Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rustic white bean soup with sausage and caramelized fennel with arugula-almond pesto

So now that fall is essentially gone from NYC, the weather has been pretty overcast, cold and rainy.  Just the perfect weather for a hearty soup.  I had some pork sausage that I needed to use (also from Whippoorwill Farm in CT) and since fennel seeds are often used to make pork sausage, I thought it would be great to caramelize some fennel and add it to the soup.

The night before making the soup I soaked about 1.5 cups of cannellini beans  I bought from Fairway Market in NYC.  Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks at Fairway they have seem to stop carrying dried cannellini beans so I think I have to find a new place.  If anyone news a good place, drop me a line.

Anyways,  after a good soaking, I dropped them in a big pot of cold water, added a few pieces of leek tops I'd been saving in the freezer, some fresh rosemary, and a few cloves of garlic.  

I slowly simmered them until they were soft and creamy.  I let them cool in their cooking liquid.

Next, I diced up a couple of carrots, some leeks, and sliced some fennel.  Here's the mise en place:
I then started to caramelize the fennel.  I'd say it took about 25-30 min on low heat and resulted in a really rich brown:

Next, I browned the sausage.  I wanted to have fairly large pieces of sausage in the soup instead of having ground sausage.  Therefore, I just used a spoon to spoon out irregular sausage pieces into a pan.  After they were brown I removed them to paper towels:

Next, using the same pan with the fat and fond from browning the sausage, I added the leek and carrot dice.  I let this sauteed for a few minutes, then added the caramelized  fennel:

Then, I deglazed the pan with homemade veal stock, scraped up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan and then added the cooked white beans and the cooked sausage.  I brought it up to a simmer and let the flavors meld:

While the soup was simmering, I got started on the arugula-almond pesto.  Well, actually it wasn't really a pesto.  It was just arugula+almond+garlic+olive oil.  Taking these ingredients, I put them in a blender and blitzed them.  Unfortunately, the other weekend I broke my food processor so I had to use a blender.  I ended up having to add too much olive oil to get everything to mix and so the result wasn't really what I was looking for, but it still did the trick:

Next, I toasted some slices of baguettes and spread some of the faux-pesto on each slice.  Then I put the soup on the bowls and served it with the pesto-topped-baguette.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Coriander two ways: crusted and pan seared pasture-raised NY Strip Steak, chickpea hash and puree of celeriac with cilantro.

My thinking behind this dish went something as follows:  chickpeas, crispy chickpeas, chickpea hash (what the hell is that?), celeriac, green celeriac, cilantro celeriac, coriander, coriander beef, coriander crusted ny strip steak.  Sure, let's put it all together.  You might as well name this dish the four C's: chickpeas, celeriac, cilantro, coriander.  The alliteration is killing me...

As you can see, it was a very scientific approach.  

The first thing to do is to prepare the chickpea hash.  Now, you may be asking yourself.  What the hell is a chickpea hash? In fact I was asking myself the same thing when I decided to call it that (before I made it).  It still might not be the best name, but it's all I got and I think it kinda fits.  Essentially it's a chickpea patty (with lots of good stuff in it), that gets breaded and fried; kind of like a falafel.  I'm skipping ahead, but here's a picture of it finished:

Okay, so on to making this self-proclaimed chickpea hash.  Essentially it is a chunky hummus with more spices that's bound with an egg and then fried.  Getting the consistency is the only tricky part because otherwise it will fall apart when you have to pan fry it.  

The first thing I did was to roast a couple of garlic cloves for around 35 min in a 380 degree oven.  They are here:

I then combined the roasted garlic with about one-half a can of washed chickpeas, some olive oil, a bit of salt+cracked pepper+one farm egg.  I blitzed this in the food processor until it was smooth.

After getting it nice and smooth, I transferred the hummus-like mixture to a bowl.  I then added the other half of chickpeas and another whole can to the food processor.  I just pulsed these chickpeas to get them to break up and be chunky.  I added that to the pureed chickpeas and then added some chopped green onion, shallot, and about a teaspoon of ground cumin.

After mixing well, I covered a plate with aluminum foil, got out two metal pastry crust molds, and poured in the chickpea mixture.  Here's what they looked like.
These bad boys went into the fridge for about an hour or so.  The mixture was pretty soft and the fridge helps them firm up.  About 15 minutes before frying them, I put them into the freezer to firm up even more and to make them easier to handle.  Even with all this hullabaloo, they were still very difficult to handle, but the taste made up for the effort. 

While the chickpea mixture was in the fridge, I got started on the celeriac.  I personally think celeriac is wonderful.  Its other name is celery root which tells you basically all you need to know.  It has the flavor of celery, but a little milder, and without the crunch or strings that come with celery.  It is often added to mashed potatoes, or roasted with other vegetables.  I think it can stand up on its own though as it does here.  Here's a picture of the gnarly root.

After top and tailing it, you then peel it using your knife and end up with this:
which you cut up exactly like you would do with a large potato.  Since I'm going to puree this with cilantro, I decided to blanch the cilantro to bring out its green color even more.  Since I have to boil the celeriac, I used the same pot to blanch the cilantro.  Here's the set up for blanching the cilantro:

For blanching, all you do is place the vegetable in question in a boiling pot of water (some need 30 seconds like cilantro, others like green beans can go minutes) and then immediately put the vegetables in a bowl of ice water.  You should see the vegetable immediately pop with more color.

Using the same boiling water I cooked the chopped celeriac for about 15-20 minutes until they were soft.  I then transferred the celeriac to a food processor with some cream+black pepper
After blitzing and adding more cream, or olive oil, to get the desired texture, I added the blanched cilantro:

and pulsed to combined.  I checked the seasoning, added a bit of lime juice and some kosher salt.  I then put it aside while I went to prepare the steaks.

I decided to pair all of the above with a pasture-raised NY strip steak.  As I talked about in my last post I get my pasture raised beef from a farm in Lakeville, CT called Whippoorwill Farm.  Here's a picture of the package:
And, after trimming:
Then, I toasted a bunch of coriander (the seed of cilantro, hence the two ways), crushed them in a mortar and pestle, combined it with cracked black pepper + kosher salt and then pressed this mixture on all sides of the strip steak.

I let this rest while I got started on frying the chickpea hash. In actuality, I made the chickpeas and the steak at the same time, but I'll present both of them separately. I took out the chickpea hash from the freezer and coated both sides with freshly toasted bread crumbs.

This part was a bit chaotic for me as I realized that turning these buggers was going to be a big challenge.  I'm guessing I didn't have them in the freezer long enough because there was no hope of turning it over without the filling running out.  Therefore, I just patted the breadcrumbs on the top and hoped for the best when I went to fry them. 

 I put about 2 tablespoons of oil in a hot fry pan and then gingerly set the chickpea hash down.

I let them fry on one side for about 5 minutes or so (they definitely take longer than the steaks) on about medium heat.  After I thought one side was done, and I was totally guessing, I decided to try to flip them.  Now, these things are like lava; hot hot lava.  And the damn metal ring around it doesn't help.  Actually it does help because it keeps everything intact, but that metal is also damn hot.  So my strategy (because I only have one spatula), was as follows.

I used a spatula to slide underneath one of the suckers, then, using a metal pastry knife on top, I quickly flip the whole thing over onto the metal pastry knife using some sort of kung fu body origami with my hands.  It eventually worked but resulted in a few close calls.  These things took longer to cook than I anticipated so I had to flip them a few times and got better every time.  Here's what they look like after one side got nice and toasty.

Since this was my first time making them, I had no idea how long they would take.  I was a little bit worried that they egg would still be raw in the center, so I actually used an instant read cooking thermometer to check the center of the hash.  When it came to about 165 degrees I took them off the stove and removed the rings.

As for the steak, I simply pan seared it in an extremely hot pan on all sides.  The sides with the largest surface area I seared for around 2 minutes, and the smaller sides I seared for around 1.5 minutes for a total of around 7-8 minutes.  Here's the progression:

And then I let it rest for around 5 minutes while I finished the chickpeas.

After letting it rest for about 5 minutes, I sliced the strip for plating.  This can be seen here:

The steak was really perfectly done; a nice crust on the outside and still red/pink in the middle. 

 Next up, I started to plate.  I started with a round of the celeriac/cilantro puree (which had been reheated)

on top of which I placed a chickpea hash.

And then I added the sliced strip steak with a spring of cilantro:

Let me just say, this dish was awesome.  It was really terrific.  The coriander crust on the steak added a really nice lemon/herbal taste that didn't overpower the beef at all.  The chickpea hash had a great texture and taste and of course the celeriac/cilantro puree added a creaminess to the crusty chickpeas.  If I do this again, I'm definitely going to change the way I make the chickpeas.  Instead of cooking it on the stove the entire time, I'm going to treat it like a piece of meat and cook one side on top of the stove, flip it, and then bake it to continue cooking it.  I think this will solve a lot of the problems I had with it.