Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Me and this little site

I suppose this took long enough.

(Drum Roll)

Rue le Sel now has an about / FAQ page.

(Cymbal crash)

Just in case anyone reading is not my mother, or father, or brother, or another such close blood relative, you can learn all about me and this little site. You might even learn about things painted on my bathroom wall.

It's over there (Right now I'm pointing to the right side of your browser), listed with the Recipe Index. Check it out.

Have a lovely evening, and talk to you soon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A little of this

So I got this new job. Same field. Only now, instead of research about confit, and Black Prince tomatoes, and saddles of rabbit and what have you, the focus has switched.

Now, it’s all about copper stills, and distillation proofs, and bisongrass versus Russian standard, and things the likes of which I’m not even legally allowed to be well-versed in, since my age is somewhat limiting in that particular, alcoholic field.

I’ve been feeling slightly inspired by all of this cocktail business, and so tonight, I started juicing my own citrus and pouring it all into my little-used shaker. It was reminiscent of my childhood concoctions, minus the booze: a little of this, a little of that, a lot of ambivalence and mostly no idea what I was doing.

It wasn’t half bad. I’m sure my new boss would have his own opinions; I’ve probably messed infinitely with the balance of spirit to bitter, sweet to rounder. Either way, here it is:

Equal parts vodka*: cointreau
1 oz. each lemon juice, grapefruit juice
splash simple syrup

and remember,

I have no idea what alcohol tastes like. (Read: I might have an idea.)

*If I’ve learned anything so far, I think I’m supposed to tell you that a vodka like bisongrass mixes very well with fruit juices, so that would be the best choice here.

Also, I have a feeling this drink would be awesome with a heat component – jalepeno infused something? Chili flakes? I’m still learning.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hop on over here

This is potentially shameless. I am aware.

But, in an effort to equalize the disadvantage that our small-town chefs have, I'm posting this everywhere possible. I would paint it on my building, if I had paint, or if I wouldn't get evicted for doing it. Hop on over here:

to vote

for Kara Brooks - for Food and Wine's People's Best New Chef - my wonderful boss and the executive chef of Still River Cafe.

Then hop on another computer, and do it again.

(Kidding. Maybe.)

Thanks so much to all of you who vote, I'll keep you updated!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A bunch of extra carrots

I have this book sitting on my kitchen counter, as though, in a pinch, I could open it to help me find that one missing step from my torchon of foies gras, or my locally foraged hearts of palm dish.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful book, but I always think of the recipes within as being so complicated, so finicky in that lovely French Laundry way, that I forget those little anecdotes written before the hearts of palm and after the torchon - the ones that are applicable to all normal ingredients, locally foraged or otherwise.

In these interim pages, the little intermissions before the real recipes begin again, Keller offers simple advice over and over again: how to big-pot blanch correctly, “the importance of hollandaise,” how to make the best soups.

For soups, verbatim: “identify your ingredient, cook it perfectly, and adjust the consistency.” So, if you happen to have a bunch of extra carrots lying around, as I did: carrots, glazed, adjust consistency with chicken stock. (Remember when I talked about the glory of not following recipes and ignoring finicky baking? This is it, in it’s finest.)

I added ginger, and a bit of onion, because I’m into being rogue when I make soup. Now I probably can’t call it something like essence of carrot, fit for the vegetable tasting at the French laundry, but it’s still lovely, every bit as warming and carroty as a winter carrot soup should be.

Below is an approximation of the recipe, but again, adjust it to your liking: more liquid, less, wing it if you’re feeling into that; this soup is very forgiving. In that way this recipe, or the rough blueprint of it, is a great confidence builder. Oh yeah, and buy this book, if you ignored my first urging.

Carrot and Ginger Soup

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
¼ cup peeled and finely chopped ginger root
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
Salt & ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and ginger; saute for five to ten minutes until softened and fragrant. Set aside. Warm stock in a saucepan over low heat.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the carrots until tender, about ten minutes. Drain and shock in ice water to stop the cooking process and retain their color.

Puree the blanched carrots with the onion and ginger with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender or food processor, adding liquid to your desired consistency. You’ll need six cups of stock if you like your soup still fairly liquid, but if you like a thicker soup, use less. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This soup refrigerates and freezes well, and is even better on the second day. Serve with crusty bread, if you can.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mental kryptonite

I’ve lost all ability to euphemize snow. The first snowflakes were fun, nostalgic even, New England’s frosty reminder that the next months ahead were going to be a little colder, a little whiter.

Four (five? six?) feet later, I am experiencing a vast change of heart. I curse the stuff. It’s likely the only weather pattern that, to date, has had the ability to seriously screw with my head. Snow, in these proportions, is some kind of sick, mental, kryptonite.

It’s given me a lot of opportunity for potential stove-front time, yes, but even that I can’t properly appreciate. Butchering my first rabbit became an experience slightly jaded by the fact that I was inside again that day. And then it was soured by the fact that a rabbit ragu was even seasonally appropriate. Because that meant it was cold outside. Then I went outside, and it was actually freezing, not just cold. Later that night it sleeted for six hours.

See what I mean? This much snow is terrible for the mind. And also for the windshield wipers, which by this point I’m pretty sure are permanently frozen.

All I’m saying is that I’ve had enough of winter, and that there becomes a real problem when even rabbit ragu can’t make me feel better. (That’s backwards, right?) I hope it works for you.

**Thanks to my mother for this picture, taken at the house where I grew up.

Rabbit Ragu

Adapted from Gourmet

Note: I made polenta with this, which worked really nicely, but have also been eating leftovers with pasta, and even spaghetti squash. I also substituted bacon for the pancetta and it came out just fine, so feel free to do that as well.

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (1/4-lb) piece pancetta cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 (3-lb) boned, butchered, cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 lb boned)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 cup light dry red wine
1 14-oz can diced Italian tomatoes
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet (2 inches deep) over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add sage and rosemary and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

Add rabbit and cook, stirring occasionally, until rabbit is no longer pink on outside, 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and carrot and continue to cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add tomatoes, sea salt, and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.