Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking - Naomi Pomeroy (2016)

Starters

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The recipes in this chapter are versatile and will teach you a wide array of techniques. You can offer one or more of them to guests before the main event at a special-occasion dinner, or you can combine a few of them to make a meal. Most of the recipes require attention to detail, but they come together quickly, making them almost instantly gratifying.

Many of these dishes are served at Beast, and most of them are little bites that pack big flavors. Crème Fraîche Tarts is an example of a genius foundational recipe: it is endlessly adaptable to nearly any kind of topping, making it a valuable tool in your repertoire. Chicken Liver MousseFried Pork Rillettes, and Steak Tartare on Brioche with Quail Eggs allow you to experiment with beginner-level charcuterie projects, with delicious results.

Although these recipes vary widely—some are rich and some are fresh, some are vegetarian and some are meat heavy—they all give you the opportunity to practice your knife skills and basic kitchen techniques, such as searing and emulsifying, to help you impress your dinner guests.

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Crème Fraîche Tarts: Spring Pea Relish; Half-Dried Tomatoes and Strong Cheese; Butternut Squash Purée, Pancetta, and Crispy Fried Sage; Caramelized Onions with Anchovies and Olives

Burrata with Dandelion–Golden Raisin–Pistachio Pistou

Beet-Cured Salmon with Creamy Herbed Cucumbers

Figs with Foie Gras Mousse

Hazelnut and Wild Mushroom Pâté

Chicken Liver Mousse

Fried Pork Rillettes

Steak Tartare on Brioche with Quail Eggs

Coriander-Seared Tuna with Citrus and Fennel Salad

Baked Camembert with Armagnac Prunes, Mushrooms, and Thyme

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Crème Fraîche Tarts

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From left: Half-Dried Tomatoes and Strong Cheese; Butternut Squash Purée, Pancetta, and Crispy Fried Sage; Spring Pea Relish; Caramelized Onions with Anchovies and Olives

This is one of the most eye-opening recipes you’ll ever learn, because once you know it, the possibilities for riffing on it are endless. Morgan Brownlow, my old chef and partner at clarklewis, taught me this dough. It’s incredibly easy to make at home, even for less experienced cooks, and the results are particularly impressive, especially considering how little effort goes into it.

The key to success is to keep your ingredients cold and not to overmix them. Apart from that, this dough comes together in minutes. And once it’s rolled out, you can top it with virtually anything—savory or sweet. It bakes up beautifully buttery and flaky and rises almost like puff pastry. I love that you can cut the dough into small pieces for tiny passed appetizers or use the whole batch for a full-size tart that’s perfect for lunch with a simple salad.

SERVES 6 TO 8

DOUGH

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

16 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes and refrigerated until needed

1 cup cold crème fraîche or sour cream, refrigerated until needed

EGG WASH

1 egg

1 tablespoon heavy cream

MAKE THE DOUGH In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and process briefly to mix. Using the pulse function, add the butter, a few cubes at a time, pulsing 15 to 20 times until the butter is reduced to pea-size pieces. Work quickly to ensure the butter doesn’t warm up too much. Add the crème fraîche directly from the refrigerator and pulse 4 to 6 times to incorporate. Then pulse another 4 to 6 times, until the dough begins to have a slightly uniform but pebbly texture and no dry flour remains.

Stretch a 2-foot-long sheet of plastic wrap across a clean work surface. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. Gather all of the edges of the plastic wrap around the dough, press together, and form the dough into a ball. Tap the dough ball on the countertop to shape it into a rectangle about 6 by 10 inches, flattening the top surface at the end to create an even shape. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 or for up to 24 hours.

Unwrap the dough and allow it to rest for no more than 15 to 20 minutes, just until it is slightly pliable. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Using a rolling pin, whack the dough several times across its surface to soften it. Pick up the dough, flour the work surface again ever so slightly, and return the dough to the surface.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches, with the long side parallel to the countertop’s edge. Fold the rectangle in thirds, like a letter (see figures 7–9). The dough will look like a book: with a spine (the folded edge) on one side and the open edge on the other. Now rotate the “book” so the spine is facing your body, parallel to the countertop’s edge. Roll the dough out again to an 8 by 12-inch rectangle. Fold the rectangle in thirds again. Rotate the “book” one more time so the spine is facing your body and roll out the dough a third time to a 9 by 15-inch rectangle that’s about ¼ inch thick. Cut the rectangle lengthwise into three strips, each 3 by 15 inches. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough strips, not touching, on the prepared baking sheet and prick all over with a fork, leaving a ¼-inch boundary around the edge. Put the baking sheet with the dough into the freezer for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

MAKE THE EGG WASH In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream until well blended.

Remove the dough strips from the freezer and, using a pastry brush, brush each with egg wash, then bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, turn down the oven to 375°F, and wait for a few minutes for the temperature to adjust. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes more, until the pastry is rich golden brown. Carefully lift up the pastry with a metal spatula to ensure that the bottom is also toasted brown.

Top with one of the following combinations, all of which can be prepped while the dough is chilling in the refrigerator, and finish baking the tarts as directed in each recipe. The tarts will be fairly dark in color. Don’t worry; the taste is far superior to an uncooked pastry.

Spring Pea Relish

Crème fraîche dough is a great vehicle for the tender sweetness of peas. Since peas are a lot of work to shuck, I let them take center stage when they’re in season. I add cheese to this tart filling to introduce a rich, creamy element that balances the bright green vegetal quality of the peas.

8 ounces sheep’s milk ricotta or fromage blanc

Spring Pea–Mint Relish

Soften the cheese slightly by smashing it in a bowl with a spoon. Using the spoon and your fingers, spread the cheese along the parbaked pastry strips, dividing it evenly and leaving ¼ inch of pastry uncovered around the edges.

Return the tarts to the 375°F oven for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is warm but not too runny. Keep a close eye on the tarts and remove them from the oven before the cheese turns to liquid. Spoon the relish on top of the warm tarts and cut crosswise into pieces. Serve immediately.

Half-Dried Tomatoes and Strong Cheese

This is one of my favorite ways to top these tarts: the tomatoes are bright and acidic and add a beautiful burst of color, while a funky cheese plays against the tender pastry. The whole thing gets balanced with a dose of herbaceous flavor from the thyme or savory in the half-dried tomatoes.

8 ounces cold strongly flavored soft cheese (such as Brie or Taleggio), sliced ⅛ inch thick

Half-Dried Tomatoes

Arrange the cheese slices along the parbaked pastry strips, dividing them evenly and leaving ¼ inch of pastry uncovered around the edges. Spoon the tomatoes, cut side up, over the cheese and return the tarts to the 375°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the pastry is very dark golden brown. Cut crosswise into pieces and serve immediately.

Butternut Squash Purée, Pancetta, and Crispy Fried Sage

In the fall, I love to mix the natural sweetness of winter squash with savory cured pork. The fried sage in this topping might seem like an unnecessary cheffy flourish, but frying sage is actually a great skill to master because the crisp leaves enhance the flavor of so many dishes, from pasta to stuffing to roasted vegetables. Here, you will use the sage-infused butter from frying the leaves, as well. When the leaves are ready, pour the butter from the hot pan into a small metal bowl to stop the cooking. Taste the sage butter. If it does not taste burned, you can blend it with the squash for the filling. However, if it tastes burned, use fresh butter instead. Weigh the squash pieces after you’ve peeled them to be sure you have just 1 pound; using more or less squash throws off the balance of the dish.

1 pound peeled and seeded butternut squash (from 1½-pound squash), cut into 1½- to 2-inch pieces

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons garlic paste

1 tablespoon melted sage butter (reserved from frying sage leaves) or butter (optional)

4 or 5 thin slices pancetta (about 1 ounce)

Fried sage leaves

In a metal mixing bowl, toss the squash with the oil and salt, and then spread the squash in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast in the 375°F oven until the squash is completely tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Return the hot squash to the same bowl, add the garlic paste, and toss together until the squash is evenly flavored with the garlic. Pour the squash and garlic back onto the baking sheet and return the pan to the oven for another 5 minutes to cook the garlic.

Remove from the oven and transfer the squash and the sage butter to a food processor and purée until smooth, 30 to 45 seconds.

Place a 6- to 8-inch sauté pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the pancetta, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel to drain and cool.

Using a spoon and your fingers, spread the squash along the parbaked pastry strips, dividing it evenly and leaving ¼ inch of pastry uncovered around the edges. Return the tarts to the 375°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the pastry is very dark golden brown and the squash is beginning to brown around the edges. Break the pancetta into 1- to 2-inch pieces and scatter them and the fried sage leaves over the tarts. Cut crosswise into pieces and serve immediately.

Caramelized Onions with Anchovies and Olives

I first started making pissaladière, the Niçoise flatbread topped with caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives, when I began catering in 1999, and I’ve been playing around with the recipe ever since. The flavors are brilliant together: sweet onions; salty anchovies and olives; and crisp, flaky dough. This is still one of my favorite recipes.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 large yellow onions, sliced into half-moons about 116 inch thick

¾ to 1 teaspoon salt

12 olive oil–packed anchovy fillets, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 ounces (¼ cup) Niçoise olives, pitted and halved

1½ tablespoons roughly chopped thyme

In an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-heat. (I don’t like to caramelize onions in butter because they lose their translucent sheen when they cool.) Add the onions and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to turn translucent and become very soft, almost soupy, 20 to 25 minutes. (If the largest pot you own holds only 4 to 6 quarts, don’t despair! Simply cook about two-thirds of the onions first, and when they have sweated, down and lost much of their volume, add the last third of the onions to the pan and continue cooking. Caramelizing the onions in stages will, of course, increase your cooking time slightly.)

Turn down the heat to just below medium and stir only occasionally, allowing the onions to develop a fond, or crust, on the bottom of the pan. Every few minutes, scrape off the fond and stir it into the onions, then spread the onions evenly across the pan and allow a fond to form again. You want to be able to fully blend the frond back into the onions without darkening to black flecks. The onions should take on a lovely amber hue (see photo). Stir more frequently at the end of caramelizing to ensure they don’t burn. If the onions are sticking more than they should be or not picking up the fond when you scrape it, add a few tablespoons of water and continue scraping. After 25 to 35 minutes, the onions should be a deep caramel hue. Taste for salt and add another ¼ to ½ teaspoon if necessary. Be careful not to overseason, as the anchovies and olives are quite salty. Remove from the heat and allow the onions to cool completely.

Using a spoon and your fingers, spread a thin layer of onions along the parbaked pastry strips, leaving ¼ inch of pastry uncovered around the edges. (Use any leftover onions on a sandwich, in scrambled eggs, or with a cheese plate.) Sprinkle the anchovies and olives evenly over the onions. (Don’t be tempted to add much more than the recipe calls for or the dish will be too salty.) Return the tarts to the 375°F oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onions are hot and beginning to brown around the edges and the flavors have melded. Garnish the tarts with the thyme. Cut crosswise into pieces and serve immediately.

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Burrata with Dandelion–Golden Raisin–Pistachio Pistou

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This pistou reminds me of leisurely meals in Sicily, where I first encountered flavors like these. French pistou is similar to Italian pesto, and this one in particular has a lot of complexity from the crunchy pistachios and soft, sweet raisins, plus bitterness from the dandelion greens.

Creamy burrata is a nice foil to the sharpness of the greens, but if you can’t find a reliable source, a ripe French triple crème cheese will work instead. There are excellent burratas out there and some not-so-great ones, too, so it’s worth tasting a few to find one that’s very fresh. It should feel quite soft and taste incredibly rich and creamy. Carefully cut each cheese in half to serve four people.

You can skip the cheese entirely and serve this pistou with an oily fish like mackerel or swordfish, or with oil-packed sardines from a tin. It’s also an easy sauce to stir into warm pasta or to use as a garnish on soup. At its simplest, this is a fabulous topping for warm, crusty bread.

SERVES 4

¼ cup raw, unsalted shelled pistachios

1 bunch dandelion greens

6 to 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely minced shallot

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon fennel pollen

¼ teaspoon red chile flakes

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup golden raisins, soaked in just-boiled water for 20 minutes and drained

1 tablespoon sweet Marsala

2 fresh burrata cheeses, each 3 to 4 inches in diameter, halved

Flaky finishing salt, for serving

1 tablespoon 30-year aged balsamic vinegar, optional

Rustic bread slices, toasted, for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. (Since pistachios have brown skins and a crisp texture, it can be hard to tell when they’re toasted. Allow them to cool and taste one. You’re looking for a very slightly toasted flavor and a still-green interior.) When the nuts are cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set aside.

Blanch and shock the dandelion greens, leaving the greens in the boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds, until the stems are just tender and the leaves are bright green. When the greens have completely cooled in the ice water, pull them out of the water and squeeze dry with your hands. Chop finely and set aside.

Heat a 6- to 8-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallot, lowering the heat slightly to prevent any color from forming. When the shallot is translucent, after 2 to 3 minutes, add the garlic, fennel pollen, chile flakes, salt, and pepper and stir to mix. Add the raisins and cook until they begin to expand, about 1 minute. Add the Marsala and cook off the liquid, about 1 minute. Add the dandelion greens and stir very briefly just to combine all the flavors, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a metal mixing bowl.

Add the chopped pistachios and 4 tablespoons of the remaining oil to the greens mixture and stir to combine. The mixture should have some pools of oil; add another splash of oil if necessary. The pistou can be stored, covered with thin layer of oil, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before serving, leave it at room temperature for about 1 hour, until the olive oil is completely fluid.

To serve, top each piece of burrata with 3 or 4 tablespoons of pistou and spoon some of the excess olive oil around the edge of the burrata. Sprinkle lightly with flaky salt, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and serve with toasted bread.

Beet-Cured Salmon with Creamy Herbed Cucumbers

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Both sets of my parents had gardens when I was little, and at my dad and stepmother’s house, we grew a lot of cucumbers. By August, the cucumbers would be going totally crazy, and we were at a loss for what to do with them. My stepmother Ronna’s family is Norwegian, and she borrowed her grandmother’s recipe for this light, creamy, and refreshing cucumber salad. It’s best eaten very cold, after the cucumbers have chilled in the fridge for a few hours (but not overnight).

The salmon is an easy at-home curing project and it’s less expensive than buying cured fish. You will need to plan ahead, however, as the fish must cure for 36 to 48 hours. The salmon can also be served without the salad, thinly sliced and accompanied by crackers or bagels and cream cheese.

Always buy the highest-quality wild-caught salmon available. Look for a thick, center-cut 2-pound fillet with the skin on. Do not buy two 1-pound pieces for this recipe, as you need a single 2-pound piece for the cure to work.

MAKES 2 POUNDS CURED SALMON; SERVES 4 TO 6, WITH LEFTOVER SALMON

CURED SALMON

1 (2-pound) center-cut skin-on salmon fillet, 1½ inches thick

1 large or 2 small red beets, unpeeled

2 cups granulated sugar

3 cups salt

10 juniper berries, toasted and very coarsely ground (see toasting spices)

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, toasted and very coarsely ground (see toasting spices)

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 tablespoon lime zest

1 cup roughly chopped dill, stems included

⅓ cup roughly chopped tarragon

¼ cup aquavit or gin

CUCUMBER SALAD

2 English cucumbers

2 teaspoons very finely minced shallot

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream

1½ teaspoons chopped dill

2 teaspoons chopped mint

1 tablespoon finely minced chives

Torn mint or celery leaves, for garnish

MAKE THE CURED SALMON Rinse the fillet under cold running water. Dry it with a paper towel, and then lay it on a piece of parchment paper. Remove the pin bones with culinary tweezers or with regular tweezers reserved for kitchen use. To locate pin bones, run your hand along the surface of the fish and feel for thin spikes. Angle your tweezers into the fish to avoid ripping the flesh, or use a small, sharp knife to cut the flesh back ever so slightly to expose the bone. Pull the tiny individual bones out in the direction they are running. Set the salmon aside.

Cover your cutting board with a layer of plastic wrap so it doesn’t color from the beets as you grate them, and wear plastic gloves if you don’t want to stain your hands red. Working over the plastic wrap, grate the raw beets on the biggest holes on a box grater. Gather up the grated beets in the plastic wrap and transfer them to a food processor.

Add the sugar, salt, juniper, and peppercorns to the processor. Using 15 to 20 long pulses, blend the ingredients until the mixture looks uniform and sandy. Transfer the beet mixture to a mixing bowl, add the lemon zest, lime zest, dill, and tarragon, and mix well with your hands.

Splash the aquavit across the flesh and the skin side of the salmon and smooth your hand across both surfaces to “rinse” the salmon with the liquor. Place the salmon, flesh side down, onto the top one-third of the parchment paper. Spread half of the beet-salt mixture evenly along the center of the parchment paper in a strip roughly the same size as the salmon fillet. Flip the salmon over, skin side down, on top of the beet mixture. Pack the remaining beet-salt mixture across the flesh side of the salmon. Fold the short side edges of the parchment in toward the salmon and then fold the bottom side over the top. Flip the fish over, creating a package of rubbed salmon.

Wrap the entire salmon package in several layers of plastic wrap to seal it well. Lay the salmon on a rimmed baking sheet; use a baking sheet with at least ½-inch sides, as a lot of liquid will escape from the fish while it cures. Place another baking sheet on top and top the second sheet with any object or objects weighing a total of about 5 pounds, such as canned foods or a big pot.

Refrigerate the weighted baking sheets for 16 to 18 hours. After that time, flip the salmon over, then reweight it and refrigerate for another 16 to 18 hours. Open the salmon package and brush away the excess beet-salt mixture, reserving the mixture in case you find you need to continue curing the salmon for a few more hours. The salmon is ready when it springs back gently when you touch it. If it is hard, it is overcured; if it is too soft, it has not cured long enough. But the best way to know if it is ready is to cut into it and taste it. Rinse the salmon with water and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.

Place the salmon on a cutting board. Lay your knife flat on the surface of the board and slice horizontally between the skin of the salmon and the flesh to separate the two. Do not remove all of the salmon from its skin; slice only about 2 inches deep. Cut a ¼-inch piece off the end of the skinless section of the salmon, slicing it on a sharp 45-degree angle. Taste an interior slice (not the end cut you just removed) for even seasoning. If the amount of seasoning is to your liking, continue slicing in paper-thin pieces. If the salmon isn’t cured enough, repack it with the reserved beet-salt mix, rewrap it, reweight it, and cure for another 8 to 12 hours. If the salmon is too hard, place it in a bowl of fresh water and soak in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours, then drain and dry well. If it still tastes too salty to serve straight, fold it into cream cheese, eggs, or pasta. The salmon will keep, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

MAKE THE CUCUMBER SALAD Peel the cucumbers and halve lengthwise. Place them cut side up and, with a sharp spoon or melon baller, carefully scoop out and discard the seeds. Flip a cucumber half over onto its cut surface and cut ¼ inch off one end of the cucumber at a sharp 45-degree angle. At this same sharp bias, cut the entire cucumber half into ⅛-inch-thick slices. Repeat with the remaining halves.

In a bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Mix well to combine and let rest for 10 minutes to mellow some of the sharp taste of the shallot. Whisk in the crème fraîche; then wash your hands well, and add the cucumbers to the dressing and massage with your hands. Add the dill, mint, and chives and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours before serving.

To serve, make sure the cucumber salad and the salmon have been refrigerated for a few hours so they are very cold. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cucumbers from their dressing. Place about ½ cup of the cucumbers in a nice tight pile in the middle of each plate. Arrange 4 or 5 thin salmon slices on the top of the cucumbers in a rosette shape, and set mint along the perimeter of the cucumbers as a garnish.

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Figs with Foie Gras Mousse

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I invented this recipe before Beast opened, when I was catering the wrap party for director Gus Van Sant’s movie Paranoid Park, which was filmed in Portland. Many of the actors were French, and the party was held on Bastille Day, so I wanted to make something special for them.

I didn’t have much experience cooking foie gras, so I called my friend and former sous chef Gabriel Rucker (now of Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro), who gave me the inspired advice to melt the foie a little bit before blending it into a mousse, a step that ultimately helps the mousse set properly. And I knew I wanted the dish to taste slightly like dessert, which is where the vanilla and figs come in. You can use any fig variety, as long as the fruits feel fairly soft and ripe. Drier varieties such as Black Mission are easier to caramelize, which you can do with a handheld torch.

The mousse itself has become a signature dish at Beast: it is the filling in the foie gras bonbon that’s been on our charcuterie plate since we opened.

SERVES 8 TO 12

8 ounces foie gras

½ vanilla bean

1 teaspoon Calvados

⅛ teaspoon pink curing salt no. 1 (see salt)

¾ teaspoon salt

8 ripe figs

4 teaspoons sugar

Cut the foie gras into 1½-inch cubes and place them in a small square baking dish.

Using a paring knife, cut the vanilla bean in half along its length. Use the knife to flatten the pod gently against the countertop, and then scrape out the seeds with the blade. Add the vanilla seeds and half pod, the Calvados, curing salt, and salt to the foie gras. Gently toss the foie gras cubes, coating them evenly with the other ingredients. Let sit on the countertop for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Roast the seasoned foie gras for 2 to 3 minutes. The foie should feel slightly firm to the touch in the center and should have lost a little liquid (fat). Remove the foie from the oven and remove and discard the vanilla pod. Carefully transfer the contents of the baking dish to a strainer set over a small bowl. Place the strainer and bowl in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes, until the foie is cold to the touch. The strained foie fat can be reserved for another use, such as spreading on toast.

Place the cold foie gras mixture in a food processor and, using short bursts, pulse 10 to 15 times, until the foie forms a smooth and uniform paste. Don’t overprocess. Because the volume is small, the foie gras can overheat, which will cause the mousse to break. Scoop the foie gras paste into a fine-mesh strainer and push it through with a flexible rubber spatula or bowl scraper to remove any membrane.

Fill a disposable pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch round tip (or a plastic bag with a ½-inch corner cut off) with the foie gras mousse and squeeze the mousse to the tip of bag. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Pipe out teardrop-shaped orbs of mousse (about the size of a Hershey’s Kiss, with a base just larger than the size of a quarter) onto the prepared baking sheet. Place in the freezer to completely cool and harden, about 30 minutes.

Trim off the stem from each fig, then cut the figs in half lengthwise. Cut a 116-inch-thick slice off the rounded side of each fig half so it will sit flat. Place the fig halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet with no parchment or lining of any kind. Sprinkle each fig with ⅛ teaspoon sugar, and then toast with a handheld torch until the sugar melts and forms a thin, hard crust on the surface of the fig, about 5 seconds per fig. Sprinkle another ⅛ teaspoon sugar on top of the initial sugar layer and repeat torching until the sugar is bubbling and completely melted, forming an even (not thick) crust of crunchy, melted sugar. Let cool completely, about 10 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet of foie gras mousse from the freezer. Using an offset spatula, gently slide each teardrop of mousse off the baking sheet and onto a fig half. Before serving, allow the piped foie gras to temper until firm but no longer frozen, 15 to 20 minutes.

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Hazelnut and Wild Mushroom Pâté

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This pâté was one of the first recipes I successfully adjusted on my own. My stepmother clipped the original recipe from a newspaper, probably in the late 1980s, and I revisited it around the time of my first cooking job in college. Its base was hazelnuts and mushrooms, which is inherently a great combination, but with a few small adjustments, I improved on the original. All I did was trust my instincts and play around a bit. Today, I make a version of that same pâté with a few more tweaks.

In Oregon, chanterelles are in season at the same time as hazelnuts, so this starter is a particularly lovely expression of where I’m from. I usually serve this rich dish as an appetizer, but because it has a meaty flavor from the nuts and mushrooms, it works nicely as part of a vegetarian main dish, as well. You can also serve this versatile pâté with my buttery Homemade Ritz Crackers, spread it on a crusty baguette, use it as a topping for a savory dough (like Crème Fraîche Tarts, or serve it with a cheese plate.

MAKES 1½ CUPS

1 pound wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles or porcini)

⅓ cup hazelnuts (see Note)

9 tablespoons butter

1 cup finely minced shallot

2 teaspoons garlic paste

1¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dry Marsala

1 tablespoons tawny port

1 teaspoon aged sherry vinegar

1¾ teaspoons 10-year aged balsamic vinegar

116 teaspoon cayenne pepper

116 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Clean the mushrooms (see Note). Cut or tear into evenly sized pieces about ½ inch thick. Divide the mushrooms into two equal batches.

Spread the hazelnuts on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 minutes. Carefully shake the baking sheet to turn the nuts over, then toast for 2 to 4 minutes longer. To test if the nuts are ready, cut one in half; it should be a light golden color and toasted all the way through.

In a large black steel pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic paste and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic no longer smells raw, about 1 minute. Transfer the shallot mixture to a plate and set aside. Wash and thoroughly dry the pan.

In the same large black steel pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter over medium heat until melted. Add half of the mushrooms, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper and stir briefly to combine. Sauté, moving the mushrooms around constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes, until they start to color on their edges and the moisture they release evaporates. All of the mushrooms should be soft and tender, with no spongy quality or rawness to them. (Note that the mushrooms may seem overseasoned when you taste them on their own, but the pâté will taste balanced because the hazelnuts aren’t seasoned.) If the mushrooms have not begun to brown at the edges, turn up the heat slightly and continue to cook for another minute or two.

Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the pan and repeat using 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter, the second batch of mushrooms, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. When the second batch is cooked, add the first batch back to the pan along with the shallot mixture and warm until all of the mushrooms are heated through. Add the Marsala and port, allow the mixture to absorb them for 20 to 30 seconds, and then turn off the heat. Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add the sherry and balsamic vinegars and remove the pan from the heat.

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until they have the texture of coarse meal, about 7 bursts. Add the mushroom mixture, the cayenne, nutmeg, and lemon zest and, with the machine running, slowly pour in the melted butter mixture. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Put the pâté into a ramekin and smooth the surface. Serve at room temperature. Leftover pâté can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 5 days. Bring it to room temperature before serving.


NOTE It’s best to buy raw hazelnuts and toast them yourself. But if the freshness is assured, pre-toasted unsalted nuts are acceptable. If you’re toasting the nuts at home, rub the just-toasted nuts between two kitchen towels to remove the papery skin covering each nut. Don’t worry if tiny bits of skin remain.

Chicken Liver Mousse

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We started serving chicken liver mousse at Beast within a week of opening, and it’s now one of our signature charcuterie items. The exact formula has been played with a lot over the years, as I’ve experimented with different liquors. I have also tried out various vehicles to serve it with, but my favorite is buttery, flaky Homemade Ritz Crackers.

You can bake the mousse in essentially any type of vessel (a 1½-quart terrine mold or glass loaf pan works well). You must allow at least ¾-inch headroom, however, as the mousse rises slightly as it bakes. Once the mousse has been in the oven for 15 minutes, keep an eye on the temperature because the size and depth of the vessel will affect cooking time. For the water bath, which will allow the mousse to cook gently, you will need a deep roasting pan, hotel pan, or other large ovenproof pan or dish for holding the terrine mold or loaf pan (the water must come at least halfway up the sides of the smaller dish).

MAKES 2 CUPS

8 ounces chicken livers

1 cup cultured full-fat buttermilk

½ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon pink curing salt no. 1 (see salt)

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons Madeira

2 tablespoons port

1 tablespoon bourbon

¾ teaspoon amaretto

¼ cup thinly sliced shallot

1 thyme sprig

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 cup diced bacon, in small pieces (about 4 ounces)

1 egg, at room temperature

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 1-inch pieces, very soft

1 tablespoon cold heavy cream

Combine the chicken livers and buttermilk in a small bowl, cover, and soak overnight in the refrigerator to pull out any blood and impurities.

The next day, rinse and dry the livers, then trim off any large veins or discolored parts. Toss the livers with the salt, curing salt, and pepper, coating evenly, and set aside.

Put the Madeira, port, bourbon, amaretto, shallot, thyme, garlic, and bacon in a 1- to 2-quart saucepan. Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Remove and discard the thyme sprig from the cooled shallot-bacon mixture, then transfer the mixture to a blender and add the livers. Blend until the mixture is very smooth, about 1½ minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. For this next step, it is important that all of the ingredients are truly at room temperature (except for the cream, which should be cold). Anything that isn’t will prevent emulsification, which means you’ll end up with a splotchy, unappealing spread. With the machine running, add the egg and blend until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Then slowly add the pieces of butter, one at a time, until they are fully incorporated and the mixture is totally emulsified, 1 to 2 minutes. In the last few seconds of blending, pour in the cream. Test the mousse by spreading a small amount across a plate with the back of the spoon. If it is properly emulsified, the mixture will look smooth and uniform, and if not, you’ll see separate pieces of fat and protein. Keep in mind that you will also be passing the mousse through a fine-mesh strainer, so don’t worry about a few specks of membrane or bacon.

If the mixture is not emulsified properly, there is a fix: Scrape it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Wrap the bowl with a hot kitchen towel and turn on the mixer to high speed. The towel will warm everything to the same temperature, and the mixture will emulsify.

Pour the liver mixture into a fine-mesh strainer and push it through with a bowl scraper or the back of a large serving spoon to strain out anything that didn’t blend completely. Pour the mousse mixture into a 1½-quart terrine mold or glass loaf pan. To prevent a skin from forming on the top of the mousse during baking, cut a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the top dimension of the mold or pan, place the parchment over the top, and gently tuck in the edges.

Place the terrine mold or loaf pan into a deep roasting pan or hotel pan and fill the larger pan halfway with hot water (the water should come at least halfway up the sides of the mold). Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil to create a steam bath for cooking the mousse.

Bake until a thermometer inserted into the center of the mousse reads 150°F. This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the mold. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, and then remove the mold from the water bath. Pull back the parchment and allow the mousse to cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled completely, wrap the mousse still in its container securely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or for up to 1 week.

Serve the mousse chilled, directly from the vessel in which it was baked or spooned into a serving bowl. Exposure to oxygen will cause discoloration, so put out only as much as people will eat in one sitting and scoop the rest into tightly sealed containers. If you plan to serve the mousse in the container in which it was baked, after it has chilled, scrape off the slightly oxidized top layer to reveal the pale pink mousse underneath.

Fried Pork Rillettes

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Rillettes are an impressive entry-level charcuterie project. Making a batch is mostly a passive affair and the finished product is versatile. I started making rillettes because I often cook pork shoulder at Beast and was looking for a way to use up any scraps. The fact that they keep for a long time is an added bonus. If you’re not planning on eating them within a few days, simply pour some of the reserved duck fat (you’ll have plenty) on top of the meat to “seal” it; you can then keep the pan, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Once the rillettes have chilled, they are ready to eat. You could simply spread them on toast with orange marmalade and be more than happy. However, at Beast we developed this recipe for fried rillettes as a way to add some texture to our charcuterie plate. Serve these with Savory Tomato ConfitureSmoked Paprika and Espelette Crème Fraîche, or any of the aioli variations; shown on facing page with Aioli Vert, and Quick Pickles.

MAKES 25 (1-INCH) BALLS

1 pound boneless fatty pork shoulder

3 ounces slab bacon

1 teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon pink curing salt no. 1 (see salt)

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

⅔ cup coarsely chopped yellow onion

4 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife blade

2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves

4½ cups rendered duck fat

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs

2¼ cups panko (or finely ground homemade bread crumbs)

1½ quarts canola oil

Cut the pork shoulder and bacon into 1½-inch cubes. Place in a large, heavy Dutch oven, add the salt, curing salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and toss to mix evenly. Add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves and mix well.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, carefully warm the duck fat just until melted. Do not allow it to come to a boil. If you pour duck fat that is too hot onto the pork, the fat will flash-fry the meat, giving it a hard exterior. Pour the melted duck fat over the meat mixture, submerging the meat completely.

Cover the Dutch oven, place over very low heat, and cook for about 2½ hours, checking often to make sure the bubbles are tiny and infrequent, until you can smash the shoulder meat easily between two fingers. Remove from the heat and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 1 hour. Pour the contents of the pot into a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Reserve the duck fat.

Transfer the drained meat to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for about 3 minutes, or until uniformly mixed. With the machine running, drizzle in ⅓ cup of the reserved duck fat and mix for about 1 minute, or until homogenous. Reserve the remaining fat for another use. It will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Pack the meat mixture into a 1½-quart terrine mold or loaf pan and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or for up to 3 days.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop up 1- to 1½-inch balls of the chilled rillettes. Roll each ball lightly between your palms and place on one of the prepared baking sheets.

Set up a breading station with 3 bowls. Place the flour in the first bowl. In the second bowl, beat the eggs until blended. Place the panko in the third bowl. One at a time, dip the rillette balls in the flour, coating evenly; and then in the egg, allowing the excess to drip off; and finally roll in the panko, again coating evenly. Set the breaded rillettes on the second prepared baking sheet. You can do this step up to 24 hours in advance and hold the breaded rillettes on the baking sheet, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until ready to fry. You can also freeze the rillette balls on the baking sheet for up to 1 week, and then defrost them in the refrigerator for 24 hours before frying.

To fry the rillettes, pour the oil into a large, heavy Dutch oven and heat to 350°F over high heat. Use a clip-on digital thermometer to ensure the oil doesn’t overheat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels to absorb excess oil from the fried rillettes.

When the oil is ready, add as many rillette balls as will fit without crowding the pot (about 1 dozen). The temperature of the oil will drop when you add them, so keep your heat on high and be careful that it doesn’t exceed 375°F. Fry the rillettes, turning them gently using a spider, until deeply golden on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Use the spider to transfer the rillettes to the prepared baking sheet.

Serve immediately (with Aioli Vert), or keep in a low (200°F) oven for up to 30 minutes while you fry the remaining batch(es).

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Steak Tartare on Brioche with Quail Eggs

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There’s a lot of steak tartare in this world, and there are many chefs who put all sorts of creative things in their tartare, often to delicious effect. I am not one of them. This tartare is classic, and I like it for its simplicity. Start this dish one day before you want to serve it to allow enough time to freeze the meat completely. Freezing makes it possible to slice the meat into perfectly clean, neat cubes without any mushing or tearing.

A final note: Buy a few more quail eggs than you plan to serve, as the yolks in one or two will inevitably break before serving. Quail eggs can be found at many Asian markets (and sometimes even at local farmers’ markets).

MAKES 12 APPETIZER-SIZE TOASTS

6 ounces beef tenderloin (preferably grass-fed)

¾ teaspoon finely minced shallot

1½ teaspoons rinsed and finely minced capers

1½ teaspoons finely minced cornichons

1½ teaspoons finely minced chives

3 slices quick brioche, each ⅓ inch thick

3 tablespoons butter, melted

12 quail eggs (plus a few extra for insurance)

¼ rounded teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly cracked black pepper, for serving

Trim the meat of any excess fat or sinew. Wrap the whole 6-ounce piece tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight, until fully frozen.

Remove the meat from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is still frozen but can be sliced through cleanly with a knife. To cut it into a fine mince, slice the whole piece across the grain into ⅛-inch-thick slices. Stack the slices and cut the stack lengthwise into ⅛-inch-wide strips (julienne). Finally, cut the strips crosswise into little squares (mince). The pieces should be very small and uniform by the time you’re done. You have to work quickly, as the meat will warm up and become soft, making precise knife cuts more difficult.

Place the meat in a small mixing bowl, add the shallot, capers, cornichons, and chives, and stir to mix evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

About 45 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 400°F. As soon as the oven is ready, cut off the crust from each brioche slice and cut each slice into four same-size squares. Using a pastry brush, generously coat both sides of the brioche squares with the butter and arrange the squares on a baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, turning the squares once at the midway point, until evenly browned. Let cool.

Just before serving, crack all of the quail eggs into a small bowl. Remove the beef from the refrigerator, add the salt, ground pepper, and oil, and mix vigorously with a spoon. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

To serve, arrange the brioche toasts on a tray. Divide the meat into twelve ½-ounce portions (one per toast). Using your hands, form a small mound of meat on top of each toast and push your thumb in the center to form a well for the quail egg. Be sure to push deeply enough to create a definitive hollow for the yolk, as you don’t want it sliding off.

Using your hands, carefully remove a yolk from the bowl of quail eggs, gently shake off any excess egg whites, and slide the yolk into the hollow on the beef mound. Repeat with remaining toasts. Finish with a pinch of cracked black pepper on top of each toast. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.

Coriander-Seared Tuna with Citrus and Fennel Salad

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This is a classic example of three ingredients that work really well together. The recipe is so simple that every ingredient really needs to shine. I only make this dish during the winter, when citrus is at its best. When shopping for tuna, be specific: The term sushi grade isn’t regulated, so ask your fishmonger for #1 grade ahi (yellowfin or bigeye) tuna, which is the tuna industry’s highest ranking. Make sure it’s shiny, firm, and lacking any fishy smell. Ask the fishmonger to cut a log about 4 inches long and 2½ inches wide from the tuna loin. If this isn’t possible, you may need to cut smaller pieces from a larger steak, as described below.

SERVES 6 AS AN APPETIZER OR 3 AS A LIGHT MAIN COURSE

1½ pounds center-cut ahi tuna

1 fennel bulb

1 large or 2 small Valencia oranges

1 grapefruit

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon finely minced shallot

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

¼ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil, for cooking the fish

Trim the tuna as needed to remove any bloodline, sinew, or skin. The tuna steak, viewed from the top, resembles a pear shape. Cut off the “pointy end” of the pear and then cut the remaining piece in half, so you end up with 3 same-size triangular pieces. Place the tuna on paper towels to dry while you assemble the salad.

Remove the green tops from the fennel bulb and save the fronds for the garnish. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise. Set a mandoline to create slices about as thick as a quarter. Slice each fennel half crosswise on the mandoline, stopping before you hit the base ends. Discard the ends.

Supreme the citrus fruits. Place the citrus segments in a strainer placed over a small bowl. Give the leftover “core” of each citrus a quick squeeze over the segments to collect any extra juice.

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the collected citrus juice, the cider vinegar, the shallot, ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper, the olive oil, and the champagne vinegar to make a vinaigrette. Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the coriander, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the remaining ½ teaspoon pepper. Season the outer sides (the long sides of the log) of each piece of tuna with some of the spice mixture.

In a bowl, pour half of the vinaigrette on the fennel and the parsley and toss to coat. Taste and add an extra pinch of salt if needed. Set aside.

Heat a black steel pan over high heat until very hot. Add the canola oil and heat until the oil is rippling but not smoking. Add the tuna pieces spiced side down and cook, pressing once to ensure an even sear, for about 20 seconds on each side. Remove the tuna from the pan and set aside.

On each plate, arrange a portion of the fennel and parsley mixture and garnish with a fennel frond. Put a few segments of each type of citrus to the side of the fennel mixture and pour some of the remaining vinaigrette on top of the citrus. Slice each piece of tuna in half and place the halves, with the raw interior facing up, to the side of the salads. Serve immediately.

Baked Camembert with Armagnac Prunes, Mushrooms, and Thyme

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One Christmas, I wanted to make two kinds of baked Camembert—one sweet and one savory—but I had never actually baked Camembert before. For the savory one, I sweated some mushrooms with fresh herbs and shallots, and for the sweet, I paired the cheese with poached prunes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have two free pans because I was making so many other things for the holiday meal, so I put both cheeses in one large pan, thinking I could still serve them separately.

They ended up melting and morphing into a single dish—a very happy accident, indeed. I set the whole thing out on the table with a baguette for people to rip into, and everyone went nuts for the dish. I know it might sound surprising, but the combination of earthy, sweet, and savory flavors all mixed together really works. Sometimes cooking is just like that. It’s important to stay calm and realize that mistakes can lead to great things.

SERVES 4 TO 6

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup diced shallot

2 cups thinly sliced cremini or button mushrooms

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

¾ cup Armagnac-poached prunes, roughly chopped into ½-inch pieces

1 (8- to 10-ounce) wheel Camembert or other double-crème, French-style cheese, such as Brie

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large black steel pan, warm the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook just until translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper and sauté, moving the mushrooms around, for 7 to 10 minutes, until they begin to color on their edges and the moisture they release evaporates. All of the mushrooms should be soft and tender, with no spongy quality or rawness to them. Turn the heat up at the end of cooking to evaporate any additional mushroom moisture and brown the edges very slightly. Add the thyme and prunes and sauté for an additional minute. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Unwrap the Camembert and place in a small baking dish. Place the prune and mushroom mixture all around and slightly on top of the cheese and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is warmed through, softened, and beginning to melt; you will see some cheese oozing out. Serve immediately.


NOTE The time it takes for the cheese to reach the correct texture depends largely on how ripe it is at the time you purchase it. The ideal final consistency is oozing and melted but not liquefied.