If you canâ€™t enjoy April in Paris, Essential Pepin: More than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is the next best thing, enabling you to enjoy the â€śreal thingâ€ť at home. Here are some delights from this once-in-a-lifetime work, selected and updated from the thousands Jacques has created over the years — homey country French, haute cuisine, fat food Jacques-style, and fresh contemporary American.
FINES HERBES OMELET
A fines herbes omelet reminds me somehow of spring, when fresh herbs begin to appear. This mixture is the classic combination, but you can replace some or all of these with other fresh herbs. I often serve this omelet with a salad and sautĂ©ed potatoes for dinner.
10 large eggs, preferably organic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh herbs (1/4 cup chopped parsley plus 1/4 cup combined tarragon, chives, and chervil)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Using a fork, beat eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Stir in herbs.
Heat half the oil and butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. When oil and butter are hot, add half the egg mixture. Stir continuously with fork, shaking pan, for about 2 minutes to create the smallest-possible curds. When most of the mixture is solid, cook it without stirring for 10 seconds to create a thin â€śskinâ€ť on the underside of the omelet, binding it together.
Roll omelet by folding over one side and then the opposite side, and invert onto a plate. Repeat, using the remainder of the ingredients, to make a second omelet. Cut each omelet in half and serve immediately, half an omelet per person.
Serves 8 as a first course.
Sweet molasses in combination with dark soy sauce not only gives this cured salmon an intense flavor but also colors the flesh of the fish, turning it almost black on the outside. When you slice it, the inside is a beautifully transparent gold and pink and contrasts dramatically with the exterior.
This recipe is easy to do, but it takes time — the salmon is cured in the sugar, salt, spices, molasses and soy for 24 hours and set aside to dry for another 24 hours before it is sliced and served. Because so much time is involved, it makes sense to cure a large fillet, so this is a great dish for entertaining. Any leftover salmon will keep for a week under refrigeration. Itâ€™s nice on salad greens.
1 center-cut salmon fillet (about 1 1/2), of even thickness throughout, skin removed
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
Buttered black bread, for serving
Extra-virgin olive oil
Place salmon in center of large piece of plastic wrap. Mix salt, sugar, cumin, allspice, paprika, nutmeg and cayenne together in a small bowl. Spread mixture evenly on both sides of salmon.
Mix molasses and soy sauce together in small bowl. Pour half of the molasses mixture over top of salmon and spread evenly over surface. Turn salmon over and coat other side with remainder of the molasses mixture. Wrap salmon tightly in the plastic wrap. Put on a tray and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Unwrap salmon (it will have absorbed most of the marinade) and discard any remaining marinade. Pat fish lightly with paper towels and arrange on a wire rack set over a tray. Refrigerate for another 24 hours to dry.
At serving time, thinly slice salmon on a diagonal. Serve 2 or 3 slices per person, with buttered bread. Garnish salmon, if desired, with chopped onion, capers and a drizzle of olive oil.
GRAPEFRUIT IN NECTAR
Wedges of grapefruit flesh are removed from their surrounding membranes and served in a sauce of caramel, grapefruit juice, and — for added flavor — grenadine and Cointreau. For best results, use large, flavorful pink grapefruit.
2 large pink grapefruit
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon grenadine
1 tablespoon Cointreau (or other liqueur to your liking)
Using a vegetable peeler, remove 6 strips of grapefruit rind from the areas where the skin color is brightest. Stack strips together and cut lengthwise into thin julienne strips (about 1/4 cup).
Place julienned rind in small, high-sided saucepan, cover with 1 1/2 cups water, and bring to boil. Boil for 15 to 20 seconds, then drain in sieve and rinse rind under cold running water. Drain well and set aside in small bowl.
Using a sharp knife, peel grapefruit, removing all remaining skin and cottony pith so flesh of the fruit is totally exposed. Then cut between membranes on either side of each grapefruit segment to remove it. (You should have 10 to 12 segments per grapefruit.) Put segments in bowl and sprinkle blanched rind on top. Squeeze juice from membranes through sieve set over a bowl, pressing to remove as much juice as possible (1/3 to 1/2 cup).
Combine sugar and water in small saucepan, bring to a full boil, and boil over high heat for about 3 minutes until mixture becomes a dark blond caramel. Remove pan from the heat and carefully add 1 to 2 tablespoons of reserved grapefruit juice, taking care to avoid splatters from hot caramel. Shake pan to mix in juice. Add rest of the juice and whisk well until incorporated.
Pour caramel sauce over grapefruit segments in bowl and mix well. Add grenadine and Cointreau and mix again. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. (Recipe can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead.)
To serve, lift grapefruit segments from bowl with slotted spoon and divide among four dessert plates. Pour sauce over and around them and serve.
RACK OF LAMP PROVENĂ‡AL
Serves 3 to 4.
Since rack of lamb is expensive, I like to serve it as part of a complete menu, preceded by a first course and followed by a salad, then dessert. The more elaborate the menu, the smaller the portions of meat required.
You can brown the lamb and prepare the herb crust a few hours ahead. Notice that there is butter mixed into the crust mixture, which helps the ingredients hold together and brown nicely.
1 (single) rack of lamb (about 1 ÂĽ pounds), trimmed of most of the surface fat
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 shallots, minced (2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 small garlic clove, minced (1/4 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme or herbes de Provence
1 slice firm white bread (1 ounce), processed to crumbs in a food processor (Â˝
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup Basic Brown Sauce (page 613 of book)
Watercress sprigs, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425Â° F.
Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat. Sprinkle rack with salt and pepper and place meat side down in skillet. There is no need for fat in the skillet, since there is enough remaining on the rack for it to brown in its own fat. Brown meat and then, holding rack with tongs, sear on the bottom. (This does not cook the rack but simply sears it all around.) Place rack meat side up in a roasting pan; set skillet aside.
Combine shallots, parsley, garlic, dried herbs, bread crumbs and melted butter in bowl and mix lightly with fork. Press bread crumb mixture lightly over top of rack. (Rack can be prepared a few hours ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding.)
Roast for 12 to 15 minutes. If bread crumbs are not browned enough, place under broiler for about 1 minute to make a bit darker. Transfer rack to plate and let rest, uncovered, on top of stove or in warm oven (140 to 150 degrees) for 10 minutes before carving, so meat will be pink and moist throughout.
Meanwhile, skim excess fat from skillet, add brown sauce, and stir to melt all solidified juices. Strain sauce into a little saucepan or a sauceboat.
Carve rack between the ribs, arrange on individual serving plates, and garnish with watercress. Serve with the sauce.
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