Friday, December 25, 2009

A Sort Of Keller Christmas Eve

A couple weeks ago James and I went to Thomas Keller's new LA outpost -- Bouchon, where the big man met and fell in love with Frissée Au Lardon. While thumbing through ideas and recipes for our Christmas Eve for two I thought -- why not try the salad at home (James gave me the Bouchon cookbook last year). It's not exactly Revillion, but I settled on a bistro style tasting menu . . . Kathy Cooks Keller.
As a first course a bit of traditional Christmas. Beignets of salt cod brandade, quickly fried in Keller's batter of cake flour, cornstarch, baking powder and beer, served on TK's oven-baked tomato confit. This time of year doesn't bring the best tomatoes but after 5 hours slow cooking (250º) in olive oil and thyme pretty much shoe leather would be sweet and tender. To be honest I cheated a bit -- I had brandade I made (well actually this year my friend Martha made it for me) for our oyster roast (it freezes well). I serve it every year and count on a bit to use on Christmas. Scorecard -- half Keller.
I would think Oyster Stew would be the kind of thing Keller would revel in. It's mostly milk and cream and butter cooked together and called a soup, but his cookbooks barely acknowledge the joy of cooked oysters, so this one I have to credit to my grandmother. I tried to improve on her stew with a recipe form Antoine's in New Orleans (it is a French theme after all). Antoine's poaches the oysters separately and makes a soup base of butter, minced celery, onion, parsley, S&P, and cayenne cooked together for 25 minutes. Milk and cream are added to the soup base and then the oysters and their poaching liquid. Everything is simmered until just hot. Rich, creamy, and good -- yes. An improvement over the pure white Maryland style stew from childhood memories -- maybe not. But, the big man seemed pretty pleased.
Here's the dish that started the idea. And brought me to my very first (and not so beautiful) poached egg. To make the simple dish stand out I ordered slab bacon from Neuske's -- our favorite brand (and because the Hobb's bacon Thomas Keller favors is near impossible to find) and waited in line for the perfect pain de mie (okay I didn't bake it myself) to serve on the side. To make the dressing I cooked the lardons (slab bacon cut in to sticks about 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch) over medium heat for about 10 minutes to render the fat and crisp the meat. I set the bacon aside for a bit and added 5 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat to sherry vinegar (2TB), whole grain (1 TB) and Dijon mustards (2 tsp) to make the dressing. While I re-crisped the bacon and reheated the poached egg I tossed the frisée with finely chopped shallot, parsley, chervil, chives and basil (TK uses tarragon but -- well, we grow basil and there was no tarragon at Whole Foods). I added in the hot lardons and dressing, tossed again and served with the gently (but not so beautifully) poached egg on top. His Highness has declared this salad our new Christmas Eve tradition. So much for the Cioppino of years past.
There was another course but we just couldn't budge. So now the Christmas question is "How well does Thomas Keller's Coquille St Jacques freeze?"
We never got to dessert even. I made this thematic, but not Keller, poached pear tart thinking we'd have fruit tart for Christmas Eve and Gingerbread cake (this is one I do make every year -- always to rave reviews) for Christmas Day. Well, it may be a year without gingerbread, but from now on, Santa brings lardons.

No comments:

Post a Comment