Monday, February 20, 2012


Ok, ok let me get this on the record first.  I do know that there is a coalition of people out there who do not eat veal, for many a reason.  I, however, am not part of this entourage, and I love veal! So on that note, just as I respect others' decisions to eliminate this from their diet, please respect my decision to include it!  I personally think veal is a delicious treat, as I don't have it too often.  Most often, I have it in osso bucco - a treat in and of itself.  Therefore, for a special occasion like Valentine's Day, we decided a Flintstone-style (Fred called, he wants his dinner back) Frenched veal chop would be perfect. And what better to go with veal than morels? Obviously, it's not morel season, but dried morels definitely get the job done! But let's be serious, it feels like it's springtime outside anyway, so why not keep pretending with ingredients?  And heck, it was Valentine's Day. Treat yo'self!    

Speaking of treatin' yo'self, since it was the day of love, what better to purchase for dessert than the LOVELIEST MORSELS OF GOODNESS ON THE PLANT?! Yes, I mean macarons.  One of each flavor basically.  Was it a poor life decision to go to Laduree on Valentine's Day.  Maybe.  End result? Best life decision!

Frenched Veal Chop with Morels, Asparagus, and Cognac Reduction
1 1/2 C boiling water
1 1/2 C dried morels
2 (1 1/3-inch-thick) Frenched veal chops
1 T grapeseed  oil
1 1/2 T unsalted butter (you can omit this, but it does add some deliciousness)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 thyme sprigs
1 T finely chopped shallot
2 T Cognac
1/2 C Greek yogurt
1/2 T chopped chives
1 T chopped tarragon
1 bunch steamed or roasted asparagus 

*Two notes!*
 1) You can soak the veal chops in milk overnight if you like - this tenderizes it a bit, as well giving a bit of flavor.  If so, pat them dry before seasoning them.

2) I like my veal about medium rare, so I solely cooked them in the saute pan.  If you like yours cooked a little more, it's best to use an oven-proof skillet and finish it in the oven - otherwise, you risk burning the chops.  If you'll be doing this, preheat the oven to 350F.  

On to the real recipe!! Take the veal chops out of the fridge and pat dry.  Season both sides with sea salt and pepper, and allow them to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Next, in a small bowl, pour boiling water over morels in until they are softened and plump, about 30 minutes. Pour the morels into a sieve set over a bowl, lightly squeezing them to remove any excess liquid, and reserve both separately.

Heat an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat until hot and swirl in the oil.  When it's shimmering, gently add in the chops and sear until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the chop and sear the other side for about 3 minutes as well.  Next, add the butter (if using), garlic cloves, and thyme sprigs.  As the butter heats up, it will foam a bit, then dissipate quickly.  While the butter is melting, use a spoon to continuously baste the chops.  The heat of the pan ultimately browns the butter, giving an AMAZING flavor! I really recommend using it - it's not too much in the long run!  Continue cooking for a few minutes more, until the chops are just cooked below medium rare (about 125-130F).  Remove from the pan and let sit.  If you'd like it cooked a bit more, place the pan in the oven and cook until your desired temperature is reached.

Return the pan to the stove over medium-high heat. Add morels and shallots, sautéing 1 minute.  If you're using a gas stove, turn the flame off and add Cognac (so it doesn't blow up in your face!), then return to heat and deglaze, stirring and scraping up brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then slowly pour in the reserved mushroom liquid.  Be careful not to add any grit or sediment that has collected at the bottom of the bowl! Add meat juices from the resting plate and boil until the liquid has reduced to about 1/3 cup.  Next, stir in the Greek yogurt, stirring until the morels are lightly coated and liquid is slightly thickened. Finally, stir in about half of the tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

To plate, create a base out of the cooked asparagus.  I steamed mine this time around because it really lets the flavor of the asparagus shine through, and there are no other flavors to interfere with the rest of the dish.  Place one chop atop the asparagus, and spoon half of the morels on top.  Repeat with the remaining chop, then divide any remaining sauce between the too.  Finish with a sprinkling of tarragon and a grind of black pepper. Enjoy!

This dish was truly remarkable.  The meat itself was super tender - we hardly needed steak knives to eat it! But hey, I'll use any excuse to utilize Laguiole knives!  All of the flavors came together beautifully - there's a deep caramel flavor from both the browned butter and the Cognac reduction that matches perfectly with the unctuous morels.  The touch of thyme and tarragon gave a light herbaceous flavor to the dish that wasn't too prominent, but just enough that it made you wonder what the flavor was!   Next time, I may just straight up use herbes de Provence and see what a little lavender can do for this!   The asaparagus were perfect to pair with this dish as well, although some roasted potatoes would fair just as well I'm sure.  So, if you're a veal eater - make this immediately.  Then make it again when the first morels of the season pop up and the asparagus starts shooting up! If you're not a veal eater, make this anyway using a different protein - the sauce is the real kicker! 

Happy eating!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

happy belated valentine's day!

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day, whether single or taken! I was able to end my evening with these lovelies.  Thank you Laduree for coming to NYC!  I have a great recipe for veal chops coming soon...I can't wait to share!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ole blue eyes

Well...this has nothing to do with Frank Sinatra at all - but I'm sure he secretly was jealous of those 100 baby blues that every scallop has! As you may know, I love scallops. For those of you that are allergic to bivalves, mollusks...well, just shellfish in general, my condolences go out to you.  I don't know if I can claim that scallops are my favorite bivalve, but they're definitely up there! They're kind of the Superman of bivalves. First off, all those eyes. Second, they are the only bivalve that has motor skills (quasi?) - they can shoot themselves across the water by opening and closing their shell, propelling themselves with the force of water! Pretty impressive if you ask me.  Unfortunately, they can't propel themselves away fast enough from the big, bad, predator fisherman.  Better luck next time!

I picked myself up some beautiful scallops - they smelled just like the ocean air, and were extra plump.  If you have the luxury of finding scallops in their shells, go for it! Especially if the roe is attached - quite the delicacy that we don't see too often in 'merica.  I was in the mood for a refreshing, light scallop dish, and came up with a perfect little gem that you all definitely need to try! This dish is so simple it's deceiving.

Scallops with Apple, Fennel, and Tarragon
Serves 4 as an appetizer
4 large scallops
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Wondra flour (optional)
Olive oil
Tarragon, for garnish

For the salad:
1/2 C thinly sliced fennel
1/2 C julienned apple (I used Fuji - you want something crisp!)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T olive oil
1 t minced tarragon
Pinch of celery seed (if you don't have these, it's just as good without!)
Pinch of sea salt
A couple grinds of black pepper

Tarragon Oil:
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C tarragon leaves

Prepare both the oil and the salad first. For the oil, just whir up the tarragon and the olive oil together, and you're set! This obviously makes a lot extra than you'll need for the recipe, but it's great to have around to drizzle on salads and other seafood, among other things! For the salad, mix everything together in a small bowl and set aside.  This salad is delicious on its own, so you should definitely make more!

Finally, you want to simply sear the scallop.  Before you do anything, ensure that the "foot" is removed from the scallop - this is a tougher piece of muscle that is attached to the side of the actual scallop.  Just peel it off, and you're ready! Season both sides of the scallop with salt and pepper, then dredge in Wondra flour if you're up for it.  This helps achieve a nice, golden crust on the scallop.  Heat up a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Swirl in the olive oil, and allow it get hot, but not so hot that it's smoking.  Place the scallops in the pan, ensuring that they aren't crowding one another (party foul!), and sear quickly on both sides.  They shouldn't need more than a minute or two per side, depending on the size. Now you're ready to plate!

If you have some scallop shells lying around, they are great for plating! Divide up the salad evenly among the plates/shells, and place one scallop on top.  Obviously this dish can be altered to be a main course or a bigger appetizer, depending how many scallops you use - it's as easy as that!  If you have an extra squeeze bottle, use that to drizzle the tarragon oil over the scallop and salad - otherwise just use a spoon.  Cut yourself some mini bites, and enjoy!

I find that scallops are super versatile in what you can pair with them, and this is no exception.  The salad has a bit of tartness, and a tad bit of sweetness that are tied together beautifully with the tarragon and celery seeds.  This also helps to bring out the sweetness in the scallop as well!  The dish is crunchy and velvety all at once, and the interplay between hot scallop and cold salad is perfect.  This is a great dish, and for those of you that may be a bit timid when it comes to using fennel or tarragon, test this out! It's not overly anise-y, so it'll satisfy any hungry guest!