Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mixed Seafood Cioppino with Basil

I'm a huge fan of bouillabaisse. The intoxicating combination of fresh shellfish in a flavourful broth with a hint of pernod, is a beautiful thing. I've been fortunate enough to have enjoyed bouillabaise in Marseille, the reputed home of the dish, but the best was at Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island in Florida. I spoke with one of the sous chefs a previous time I was there, and was told the secret to their recipe — homemade fish stock that takes 3 days to prepare! That's love. Oh yes, plus the freshest assortment of seafood you can imagine. I still order it every time I go there. Not all of us can pick up and head off to Anna Maria at the drop of a sunhat, but this recipe for Cioppino is a delicious and satisfying shellfish stew that is quick and simple to make. Don't be daunted by the list of ingredients, it all gets thrown into one pot and left to do its magic.

Mixed Seafood Cioppino with Basil
Serves 6 

1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 bay leaves
8 anchovies
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp tobasco
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed, or 1 tsp Pernod
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 28oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
2 6.5oz. cans of clams, with juices
1 lb mussels
1/2 lb calamari, cleaned and cut into 1/8-inch rings
1 lb cod or halibut, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups whole fresh basil
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add anchovies, onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and tabasco; cook until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and cook a minute more.  Whisk together wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and add to onion mixture. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, fennel seeds, worcestershire and vinegar and let simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the clams and their juices; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the mussels, cover the pan and let simmer 5 minutes. Add the fish, calamari and shrimp and simmer until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Discard any unopened mussels. Stir in the basil leaves just before serving.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nigella Lawson Dinner & Book Launch in Toronto

Given the opportunity to get up close and personal with Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson for a three-course dinner and launch of her new Italian cookbook Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes, how could I resist? Sponsored by The Globe & Mail, Random House of Canada and The Spice Trader at Toronto's Arcadian Court, the evening was a sell-out event.

Seating was on a first-come, first-served basis, which meant that there was already 
a long queue an hour before the doors opened at 6:00pm

Nigellissima is the ninth and latest offering from the celebrated food writer, and takes inspiration from when she lived and worked in Florence for a year as a chambermaid at a family-run pensione to immerse herself in Italian culture, language and cuisine for a year, before starting a degree in mediæval and modern languages back in the UK. It was at this pensione in Florence that Nigella forged a relationship with the grandmother of the young owners — Nonna — and consequently spent more and more time in her kitchen. Nonna, happy of the company, would let Nigella watch as she cooked. "She taught me by example, and drew me in. I never wanted to be anywhere else."

Nigella's newest cookbook Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes

The recipes in Nigellissima aren't from Nonna's kitchen, nor are they authentic Italian, but rather, they're how Nigella cooks Italian dishes at home. The cookbook is "a love letter to the pleasures of cooking and eating, the way the Italians do. With a nod to the traditional but in Nigella's signature style — food that is fresh, delicious and unpretentious."

The meal was a set three-course menu selected by Nigella from recipes in her new cookbook

The three-couse menu for An Evening with Nigella, was selected by Nigella Lawson from recipes in her new cookbook. Chef Michael Robertson, of Oliver & Bonacini, who run the catering arm of the newly renovated art deco Arcadian Room, was in charge of bringing her recipes to life, and in O&B fashion, he did a great job. Just before dinner was about to be served, Nigella Lawson joined the table just beside ours, seated beside Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail's wine columnist, who would be interviewing her on-stage later in the evening. 

Comfortable seating and a bouquet of fresh flowers await the on-stage interview 
with Nigella and Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail's wine columnist

Seated right next to our table was Nigella and Beppi!

Concilio Pinot Grigio was paired with Nigella's Roast Chicken

The menu started with Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil 'My Way' served with homemade Parmesan Shortbreads. The cherry tomatoes were halved and roasted to intensify their flavour. Served with some perfectly ripe Buffalo Mozzarella, a brilliant green fresh basil and olive oil purée and little Parmesan Shortbreads, the salad was light, bright and full of flavour. Even my husband, who doesn't eat raw tomato, finished this delicious caprese salad.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil 'My Way' served with Parmesan Shortbreads

The entrée was Nigella's Chicken with Tarragon Salsa Verde which was served with Roast Potatoes, and Broccolini with Parmesan and Lemon. Tarragon, as Nigella explains, is not often used in Italian cuisine, except perhaps in Tuscany, where it's quite dramatically called Dragoncello, and sometimes erba di Sienna, the herb of Sienna. It's chief appearance in that area is in salsa al dragoncello, where the herb is pounded with bread crumbs and garlic and then emulsified with olive oil to produce a fragrant sauce customarily served with plain boiled meats. Nigella made this recipe using organic corn-fed chicken breasts.

Chicken with Tarragon Salsa Verde, Roast Potatoes, and Broccolini 
with Parmesan & Lemon

The Olive Oil Chocolate Cake is outstanding. Although Nigella first came up with this recipe for a guest who couldn't eat wheat or dairy, it's so meltingly good, this dessert would be delicious whether ones diet is constrained or not. Made with almond meal, cocoa powder, vanilla, olive oil, eggs, baking soda and superfine sugar, this gorgeous little pud is perfect on it's own, but even more decadent with a scoop of coffee ice cream and a few berries for colour.

Nigella's Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

After dinner, Nigella took to the stage, looking rather gorgeous I must say. She has the most perfect porcelain skin, dark smouldering eyes and lulling voice all packed into a very tiny top-heavy frame. I was surprised just how small she actually was, nevertheless she managed to fill the room with the sheer weight of her engaging personality, keen intellect and wicked self-deprecating sense of humour — a delicious and intoxicating combination. Renowned for her relaxed and flirtatious manner, it becomes obvious that's just the way she is. Naturally charismatic and wholly captivating. 

"We're Jewish, which explains our love of food"

Although Beppi Crosariol did his best to guide the conversation on stage, it was Nigella's anecdotes and effusive story-telling that kept the momentum going. Working originally as a journalist, she freely admits that her first love is the written word. Lawson started work as a book reviewer and restaurant critic, later becoming the deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times. When her first husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she was quickly faced with being single Mom with young children and so decided to work from home. With no classical training, Nigella says that she's just a home cook, but says that's where she found her true 'writing voice' becoming a food writer. She shuns any sobriquet such as 'foodie' or 'celebrity chef', but laughs at being called the "Queen of food porn".

Dressed elegantly in black with bright red ankle-boots, Nigella resists any overtures by publishers to airbrush her tummy out. She says, "I'm greedy. I love food and I love to eat". 

Lawson is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Vanessa Salmon, whose family owned the J. Lyons & Co. empire, best known for their chain of English tea shops where busy shoppers could get a cup of tea and a snack or cheap and filling meal. The company was also a substantial food manufacturer producing bread, cakes, pies, tea, coffee and ice cream, so Nigella was immersed in food culture from an early age. 

"Everything in moderation - even moderation!"

When asked about launching Nigellissima in Italy earlier this year, she says the Italian press were very gracious. "Traditions are very meaningful to Italians, but as long as you're completely open and transparent about the recipes being inspired by her love of regional Italian dishes, they were very supportive. She says that writing the cookbook was rather like 'culinary glasnost.' 

"I'm an omnivore — I eat everything"

Nigella was asked what her favourite kitchen gadgets were: a standing mixer, immersion blender and mezzaluna. She also likes a small chopping board, because she's "lazy and doesn't want to clean up too much afterwards". What we might find in her refrigerator that might surprise us? Plastic wrapped sliced bacon and chocolate milk for the children. She also has a stash of good chocolate in the house, which she says her daughter will take a square or two and then put the rest back in the cupboard. In contrast, many of her daughter's young friends are always on a diet and see chocolate and sweets as the enemy. Nigella is quick to point out that "the culture of denial for dietary reasons is a dangerous path. Everything in moderation, even moderation." 

"Two ingredients I can't do without - Maldon salt and Colman's mustard. 
I even travel with them."

Any food that she dislikes? "I can't abide green peppers. I don't know know if there's any reason to eat them unless you're Hungarian." When asked about ingredients she can't do without — "Maldon salt and Colman's mustard. I even travel with them! Lemons too. Salt and lemons - two all important ingredients". Best meal she's ever eaten? "A restaurant in Saturnia, a spa town in Tuscany which has sulphur springs. The smell is absolutely atrocious. The restaurant isn't very pretty either, but they serve the most gorgeous suckling pig, which I adore. I'm happy it eating greedily any day, despite the smell!"

Nigella signing our book and captivated by my husband! 

After over an hour on stage, Nigella cocooned herself outside the Arcadian dining room with a big sharpie pen and began signing everyone's personal copy of Nigellissima. Looking completely relaxed and engaging with each person standing in line, Nigella's voluble nature and unquenchable zeal was inspiring. Suffering from the flu, I was far less eloquent and stood aside as she bantered flirtatiously with my husband. Fellow Brits, they sounded like 'two peas in a pod', or rather, due piselli in un baccello!

The end of a great evening!

Nigella's Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Serves 8 to 12

1/2 cup boiling water
6 tbsp good quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup almond-meal flour or 3/4 plus 1 tbsp cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup superfine sugar
3 large eggs
2/3 cups olive oil, plus more for greasing

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil and line the bottom with parchment paper. Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl or pitcher and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth chocolatey, still runny paste. Whisk in the vanilla, then set aside to cool a little. 

In another small bowl, combine the almond meal or flour with baking soda and a pinch of salt.

Combine sugar with eggs and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat on high for about 3 minutes 
until the mixture is fluffy, pale yellow thickened cream. Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in, you can slowly tip in the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) mixture. 

Scrape down and stir a little with a spatula, then pour this dark liquid batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the sides are set and the very centre and top still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come out clean but with a few chocolate crumbs clinging to it. 

Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its pan, and then esae the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the pan. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm with ice cream, as a dessert.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Salmon, Dill, Potato & Smoked Fish Chowder

Dill is the perfect partner in this light and delicious salmon and smoked fish potato chowder. Chunky and full of flavour, surprisingly this recipe doesn't use cream or butter, so it's lighter in calories than the traditional version, yet hearty and robust enough to be completely satisfying. Celery and onion are first sautéed with a little olive oil, then a dash of flour is added to thicken the sauce. Chicken stock and milk provide the light base for the broth, a small of dice of potato anchors the chowder, the fresh salmon and smokey mackerel provide the punch, and a handful of dill towards the end seals the deal. Refreshingly light and enormously flavourful, this Salmon, Dill, Potato and Smoked Fish Chowder satisfies the tummy while being flattering to the waistline.

Salmon, Dill, Potato & Smoked Fish Chowder
Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
5 oz yellow onion, finely chopped
8 oz potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/4" dice
1 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk or light cream
4 oz salmon filet, skin and bones removed
4 oz smoked mackerel
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
salt and white pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the celery and onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock and potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender. Shred the salmon and smoked mackerel quite roughly and add to the soup. Simmer 3-5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Stir in the milk and dill and cook on low until warmed through. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stracciatella with Leeks, Orzo & Spinach

Nearly every culture has a soup based on chicken and egg. Sometimes it's in the form of egg and flour dumplings such as the Russian-German Knephla Soup, or the Algerian Djari Byad which sees egg yolks and lemon juice being whisked into chicken soup at the last moment. This dish is an example of how the Italians can also take the simplest of ingredients and put them together in a way that looks, smells and tastes absolutely delicious. Stracciatella is a rustic Roman egg-drop soup that's traditionally served with a handful of cheese, but in this modern version, spinach, orzo, chicken and sautéed leeks have also been added for a rich and satisfying twist on the Italian classic. 

The name Stracciatella translates as 'torn apart' or 'rags' in Italian, which aptly describes the eggs, which look like tiny torn rags as they cook in the broth. This easy recipe is prepared by simply adding sautéed leeks, shredded chicken, grated pecorino, salt, pepper, parsley, nutmeg, and orzo to boiling chicken broth. Beaten egg is then added in a slow stream to produce the stracciatelle, or little shreds of cooked egg, producing a rich and satisfying dish from the simplest of ingredients. A hearty rustic soup, Stracciatella with Leeks, Orzo & Spinach is easy to prepare and makes a perfect lunch or first course.

Stracciatella with Leeks, Orzo & Spinach
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil
2 8 bone-in chicken breasts with skin on
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 cup cooked or frozen spinach, chopped
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup orzo
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and ground pepper. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the chicken, skin side down, and sauté until browned, about five minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, about another three minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. Do not drain the oil from the pot.

Add the chopped leeks, parsley, spinach and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the leeks begin to soften, about three minutes. Pour in 6 cups of the chicken stock, reserving the last 1/2 cup for the eggs. Return the chicken to the pot, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 20 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, beat two eggs with the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken stock and 1/4 cup of parmesan until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and set aside.

After 20 minutes, add the orzo, cover and let cook about 7-8 minutes, until it's almost cooked through. Once the orzo is al dente, remove the chicken breasts from the soup, remove and discard the skin. Using two forks, pull the meat off the bone and shred into bite sized pieces. Return the chopped chicken to the soup and discard the bones.

Pour the beaten egg mixture into the soup, whisking vigorously. Turn the heat to medium-high and simmer, whisking occasionally for five minutes. Don’t be alarmed if the soup begins to look curdled, that’s how it looks as the eggs cook. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into warmed soup bowl and garnish with grated parmesan and chopped Italian parsley.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cheddar Dill Scones

These savoury Cheddar Cheese and Dill Scones are a flavourful twist on the traditional currant scones typically served with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Delicious on their own, or served with soup or salad, they can be on the table in half an hour, start to finish. The great thing is that any combination of ingredients, from your favourite cheeses, herbs or savoury selections can be used for your own custom biscuits: Asiago, Feta, Parmesan, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, bacon, chives, rosemary, curry, cayenne or even buttermilk instead of cream — the possibilities are endless.

Cheddar Dill Scones
Makes 20 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 oz cold butter, diced
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 pound extra-sharp yellow Cheddar, small-diced
1/2 cup minced fresh dill
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine 2 cups of flour, the baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Combine until just blended. Toss together the Cheddar, dill, and 1 tablespoon of flour and add them to the dough. Mix until they are almost incorporated.

Place the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 1 minute, until the Cheddar and dill are well distributed. Roll the dough 3/4-inch thick, and using a round cookie cutter, or rim of a glass 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide, cut the scones into rounds. Then brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 15-18 minutes, until the outside is golden brown and the inside is fully baked.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Yellow Split Pea Soup with Ham Hock

A classic Split Pea Soup with Ham is the perfect winter dish. Hearty, warm and delicious, it's easy to prepare, fun to make and it's also good for you. Made with dried split peas and cooked with an intensely flavourful, smokey ham hock, this hearty and satisfying soup can also be made as a 'day-after' soup, prepared with the bone and trimmings from a roast ham. For those of us who generally cook for two, it's just as convenient to buy a ham hock, but be sure to get your butcher to cut in half, as it will be easier to simmer in the soup later.

My very handsome ham hock. The hock is the joint between the foot 
of the hog and the upper thigh

I must admit that I love the look of ham hocks, and sometimes make this soup just so that I can buy one from the market. They may look like a tough cut, but when cooked slowly, they release a wonderful smoky flavour that is undeniably delicious, and gives the broth it's great flavour. Made with an impossibly short list of ingredients, this recipe for Split Pea Soup is great for lunch or dinner, it freezes well, and like many hearty soups or stews, it tastes even better the following day.

Split Yellow Pea Soup with Ham Hock
6 to 8 

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 1/2 cups split peas
1 1/2 lb smoked ham hock
8 cups chicken stock 
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, saute onion, celery and carrots over medium-high heat, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened but not browned. Add the peas, ham hock, thyme and bay leaves and cover with stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for 1 hour. 

Remove the thyme, bay leaves and ham hock. Process the soup in a blender, food processor, until smooth, then return to a clean pan. I use an immersion blender, so I can make the soup in one pot. Once the ham hock has cooled, pull the meat off the bone and shred into small pieces. Add the ham to the soup and heat through gently, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish with dollop of sour cream, crème fraiche or greek yoghurt, and finish with a sprig of fresh parsley.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wolfgang Puck: 85th Academy Awards Oscar Menu

It's time again for the most glamorous award show of the year, the Oscars, and for the 19th consecutive year, Austrian celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck will be creating the menu for the Governors Ball, the star-studded party following the Academy Awards. "Our goal each year is to honor Hollywood’s brightest stars and most accomplished artists with a culinary masterpiece. "After the Oscars, everyone is so hungry they don’t care that it’s fattening. We’re lucky. Most people don’t eat before they go to the Oscars. Everybody wants to fit into their dress, and makeup and hair take a long time, so that doesn’t leave time for a leisurely lunch. So come ten at night, people will eat anything."

Smoked Salmon Oscars with Beet & Goat Cheese Napoleons

Wolfgang Puck's famous Tuna Tartare in Sesame Miso Cones

Vegetable Spring Rolls, with Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce

This years menu includes such signature favourites as smoked salmon Oscars, chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles, and mini Kobe burgers with aged cheddar and remoulade. "Members of the Academy love chicken pot pie," says Puck, who has kept the most-requested dish on the menu along with some modern dishes such as Japanese baby peach salad, steamed red snapper with Thai spice, Tuna Niçoise with green olives, and new vegan options including kale salad with grilled artichoke and lemon vinaigrette, beluga lentils with cauliflower and baby vegetables, and farro with apple, beet and spiced walnut.

Japanese baby peach salad

Kombu Chip with Edamame Guacamole

Kale Salad with Grilled Artichoke and Lemon Vinaigrette

Steamed Red Snapper with Thai Spices

Chestnut Tortellini with White Truffles

Concord Grape Macaron

This years Academy Award nominated films

"We have so many great nominated movies from Argo and Les Miserables to Silver Linings Playbook. It's a really great year for movies with lots of variety, so we are going to serve a variety of dishes," Puck says. "But people always want these Mini Kobe Burgers. I can give them caviar, but they still ask for them. It’s the funniest thing, people are thinking about them already at the Oscars, because most of them are hungry. It’s such a staple now. We went from regular beef to kobe beef and sometimes we put black truffles on them. Some people say, 'what's the black stuff on top?' They’re not all gourmets who come to the Oscars!"

Mini Kobe Burgers with Aged Cheddar and Remoulade - "We make the brioche ourselves 
and use the best beef, a truffle aioli and a sharp cheddar cheese"

Vegan Pizza with Pesto and Grilled Vegetables

Catering for 1,500 of the most important people in Hollywood takes a hefty staff, Puck explains. An incredible 300 chefs and kitchen staff will prepare for the Governor's Ball, and 650 waiters will serve on the floor. The kitchen will go through five kilos of American farm raised caviar, 10 pounds of white truffles from Italy, 10 pounds of winter black truffles from Burgundy, and 30 pounds of edible gold dust, which will be used in part for dessert maven Sherry Yard's gold-dusted chocolate Oscars. She'll also have over 150 other desserts on hand, from edible sugar chandeliers, mini Baked Alaska pops, Chocolate Crème Brulee with Raspberries and Concord grape macarons, inspired by the Ball's décor this year of aubergine, chartreuse and champagne.

Pastry Chef Sherry Yard frosting her Chocolate Soufflé Cake

Chef Yard's macarons

This years Governor's Ball décor: aubergine, chartreuse and champagne

The Governor's Ball signature cocktail this year - Ultimat Blue Sunrise 

Oscar winners, nominees and presenters will be toasting to the year in movies with Thiénot champagne, the exclusive champagne of the Oscars, along with this years Governor's Ball signature cocktail, The Ultimat Blue Sunrise, made with ultra-premium Ultimat vodka, and fresh blueberry and mango juices. In an effort towards environmental responsibility, the Academy promises to recycle materials used at the event, compost floral arrangements and donate unused, prepared food to L.A. Specialty Chefs to End Hunger — Bravo.

The Ultimat Blue Sunrise
Serves 1

1 1⁄2 oz Ultimat Vodka 
1⁄2 oz Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur 
2 oz Fresh Blueberry Juice 
1 oz Fresh Mango Juice 
Blueberry or blackberry Garnish 
Silver Sugar Rim

Combine Ultimat vodka, Patron Citronge, fresh blueberry and mango juice in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a spear of fresh blueberries or blackberries.

Wolfgang Puck’s Mini Cheese Burgers with Remoulade & Aged Cheddar 
Makes 12 mini burgers

3/4 lb ground beef
1/4 tsp Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 oz aged cheddar cheese, sliced
6 slices Brioche bread, punched out with a 2-inch ring cutter or 12 mini buns
Arugula leaves
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
3 cornichons, sliced

Remoulade Sauce:
2 cups heavy cream
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3/4 cup of brunoise of red onion
1/2 cup of brunoise of red bell pepper
1/2 cup of brunoise of yellow bell pepper

For the remoulade sauce, combine the heavy cream, garlic, rosemary and paprika in a medium saucepan, and reduce by half. Allow to cool to room temperature. In a sauté pan, heat the peanut oil. Sweat the onions, red and yellow bell pepper until glossy. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat a grill or grill pan. Put the ground beef in a bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together with your hands to combine. Take about 2 tablespoons of the ground beef and roll it in the palm of your hand like you are making meatballs. Flatten the top slightly and put the mini burger patties on a side plate. Drizzle the burgers with oil and season the tops with salt and pepper. Turn the burgers over and season the other side.

Place the burgers on the hot grill. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn them over with tongs. Put about 1/2 ounce of aged cheddar cheese on top of the burgers, allowing it to melt. While that’s cooking, put the brioche circles or mini buns on the grill. Let them toast slightly on both sides, about 2 minutes total time.

To put the burgers together: Put the toasted brioche circles or bun halves on a platter. Top each with a small spoonful of Remoulade. Put the burger on top, cheese side up, followed by an arugula leaf, a slice of tomato and a slice of cornichon. Top with other half of the brioche or buns, and secure with a decorative pick.