The James Beard Project: Week 6

Here’s the lineup for Week 6 of the James Beard Project:

Monday, Dec. 7 — Spaghetti with Clam Sauce and Chorizo (Beard on Pasta, p. 97)

Tuesday, Dec. 8 — Baked Salmon with Ginger Sauce (James Beard Celebration, p. 178)

Wednesday, Dec. 9 — Gnocchi Verdi (Beard on Pasta, p. 62)

Thursday, Dec. 10 — Crab Louis (James Beard Celebration, p. 62)

Friday, Dec. 11 — Portuguese Fish Stew (Beard on Pasta, p. 69)

Saturday, Dec. 12 — Seafood À L’Américaine (The New James Beard, p. 222)

Behind the Dish: Roast Duck with Peaches and Bourbon

James Beard’s Roast Duck with Peaches and Bourbon is definitely not an everyday kind of dish. For each serving, we’re roasting up a half duck, nice and crispy, and glazing it with a sauce made of brown sugar, a splash of Madeira, bourbon and peach halves. We’re enhancing that basic recipe with a touch of apricot preserves and ginger. The duck is served with an accompaniment of long grain and wild rice and root vegetables. Get ready for a unique and flavorful experience!

Behind the Dish: Le Plaisir’s Truffled Pasta

Here’s all you really need to know about tonight’s James Beard dish: it’s pappardelle pasta with truffle paté, truffle oil, Madeira or Marsala, and a touch of cream — to which we are adding four lovely shrimp. Simple, and yet rich, creamy and special. Order it and start your weekend off right!

Pop some corks with us December 28!

You’ll have the opportunity to pop the champagne before New Year’s Eve when you join us for our special Champagne Wine Dinner Monday, December 28. We’ll be pairing a selection of Veuve Clicquot Champagnes with the following dishes:

Coquilles St. Jacques
Baby Lamb Chop with Roasted Red Pepper Orzo Risotto
Tuna Ceviche in Champagne, Lime, Cilantro and Jalapeño Vinaigrette with Organic Baby Greens
Duck Confit with Orange-Ginger Glaze
Lyonnaise Potato Timbale
Butter-Poached South African Lobster Tail with Confetti Vegetables
Dessert Course: Champagne Sorbet, French Crèpe with Sweet Cheese and Cherry Sauce

Cost of the Champagne Wine Dinner is $60 per person in advance, gratuity and tax additional. Don’t miss this chance to celebrate the end of 2009 with some truly fine champagne and some wonderful food — make your reservations now at 216.481.9635.

Hint, hint: A reservation for this dinner makes a perfect holiday gift for the wine lovers on your list!

Behind the Dish: Navarin (French Lamb Ragôut)

James Beard’s Navarin is a French lamb ragôut, or stew — and it’s hearty and rich. It requires first browning and then braising lamb meat (his original recipe calls for shoulder or breast; we’re using leg) in beef broth while caramelizing turnips and onions in butter and sugar. After the lamb is done braising, the fat is skimmed from the broth, the broth is strained and the caramelized vegetables and other veggies are added, along with some spices, for the final simmering. The recipe calls for leeks, carrots, new potatoes and peas, spiced with cloves, salt and pepper; we’re adding purple potatoes and rutabagas with some parsley. This is a sure heartwarmer for cold weather; give it a try!

Behind the Dish: Filet of Sole Casanova

Why is tonight’s James Beard entree called “Filet of Sole Casanova”? Really not sure. There’s not much about it that will make you think of the 18th-century Venetian adventurer reputed for his romantic skills. But it is kind of a romantic dish — at least if you love cuisine inspired by India. This dish really brings Indian flavors to the fore in a delightful way.

The fish is simply sautéed; it’s the sauce that makes the difference. Beard’s original recipe calls for celery root, but we substituted fresh fennel and celery, sliced super-thin, and sweated these along with mushrooms in butter, then added artichoke hearts for texture and flavor and chopped Golden Delicious apples for a touch of sweetness, flavor and crunch. All of this was cooked down and reduced with heavy cream and curry to create a rich and delicious sauce.

Our sauced filet of sole is accompanied by a mound of Indian jasmine rice, steamed with cardamom seeds, sautéed onion, cinnamon stick, star anise and cumin. The finished dish is aromatic, flavorful and a delightful change from the ordinary. Try it — you just might fall in love.

Behind the Dish: Corn and Shrimp Chowder with Tomatoes

Tonight’s James Beard special is another heartwarmer for wintertime. It gets its flavor not only from corn, shrimp and tomatoes, but from bacon and mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery). The mirepoix is sautéed in the bacon fat after the bacon is cooked; then potatoes, chicken stock, thyme, clam juice (or water or fish stock) and white wine are added, as well as corn on the cob. (The cobs get removed later and the corn scraped off and added to the chowder, sometimes with more corn added.) This mixture gets cooled down, fat skimmed, and then some of the solids are puréed so it has a part-creamy, part-chunky texture. Milk, salt and pepper are stirred in, and the bacon, shrimp, tomatoes and chives are added for the final minutes of simmering time.

To make this more of a main dish, we’ve also beefed it up a little by adding a combination of large and small shrimp; pearl onions; some green peas for color and flavor; and topping it off with a trio of crispy little corn-bacon fritters.

A bowl of this chowder will bring warmth to your evening for sure. Don’t forget to ask for bread!