Tuesday, May 4, 2010
And how beautiful is THAT plate?! Last week's additional winners of "What You're eating NOW" are John and Bruce, bloggers at Bobofeed. I was lucky enough to meet these two down in Vieques a few years ago and our mutual love for food has kept us in constant chatter. And their crab cakes with grain mustard and cornichon tartar sauce with mesclun greens were no exception. Had to have the recipe (which you'll find below). And I think you'll find our Q&A part to be equal parts romantic and salivation-inducing. Hats off, fellas.
What's your favorite part about cooking?
Well, we’re both logistics guys, so planning a menu & shopping for the ingredients brings great pleasure. This is especially true when we travel; we love being inspired by & shopping in someone else’s backyard. We use cook books mainly for ideas & don’t usually follow recipes to the letter, so a lot of fun comes from the experimentation & tweaking inherent in the way we cook. And of course, when things work out really well, it’s especially gratifying, whether it’s for others or just ourselves. Generally though, the common element is that cooking is most enjoyable when it’s not a solitary endeavour.
Wow, how to choose? There are many, so here are a few, in completely random order (and sorry, some of them are actually “foods” outright, but become ingredients in what we’re preparing): chorizo, arugula, smoked paprika, Dijon mustard, Thai fish sauce, rice vinegar, champagne vinegar, good olive oil, shallots, demi-glace, tomatoes in season, good smoked bacon, real parmesan cheese; crème fraîche, unsalted butter, etc., etc.
Best food memory?
1. We were renting a farmhouse in the south of France with some friends and had invited another friend from home, who was in France at the same time, to come for dinner. It was market day in the neighbouring town, so we went in the morning & bought fabulous provisions, including fresh vegetables for ratatouille & a gorgeous gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb). Our friend arrived in the afternoon, and as we eased into cocktail hour a massive thunderstorm hit. We lost all power & as the storm raged on it quickly became obvious the electricity wasn’t returning anytime soon. Our kitchen was equipped with a gas cooktop, but only an electric oven. What the heck to do with a big piece of raw animal carcass?! As we searched madly for options, one of our group noticed that the large farmhouse fireplace had stanchions & a spit among its “decorative” accessories. Et viola, our solution! Naturally we already had a nice fire blazing, so the leg was quickly skewered onto the spit & we all took shifts at the manual crank, singeing our eyebrows, eventually turning out the most succulent lamb we’ve ever tasted in our lives. The evening was magical- the most evocative of French food cooked in a traditional manner, a candle-lit farmhouse table, copious local red wine, sweet choral music on Radio France courtesy of a battery-operated Walkman (yes, this was a long time ago!), and the company of dear friends!
2. Another one from France: We were staying with relatives in La Rochelle on the Atlantic. On Sunday afternoon we went to the local farmers market & purchased a seemingly impossibly huge quantity of mussels, which came from a village 20 minutes south. Back home, potatoes were julienned & popped into the deep fryer & the mussels were quickly steamed over a bath of vermouth, pastis & shallots. We all sat around a sunny backyard picnic table inhaling mollusks & frites with mayo, wiping up the broth with fresh baguette, and washing it all down with chilled rosé. Heaven!
3. Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, still warm on the rack, the chips still molten.
It would probably involve a really good steak, some form of potatoes (either a delectable mash or crisp twice-fried frites), a Caesar salad that wasn’t afraid of garlic or anchovies and was properly prepared with a raw egg, lots of nice Amarone, and there would have to be some really great cheese afterwards, with a fragrant washed-rind one figuring prominently. And we’d want to have it together, because good food is really not much more than an excuse to share great company.
Recipe Courtesy of John and Bruce
(all measures approximate)
1 170g can of crab meat (about 6 oz? kinda forget the old system)
leftover mashed potatoes (qty can vary- max. about 1:1 with the crab)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1-2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1 egg, beaten
smoked paprika to taste
s+ p to taste
breadcrumbs- enough to bind- mixture should remain firm but moist
Blend all ingredients by hand in a large bowl. Chill for 15- 20 minutes. Working fairly quickly, form into 4-6 patties. Sauté using a light oil till golden & heated right through, about 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately with tartar sauce.
Grain Mustard & Cornichon Tartar Sauce
about 2 Tbsp of French grain mustard
about 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
3 cornichons, chopped
about 1 tsp sugar
about 1 1/2 Tbsp Vinaigre de Xérès (or sherry vinegar)
s & p to taste
Whisk sugar, salt & vinegar together till crystals dissolved. Add to remaining ingredients & whisk together. Thicken with a little more mayo, or thin with a few drops of water as necessary to get preferred consistency.
Drizzle tartar sauce over crab cakes & place a small pool on the plate. Garnish with a couple of small cornichons.
Serve with mesclun tossed in a simple vinaigrette (use a bit of Dijon to tie everything together)