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.

Advertisements

Behind the Dish: Old-Fashioned Chicken Fricassee with Shell Pasta

For tonight’s James Beard featured dish, we’re going to get the blogging train back on the tracks by posting about a dish which, in Mr. Beard’s recipe, calls for a form of pasta called rotelle. What are rotelle? Sounds fancy, but it’s just Italian for “little wheels.” In his original recipe, the dish is served over what generations of Cleveland children came to know and love as “Choo Choo Wheels.” Maybe you even remember the train printed on the back of the box of Ideal Macaroni that you could cut out and glue some uncooked Choo Choo Wheels onto, if you got the chance to swipe a few before Mom used them all to make your lunch.

Well, nostalgia is fun, but given that most of our diners here at the Bistro are past the age of sitting at the table playing with their Choo Choo Wheels, we’re substituting shell pasta in our Old Fashioned Chicken Fricassee. Trust us, it’ll still taste the same. Our chicken is a mixture of white and dark meat, with some of it thigh meat still on the bone for richer flavor. And you’ll get a lot of chicken along with this rich sauce that includes butter, flour, heavy cream, onions, celery, shallots, egg yolks, and some spicing courtesy of salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg and lemon juice.

This is dinner just like Mom used to make…assuming Mom used James Beard’s cookbooks, that is. If not, you owe it to yourself to taste what you’ve been missing, especially on a day like today on which the snowflakes are starting to flutter down. Put your wheels down at the Bistro tonight, and enjoy some real comfort food.

Behind the Dish: Halibut with Crab

Tonight’s James Beard special is halibut with a lump crab and artichoke velouté sauce (a stock-based white sauce). To prepare it, we made a shrimp stock from shrimp and lobster shells that were simmered with carrots, celery and onion, then strained and reduced the stock. We then made the basis for a white sauce and added the shrimp stock with a little black truffle paste and Parmesan cheese. We are serving the entree with a basil pesto torte. A truly elegant and delicious fish dish!

Behind the Dish: Shrimp Étouffée

The master chef who provided Julia with the recipe for today’s Julia Project dish is one likely familiar to many: Emeril Lagasse, the Cajun/Creole chef whose presence on TV is ubiquitous. (You can see him preparing the dish at the video linked here.)

Shrimp Étouffé calls for, first, a butter-and-flour roux, to which are added chopped onions, bell peppers and celery, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cayenne pepper and, of course, “Essence” (a combination of paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried oregano and dried thyme). Then shrimp stock is added and the whole combination is boiled, then simmered. Raw shrimp is seasoned with more of the Essence and added them to the pot and cooked through. With a little parsley added, the finished dish is served on steamed white rice and garnished with green onion. BAM!

Behind the Dish: Roasted Veal Chops and Sweetbreads with Lemon and Rosemary

What goes into Roasted Veal Chops and Sweetbreads with Lemon and Rosemary? Well, obviously, veal chops, lemon and rosemary. Veal “sweetbreads” are the thymus gland of the animal, and have a mild flavor and creamy texture; they’re often considered the best of all sweetbreads.

Julia Child acquired this recipe from Daniel Boulud, whose restaurant Daniel is one of the hottest eating spots in Manhattan. You can find a two-part video of its preparation linked here.

It starts with roasting the veal chops in a pan with vegetables. The ones we’re using are carrots, celery, turnips, and fingerling and redskin potatoes. The original recipe also calls for fennel; we’re using fennel seed. The sweetbreads are pierced with a sprig of fresh rosemary from our rooftop, fried in hot oil to crisp them, and seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

The chops are then roasted with slices of, and juice from, lemons (we’re using Meyer lemons — for their fragrance and sweetness), white wine (we’re using dry vermouth), more fresh rosemary and chopped parsley. Each meal will feature a chop topped with a sweetbread, surrounded by the vegetables and drizzled with vermouth-enhanced veal jus.

This is going to be a fine dish indeed. We hope you’ll join us.