Mussels with Wild Garlic, Grape Tomatoes, and Guanciale

DSC_0653aI do not fully understand the synergistic relationship between shellfish and pork products, but I do not question it. Clams are delicious with smoky bacon, and at Spanish restaurant Pizarro, I ate seared scallops, each of which was topped with a translucent sliver of Iberico pork lardo – pure cured fat – which softened and clung lasciviously to the scallop. It was seriously one of the most pervy things I have ever put in my mouth. Guanciale is unsmoked cured pork jowl. The fat in guanciale, of which guanciale is mostly comprised, is more delicate and tender than belly fat. Guanciale is the key ingredient in classic Carbonara sauces (until you have tried Carbonara with guanciale, you have not truly experienced Carbonara) and it is a remarkably fortuitous item to have in your fridge when you’re casting about for a new way to prepare mussels. Continue reading

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Foraging and Cooking with Wild Garlic

Last week a new friend of mine, Nicola (a brilliant cook and blogger in her own right), crowed on Twitter about a recent discovery: she’d found loads of wild garlic at a Secret Location. I immediately demanded to be taken to the spot. She agreed, but not before exacting a “wild garlic tax” (some of my orange-blossom-saffron-vanilla macarons). It was an easy trade. I adore wild garlic. Wild garlic, also known as ramps, wild leek, and wood leek, grows in cool damp woody areas. Its colour is strikingly chlorophyll green and it’s got a sharp allium flavour and intense aroma. It’s gorgeous stuff. Monday, the appointed day, was cool and very wet. Nicola picked me up from an Overground station, her sweet and excitable dog, Toro, in the back of the car, and drove us to the Secret Location, a lovely wooded path Somewhere In London. Continue reading

Braised Pheasant with Lentils

The great revelation for me when I moved to London was the availability of affordable game. In the United States, unless you hunt or know someone who does, it is very difficult to find anything more exotic than duck without paying through the nose for it. (Even duck is prohibitively expensive.) This is particularly true in New York City, where I grew up. Wild game? Forget about it. So it was with great excitement (seriously) that I realized in London, not only could I find game, I could actually afford it and get really good at cooking it. Continue reading

Pasta with Calamari, Tomato and Caper Sauce

Blogging has turned me into a culinary diurnal vampire. “Huh?” you say. Let me explain: as a food blogger, you realize pretty darned quickly that without natural light your food photos look like … well … crap. This is the case even with a nice SLR camera. It all gets flat and yellow. You know what I’m talking about. It’s when the food looks kind of dessicated and (let’s face it) unappetizing.

I have a single window in my kitchen that faces vaguely north. So, being fairly obsessive-compulsive, I now find myself cooking dinner at 11 a.m. Then I take half a dozen photos of whatever I’ve cooked and I put it away. Or I eat it for lunch. In August I had no idea how grim things could get. Now, by three Continue reading

Moules Marinières

There are as many recipes for this classic preparation of mussels as there are crotchety fishermen on the Normandy coast. Some people use butter, some use olive oil, some add bay leaves and fresh thyme. On a few things, however, everyone is agreed: the recipe must involve white wine, onion or shallots, parsley, and just a touch of cream. Continue reading

Roasted Sea Bass with Melted Leeks and Girolles

I don’t understand why it is SO DIFFICULT to find affordable fresh fish in London. England’s an ISLAND, people!

Anyway, two and a half hours away by Eurostar is a seafood mecca. It’s called PARIS, which is where I am as I write this. You can hate me later. Today at the Rue Montorgeuil market I bought four beautiful, extremely fresh sea bass (en français, “bar”) for 10 euros and half a kilo of girolles for 2 euros. My philosophy with fish is that the fresher it is, the less you want to mess with it. Continue reading