Asparagus!

Only a few days left before the end of the asparagus season on June 24th! So dash off to your greengrocer and buy some lovely asparagus, white, green, purple, it’s all fine and great, as long as they are locally farmed and fresh.

The classic way of preparing asparagus is to cook (or better: steam) them. You can pair the steamed asparagus with kimizu (the beautiful, light, golden Japanese sauce made with egg yolks and rice vinegar) Hollandaise, morels or scrambled eggs with shrimps. Classic way to serve them is à la Flamande (mimosa of egg, butter, parsley and nutmeg). You could add boiled eggs, ham and new potatoes to have a nice dinner. Or if you want to spent more money, then you serve them with summer truffle or with Sauce Périgueux.

Grilling the asparagus is also possible, simply serve them with excellent olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Parhaps as a salad on a summers evening? Of course, with a delicious dressing made of white wine vinegar, olive oil, a touch of honey and lots of chervil.

A more exotic way of is to fry the asparagus with black olives and basil. Goes very well with lamb.

Wine Pairing

The obvious choice is a glass of Pinot Blanc, although we actually prefer a dry Muscat in combination with a classic preparation such as à la Flamande. Depending on the dish it could also be a Verdicchio, an Albariño or perhaps even a Portuguese Vinho Verde. Feel free to experiment; yesterday we enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of wine made of muscat and picpoul grapes. Delicious combination! The wine comes from the Pont Du Gard region (near Nimes, France) and is produced by Château Mourgues du Grès.
A more serious rosé is a perfect choice when you grill the asparagus, for instance a glass of Domaine Vico Corse Le Bois du Cerf Rosé 2021. This exceptional rosé from Corsica is made of grenache and sciacarello grapes. It is medium bodied and fresh with aromas of red fruit with a complex, long and fruity taste.
A pinot noir or grenache based wine is great when you fry the asparagus, depending on the preparation of the meat.

Asparagus ©cadwu
Asparagus ©cadwu

Roulade of Turkey with Mushrooms and Chestnuts

We love to eat this very tasty, juicy, rich combination during winter. We use meat from the leg of the turkey (the thigh) because it has lots of flavours and a great texture.
You could of course make your own chestnut butter, crème or spread; we prefer using Clément Faugier’s Chestnut Spread. It’s nutty, sweet (but not too sweet) and earthy.

Wine Pairing

A medium bodied, red wine will be a great accompaniment of the roulade. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of black fruit, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) as produced by Von der Mark-Walter. The winery is located in Baden, Germany, at the foothills of the Black Forest.

What You Need (Filling)

  • Shallot
  • Olive Oil
  • 150 grams of Mushrooms
  • Thyme
  • Chestnut Spread
  • Black Pepper

Chop the shallot and glaze in a pan with olive oil for 5 minutes. Clean the mushrooms and cut into smaller chunks. Add the mushrooms and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add a generous amount of thyme. Transfer from the pan and allow to cool. Once lukewarm, use a kitchen knife to create a lovely duxelles. Add a teaspoon of chestnut spread. Taste and adjust by adding more chestnut spread and black pepper.

What You Need (Roulade)

  • One Turkey Thigh
  • Pancetta or Bacon
  • Filling
  • Kitchen twine and needle
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Cream
  • Black Pepper
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Nutmeg

Remove the bone (if any) and ‘unfold’ the meat by slicing the thicker part, making it longer. Make a strip of pancetta from left to right, without covering the lower and upper part of the meat. Put the filling on top of the strip and then spread it out, making sure the top and bottom remain not covered. Put 4 or 6 strings of kitchen twine underneath the roulade and start rolling. Not too tight. Use one longer string of kitchen twine to close the sides (so the two strings are at right angles to each other). You may need a needle to close the roulade. Wrap the roulade in plastic foil and keep in the refrigerator.
Ready to cook? Fry the roulade in lots of butter and olive oil to give it a nice colour and then transfer it to the oven at 160 ˚C or 320 ˚F. It’s ready when the centre has reached a temperature of 70 ˚C or 160 ˚F. Transfer from the oven and wrap in aluminium foil. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Add some chicken stock to the pan and deglaze. Transfer to the blender and create a smooth, thick sauce. Transfer back to the pan and leave on low heat. Add some cream, taste and leave for 10 minutes or so. In the mean time steam the Brussels sprouts. When ready coat with some olive oil.
Serve two or three slices of turkey roulade per person with the sauce and some Brussels sprouts. A touch of black pepper on the turkey and some fresh nutmeg on the sprouts.

Carpaccio

With A Twist?

Carpaccio has evolved into an anything-goes combination of something sliced (beef, veal, (smoked) salmon, beetroot) with a dressing and garnished with for instance pine nuts, cheese, lettuce, capers, tomatoes, spring onion etcetera, which is a pity because the original Carpaccio is actually rather perfect.
We’re not culinary puritans but nevertheless we were slightly shocked when we found the next version of Carpaccio in our local supermarket: with wasabi mayonnaise, teriyaki glaze and roasted sesame seeds. Help?

Original Version

Let’s go back to the original Carpaccio as it was created (in 1950) by chef Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar in Venice for one of his regular guests, the Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo. Her doctor had ordered her to eat uncooked food, especially raw, red meat. Most likely she suffered from anemia. The poor Contessa was used to excellent food, so something raw on a plate wasn’t very appealing. Chef Cipriani created a special dish for her, which he named after, indeed, the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio. Some say this was a tribute to the whites and reds as used by Carpaccio.

Sauce

The sauce is a very clever combination of mayonnaise, Worcester sauce, lemon juice, white pepper and milk. The velvety mayonnaise works very well with the lean meat, the acidity of the lemon is a perfect match for the sweetness of the beef and the Worcester sauce brings umami and depth. The milk gives the sauce the right consistency.

Next time when you think about preparing Carpaccio, why not try the original version and forget about all the extra’s.

Wine Pairing

We suggest enjoying your Carpaccio with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a Soave. It should be a fruity, not too powerful wine. Carpaccio is about the flavour of the meat. The sauce and the wine should simply support this. You could also go for a Pinot Noir, provided it has a light character.

What You Need

  • 50 grams of Excellent Tenderloin or Sirloin (per person) thinly sliced, cold but not frozen.
  • (Homemade) Mayonnaise
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Lemon
  • White Pepper
  • Milk

What You Do

Take one or two spoons of mayonnaise and add two teaspoons of Worcester sauce, one or two teaspoons of lemon juice and freshly ground white pepper. Taste and adjust until you have the perfect balance. Now add milk, creating a thinner sauce. Remove the meat from the refrigerator, flatten the meat if so required and transfer to a cold plate. Create a nice pattern with the sauce, using a sauce bottle. Serve immediately.

Himmel Und Erde

It’s not often that we write about German cuisine. Actually, we never do. But with the wintery weather it’s time to visit the Bürgerliche KücheHimmel und Erde is a dish you would typically order when you’re at a local German Brewery, enjoying a beer of course. It combines potatoes and onions (Erde) with apples (Himmel), black pudding, bacon and butter. That may sound simple, but actually it’s a bit more work than you would expect. The flavours combine surprisingly well.

The trick is to use two kinds of apples. A sour one that will break down and can easily be combined with the mashed potatoes and a sweet one that will add character to the dish. Without the small chunks of sweet apple the mash becomes bland. Adding strips of fried bacon makes the mash even more tasty.

Drink Pairing

A slightly bitter beer is an excellent choice, but you could also go for a Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). You’re looking for a medium bodied red wine, with lots of fruit and perhaps a touch of oak.

What You Need

  • Black Pudding or Boudin Noir
  • Mash
    • 1 medium sized Crumbly Potato
    • 1 large, Sweet Apple
    • 1 large, Sour Apple
    • Butter
    • Nutmeg
    • Black Pepper
    • Pinch of Salt
    • Bacon
    • More Butter
  • 1 large Onion
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Start by peeling the onions. Quarter and slice. Add olive oil to a heavy iron skillet on medium to low heat and fry the onions until brown. This may take a few hours. Take your time for the best result! When the onions are ready it’s time to prepare the other four elements of the dish, all in parallel. Peel and dice the potato and the apples. Cook separately. When the potato is ready, add a generous amount of butter and a pinch of salt. Mash with a fork. Cook the apples with a limited amount of water until the sour one is completely soft. Stir with a spoon. Fry the black pudding until done. Grill the bacon until crispy. Slice the grilled bacon in smaller bits, let’s say 1 cm. Heat the onions to make sure they are a bit crispy. Now it’s time to assemble the dish. Combine potatoes and apples with some extra butter. Be generous! Add some black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Taste and when okay, add the grilled bacon. Serve on a hot plate with the fried onions and the black pudding.

Himmel und Erde ©cadwu
Himmel und Erde ©cadwu

Pâté with Mushrooms

Let’s celebrate the season by preparing a Pâté! The combination of a crispy crust, a structured, colourful filling and various flavours is always a pleasure. Making a pâté (or better: a Pâté en Croûte) can be a bit intimidating (especially if you look at the pâté’s prepared during the World Championship!) but that should not stop you from giving it a try. It’s a pleasure to think about the ingredients, work on the construction and enjoy the wonderful aromas from your oven while baking the pâté. And the joy when slicing it: is the pâté as beautiful as you expected it to be?
Feel free to make your own puff pastry, but if you buy ready-made pastry, please check it’s made with butter, flower, salt and water only and not with rapeseed oil, palm oil, yeast etcetera.

Wine Pairing

A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of this Pâté en Croûte. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of black fruit, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Cèpes
  • 250 grams of Champignon de Paris
  • 1 small Shallot
  • Handful of Spinach
  • Half a cup of Rice
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Parsley
  • One Egg
  • Puff Pastry
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by cooking some rice, you will probably need a tablespoon of cooked rice. Clean the cèpes and see how they best fit in the pâté baking mould. Perhaps you need to trim the stems or the caps to have the best result when it’s ready. Set the cèpes aside.
Clean the champignons and wash the spinach. Peel and finely chop the shallot. Warm a heavy iron skillet, glaze the shallot, add the cleaned and lengthwise halved mushrooms (and the leftovers of the cèpes) and cook them on medium heat for 10 minutes or so. In parallel blanch the spinach, drain and squeeze. Also in parallel, coat the mould first with baking paper and then with puff pastry. Make sure you have some extra pastry to create the lids for the chimneys. Chop the cooked mushrooms. Chop the spinach. Add the egg to a large bowl and whisk. Add the cooked mushrooms to the bowl, add some black pepper, chopped parsley and finely grated Parmesan Cheese. Add some spinach, just to have some extra colour. Add the rice. The rice will help absorb additional juices from the cèpes, so how much rice you need is a matter of looking at the mixture and the cèpes.

Now it’s time to build the pâté: start by creating a bottom with the mixture, position the cèpes and add the remainder of the mixture. Make sure the mixture envelops the mushrooms. Close the pâté with the pastry. Make two holes in the roof of the pâté and use baking paper to create 2 chimneys. Transfer to the oven (180 °C or 355 °F) for 45 minutes. Use the remainder of the puff pastry to make 4 mini cookies that will function as lid on the chimney (of course, you only need 2, but baking 4 allows you to choose the best). After 45 minutes add the 4 cookies, bake for another 10 minutes. Mix some egg yolk and coat the pâté and the cookies. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The duration and temperatures very much depend on the shape of the mould and the pastry.

Transfer from the oven, remove the chimneys, glue the lids on the chimneys using some egg yolk and let cool. Once cool, remove from the mould, transfer to the refrigerator and wait until the next day. 

Duck with Figs

Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with Green Pepper Corn, with Sichuan, with Mirin and Soy Sauce or as Canard A l’Orange: the result is always tasty and your guests will be happy.
Today we combine duck with figs. Not the most obvious combination because the figs are relatively dry and perhaps not as sweet as the combination requires. We clearly need a bridge between the meat and the fruit. The first idea was to use port, perhaps with some veal or chicken stock. Great idea because of the sweetness and light acidity of the port, but perhaps a bit too much for the figs. Aceto Balsamico comes with acidity and sweetness, so we decided to use it as the base of the sauce, in combination with some stock. While preparing it we noticed that it needed more sweetness, so what to do? Sugar, honey? But couldn’t we add something that would bring sweetness, fruitiness and even tartness? Of course! Good old Cointreau, great idea!

Aceto Balsamico

We probably need to say a few words about Aceto Balsamico. You may think it’s overrated and overpriced, this sweet, sugary, dark and mild vinegar. But if you taste original Aceto Balsamico, the one made from grape must and aged for many (25!) years in wooden barrels, then you will be surprised by the intense, concentrated flavour and the dark colour. Always look for I.G.P. (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). If this is not mentioned on the bottle, don’t buy it.

Wine Pairing

A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of your Breast of Duck with Figs. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of berries, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames

What You Need

  • Breast of Duck (preferably organic)
  • Lots of Thyme
  • 3 Figs
  • Stock (Chicken or Veal)
  • Aceto Balsamico
  • Cointreau
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Green Peas

What You Do

Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold.
Fry the duck in a hot, non-stick skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side, straight from the refrigerator. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminium foil is such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat. This way the skin remains crispy.
Wash the figs and cut in half. Remove some of the fat and fry the figs until lightly caramelised. When ready, remove from the pan, transfer to a plate and keep warm in the oven. Add stock, thyme, Aceto Balsamico and Cointreau. Probably two spoons of Aceto Balsamico and three spoons of Cointreau. Taste and adjust. You may want to add some butter to push the flavours and create a lovely velvety mouthfeel. Add duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat, add black pepper, taste, adjust, add the figs, coat them with the sauce and plate up. We served the duck with fresh green peas because they have this lovely light sweet flavour that combines very well with the other ingredients.

  • Breast of Duck with Figs ©cadwu
  • Fresh Figs ©cadwu

Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon

Caesar’s mushroom (or Amanita Caesarea) is a true delicacy, especially when eaten very young. And raw. Since the young ones have the shape of an egg, they are called ovoli in Italian. It is not recommended to pick these young ones yourself, unless you’re an expert. The young Caesar’s mushroom looks very similar to young Fly Agaric, Death Cap or Destroying Angels. Ones we would not like to see on (y)our plate. The mature Caesar’s mushroom looks very distinct from these very dangerous mushrooms, so fewer risks involved.
When you’re in North America, you will probably be able to buy Amanita Jacksonii or Amanita Arkansana, which seem to be very similar, but not completely. As far as we know eating cooked Amanita Caesarea and Arkansana is not a problem; eating them raw could be.

The classic recipe for ovoli is to include them in a salad, with shaved white truffle, parsley, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Another option is to add them to your risotto.

In this recipe we combine the delicate flavour of the Caesar’s mushroom with lots of thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a touch of garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Best would be to use Calamintha Nepeta, but using thyme will also do the trick. A garlic glove must be added because the garlic will turn black if your mushrooms are poisonous (not a story to rely on).

Ideally served with Japanese udon because the noodles will be nicely coated with the cooking juices, but feel free to use good pasta as an alternative. One of the benefits of udon is that it is really white, allowing for the yellow of the mushroom to be more present.

We enjoyed our Caesar’s mushrooms with a glass of traditional Burgundy wine from France (100% pinot noir). The wine should have delicate fruit aromas (black cherries, plum) and some earthiness. The wine should be medium bodied and have a crisp acidity. Not too much oak, because oak will overpower the mushrooms. The pinot noir should also be relatively light, allowing for herbal and floral tones.
Pinot Noir wines from the new world are in general rounder and higher in alcohol, making these wines more like Syrah or Malbec. We don’t recommend these wines, however tasty, in combination with the dish.
A glass of Chardonnay is also an option provided it’s fresh with just a touch of oak and butter.

Here is what you need

  • 200 grams of Caesar’s mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf
  • Garlic glove
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Japanese Udon (for instance from Hakubaku)

Clean the Caesar’s mushrooms and remove the white veil (or volva). Make a bouquet garni with lots of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Start by making flavoured olive oil by warming the olive oil in a large skillet and adding the herbs and the garlic glove. Not too hot, you only want the flavours and essential oils to be added to the olive oil. After 15 minutes or so remove the garlic and the bouquet. Now add the sliced Ceasar’s mushrooms and very gently fry them. Just cooked is perfect. In parallel cook the udon. When ready (12 minutes in our case, you don’t want the udon to be al dente), drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. If there is too much starch on the pasta, then think Japan and wash your pasta with cold water. This will remove the starch and allow for a better result. Remove the Caesar’s mushrooms from the pan and keep warm. Add the pasta to the pan, stir and make sure the pasta is fully coated. Add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid to the pan. Add some grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Transfer the Caesar’s mushroom back to the pan and stir very gently, making it into one yellow, tasty mixture. Just before serving sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese.