It’s been a whirlwind of classes in Louviers and Paris for the last many weeks, and recently in one of my favorite U.S. cities, Asheville. Each class is so different and so unique, depending on those who come to participate, the nuances of the season and the ingredients, the choice of dishes, the location. I love them all.
Asheville never ceases to delight, with its wide variety of restaurants –Curaté remains my favorite; its artist community – I just discovered Michael Hoffman’s gorgeous lace-patterned porcelain; what I believe is the finest bakery in the country, Dave Bauer’s Farm and Sparrow; it’s muscadine and scuppernong grapes which, next year, I will be sure to incorporate into a dish and a dessert while there. And then there is, of course, Barbra Love’s amazing kitchen, without which the class wouldn’t be possible!
I’m now back in Louviers and I’ve just completed a class which had us cooking eggplant and tomatoes. How can this be at the tail end of October? Nature has given us an extra bounty of warmth and sun, that’s how. I just checked with Baptiste to see if he would still have tomatoes and eggplant at tomorrow’s market. “Tout est mort” he responded, “Everything is dead”. Until Wednesday, summer was hiding in the wings. Now, autumn is truly here.
I leave you with an autumn recipe, knowing that for most of you, “tout est mort” also.
BETTERAVES, PANAIS, CARROTS SUR LIT DE CELERI PUREE
BEETS, PARSNIPS, CARROTS ON A BED OF CELERY ROOT PUREE
Use a mandolin to slice the vegetables for this recipe; they need to be almost paper-thin.
1 small celery root, peeled and coarsely chopped
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 carrot, peeled and trimmed, sliced into very thin rounds
1 small yellow beet, peeled, sliced very thin
1 small red beet, peeled, sliced very thin
¼ cup crème fraîche
For the Beet Syrup:
1 small red beet, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
For the confit of shallots:
1/3 cup (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, very thinly sliced
Chervil, flat-leaf parsley, or chiso sprouts
1. Fill a saucepan half-full with water. Add the juice from the ½ lemon, a big pinch of salt, and some white pepper. Bring to a simmer and whisk in 2 tablespoons flour. Cook for 1 minute, then add the celery root. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat so the water is boiling gently, cover, and cook until the celery root is completely tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid.
2. Place the grated beet in a saucepan and cover it by 3-inches (7.5cm) with cooking liquid from the vegetable slices. Set it over medium heat. When the water is boiling, cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beet is tender, checking to be sure there is enough water to continue to cover the beet. When the beet is tender, strain the cooking liquid, return it to the pan, add the sugar and the vinegar and continue cooking until it is thickened and syrup-like, 8-10 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.
3. Bring a medium-sized saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.
4. When the water is boiling, add 18 slices of the carrot. When the water returns to the boil reduce the heat to medium high, and cook the slices until they are nearly tender through, 2 to 3 minutes. While the vegetable slices are cooking, prepare a bowl of ice water. Set a sieve in the ice water so that it is completely under water.
5. When the slices are tender, transfer them carefully to the sieve in the ice water. While they are chilling, cover a cooling rack with a cotton towel. As soon as the slices are chilled, transfer them carefully to the towel-lined, cooling rack, arranging them in a single later.
6. Return the water to the boil over high heat. Add 18 yellow beet slices and cook until they are nearly tender through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer them to the ice water, then to the towel-covered cooling rack.
7. Finally, return the water to a boil and add the 18 slices of red beet to the water. Cook until they are nearly tender through, then transfer the slices to the ice water, then to the cooling rack.
8. To make the shallots, place them and the oil in a small, heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat. Cook until the shallots are golden, stirring and watching them carefully, for about 15 minutes. Transfer them immediately to a heat-proof bowl.
9. Place the celery root in a food processor with ¼ cup crème fraîche. Purée the celery root, then pass it through a drum sieve so it is smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg to taste. Place it in a saucepan and set it over low heat until it is hot through, stirring often.
10. To serve, place a round of celery root puree in the center of a shallow soup bowl, spreading it out thin. Arrange the sliced vegetables on top, curling them and making them look as though they « fell » on the puree. Using a very small spoon, drizzle the reduced beet cooking liquid at regular intervals around the edges of the celery puree. Garnish with the herb sprouts, and sprinkle all with fleur de sel.