Monthly Archives: March 2009

Paella: i’m giving up

It’s been the second time I’ve tried to cook paella, and for the second time, it didn’t turn out to be as good as I had hoped. We had great ingredients, fresh, and all. We even had some amazing fish stock, very well prepared by @fvarela_98. And despite all this, it just wasn’t that great. It was good, but nothing from out of this world.

So yes, I could persist, and continue to cook it until I find the right balance, and the solutions. But would Paella be this thing that I should leave alone. There are always secrets that one shouldn’t try to unveil. Maybe this is one of them for me? What if this is one of those recipes that I shouldn’t touch?

At the end of the day, life is better if, when you go out, you can pick dishes that you know you don’t cook at home. It gives a whole new purpose to going out. So I’ll take this as a sign and won’t try to make a Paella again. Instead, I’ll focus on two things:

1- Find a great spanish restaurant in San Francisco. I really miss Spanish food, and I still have to eat in a great Spanish place here. Do you know any? If yes, please comment on this post!

2- Try to book a trip to Spain in the next 2 years. 

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Live scallops a la @jsolans

Live scallops are so good. When you can get your hands on them, don’t even think, just buy them. I haven’t asked for his permission yet, but I know @jsolans would be happy to share some (not all!) of his cooking secrets. I’ve had the chance to watch him cook this live scallops dish a while ago, and last Saturday, I decided to give a try myself.

This dish was part of a 5 courses meal, so I’ve only had 1 scallop per person (5 people total). It’s very straight forward, and yet very tasty. It plays with the combination of hot and cold (that one is for you Katy Perry!), which makes you mind go absolutely nuts…

First, peel and dice 2-3 tomatoes. Let them marinate in balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can get creative here and add your own personal touch: garlic, chives, parsley, spices etc… anything you like could bring something new to this recipe. Set aside for 1-2 hours.

Prepare the scallops and keep 1 shell per guest. Preparing scallops may sound like a big deal, but it’s actually very easy. A couple of secrets: don’t soak the scallops in water. They’ll be so much less tasty. I actually even think that some stores soak them in water to make them bigger before they sell them! Hold the scallop with the flat side up. With a knife, go along the shell and cut the scallop away. Open the shell and remove the scallop completely. You may need to use the knife, just be careful not to damage the scallop. The only part you want to keep is the white body, and for some, the coral. All the rest has to go! Don’t hesitate to use your hands, but again, be very careful not to destroy it! Rinse under water and pat dry. Sprinkle some salt and pepper, and let rest.

Dice 2 shallots. In a pan, melt some butter and sweat the shallots. In the same time, under high heat, melt some butter in another pan, then reduce the heat to medium high. Cook the scallops, 45 seconds on each side. You could cook them a bit longer, depending on the size, but don’t over cook them.

To serve, put some of the shallots in a shell, with some tomatoes, and add the scallops on top.

Enjoy! And thanks @jsolans!

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Stupidfool.org: Burgers!

Great post from Ben on burger… 

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Bay Area Eats: Hog Island Oyster Farm | Serious Eats

I love Hog Island Oyster Farm, and just came to this article on Serious Eats. Wanted to share it with all of you as I know you’re all huge oysters fans! 

Bay Area Eats: Hog Island Oyster Farm | Serious Eats.

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Fat Duck Has Reopened – Diner’s Journal Blog – NYTimes.com

In case you wonder, the Fat Duck has reopened, two weeks after closing down because 400 people got sick after eating there. Who thinks this may be the end of Heston Blumenthal’s status? 

Fat Duck Has Reopened – Diner’s Journal Blog – NYTimes.com.

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Zare at Fly Trap, San Francisco

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Zare at Fly Trap, on Folsom street in San Francisco, between 2nd and 3rd, is my new favorite restaurant in the city. It’s quite interesting how those things work. It’s not the fanciest. It’s not the best. It’s not the cheapest. And yet, I think this is where I’ve had 2 of my top 5 meals in the last 5 months.

First some history: Hoss Zare moved from Iran in 1986 and first worked at the Fly Trap. More than 20 years later, he decided to purchased the place (he had moved on since). I loved that story. Someone who cares! If he cares about the place, he must care about the food. I often say that the food you cook is a representation of the type of person you are: generous vs cheap, emotional vs dry, etc… It also works the other way around. Who you are will impact the food you cook!

Zare created a very relaxed atmosphere in his restaurant, probably due to his roots, where food is a social thing, where people just sit around a table, not to put things down their stomach, but to spend some time together. In my mind, that’s the spirit of Zare.

This relaxed but classy atmopshere goes very well with the food that Zare serves. It’s hard to describe, so I’ll just say it’s THAT good. Simple, fresh, & tasty. No fancy crazy stuff. Just good food. The lamb shank is a must have, served in a fantastic broth (so light!), with flageolets, potatoes and torshi (combination of pickles). My goodness, just talking about it makes me hungry! I go there these days just for this dish.

There are also some really interesting starters, my favorite one being the menage a foie, which is a combination of livers: foie gras, sheep liver and chicken liver. I’m a huge fan of bone marrow, and I wasn’t disappointed! Finally, I was really impressed with the cinnamon braised lamb tongue. That was really something unique, and very hard to do at home (so order it in a restaurant!). 

As far as the wines are concerned, we’ve tasted several, and I may say that they have an amazing Santenay (from Thevenin) which is clearly on the pricey side ($50), but totally worth it.

If you want to know more, visit their website, or pay them a visit and say hi to Zare! He’ll be around!

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Dungeness crab with avocado

This is a very simple recipe that works great. The combination of dungeness crab and avocado is always a winner.

First of all, buy your crab alive and cook it yourself. That makes a huge difference! I’ve already written a post detailing how to do that. And no, it’s not that cruel. Nothing more cruel that what happens to all those chickens that you eat all the time!

Once your crab is cooked, let it rest on ice so it gets cold (it can rest for a good hour or so). Then prepare it. In other words, take all the meat away and reserve it in a bowl. This is actually quite a lengthy process, but again, very worth it.

Let’s prepare a sort of guacamole. Dice 1 yellow onions very finely. Press 3-4 gloves of garlic in a garlic press and mix with the onions. Finely chop a good hand of cilantro and add to the mixture. Prepare 3 avocados (ie take the meat out) and with a fork, mix with the rest. Add some salt (i like salt!), some white pepper. You can also add some chilies if you want to make it a tiny bit spicy. Then add the juice of 2 limes. Mix well. Taste. Then adjust to taste: more salt, more pepper, more garlic, more lime juice, whatever you think it needs.

To serve, display the avocado mousse in a middle of a plate, and lay the crab on top of it. Feel free to add anything on the side to make the plate look beautiful!
Enjoy!

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Clams with Soffritto

I’ve served clams with soffritto at a dinner with some friends, and they’ve asked me to give them the recipe. It would be very unfair to claim this recipe as my own. It’s actually very much inspired by Thomas Keller book Bouchon.

This recipe takes some time, especially if you want to make the right soffritto. Soffritto is one of the base of Italian cuisine. Start the soffritto at least 4 hours before you plan on eating.

For a main dish, I usually use 1 pound of clams for 2 persons (this recipe is for 2 pounds). There are 3 main stages for this recipe: first, the soffritto, then the garlic confit, and finally, the cooking of the clams.

Let’s start with the soffritto: finely dice a big yellow onion. In a pan, add olive oil in order to cover all the onions. It’s like they have to take a bath! Heat the oil. Once hot, reduce the heat, and add the onions. Reduce the heat to leave just a tiny simmering. It shouldn’t boil or your onions are going to burn! Let simmer for 1.5 to 2hrs (make sure the onions don’t caramelized too much on the side of the pan). This is very slow cooking.

During that time, we’re going to prepare the garlic confit. It’s dead easy, and you can keep some in the fridge. For 2 pounds of clams, we’ll need 24 garlic cloves. Peel the cloves, and put them in a pan with enough canola oil to cover them (you want more oil on top of them). At very low temperature, cook them for 45 minutes, until soft. Be very careful not to over heat the pan. If big bubbles are coming up, it’s too hot. It should be really slow and should barely simmer. Once cooked, remove from the oil.
Back to the soffritto. Add 1/3 cup of tomatoe puree to the mixture, mix well, and let cook for another hour. By then, your soffritto is ready.

10 minutes before serving, sweat some shallots in a pot. Then add and mix the soffritto, the garlic confit, and the clams. Mix well. Add two good glasses of dry white wine (I like wine, so I’m usually very generous at this stage). Cover. Put under very high heat. Let boil until the clams are opened. It shouldn’t take more than 4-5 minutes of boiling. Add some fresh parsley. Set aside (still covered). Salt, pepper.

You can serve this with very different types of croutons. Garlic, Aioli, etc…

Enjoy!

“Fat duck” closed as 400 diners taken ill!

LONDON (Reuters Life!) – British health officials said on Friday they were investigating 400 potential cases of food poisoning linked to top-rated Fat Duck restaurant, run by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.

The award-winning restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, is known for its chemistry-inspired dishes such as bacon and egg ice cream and snail porridge, with many courses frozen in liquid nitrogen.

Blumenthal voluntarily closed the restaurant last month after around 40 diners complained of diarrhea and vomiting.

The Health Protection Agency said the number had risen to 400 after media coverage of its investigation.

“This is a very complex outbreak,” said Graham Bickler, a regional director at the agency.

The agency said its probe would extend to all those who had eaten at the restaurant since late January, whether they reported being ill or not.

The restaurant, which has had a three-star rating from the Michelin guide since 2004, is co-operating fully with the investigation, the agency said.

Diners often wait months for a reservation at the Fat Duck, which seats 40 people and charges 130 pounds ($185) a head for its 17-course tasting menu.

Blumenthal has said he is mystified by the outbreak, as the restaurant conducts weekly infection tests and nothing has been discovered.

“It was out of the blue … I’m as fastidious about the hygiene side of things as I am about the actual cooking processes,” he told the Guardian website in a video interview.

“The last thing you want is somebody to leave the restaurant with so much as a slight headache.”

(Reporting by Tim Castle, editing by Paul Casciato)

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