Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi, and Brussels Sprouts

February 28, 2011
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This is the side dish I served with the pan-roasted duck breasts, and truthfully, it almost upstaged the meat.  These vegetables are so delicious – if you know someone who claims to hate any of these specimens, I believe this dish would set them straight.

Speaking of, this was my first experience either eating OR cooking kohlrabi.  The “German turnip” is actually a member of the cabbage family, but don’t let that sway you from using it.  It is much milder and sweeter than cabbage, and it has a really nice texture (I likened it to a broccoli stalk).  You can see what it looks like below, both uncut/unpeeled and then prepped for the dish.

As with all recipes, make sure you read the whole thing before starting – there are a lot of steps, but if you prep smart, you can get this on the table within a reasonable timeframe.  Enjoy!  Oh, and you can see a photo of the finished dish with the duck at the link above.

  • 12 ounces Brussels sprouts
  • 2 bunches Easter or red radishes
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
  • 6 kohlrabi, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives or mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath.  Meanwhile, trim the root ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any tough or bruised outer leaves.  Cut the sprouts in half through the root end.  Blanch the sprouts until tender, about 4 minutes.  Chill in the ice bath and drain.  Transfer to a tray and put in the refrigerator to chill.

Trim the greens from the radishes and wash the radishes under cold water.  Cut larger radishes into 6 wedges and smaller radishes into quarters.  Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a saute pan big enough to hold the radishes in a single layer.  Add the shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until softened.  Add the radishes, sugar, and vinegar, season generously with salt and pepper, and add 1/4 cup of the stock.  Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer gently for about 8 minutes, until the radishes are crisp-tender.  Cook uncovered, swirling the pan, to glaze the radishes, about 4 minutes.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile, cut the stems and roots from the kohlrabi.  Stand each kohlrabi on a cut end and peel it with a sharp knife, cutting deep enough to reach the tender flesh.  Cut lengthwise into slices about 1/2 inch thick.  Trim the rounded sides of the slices and cut the kohlrabi into 1/2 inch-wide batons.  You need 2 cups of batons.  Add the kohlrabi to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and transfer to paper towels to drain thoroughly.

Bring the remaining 1/4 cup stock to a simmer in a large saute pan.  Whisk in he remaining butter until emulsified and smooth.  Add the Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi and cook over high heat for 45 seconds.  Add the radishes and any liquid remaining in the pan and heat through.  If the butter begins to break, you can swirl in another couple of tablespoons of stock or water.  Toss in the chives and season with salt and pepper and a few drops of vinegar.  Transfer to a platter and serve.

Recipe: Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts

February 28, 2011
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Oh so very long ago, I posted about my first experience with the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  I actually cooked TWO meals from the cookbook that weekend, but those meatballs were just the warmup for my inaugural journey into cooking duck.  That’s right, kids – as much as I love to eat ol’ Daffy and Donald, I had never before attempted to prepare duck in my very own kitchen.

Strangely enough, my biggest problem with this recipe was actually FINDING the duck.  I really need to locate an honest-to-goodness butcher in my neighborhood.  I ended up getting the meat at Whole Foods, and I have no doubt that it was fresh and of reasonable quality, but it was more of the pre-packaged variety, so I didn’t have any choice in terms of the size of the breasts (and they were smaller than the recipe called for).  The good news is, there is a large directory of suppliers in the back of the cookbook, so even if I can’t find a local meatmonger, I can always investigate my mail-order options.

The dish was VERY tasty, and I was proud of my first duck-cooking attempt.  There is certainly room for improvement, though, so I’m sure I’ll try this one again.  Note: I served the duck, as suggested, with butter-braised vegetables (also in the cookbook).  I’ll definitely post that recipe shortly – it was fabulous.

  • Six 10-12 ounce Pekin duck breasts, preferably with tenderloins still attached
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 1 orange
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 6 bay leaves
  • Canola oil
  • Grey salt or other course sea salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/4 inch crosshatch pattern in the skin of each breast, being careful not to pierce the meat.  (Do this while the duck is cold, since it’s difficult to make such precise cuts at room temperature.)  Turn the duck breasts skin side down on the baking sheet.  If the tenderloins, the smaller piece of meat that runs along the bottom of the breast, are still attached, leave them on the breasts.  Use a paring knife to remove the small white tendon that runs through each tenderloin.  You will see a vein that runs the length of each breast.  Run your finger down the length of each vein, and if any blood comes out, wipe it away with a paper towel.

Season the flesh side of each breast with salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg.  Grate a little orange zest over each breast.  Sprinkle a few drops of vinegar over the meat.  Lay a sprig of thyme running lengthwise down the center of each breast and cover with a bay leaf.  Turn over and season each breast with a generous pinch of salt and a grating of nutmeg.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least one hour, or up to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  Set a metal bowl or other container near the stove.  With a paper towel, blot any moisture from the duck breasts.  Season each side with a pinch of salt.

Pour some canola oil into a large ovenproof frying pan over medium-low heat.  Add the duck skin-side down (in batches, if necessary).  Move the duck breasts every few minutes to help them brown evenly.  As the fat is rendered, carefully remove the excess (leaving about 1/8 inch) from the frying pan; tilt the pan away from the heat, remove the fat with a large kitchen spoon, and transfer it to the metal bowl.  Cook the duck for a total of 20-25 minutes, until the skin is an even rich brown and very crisp; the internal temperature of the breasts should be about 115 degrees.  Flip each breast and just “kiss” the meat side for about 30 seconds.

Put the duck skin side down in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes.  The internal temperature should be about 125 degrees for a rosy medium rare.

Put the duck skin side down on the cooling rack and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  Sprinkle the sliced meat with gray salt and pepper.

Recipe: Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

December 27, 2010

 Here is the recipe for Thomas Keller’s tomato sauce, to go with the meatballs.  Do keep in mind that this sauce will come out VERY viscous – so viscous, in fact, that I ended up thinning it out with a little bit of my homemade marinara sauce.  I think the thicker sauce would be great for a meatball appetizer, but for a pasta dinner, I wanted a little more to sop up.

Otherwise, the flavor of this sauce is incredible – so concentrated and zippy!

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup minced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fennel
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Two 28- to 32-ounce cans San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 garlic clove

Lay out a 7-inch square of cheesecloth.  Put the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and garlic near the bottom of the square and fold the bottom edge up and over them.  Roll once, tuck in the two ends of the cheesecloth, and continue to roll.  Tie the cheesecloth at both ends with kitchen twine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the oil, onion, leeks, and garlic in a large ovenproof Dutch oven or a baking dish and sprinkle with salt.  Put in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to caramelize.

Stir in the brown sugar and vinegar and return to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the oven.

Meanwhile, drain the canned tomatoes and remove the seeds.  Coarsely chop half the tomatoes.  Puree the other half in a food processor.

Add the tomatoes to the vegetables along with the herb packet (satchet), season with salt and pepper to taste, and return to the oven for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  The sauce should be thick and have a full, rich flavor.  Run the side of a spoon through the sauce – if it runs back together immediately, it is too thin.  Return it to the oven and cook until thickened.

Discard the satchet and let the sauce cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.

Recipe: Meatballs with Pappardelle

December 27, 2010

For my birthday, my dad stood in line at Williams-Sonoma so that he and my mother could present me with an autographed copy of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.  I literally squealed with joy when I opened it – look, isn’t it awesome???

The book is really gorgeous, and the recipes are all super enticing.  However, as I flipped through the pages, I realized that even though the dishes were more accessible than, say, the ones in the French Laundry cookbook, they were still pretty complex and detailed.  In other words, I probably wasn’t going to be making any quick weeknight meals out of Ad Hoc.

The next free weekend I had, I decided it was on like Donkey Kong.  I chose this recipe first because it didn’t require any unusual ingredients, and, well, I love pasta and meatballs.  It turned out that the most time-consuming part of the dish was the tomato sauce (which I will post separately) – the meatballs themselves were actually pretty straightforward and, dare I say, easy.

Easy as they were, these meatballs were fantastic.  The moistness and flavor were just right, thanks to the excellent mixture of meats (I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of veal, which I don’t normally love).  The cheesy center was just plain decadent – you really don’t NEED the mozzarella, since the meatballs are plenty rich on their own, but if you can say no to cheese, you have much more willpower than I do.

So, the first Thomas Keller experiment was a success – the dish was even a hit leftover, reheated in the microwave the next day.  Even though technically it was just “spaghetti and meatballs,” I was very proud of myself and couldn’t wait to try the next recipe on my list.

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces boneless beef sirloin
  • 12 ounces boneless beef chuck
  • 8 ounces boneless pork butt
  • 8 ounces boneless veal shoulder or top round
  • 1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pound pappardelle
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Heat the canola oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat.  Cook gently for about 20 minutes, to soften the vegetables without browning them.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Next step: meat.  If you have a meat grinder, the cookbook has a great breakdown of how to set things up and run the meat through.  I have a grinder attachment for my Kitchen-Aid mixer, but I really just didn’t want the hassle of DIY grinding.  So, I had the butcher at Whole Foods grind everything for me fresh.  I know, I’m a cheater, but I’m relatively sure that Thomas Keller would have wanted me to enjoy SOME time with my husband that day.

In a bowl, combine the ground meat, onion and garlic, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of parsley, and the egg and mix gently to incorporate evenly.  Do not overwork the mixture.  To check the seasoning, put a small patty of the meat on a plate and cook in the microwave for 30 seconds, then taste and add more salt if desired.

Divide the mixture into 12 equal balls, using a scant 1/2 cup (4 ounces) for each.

Cut the cheese into 12 cubes, about 3/4 inch.  Shape the meatballs, stuffing a cube of cheese into the center of each one.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Put the meatballs on the cooling rack and bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through but still juicy.  Remove from the oven and let the meatballs rest on the rack for a few minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle; drain and put in a large bowl.  Toss with the melted butter, the remaining tablespoon of parsley, and the lemon juice.

TK’s Serving suggestion: Spoon the tomato sauce into a gratin dish or shallow serving dish.  Top with the meatballs and garnish with fried oregano.  Serve the pappardelle on the side.