Food and Love have always had a special association. M.F.K. Fisher notes in her wonderful little book An Alphabet for Gourmets that gastronomy has always been connected with its sister art of love. “Passion and sex is the come-and-go, the preening and the prancing, the final triumph or defeat, of two people who know enough, subconsciously or not, to woo with food as well as flattery”. Here are 3 recipes to start the dance.
With the unprecedented cheese renaissance in this country, this old war horse of the 60’s and 70’s is making a huge comeback. Time to unearth that old fondue pot and long forks or wooden skewers and treat your sweetie to something special.
Emmental and Gruyère are the most commonly used cheeses in a classic fondue, but Appenzeller, Comté, Beaufort, Tête de Moine — all relatively low in moisture — also work fine. The addition of cornstarch keeps the cheese and wine from separating.
As an additional treat, when you’re almost done eating the fondue, leave a thin coating of cheese on the bottom of the pot. Lower the flame and allow the coating to turn into a brown crust, then break it into pieces and share it with your guests. The crust is considered a delicacy in Switzerland.
1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons kirsch
1/2 pound Emmental cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1/2 pound Gruyère , coarsely grated (2 cups)
Accompaniments: Cubes of French bread, apple wedges, cubes of smoked ham, boiled baby new potatoes or whatever else you’d like.
Rub inside of a 4-quart heavy pot with cut sides of garlic, and then discard garlic. Add wine to pot and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat.
Stir together cornstarch and kirsch in a cup.
Gradually add cheese to pot and cook, stirring constantly in a zigzag pattern (not a circular motion) to prevent cheese from balling up, until cheese is just melted and creamy (do not let boil). Stir cornstarch mixture again and stir into fondue. Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to fondue pot set over a flame and serve with bread and other accompaniments for dipping.
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer
Invented at Antoine’s in New Orleans in 1899, the dish was named after John D. Rockefeller , the richest American at the time, for the richness of the sauce. Antoine’s has kept the original recipe secret but all kinds of interpretations exist. Basically it includes a rich cream sauce with spinach and other greens and flavored with Pernod or anisette. This version omits the rich sauce but is still full of flavor.
24 small to medium oysters
2 cups gently packed young spinach leaves
1-1/2 cups gently packed watercress, large stems removed or more spinach
1/3 cup gently packed celery leaves
5 tablespoons butter
1 ounce Pernod or other licorice flavored liqueur
Salt to taste
Drops of lemon juice and your favorite hot sauce to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Shuck the oysters discarding the flat top shells. Drain the oysters and strain their liquor and refrigerate both until ready to cook. Wash deep shell inside and out and set aside.
Blanch the spinach, watercress and celery leaves in lightly salted, boiling water for 30 seconds until wilted. Strain and rinse thoroughly in cold water to stop the cooking and set the bright green color. Add the greens to a food processor along with the green onions and pulse to chop very finely (or can be done by hand).
Melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat and add chopped greens and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the strained liquor, Pernod and season to your taste with salt, drops of lemon juice and pepper sauce and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with 1/3 inch or so rock or coarse salt and press reserved oyster shells into the salt to keep them upright. Place an oyster in each and divide the green sauce among them. Top with parmesan and bake until sauce is bubbly and cheese is lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
ASPARAGUS RAVIOLI WITH BROWN BUTTER SAUCE
Makes 20, serving 4
You could also use fresh pasta for this in place of the won tons. It will take a little longer to cook of course.
1/2 pound tender young asparagus, woody ends discarded, tips reserved
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup farmer or whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon anchovy paste or mashed anchovy fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
40 wonton wrappers
For the sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds or pine nuts, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated lemon zest
Parsley Sprigs for garnish, preferably fried
For the ravioli: Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add asparagus tips and cook till tender but still bright green, 1 minute. Drain and shock in ice water drain again and set aside. Cut stalks into 1-inch lengths and cook as above. Dry stalks on a paper towels and chop very finely in a food processor or by hand. Place in a bowl.
Add cheeses and remaining ingredients except wontons and stir together. Taste and adjust seasoning. Place a scant tablespoon of filling on half of the wrappers. Using a pastry brush, paint water around edge of each square. Top each with one of the reserved wrappers and press edges firmly to seal. If you don’t cook ravioli right away, cover with a damp cloth.
Bring salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add ravioli and bring to a boil. As soon as ravioli rise to the top, about 1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon to warmed plates.
For the sauce: While waiting for water to boil, melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat and add almonds, shaking pan. Cook until butter turns a light brown color. Add reserved asparagus tips and drizzle over ravioli. Top with a grinding or two of pepper, some freshly grated parmesan and a little lemon zest. Garnish with parsley sprigs.
John Ash © 2013