The word "spinach" was omitted from a list of ingredients for Beef Tenderloin With Stilton Cheese, Pastry and Madeira Sauce in yesterday's Food section. As the recipe directions indicate, 2 pounds of baby spinach are required. (Published 12/09/1999)
As we round the stretch to New Year's Eve 1999, it's clear the pressure is on to make this celebration extra special. For those of you who've decided to go out and spend big bucks, that may not be a problem. But if you're entertaining at home or planning a memorable meal for your family, it's quite another challenge.
What on earth are you going to serve?
The Food section decided to ask chefs at some of the area's best restaurants what they're cooking as 1999 rolls into 2000.
How does their food relate to this unique time?
What captures their imagination? The past? The present? The as-yet unknown?
What dishes do they make that will say "This is what was great about eating in America at the turn of the century"?
(And, of course, we also asked them to explain their choices to us and to share their recipes.)
Well, they did. And their dishes turned out to be a pretty good reflection of the way we eat now--at fine restaurants anyway. Predictably, the dominant style is New American food, with its freewheeling approach to borrowing from many culinary traditions and its emphasis on the best possible seasonal local ingredients.
But some chefs are also looking for ways to modernize and lighten classic dishes from American and European cuisines. (Classics become classic for good reason, but there are ways to rethink them for today's tastes.) Others enjoy reviving various regional specialties.
Fusion foods that merge elements from more than one culture are still popular. And so are comfort foods (usually glamorized) and dishes that recall the convenience foods of the '50s.
Some of the recipes are very lavish and challenging, others more basic. As usual, we've tried them all and caution that a couple of them demand nimble fingers, patience and a lot of time and expensive ingredients. But most can be made by attentive home cooks--especially if you can stretch your budget somewhat for the occasion.
We're not suggesting these recipes as a menu, or even that you make many of them. After all, they range from tasty initial tidbits and a spectacular first course all the way through wonderful salad, fish, poultry and meat courses to a couple of special desserts. But we hope that a few will tempt you.
And of course you can save a few to make next year.
If there's one thing that characterizes fine cooking in America today, it's top-quality ingredients--sometimes expensive, sometimes not. Bob Kinkead realizes that many celebratory diners are likely to go for broke this New Year's Eve--but with this recipe home chefs don't have to. His Potato- and Celeriac-Wrapped Salmon With Caviar Cream balances luxury items (fresh salmon and caviar) with classic peasant foods (potatoes and celery root).
"This millennium is all about luxury," says Kinkead. "People are flush with cash. They're not going to get to celebrate another millennium, so price will be no object for some people. They're just going to want the best of the best. You'll see tons of foie gras and caviar and truffles. In this particular age, those are the foods that are thought of as truly special and celebratory to bring in a new year."
But Kinkead isn't likely to use all of those ingredients in the same dish. "I'm a big fan of using inexpensive products with expensive ones," he says "They tend to complement each other."
Kinkead's recipe balances several other elements that also complement each other: hot salmon bundles and cold caviar sauce ("Salmon needs something assertive in a topping or a sauce"), soft fish and its crunchy potato coating ("People like a textural contrast with seafood"), assertive celery root and mellow potato ("Celery root is a really neat flavor component with the potato").
A word of caution: "Potato-crusted fish has been around for a while, but this one is harder than usual," says Kinkead. "It's definitely not an entry-level dish. It's a good trick to get the potato strands around the fish. You've got to work fast: Cut the potato and celery root, coat them in the clarified butter and wrap them around the fish."
As for the cost--after all, this is a first course, not the main event: "You can be as extravagant as you want," says Kinkead. "A spoonful of caviar or a ladle. All beluga or osetra."
Potato- and Celeriac-Wrapped Salmon With Caviar Cream
(12 appetizer servings)
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked white pepper to taste 2/3 cup creme fraiche
2 ounces osetra caviar, plus additional for garnish, if desired
1/4 cup chopped chives
3 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 large celeriac bulb, peeled
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, clarified *
24 ounces salmon fillet, skin removed, cut into 24 rectangles
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the cream cheese, lemon juice, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste; mix until smooth. Add the creme fraiche and whip until peaks begin to form. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold in the caviar and chives. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
With a mandoline, vegetable peeler, food processor or a very sharp knife, cut the potatoes and celeriac into long, paper-thin strands. They should be long enough and thin enough to wrap around a piece of salmon like a ribbon. Place them in a large bowl. Drizzle the vegetables with the butter and toss until the vegetables are completely coated. Set aside.
Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Working quickly, wrap the buttered potato and celeriac strands around each piece of salmon to cover completely, tucking in the ends. Transfer the salmon bundles to a large plate.
Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add several of the salmon bundles, being careful not to crowd the pan and frying in batches if necessary. Saute the bundles until brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn and repeat. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and transfer to the preheated oven to keep warm.
To serve, arrange 2 salmon bundles on each plate. Garnish with a dollop of the caviar cream and, if desired, a sprinkling of caviar.
* Note: Clarified butter is butter without the milk solids, which results in a fat that can withstand higher temperatures. To prepare clarified butter, heat unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat until almost all of the water has evaporated and the milk solids separate and sink to the bottom of the pan. Skim any foam from the surface of the golden clarified butter. Pour the clear liquid through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, being careful to leave the milk solids in the pan.
Per serving: 217 calories, 14 gm protein, 7 gm carbohydrates, 15 gm fat, 92 mg cholesterol, 7 gm saturated fat, 152 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Susan McCreight Lindeborg
Formerly of the Morrison-Clark Inn & Restaurant
When sophisticated American cooks embraced French cooking in the late '60s and '70s, diners sometimes fell in love with complicated dishes that almost defied reproduction. Such was the case with Beef Wellington, a pastry-and-pate-wrapped roast beef that reigned at fine restaurants. When asked by the kitchen staff at the Morrison-Clark Inn if they could resuscitate it this fall, Susan McCreight Lindeborg was wary--until, working with Bob Beaudry and Adam Hrebiniak, she deconstructed it and reassembled it as Beef Tenderloin With Stilton Cheese, Pastry and Madeira Sauce.
"Americans in general adore excess," says Lindeborg. "But Beef Wellington was a disaster--really, really difficult to make. Most of the time the crust was soggy and the meat overdone. But people liked it because it was complicated. When we thought about European cuisine we thought it couldn't possibly be the real thing unless it took every pan in the house."
Why bother bringing it back? There was a very good idea inherent in the dish, but one that could be made even better. "We needed to lighten it up and make it more modern," says Lindeborg.
The solution lay in enlivening the ingredients (Stilton and walnut butter instead of mushrooms, a Madeira sauce instead of port), keeping them separated and then building the dish up from the plate.
Now, instead of seeing a pastry wrapping that conceals everything inside, the diner sees each ingredient. "One of the changes in food in the last decade is that we're all more interested in knowing exactly what's going on in our food. Now you can see what you're eating."
And the layers are neatly stacked. "Giving a dish a little height makes it look lighter and airier," says Lindeborg. But not stacked too high, she cautions. "I think stacking came out of trying to make the plates look really beautiful. And to have some room on the plate. But because we do excess so well, that approach has been taken to extremes--if you're going to build something a little bit high, you need to be able to take it apart very easily so you can eat it."
Beef Tenderloin With Stilton Cheese, Pastry and Madeira Sauce
Stilton-Walnut Butter (recipe follows)
6 slices brioche or firm white bread, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 pounds baby, stems removed and discarded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Six 5-ounce pieces filet mignon
About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled
Orange-Walnut Phyllo Triangles (recipe follows)
Madeira Sauce (recipe follows)
Cut the Stilton-Walnut Butter into 6 equal rounds. Set aside to warm to room temperature.
Preheat the broiler. Have a baking sheet ready.
Using a biscuit cutter approximately the same size as the individual pieces of filet mignon, cut a round from each bread slice. Using 1 tablespoon of the regular butter, lightly butter both sides of each bread round and transfer to a baking sheet. Broil until lightly toasted on each side. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of regular butter. Add the spinach and cook, turning the leaves constantly, just until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly, then squeeze with paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Set aside.
Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet over high heat, heat the oil. Add the beef and cook until browned on each side but rare in the middle, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a wire rack to allow the juices to settle.
Divide the spinach equally among the 6 bread rounds, mounding it slightly. Sprinkle the Stilton cheese over the spinach. Place 1 filet mignon on top of the spinach and cheese on each bread round. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and heat until warm, 5 to 10 minutes.
Place a spinach-and-beef-topped round in the center of each individual plate. Place 1 round of Stilton-Walnut Butter on top of each filet mignon; set aside until the butter begins to melt. Top each round with 4 Orange-Walnut Phyllo Triangles. Spoon the Madeira Sauce on the plate in a circle surrounding the bread round. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 1156 calories, 52 gm protein, 31 gm carbohydrates, 84 gm fat, 275 mg cholesterol, 41 gm saturated fat, 1444 mg sodium, 16 gm dietary fiber
(Makes about 3/4 cup)
4 ounces Stilton cheese
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons chopped, toasted walnuts
Have a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper ready.
In a small bowl, stir together the Stilton cheese, butter and walnuts. Place the butter mixture on the plastic wrap or wax paper and form into a short roll about 2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until ready to use. Bring to room temperature just before using. (May prepare up to 5 days ahead of time.)
Per serving (based on 6): 242 calories, 5 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 25 gm fat, 58 mg cholesterol, 14 gm saturated fat, 266 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
(Makes 24 triangles)
4 medium oranges
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts, finely chopped
5 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed according to manufacturer's directions*
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush it lightly with the oil.
Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove the peel from the oranges, leaving behind as much white pith as possible. Save the oranges for another use.
In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange peels and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency.
Drain the peels; discard the syrup. Transfer the peels to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the peels in the preheated oven until dry and crisp but still orange in color, 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to brown the peels. Set aside to cool.
In a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, grind the peels to a fine powder; you will have about 3 tablespoons. (May cover tightly and store for several weeks.)* *
In a small bowl, mix together the orange powder and the walnuts.
Brush 1 layer of phyllo dough with butter and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the orange-walnut mixture. Top with a layer of phyllo dough and repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with a layer of phyllo dough. Generously brush the top layer with butter. Press gently on the layers to flatten.
Using a sharp knife, cut the stack of phyllo into 12 squares. Cut each square in half diagonally to form a triangle; you will have 24 triangles. Transfer the triangles to a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until light brown, about 20 minutes.
Per serving (2 triangles per serving): 117 calories, 2 gm protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 39 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
* Note: Phyllo (or filo) dough, found in the frozen food section of many supermarkets, needs to thaw in the box at room temperature--it takes about 4 hours. Do not open the box until all other ingredients are assembled and you are ready to work. Carefully unroll the phyllo sheets onto a smooth dry surface. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and then a damp towel. Work with 1 sheet at a time, keeping the remaining sheets covered.
* * Note: Lindeborg's orange powder is adapted from a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman.
(Makes about 2 cups)
2 cups Madeira
6 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 small carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small leek, white part only, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups veal or veal and duck demi-glace*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the Madeira to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Madeira is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 40 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the carrot, onion, celery and leek and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Add the water, demi-glace and reduced Madeira and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced to 2 cups, about 40 minutes. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl; discard the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (May cover the strained sauce and refrigerate for up to 3 days.)
Cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of the butter into small pieces; cover and refrigerate.
To serve, in a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the sauce. Remove from the heat, add the chilled butter cubes and quickly whisk until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Serve immediately.
* Note: Demi-glace is a rich brown sauce created from slowly reduced meat, poultry or fish stock, vegetables and Madeira or sherry. Available locally, either frozen or shelf-stable, at specialty markets including Dean & DeLuca, Fresh Fields, Sutton Place Gourmet and Williams-Sonoma. Available by mail-order from D'Artagnan; call 1-800-327-8246 or www.dartagnan.com.
Per serving (based on 6): 317 calories, 3 gm protein, 5 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 52 mg cholesterol, 12 gm saturated fat, 435 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber
ICE CREAM CAKE
The Inn at Little Washington
How to explain the comfort food that many American diners have embraced in recent years? The taste? The echoes of home? A nostalgia for what seemed like simpler times? At The Inn at Little Washington, Patrick O'Connell pays affectionate homage to the ice cream cakes of his childhood in Maryland in the 1950s with a still-comforting but hardly simple Double Chocolate Ice Cream Cake.
"Ice cream was always a special-occasion dessert for our family," says O'Connell. "And every Thanksgiving and Christmas we went to Gifford's ice cream store and bought one of those frozen ice cream cake rolls with the silhouette of a turkey or Christmas tree rolled inside. The turkeys were pumpkin colored and the trees red or green, but they were ice cream too--and very intriguing. It took half a day to drive in and select it. It was a real family outing. All of the [six] kids went. It was like going to select the Christmas tree."
The dessert was a special treat for the family. Especially for his mother, a woman who "always wore high heels when she cooked.
"She was caught between her mother, who was a wonderful Depression-era cook who made everything, and the promise of the '50s that life would be convenient," he says. "But it had to be a dressy dessert, and it was always prettier looking than it was delicious."
O'Connell's version--a flourless chocolate cake wrapped around homemade white chocolate ice cream--is both. "It's giving it the taste it never had with the finest ingredients available--the best chocolate, magnificent ice cream," he says. "And two little sauces: white on one side of the cake and dark chocolate on the other. Garnished with whipped cream and chocolate curls, this is a decadent dessert," warns O'Connell. "Parental guidance is advised."
Double Chocolate Ice Cream Cake
Nonstick spray oil
Flour for dusting the pan
7 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting the cake
White Chocolate Ice Cream (recipe follows)
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8-ounce semisweet chocolate bar, for garnish
Dark Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)
White Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-inch baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil, smoothing any wrinkles with a kitchen towel. Spray the foil with nonstick spray oil. Dust the pan with the flour to coat; tap out any excess flour.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and whisk until thoroughly incorporated, scraping the sides occasionally. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add a pinch of salt and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, mixing just until combined after each addition. Do not overmix.
Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake for another 4 minutes. The cake should just barely be firm; if not, rotate again and bake for another 4 minutes.
Set the cake aside to cool in the pan. When completely cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate in the pan until ready to assemble.
To assemble: Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Sprinkle a clean kitchen towel with 1/4 cup of the confectioners' sugar. Carefully invert the cake onto the towel. Set aside.
Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Remove the ice cream layer from the pan and flip it onto the cake. The ice cream should yield slightly to pressure; if the ice cream is frozen hard, set aside to soften for a few minutes. Remove and discard the plastic wrap.
Working quickly, take the long side of the cake and ice cream facing you and roll it toward the opposite side, jellyroll fashion. Carefully roll the cake roll onto a large sheet of aluminum foil, pull the foil up over the sides and cover the cake, crimping the edges to close. Freeze overnight.
To serve: In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of the confectioners' sugar until stiff peaks form. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip.
Rub 1 side of the chocolate bar with your fingers to warm it slightly. Drag a sharp knife across the chocolate to form curls. Place the curls on a plate and transfer to the freezer.
Remove cake from the freezer. Trim the ends with a sharp knife. Slice the cake into 1 1/2-inch slices and transfer to chilled serving plates. Pipe rosettes of whipped cream on top of each slice and top the cream with chocolate curls. Spoon some of the warm Dark Chocolate Sauce along one side of the cake and some of the warm White Chocolate Sauce on the other side.
Per serving: 1020 calories (including sauces), 13 gm protein, 96 gm carbohydrates, 67 gm fat, 333 mg cholesterol, 40 gm saturated fat, 152 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber
White Chocolate Ice Cream
(Makes 5 1/2 to 6 cups)
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces white chocolate, broken into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a heavy pot over medium heat, stir together 1 cup of the cream and the milk and heat just until a skin starts to form. Immediately remove from the heat; set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water ready.
In a large stainless-steel bowl over the pot of boiling water, mix together the egg yolks, sugar and 1/4 cup of the remaining heavy cream. Slowly whisk in the warm cream-milk mixture. Add the pieces of white chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts. Immediately remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup cream. Strain the mixture; discard any solids. Stir in the rum and vanilla extract. Set the ice cream bowl over the bowl of ice water; set aside to cool.
Lightly spray a 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-inch pan with water. Line the pan with enough plastic wrap to cover the bottom of the pan and overlap the edges, patting any wrinkles smooth. Transfer the pan to the freezer.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions. (You may need to process the ice cream in 2 batches.)
Using a spatula, transfer the ice cream to the prepared pan, spreading it to a thickness of 1/2 inch; transfer the ice cream to the freezer and chill until firm, about 3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to proceed.
Per serving (based on 10): 317 calories, 3 gm protein, 22 gm carbohydrates, 24 gm fat, 135 mg cholesterol, 14 gm saturated fat, 45 mg sodium, 0 gm dietary fiber
Dark Chocolate Sauce
(Makes about 1 cup)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
In the top of a double boiler or in a small stainless-steel bowl set over simmering water, combine all of the ingredients and heat, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Heat the sauce until ready to serve.
Per serving (based on 10): 136 calories, 1 gm protein, 16 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 4 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
White Chocolate Sauce
(Makes about 1 cup)
8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream
3 tablespoons Triple Sec (may substitute any orange liqueur)
In the top of a double boiler or in a small stainless-steel bowl set over simmering water, combine all of the ingredients and heat, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. (May cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Gently rewarm over simmering water.)
Per serving (based on 10): 157 calories, 2 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 6 gm saturated fat, 26 mg sodium, 0 gm dietary fiber
The Lafayette Restaurant at the Hay-Adams Hotel
Nowadays fashionable meals rarely last so long that diners need a break between courses. But at the end of the last century, formal meals often featured a brief intermezzo, an iced palate cleanser called a granite, which was usually served between the fish and poultry courses as a way of waking up the appetite. Though we're all likely to stay awake this New Year's Eve, the millennium eve meal just may be a little more elaborate than usual. For a very contemporary intermezzo, Frederic Lange suggests Frosted Sake with Asian Pear.
"I think the idea of the granite started in the court of Louis XIV in Versailles," says Lange. "They had a big kitchen there, where in winter they could bring ice from the Seine or the Marne valley and keep it underground for four or five months.
"In the beginning, these granites were based on a fruit schnapps, like an apple or a pear, to stimulate the appetite. When you got a shot of alcohol, it did something to your stomach so that instead of feeling bloated you felt like you could eat more. And the granites also provided a subtle flavor and a different texture that could whet the appetite.
"In this recipe the technique is traditional, but I've tried to give it interesting flavors from the same source. Winter is the season for pears, and Asian pears and sake are from the same culture, which makes for a good marriage. On New Year's Eve people will be drinking full-bodied wines and champagnes and savoring many courses during the dinner. The sake is perfect for breaking the lingering taste of the wines and reawakening the palate for the next sensation.
"The idea of the poached pears in the recipe is more for the eye than for eating," he cautions. "When you serve the granites, you can take a nice sherry or a port, put it in the freezer, and put a drop or two on each one. And of course the granites have to be very small portions."
Frosted Sake With Asian Pear
For the Asian Pear Granit:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups water
3 pounds Asian pears, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup sake
2 teaspoons lime juice
For the Sake Granit:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons plum wine*
2 tablespoons pickled ginger*
8 thin slices poached Asian pear (optional garnish)
For the Asian Pear Granit: In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool slightly.
In a blender or food processor, puree the sugar syrup, pears, sake and lime juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a shallow metal baking pan and transfer to the freezer.
For the Sake Granit: In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool slightly.
In a blender or food processor, puree the sugar syrup, sake, plum wine and pickled ginger until smooth. Pour the mixture into a shallow metal baking pan and transfer to the freezer.
Chill the 2 pans, stirring every 30 minutes to crush any lumps, until each mixture is firm but not solid, 2 to 3 hours. (May be frozen for up to 2 days.)
To serve, fluff each granite with a fork to flake. Divide the pear slices evenly among individual serving plates. Place 1 scoop of Asian Pear Granite and 1 scoop of Sake Granite on each pear slice. Serve immediately.
* Note: Plum wine is available at many liquor stores and Asian markets. Pickled ginger is available at many supermarkets and Asian markets.
Per serving: 398 calories, 2 gm protein, 88 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 6 mg sodium, 12 gm dietary fiber
At Equinox, his new restaurant near the White House, Todd Gray serves his version of New American food even though his training (in particular at La Colline, Jean-Louis and Galileo) is classical French and Italian. He still uses the techniques of those cuisines--"It's a great foundation to build on"--but he gives his cooking a distinctly American character with seasonal (and whenever possible) local ingredients. His Chesapeake Bouillabaisse With Rockfish, Bay Scallops and Soft-Shell Crabs is an East Coast reworking of the Southern French favorite.
"Some dishes are so great, they've lasted for centuries," says Gray. "I like the historical value of bouillabaisse, so I've kept the recipe pure. I haven't tried to go beyond it with things like parsley oils and basil oils--I just Americanized it with Eastern seaboard fish."
He likes to use soft-shell crabs, Nantucket scallops ("They're wonderful and sweet when they're fresh"), striped bass ("If you look in Larousse, some fish like that was always present") and Carolina grouper or red snapper ("their colors look so nice").
Gray works hard to find combinations of fish and shellfish that make the new dish particularly pleasing aesthetically. That's one of the reasons he doesn't make the broth quite as dark as the classical dish. "That's important to a contemporary American chef," he says. So he uses a little more tomato and saffron in the broth--"It's more eye-catching." And he looks for visually appealing contrasts, like white clam shells with pink jumbo shrimp, or the silver skin of the rockfish with the red skin of mullet or snapper.
Does he worry that fiddling with the ingredients in the dish alters the basic concept? Absolutely not. Says Gray, "An adjustment like that is a chef's personal decision."
Chesapeake Bouillabaisse With Rockfish, Bay Scallops and Soft-Shell Crabs
For the rouille:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled, cooked until tender and cooled
1 teaspoon saffron threads
6 cloves garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the bouillabaisse:
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 teaspoon saffron threads
12 Nantucket bay scallops, in the shell, scrubbed and rinsed
12 Maine mussels, in the shell, scrubbed, debearded and rinsed
6 littleneck clams, in the shell, scrubbed
1 tablespoon orange zest, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds
1 cup Pernod or white wine
6 ounces rockfish fillet, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 ounces grouper, sea bass or mullet fillet, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 small soft-shell crabs *
1 1/2 quarts fish stock **
2 cups crushed tomatoes, without juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Crostini (thin slices of toasted bread)
For the rouille: In a food processor or blender, combine the mayonnaise, potato, saffron, garlic, salt and pepper to taste and process for 1 minute. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate.
For the bouillabaisse: In a large stockpot over low heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic, fennel and saffron and cook for 2 minutes. Add the scallops, mussels and clams and cook for 2 minutes. Add the orange zest and Pernod or wine (to taste) and cook for 1 minute. Add the rockfish, grouper, shrimp, soft-shell crabs, fish stock and tomatoes, increase the heat to medium, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the seafood evenly among individual soup bowls. Ladle the broth evenly over the seafood. Serve the rouille on the side with crostini.
* Note: If soft-shell crabs are unavailable, add additional amounts of other shellfish such as shrimp, clams, scallops or mussels.
** Note: Fish stock is available at some specialty markets and fish stores. You may substitute fish bouillon cubes or bottled clam juice.
Per serving: 727 calories, 43 gm protein, 30 gm carbohydrates, 38 gm fat, 151 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 1,602 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber
New American cooking often reassembles traditional food combinations--sometimes more successfully than others. But even though it doesn't always look that way, some basic verities underlie fine cooking. One of them is that citrus cuts fat, and, conversely, that most fats are complemented by citrus. Working with that principle, Brian McBride, chef at the Park Hyatt's Melrose restaurant in Foggy Bottom, has reinvented and modernized the classic French Duck a l'Orange.
The path to the current dish--Roast Duck Breast With Blood Orange-Ginger Sauce--was based on a genuine understanding of the older one.
"You have to learn these classics," says McBride. "Then once you get the basics down and master these dishes that have stood the test of time, you can take a look at them and see why the combinations work (like vinegar or ketchup on French fries, or mango with foie gras). Once you understand the key, you can put your own spin on it and start to develop your own cuisine.
"So the new dish takes that proven tradition--a duck accented with citrus and sweetness that became popular in this country in the '60s--and combines it with updated ingredients--the Asian flavors that have only become popular here in the past 10 years or so.
"The original dish tended to be heavier," he says. "The cut of meat was fattier, the sauce was thicker. This one is the same idea: the citrus offsets the fat. But now we're going for a lighter taste with the zest and the orange juice. The ginger adds sharpness and Asian connotations. And instead of flour we use a natural reduction of the marinade. And the flavors meld well together."
Another difference is the cooking time. "It's very fast," says McBride. "You put the duck down in a dry hot pan and let its own fat melt, not adding extra ingredients, flip it over and pop it in the oven for five to seven minutes. We like it rare," he cautions. "It keeps the meat more tender, flavorful and juicy."
Roast Duck Breast With Blood Orange-Ginger Sauce
2 large duck breasts cut in half, or 4 small double breasts (about 2 pounds), visible fat removed
2/3 cup blood-orange juice (may substitute orange juice)
3 tablespoons blood orange zest, grated (may substitute any orange zest)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup rich duck stock (may substitute duck demi-glace*)
2 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into bits
2 blood oranges, peeled and separated into segments (may substitute any orange)
Place the duck in a shallow dish large enough to hold the duck and the marinade. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, oil, ginger, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the marinade over the duck, cover tightly and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Remove the duck from the marinade; set aside.
Strain the marinade into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, skimming the fat from the surface of the liquid, until the marinade is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 30 minutes. Pour into a bowl; set aside.
Meanwhile, season the duck with salt and pepper to taste. Heat a heavy ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the duck, skin-side down, and cook until well browned. Turn and cook until the other side is browned. Turn the duck again, transfer the pan to the preheated oven and roast, uncovered, until the duck is the desired degree of doneness, 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare. Remove the duck from the saute pan and transfer to a plate. Cover the plate; set aside.
Leave the duck juice and drippings in the saute pan. Add the Grand Marnier to the saute pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liqueur is reduced to about 1 teaspoon. Add the wine and cook until the mixture is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Whisk in the remaining orange zest, duck stock and the reduced marinade. Add the chilled butter pieces and quickly whisk until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Remove from the heat.
To serve, thinly slice each duck breast into 15 to 20 slices and arrange on individual plates. Garnish with the blood-orange segments. Drizzle the sauce around the duck and orange slices. Serve immediately with wild rice.
* Note: Demi-glace is a rich brown sauce created from slowly reduced meat, poultry or fish stock, vegetables and Madeira or sherry. It serves as the base for many sauces. It is available locally, either frozen or shelf-stable, at specialty markets including Dean & DeLuca, Fresh Fields, Sutton Place Gourmet and Williams-Sonoma, and by mail-order from D'Artagnan; call 1-800-327-8246 or www.dartagnan.com.
Per serving: 683 calories, 51 gm protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 38 gm fat, 219 mg cholesterol, 15 gm saturated fat, 1257 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber
Sometimes the challenge for chefs is to take an old standard and refine it for today's tastes. Sound hard? Maybe, but many high-quality ingredients are more varied, more available and even better than they were the first time around. Ris Lacoste, executive chef at 1789 in Georgetown, relies on their quality for this salad.
"Everybody has a salad with pear or apple and blue cheese dressing on the menu," says Lacoste. "You used to see so many versions with raspberry vinegar--though I did the salad with sherry or red wine. Then somebody mentioned how great it would be to have a salad with cheese and port, and it was a revelation because port vinaigrette is a great idea" (especially when she reduces the port to one-eighth of its original volume and combines it with red wine vinegar and two nut oils).
Lacoste always uses walnuts for her Endive, Walnut and Maytag Blue Cheese Salad With Port Vinaigrette. "They're a little bitter so they're a perfect nut for this salad," she says. "Pecans are too sweet." She'd always prefer to use seasonal local greens, but this time of year that's rarely possible. For this salad she uses hardy, sharp bitter greens "like frisee and endive and radicchio," she says. "I may even throw in a dab of spinach. When you use a delicate lettuce, a heavy syrup just kills it. You need some bitterness to round it all out--especially with the creaminess of the cheese."
As for the cheese, for this salad Lacoste likes Maytag, which is made from cow's milk, not sheep's milk. "It's creamier and less salty, and there's a better crumble factor for salads," she says. When that's not available, there are plenty of others now that a growing cottage industry is making specialized domestic cheeses. Says Lacoste, "It's great that we're back to making our own things again."
Endive, Walnut and Maytag Blue Cheese Salad With Port Vinaigrette
3 heads endive, stems removed and discarded, separated into leaves
1 head (about 5 ounces) curly chicory (frisee), stem removed and discarded
1 small head radicchio, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices
1 medium red onion, julienned 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
About 3/4 cup Port Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Poached Pears (recipe follows)
6 ounces Maytag blue cheese, crumbled (may substitute other blue cheeses)
Arrange the endive leaves on six individual serving plates. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the frisee, radicchio, onion and walnuts. Add about 4 to 5 tablespoons of the Port Vinaigrette, being careful not to overdress the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, sprinkle with additional Port Vinaigrette to taste and toss again.
Drizzle the remaining Port Vinaigrette over the endive leaves. Divide the frisee mixture evenly among the salad plates, placing it at the base of the endive leaves. Arrange the pear slices, fanlike, on each plate. Sprinkle with the blue cheese.
Per serving: 300 calories, 10 gm protein, 22 gm carbohydrates, 20 gm fat, 21 mg cholesterol, 7 gm saturated fat, 492 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber
(Makes 3 1/2 cups)
Place a wet towel under the bowl to prevent it from slipping while you whisk in the ingredients.
1 cup ruby port
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a small saucepan over low heat, bring the port to a simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the reduced port, vinegar, mustard and shallot. Slowly add the peanut oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Using the same method, add the walnut oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste and, if necessary, whisk in additional peanut and/or walnut oil to taste. (You may cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.)
Per 1-tablespoon serving: 56 calories, trace protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, trace cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 6 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
The poaching liquid may be further reduced and used as a syrup for other dishes.
2 cups ruby port
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 firm, ripe pears, peeled with stems intact
In a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears and the poaching liquid, combine the port, water, sugar and vanilla bean. Place the pears in the port mixture; the mixture should reach about halfway up the pears. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, turning the pears occasionally, until the pears are soft, about 45 minutes. (You may cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 3 days.) Cut into thin slices prior to serving.
Per serving (based on 6): 63 calories, trace protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, trace sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber
A very American idea--the melting pot--has taken on new meaning in today's culinary landscape. The result: fusion food, a free-floating cuisine that borrows ingredients and cooking styles from more than one ethnic tradition. Usually found at restaurants featuring New American cuisine, fusion food has been turned inside out at the Bombay Bistro in Fairfax and Rockville, where K.N. Vinod, chef and co-owner, has used typically American flavors to invigorate a classic Indian dessert. The result: Bombay Orange Gelato With Cardamom, Saffron and Nuts.
"Originally we had kulfi on the menu," says Vinod, referring to the very rich, very sweet Indian ice cream that often scares off those who aren't used to it. That ancient dish, made with milk that has been reduced and reduced and reduced and sweetened, is flavored with cardamom and nuts, and paired with a sweet vermicelli-like pastry called falooda that is also served cold. "Guests were hesitating when they saw it," says Vinod. "They were intrigued by the cardamom but they thought the dish might be too rich."
To salvage the kulfi tradition, Vinod went the fusion route, keeping the idea of frozen cream, nuts and cardamom, but substituting a more Americanized ice cream called gelato and serving the dish with a warm orange sauce. "Having worked in French restaurants, I'd played around with crepes suzette sauces, and the orange went well with the ice cream. The citrus cut the richness, and the warm sauce was a nice contrast to the cold ice cream, changing the dimensions of the dish. Putting it all in an orange shell and garnishing it with mint made it even more mainstream."
Vinod also serves a cardamom creme caramel, but somehow his customers prefer the orange. "Americans love the flavor of citrus," he says.
Even though traditional kulfi is still on the menu, many Indian customers are ordering the frozen orange desserts, too. "Most of them don't like the idea of orange sauce--they stick to traditional things," he says. "But they've tried it, and now they want it. It's been on the menu for five or six years. And it sells the most."
Bombay Orange Gelato With Cardamom
8 medium oranges
For the ice cream:
2 1/2 cups ice-cream mix *
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 to 1 teaspoon saffron
1 ounce shelled pistachios, chopped
1 ounce blanched almonds, sliced
For the orange sauce:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 1/2 cups water
Juice of half a lemon
Zest from half a lemon, julienned
Zest from half an orange, julienned
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as curacao (optional)
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8 fresh mint leaves for garnish
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
If necessary, cut a very thin slice of peel from the bottom of each orange so the orange will sit flat on a plate. Cut a slice from the top of each orange and set aside to use as a lid.
Using a sharp knife, cut between the inside of the orange peel and the outside of the orange segments. Carefully remove the segments and juice, keeping the peel of the orange intact, like a cup. Transfer the orange juice and the orange segments to a bowl and reserve for another use. Transfer the orange cups to the prepared baking sheet and freeze for at least 4 hours.
For the ice cream: In a large bowl, stir together the ice-cream mix, cardamom, saffron, pistachios and almonds. Transfer the mixture to an ice-cream machine and process according to manufacturer's directions. (May need to process the gelato in two batches.) Transfer the gelato to a bowl and freeze for 15 minutes. Divide the gelato evenly among the orange cups and freeze until slightly firm, at least 3 hours.
For the orange sauce: In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the sugar until it dissolves and turns a light golden color. Add the butter, orange juice concentrate and water and bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and lemon and orange zests. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and strain. Stir in the orange liqueur, if using. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Transfer to a pastry pag fitted with a fine tip (may substitute a resealable plastic bag with 1 of the bottom corners trimmed).
Spoon the warm orange sauce onto the center of each plate and spread evenly into a circle; reserve the remaining orange sauce for another use. Starting at the center of the plate, pipe the whipped cream into concentric circles that emanate from the center to the rim of the plate. To form swirls in the sauce, hold a toothpick at the center of each plate, and with its end carefully draw out to the rim of the plate. Rotate the plate and repeat as many times as desired.
Remove the filled orange cups from the freezer and place in the center of each plate. Garnish with mint leaves and serve immediately.
* Note: Shenandoah's Pride Ice Cream Mix is available in half-gallon packages for approximately $3.50 at Westlawn Supermarket, 3000 Annandale Rd., Falls Church; call 703-237-5612. To make your own, in a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of heavy (whipping) cream, 2 egg yolks and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.
Per serving: 536 calories, 4 gm protein, 33 gm carbohydrates, 44 gm fat, 193 mg cholesterol, 25 gm saturated fat, 38 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Jose Andres and Wayne Combs
Elegance and gourmet cooking--that's probably what most Americans associate with European cuisine. Is it remotely related to fast food? No way. Or is it? Jose R. Andres, the very Spanish executive chef at Jaleo in the Pennsylvania Quarter has a different take. To Andres the little plates of Spanish regional foods known as tapas are pretty close cousins of the hamburgers, deep-fried chicken fingers and pizza slices that dominate everyday America's culinary landscape. Only better.
"They're a way of eating--a way of life," says Andres of the mini-dishes of hot and cold foods that are served at bars and restaurants throughout Spain. "They're cheap, they're fast and they're good for the money," he says. "Tapas are high-quality fast foods."
The tapas way of life, however, hasn't been known in America that long--perhaps for no more than a decade. Andres maintains that most Americans didn't encounter genuine Spanish food of any kind--even gazpacho--until it was popularized at the Spanish Pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1964.
So why have tapas become so popular in this country? And, if they're like fast food, why do they taste so much better?
For one thing, says Andres: "It's Mediterranean cooking. And Americans like Mediterranean-style food. The ingredients are familiar." For another, like most of the food served at fine restaurants today, tapas rely on high-quality seasonal ingredients.
Some tapas ingredients can't be found in America; that means foods like anchovies, olives, ham, sardines and cuttlefish must be imported from Spain. And when ingredients can be grown or produced locally, Andres (like many other chefs in America), works with local farmers and purveyors to get the white beans or shellfish or cured ham he needs.
And caviar? Well, that's a problem only for the next couple of weeks.
Apples and Manchego Cheese With Garlic Dressing and Caviar
(4 to 6 servings)
4 tart green apples, preferably Granny Smith, cored and julienned
12 ounces manchego cheese, julienned *
Garlic Dressing (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons caviar
In a large bowl, toss together the apples, cheese and Garlic Dressing. Divide the salad evenly among individual serving plates and sprinkle with the caviar or place the caviar in small mounds atop the salad.
* Note: Manchego is a rich, semisoft Spanish cheese with a mellow flavor, so named because it was originally made from the milk of Manchego sheep.
Per serving (based on 6): 433 calories, 15 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 37 gm fat, 92 mg cholesterol, 15 gm saturated fat, 457 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber
(Makes about 3/4 cup) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the garlic and cook until browned. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic mixture, remaining 6 tablespoons oil, shallots, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste and process until smooth.
Per 2-tablespoon serving: 169 calories, trace protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 40 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
Michel Richard Citronelle
When adventurous Americans plunged into French cooking in the 1960s, many of them embraced coq au vin, a classic braised chicken laden with bacon, sometimes butter, pearl onions, mushrooms and, of course, wine. For the much more modern Coq au Napa that he serves at Citronelle in Georgetown, Michel Richard has kept and even enlivened the flavors of the original but has stripped away much of its saturated fat.
"In the original recipe, the bird was a rooster--usually an old and tough one," says Richard, who lived and worked in California for 20 years. "So you marinated it in red wine for a few days to soften it. The red wine also preserved the bird a bit and kept bugs away. You'd cook that tough rooster for a long time to tenderize it and add carrots and onions and tomatoes for sweetness and mushrooms for extra flavor. Bacon was used for fat because peasants always had a piece of bacon around. That added flavor, too--French people eat a lot of pork and develop a taste for it. Then by the time the peasant got home from the fields, everything was ready. Most of the time the dish would be served with steamed potatoes.
"But now people want to be skinny, so in this recipe instead of bacon there is smoked turkey to preserve the smoky flavor. Since we use a chicken rather than a rooster, you don't need more than a day to tenderize it--that strong alcohol flavor can be too gamy. And the chicken is skinned: in the braising process, the chicken skin becomes so soft, I don't like the texture of it. My customers don't like it either--it gets soggy, like eating fat."
In the classic recipe, butter and flour were used to thicken the sauce. Instead, Richard uses pureed carrots. "To give a nice sweet flavor," he says. And he favors shiitake mushrooms. "I love their firm texture," he says. "The ordinary ones turned to rubber. Shiitakes can be cooked a long time and keep their shape, and they add a new dimension to the dish."
As for the braising wine, "Use a new one," he says, "like a Pinot Noir or a Sirah." Why a new one? "The old ones are very expensive."
Coq au Napa
4 large skinless chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs attached)
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried, crumbled
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 cups dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices smoked turkey, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch batons
16 pearl onions, peeled
1 cup unsalted chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the chicken legs in a single layer in a large nonreactive bowl. Add the thyme, garlic and wine; cover tightly and refrigerate, turning occasionally, overnight.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a large, heavy ovenproof pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the turkey batons and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until golden on all sides. Add the chicken stock or broth and tomato paste and scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon. Add the carrots and cook until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the carrots from the sauce; set aside.
Drain the marinade from the chicken into the liquid in the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the chicken, cover the pot and transfer it to the preheated oven. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken, stir the pan juices and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes longer.
While the chicken is cooking, transfer the carrots to a food processor or blender and puree. Set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the mushrooms and saute until they are lightly browned and have released their juices. Set aside.
When the chicken is cooked through, in a large clean skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Transfer the chicken from the pot to the skillet; set the pot aside. Cook the chicken until all sides are browned. Set aside.
While the chicken is browning, add the pureed carrots and mushrooms to the liquid in the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced by about one-half (you will have about 1 1/2 cups of sauce). If using fresh thyme, remove and discard the sprigs. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the onions and mushrooms to individual serving plates, leaving room for the chicken. Using tongs, roll the chicken pieces in the sauce and arrange on the plates. Spoon the remaining sauce over the chicken.
Per serving: 512 calories, 42 gm protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 152 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 698 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber
Regional foods are hot items these days at some of the country's very best restaurants. Chef-owner of Obelisk, Peter Pastan regularly roams Italy looking for traditional country recipes for his Dupont Circle restaurant. For his New Year's Eve dish--Coda alla Vaccinara (Oxtails Cooked in the Style of the Beef Butcher)--Pastan found inspiration in ancient Rome and its fascination with innards and other less sought-after cuts of meat.
"Everybody thinks of New Year's Eve as lavishly disgusting," says Pastan. "Lots of people overdo it, spending every last dime on something special they might not even like--like caviar or foie gras. Maybe they're looking in the wrong direction."
Pastan's "anti-trend" solution: Oxtail Stew. "Even in ancient Rome oxtails weren't the butcher's most popular cut--that's probably what he had left over to eat himself," he says. "They're humble and peasantlike. Back then lots of country people had their own pigs, but they wouldn't get to eat one more than a couple of times a year, and then they'd preserve the rest of it." (Pastan doesn't have pigs at home, but he does make guanciale [cured pig cheeks], pancetta [bellies] and prosciutto [hams] in his basement.) "The dish in a vague kind of way is a head-to-foot thing," he says. "The traditional Roman fatty flavoring agent is guanciale, so you're eating the extremes of the animal, starting with the head for flavoring, then going to the other end. There's a certain symbolism there that I enjoy, reaching from a long time ago to today and skipping the in between."
He also enjoys being able to monitor each ingredient in the dish. "That way I know where each ingredient comes from and what's happened to it. It's satisfying because it gives you the most control over the flavors, and you know you've been involved as much as you can."
"Besides," he says, "it's a really nice company dish that you can do ahead of time and stick in the oven and not be a crazy person. And it's great in winter."
About 4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup diced guanciale (cured pork cheek) or pancetta (Italian bacon); may substitute bacon
4 pounds oxtails, end pieces discarded, cut into 2-inch-thick pieces *
1 cup diced celery, including some leaves
1 cup diced red onion
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and crushed
1 dried red chili pepper
5 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
2 cups Italian plum tomatoes, pureed
2 cups beef stock or broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a deep pot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all of the oxtails in 1 layer, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the guanciale or pancetta and saute until lightly brown and fragrant. Transfer the meat to a small bowl; set aside.
Add the oxtails to the pot and slowly brown the meat on all sides, about 30 minutes total. Transfer the oxtails to a large bowl and set aside.
Add the celery, onion, garlic, chili pepper and bay leaves to the dish and cook until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the oxtails; set aside.
Add the wine to the pan to deglaze and cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced by one-third. Stir in the tomatoes and beef stock or broth. Return the oxtails and vegetables with their juices and the guanciale or pancetta to the pan, cover and simmer until the oxtails are tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Skim the fat from the surface of the stew. Transfer the stew to a baking dish and bake, uncovered and basting every 15 minutes, until slightly caramelized and hot, about 90 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
* Note: Oxtail originally was, literally, the tail of an ox. Today, it generally refers to beef tail, a tough but flavorful cut that demands a very long period of braising.
Per serving: 445 calories, 51 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 192 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 480 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber
Where do food trends come from? Reactions to the past, predictors of the future, sometimes they emerge--unintentionally--from the population shifts that accompany wars and natural catastrophes. The Vietnam War and the refugees who came to the United States, for example, introduced us to that country's flavorful cuisine. Washingtonians enjoyed it at several area restaurants, including Germaine's, which was opened in 1978 by Germaine Swanson, her photographer husband, Dick, and the family members they brought out of Vietnam. Diners immediately took to Swanson's spring rolls (Cha Gio) and the spicy fish sauce (Nuoc Cham) that accompanied them. They can be made ahead as an hors d'oeuvre for New Year's Eve.
"In Vietnam, we always ate Cha Gio at parties or anniversaries or on weekends when family got together," says Germaine Swanson. "They're special-occasion food--hand work that's a little more time-consuming to make and fancier than the food you eat every day. They'd be served with maybe 16 to 20 different dishes on a big tray. We'd take our time eating them and dipping them into the Nuoc Cham."
At Germaine's they were popular immediately. "Two-thirds of our customers ordered them, and each order had four spring rolls," she says. "So we were turning out 500 to 700 a day."
Swanson also likes the fish sauce that accompanies the spring rolls as a dip for fresh ginger, or with fried fish or steamed snails, or poured on baked eggplant with a little fried onion.
Even though Swanson closed her Wisconsin Avenue restaurant last year, she still makes spring rolls. "I have about 50 of them in my freezer now," she says. "My grandchildren love them."
(Makes 24 spring rolls)
1 pound ground lean pork
8 ounces crab or shrimp, chopped (optional)
1 small yellow onion, chopped 1/2 cup mung bean noodles,* soaked in warm water to cover for 10 minutes, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
10 pieces dried Chinese or wood ear mushrooms, soaked in warm water to cover for 10 minutes, drained and julienned
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup bean sprouts
Salt and white pepper to taste
24 rice-paper or egg-roll wrappers
2 egg whites, very lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
For optional garnish:
Boston lettuce leaves
Fresh mint leaves
Spicy Fish Sauce (recipe follows)
In a large bowl, mix together the pork, crab or shrimp (if using), onion, noodles, mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Have a bowl of warm water and the egg whites ready. Dip each wrapper in the water and transfer it to a clean kitchen towel for a few seconds, just until it absorbs the moisture and becomes pliable. Place a scant 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of each wrapper. Pull the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling and tuck it in tightly. Fold in both sides of the wrapper to completely enclose the filling. Brush the unfilled top portion of the wrapper with the egg white. Roll the bundle over this portion and press to seal. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Fill a deep-fat fryer, Dutch oven or a wok with enough oil to come about halfway up the sides and at least 2 inches deep. Over medium-high heat, bring the oil to 325 degrees. Carefully add the spring rolls, one at a time, to the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan; fry in batches if necessary.
Fry the rolls, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Serve immediately with lettuce, mint, cilantro, cucumber and Spicy Fish Sauce.
* Note: Mung bean noodles are bean thread or cellophane noodles and are made from dried mung beans.
Per roll (without seafood or Spicy Fish Sauce): 142 calories, 4 gm protein, 10 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 14 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 186 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber
Spicy Fish Sauce
(Makes about 1 cup)
2 red chili peppers
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons sugar 1/3 cup fish sauce 1/4 cup lime juice 1/4 cup water
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Per 1-tablespoon serving: 12 calories, trace protein, 3 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 473 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber
Some chefs enjoy taking classic American recipes and completely reworking them. Take Jeff Tunks's total redo of two lobster classics. Lobster Newburg, sliced lobster dressed with a Madeira cream sauce, was invented by a late-19th-century sea captain and made popular by the fabled New York restaurateur Charles Delmonico. Lobster Thermidor is similar but spicier and made even richer with grated Parmesan cheese. To Tunks, chef and co-owner of DC Coast, these dishes were just too heavy for today's diners--but the general idea of lobster out of the shell in a flavorful sauce was tantalizing.
"American food these days is basically a multicultural thing based on regional foods, your own palate, where you've lived, and how you've been affected by those cultures," says Tunks. A chef whose passion for fish has been educated by years on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, Tunks is currently enmeshed in the flavors of the Orient.
His suggestion for New Year's Eve: Lemon Grass Poached Lobster, a very contemporary dish that, taking a Newburg or Thermidor model, combines all those influences but isn't characteristic of any one of them.
It's not really Asian: "It's not quite as spicy or as raw," says Tunks. "We tamed it down. And any time Asians serve shellfish, it's usually done in the shell, which sort of protects the shellfish from the high heat and from the strong ingredients they cook it with. Here we poach it first, and then remove it from the shell." And it's certainly more modern than Lobsters Newburg or Thermidor: "Those cream-style sauces are very heavy," he says. "The tendency was: the heavier the better. So the sauce tended to mask the natural sweetness of the shellfish. I tried to get some of that same look and mouth feel from coconut milk. But the steeping process with all those aromatics--the lemon grass, the lime leaves and the galangal--has a tendency to offset the fatty feeling of the coconut.
"It's a flavorful way to treat seafood," he says. "And it's really light.
"Unless, of course, you're serving it as part of a seven-course meal."
Lemon Grass Poached Lobster
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon green curry paste
13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup water
1 bulb galangal, sliced (may substitute about 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root)*
About 1 1/2 pounds lemon grass stalks, chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves (may substitute the zest from 1/2 lime, julienned) *
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Four live lobsters (about 1 pound each)
1/3 cup fava beans, shelled and lightly steamed (optional garnish)
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the tamarind and green curry pastes and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, water, galangal, 1 stalk of the lemon grass and the kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. Strain the sauce into a bowl; discard the solids. Season with sugar and fish sauce to taste. Cover and set aside.
Place a large colander in the sink. In a large stockpot, heat about 4 gallons of water. Chop the remaining stalks of lemon grass and add them to the water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Carefully add the live lobsters to the pot and cook for 6 minutes. Using long-handled tongs, carefully transfer the lobsters to the colander; rinse with cold water until the lobsters are cool enough to handle.
Being careful to keep the meat from each lobster separate, remove the meat from the claws and tail of each lobster. Cut the tail meat into 4 medallions.
To serve, place the meat from 1 lobster in the center of 1 soup bowl, arranging it in the shape of a live lobster. Repeat with the remaining 3 lobsters. Divide the curry sauce evenly among the soup bowls, pouring it over the lobster meat. Garnish with fava beans, if using. Serve immediately.
* Note: Kaffir lime leaves are available, either fresh or dried, in many Asian markets. They impart a citrus flavor. Galangal is a rhizome that offers a slightly hotter, more peppery flavor than ginger root; it is available at many Asian markets.
Per serving: 299 calories, 20 gm protein, 9 gm carbohydrates, 21 gm fat, 90 mg cholesterol, 15 gm saturated fat, 664 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber