Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cheeseburger Supper

Everybody loves cheeseburgers. Well, at least James does. And burgers are the original American style simple supper. When I get home late and don't have a chance to set something in the ever-reliable crock pot burgers are the answer. We like them plain -- a good mix of ground beef (like the delicious mix sold by the Hearst Ranch or something quickly ground in the food processor) with just salt and pepper (sometimes with a little butter in the middle or brushed on top) broiled in the oven or slapped on the grill. Everyone has their favorite toppings, but for our quick dinner -- a california classic. Bacon, avocado, and James' favorite, nutty delicious Gruyere cheese.
A couple simple burger rules: Don't work the meat too much, don't press them on the grill and burgers are perfect every time.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Signature Dish?

I always wonder while watching Hells' Kitchen or Chef Academy or any of the myriad of cooking competitions on our DVR what, if pressed into competition, my signature dish would be. There aren't too many dishes we return to time after time. But this one, a simple quick supper of white clam sauce, always hits the mark.
I have vague memories of special occasions in my house growing up when my Dad would make his version with cans of Progresso sauce and chopped clams and plenty or oregano -- pretty progressive for the 60' s I suppose. These days the ingredients are fresher but the warm, special occasion feeling stays the same.
For our version, while the pasta is boiling, I sauté red pepper flakes and 4-5 cloves of sliced garlic in a good quantity of olive oil for about two minutes over medium heat. I add chopped parsley, the juice of one lemon, about 1/2 - 3/4 cup of white wine (or sometimes clam juice if we don't have any wine open) and a couple pounds of clean Manila clams. James loves these tender tiny clams. Cover the pot and cook until the clams have opened -- about 5 minutes.
When the pasta is just al dente I add the drained noodles to the pot with the clams, along with 3 TBs of butter, salt and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper and toss until the noodles are coated with the light sauce.
My Dad's dish was finished with a shake of that famous "cheese" from a green can. These days -- with seafood, we generally stay on the Italian side with just a topping of chopped parsley or perhaps lightly toasted bread crumbs.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sausage Pizza

Thanks to a half recipe of Jim Lahey's pizza crust in the freezer, and James' fondness for Italian sausage we had an "after a late night at work", ready in a jiffy crispy crust dinner. The thin crust was stretched over an oiled baking pan, topped with red onions, olive oil, chopped sausage and fresh mozzarella cheese and baked for 20 minutes (a bit too long) at 475º. Dinner was late, but the bag man wasn't late to the table.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Actual Crock Pot Deliciousness

It seems crazy but I have actually found a crock pot recipe I am excited about. No compromise just plain good. Chili Chicken Tacos.
I saw the recipe in Everyday Food and thought it might be worth a try. I mixed about 2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs, a heavy half cup of salsa, sliced garlic, chile powder (I used less than the recipe about 3/4 TB), S&P, and chopped canned chipotle chiles. That mixture simmered in the crock pot for 8 hours on low until the spicy meat could be shredded and layered onto warm tortillas. I topped the tacos with chopped onion, cilantro, avocado and fresh crumbly cotija cheese.
Super easy and delicious -- I'll be trying this trick again. Superbowl taco bar, anyone?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Crock Pot Risotto

Here's one I never would have thought of. I found a recipe for a vegetarian risotto on the internet and figured I could make that a little more tasty -- in case the risotto-ness didn't quite sell -- with, you guessed it -- bacon. I quickly sautéed lardons of slab bacon, a diced onion and a clove of garlic in olive oil until the bacon was just crisping at the edges and the onion was soft. Then I added 1 1/4 cup of arborio rice and stirred over medium heat until every grain was coated and shiny. I put the mixture from the frying pan, along with 1/2 cup white wine. 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, S&P, a knob of butter, and and one bunch of roughly chopped Swiss chard, into the ceramic crock pot dish, covered and turned the heat to high. About two hours later, sprinkled with shredded Parmesan -- we had a pretty respectable, ready for dinner no-stir risotto.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday Roast Chicken

Back in the days when farm wives raised backyard birds and needed the eggs, chicken was expensive and often (at least in nostalgia) a specialty reserved for Sunday dinner with the family. We get our birds delivered form a poultry CSA where they are pasture raised and come full of the rich flavor supermarket birds seem to have forgotten. With meat this good it doesn't take much to make a memorable meal.
I stuffed the cavity of the chicken with lemon slices, garlic cloves, thyme, S&P, and marjoram and trussed it up tight. I rubbed olive oil into the skin, sprinkled with salt and pepper and popped the bird into a 350º oven. After 20 minutes of roasting I added in a mix of vegetables -- peeled sweet potatoes, sunchokes, celery root, and leeks -- tossed with thyme, S&P, and olive oil to the roasting pan. And basted the bird with more olive oil.
After an hour we had an easy to make chicken dinner with old-fashioned flavor.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Irish Beef Stew

When the weather turns cold and rainy -- even here in LA -- there is nothing like a warm stew to brighten spirits. And, it's a super simple, perfect make-ahead meal.
I dredged the chopped chuck in flour and quickly seared the pieces in a mix of butter and oil. As the pieces browned I layered them in a dutch oven in which I had already sauteed a handful of cloves of chopped garlic. Then I added in a bottle of Guinness, 1 cup of red wine, a dollop of tomato paste, a good pinch of thyme, a sprinkle of worcestershire sauce and about 6 cups of beef broth and brought the pot to a boil. I let the mixture simmer over low heat for an hour, covered.
Meanwhile I sauteed carrots, chopped onions, and baby potatoes in butter until just golden. When the stew had cooked for an hour I added in the vegetables and allowed the pot to simmer for 45 minutes until the vegetables were tender and flavorful. As a last step I stirred in a bag of thawed frozen peas and the stew was ready to serve or wait in the fridge for another dinner.
Made on the weekend, even better during the week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ad Hoc Dinner: Tomato Sauce Challenge Part One

Yet another adventure with Thomas Keller.
I know I've mentioned it -- but this year James, although he couldn't wait for Christmas, gave me Thomas Keller's new Ad Hoc cookbook. At Ad Hoc Keller serves offers one appetizer, one entree, a cheese course, and one dessert a night. Chef Keller's version of what we home cooks do every day or would if we could.
When I saw the recipe for oven-roasted tomato sauce I had to give it a try (especially since there is a similar Mark Peel recipe to challenge it), in spite of the more than two hours cooking time. I roasted aromatic vegetables (leeks, onions, fennel and garlic) with salt and canola oil for 45 minutes. Then I stirred in brown sugar and red wine vinegar and allowed the mixture to roast for 20 more minutes. When the vegetables were tender and caramelized I stirred in two large drained cans of San Marzano tomatoes -- 1 can chopped, 1 left whole -- and a sachet of bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and garlic -- and allowed the mixture to roast at 350º for an hour and a half more stirring every 30 minutes. When I tasted the sauce I thought it was a bit too sweet but chef Keller writes that the sauce goes well with polenta or meatballs. I decided to try them both.
The meatballs -- if you ignore the mix of meats (pork, sirloin, chuck, and veal -- I used turkey) are pretty straight forward. I sautéed onions and garlic until just tender but not browned. Let that cool and add to the meat mixture along with 1 egg, q/4 cup bread crumbs, chopped parsley, and S&P. The twist comes in the cooking. After forming the nearly baseball sized meatballs around a cube of fresh mozzarella I baked them on a rack for 20 minutes until just cooked through. Mini-hamburger maybe but pretty darned good.
The trouble came with the polenta. This wasn't my first polenta by any means, but Keller's method was new to me. His instructions told me to bring chicken broth to a boil and pour the polenta in a fine stream while stirring -- usual so far. But then, Keller says to cook out all the moisture (about 20 minutes) until the polenta is quite dry before adding an absurd, by any one else's standards, amount of butter and cream -- warning that the polenta could be gooey if not fully dry before adding the fat. Well maybe I need pictures, or further instruction. Our polenta was tasty but the texture . . . all wrong.
Hmm maybe I need some personal instruction -- Chef Keller . . . I'm available.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crazy Crockpot "Fried" Chicken

Okay, it's not fried. But, it's also not the soft-skinned slow cooker bird we've come to expect. Jumping off from an posted recipe I saw on some off-brand share site I mixed up some heavily seasoned flour -- sage, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, rosemary, S&P -- and lightly dredged the drumsticks in the mixture. The chicken pieces were layered in the crock pot and drizzled with melted butter (I used about 2 1/2 TB for 6 drumsticks). After 9 hours on low we had a pretty credible rendition of oven baked chicken. Not quite fried but still pretty tasty and a nice change.
I'll try this one again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pot Roast

Maybe pot roast isn't for us. It's easy and homey somehow but also -- let's face it -- dull. I make lots of slow cooked meat dishes but the standard New England style dish never seems as good as the idea. But, if I were a pot roast fan I'd be pulling this super easy recipe out time and time again. Since I've been working so much I've been spending a lot of leisure time sorting through easy make ahead and slow cooker recipes. It doesn't get much easier than this.
In the bottom of the crock pot mix 1 TB cornstarch with 2TB cool water until smooth. Add in eight peeled carrots, cut in thirds, two onions cut in eighths, S&P and toss. Lay a trimmed chuck roast (about 3 lbs) on top and sprinkle with 2 TB Worcestershire sauce on top. Cook on low for about 10 hours.
Maybe, better than dinner this could be a good recipe for when we need roast beef sandwiches for a crowd. Thinly sliced with caramelized onions and melted Gruyere cheese I think the big man might feel differently about the slow cooker specialty.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2 Hour (And Counting) Apple Cake

A pile of apples on the counter, flour in the cupboard and a quick internet search led me to Smitten Kitchen's apple cake. The recipe couldn't be simpler. Chopped apples mixed with cinnamon and sugar are layered into a tube pan alternating with a basic coffeecake style batter of flour, salt, sugar. oil, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, and a bit of orange juice. I added raisins into the apples (James loves raisins) and added the "optional" chopped walnuts into the thick batter.
Only one thing -- I'm not sure what was different about my cake and the Smitten Kitchen cake but instead of the recipe's hour and a half baking time . . . our dinner treat took about two and half hours until a tester came out clean. Long time to wait for a fairly simple cake? Yes. Too long? No. James said it was one of my best cakes ever. Thanks SK!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sweet and Sour Ribs

I'm not sure what could be easier than this recipe. Equal parts ketchup, cider vinegar and brown sugar mixed together with dry mustard (1 TB for a 1/2 cup ketchup), a pinch of cayenne (or to taste) and S&P. Mix the sauce together in the crock pot layer the ribs, meat side down, in the sauce and cook on low for 10 hours until the meat is moist, tender, and falling of the bones.
If I'd had country style ribs (as the Everyday Food recipe suggested) I think they'd have been even better, but in any case this is one of "Martha's" and the slow cooker's better recipes. Leftovers will make nice BBQ sandwiches one day down the road.
Pressed for time I "baked" a few sweet potatoes in the microwave (yes, I admit it -- I have one) and did a quick sauté of collard greens -- Brazilian style -- with chopped onions, and garlic in a bit of olive oil cooked over high heat until just tinged with a bit of brown.
A little sweet a little bitter, A Southern style dinner prepared in minutes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Taleggio Lasagna

As you can see we couldn't even wait to photo this lasagna before we dug in.
Creamy, delicious, unusual and easy to make ahead -- the perfect dinner party dish. For this take on lasagna (based on an idea I spied in Bon Appetit) I made a quick mornay sauce with cubes of chopped taleggio cheese instead of the usual Gruyere. The Italian washed rind cheese gave the sauce extra creaminess with a bit of the cheese's signature tang. I love that trick of using creamy cheeses like brie or Epoisses as the finish to sauces and risottos. For the filling I sauteed a mix of pancetta and chopped prosciutto with finely sliced celery, garlie, plenty of shredded radicchio, fresh thyme, chopped onion and leek. Starting with the sauces I made layers with the noodles, filling, more sauce, and shredded parmesan cheese -- ending with the layer of filling and sauce on top of the casserole. The dish was sprinkled with bread crumbs and baked uncovered for 35 minutes at 375º. To serve I dressed shredded radicchio and fresh thyme leaves with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and garnished the warm lasagna with the crisp salad.
Delicious . . . simply delicious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jim Lahey is a Genius

This might be the best looking loaf of bread I have ever made. I can't deny it, my heart soared with a mother's pride when I saw the just barely cracked, crusty brown exterior. And, it was the easiest loaf ever. Following Sullivan Street Bakery founder Jim Lahey's easier than easy recipe, I mixed flour, raisins, walnuts, yeast, salt, and water into a sticky dough (I just mixed them a few times with my hands) and left the bread in process to rise in a warm spot for about 20 hours until it was yeasty, bubbly, with a rich floury aroma. I kneaded the dough once or twice -- just to bring it together, formed it into a ball and left it to rise (covered by a floured tea towel for 2 more hours. As the dough reached the end of it's rise I heated the oven to 475º with a covered 5 quart dutch oven inside. At the end of the rise I popped the dough into the super hot dutch oven ( a Le Creuset enameled French oven to be exact) and covered it up to bake for 30 minutes in the hot oven. And then, uncovered the ot and left the bread to finish baking until the crust was thick and crisp and the loaf had taken on a warm brown tone.
Modern kitchen bread alchemy, courtesy of Jim Lahey.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Crock Pot Strikes Again

Honestly some days crock pot cooking isn't as dreamy as the 1970's women's magazine would have you believe. Roasts don't brown (unless you have time to sear them before turning on the cooker), texture can leave a bit to be desired and the convenience can't quite make up for the often missing depth of flavor that comes from more steps and more kitchen time. Sigh.
But. For some dishes the slow moist heat adds a magic all it's own. Lentils, beans, legumes of all kinds are perfect partners.
For this simple soup, based on a recipe I found from The Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss, I tossed in 2 cups of red lentils, 1 peeled and chopped butternut squash, olive oil (3 TB), 4 cloves of garlic, 2 large diced onions, 1 large can of tomatoes (our homegrown of course), ground coriander (2 tsp), cumin (1 tsp), turmeric (1 tsp), paprika (1/2 tsp), cinnamon (1/2 tsp), S&P, and 6 cups of chicken broth. The recipe was written to brown the onions first, but I was in a hurry and everything went in together and cooked for 10 hours on low heat. To serve -- on a hearty bed of steamed rice -- I poured on a drizzle of my most pungent olive oil, sprinkled on feta cheese, toasted some baguette croutons with olive oil and za'atar (a Middle Eastern salt and spice mix that is delicious on steamed vegetables, toasted breads, grilled meats -- just about everything) which I liberally dusted over the surface of the soup.
Almost vegetarian -- totally delicious. A crock pot winner.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Braised Short Ribs

Some days are better than others. This should have been a simple dish -- red wine, garlic, sliced mushrooms, soffritto (from Thomas Keller's recipe) and a long slow braise in the crock pot served over buttered noodles. Eh. I think we'll stick with Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. As I am breaking Julia's rule of never apologize, never make excuses for your food, I'll say that
the real winner of this less than stellar dinner was a new preparation for broccoli gleaned from -- of all the unlikely places -- Michael Chiarello. I cooked the broccoli in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drained and placed it on a baking tray. I dotted the surface with butter, sprinkled with salt, pepper, crushed red peppers, and shredded cheese (Chiarello called for Pecorino I think but I used a mix of strong cheese -- parmesan and a sheep's milk tomme I had grated up for pastas). After 20 minutes in a 425º oven this was a make ahead broccoli show stopped good enough for company.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

White Bean Soup

I suppose the excitement of the new year is starting to fade, I'm back to work and so is the trusty crock pot.
Even Thomas Keller thinks the crock pot is the perfect place to cook beans, so who am I to argue? I made a mix up of a few recipes and tossed together this simple soup. Into the slow cooker I loaded one pound of dry white beans, 3 large cloves of chopped garlic, sliced dry chorizo, one sliced onion, one sliced leek, lardons of smoked slab bacon, S&P and about 7 cups of chicken broth. That mixture cooked on low for about 4 hours and then James added in one bunch of chopped kale and left the soup to simmer in the crock pot for about 4 hours more.
Just before serving I drizzled on a whisper of red wine vinegar and topped the bowl with a few cheese croutons.
Dinnertime winner.

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Year's Pork and Sauerkraut

For the first time in a long long time, I didn't make black eyed peas and collard greens for New Year's Day.
I'm not sure how I know or why it's a tradition but the Pennsylvania Dutch (up in the Amish country and I assume all other places with a strong German tradition) start the New year with a long simmered dish of pork and sauerkraut. Not a particularly appetizing name or even the sort of thing I usually would cook for James but some how glancing at the crockpot and searching through a few internet posting it seemed like a new way to welcome the New Year. I sliced up two granny smith apples and one large onion and added them along with a generous sprinkling of brown sugar, two jars of sauerkraut (one drained one with the liquid), a few lightly crushed juniper berries (about 6) and 3 whole cloves to the crock pot. I nestled in a small pork roast (about 2 pounds) and a few links of bratwurst (pierced a few times to keep them intact while they cooked) and poured two cups of white wine over top. The big man put the mixture on to cook while I was away and after 6 hours on low and some quick boiled potatoes our German style dinner was done.
I probably won't rush to make this dish again, but for once in a while, welcome a New Year -- not to bad.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spiced London Broil and Cauliflower Purée

There is comfort and meat and potatoes. And yet, there is edible joy in the unexpected. I went for both.
At first glance this smooth cauliflower purée seems like silky mashed potatoes but the taste is creamier, smoother and well, just a bit naughtier. Following chef John Besh's recipe I boiled the florets and, after drying them in a hot oven, puréed the vegetable with more hot cream and butter than I thought possible (or probably advisable).
With that kind of richness we needed a bit of spice. I marinated the steak in red wine and crushed garlic cloves for a couple hours and then coated the London broil in a mixture of black (1TB) , pink (2 tsp) and green (2 tsp) peppercorns, allspice (about 1/2 tsp -- the allspice was an idea from culinary historian Jessica Harris and it did add just a bit of mystery to the peppery coating), crushed red peppers (1/4 tsp), black mustard seeds (1/3 tsp) and a pinch of cayenne and ground together. I let the grilled steak (about 11 minutes total) rest while I sautéed up some fresh dandelion in garlic and olive oil -- a bit of bitter flavor to balance the rich spice and cream.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Roast Chicken With Potatoes, Asparagus, And Lemon

Some days even when I am home all day dinner seems to get away from me. And then as the oven clock is ticking I have to figure something out that will be tasty and quick. Mercifully i have just been to the farmer's market so I have a lot of choice ingredients to rely on.
I think it's been kind of cold lately in our part of Socal and my backyard garden is overflowing with lettuces, broccoli, chard, brussels sprouts, cauliflower -- not exactly the bounty of spring. But our local farmer's market had beautiful asparagus and I couldn't resist a few stalks of the spring time treat -- although I admittedly had no plan for a dish.
Flipping through ideas on the internet I came across a one pan dish that seemed perfect for a cook in a hurry.
I poured potatoes, olive oil, butter, garlic, and S&P into a roasting pan and popped them in the oven at 475º for 20 minutes. When the potatoes were just starting to crisp I put my chicken pieces -- generously seasoned with salt and pepper and popped the pan back in the over for another 20 minutes. Next came the asparagus chopped into two inch pieces, a whole lemon cut into 8 wedges, and a handful of fresh thyme sprigs. I mixed all those into the hot potatoes and chicken and popped the roasting pan back in the over for another 10 minutes until the asparagus was crisp tender.
Served with a bit of the pan sauce overtop this impromptu chicken dinner was a bit of spring for a new year LA winter day.

Monday, January 4, 2010

West Coast Crab Season

It's sacrilege. I was raised nearby the famous crab-filled waterways of the Chesapeake Bay -- in Maryland, by Marylanders. I have been eating delicious steamed blue crabs all my life. And yet, I have come to love the West coast dungeness crab . . . the winter crab.
Though you can buy dungeness year round, in the cold water months they are at their sweetest and meatiest and most irresistible. When I spied these beauties in the case at the fish counter I knew what James would have for dinner.
Although it' s not for the dainty or faint of heart, it's an up to the elbows kind of dinner, I have been using the same method for Roasted Dungeness Crab since I first saw Chef Reed Hearon's (of San Francisco's Rose Pistola) recipe in Saveur Magazine. For two crabs the simple marinade mixes toasted and crushed fennel seeds (2 tsp), parsley (1 bunch), 2 cloves garlic, fresh thyme leaves (2 tsp), crushed red pepper (1 TB), S&P, and 1/3 cup olive oil (I generally use closer to a half cup) in the food processor and the mixture is poured over cleaned crabs and left to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours (I have often left it longer). Chef Hearon leaves his cleaned crabs whole -- I generally break ours into quarters. You can use cleaned and cracked crabs from the store but I like the rich taste of the crab fat so I generally don't clean ours too thoroughly. The crabs in their sauce are roasted at 400º for 10 - 15 minutes (just until hot through). Serve with warm bread and or roasted potatoes to sop up the delicious sauce . . . and plenty of paper towels.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Week's Work Clams

I started this recipe about a week ago.
Another blind following of the teachings of super chef Thomas Keller and another foray into gift cookbooks. About a week ago, wondering why I don't use my Bouchon cookbook more often (I think that one was last year's Christmas cookbook) I spied a neat little recipe for steamed clams. Manila clams are a household favorite and so I figured what better way to test Thomas.
Though simple at first glance these little clams required 3 sub-recipes (basics I believe Bouchon calls them), soffritto, garlic confit, and black olive tapenade. Somehow while making Christmas dinner I thought -- well I'm n the kitchen anyway, why not give these a try.
The soffritto, a long cooked mixture of onions and grated tomato pulp (no skins no seeds) took about 5 hours simmering (it's supposed to be over a diffuser, I don't have one so I used two burner grates of my gas stove piled up) on the stove. The garlic confit -- after peeling the 45 cloves of garlic, seemed like convenience food at only 45 minutes cooking time (but of course the garlic has to cool in the oil so wait a couple hours to wash that saucepan). The tapenade zipped by at less than 15 minutes (if you don't count pitting the oilves).
To assemble the finished dish I heated a pan on the stove. To the hot pan I added olive oil and to the warm oil I added minced shallots. Next went a healthy dollop of soffritto, minced thyme and 24 of my precious cloves of garlic confit. I stirred those a bit over medium heat, turned the heat up to high and added the clams and 4 TB of butter stirred those around a bit to mix in the flavor of the soffritto, added a cup of white wine covered the pan and steamed for about 2 minutes until the clams were just open and very tender.
Meanwhile I spread my not very pretty tapenade on diagonally long cut toasted slices of baguette, poured the clams and their delicious cooking liquid into bowls and another dinner is served.
This is the kind of recipe a cook thinks can't possibly be worth the time. And yet, James forbid me to throw out the left over cooking liquid ("this would be so good over spaghetti") an didn't look up except to tell me that the clams were better than anything we ate on our central coast New Year's vacation.
I guess I'll stick with Keller.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Leftover Night

One more Christmas cookbook -- sort of. James bought me Thomas Keller's new Ad Hoc cookbook for Christmas, but -- as often happens -- he couldn't wait and gave it to me early. So I got an extra Christmas and a little extra time to peruse TK's idea of family style meals.
It's a lot to jump into. The great chef obviously has time for perfection and an army of sous chefs, line cooks and commis ready to simmer his sauce and peel his asparagus.
I had planned to pan fry a few leftover slices of Christmas prime rib I tucked away (obviously this post waited a bit to publish) but Keller, along with the two bunches of asparagus in the fridge, kept calling my name. Asparagus with tomato bacon stew. Simple techniques and ingredients cook down for more than a hour to a rich sauce with just a hint of porky flavor.
First, lardons of slab bacon render (chalk up 30 minutes) and are set aside with about half of the released fat. To the remaining oil are added chopped leek, onion and garlic which cook until just soft -- 5 minutes or so -- then canned tomatoes (I admit it, I veered -- we had fresh so I ground them up and used them) which cook down for 45 minutes (an hour and 20 minutes and counting). Half of the resulting mixture is puréed and returned to the pan to cook down for 15 minutes more (now we're at an hour and 35 minimum). As a finish, the bacon is stirred in to warm through. While the sauce was finishing I trimmed and peeled (yes Keller says peel and so I peeled) the asparagus which was cooked in a wide sauté pan with the reserved bacon fat and a bit (3 TB) of chicken stock. After 6-7 minutes (well, we didn't quite hit two hours) the asparagus are tender but not soft with just a bit of delicate bacon flavor.
The sauce was rich and still fresh tasting and a nice change. I could see it would easily liven up a simple grilled halibut or other hearty fish. But the real revelation? Pan roasted peeled asparagus.
Will I be peeling asparagus every time? Probably not - although James did feign shock that it was my first time in spite of his obviously exalted, peeled stalk worthy station in life and at the dinner table. But for some special Sunday night (Ad Hoc at Home is a Sunday leisure time cookbook -- nothing to turn to for a bit of weeknight kitchen fun) I might give it another turn.
Now I am eyeing a vegetable bin full of carrots for Keller's Nante Carrot Stew . . . next time I have a spare couple hours.