Roasted Game Hens, Brussels Sprouts, Tiny Potatoes, Bacon Hollandaise, Poached Egg

DSCN4633Besides being a full time college administrator and a part-time blogger, I also help teach writing intensive classes in English Literature at Harvard, and this semester we are studying Darwin’s theory of evolution (in terms of the impact On the Origin of Species had on the 19th century novel).  Perhaps that fact, along with a small plate of sprouts I enjoyed at Michael Schlow’s new joint, The Sinclair, the other night, inspired this chicken/egg creation: a partially de-boned Cornish game hen served with roasted Brussels sprouts and tiny wee potatoes, topped with fried onions, bacon hollandaise sauce, and a poached egg.  This was NOT an easy dinner to prepare!  De-boning the hens still takes me a while, making hollandaise sauce while poaching eggs requires a Doctor Octopus-like physiology, and there were a lot of little component parts that had to be executed all at the same time in order to serve everything hot together.  But, dear reader, was it worth it!  My tender, juicy hen covered in the runny golden goodness of cousin yolks paired with the earthy herbaceousness of caramelized baby cabbages, white potatoes, and flash fried onions was the perfect offering for a chilly, windy, and wet late winter’s dinner.

DSCN4619

Roasted Game Hens, Brussels Sprouts, Tiny Potatoes, Bacon Hollandaise, Poached Egg

2 game hens, breast and back bones removed
2 small whole sweet onions, peeled, trimmed, and boiled in water until tender
20-3o Brussels sprouts
10-20 tiny white potatoes
4 slices bacon
1/2 cup diced white onion
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 sticks butter
EVOO
flour, sea salt, cracked black pepper, white wine vinegar

DSCN4622I’ve presented de-boned game hens once before on this blog (check it out here), when I went into great detail about how to remove the back bones and breast bones of these little beasties – but today I didn’t have the time to take all the pictures.  There are some good tutorials on YouTube, too – which I refer to each time I go through this procedure.  I’m still not as efficient as it as I’d like (read: it takes me a long time, and I cuss like a sailor throughout the whole process), but the results have been wonderful each time.  By removing these portions of the skeleton, you are making these otherwise difficult to eat birdies a breeze!  The only bones left are in the legs and wings, but one can carve right through the body of the bird with a delicate knife to gather up rich, whole mouthfuls of succulent, juicy chicken.  However, once those bones are removed, you are left with a rather deflated critter, so I like to give it back some shape by stuffing something yummy and roundish back into the chest cavity.  In this case I did so with tiny sweet boiled onions, which I’d peeled and trimmed (leaving them whole by keeping just the butt of the bulb intact) and cooked until easily pierced with a fork.  Then I trussed up the birds with some twine so they’d maintain their shape.  After rubbing them down with salt and pepper, I set them aside until I was ready for them.

DSCN4624I neglected to add these important components of the meal to my set-up shot, so here’s a little something for you now.  I only need about a 1/2 cup of diced onion, and I fry the slices of bacon until crispy.  Oh, and when I said tiny potatoes, I meant TINY — these bad boys are about the circumference of my thumb, and no more than a knuckle long.  And I’ve got baby hands, people.

DSCN4625These I partially peel…

DSCN4623… and the sprouts I trim and halve, keeping the really small ones whole.

DSCN4628I’m able to spread both veggies out on the same baking sheet – which is good since they’ll take about the same amount of time to cook.  They’ve all been doused in EVOO, salt, and pepper, and the sprouts I lay cut-side down.

DSCN4629The trick to a meal this complex is having everything ready to go at the same time.  On my back right burner, I’ve got a water bath set up to double-boil my hollandaise sauce, which starts with a stick of butter melting in the small bowl resting on my tongs. On the right I have a large pot with several inches of water set to a simmer to poach my eggs.  The front burner has my largest fry-pan, a couple glugs of EVOO, and some more butter which I heated to a foaming mass before gently placing my birds within.  I meant to put them both breast side up at first, but their floppy, skeleton-less anatomy confused me, so one’s face up and the other is face down.  No harm done.

DSCN4630“The lost art of the arroser.”  I had the pleasure of discovering this term in print just when I needed to find it – since I engaged in said art when preparing tonight’s dinner.  This refers to the technique of spooning hot fat oven the up-side of a protein searing in a pan, so it can gently cook on both sides at the same time.  I’ve seen this on Iron Chef and other cooking shows, and I’ve mimicked it to great effect in the past, but I’ve never known what it was called.  Thanks, New York Times.  Anyway, given that it takes two hands – one to tilt the pan, the other to spoon the butteroil – I couldn’t take a good shot of me in action, but suffice to say that as my birds sizzled, I basted them continually with hot golden deliciousness for about 5 minutes of sear time before flipping them.

DSCN4631Damn they look good.  I do the same technique for the flip side of each bird before I get them both settled, breast side down (so they’re resting on their “elbows”, so to speak).  This is crunch time: it will take 25 minutes for the sprouts, potatoes, and chickens to roast off in a 350° oven.  The pan with the veggies goes on the bottom rack – which is closest to the heat source in my oven – and the chickens go in their pan onto the top shelf to finish baking through.  I now have 20 or so minutes to get everything else done before I need to plate.

DSCN4626First, I toss my onions in flour, salt, and pepper before…

DSCN4627… frying them in some oil until crispy and brown.

DSCN4632Now it’s egg time.  The trick to making both hollandaise sauce and poached eggs is to have everything ready in advance.  Water should be at a low simmer for both preparations; the back, smaller burner for the sauce, and the front larger burger for the eggs.  Given that I was under pressure to get everything out on time, I didn’t take pictures of each process, but for the hollandaise sauce you can check out this previous posting, which goes into great detail, and for the poached eggs I actually followed Kenji’s most recently posted procedure from Serious Eats.  The eggs only take about 4 minutes to poach, and the hollandaise takes about 10 minutes from start to finish.  After the 10 minutes prep it took to get everything ready, by the time my sauce and eggs are ready, it is just about on the minute I need to pull out my chicken and veg from the oven.

DSCN4634The roasted sprouts and potatoes form the bed for this little baby chicken, while the oozing yellow yolk and sauce act as its blanket, with a little scattering of fried onion bits for contrast.  After cutting the trussing strings, I am able to disengage a leg from the bird with the gentlest of tugs – which, of course, I do daintily with my pinky finger extended in polite form.  But once the succulent, tender, and steaming meat makes it to my tongue, all bets are off, and I throw down my silverware and just start sopping and supping with complete abandon.  The richness of the sauce and yolk are offset by the salty bacon and deeply caramelized sprouts, and the potatoes add just the right amount of starch to the plate.  This was a dinner that was lovely to look at, but even better to eat.

Crab Cakes Benedict

Even though “crab” is the first word in tonight’s plat du jour, the real star of any Benedict is EGG.  If you are like me, you have only an 80% success rate cracking eggs without breaking the yolk;  to whit, tonight I went through about a dozen eggs in the service of this meal – only 9 of which actually made it to table, in one way or the other.  But boy oh boy was it worth it!  The number of ingredients in this meal is relatively low, but the effort is high – very very high.  This is not an easy meal to execute – especially if you make everything from scratch.  I realized at the last moment that I really needed at least 6 hands to make everything come out hot together, so I had to pull the husbandman in as a pinch flipper/whisker.  For once, his incessant “Is there anything I can do to help?” query (which I always flatly refuse, totalitarian that I am) met with a begrudging “Yes.”  Clayton found himself flipping the crab cakes, and whisking the latter end of the sauce – which he did quite to my exact instructions…which I barked, admittedly, rather frenetically, in the heat of the moment as it were.  But when he and I both released our streaming golden egg yolks over our crispy crab-filled patties, and bathed our sweet-tender shellfish sinews with lemony yellow Hollandaise ooze, and entrapped sensational deliciousness between speared forkfuls of hot-toasted buttered muffins, I had to admit each mouthful was worth having to ask for a hand, and he had to admit each bite was worth my unnecessarily, and undeserved, rancorous tone of voice.

Crab Cakes Benedict

1 lb king crab legs
1 can beer
1 cup panko breadcrumbs, divided
1 tsp Grey Poupon mustard
2 tbs mayonnaise
5 whole eggs, 4 egg yolks
1 cup minced green onion, divided
paprika, sea salt, cracked black pepper
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 stick + 2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs EVOO
2 English muffins
white vinegar

Whole Foods was still running their $14/lb special on king crab legs, so I had to buy me at least one more pound before they went back up in price.  I am fascinated by this creature, not only because of its deliciousness, but because of how much work it takes to get to that deliciousness.  These spiny legs with their sharp claws were a challenge to hold, but worth the effort considering how succulent their flesh was.

I have to bend my crab legs at eat joint in order to fit them into my steamer basket in my largest pot, but they just make it.

I steam them for about 5 minutes with the contents of a can of beer and some water added to increase the volume to about 3 cups of liquid total.

Using my kitchen shears to get into each shell, I carefully remove as much meat as I can from the legs and knuckles — all the way up to their very sharp tips, which I managed to pull out entirely unbroken.  My pound of legs yields about 3/4 lb of meat.

Here I have 1/2 of my chopped green onion, my mustard, mayo, one whole egg, 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs, some salt, pepper, and about a 1/2 tsp of paprika.  I mix this all together, then add about 1/2 pound of crab meat (reserving some for my dinner tomorrow – why not?), and toss lightly together until just blended.  The mixture is wet, which is good…

… because I’m going to make the patties by rolling loosely packed handfuls of mixture in another layer of panko.  I have to work gingerly, since there is so much crabmeat here the cakes don’t really want to stick together, but the outer breadcrumbs will help them retain their shape.  I make 4 patties, about 1/4lb each, put them on a paper plate and then throw them in the freezer for about 20 minutes to help them set even more.

Eggs.  One has already been used in the crab cake mix, and the rest of these will be my Hollandaise sauce and my poached eggs.

Before I start cracking those babies, I get everything else ready to go.  I need to melt my stick of butter for the sauce, I need to set up poaching liquid for the eggs, a double-boiler for the sauce, and a pan for the crab cakes.  Since I don’t have fancy crap, I jerry-rig stuff, using my metal tongs and a small metal bowl to melt the butter over the 4 cups of water + 1 tbs white vinegar I’m bringing to a boil for the poaching, and a small saucepan 1/2 filled with water to bring to a simmer under a way-too-large metal bowl to make the Hollandaise.

I also fish out these egg-poachers I purchased a while back.  When I make only 1 poached egg at a time, I just create a vortex in the saucepan by whisking the simmering water into a funnel, into which I drop my egg; making 4 poached eggs won’t work that way, especially since I don’t have any real way to hold the eggs once they’re cooked without either cooling them down too much or them continuing to cook.  As it is, I still have to make these in shifts — so the poaching is the last thing I’m going to do.  These aren’t perfect, but they do the job.  I spray each down with Pam, which will help the eggs slide into the water when I want them to.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

First, I carefully separate 4 of my eggs, discarding the whites and trapping the yolks in the large bowl I’m using as a double-boiler.  I add my lemon juice to the pan before whisking everything together and placing it over the simmering water in my small saucepan.  It’s imperative the hot water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, or the eggs might scramble; if they do, adding a little bit of hot water and whisking vigorously will usually smoothen the emulsion back out.

Like so.  While I whisk, I add my melted stick of butter in a steady, fine stream, adding more water as needed to keep the sauce the right consistency.  It takes about 10 minutes of constant whisking to make this sauce – which will thicken upon standing.  (For a more in-depth look at how to make a Hollandaise sauce, check out this posting.)

Meanwhile, I’ve melted 1 tbs butter with my EVOO in my non-stick pan, and have gently placed my half-frozen crab cake patties into the hot fat.  They sizzle temptingly, and after about 5 minutes they are the perfect golden brown for flipping.

Another 5 minutes or so on the other side and they’re ready to go.  (I’m still whisking while this is happening, BTW.)

At the same time, I get my poached eggs started, first by floating them whole (with unbroken yolks) in their little green vessels in my barely simmering (never boiling) water, just long enough to see the whites start to congeal.  When the edges are just white, I tip a little hot water into each vessel to help capture some form, before I tilt the vessels over one at a time, dumping the eggs into the vinegar’d water to poach through completely.  Once I see the whites completely congealed, but the yolks are still *very* runny  — about 2 minutes — I fish each egg out with a slotted spoon.

The final component of my Benedict is, of course, the English muffin base.  Trader Joe’s has named their muffins after two Victorian British Prime Ministers, Benjamin Disreali and William Gladstone.  I don’t know why, but it makes me love this product all the more! (These guys represent the British Government active during the time of my scholarly research into cholera in 19th century British literature, so they already have a warm place in my heart – mistaken miasmatists that they were.) I split two muffins, toast them, and sprinkle my last tablespoon of melted butter into their nooks and crannies.

On top of each muffin goes a crab cake, and on top of each crab cake goes a perfectly poached egg.  On top of each stack I pour my lemony sauce, and scatter the remaining scallions along with some paprika and black pepper.

It seems that the barest pressure — that of my ravenous glance — is all it takes for the trembling golden yolks to burst from their quivering white confines to pour lasciviously over cake, muffin, and plate.  The cakes are super-crunchy and filled with huge bites of tender, buttery crab meat, and the toasted buttered muffins are the perfect starch to sop up the rich flavors of the sauce.  Crab cakes out in the world are so often disappointing: too much bread, too many ingredients, a harsh overpowering mustard sauce that cancels out the sweet sweet crab meat.  But these were the best I’ve ever had, made even more spectacular by the perfectly complimentary egg yolk and bright silky sauce.  I admit it: I licked my plate.  But so did Clayton.  And, dear reader, if you make this dish — so will you.

Pan Seared Skate Wing, Molten Cheddar Grits, Wilted Spinach, and Spring Onion Hollandaise

Oh hai Spring!  It’s March in New England but my windows have been open for days, and today I rode through Brighton in a tank-top, getting some much needed sun on my oh-so-pale shoulders. This false spring, as Hemingway called it, is so alluring that I fight against the voices that whisper “global warming” and just bask in the day while I have it.  Of course, with the forecast heralding sunny low 70’s all week, it looks like we’ll be having it at least until next weekend.  To welcome the warm breezes and clear skies, I purchased two angelic skate wings at New Bedford’s seafood mecca, Fisherman’s Market. I draped them in a silky snappy golden hollandaise, and served them with some spinach and grits extraordinaire.  Light fish, rich sauce, cheesy starch, and good greens — what more could a girl want on a perfect Sunday night?

Pan Seared Skate Wing, Molten Cheddar Grits, Wilted Spinach, and Spring Onion Hollandaise

2 skinned, boned, cleaned fresh-smelling skate wings
flour, for dredging
1/2 cup grits
1 1/2 cup water
4 1″ cubes cheddar cheese
2 sticks butter, divided
1 lb fresh spinach leaves
4 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 a lemon
sea salt, black pepper, EVOO
1 large spring onion
(ignore the caperberries in the picture — I ended up not using them)

Good grits require a 1 to 3 ratio: 1/2 cup grits + 1 1/2 cups water = perfection.  While I bring my water, salted, to a boil, I liberally butter up two 6oz ramekins and measure out my grits.

After 10 minutes or so, stirred occasionally, set covered over low heat, with a tablespoon of butter – and they’re perfect.

I fill each ramekin halfway, drop a couple nuggets of a nice raw milk cheddar on top…

…. then fill to the brim with the rest of the hot grits.  These will get set into a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, right before serving, to puff up and bake.

I think I’ve mentioned before how much Clayton and I love animation, cartoons, and comic books.  So we couldn’t resist getting Puss In Boots on demand recently, and we laughed our heads off.  I loved the texture of Humpty’s skin/shell — the perfect representation of an egg’s unique spherical smooth bitty bumped roundness.  My camera doesn’t get as close as I want it to; I need to upgrade.  Anyway, I need the nuclei of four of these babies.

Like so.  (I’m terrible at cracking eggs.  I never get whole yolks, and I never miss getting shell. Sigh.)  I squeeze half a lemon into the bowl and whisk very very well.

Along with a stick of melted butter, whisked over a double boiler, my lemon-juiced eggs froth and firm and double in volume.  I add tablespoons of hot water if it gets thick, and more melted better until I have it…

… just right.  Frothy and rich, I add some chopped spring onion greens, salt and pepper, and set aside until service.

The final – and easiest – component of this meal is the skate wing.  Skate is a type of stingray, a creature of which I have nightmares (as I do of most aquatic life – a mild phobia), but in which I do like to indulge when I see it.  One has to be careful with skate — it can stink of ammonia, so be sure to smell it before buying it (the fishmonger should be happy to hold a filet up to your nose).  I’ve made it before when ammonia permeated the flesh so thoroughly that I had to scrap the whole thing.  But when it’s right, it is a beautiful, delicate, and delicious fish.  All I do is sprinkle both sides with salt and ground pepper, and dredge it in flour.

A couple tablespoons of butter, and a few glugs of EVOO go into my largest non-stick fry pan, set over high heat until it froths.  (At this point, I put my two ramekins of grits into my preheated oven to bake.  They’ll need about 10 minutes – just enough time to finish the fish and spinach.

Both filets lay like angel’s wings, sizzling the second they hit my hot fats.  I recently purchased a crescent shaped spatula, which I flattened against the center of each piece when it began to buckle in off the heat.  About 4 minutes on this side…

…before flipping each to reveal perfectly toasted golden brown deliciousness.  Cook for another 4-5 minutes before moving to warm plates, reserving the leftover grease.

I press my washed spinach leaves into the pan, and turn them over a few times with tongs until they are completely wilted.  I salt and pepper them liberally.

My fish is plated, my spinach is ready, and my little bundles of cheddar and corn are popping out of their dishes.  They’re hard to flip (because they’re hot and slick), but flip them I do.

My plate is a study in swirls: the striated flesh of my skate wing shoulders a swathe of oniony rich thick fluffy golden butter cream, and a coiled nest of wilted greens, and a locus of corn grits with a sharp melting center.  In the light of the setting spring sun, Clayton and I each tuck our napkins under our chins and poise our forks above our dinners.  With a smiling look at each other, and a deep sigh — the kind only the satisfaction of spring can bring – we eat.  And we eat well, dear readers — very, very well.

Broiled Blue Marlin Oscar with Red Carpet Tomato Peppadew Puree and Golden Caviar

It’s 8:30 as I sit to write this blog, and on my screen in front of me is the opening montage of the 2011 Academy Awards.  This Inception sequence is awesome; all the belly laughs are helping me percolate the lovely meal I’ve just created and shamelessly ingested, in honor of the Oscars.  I like to think Anne Hathaway and James Franco would have enjoyed this meal (despite any dietary restrictions or like allergies to FANTASTIC, or something), and that the latter would still have fit into her bedazzled white gown even after eating it.  I started with some lovely blue marlin steaks, purchased yesterday in Newburyport after running errands and visiting precious friends. This is a fish I’ve never before had the pleasure of trying; its firm textured flesh resembled tuna, only instead of a florid pink it was almost stark white, like swordfish.  I rested this thick steak at the edge of a tangy, sweet, spicy and rich smooth tomato and pickled peppadew puree, draped it with a supple, golden homemade hollandaise sauce, the pairing classic a la oscar ingredients, crabmeat and asparagus, and then crowned it briny, toothsome caviar.  The result was a theatrical explosion of color and texture, a tour-de-force of flavor, and a perfect homage to the glamor, beauty, and talent being celebrated tonight on my living room’s TV.

Broiled Blue Marlin Oscar with Red Carpet Tomato Peppadew Puree and Golden Caviar

6 fresh tomatoes
4oz pickled peppadew peppers
1 small red onion, diced
2 tbs honey
1 bay leaf
1 tbs oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 8oz blue marlin steaks
EVOO
lemon juice
fennel seeds
4 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
cayenne pepper
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb fresh asparagus spears
6 oz fresh crabmeat
2 oz caviar
sea salt
cracked black pepper

This meal is not really all that difficult or time consuming to make, except for the red carpet.  I didn’t just want to throw something red on the plate — it needed to work with the meal I was planning.  Any store-bought, pre-made puree would have been too sweet and thick, and I wanted to make something with a bit more snap, with fresh flavors, where I controlled the consistency to best replicate the velvet I had in mind. But making a good tomato puree takes a good portion of a day (mine took 4 hours), so I had to begin with this component – even though I would only use about a tablespoon of it on each plate. I started by washing, trimming, roughly chopping, and salting my tomatoes.  I also add my oregano and cracked black pepper – and I let this marinate on my cutting board for 10 minutes or so before using.

Most recipes I pulled up for tomato puree called for sweet red peppers, but I had something spicier in mind.  If you follow my blog, though, you know that I can’t do too much heat – my body don’t like it – but the pickled peppadew is something, er, different.  It’s hot, for sure, but also sweet.  I thought it might add just the right kick to my puree to offset the richness of the hollandaise sauce.

I chop my peppers, add them to a heavy bottomed pot with my salted and herbed tomatoes, my diced onions, my honey, and my bay leaf.  I set the heat on medium high, and then stab and poke at them relentlessly (probably not necessary, but damn satisfying) until the’ve started to release all their liquids, and the tomatoes have begun to break down.  I leave them to cook down for an hour.

After said hour, my tomatoes, peppers, and spices have turned into a thick, rich sauce.  But this is just step one.

At this point, using my finest screen, I press the contents of my pan into a bowl, separating all the juice and thick pulp from the sinews and skins.  This takes me several passes; I try to make sure I’ve squeeze and sieved all the juicy, flavorful goodness that I could from the, well, the chaff.

I move this sweetness to my smallest saucepan, add my minced garlic, stir well, and set over low heat, stirring occaisonally, for the next 3 hours.  Basically, I reduce as much liquid out as I can; by the time I’m finished…

… I have about 3 tablespoons of a very thick, very rich, very concentrated , very complex spicy sweet  tomato paste. NICE.  I set this aside for later.

The rest of the meal comes together very quickly.  I start with my lovely marlin steaks.  They look like fingerprints, don’t they?  I marinate these babies in EVOO, fennel seeds, and a splash of lemon juice, for about 20 minutes.  I then place them on a rack, over a roasting pan, into my 350 degree oven to roast for 6 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, I’ve washed, trimmed, and peeled my asparagus.  I steam these for 12 minutes.

Whereas the tomato/peppadew paste was the most time consuming part of this meal, the hollandaise is the most technically difficult.  (In fact, my first attempt broke; at the last minute, I had to trash the whole separated batch, scream at Clayton while he hurriedly washed the dishes I’d need again, and start all over.  Thank Papa Smurf I had a whole dozen eggs to screw up with.)  I start by melting a stick of butter, and harvesting 4 yolks from some fresh eggs.

I have a make-shift double-boiler set up; basically, my small saucepan with an inch of water, over while I can set my much larger bowl, in which I…

… have whisked my yolks and lemon juice.

Whisking constantly, my water barely simmering and *not* touching the bottom of my bowl, I dribble a steady stream of melted butter into my bowl, watching the texture of my sauce thicken and the volume double.  If it gets too thick, I add a teaspoon or so of the boiling water from the pan below… this will thin it slightly without breaking. (Well, it worked the second time…)

The final ingredient — which, along with the asparagus and hollandaise, makes this recipe truly a la Oscar, and therefore well suited to the Academy Awards — is crabmeat.

And the final FINAL ingredient, which adds the Hollywood power to my high-brow feast, is caviar.  (Admittedly, I wanted black caviar – American paddlefish or sturgeon, maybe – but alas, I couldn’t afford it.  Gold it was — this is whitefish.)

A glamorous, colorful, full-bodied meal; a Hollywood shark on a tangy velvety red carpet, wearing a golden cape, draped with money green spears, studded with fancy white crabmeat and crowned with golden caviar.  While the Academy Awards march across my TV screen, this award-worthy meal melts across my palate, filling me with inspiration, emotion, and satisfaction – just like a good film, and dinner, should do.  The fish is hearty, like a white-meat steak, and the luscious lemony buttery egg sauce is perfectly complemented by the zesty tomato and peppadew puree – just like I’d hoped.  The crabmeat and asparagus provide sweet texture and earthy sinews, and the dollop of caviar imparts a cultured brininess that brings all the flavors together with gusto.  Elegant, complicated, yet honest and light – this well-dressed meal would look good gracing anyone’s red carpet – or plate!

 

 

Broiled Blue Marlin Oscar With Red Carpet Tomato Pepperdew Puree and Golden Caviar

Tenderloin in Tarragon Bernaise with French Haricot Vert and Shallot Salt Potatoes

Clayton swung by Wilson Farm on his way home from Concord today, so he brought home everything we needed for dinner.  After much consultation on the phone.  Like three phone calls.  Yet, eventually that was all he needed to gather together just the right stuff.  A couple of perfect little tenderloins, some lovely green beans for us to vivisect on our french bean slicer, and a bag of dear wee white potatoes for me to boil to firm bursting softness.  I did a mushroom sauce just the other day, and I wanted something a little more elegant, so I also had him buy some eggs, shallots, and tarragon so I could (hopefully successfully) whip up a simple classic Sauce béarnaise. A rich, buttery (but not as buttery as one would think!), indulgent dinner of tender peppered steaks, fresh green, salty spud, and savory herb sauce.

Ahh.  Deliciousness, all in a line.

Let’s start with the spuds.

Pick out as many as you need — I grab 5 ping pong ball sized for each of us — and toss into some deep salted boiling water.

Then let’s move to our beans, which we’ve run through our french slicer, and are ready to blanch.

Drop your sliced and skinned beans into a deep well of rapidly boiling water, and cook for 3 minutes.  Drain thoroughly, rinse in cold water, drain again, and set aside.

Meanwhile, mince one large shallot and several stems worth of leaves of tarragon.  You’ll use these two sweetly pungent complex flavors as the golden thread which will bind the three courses on your plate together.  It will savor your sauce, spice your spuds, and slather through your sliced green beans, with hints of lemon and butter to boot.

Using the flip once a minute technique, I bring my sweet little cast iron pan to smoking point, then slap my lightly black-truffle oil basted and cracked black pepper covered filet mignons onto their hot surfaces.  I sear for one minute…

… then flip.  Then sear for one minute… then flip.  These steaks are about 1″ thick, so I want to cook them for about 4 minutes each side, so — taking into account the slight cooling each side will endure once it’s removed from the heat — I turn my steaks 10 times total.  This traps in all the juices, and sears each side perfectly brown and crisp on the edges, medium rare in the centers.  For more well done, flip a few more times for a few more moments, depending upon your preference. (Please don’t prefer well done with good meat.  It’s such a waste of flavor! Love, the cook.)

For your béarnaise, you must use fresh cold large eggs.  Crack ‘em, separate ‘em with love and fingers and feeling and soul, and reserve your yolks.  I actually only ended up using two yolks — not four.

Set up a double boiler (I use two of my metal bowls from a cheap-ass Christmas Tree Shops $14.99 boxed set and my large saucepan filled with water), and first melt 1/2 a stick of butter.  Remove from the heat, lower the boil to a simmer, and place your well whipped bowl of egg yolks over the water.  Whisk very very very well and constantly, add the juice of one lemon, whisk very very very well and constantly, then add  several tablespoons of the hot water (just scoop it from underneath) whisking very very very well, until you reach the right consistency — which is smooth and slightly frothy.

Slowly slowly slowly steadily steadily steadily add a thin thin thin stream of your melted butter, whisking thoroughly and completely and constantly.  You can’t walk away from a hollandaise (or béarnaise) sauce; it requires L.O.V.E.  When it’s reached a thick, aerated sauce, add 1/3 of your chopped shallots and tarragon leaves. Whisk well, remove from the heat, and set your bowl over a larger bowl of cold water to hold up to 10 minutes.  Run a whisk through it from time to time to keep it from breaking; it will thicken upon standing.

Melt the remaining 1/2 stick of your butter, and toss your now cooked and easily-pierced-with-a-fork potatoes with another 1/3 of your shallots and tarragon and 2tbs of that butter, and toss your green beans back into the wok with the other 2tbs of that butter, the last 1/3 of your shallots and tarragon, and the zest of one lemon over medium heat.  Toss each veg well with each set of flavors, until heated through, and then plate.

Richly peppered tenderloins coated in herbacilious tarragon béarnaise, alongside tenderific lemon tarragon haricot vert and splendexcellent shallot tarragon spuds.  A decadent dinner… a deservéd delight… during a daunting week.

Roasted Turbot with Hollandaise and Preserved Lemon Haricot Vert

Another light Sunday, in preparation for the work week ahead. It’s gonna be a doosie, too, I kid you not. I need me some wholesale nutrition to get ready for whatever fate has in store. Luckily, our local Whole Foods had a great price on turbot – our favorite fish – and, not needing much more than that, I decided we’d forgo a starch and enjoy only two courses tonight: fresh green beans and fish with sauce. Turbot is the ideal swimmer for hollandaise, and there is a special brand of satisfaction that can be gleaned from perfecting this mother sauce. It is a delicate emulsification of egg yolk and butter and lemon, and when perfect, it is the rich tangy goo of the Gods. My idea was lemony toothsome green bean bites gently nestling soft sinews of flatfish filet under an undulating blanket of creamy pillow sauce. All this in barely 30 minutes and for less than $20. That’s good cookin’!

What you’ll need, for two:

2 turbot filets – about 8oz each
4 egg yolks
1 stick butter
12 oz fresh green beans
1 small white onion
4 cloves garlic
Pith and juice from one preserved lemon
one handful snow pea sprouts
salt
pepper
olive oil

My green beans. My husband, Clayton, tells me today that he’s been *thinking* about buying me this contraption that French cuts green beans. Thinking? What the heck was he waiting for? But, far be it for me to delay an idea, so I decide to roughly French cut these by hand, hoping that the gizmo, whenever it does arrive, will improve upon whatever my poor efforts can provide.

Sliding my chef’s knife as flatly across the beans as I can, I shear my beans into slivered sliced niblets.

Yesterday, I peeled a Meyer lemon, reserving as much fruity pulp and white pith as I could but discarding all the bitter outer skin. I squeezed these naked slices into a ziplock bag, dousing them with sea salt, sugar, a dash of crushed red pepper, one bay leaf, and EVOO, then rolled all the air out of the bag before I sealed it, creating a poor man’s vacuum pack. I set this in my fridge until just now. I’m going to dump this quick preserved lemon pith into my green beans to compliment the flavor of my lemon hollandaise fish filets.

Along with this lemon joy, I’ve got one diced white onion and 4 minced garlic cloves.

I add my onion and garlic to a heated tablespoon of EVOO in my Ikeawok, and sauté them until translucent.

I add my sliced green beans …

… then drain all the liquid marinade off my lemons into the pan, too. Let simmer for several moments, just to steam to beans down (which these needed, because they ended up being a bit tough)…

… before adding the lemon pith and pieces themselves. Stir well, and set to simmer until the beans are perfectly al dente.

I’m going to bake my fish filets, so I add a tablespoon of butter to a ceramic baking dish and set it inside my hot, 400° oven to melt. It’s OK if it turns brown, like mine did.

Layering my fish over the melted butter is the first step. Then I stud the filets with cold butter pats, salt, pepper, and the juice of ½ a lemon. I throw this baby into the oven to roast for about 10 minutes. That’s all it needs!

I separate my yolks from my whites, preparing to make my hollandaise. This sauce requires constant attention once you start it. Everything else should be taking care of itself, while you’re taking care of the sauce. Once it’s ready, you can set it aside for about 3 minutes to set up your final plates, so plan ahead.

I take a cold stick of butter, and cut it into small cubes. Oh, and I cut into a lemon, making it ready to squeeze into my sauce later.

I whisk my yolks with about a tablespoon of cold water, until it’s frothy and a bit lighter in color. I then place this large metal bowl over a small saucepan, filled with 1 inch of simmering hot water. Whisking continually, I beat to twice its volume over the gentle heat, then I add one wee cube of butter at a time, whisking well each time, emulsifying the butter into the sauce. When all my butter is added, I remove the bowl from the heat, add the juice of ½ a lemon, some salt and pepper, and whisk until well incorporated. I set this aside for a few moments, while I plate my green beans and move my cooked fishflesh from its baking dish.

As Canada wins, in overtime, the last gold medal of the 2010 Winter Olympics, I serve up my last gold medal meal of the weekend. A hearty mess of lemon and onion French-cut green beans snuggles up against a perfectly roasted filet of sweet tender turbot, proudly wearing its golden garnish of fresh hot hollandaise, a glittering with a mini epaulette of sugar pea tendrils dressed in EVOO and citrus. An ethereally light, wholeheartedly wholesome, fresh fish and veg dinner, perfect for the closing ceremonies of my weekend.