Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring at the Farmhouse: Asparagus, Mushroom, and Onion Tart

One of the best things by far about being back in the Northeast are the changing seasons. Seeing all the new life bloom outside my windows this Spring is making me so happy to be back home. I have this gorgeous flowering tree right outside my living room window and each day it seems to get more and more beautiful. Witherspoon street in downtown Princeton, NJ (about 6 miles from where I live) is covered in flowering trees and super cute daffodils are springing up everywhere! And then there is the food. One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus which is a shining star of the spring season. I was looking for an easy recipe and something a little different. I've been waiting to make an asparagus tart since I watched Jamie Oliver make one a couple months ago on his show Jamie at Home and now that asparagus is springing up everywhere I finally have the chance to give it a shot.

I found this recipe on epicurious but I added sauteed onions. I was hoping the onions would add a hint of sweetness but I didn't cook them long enough. Next time I am going to try cooking the onions low and slow in a pan on top of the stove. This will give them that great slow roasted sweetness which I think will be the perfect compliment to the slightly bitter asparagus. I also cut back on the amount of lemon zest and added a bit more Gruyere because well, we all know how obsessed I am with cheese! I served this as a side to a slow roasted halibut with a cheesy herby bread crumb topping which don't you worry, I'll post soon. The tart would also make really great appetizers.... maybe for Easter dinner??? Just cut the puff pastry into smaller squares, for example cut one sheet of puff pastry into 8 squares instead of 4.

Asparagus, Mushroom, and Onion Tart

1 pkg. puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
1/4 cup unsalted butter
12 oz shitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1/4 inch wide strips
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb slender asparagus spears, cut on diagonal into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup creme fraiche (can be found with specialty cheeses at your grocery store)
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
2-4 tbsp melted butter

Roll out each pastry sheet into about 10 inch squares. Cut each into 4 squares (or 8 if making smaller for appetizers). Arrange squares on rimmed baking sheets.

Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Saute until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool about 15 minutes. Add asparagus, thyme, lemon zest, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper to mushrooms. Mix in creme fraiche and cheese.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mound filling atop pastry squares leaving a 1/2 inch border around center of each tart. Brush border with melted butter. Bake tarts 20-22 minutes in preheated oven until tarts are puffed and golden brown.

Recipe adapted from epicurious

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Birthday Celebration with Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Pretty in Pork, happy birthday to you! It's Pretty in Pork's first birthday today! I'm very excited that my little piglet has made it through it's first year already! It's been quite the year for me and I'm so happy to have had this space to document it all. I feel like I've become a better cook and am growing closer to the possibility of fulfilling my foodie dreams... whether that be for Pretty in Pork to manifest into a cookbook one day, or to become a whoopee pie business, or maybe an underground restaurant. We shall see!

To celebrate I wanted to make something by one lady who I find very inspiring. I wasn't all that interested in Ms. Julia Child until I watched the movie Julie and Julia while spending one of the most fun weekends of my life in Mendocino with three of my favorites. I absolutely love all things french and often tell my husband that if I could live anywhere in the world, it would be in a rustic farmhouse in the south of France. I love that Julia was so inspired by food when living in Paris and that she became a famous chef with very little formal training. I don't think I'll ever get to live in France, or at least not any time soon, but I can channel all things french through Julia's recipes. I decided I should start off with her most famous recipe, Boeuf Bourguignon. I actually thought that it was more of a beef stew but came to find out that it really isn't. It's basically beef braised in wine and then served with a  delicious sauce. It was very fancy and very yummy. And, I got to spend quite a few hours in the kitchen making it so I found it super fun! I have to warn you, it's a lot of steps and a good amount of work but there is really nothing hard about it. Just follow Julia's steps and it will be great! It also looks and sounds very impressive so it would be a fabulous dish to serve at a fancy dinner party.

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

4 slices thick bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs lean stew beef cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
3 cups red wine such as chianti or pinot noir
2 to 3 cups beef stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
18 to 24 brown braised onions, recipe to follow
1lb sauteed mushrooms, recipe to follow

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, saute bacon in oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Dry beef in paper towels and saute in hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Set beef aside. Saute veggies in oil and bacon fat until starting to lightly brown. Discard the sauteing fat and oil.

Add bacon and beef to veggies. Toss with salt and pepper. Add flour and stir to lightly coat beef. Move dish to preheated oven, uncovered, and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and put back in oven for another 4 minutes. This will give beef a nice light brown crust. Remove from oven and turn down to 325 degrees.

Place dish over medium heat. Stir in wine and enough beef stock to barely cover beef. Add tomato paste. Place garlic and herbs in a little bundle in a cheese cloth (this makes them easier to remove later and saves a step when making the sauce) and add to dish. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove then cover and set in lower third of preheated oven. Let simmer very slowly in oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when it is fork tender.

When meat is done, pour the dish into a colander placed over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return beef and bacon to it. Add the brown braised onions and mushrooms to the pot.

Skim fat off the sauce and simmer for a minute or two. You should have about 2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly until it thickens. If too thick, add a little beef stock. Pour sauce over the meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat several times. Serve with boiled potatoes.

Brown braised onions:
18-24 small pearl onions, peeled
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
4 parsley sprigs, 1 small bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme; tied in cheesecloth

Heat oil and butter in a skillet. Add onions and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir frequently to try to brown as evenly as possible.

Pour stock, salt and pepper, and herbs in cheesecloth in a small saucepan. Add sauteed onions. Cover and simmer to braise the onions 40-50 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated.

Sauteed Mushrooms:
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
1 lb mushrooms, quartered

Heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Once butter has stopped foaming, add mushrooms and cook 4-5 minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Recipes adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck