Monday, March 19, 2007

Ahead of the (LA) Times

New Recipe experiments that took place in the Becks & Posh Test Kitchen during February 2007

The first of my resolutions for 2007 was to "Try a new recipe every week, if possible.". In January I started keeping notes, to remind myself which recipes might grace my kitchen table again in the future, and which ones I might rather put out with the trash. I continue the series today...

photograph of honey and sesame beef with rice sticks from The Cooks Book picture copyright of sam breach

Oh verrines! Back in January, when Amanda and I started talking about plans for the first in our series of epic dinner parties, I told her that the next big thing were going to be verrines. I had fallen in love after seeing them on French language food blogs and I wanted an English-speaking verrine of my own. I insisted we put a verrine on our inaugural dinner menu. So when the LA Times declared the week before last that verrines are "the hottest trend you've never heard of", remember that if you were sharp-eyed enough, you saw it here first.

We used the recipe for Roquefort Trifle with French Butter Pear Relish in Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook. Keller's book is often accused of being to difficult to cook from, but some recipes, such as this one, are easy. It just requires some organisation and patience as there are four stages to complete before you put the trifle verrine together. I would definitely make this recipe again or use it to inspire different combinations of fruit and cheese using the same basic structure. I used disposable, plastic shot glasses to present the verrines. It worked a treat, so I have since invested in a dozen glass ones. They are a steal at Ikea.

picture photograph of Honey & Sesame Beef with Rice Sticks picture copyright of sam breach

When following the Christine Manfield recipe for Honey & Sesame Beef with Rice Sticks from The Cook's Book edited by Jill Norman, I made a couple of bad judgement calls I would rectify if I were to make it again, which I might do - we enjoyed this dish, especially since we use Marin Sun Farms grass fed beef which was delicious. The recipe called for Thai chilies which I was unable to source so I used Serranos instead. The recipe said nothing about discarding the seeds so I kept them in and the end result was more spicy than it needed to be. I also cut the amount of (Marshall's) honey by half, scared it would be too sweet for our taste. It wasn't, and maybe more honey would have helped balance the heat a little better, so next time I should follow the instructions more carefully. I was unable to buy the required watercress at the market so I used rocket (arugula) from Star Route instead which was a successful substitute.

picture photograph of Cashew Lime Pork picture copyright of sam breach

I have had been in love with Nigel Slater for almost a year, from the moment I first bought a book of his: Real Food. I can't tell you the number of times I've poured over the pages, salivated over the pictures and agreed with the sentiments he delivers. The book even brandishes one of my favourite food quotes of all time: "I want a sausage that is sticky outside and juicy within. I want its skin to be tight and deep brown, and to be coated in that savoury, Marmite-like goo that comes with slow cooking." Maybe you don't have the foggiest about what he means. I do, you see, and I feel like I am sharing a little secret with him. It makes me feel a little bit warm, a little bit special, a little bit fuzzy, a little bit hot. Yes let's face it. A man who could give you a perfectly sticky, juicy sausage would be ... well, phew, excuse me, I think I have to go and take a cold shower...

The foreplay between me and Nigel had really lasted too long. I needed to get down to the nitty gritty and do it with him. It wasn't hard to choose, I needed his pork.
picture photograph of Nigel Slater real food Cashew Lime Pork  picture copyright of sam breach

Pork with Cashews, Lime and Mint
. OK, this recipe sucked when I made it. It looked almost exactly like the tempting picture in the book, but the lime element totally overpowered the other ingredients. Here is a copy of the (unedited) notes I made at the time of cooking:
pork with cashew nits and lime from Nigel Slater
Disappoinitng - too much lime! fred loved it? did mise en place which really helped the organisation - don't like slater's suggest meanwhiele... (like chop all thos ingredients in the time it takes to cook the pork = < than 3 minuutes I dont think so) next time - less lime, more fish sauce, more nuts, more herbs, maybe extra herbs on top maybe by a ok or do it in the non-sick because it overcooked a bit on the bottome of the all-clad - all the other flavours were drowned out by the lime, check i read the recipe right - he said big juicy limes and CA limes really ARE fat and juicy

That was an apalling paragraph, I know, but it's about time you got to see what kind of material I have to work with here, seriously. You can't get the staff these days! When I was moaning about this recipe to a friend, she sensibly asked me "why didn't you taste it as you went along"? Normally I would, but because everything had to come together so quickly over high heat, I was far more organised than when I usually cook, getting everything ready in advance, mise en place. Less lime next time. I might give it another go with some heavy changes. After all, I couldn't say no to a second date with Nigel, could I now?

picture photograph of marcus wareing the cooks book braised pork belly medallions picture copyright of sam breach

Pork Belly Medallions of Braised, Rolled Pork Belly
This was one of the most popular dishes from the dinner party we held in February. We found the recipes in [Englishman] Marcus Wareing's Meat section of The Cook's Book. Several people have asked me for the recipe. Since it is not my recipe to give, I recommend anyone who is interested should simply buy the book instead. You won't regret it. The fact that I have given away no less than nine copies of this book as gifts to friends and family in the past year should be enough to persuade you that I think this is a cook book definitely worth owning.

The recipe asks for an entire pork belly. Ask your butcher to trim if for you. We made two dozen medallions - which fed twelve people perfectly. It could even have been stretched to feed twice as many people. Once cooked, keeping the medallions warm in the oven until we were ready to eat them, simply made the fatty pieces of meaty even more gooey than they would have been had we served it straight after cooking. This is a fantastic recipe for entertaining crowds. We highly recommend it. But beware - you have to start it a day ahead of when you will need it.

picture photograph of marcus wareing the cooks book beef stroganoff picture copyright of sam breach

Beef Stroganoff
By coincidence, not by design, Marcus Wareing was also responsible for me cooking this Beef Strogoanoff, also found in The Cook's Book. This is so easy to make, it hardly even needs a recipe. Making sure you only use top quality ingredients will ensure fantastic success. We used a Marin Sun Farms grass-fed filet tip which was the mutt's nuts, Bellwether Farms creme fraiche, mushrooms from Far West Fungi, butter from Straus and onions and parsley from Chue's Farm.

picture photograph of  pine nut tart picture copyright of sam breach

Pine nut rosemary tart from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming. I can't take too much credit for this tart because friend Amanda Berne made the filling. I just made the pastry - using my favourite pâte sucrée from, you guessed it, The Cook's Book.

Other February Recipe Experiments Already Posted on Becks & Posh
Three Citrus Bundt Cake
Wine Pancakes
The Sweet Kiss of Almond Oil

PS. Apologies for not having posted for a few days. This post was actually intended to go up for Friday, explaining that we would be away for a few days, and to tide readers over the weekend. But we had internet connection problems on Thursday night, before we left town, and so I simply had to scarper and leave the blog untended. We were staying somewhere that didn't even have cell phone connection. It was blissful and there are small food stories to be told - I hope to fill you in over the coming days.

2006 | Sweet Napa
2005 | Eggbeater [Two Years of Bay Area Blogger of the Week!]

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Ahead of the (LA) Times


  • At 18/3/07 21:57, Anonymous Food said…

    Thank god I'm typing or else I would be a dribbling mess from all these mouth-watering food.


  • At 19/3/07 00:13, Blogger Alice Q said…

    Hi Sam!- those recipes sound great. I love that you posted about the good and the bad - very informational. I made Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pud tonight for the first time. It was really good - I think I will post it for your event!

  • At 19/3/07 00:32, Blogger Pille said…

    Great range of recipes to inspire some of my future meals, thanks! I actually bought The Cooks Book for Xmas last year - upon your recommendation, Sam, and I really like it! You should ask for a commission fee from the publishers:)

  • At 19/3/07 01:17, Blogger Andrew said…

    Sounds like I shall have to buy that Cooks book, sounds like the Dog's Danglies

  • At 19/3/07 01:55, Blogger ChrisB said…

    All looks wonderful to me, can vouch for the book (a kind daughter bought me for christmas!x) I just wish my end products looked as good as yours.

  • At 19/3/07 01:56, Anonymous Stephanie said…

    OK, I'll have the Roquefort trifle, the pork belly (all of it) and the stroganoff... wonderful stuff.... do you ever get frustrated about how many things you want to try and how little time there is.... just kills me.

  • At 19/3/07 05:13, Blogger Beccy said…

    Mmmm drooling, mmmmm hunger.

  • At 19/3/07 05:13, Blogger jeena said…

    Mmmm your recipes look delicous!
    you have Great blog from Jeena :)

    visit jeena's kitchen healthy recipe blog

  • At 19/3/07 08:19, Anonymous ann said…

    oh dear god, yes! Sam, I LOVE Nigel too. He's yet to disappoint me with anything, but I've never really tried any of his more 'difficult' recipes... not that he really has any difficult ones. But seriously, I think he's one of the people responsible for making me a better cook. His whole philosophy of start with the basics and build upon that is just, well, perfect. I give his book 'Appetite' to anyone that I'm close to that claims they can't cook, and they always learn from him.
    He makes me feel twitterpated!

  • At 19/3/07 08:32, Anonymous veron said…

    That sesame and honey beef with rice sticks definitely looks appetizing. But hands down, the pork belly looks like the winner. I wish I saw this before I cut up my 8lb slab of pork belly. Oh, well I guess I'll have to make small portions. Oh and I do have and love the Cook's Book.

  • At 19/3/07 12:26, Anonymous alison said…

    I love this post!

  • At 19/3/07 13:32, Anonymous brandon said…

    Nigel Slater is a man unafraid of butter and for that he's earned my undying devotion (although, at times, my waistbands might disagree). That sausage quote? Perfect Nigel-just reading it unexpectedly on your blog gets me a little flustered. And the pork belly! We need to have a blog-wide celebration of pork belly one day, I think. We just got a butcher in my town that will provide it and I've been in heaven (another local food blogger bought EIGHT pounds of the stuff last weekend).

  • At 19/3/07 13:36, Anonymous brandon said…

    That fellow blogger would be veron up there--I didn't see her comment before I posted mine!

  • At 19/3/07 17:54, Blogger Chubbypanda said…

    Pork fat. Gotta love the pork fat. That's one of the few things I agree with Emeril about.

    I could probably have eaten all the pasta by myself. =)

  • At 20/3/07 06:25, Anonymous veron said…

    do you wanna come over my place when I make the braised pork belly ,brandon? :)

  • At 20/3/07 09:00, Anonymous hester said…

    Ooh, I have to say I am a little bit spooked... I actually underlined Nigel's paragraph about sausages intending to blog about it, and tagged the recipe for Pork, lime and cashews just last night! Very weird... Whenever I flick through his book, I stop and drool at the camembert baked in it's case recipe - it's true food porn!

  • At 20/3/07 09:02, Anonymous susan said…

    oh my the food looks so delicious. my mouth waters now. i better go make some breakfast. but i want that pork belly! yes having pork 9 in the morning is perfectly fine with me. :) i should be more diligent like you sam! great job on keeping up with your cooking goal!

  • At 20/3/07 17:02, Anonymous Brett said…

    Poor France. First came claims in the 2003 NY Times article that their haute cuisine restaurants had been surpassed by those of Spain. Now we find them looking accross the Channel to English cooking for inspiration, repackaging the trifle as the verrine. What's the next grand innovation? Poisson-frites? ;-)

    Good job beating the LA Times to the punch. In all seriousness, the trifle/verrine sounds like a fun idea to play around with. I'll have to go to the source and sample some.

  • At 20/3/07 18:32, Blogger Dagny said…

    OK. Now I really have to go make dinner because looking at all of your wonderful photos has made me too hungry for words. I don't know where to start at this point.

  • At 21/3/07 08:31, Anonymous Meg said…

    Oh I am completely with you on the Nigel issue - he's the one who convinced me that traditional English food was getting a very bad rap. What a writer! I find that his less posh recipes tend to be more reliable, especially when he adds an interesting twist. Yum.

    Good on you for actually following through on new recipes each week. I think I made that resolution a couple of years ago and kept it up for, um, a week...?

    ; )

  • At 22/3/07 07:34, Blogger Sarah said…

    Yummy! They all look amazing. And you don't call yourself a chef????

  • At 18/5/07 15:00, Anonymous susan said…

    hi sam!

    im just curious but how big is that shot glass in your first picture? i've been looking for some for soup shooter but they only go up to 2oz. thanks much!


  • At 18/5/07 15:44, Blogger Sam said…

    I am not certain - they were disposable and I don't have any left - they were from Bevmo if that's any help to you.
    I now have some from Ikea made of glass but they are about half of the size of these.


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