I am honored, as ever, to have the illustrious Becky Issenman photograph my food!
I literally didn't remember to take a single picture of the finished products so if you'd like to see any of these recipes realized, check out Mrs. Becky's shots.
White bean soup with sage and prosciutto
(Not as much fat comes off prosciutto as the pancetta recommended in the recipe. I prefer a flaky crisp on top of my soup and thus, prosciutto. If you do as well, find some extra lard or butter to sweat your onions and garlic in.)
amended from food.com
I will show you my version listed below. Keep in mind that these measurements are flexible--this has been adjusted to my taste but frankly, there are so many flavors that are so powerful here, you can fake it pretty well with any approximation of the recipe. You can see this sentiment in the ingredient list itself--I want you to chunk and smash vegetables. This is not a science.
That being said, while the ingredients are not exact, the method is. Please read carefully--some professional tips I've learned to take this dish from good to great follow.
specialty tools: cheesecloth (optional, but very useful)
3 oz thick-cut bacon
1 1/2 lbs stewing beef, trimmed of excess fat and cut into cubes
1/2 large onion, chunked
1 large carrot, chunked
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
several large sprigs thyme
several large sprigs parsley
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 cups red wine, divided
2 1/2 cups beef stock, divided
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 Tbsp butter
9 small carrots, preferably a selection of colors, with healthy green tops.
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cook off the bacon. Once cooked, remove from pan and retain rendered fat in pan. Note: Lardons are original in this recipe; I find thick-cut more accessible. Thin-cut won't stand up to the dish.
Pat the beef dry. This is that critical step so many of us learned from Mrs. Child. Wet meat will take a hundred years to sear at which point, you will have cooked it through and that's not what we want here. We want to get a nice, sealing crust on the meat. So get the pan smoking-hot and drop in your cubes. Sear until good and brown (this involves not touching them) and flip. You may need to add more oil to the pan as you cook. The meat should not be crowded and batches will be necessary.
Achievement Unlocked: The Perfect Sear
Set all seared meat aside. Place the chunked vegetables in the same pan and give them a light caramelizing as well. Place vegetables and garlic into a bowl. Toss with 1 Tbsp of the flour. Add garlic, bay and herbs and toss lightly.
You will have what professionals call sucs in the bottom of your pan. The brown, crispy flavor-wonders left behind by your meat and veggies. Put the pan back on the heat and warm. Pour in half a cup of the red wine and the tomato paste. Stir with a gentle tool (I prefer a wooden spatula I have), scraping the pan gently to release the sucs and mix the tomato paste into the wine. When you aren't feeling any more resistance or you can see the sucs have released into the wine, you've officially deglazed a pan. Take it off the heat.
Achievement Unlocked: Deglazing a Pan
Place the beef in the dutch oven. See the juices remaining on the plate? Pour those into the deglazed pan. That's 100% flavor you don't want to lose. Toss the beef with the remaining 2 Tbsp flour and season with salt and pepper and place in oven for 3-4 minutes. Toss the meat to turn, return to oven for another 3-4 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325.
Crumble the cooked bacon and sprinkle it over the beef. Take your cheesecloth and lay it over the meat. Layer the vegetables and herbs over top. The cheesecloth will allow all flavors to permeate and mix and, in a few hours, it will also allow you to lift the vegetables cleanly off the meat. No picking thyme and parsley mush off your meat! (Hat off to Bouchon for this tip.)
Cover meat and vegetables with wine sauce from your pan, remaining wine and 2 cups of the stock. Throw on the lid. Cook for at least 3 hours, more if you need the time.
Twenty minutes before you pull the dish out of the oven, prep the carrots. Peel them and slice them lengthwise, leaving half an inch of green at the top of the carrot. (Scrape around the top of the carrot with the edge of a knife to ensure no dirt is clinging to the place where the greens meet the carrot.) Have two clean pans out. In one large pan, sautee the mushrooms on high heat with butter, browning as you go. In the second pan, place the carrots with the remaining 1/2 cup of stock. Bring to a low simmer and braise until bright and crunchy-tender.
When you pop the bourginon out of the oven, pull the vegetables and herbs out. They will be virtual mush--they were just there to flavor so you can green bin 'em now. Skim meat and other residue out of sauce and into a clean cup. Let the liquid sit long enough fat rises--defat the liquid and pour the remaining sauce into a saucepan. Give it a strong simmer for 10 minutes or long enough to reduce slightly.
To serve, place meat, mushrooms and sauce in a bowl. Top with three carrot halves of varying colors. Throw bread on the side of the plate for sopping up this ruby goodness.
If you're somehow blessed with leftovers, this stew only gets better as it sits. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate.
Green Leaf Salad with Parmesan Crisp and mustard-garlic-parmesan dressing
There is really nothing to this salad. Go wash some red lettuce, grate half a cup of parmesan and juice a lemon.
Now arrange the lettuce on the plate.
Pile the parmesan in a hot frying pan and use the back of a spoon to smooth out into the size of a circle you're happy with for your crisp. Let it melt until the cheese is bubbling and sunk into a fine lattice. Using a very thin tool, flip the parmesan and let it get golden on the other side. When complete, transfer to salad or save. Crisps are physically delicate but will keep well. I made four crisps plus a little for the dressing with this half cup.
For dressing, mix together a teaspoon of mustard (a crunchy mustard is ideal in my opinion), very finely minced garlic (this is a dressing--don't cheat on your mince-work or you'll regret it) and half a tablespoon of parmesan. Mix with a touch of salt, plenty of black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste and let sit as long as possible before the salad is served to let the flavors meld.
Blue Cheese Walnut Bread
(Heed warnings in the comments section about the different rising times, particularly if you're not familiar with non-machine bread making.)
Cheesecake with Caramelized Apples and Salted Caramel Sauce
The cheesecake is a version of the one already on this website but sans chocolate and with a vanilla bean stirred into the milk and sour cream I warmed together for extra volume due to the lack of chocolate. The crust was graham as here but I added cinnamon and cardamom.
Caramelized apples may be made by peeling and slicing an apple. Toss the apples in sugar and cinnamon, ensuring thorough coating of the sugar. Melt butter in a frying pan and when it is very hot, place apples evenly through pan. After 2-3 minutes, flip apple. Try to get a nice brown coating on either side; this is the sugar caramelizing and will give wonderful texture.
The caramel sauce recipe linked here has a great step-by-step guide and pictures. Just remember melting sugar is hotter than boiling water so DO NOT under any circumstances touch it until cooled. I did not add salt to my initial product but finished the plate with fleur de sel.