19 November 2011

Girl In The Kitchen

I have watched Top Chef since the beginning and only once has the chef I wanted to win actually won the competition. Stephanie Izard was that winner. I have been looking forward to her cookbook and Girl in the Kitchen doesn't disappoint. The book captures Izard's sunny and bright personality. She is a girl in the kitchen, so one is never in danger of hearing shouting and cursing in the background. Nothing gets slammed or bammed or yelled at. That is not to say that the recipes are not "chefy." The Pan-roasted New York Steak with Sautéed Cucumbers and Salted Goat Milk Caramel will require 3 days, quited a bit of organizing and sourcing of ingredients. (And convincing anyone there should be caramel on a strip steak...)

Most recipes, however, have a "tip" for getting things done and many have drink ideas in case you don't know what to drink with Fried Cheese with Spring Veggies and Strawberry reduction. (That one stumps me every time. Bourbon? No, rosé.) If you watched Top Chef with Izard as a contestant (or should I say cheftestant? No! No one should ever say "cheftestant."), you will be familiar with her style of slightly Asian inspired Mediterranean cooking. Even the steak's goat's milk caramel has a bit of fish sauce thrown in.

Our one big problem with book is the four column list of ingredients. Surely there was a lot of "design" thought put into this format, but it is distracting.

We don"t mean to obsess on the weird, so here is a rather straight forward and yummy clam dish for you to try.

Clams Steamed with Corn, Bacon, and Fingerlings

12 ounces fingerling potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
24 fresh littleneck clams, scrubbed
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoon crème fraiche
1 tablespoon butter
Several sprigs fresh mint leaves, chopped for garnishing

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Toss the potatoes with a few teaspoons olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish and season with salt and pepper. Roast potatoes until they are slightly tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool, then slice into 1/2-inch rounds.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook it until the fat is rendered and the bacon is just browned, about 7 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and sweat by cooking them until they are tender but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sliced potatoes, corn, and clams and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the wine and cover the pot and steam the clams for about 10 minutes. When the clams are completely open, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the vegetables and bacon to serving bowls or plates, leaving the liquid in the pot. (Discard any clams that do not open.)

4. Stir in the crème fraiche and butter into the pot and simmer over medium-low heat until just thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and spoon the sauce over the clams and veggies. Garnish with mint and serve.

On this cold day, I can think of nothing better.

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