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Friday, August 26, 2011

Cafe Salle Pleyel Hamburger - French Fridays with Dorie

I've missed the last two FFWD recipes--the salmon in a jar scared me, and my husband despises eggplant. But there can be no excuse for not trying what's advertised as having a taste that's "forbidden, ... illicit, ... subversive, even." While I'll admit I didn't think it tasted subversive, it was, in Minnesota speak, a pretty darned good burger.

No matter how fancy or subversive the sandwich, of course, its ultimate quality rests with the quality of the ground beef. I visited my amazing butcher shop, Clancey's, to get a pound and a half of their best ground beef.

The ground beef is the basic part. The fancy part is a mixture of sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley and tarragon, cornichons, and capers.

The subversive part (in my opinion, at least) is the onion jam. Very simple to make, actually--just a mixture of chopped red onion, water, butter, and ground coriander, left to simmer on the stove while you're dealing with the herbs and pickly things.

I used my immersion blender to try to get a paste out of the above-mentioned herbs and pickly things, and discovered that cornichons are not amenable to being blended by my little machine that usually works so well. The pieces of pickle were therefore a little larger than envisioned by the Cafe Salle Pleyel chef, but I liked biting into an occasional piece of tangy cornichon.

I used the grill instead of a skillet. It's the end of August, after all, and fall is already in the air, making one acutely aware that the end of the grilling season is in sight.

I loved the shards of Parmesan. I'm sure you could use another cheese, but the Parmesan worked well and it's almost always on hand.

The shards of dill pickle were, on the other hand, the least essential part of the sandwich. I'm a big fan of dill pickles, so it surprises me to say this, but I think they overwhelmed the more subtle taste of the cornichons and the otherwise balanced flavors. But maybe my supermarket dill pickles just weren't up to par. They definitely didn't seem subversive.

Because I cook for just two, I often halve Dorie's recipes. I made the full recipe this time. We had the fancy-schmancy hamburgers two nights in a row, and were glad we did. Even three nights running wouldn't have been excessive. And I still have four sesame seed buns in the freezer, just waiting to receive the next batch of French hamburgers.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes (French Fridays with Dorie)

This is the only recipe of Dorie's that I've made before--many times--and it's not so much a recipe as a simple, ingenious method of cooking tomatoes. It turns them into something heavenly and versatile, and all it requires is tomatoes and time. I first ran across the notion of slow-roasted tomatoes in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, by Jack Bishop (another wonderful cookbook that sounds specialized but is quite practical and easy to use). Once I tried them, they became something to look forward to every summer in tomato season.

First, how can you not like them? I guess if you hated tomatoes, you could not like them, but I'm not sure I'd trust a person who didn't like tomatoes (in season, of course--I don't care if you don't like the pink, flavorless tomatoes available in January).

Second, they're the most versatile recipe around. You can add them to mashed potatoes or risotto for stunning color and flavor. Top pasta with them - with or without cheese. Match them with grilled chicken, fish, steak (or even tofu). Use them in a salad or on toast for a quick appetizer. The possibilities are limitless.

Third, how many recipes let you use your potato masher to mash the garlic?

I look forward to seeing whether everyone else was as smitten with this recipe as I am. It's proof positive that something doesn't have to be complicated to be good.