Here and Now's resident chef Kathy Gunst lugs in her favorite cookbooks of the year. They include "Gourmet Today" from Ruth Reichl, "My New Orleans" by John Besh, "Momofuku" by David Chang , "How to Roast a Lamb" by Michael Psilakis and "Stir: Mixing it up in the Italian Tradition" by Barbara Lynch. Kathy also suggests "Ad Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller, "Baking" by James Peterson, and "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
The happy surprise of this salad is the crunchy brittle made with pumpkin seeds. I like to bake it on those silicon mats; their nonstick surface works wonders with the sugars in the brittle. Be careful not to burn the pumpkin seeds. I’m a big fan of the blue cheese that’s handmade at Clemson University in South Carolina.
FOR THE BRITTLE
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces pumpkin seeds
1 egg white
FOR THE VINAIGRETTE
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
¼ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
Freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SALAD
6 cups mixed baby fall greens such as tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, beet
1 cup Clemson Blue or other artisanal blue cheese (page 362)
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Fresh chervil sprigs
2. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Spread the brittle mixture thinly and evenly on the silicon mat and bake until the brittle turns completely golden brown, 20–30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let cool. Break the brittle roughly into 2-inch shards.
3. For the vinaigrette, whisk the sugar and sherry vinegar together in a large mixing bowl or salad bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Add the shallots and thyme. Whisk in the canola, walnut, and pumpkin seed oils. Season with salt and pepper.
4. For the salad, put the greens into the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss well. Divide the greens between 6 individual plates and crumble blue cheese on top of each. Scatter shards of pumpkin seed brittle, chives, and chervil sprigs over the tops of the salads.
—From "My New Orleans" by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing
EGGS BAKED IN PANCETTA CUPS
This is one of those dishes that can only be as good as the ingredients you work with: 1. Look for really good farm fresh eggs. 2. Pancetta, a cured (not smoked) Italian bacon with a salty and peppery flavor, is available in most supermarkets. However, if you have an Italian grocery store or really good meat market nearby look for pancetta that can be sliced to order. Ideally you’ll work with Italian-made pancetta that is sliced about 1/8th-inch thick. Two good ingredients. One amazing recipe that can be done from start to finish in about 25 minutes.
You can serve the pancetta and eggs straight from the oven accompanied by crusty bread or place on top of mixed salad greens. You could also add a few tablespoons chopped fresh herbs or cubed tomatoes to the egg for a variation.
About 6 slices pancetta, sliced about 1/8th-inch thick, slightly chilled, about 7 ounces*
6 fresh eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*If you are working with pre-sliced supermarket brand pancetta you may need 12 slices; you will need to double up with 2 slices of pancetta for each muffin tin.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the pancetta slice into a muffin tray, pressing it and molding it into the tray so that it covers the entire bottom and sides of the tray. If you have very thin pre-sliced pancetta from the supermarket you may need to use 2 slices, overlapping them slightly to fill the entire muffin tray.
Place the muffin tray with the pancetta on the middle shelf and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and crack an egg directly into each pancetta “cup.” Sprinkle very lightly with salt and pepper. Bake another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the egg white is set and the yolk looks almost cooked. When you gently jiggle the muffin tray the yolk should wobble somewhat but not look raw. Remove from the oven and let cool about 1 minute. Gently run a flat kitchen knife around the sides and bottom of the pancetta (being careful not to pierce the egg). Use a thin metal spatula or off-set spatula to remove the egg and pancetta in one piece.
LOUISIANA SHRIMP AND ANDOUILLE OVER GRITS
This is one of the most satisfying shrimp dishes. You needn’t cook the shrimp long; make them in batches and be sure to keep a close eye on them so that they don’t overcook. After you’ve sautéed the shrimp on both sides, remove them from the skillet with tongs and return them to the pot once they’re all cooked to the same degree.
FOR THE GRITS
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white stone-ground organic grits (page 362)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
FOR THE SHRIMP
2 tablespoons olive oil
36 jumbo Louisiana or other wild American shrimp, unpeeled
Basic Creole Spices (page 13)
1/3 cup minced andouille sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 piquillo peppers (roasted red Spanish peppers in a jar)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cups Basic Shrimp Stock (page 13)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup fresh chervil sprigs
For the grits, bring 4 cups water with the salt to a boil in a medium-size saucepan over high heat. Slowly pour the grits into the boiling water, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low. Stir the grits often to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Simmer the grits until all the water has been absorbed and they become soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the butter and mascarpone. Remove from heat and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the grits in the pot to keep a crust from forming.
For the shrimp, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Season the shrimp with Creole Spices and salt. Sauté the shrimp until they begin to brown but are not cooked all the way through. Remove the shrimp as they cook and set aside.
In the same skillet, sauté the andouille, garlic, shallots, piquillo peppers, and thyme until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the Shrimp Stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the butter and reduce the sauce until it’s nice and thick, 3–5 minutes.
Return the shrimp to the skillet and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, diced tomatoes, and chives.
Spoon a heaping ¼ cup of the grits into the center of each of 6 large bowls. Arrange 6 shrimp in the middle of each bowl of grits. Spoon sauce around the shrimp and garnish each bowl with fresh chervil.
—From "My New Orleans: The Cookbook" by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing
WHITE BEAN SOUP
Serves 6 to 8
Here, I use a white mirepoix—one without carrot—for a faintly licorice flavor that is very different from the other soups in this book. If you don’t have a parsnip, use a small potato. As with all pulses and legumes, cooking time can vary enormously, depending on the age of the beans. Buy your beans from a supplier with a good turnover, so you will know the beans are not too old. If you have any homemade stock around, go ahead and use it instead of the water.
2 T blended oil (90% canola, 10% extra-virgin olive)
1 parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
1 ½ stalks celery, roughly chopped
½ bulb fennel, cored and roughly chopped
1 Spanish or sweet onion, roughly chopped
2 fresh Bay leaves or 3 dried leaves
1 cup white wine
1 pound dry cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise and then sliced crosswise
Water, as needed
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
¼ c. fresh lemon juice
3 T Garlic Puree (p. 264, optional)
3 T chopped dill, plus a few more small, picked sprigs
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
In a large pot, warm the blended oil over medium-high heat. Add all the vegetables (except the leek) and the bay leaves and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, to soften without browning. Deglaze with the white wine; simmer until the wine is completely evaporated. Add the beans and leek, plus enough water to cover everything by a good 1 ½ inches. Bring to a boil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to 2 hours, until the beans are very soft but not falling apart. Add water if the level drops more than half an inch.
Strain the solids, reserving all the liquid in a large measuring jug. Return the beans and vegetables to the empty cooking pot. Discard the bay leaves. In a food processor, combine about a third of the bean mixture with 2 cups of the cooking liquid and puree until completely smooth. Return this pureed mixture to the pot with the remaining solids.
Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to get the desired consistency; I like it thick and hearty, but you may prefer a thinner soup. Stir in the lemon juice, Garlic Puree, and chopped dill. Taste for seasoning. Ladle into bowls and top with some crumbled feta, a few sprigs of dill, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
-From "How to Roast a Lamb" by Michael Psilakis
PORK BELLY FOR RAMEN, PORK BUNS & JUST ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE
Makes enough pork for 6 to 8 bowls of ramen or about 12 pork buns
One 3-pound slab skinless
1⁄4 cup kosher salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
The best part of this belly, besides the unctuous, fatty meat itself, which we use in two of our most popular dishes at the restaurants—ramen and pork buns—is the layer that settles at the bottom of the pan after you chill it. Most cooks who are familiar with it know it from making duck confit, and they know it’s liquid gold (or jellied gold, if you want to get technical). We label containers of it “pork jelly.” I add it to broths, to taré, to vegetable sautés—anything that would benefit from a hit of meaty flavor and the glossier mouthfeel the gelatin adds.
To harvest it, decant the fat and juices from the pan you cooked the belly in into a glass measuring cup or other clear container. Let it cool until the fat separates from the meat juices, which will settle to the bottom. Pour or scoop off the fat and reserve it for cooking. Save the juices, which will turn to a ready-to-use meat jelly after a couple of hours in the fridge. The meat jelly will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator or indefinitely in the freezer.
We get pork belly without the skin. If you can only find skin-on belly, don’t fret. If the meat is cold and your knife is sharp, the skin is a cinch to slice off. And you can save it to make the Chicharrón (page 231) we serve as a first bite at Momofuku Ko.
1. Nestle the belly into a roasting pan or other oven-safe vessel that holds it snugly. Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub the mix all over the meat; discard any excess salt-and-sugar mixture. Cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 24.
2. Heat the oven to 450ºF.
3. Discard any liquid that accumulated in the container. Put the belly in the oven, fat side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat at the halfway point, until it’s an appetizing golden brown.
4. Turn the oven temperature down to 250ºF and cook for another 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the belly is tender—it shouldn’t be falling apart, but it should have a down pillow–like yield to a firm finger poke. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the belly to a plate. Decant the fat and the meat juices from the pan and reserve (see the headnote). Allow the belly to cool slightly.
5. When it’s cool enough to handle, wrap the belly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and put it in the fridge until it’s thoroughly chilled and firm. (You can skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but the only way to get neat, nice-looking slices is to chill the belly thoroughly before slicing it.)
6. Cut the pork belly into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices that are about 2 inches long. Warm them for serving in a pan over medium heat, just for a minute or two, until they are jiggly soft and heated through. Use at once.
-From "Momofuku" by David Chang