Beef Carpaccio

Beef Carpaccio

Ever wondered how to slice raw beef so thin it practically melts on your tongue?  I considered Beef Carpaccio strictly restaurant fare until I discovered how easy it is to prepare.  All you need is a sharp knife, plastic wrap and something with weight, like the bottom of a small saucepan, to flatten the beef.

I prepare and plate the beef in advance, cover with plastic and refrigerate until needed.

When I’m ready to serve, I remove the plastic and top the beef with freshly dressed salad, shaved Parmesan and fleur de sel.

Perfect for those lazy summer days when you just don’t want to turn on the oven.

Serves 6 – 8 as an appetizer

8 ounces beef tenderloin fillet
salad greens

1/2 cup grapeseed or other mild-tasting oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon shallots, sliced
3 1/2 ounces fresh Parmesan shavings
freshly ground pepper
fleur de sel

Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the beef as thin as you can manage.

Place about an ounce of sliced beef on a sheet of plastic wrap and cover with a second layer of plastic wrap.  Gently pound the plastic-wrapped beef until it’s paper-thin; the bottom of a small pot or a  light roll of a rolling pin works well. Remove the top layer of plastic and invert the exposed beef onto a plate. Cover the beef and plate with plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Whisk the grapeseed oil and vinegar in a small bowl and season with salt.

Just before serving, remove the plastic from the beef, toss the salad with vinaigrette and heap it on the beef along with the sliced shallots, freshly shaved Parmesan, cracked black pepper and a pinch of fleur de sel.


Poached Halibut

Poached Halibut

When halibut is in season, I can’t get enough.  Roasted, pan seared or poached — it’s all good.

One of my favourite ways to serve halibut is poached in a classic fish broth enriched with a bit of butter.  If you’ve got compound butter on hand, even better.

The simplicity of the dish requires the freshest of fish, homemade stock and garden fresh vegetables.  Nothing else will do.

This recipe originally appeared in EAT Magazine May/June 2011

Serves 4

2 pounds fresh halibut, skin removed and cut into four portions
3 shallots, diced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups home-made halibut stock
1 sprig thyme
1 – 2 Thai chili peppers, seeds removed
salt and pepper, to taste
12 ounces fresh green beans, topped, tailed and blanched*
¾ cup fresh peas blanched* or frozen peas, thawed but not cooked
1 tablespoon butter, for the blanched vegetables
fresh dill or fennel sprigs for garnish

Method

In a wide, straight-sided saucepan, deep enough to poach the halibut, saute the shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter until translucent. Increase the heat and add the white wine; cook until the wine has evaporated and almost no liquid remains. Add the fish stock, thyme and chili pepper(s) and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer (not a boil).

Generously season the halibut pieces with salt and pepper and add them to the simmering stock; the liquid should cover at least three-quarters of the halibut (the top portion of the halibut will be steamed). Poach, loosely covered, for about 7 minutes. To test the fish for doneness, make a small slit with a paring knife in the thickest part of the fillet; all but the center of each piece should be opaque. Remove the fish before it is completely cooked through. The residual heat will continue cooking the fish. Transfer the fish to warmed soup bowls and tent with foil.

Bring the poaching stock to a boil and reduce the liquid by about half. Remove the chili pepper(s) from the stock, a generous pinch of salt and whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter or, if you have it on hand, compound butter. Taste the broth for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

In a small pan, briefly saute the blanched vegetables in 1 tablespoon of butter to warm them through. Season with salt, if necessary.

Pour the stock around the poached halibut and add the warmed vegetables. Garnish with fresh dill or fennel sprigs.

* To blanch vegetables, fill a large pot with generously salted water (about 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt for every 8 cups of water).  Bring the water to a boil and add the vegetables, one variety at a time, and cook just tender but still firm. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water to prevent further cooking. Drain the vegetables.


Halibut Fish Stock

Halibut Fish Stock

If you enjoy seafood,  you’ll love what homemade fish stock does to chowders, sauces and stews.  Fish stock can be made with any type of white fish, but halibut is in season and it creates the most delicate, flavourful broth imaginable.

Vegetables,  herbs, wine, water and halibut bones create a milky stock that outshines anything in a box, can or cube.  Unlike beef or chicken stock, fish stock only needs to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Most fish stores, or seafood departments, are happy to save their halibut bones for you.  If you ask nicely, they might even chop them into manageable sized pieces, which you’ll appreciate because some halibut are enormous. Call ahead to find out when the next halibut shipment arrives.

Makes approximately 8 cups of stock

2 ½ – 3 pounds fresh halibut trim, chopped
into 2″- 3″chunks and rinsed in cold water
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or any mild tasting
vegetable oil)
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 leeks, white part only, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped
4 whole garlic cloves
1 cup dry white wine
1 bouquet garni (bouquet of herbs): bundle
together with kitchen string a few sprigs of fresh
thyme and a generous handful of fresh parsley,
including stems
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
cold water

Fish Stock

In a large stock pot, gently sauté the onions, celery, leek,
fennel and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the
vegetables soften slightly, without browning. Add the wine;
continue to cook until the wine has evaporated by about half.
Add the fish bones and cook gently for a few minutes just until
the meat on the fish bones starts to turn opaque. Add the
bouquet garni, bay leaves, peppercorns and enough cold water
to just cover the ingredients.

Bring the stock to a gentle simmer and continue to simmer
for 30 minutes. The stock should not boil.

Strain the stock, discarding the solids, and use immediately
or refrigerate for up to three days.

The stock can be transferred
to plastic freezer bags and kept frozen for up to four months.


Spot Prawns

Spot Prawns

Spot Prawns

Spot prawn season is so brief, it hardly seems fair.  If you’re lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest, you owe it to yourself to indulge as often as possible during the prawns’ fleeting season, from May to June.

Spot prawns are so sweet and succulent they need little fussing.  Some purists eat them raw, sashimi style, fresh off the boat.  If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy them cooked, ever so briefly, with a pat of compound (flavoured) butter.  If you don’t have compound butter on hand, regular butter and a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice will do nicely.

Just promise me you won’t smother your delicate prawns in cocktail sauce. That’s no way to treat a gift from the sea.

To read more about the mighty spot prawn visit www.wildbcspotprawns.com

2 pounds (900 g) spot prawns, heads and shells removed (reserve and freeze for another use)
¼ cup herb butter

Herb Compound Butter
8 oz (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup freshly chopped mixed herbs ~ parsley, dill, cilantro, chives, tarragon, or a
combination of herbs
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice – approximately one lemon
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeño pepper or ½ a serrano pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 tsp salt

Method
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the butter with the herbs, lemon juice, garlic and peppers.  Mix until well blended. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon, salt and pepper if desired.

Melt 1 – 2 Tbsp compound butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches (so as not to crowd the pan), sauté the shrimp in butter for about two minutes or until the shrimp are just opaque in the center.  Transfer the shrimp and any buttery juices to a plate.  Repeat with the remaining shrimp.  Don’t hesitate to melt additional herb butter to drizzle over the cooked shrimp.

Leftover herb butter can be wrapped in plastic, rolled up sausage style, and stored in the freezer. When it’s time for the next prawn feast, simply slice a few disks of herb butter and use as needed.


Meringue

Meringue

I learned to make meringue at culinary school and soon forgot all about them – until a home exchange in Bordeaux and Paris a summer ago.  Everywhere I looked, meringue were piled high in bakery windows as if they were something special.  

My twin daughters begged me to buy them.  

“Girls, they’re only egg whites and sugar.  I can make these any day.  Buy something special — we’re in France!”

“But Mom, meringue is special and you NEVER make them.”

Sometimes it takes a child, or two, to point out the obvious.

Originally published in EAT Magazine Nov/Dec 2011 issue.

Makes about 10 – 12

  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup extra fine granulated sugar (berry sugar)
  • 1 ½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup raspberry or strawberry jam

Photo by Caroline West

Your mixing bowl and whisk must be scrupulously clean  — the egg whites will not increase in volume if inadvertently mixed with traces of fat (like egg yolk).

Preheat oven to 250F

Using a standup or handheld mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until the volume has tripled. Slowly add the sugar in small batches, continuing to whip as you do so.  Increase the speed to high and whip until you have glossy, stiff peaks.  Reduce the  speed to low, add the cornstarch and vinegar and whisk until incorporated.

The meringue can be gently spooned into 3” – 4″ portions onto a parchment-lined baking tray or spooned into a pastry bag and piped onto a lined tray.  A piping bag, available at cookware stores, will give you a more professional result.  (I use a piping tip with a ¾” opening.) Dip a small knife into a bit of jam and gently drag the jam around the unbaked meringues to create a marbled effect.

Bake for about an hour until the meringues are dry. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven until they cool.  The meringues will crack slightly.  Cooled meringue can be stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place for a few days.

Note – at Christmas, I use puréed cranberries instead of jam.