soon forget.

Greeting committee
The lounge
The NOMA kitchen
The dining room was airy, light and weightless grounded only by rustic wood and the gorgeous black tables and chairs (by Space Copenhagen) draped with sheepskin. The unique thing about Denmark in the winter is the "hygge" tradition (for lack of a better translation, "to make cozy") which means that every room in every buidling you enter has many candles burning throughout the day and into the night. This added to the casual embrace of the room. In contrast, it was the kitchen that contained the elements one might expect to encounter at the such a fine establishment; indulgent rich and elegant with a refined contrast of black surfaces, shiny brass, subdued lighting....and it is worth mentioning again, a rather attractive staff busy at work making magical things.

We were seated at the communal table in the corner with windows looking out over the mossy mounds out to the water. It was then that the spectacle of the senses began and continued for the next 4 hours. It started with 10 "snack" courses that arrived in a rapid procession. (Including a juice in a "Nordic Coconut", Smoked quail eggs and my favorite new discovery, Pickled Rose Petals).

Janella and the "Nordic Coconut", a hollowed out kohlrabi filled with pressed juice sipped through
 a straw made of a chervil stalk. Served with an herb bundle of dill and chard. An otherworldly delight
Pickled and smoked quail's eggs
Pickled rose petal wrapped blackcurrant ball presentation
Pickled rose petal wrapped blackcurrant bite
The "snack" portion of the meal was  followed by the main courses including fermented onions seasoned with salt made of burnt ants and an elegant plate of wild duck with pear, the only meat centric dish of the meal. 
Burnt ants that were foraged in a nearby forest
Wild Duck, Pears and Kale
Then a series of desserts (one that left the most beautiful mess and the last of the 21 courses which came wrapped up in a bow!)

Gammel Dansk, a danish bitter with a crispy filet made of milk and a sorrel sauce poured over it.
 The beautiful mess before...
...and after
Fudge of smoked bone marrow presented in wrapping paper and a bow
All were paired with exceptional wines and presented by our lovely server and a revolving cast of characters from the kitchen. With the permission from my fellow diners I managed to photograph the glorious procession on my IPhone. You can view the complete 23 course experience here.

Another unexpected highlight during the course of the meal was the conversation that transpired with the fellow diners at our end of the communal table. After consuming the ridiculously yummy steamy savory æbelskiver ball during the "snack" round, our new friend Greg informed us that Trader Joe's is now selling the normally sweet Danish holiday treat in the frozen section. In that moment I reflected on the recent frenzy that went down over the Isabel Marant for H&M release as I began fantasizing about a "René Redzepi for TJ's" collection... The conversation somehow then turned to fast food and in that moment the British and  French couples at the opposite end of the table stopped to join in and confirm that yes, In-N-Out Burger is pretty f-ing delicious and just as worth the trip as to NOMA. And so went the discourse while finishing an epic meal at the former best restaurant in the world.

A friend of mine put it perfectly, he said it was as if myself and the other diners had each been given a ticket to the moon, so it was only natural that we would come together and form a bond over the experience. It was far closer to the moon than I imagined I'd ever possibly get and well worth the journey.

Æbelskiver and greens

A rare winter sunset with detail of the Black Diamond

All text and photos by Janella Fox

February 10, 2014

HOW TO MAKE PRACTICALLY PERFECT TOFFEE

Adrian here.  The following post and recipe comes from my mother, Barbara Dentzel.  Even though she calls this toffee "practically perfect", when it comes out right, it is one of the best things I can imagine eating.  The felt hearts you see below are something she makes every year around Valentine's day, a craft she picked up while working with weavers in Chiapas, Mexico in the 70's. 


It has been a few years since I dared try to make toffee again. I had started to gather all the fixings after Thanksgiving to make a batch for Christmas with my new copper candy pot. But things got hectic. Valentines Day is coming up, so I gave it a whirl. The first batch was grainy and mushy but I ignored that and covered it with chocolate and walnuts.  Each time I took a bite, I pretended that it really tasted just the same as clear, crunchy toffee.  But alas, there was no denying that it hadn't set correctly.

I made a second batch. I let the mixture heat up a little more, beyond Hard-Ball stage (250-265 degrees F), but this time everything separated into puddles of oily butter and grainy lumps. I quit, and waited a few days before trying yet again. I had a long breakfast. Read more of the Sunday New York Times, took my sweet time, looking up at the clock and procrastinating as much as possible for fear of another failed batch.  Good thing my niece, Sophia, called, “Hey Aunt Barbara, just called to see what you’re up to”. She had been witness and helper years ago to some good batches of toffee and, unfortunately, seen the beginning of all the bad batches.  We have talked every Christmas about when I would try making some toffee again. “I’m just about to make some toffee, wanna come over?”  She did. 

Before diving in, I called my friend Kim, a chef and caterer. She told me to just turn up the heat and stir my way through the gunk if it all starts coming apart.  Was I getting it too hot?  I’m supposed to get up to Soft-Crack stage (270-290 degrees F) and then down to Hard-Ball, right? “I don’t know! You’ll know. It falls apart, but then it all comes back together, honey.”  Kim’s from the south. “Just keep going. Don’t be afraid to get it real hot”.

Last year I bought a pure copper pot for candy making at Dehillerin in Paris, and it was time to use it.  We let it rip and put some elbow grease into it.

Here’s what happened.

TRIED, TRIED AGAIN, AND TRULY DELICIOUS MOST CRUNCHY ENGLISH TOFFEE   

Ingredients:

2 C refined sugar (We use the organic from Trader Joe’s)
1 ¾ C filtered water
¾ lb unsalted butter

1 t. salt, (we ground some grey sea salt, but of course any salt will do)
1 lb raw whole almonds
1 lb walnuts chopped
1 lb at least of bittersweet chocolate

*if you use salted butter skip adding the 1t. of salt

Necessary equipment:

-Heavy bottomed stainless steel pot or copper candy pot for making the toffee.
-A decent candy thermometer
-Use a wooden spoon only
-Use a double boiler for melting the chocolate.
-Use two equal sized cookie sheets with rims or jelly roll pans
-waxed paper

This, at long last, is how it works.

1. Melt half of the dark chocolate in the double boiler. This will be used to coat the first/top side of the toffee after it has been poured out onto the cookie sheet and cooled.  Chop your walnuts so that they’re all ready to sprinkle on to the hot melted chocolate when it’s time to spread it on the toffee. You have to spread quickly and sprinkle deftly before it hardens.

 Melting chocolate in a double boiler, Toffee mixture with almonds

2. Into your copper candy pot or heavy bottomed stainless steel pot, put all the water and sugar and begin to cook on medium high. Stir off and on and then constantly, until it reaches the Soft-Crack on your indispensable candy thermometer. About 285 degrees F. This stage is important as it totally de-crystalizes the sugar and gets you on your way to crunchy, not mushy, toffee. The sugar water will bubble and spit and get thick.

3. Now add the three sticks of butter and the almonds. The mixture will really start to bubble and spit. Stir hard with a wooden spoon through the bubbling and spitting. You will graduate into a more tamed, modestly bubbling, taffy-like consistency. Then just keep stirring and stirring. Fear not. If your mixture, like mine usually does, starts to separate, just stir harder. As you approach and/or reach the perfect moment you might hear the almonds pop and release a subtle almond oil aroma. Now is when it all comes together magically, right about when it reaches Hard-Crack on your thermometer, around 300 degrees F. (Here’s where the rub was. I had mistakenly written HARD BALL on my recipe, and so the mixture was constantly regressing to a grainy, loveless mush at less than 285 degrees.  A big no no.)

4. When the toffee reaches 300 degrees, and a darkish caramel color, turn off the heat and pour into one of the cookie trays. Let it spread and help it, into all four corners.  Put into the freezer so it cools more quickly.


 5. Take it out of the freezer and quickly spread on a thin layer of chocolate with a spatula. Then quickly sprinkle the walnuts while the chocolate is still soft. It’s really nice and fun to have another set of hands at this point, but by no means necessary. Cover with some wax paper and push down gently so the walnuts embed into the chocolate.

 
6. Put this back into the freezer for a bit so it cools. Now melt the second portion of chocolate in the double boiler for the bottom/second side. When the toffee is cool, take it out of the freezer. Line the other cookie tray with wax paper, sticking out over the sides. Lay the empty tray, face down, directly on top of the toffee laden tray. Hold tight, and flip it over. Tap the tray and the sheet of toffee should just drop down into the second tray.  Now you’re ready to cover this side with chocolate and walnuts.  Cool it again in the freezer. Break up into large or small bits and eat as much as your little heart desires or store in an air tight container.


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