Main Courses

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Asperges en Chemise – In the Pace of the Seasons

As asparagus season slowly comes to a turn in our corner and we slide into the exquisitely languid summer months (hopefully, currently we’re all down to wet and cold), this year, with all that happened during the past months, the change perhaps is a little more marked. Now I am my mother’s daughter, and seasonal cooking is a prerogative, never would I buy strawberries in winter or oranges in summer. I have been raised in the pace of the seasons, its produce, its particular vibes and moods, the philosophy of my cuisine, the one that I was taught by my mother and my grandmother. I have learnt to feel and appreciate change through cooking.

It’s going to be the first potatoes and tomatoes soon, baby runner beans and courgette flowers are out and peas tumbling over our salad. Before finally bidding the fresh spring evenings farewell, I made a last batch of asparagus, Asperges en Chemise, asparagus in a shirt, which is a combination of pasta and a fluffy garlic and cream infusion. Very tasty.

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What you’ll need

I often serve this as a light main. In case you’d like to serve this as a starter, just halve the quantities.

3-5 white or purple asparagus per person

Sugar

A clove of garlic

1dl of cream (crème fraîche if you can get a hold on it)

0.5dl Noilly Prat or Sherry

Salt and pepper

Fresh butter

Olive oil

Fresh pasta dough (see here for the recipe if you’d like to make it yourself)

How to do it

Preparations:

Peel the garlic and halve, let simmer in the cream and Noilly Prat. Season with pepper and salt.

Generously peel the asparagus and cook them in water, adding one to two teaspoons of sugar. Strain but keep a sip of asparagus cooking water, add a nut of butter, season with salt and pepper and let sit on a warm spot for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 100°C and roll out the pasta dough to thin layers about 40 cm long and 10 cm wide. Cook the layers for 3 minutes.

Assembly:

Sprinkle a wide plate with olive oil and place a layer of pasta in it. Place 3-5 asparagus on it and gently wrap the pasta around it. Continue with the rest of the pasta and asparagus. Whisk the asparagus water and butter until it amalgamates and pour over the asparagus wraps. Finally add the garlic infusion and bake for 15 minutes.

How to eat it

With a glass of mineral burgundy white and don’t forget the baguette bread to dip into the sauce.

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Rindsvoresse mit Ribel

Rindsvoresse mit Ribel. The former being a sumptuous stew of beef and pork and a Sunday classic on my grandmother Nani’s table. She’d serve it in a huge bowl and I vividly remember the merry brouhaha around the big round table when she handed out generous helpings to everyone.  

The trick is to cook it forever at a low temperature, until the beef falls apart. Cook it fast and hot and you’ll end up with what we use to call shoe soles. 

Nani would often cook Hörpfelstock as a side, mashed potatoes, but this time I made some Rheintaler Ribelmais to accompany the stew. You’ll find the recipe in my blog archives. Ribel is THE signature dish of where I come from and nourished generations of farmers and workers. It’s ground maize, a little like Italian polenta, and is traditionally cooked with milk over the open fire. I prefer a more modern version and cook it like an Italian risotto, it’s really delicious. 

What you’ll need

500g beef (ideally a mix of chuck, flank, shank), one big carrot, 3dl of dry apple cider, two generous tablespoons of tomato puree, two teaspoons of flour, one big onion, bay leaves, celery leaves, a little bouquet of fresh parsley, cloves, salt, pepper, good fat for frying, patience

How to cook it

Fix 2 bay leaves with cloves on the onion. Cut the meat into even cubes and dust with flour. In a cast iron pan fry the meat cubes at very high temperature in pork belly fat for about 3minutes, season with salt and pepper, deglaze with apple cider and reduce to low temperature. Add onion, carrot, celery leaves, parsley and tomato puree. Cover and let simmer for a minimum two hours at a very low temperature on the stove or at 100°C in the oven (no fan). The stew is cooked when the meat is soft and can easily be pulled apart.

How to enjoy it

Our Sunday dishes regularly included Hörpfelstock, mashed potatoes. Pile them on the plate, press a hole and scoop the Rindsvoresse into it. That’s the equivalent of a „Mountain Landscape with Lake“. Or you may go for something a bit more savvy and make a Ribel, the recipe is here in the blog archives. Oh and don’t forget the wine, any bouncing young Pinot Noir will do perfectly well, tchin tchin.

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Orange Peel on Green Tiles – A Fish Recipe

An orange to me is a luxury, it doesn’t matter that they are to be had everywhere and at the most ridiculous prices, an orange to me has an aura of exquisiteness. Perhaps it’s my mother’s stories, when they shared one orange for the entire family come Saint Nicholas Day, one orange for eight heads plus farmhands, one orange, or two maybe if it was a good year. And how grandmother would put the orange peel on the oven to dry and weave its succulent southern flavour into the rustic air of woodsmoke and roasted apples. Orange peel on a green tiled oven. Scraps of sun on emerald moss in midwinter.

But then I seldom buy oranges, those heaps of cheap oranges, picked before they had a chance to thoroughly soak up the sun, frostbitten fruit traveled for hundreds of miles in morgues on wheels, disturb my sense of propriety.

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Now fortunately, I’m in France. Where my apple man who went into fruit and groceries as of late has a friend down South who grows citrus fruit, citrus fruit with a taste, and this friend sends an occasional box up North to our forgotten land, where thick fog covers the fields for months on end in winter, so that by January, we all looked rather grey and dull, wouldn’t it be for his oranges. Recently there was a basket full of bitter oranges, very interesting for food experimenting. And this is the January dreariness dinner I have cooked with a couple of beautiful shiny oranges: Pike Façon Poissonchat.

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For the fish:

Take a big white fish, gutted and scaled but head on. I took a pike this time, but a sea bass or a big trout for example work well too. Orange flavour is delicate, thus for the flesh to imbibe the full aroma, the fish is cured overnight. Please click here to read the how to on curing fish. I changed the recipe slightly for the cure to contain the following ingredients:

  • 50g of sea salt
  • 100g of honey
  • 0.5dl of freshly pressed bitter orange juice
  • 0.5dl of triple sec (I still had some homemade, but Cointreau or Grand Marnier do as well)
  • Peel of one bitter orange
  • A couple of pink pepper berries

The next day rinse the fish well and put the residue liquid from the cure through a strainer and set aside. Fill the fish it with orange slices and fennel leaves and put some orange slices on top. Bake in the oven at 190°C (no fan). The pike was about 1kg and needed 18 minutes of cooking time. After half of the cooking time, pour some of the residue liquid over the fish, repeat when the fish is done and keep it covered for 10 minutes in a warm spot.

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For the orange sauce:

Bring 1dl of freshly pressed orange juice and 1/2dl of broth to boil (fish broth is perfect, vegetable broth will do as well), add the peel of a quarter of an orange and five pink peppercorns (be careful to remove the white parts in case you are using bitter oranges because they might taste too bitter). Let it simmer until it’s reduced by 1/3. Take off the heat, strain, put back into the pan and add a sip of triple sec. Season with salt if needed. Vigourously whisk about 75g of icy cold butter into the sauce until it’s creamy and thick, keep the sauce warm but not hot.

Debone the fish and serve the fillets with the orange sauce. I made a mousseline of potatoes and horseraddish and some honey glazed root vegetable as sides. Fennel would be lovely, but I’ll have to be patient until it’s in season again. Enjoy with a glass of pinot gris.

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Nouilles à la George

We finally have fixed the workshop dates for 2020, adding two theme workshops to the existing line up! Like this year’s workshops, it’s going to be all about great food and great wine and great company, a little Italy, a bit of France, and some Swissness to round it all up. Please go to the workshop tab for the details, we’re thrilled to hear what you think of the programme!  

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Now halfway through the 2019 season, we have been pondering over what we would like to give our workshop guests, what it is we’d really like to share with you. And how to do things right, eventually.

And this is what we’ve come up with: 

There are people who do things well, in general. And there are people, who do things less well, in general. And exceptionally, there are those people to take things a tiny notch higher, a tiny bit to the extreme. While doing things extremely less well perhaps is not exactly desirable but alas to be counted amongst the very encumbrances of life (and an occasional Zen exercise), doing things extremely well in turn means sending the average receptive individual straight into that state commonly referred to as paradisiacal. So, my friends, as to this rough lump of kitchen wisdom, let me give you a proper example. This is: you can do pasta well and you can do pasta less well. And then, you can do pasta with cognac. What a lark is this! What a subtle mind it takes, what heavenly graceful inspiration to add a sip of cognac to make that noodle dough smooth and puffy. But let’s take one step after another. 

The twist goes back to a recipe book of George Sand, you know, the French lady writer who hosted the entire Paris avantgarde of the early 19th century in her beautiful French country house. She had a thing for the cuisine, apparently, and a penchant for epicurean feasts contrasting her otherwise sober and rather modest approach towards living. Perhaps that’s the exact amount of perplexity required to make a person a really interesting human being. 

The thing is rather simple, and this is how it goes: 

Take one egg on about a good 100g of flour. This will yield a nice portion for two persons, or about four sides. Instead of water, add a sip of cognac before mixing and kneading. A sip of cognac is the quantity that an average grown up may gulp down in two gulps without making them awkward in the head. Or 2-4cl, if measured. The liquid-flour relation is perfect when your dough is silky and soft. Form three portions and let them sleep for at least four hours. Then knead again, roll out and evenly cut noodles according to your purpose. Cook for 7 minutes. 

We’ve had ours with scallops fried in olive oil and parsley. And a lady squeeze of lemon before serving. A perfect summer evening treat. And the way to do pasta henceforward.