The Thanksgiving countdown has begun, and hopefully you’re all taking time to smell the roses and savor the goodwill as you’re prepping your way toward the feast and the occasion.
I love gratins in general, and especially as an easy, delicious do-ahead side for Thanksgiving and other holiday meals. A kind of sassed up casserole, they’re hugely versatile and look as sophisticated as they taste homey and nurturing.
The recipe to follow (like the grits from a post earlier this week) is from my Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith, June 2008). Although when I created it, I thought of it as more of a late fall, early spring dish, in retrospect I think it’s splendid for Thanksgiving, too. Onions are glorious with turkey, and the acidic bite and creamy edge of gooey Brie should marry beautifully with a good pan gravy.
Fresh Sweet Onion and Tomato Gratin
(Serves 6 to 8)
For the gratin:
5 tablespoons unslated butter, divided
3 medium fresh sweet onions, trimmed, quartered and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
For the custard:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
4 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion greens (from tops of onions or substitute scallions)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the topping:
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
Zest of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Six (1-inch long) slices Brie
Putting it together:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and then season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 12 to 15 minutes; set aside to cool. Coat a deep-dish 9-inch pie pan or gratin dish with remaining butter.
Meanwhile, prepare the custard. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth; set aside. To prepare the topping, combine the breadcrumbs with the zest and seasonings in a small bowl.
To assemble, drain any excess liquid off the cooked onions. Distribute about one-third of the onions evenly on the bottom of the buttered pan. Top with a single layer of sliced tomatoes. Top with half of the remaining onions, another layer of tomato, and finish with remaining onions. If needed, season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour the custard mix over the entire surface of the layered onions and tomatoes. Top with cheese, spaced about 3 to 4 inches apart, along the top of the gratin. Finish with an even layer of the breadcrumb mixture.
Bake until golden and bubbly and the custard has set, about 35 to 40 minutes. If desired, finish under a hot broiler or a flame torch for an extra golden glow. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing into wedges or squares.
NOTE: The gratin can be prepared ahead, covered and refrigerated, and then baked just before serving.
Bon appetit and Happy Thanksgiving!
Not Just for the Cheeseboard Anymore
I’ve been very much indulging my love of all things French lately. First, there was the decadent pairing of Provencal Roses with McCrady’s five-course lunch two weeks ago (http://hollyherrick.com/2014/11/pink-new-red-white/), where I was reminded that Rose is not just meant for drinking, but also for pairing with foods. Then there was the lovely, heady, and incredibly fragrant array of cheeses presented to me in my home last week by a dedicated team of cheese brand representatives working under the umbrella of The Cheeses of Europe.
Their mission? To spread the word about French cheese as an “affordable luxury.” And, not one that should be relegated exclusively to the cheeseboard. Indeed – many French cheeses (with the exception of a Delice de Bourgogne, and a few others, with its buttery center and extreme creaminess is best left unadulterated and served on shortbread with a glass of Champagne), are ideal for cooking.
There I sat like a deleriously happy French cat, sampling cheeses from Isigny Sainte-Mere, French Cheese Club, and Interval Cheeses – a full spread of Brie, Mimolette, butter, Epoisses, Pont l’Eveque, Delice de Bourgogne, Bleu D’Auvergne, Saint Angel, and a first ever sample of airy whipped cheese (which made its way onto my toast every day for a week until it was gone). Dreams of Bleu d’Auvergne Mornay sauce cloaking a French-inspired lasagna, or a decadent fondue were running through my head, even as my dog Tann Mann worked himself up into a frenzy to fenagle any tidbit he could forage from the table’s edge. French was being spoken, cheese was being savored, and I was feeling very happy and inspired.
Of all the cheeses, the one that spoke the loudest to my culinary inspiration soundboard was the deep orange orb of Mimolette (mee moh LET) cheese from Normandy, France.
It was introduced by Louis XIV (a.k.a. The Sun King) in the 17th century. The colorful King wanted a different kind of cheese and the sun-like, blazing color is creatied by adding annatto from a tree by the same name that is indigenous to South America. Traditionally, the older, aged cheese was cut and brought down into mines and used to “sandwich” meats to feed the mine-workers.
I confessed to my new French cheese friends that I had never made it past the “stinky” cheese section of my favorite local fromagier, goat.sheep.cow, and that I wanted to work specifically with this cheese. Two nights ago, I made a simple grilled cheese, stacking thin slices of young Mimolette with a few threads of fresh mozzarella, basted with a thin spread of mayonnaise and prepared horseradish. Gorgeous! The melted Mimolette is molten and slightly stringy, but still holds its body. That’s why it’s an exellent candidate for the Mac and Mimolette recipe to follow. (Recipe provided by The Cheeses of Europe).
Mac and Mimolette
1/2 pound shell pasta
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup grated Mimolette, plus more for sprinkling
1 large tomato, finely chopped.
Preheat oven to 350F. Cook the pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, gently simmer the cream, sugar, salt and wine for 4 to 5 minutes. Be sure it doesn’t boil or it will become grainy. Add the Mimolette and stir until melted. Stir in the tomato. Mix the pasta into the sauce, then pour into a baking pan. Sprinkle awith the remaining Mimolette and bake for 10 minutes. Serve hot/warm.
Working French Cheese Into Your Thanksgiving Feast
The recipe above would pair wonderfully with turkey or fowl as a fragrant, wonderful side dish hot out of the oven. Prep it ahead and bake it off while the main course is resting. If you do opt for a cheese tree to start or finish the meal, do select at least three varieties of cheeses: a melty, soft stinky cheese such as an Epoisses, a mild, fragrant blue, such as Bleu D’Auvergne, and something firm and assertive, such as a Mimolette. Serve on bread, simple crackers, and surround with fruit.
More Cooking with French Cheese Ideas and Cookbook Giveaway
One of my favorite recipes in my latest cookbook, The French Cook – Soups & Stews is a fondue-inspired Three-Cheese and Cider Soup with Apples and Four-Spice Croutons, which runs with the nuttiness of Gruyere and Comte cheeses (as well as Parmesan), and then there is my classic, especially delicious version of French Onion Soup, covered with a gooey cloak of Gruyere (pictured below).Write to me in the comment section following this post and tell me why you would like to receive a free, signed copy of the cookbook, and why you love to cook with and eat French cheese. I will select and announce a winner on November 24 and get it to you just in time for the holidays.
Happy cooking and bon appetit! Please not, here in Charleston, most or all of these cheeses can be found at Whole Foods, Costco and goat.sheep.cow.
Provence Roses Prove Their Food Pairing Panache
Dry rose and the south of France, particularly in the coastal region of Provence, go hand in hand. There, it is considered the ideal lunchtime, seaside and all-occasion wine and Provence is also home to France’s oldest vineyards and the world’s largest producer of rose wines. A combination of clay-limestone soil, mistral winds, and sunny, hot and dry climate lend themselves perfectly to this sometimes under-rated and narrowly perceived wine.
Although exports (and coinciding sales) of rose to the U.S. have been steadily increasing since 2003, it still carries with it (especially in sultry Charleston) the perception of being a cool, light, crisp wine for summer aperitif sipping. Vins de Provence and McCrady’s joined forces in a recent media lunch held at the restaurant to permanently retire that limiting cliche and enlighten those in attendance on the power of pairing Provencal roses with food.
It’s All in the Grape
Contrary to another common misperception, a true rose is not a blend of white and red grapes, but is made from red/purple grapes. Unlike a Burgundy, however, roses have very brief contact with the skin, before being strained and fermented. The result is a a gorgeous pale pink wine which pairs beautifully (and suprisingly) with almost anything. McCrady’s Banquet Chef Lucas Weir and Vins de Provence put together a convincing and delectable, five-course lunch of pairings. Here are some of the visual highlights.
It’s interesting and worthwhile to note that all of these bottles were very reasonably priced, and most fell just around $12 per bottle. And, they’re even pretty enough to keep around as table art.
As one of the reps at the event pointed out most eloquently and accurately, “Even though they’re all pink, they’re not all the same.”
Bon appetit! Remember to drink some rose at every meal and any time of year. You’ll be astounded how well this wine works with food when properly paired.
It’s been a long time since I’ve created and tested a recipe just for the heck of it, heck just for the fun of it. Recently, as I finally looked up from the rubble of completed story and cookbook deadlines and awoke to Charleston’s welcome chilly temperatures, falling leaves and fading marshes, I got recipe-inspired. After all, fall is here and Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is coming.
Thanksgiving’s always been my favorite holiday because of what it symbolizes, literally and figuratively, both from the past and the present. So many wonderful meals created with love and gratitude for my own family in the past two decades, and by my mother and her family for two decades prior to that. Memories of scrambling around my Aunt Nancy Lally’s kids’ table with eight other kids for her three-bean salad or green jello mold and heaping plate of turkey, are my oldest Thanksgiving souvenirs. More recently, three day-long cooking bonanzas from my kitchens in Chicago, Minneapolis, Wyoming and later here in Charleston, fill my memory bank. There have been so many happy days of wafting cinnamon, basting turkeys, and simmering stocks. All of this, of course. to thank God for our mutual blessings and to enjoy time together at the table.
I’m weeping now reflecting on the many people I shared so many Thanksgiving’s with whom are now deceased or divorced from my life due to the pressures of distance and time. I’m crying a little, too, because this year I’m not going to be cooking, but instead going to visit my parents in Florida and we are going to go out to eat this year. This is because, a fact I’ve resisted facing for far too long, my parents are just getting too old (hovering near or above 80, respectively) to put up with the physical and emotional stress of putting on a big Thanksgiving hoopla even though Mom offered to do it. I wanted it to keep it simple, for their sake. And, fingers crossed, my darling Michael (whom I call TAO for “The Adorable One”) is coming along to meet them, and my dog TannMann, too. No matter how it goes, I will appreciate my parents more than ever this year. God knows I love them. Wishing you and yours a beautiful Thanksgiving!
Recipe for Your Holiday Table
Savory Sweet Potato Flan with Raisins, Bourbon, Maple Syrup and a Touch of Cinnamon
(Yields 8 to 10 Servings)
Here’s my new recipe that Thanksgiving inspired. It has the silky/mousse-like texture of a savory flan, boostered by the roasted sweet potato puree that yields a slightly firmer texture reminiscent of spoonbread. It should be firm enough to stand up in a spoon with a gentle jiggle. There is no sugar in this recipe, unless you count the raisins, one tablespoon of maple syrup, and optional drizzle of honey for final garnish. It’s truly decadent and surprisingly simple. I’m adding it to my permanent Thanksgiving recipe file and am thinking about it in the context of my next cookbook.
2 large sweet potatoes (about 3/4 pound each)
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
2 cups Half & Half
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 tablespoon All-Purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter for greasing the baking casserole
Garnish: 2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled and light drizzle of honey or maple syrup
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Scrub and trim the potatoes. Pierce in several places with a knife or fork. Roast on the center rack until very soft when pierced with a fork (abour 50 minutes to an hour). Remove and allow to cool for comfortable handling. Slice in half horizontally and carefully scoop out the flesh (discarding the skin). Place the potato flesh in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Puree briefly. Add the bourbon, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, cinnamon and vanilla. Puree to combine until soft and fluffy. Set aside.
Meanwhile, fill your tea kettle with water and put over high to bring up to a boil for the flan’s imminent water bath (this is important to moderate the heat for the custard). In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs and Half & Half until frothy and completely blended. Whisk in the reserved potato puree. In a small bowl, toss the raisins with the flour until evenly coated. Fold these into the flan mixture, gently. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole (or similarly sized 3″ high baking dish). Pour the flan mixture into the casserole. Place the casserole in a large, deep roasting pan. When the water in the kettle is boiling, pour into the roasting pan and around the casserole until about half way up the sides of the casserole.
Bake on the center rack until firm, yet bouncy to the touch, about 55 to 60 minutes. Serve hot, tepid or even cold. (Note: The flan will store in the refrigerator, covered for up to 2 days. If desired, reheat, covered, in a 325F oven for about 20 minutes before serving.)
Crumble the bacon over the center of the flan and drizzle with honey before serving, if desired.
PS – Remember to look for big, beautiful changes on my web site soon and be sure to tell your friends about it so they can subscribe for restaurant news, recipes, book signing events, and all things wonderful in Charleston. For signings and event, be sure to visit the events sidebar on the home page. I’ll be in at Southern Season in Richmond, VA on Dec. 7!
Hello again from my “old” post at hollyherrick.com. After a few months away at The Permanent Tourist Charleston, I’ve decided to return “home” and put a new polish on my old site.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be working on a cleaner, more visual look, more widgets to connect with bloglovin’ and other new places, adding cooking classes and recipe development pages, new recipes from my personal, unpublished recipe file, restaurant and Charleston cooking/food news, and of course, cookbook giveaways.
In fact, when we launch with the new live pages from the wonderful folks at Charleston Public Relations & Design in a few short weeks, I’ll be giving away a cookbook trifecta – three signed copies from The French Cook series including Sauces, Cream Puffs and Soups & Stews…nearly a $100 value just in time for the holidays. So, you’ll want to keep your eyes open for that and tell your friends about it, too. It’s easy to subscribe on the home page here if they want regular emails of new posts.
In the meantime, to follow is a fantastically fragrant and easy to prepare stew prepared with veal, apples and sage – the flavors of fall. Snow is literally already on the way for some of this weekend. Time to pull out your favorite braising pot and get cooking. If you like, substitute veal for pork.
Daube de Veau et Pomme à l a Sauge
Veal , Apple , and Sage Stew
(Makes 6 servings)
From a culinary standpoint, the Normandy region of France is known for two things: apples from its myriad orchards (thus cider and Calvados, an apple brandy) and dairy (thus cream and cheese) from its celebrated cows. It is a large and exquisite region, decorated with a quilt of hedged emerald-green fields, usually damp from a recent rain, with cattle almost incessantly mooing at a low, pleasing hum. This stew combines the sweet tartness of fresh cider and Granny Smith apples with the milky mildness of veal. Sage provides an earthy counterpoint that is just right, especially when finished with a splash of cream. Because the cider is such a big part of the stew, fresh is what you need and the best you can find.
(Beautiful photo by Chia Chong with Libbie Summers)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1⁄2 pounds veal shoulder cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dry rubbed or ground sage
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 cups best-quality fresh apple cider
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into
1 1⁄2 cups beef or veal stock
1⁄3 cup whole cream or crème fraîche
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage, for garnish
Melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a 5 1⁄ 2-quart Dutch oven or similarly sized pot. Meanwhile, pat the veal dry and season generously on all sides with salt and pepper. When the oil is just sizzling, arrange about half the veal in a single layer in the bottom of the pan; do not overcrowd. Cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn and repeat on the second side.
Remove the meat from the pan and reserve nearby. Repeat with remaining veal.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the onion, garlic, celery, sage, and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir to coat and cook for 5 minutes, or until just starting to soften. Return the reserved veal and any juices to the pot. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables, stirring to coat, and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze by adding the cider, stirring up any brown bits on the bottom or side of the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and allow the cider to cook off and reduce for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and establish a very gentle simmer. Add the apples and stock. Cook uncovered, continuing at a gentle simmer, until the veal is very tender, about 1 1⁄ 2 hours. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. (Note: You can stop here, allow to cool, and refrigerate overnight.) Add the cream or créme fraîche (no other substitutes here, or it will curdle) and fresh sage at the last minute. Heat through and serve. This is delicious over rice or broad noodles.