Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jamming On My Mandoline

I bought a mandoline yesterday and it has totally blown my mind. I am of course referring to the French kitchen tool not the small stringed instrument. I spared no expense in my purchase, going for the top of the line stainless steel French mandoline, la mandoline professionelle from the de Buyer company. There are certain things that can only be accomplished with the help of a mandoline able to rapidly process fruits and vegetables into myriad cuts from a 2mm slice to a tiny julienne. Vegetable carpaccios, paper-thin salads, and fancy French cuts require the mandolins magic touch. I was overly giddy when I got home and could not wait to get play with the impressive piece of hardware. It is amazing how quickly you can get uniform and precise slices; even the sharpest knives and months of practice cannot compete. I decided to make dinner for my sister Emma and a few other friends testing the mandoline’s abilities. Dinner turned into a sort of cooking demo as I explored the various blades and applications. The first thing I did was slice a few fennel bulbs for a crisp fennel and green apple salad. After a few practice runs I finally got my desired thickness and began churning out paper-thin slices like a pro. Mike jumped on, equally intrigued by the new kitchen tool, and julienned a green apple into uniform batons the size of matchsticks. I tossed the fennel and apple with olive oil, sherry vinegar, and a generous pinch of salt to accompany grilled pork chops. The first course of my mandoline-crazed meal was a mushroom soup, one of my sister’s all time favorite dishes. This woodsy soup is definite comfort food for our family. My father used to make it all the time when he would entertain and it grew into a Malle/Lyman classic. The mix of bread and mushrooms makes this a hearty soup that could just as easily be served as a main with a salad and piece of fruit.

Mushroom Soup

1/4 lb. Cremini Mushrooms
1/4 lb. Button Mushrooms
1 large Yellow Onion
3 Garlic Cloves
5 sprigs of Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
1 Sourdough Loaf
1/4 cup Milk
4 cups Chicken Stock

Chop the onion and cook in olive oil with a little salt in a Dutch oven or stew pot over medium heat. Slice the mushrooms and garlic about an 1/8 inch and add to the pot after the onions have become translucent. Add thyme leaves and a bay leaf and cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, soak three thick slices of bread in a large bowl with a cup of stock until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add the bread and stock to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth but chunky with noticeable morsels of mushroom remaining. Return to the pot, add milk, and warm through. Serve topped with a sprig of thyme. Serves 4-6.

The main course, which sadly did not involve the mandoline, was grilled pork chops with grapefruit mustard sauce. I love pork products and treat myself to chops or tenderloin routinely. I know Emma has an affinity for pork chops, especially the thick double-cut ones, so I thought she would enjoy them. I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper and grilled them on a very hot cast iron grill pan for about 5 minutes a side, turning them a quarter turn for nice grill marks. I finished the chops in the oven at 400, to crisp the meat and cook it evenly for about 15 minutes depending on your choice of doneness. While the chops were resting I prepared the mustard sauce. This is a delicious sauce that works wonderfully with pork. Mix two tablespoons of whole grain mustard with a splash of grapefruit juice and a little good olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix until emulsified. I poured my batch into a plastic squeeze bottle for an elegant presentation. I drizzled two thick lines over each chop and made a little pool on the individual plates. Tasty time.

In addition to the fennel and green apple salad, I fried Yukon gold potatoes in duck fat. The fat was leftover from a dinner party I hosted last weekend featuring duck breast with blueberries, mint, and watercress. Anytime you make duck there is usually quite a bit of fat rendered out of the skin which should be kept at all costs. Any scraps or leftover bits should be reused when cooking; stocks and fat are prime products best made at home. Mike sliced the potatoes on the mandoline in two seconds flat and we fried them up in the tasty duck fat which imparted a fantastic flavor. The fennel salad with its crunch and subtle anise flavor complimented the warm pork chops while the potatoes rounded out the meal. The mustard sauce paired well with all three components and I look forward to using the rest in a salad dressing for lunch. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!


follypdx said...

xo.. sarah

Liz said...

Is this the party we missed? I'm so sorry to hear that. Looks incredible. I'm making duck this weekend... I'll check out the blueberry recipe...