Now. Now is the time to strike out and make all those asparagus dishes you have been savoring since asparagus finally disappeared last summer. You’ve seen ideas since then, craved them, clipped them, saved them in a drawer or on your computer.
Or, you can use something new. I recently posted a review of a fabulous meat cookbook, Lidgate’s, from Great Britain. It’s a great book, one of the best meat cookbooks you will ever see, and one worthy of you taking a look. And, if you ldo ook, you will surely want to buy and try many of the recipes that are brilliantly written and photographed here. Lidgate's will appear on bookstore shelves on May 3rd.
British food is famous for using meat, whether it is mammal, poultry or fish. And the British love their pies. Having “crust” seems almost mandatory for at least one of your dinner dishes. This pie, abundant with chicken and carefully prepared asparagus, is the perfect springtime meal. It’s hearty enough for a cool spring night and rich enough to make any brunch or Sunday family meal a fulfilling success. There are multiple steps in this recipe: making a stock with woody asparagus bottoms, cooking the chicken in that stock, sauteing veggies and then the asparagus tips, pouring all the ingredients into a pie dish, and topping with the crust. It's a dish for when you want to Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, music playing and the wine bottle slowly emptying. And, some white wine is optional here anyway, so why not enjoy a glass along the way.
Go green. Go asparagus.
Chicken and Asparagus Pie
Yield: serves 4
For the asparagus:
¾ ounces unsalted butter
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
½ tablespoon plain flour
¼ pint full-fat creme fraiche
Freshly grated nutmeg
14 ½ ounces asparagus, woody ends broken off and reserved
Squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry:
7 ounces plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of fine sea salt
3 ½ ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, for egg wash
For the stock and chicken:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
4 ounces white wine (optional)
6meaty chicken drumsticks
17 ounces water
First make the pastry. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add half the egg wash and mix roughly with a table knife. Use your hands to form it into a dough, then knead briefly. Shape it into a ball, wrap in cling film or greaseproof paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the stock. Pour the oil into a saucepan, add the celery, onion, carrot, bay leaf and woody asparagus bits and sweat over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine (if using), bring to the boil and bubble for a minute to burn off the alcohol.
Add the drumsticks and water to the pan, return to the boil, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 4O0°F.
Strain the stock and measure out 400ml (14.fl ounces).
Save any left over for use in another dish. Discard the vegetables and bay leaf. Allow the chicken to cool slightly, then take the meat off the bones, discarding the skin. Cut into large chunks.
Melt the butter in a sauté pan on a medium-low heat, add the shallot and celery, season well and cook until soft (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in the flour, add the measured stock and creme fraiche, stir to combine and bring to the boil. Allow to bubble away to thicken slightly. Add the chicken chunks and asparagus tips and simmer for 3 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Tip the chicken mixture into a pie dish, about 25 x 20 x 7cm (10 x 8 x 3in). Put a pie funnel or an upturned eggcup in the center.
Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry so it is about 5cm (2in) larger all round than the pie dish. Cut 1-inch strips from each edge of the pastry. Press these on to the lip of the pie dish, trim off any excess and brush with the remaining egg wash. Press the pastry lid firmly on top of the pastry rim, then crimp the edges together to seal. Reroll the pastry trimmings and cut out shapes to decorate the pie, sticking them on with the egg wash.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and the pastry is cooked through.
Source: Lidgate's, The Meat Cookbook [Mitchell Beazley, 2016]
I love to shop. I’m happy to go with my wife and spend hours walking around, going from store to store or hitting the grocery to get the ingredients for a weekend feast.
I love to shop. Except when Suzi says, “Go get some milk.” I dread the milk section of my market, of any market. It’s become too confusing. There used to be whole milk, low-fat, and heavy cream. You could find the whole milk in a flash.
Now, I can search for minutes to find that whole milk, surrounded by shelves filled with all kinds of other “milks.” I’ve asked myself two questions: what are those things and how would you use them.
Dina Cheney has been a prolific cookbook author for a decade and her new book, The New Milks, will be on the bookstore shelves on May 3rd. Dina answers my milk questions with intelligence, charm, and taste.
Convectional dairy milk is controversial for some people and for others, the lactose intolerant, it’s just plain hard to use. Sometimes I can have milk-based ice cream with no issue and sometimes I swear I have to stop and rethink the whole whole milk thing.
The New Milks will help me with that reevaluation of milk in my life. Dina suggests making milks from soy, nuts, seeds, grains, and coconut. A twenty page introduction gives you all the steps and knowledge you need to make these new milks. There is a solid, detailed comparison of the nutrition provided by dairy versus these alternative milks. A major advantage of these new milks is that they are far lower in sugar and calories and fat. In short, they are a healthy alternative and let you avoid those lactose issues.
With the formulas in hand for making these milks, what do you do with them? Dina supplies ideas for the entire day in chapters to walk you through the day.
In Breakfast, you can sample:
Mexican Frittata with Corn and Zucchini made with almond milk
Hazelnut Pancakes with Molasses made with rice milk
French Toast with Cinnamon and Vanilla made with cashew milk
Lunch & Dinner Entrees offers more ideas that are seemingly familiar but made with these new milk ideas:
Lasagna with Butternut Squash, Shitake Mushroom and Swiss Chard made with cashew milk
Spiced Peas and Tofu with Coconut Milk
Grilled Rosemary Mushrooms with Red Wine Balsamic Reduction over Polenta with soy milk
Buttermilk “Fried Chicken” with Siracha Honey made with soy milk
Soups, Sides, Sauces, & Dressing suggests that every component of the meal can use the new milks:
Southwestern Corn Chowder with “Bacon” and Bell Pepper made with soy milk
Parsnip Puree with Hazelnuts and Sage made with hazelnut milk
Mashed Cauliflower with “Brown Butter” and Sage made with cashew milk
Creamy Basil and Chive Dressing made with soy milk
Breads & Sweets is the biggest chapter with over forty recipes, some classically familiar and some brightly new:
Banoffee Pie with coconut milk
Strawberry Cornbread with Coconut Sugar made with cashew milk
Spiced Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Raspberries using almond milk
Curried Cashew Pudding
Mexican Chocolate Pudding using hemp milk
Finally the Drinks chapter offers us:
Pumpkin-Maple Smoothie using almond milk
Hazelnut Hot Chocolate with hazelnut milk
Sweet Almond Rose Tea made with almond milk
The New Milks is an interesting “alternative” cookbook. Whether for reasons of conscience or health, if you need to shift from dairy, then this book shows that shift can be delicious and accomplished without sacrifice. And, even if you down some dairy milk every day, trying the Hazelnut Hot Chocolate is something just might make you even happier!
Suzi and I just returned from ten days in Paris. My nose is slightly flattened. Every block, I had to stop and press my face against the glass of the “best patisserie I’ve ever seen.” Block after block. It’s a good thing that sugar has to actually be ingested, rather than just observed, to affect your glucose level. Although I got pretty excited at times.
And so did Suzi. We looked at the perfect pastries — cakes, tarts, cookies, choux wonders, macaroons — and had the same question we always do: how do they make all this stuff. And do it so perfectly.
Christine France is a cookbook author with many fine volumes in her repertoire. This book, Chocolate Ecstasy from 1996, is a treasure of wonderful Paris-class recipes. The picture at the bottom shows a White Chocolate Cappuccino Cake: luscious, rich, and apparently complicated.
But it’s doable. Like the other recipes in Chocolate Ecstasy, this is a two-pager with one big picture and then text with several smaller photos inserted to show the step-by-step path from eggs, sugar, coffee, flour and white chocolate to this patisserie-class marvel. It looks complex, but it really is not. If white chocolate and coffee make you smile, then you will probably be fully laughing as you make this treat and then gobble it away.
The 75 recipes in Chocolate Ecstasy include:
Cranberry and Chocolate Squares
Chocolate Cinnamon Doughnuts
Frosted Chocolate Fudge Cake
Baked Chocolate and Raisin Cheesecake
Chocolate Roulade with Coconut Whisky Cream
Rich Chocolate Brioche Pudding
Chocolate, Date and Almond Filo Rolls
Raspberry, Mascarpone and White Chocolate Cheesecake
Rich Chocolate Pistachio Fudge
The recipes are “simple” in that they are all just one page: a few short paragraphs. The recipes are “complex” in that multiple flavors and textures are intertwined to give you something that looks luscious and tastes that way, too. The Frosted Fudge Cake, for example, just goes that extra step from chocolate cake with chocolate frosting to dense cake slathered with fudgy frosting. The cake is made with brown sugar and yogurt. And, there is yogurt in the frosting, too, to make this cake completely tangy and refreshingly different.
Chocolate Ecstasy is filled with recipes following this double theme: beauty to the eye, surprise to your mouth. It’s a lovely book, unfortunately out of print but available still through the used book section at Amazon. If you add this book to your library, you will indeed find ecstasy.