Onion Confit

In 2010 James Tanner published his inspiring book Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients. Short shopping lists, easy recipes and tasty results: what more can you ask for! He could have included Onion Confit in his book, but he didn’t. Five ingredients: onions, olive oil, time and perhaps bay leaf and some water are all you need to create a condiment that is perfect with roasted meats and foie gras. It comes with subtle, natural sweetness and lots of umami.

Let’s first discuss the name: it is confit because it is cooked slowly, in fat, over a long period of time. It’s not chutney for the simple reason that it does not originate from India or Pakistan plus there is no need to add various herbs and spices. It’s also not marmalade because we don’t use the peel of the onion.

Onions contain a chemical substance called inulin (also to be found in for instance bananas and Jerusalem artichokes) and given time and warmth it will breakdown into fructose: fruit sugar. Vinegar stimulates this process. So it’s yes to adding vinegar and no to adding sugar.

So how to turn white onions into a deep brown confit? Obviously we don’t add brown caster sugar (as unfortunately so many recipes suggest). Perhaps use balsamic vinegar? Nice try, but no. The only thing you need to do is to cook the onions on very low heat for 8 hours or so.

Wine Pairing

We served our Onion Confit with Terrine de Foie Gras on toast and a glass of Coteaux du Layon produced by Château de la Roulerie. This is a slightly sweet, golden white wine, made from Chenin Blanc grapes. In general a late harvested, not too sweet wine will be an excellent choice but you could also go for a glass of Champagne or Gewurztraminer.

What You Need

  • 4 White (or Spanish) Onions
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon of Vinegar
  • Optional
    • Bay Leaf
    • Water

What You Do

Peel, slice and quarter the onions. Warm a heavy enamelled iron pan, add olive oil and add the onions. Allow to simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes. Add the vinegar and allow to simmer for an additional 8 hours. Check every hour, give a gentle stir and if needed add some water. Let cool and store in the refrigerator. It will last for a week.

Omelet with Winter Truffle

Black truffles are harvested from November to March, so be extravagant and buy one before the season ends. When buying a truffle, please ask if it’s okay to smell them, because the aroma will tell you everything you need to know about the quality.
Black truffles combine really well with a warm purée of potatoes, with scallops, risotto and everything eggs. We used our truffle to make one of the simplest and tastiest truffle dishes ever: an omelet with truffle and Parmesan cheese.
If you store a black truffle for a day or so, then please store it in a small box with some rice and an egg. The rice will prevent the truffle of becoming wet and the egg will embrace the aromas of the truffle and become a treat in its own right.

Wine Pairing

A not too complex white wine goes very well with this omelet, best would be a classic Pinot Blanc or Riesling from the Alsace region (for instance produced by Kuentz-Bas). Think fruity aromas, floral characteristics, minerality and a touch of acidity and sweetness.

What You Need

  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • 10 grams or (budget permitting) more Black Truffle
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Clean the truffle if necessary. Take a fairly small iron skillet and make sure the pan is warm through and through but not hot. Using a fork (a spoon is even better) whisk the two eggs together. Add butter to the pan and wait until it is melted. It should not change colour or sizzle. An omelet should not be fried; the bottom must remain yellow. Add the whisked egg to the pan and wait until the egg is beginning to set. Check the consistency with your fingers. There is no alternative to baveuse! Take your time.
Serve the omelet on a warm dish with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, white pepper and grated black truffle.

Prawn Cocktail

Back in the 1960’s a Prawn Cocktail was a very popular hors d’œuvre. Simple and tasteful, always a pleasure. Today it’s not just unfashionable, it’s close to being hilarious (as far as food can be hilarious). A chef serving a Prawn Cocktail? You must be kidding me!

The two essential elements of a Prawn Cocktail are Prawns and Cocktail Sauce. Yes, indeed, another invention from the 1960’s: Cocktail Sauce. In most cases something in a jar or mayonnaise mixed with powder. But don’t underestimate Cocktail Sauce. It works really well with (cooked) seafood.

Prawns in this case must be grey shrimps, crevette grise, grijze garnalen, Nordseegarnele, quisquilla gris, the common shrimp also known as Crangon Crangon. Preferably home cooked and peeled, but home peeled is also fine. The peeled once have travelled half the world (because they were peeled in a low-wage-country), were twice frozen and treated with food preservatives leading to a loss of quality.

Basically there are two ways of serving the dish: serve the cocktail sauce in a champagne coupe with the prawns hanging on the rim of the glass or as a cocktail, so with multiple layers in the glass.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Prawn Cocktail with a glass of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie produced by Domaine Raphael Luneau. This is a very aromatic wine with a strong flavour and a long finish, which goes really well with the taste of the shrimps and the velvety sauce. The term ‘sur lie’ indicates that during a few months the wine stayed in contact with the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation. This technique makes the wine more complex.
In general a fresh, light wine with a clear acidity, such as a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, will go very well with seafood.

What You Need

  • 200 gram of unpeeled (and uncooked) Grey Shrimps
  • Black Pepper
  • Common Corn Salad
  • Walnuts
  • For the Cocktail Sauce
    • (Home made) Mayonnaise
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Horseradish (preferably fresh)
    • Lemon
    • Vinegar
    • Mustard
    • Tabasco Sauce

What You Do

Cook the shrimps for 2 or 3 minutes in water with a pinch of salt. Let cool. Peel the shrimps. This is time consuming! Feel free to keep the outer shell and the tails; they will make for excellent stock.
Combine two tablespoons of mayonnaise with three or four teaspoons of ketchup, two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, one teaspoon of grated horseradish, one teaspoon of vinegar and one teaspoon of mustard. Now it’s a matter of tasting and adjusting. Feel free to add some lemon juice. The cocktail sauce needs a bit of a punch, so add a few drops of Tabasco sauce. The cocktail sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Coarsely crush two or three walnuts. Mix the shrimps with some black pepper.
Add some leaves of the common corn salad to the glass, sprinkle some walnut over the leaves, then a generous helping of cocktail sauce and finish with the peeled shrimps. Don’t forget to play some nice music from the 1960’s, for instance Helen Shapiro’s Walkin’ Back to Happiness.

Prawn Cocktail ©cadwu
Prawn Cocktail ©cadwu

Jerusalem Artichokes

So much to tell about this plant! It originates from North America (so nothing to do with Jerusalem), its flowers are beautiful and resemble sunflowers, its tuber contains inuline (hence the sweetness) and the taste does make you think of artichokes. Other names include earth apple, topinambour (such a mysterious name!) and sunroot. Once a popular, cheap, nutritious vegetable, now nearly forgotten.
Most people cook or steam the tuber and turn it into a mash. Works well, especially when you add some excellent olive oil or some crème fraiche. Jerusalem Artichokes only contain a very limited amount of starch, so you could use a blender, but we prefer using a fork and passing it through a sieve because the mash becomes glue easily. A better idea is to quarter the Jerusalem Artichokes and cook them gently in olive oil with nutmeg, onion and garlic. When nearly ready add a glass of white wine and some stock, reduce the liquid and serve as a stew.
Jerusalem Artichokes can be used in many ways, you can eat them raw, use them as a basis for a soup, combine them with other seasonal vegetables in the oven, et cetera. We treated them as potatoes and served them with excellent beef and Brussels sprouts.

Wine Pairing

Your choice of wine is of course much influenced by the way you prepare the tubers and what you serve with them. In our case we suggest a Valpolicella Ripasso: red fruit, cherries, not too much tannins, fresh and zesty. Works very well with the sweetness of the Jerusalem Artichokes and the slightly nutty taste of the Brussels sprouts. Or should we say the slightly nutty taste of the Jerusalem Artichokes and the sweetness of the Brussels sprouts?

What You Need

  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter

What You do

Wash the tubers and steam them for 20 minutes or so, depending on the size. You could also cook them, but be careful since they overcook easily. Another option is to put them in the oven for an hour or so on 80° Celsius or 175° Fahrenheit (for instance when you are preparing Choucroute). Let cool. Peel and slice the tubers. Warm a non-stick pan, add olive oil and perhaps some butter. Fry the slices gently. Take your time and watch carefully, the fructose in the Jerusalem artichokes burns easily.

Jerusalem Artichokes ©cadwu
Jerusalem Artichokes ©cadwu

Chioggia Beet Salad

An elegant Starter

What better way to start a nice long dinner than a dish that is light, colourful, surprising and refreshing? A Consommé of Yellow Tomatoes for instance? Or Scallops with Winter Truffle? Or would you prefer a salad made with Bietola da orto tonda di Chioggia? Sounds exotic, but actually it’s a salad made with Chioggia beet: a delicious beet with deep pink and white spirals. It originates from Italy or, to be more precise, from the coastal town of Chioggia, not far from Venice. When cooking the beet its colours fade, creating an even more enticing dish.

Another forgotten vegetable that is worth remembering when you do your Christmas shopping.

Wine Pairing

The dressing comes with firm acidity, balanced by the sweetness of the beet and the spring onion. Wine pairing is a not straightforward because of this combination. Our suggestion would be a Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed a glass of Domaine La Tour Beaumont Haut-Poitou Sauvignon Blanc 2019. It has clear fruity and citrus notes and it is well balanced with a good combination of freshness and roundness.

What You Need

  • One Chioggia Beet
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Spring Onion (or Scallion)
  • White Pepper

What You Do

The day before wash the beetroot and wrap in aluminium foil. Leave in the oven on 180° Celsius or 355° Fahrenheit for 60+ minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
The next day peel the beet and use a vegetable slicer (or mandoline) to make ridges. This will not only make the dish look more inviting, it will also enhance the taste given there is more coated surface and more air when chewing it. Make a simply, relatively acidic dressing with olive oil and vinegar. Thinly slice the spring onion; best to use the green part only. Test a small slice of beet with the dressing and adjust when necessary. Perhaps some fresh white pepper? If you’re happy with the combination, toss the slices with the dressing making sure everything is nicely coated. Plate up and sprinkle the sliced spring onion on top of it.

Salad of Chioggia Beet ©cadwu
Salad of Chioggia Beet ©cadwu

Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps

Nameko (or Pholiota Nameko) is a very popular, cultivated mushroom in Japan. It’s used in stir-fries and miso soup. The taste is nutty, the color amber brown and the texture is firm, also after cooking. The flavor combines very well with (home-made) dashi and shrimps.  The kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and the mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour and extra flavour to the dish. Light, delicate and refreshing: a memorable starter.

Sake Pairing

If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This dry sake is characterized by its refreshing taste and the aroma of Yoshino cedar. The sake was stored in a barrel (taru) made of cedar. Taru sake is about skills, history, dedication and refinement. Yes, you guessed right, we simply love it. Our choice? The one made by Kiku-Masamune.

What You Need

  • For the Dashi
    • 500 ml Water
    • 10 gram Konbu
    • 10 gram Katsuobushi
  • 100 gram Nameko
  • 2 large Shrimps
  • Sake
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Yuzu
  • Kamaboko
  • Mitsuba

What You Do

Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let the shrimps marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper if necessary. Prepare the dashi; add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Add the mushrooms to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the mushrooms) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps.  Taste and add some more soy sauce and or perhaps yuzu if necessary. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If possible add some mitsuba.

Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps ©cadwu
Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps ©cadwu

Scallops with Cauliflower Purée

Three very different ingredients make for an excellent starter. The combination of seared scallops with soft, fluffy cauliflower purée and crispy grilled pancetta offers lots of flavours. For instance a touch of sweetness thanks to the caramelised scallops and the cauliflower plus lovely saltiness thanks to the scallops and the pancetta.

The combination of these three is not new and many recipes have been published. Various ingredients are added, for instance basil, lemon, capers, an infused oil (with for instance curcuma and fennel), a vinaigrette, apple beignets et cetera. But why would you add something if the combination is already close to perfection? And not difficult to make!

Wine Pairing

Best to combine with a wine with long, fruity aromas. Given the complexity of the combination the wine should be fresh and light. A Chardonnay with just a touch of oak could also be interesting because it will combine very well the grilled pancetta and seared scallop.
We enjoyed our scallops with a glass of Chateau Mourgues Du Gres Rosé. A wine with an intense pink colour, aromas that made us think of strawberries and lemon and with a fruity, long taste with a hint of pepper.

What You Need

  • For the Seared Scallops
    • 6 fresh Scallops (best if in their shell)
    • Olive Oil
    • White Pepper
  • For the Cauliflower Purée
    • One Cauliflower
    • Excellent Olive Oil
    • Crème Fraîche
    • White Pepper
  • For the Crispy Pancetta
    • 6 slices of Pancettta

What You Do

Clean and steam (or cook) the cauliflower until nearly done. Using a blender combine the cauliflower and some olive oil. When smooth pass through a sieve. Add some crème fraîche and fresh white pepper. If you’re happy with the purée, keep it warm and ready. You could prepare the purée a day in advance. Clean the scallops. In parallel set your oven to grill. Transfer the pancetta to the grill. 4 minutes? Heat a non stick pan and fry the scallops quickly. Add a last drop of excellent olive oil to the purée, mix with a spoon and plate up. Perhaps some white pepper on the scallops.

Bay Bolete

What’s In A Name?

We are all familiar with the white (button) mushroom, also known as Champignon de Paris. The Chestnut Mushroom is the same mushroom, just with a light brown, chestnut coloured cap. Its taste and texture are more intense compared to the classic white mushroom.
A Chestnut Bolete is a different kind of mushroom. It is small, chestnut coloured when young and beige when older. The German name of the Chestnut Bolete refers to rabbits, the Dutch name to cinnamon and the French name to chestnuts.
The overall colour of a Bay Bolete is brown and its cap is bay. Or is it chestnut? In German and Dutch the name of the Bay Bolete refers to chestnuts. The official name of the Bay Bolete is Imleria badia, but also Boletus Badius because it’s related to Boletus Edulis, also known as cèpes or Porcini.

Let’s talk about flavours and aromas, that’s probably more interesting. Bay Boletes are as tasty as cèpes. The texture is a bit softer and the mushroom itself more moist. It’s actually a very common mushroom in Europe, China, Mexico and North America. Sadly, this very tasty, not expensive bolete is hard to find in shops and on markets. So if you see them, buy them immediately.
Following the recipe for Cèpes à la Bordelaise is a good idea.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy with a glass of medium bodied red wine with aromas like berries and plums, for instance a Beaujolais Côte de Brouilly. It’s such a pity that the appreciation of Beaujolais wine is dominated by the (faded) popularity of Beaujolais Primeur and the idea that Beaujolais is a simple and light wine. It’s not. When you have the opportunity, taste a glass of Régnié, Morgon or one of the other 10 crus of the Beaujolais. Welcome to the divers and exciting world of Beaujolais wines!

What You Need

  • 200 gram of Bay Boletes
  • Shallot
  • Red Meat (Deer in our case)
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Chicken Stock
  • Olive Oil
  • White and Black Pepper
  • Excellent Olive Oil

What You Do

Clean the Jerusalem artichokes and cook them for 10 minutes or so until tender. Mash with a fork or spoon and pass through a sieve. Don’t use a blender, unless you enjoy eating starch. Cool and set aside.
Clean the bay boletes with kitchen paper and slice them (not too thin). Chop the shallot. Add olive oil to a relatively hot heavy iron skillet. Reduce the heat and fry the boletes for 10 minutes. Add the chopped shallot. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir and add fresh black pepper.
In parallel fry the meat very quickly in a hot skillet and let rest for 10 minutes. Warm the purée of Jerusalem artichoke, add fresh a tablespoon of chicken stock, some white pepper and a drizzle of excellent olive oil. Mix with a spoon. Serve on a hot plate.

Pears (Slow Cooked)

No Red Wine, Please

In 1850 the Gieser Wildeman pear was created by Mr. Gieser Wildeman. The pear is hard, full of tannins and its texture is granulated. Not nice at all. However when cooked slowly, the unappealing pear turns into a red and refined pear. Its taste is sweet with a touch of vanilla. A true Gieser Wildeman will become red (through and through) without any problem, provided it’s cooked slowly.
Belle Angevine, Virulam, Black Worcester, Certeau, Sarrasin and Saint Rémy (amongst others) will also do the trick although some will turn light red or pink. And perhaps you will have to add some sugar to enhance the flavour.

If a pear doesn’t turn red, then you need to add port, crème de cassis or red wine. The colour of the outside will be red; the colour of the centre a disappointing white. Some people add cloves, prunes and vanilla to give additional flavour to their pears in red wine. No need for this, just buy the right slow cooking pear.

What You Need

  • Pears
  • One Cinnamon Stick
  • Water

What You Do

Peel the pear and leave the stalks on. Add some water to a heavy pan, add the pears and the cinnamon stick. Allow to cook on low heat for at least 6 hours. We cooked ours for 8 hours. Cool and serve, perhaps the next day, for instance with home-made vanilla ice cream.

Artichoke Pie

A few days after we published our recipe for Tourte de Blette a friend told us about the great taste of artichoke pie and how popular this dish is in Italy, especially in Liguria. Since we love artichokes, we dived into our cooking library, looking for recipes.
Interestingly most recipes refer to canned or marinated artichokes. But wouldn’t it be much better to use fresh, young artichokes? Other ingredients are cheese (Prescinsêua, or a combination of Parmesan or Pecorino and Ricotta, perhaps some Crème fraîche or even Feta), herbs (parsley, thyme or oregano) and eggs.
We like the combination of artichoke and thyme (as we did in our salad), but we could imagine oregano to be a good choice as well.
We remained close to Tourte de Blette and prepared a rustic, open pie, but feel free to create one with pastry on top.

Wine Pairing

It’s not straightforward to pair artichokes with wine. According to various researchers this is due to cynarin, a chemical especially found in the leaves of the artichoke. When the wine and the cynarin meet in your mouth, the natural sweetness of the wine is amplified, making it taste too sweet. So you have to pair freshly cooked or steamed artichokes with a bone-dry, crisp, unoaked white wine with clear, present acidity. For instance Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or Albariño.
We enjoyed our Artichoke Pie with a glass of Château Pajzos Tokaj “T” Furmint, a dry, bright, fresh wine with zesty, nutty and mineral flavours made from the Hungarian Furmint grape. A unique wine and perfect in combination with the artichokes.
Cynarin and wine are not a match made in heaven but the good news is that cynarin seems to protect your liver and even helps it regenerate.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 100 gram of Flour
    • 50 gram of Water
    • 10 gram of Olive Oil
    • 1 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 4-6 young Artichokes
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 30 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Thyme
    • 20 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Clean the artichokes, steam for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and let cool. Chop the shallot. Warm a heavy skillet, add olive oil and gently fry the shallot. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Using a spoon remove the ‘meat’ from the leaves (bracts) of the artichokes. Chop the hearts in four. You may need to remove the centre choke (the hairs). Strip a generous amount of thyme.
Whisk two eggs and combine with the artichokes, the shallot, the rice, the thyme and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add some black pepper.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 15 cm or 6 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the dough in the baking form and add the filling. Transfer to the oven for 40-50 minutes on 180˚-200˚ Celsius or 355˚-390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the pie from the oven, brush the outside with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the pastry. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.