Posts Tagged thomas keller

Spicy Pickled Carrots

As I mentioned earlier, I recently traveled to San Francisco to visit an old friend. We did some sightseeing – and of course, we did some eating – and I think my favorite stop on the whole trip was at Tartine Bakery.

Everything we ordered at Tartine was spot on. The bread pudding was moist, but not soggy. The asparagus monsieur was the happiest of marriages: melty cheese, crunchy bread, and roasted asparagus. My Americano was a thing of perfection.

Its been a few weeks since my trip to SF, and I still catch myself daydreaming about the late afternoon “snack” we had a Tartine.

But you want to know something funny? The one thing that really stuck with me were the side of pickled carrots.

There was just something special about them. I think that part of the reason I loved them so much was the fact that they were unexpected. I didn’t know that when you ordered bready cheesy goodness that it came with a side of house made pickles. Let alone, spicy carrot pickles. They were crunchy and briny – with just the right amount of spice – and were the perfect compliment to an ooey gooey cheesy sandwich. I was in love. Which brings me to the subject of pickles…

If you don’t recall from last summer, I really love pickles. I love eating them, making them, blogging about them, etc. (See exhibits: A, B, C, D). I went a bit pickle crazy last summer, but I finally stopped posting pickle recipes after my sisters begged me to knock it off. Not every shares my obsession for pickles, I suppose.

But, the spicy pickled carrots at Tartine were amazing and they reminded me of how much I love all things pickled. So, then, when I got back home to Portland and saw a bunches of small carrots for sale at the farmer’s market – it seemed like fate. I snatched up bunches of the cute little carrots and took them home to make my very own spicy pickled carrots.

I have no idea how Tartine actually makes their carrot pickles, but I stumbled across Thomas Keller’s recipe for them and figured it would work nicely. I love that Keller adds a bit of curry powder into his pickle brine as it gives the brine a vibrant color, and adds an interesting flavor element. While Keller calls for a fresh jalapeno, I opted to use red pepper flakes as I like the color contrast and how the red pepper flakes stick to the carrot pickles to give an extra punch of spice.

Now, please, I beg of you: come to my house and help me eat some of these carrot pickles. I’ve been eating them like a crazy person and could use a little help. Please and thanks. :)

Spicy Pickled Carrots
(Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home)

10-15 small carrots (or larger carrots, cut into carrot sticks)
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Wash and trim carrots. If using small whole carrots, scrub, but leave whole.

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, sugar, curry poweder and bay leaf to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

Meanwhile, pack as many carrots (or carrot sticks) as you can into a sterilized jar. Pour chili flakes and mustard seeds into the jar. Pour hot pickling liquid over the carrots, until the jar is full. Seal and refrigerate. Should keep in the fridge for 1 month (or more).

Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro and Bacon.

So, the same night that Nich set about making butter, I decided to make another one of Thomas Keller’s recipes: Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon and Cilantro. Just take a moment and soak in those words. Lentils. Sweet Potatoes. Bacon. Cilantro. So much goodness in one pot of soup! Of course, I had to make it.

We had invited our friends Beyth and Joe over for dinner, and I warned them ahead of time that they were going to be my guinea pigs for the evening. I felt the need to warn them, as I always get nervous making a brand new recipe for friends. Even though it sounds terribly delicious, what if it turns out awful? (Like this summer, when I decided to make tempura for a few friends. Lets just say, I burned the oil and smoked out our tiny apartment and we had to sit and drink wine on the front porch for a half hour until the smoke cleared. Awesome.)

Thankfully, the soup wasn’t awful. It wasn’t awful at all. In fact, this might be one of the best soups I’ve ever made. It was that good. It had all the right elements – it was hearty, savory, with a touch of sweetness. The bacon adds just the right amount of fatty and salty goodness, and the cilantro adds a delightful freshness. I couldn’t get over it. The soup is great.

I had seen a couple variations of the recipe online and was going back and forth as to which variation I wanted to follow. One recipe (which I think is closer to the original Keller recipe) called for boiling the lentils in one pot, and the sweet potatoes in another pot, and then adding them later to the pot of onions, carrots, and broth (i.e. cooking things separately so you don’t get a pot of mushy soup). The other recipe threw everything into the same pot and let it all cook together until everything was cooked thoroughly.

In the end, I decided to try a combination of both recipes. I cooked the sweet potatoes separately (boiled them in a pot of water with a bay leaf, sprig of time, and some black peppercorns until they were soft) and set them aside until later. I know that lentils take a lot longer than sweet potatoes to cook, and so I didn’t want them breaking down too much. I added the lentils to the carrot, onion, and stock pot and let that simmer for 40 minutes or so. Then, right before I was ready to serve the soup – I added in the sweet potatoes, and took a potato masher to the whole pot and let it simmer for just a couple minutes (so that the soup was nice and thick and the flavors melded together). The recipe I’m posting here is the ‘throw it all in one pot’ variation, as I’m guessing that most people would prefter this method (less work, less dishes, etc), but feel free the recipe any way you like.

Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon & Cilantro

Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home and the Bitchin Camero blog.

6 thick slices applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups French Lentils (Lentils de Puy)
 (I actually used Spanish Lentils, which worked just as well)
8 cups chicken stock
1 – 2 tsp. yellow Curry powder
1 bay leaf
2 Sprigs of Thyme
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
 to taste
1 large handful of cilantro leaves

Set a very large pot over medium-low heat and cook the bacon until the fat renders and it begins to crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve the bacon. Add the onions, carrots, and curry powder to the pot and cook in the bacon fat until soft – about 10 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes, lentils, chicken stock, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low and cook for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the potatoes and lentils are tender. I wanted to thicken my soup up a bit, so I mashed the soup with a potato masher about 15 times. This is optional.

Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Add the sherry vinegar and taste the soup. (*To be honest, I think I was too over-eager to eat the soup and forgot about adding the vinegar. I’m sure it lacked a little bit of that acidic punch that vinegar added, but the soup was still amazing.) Add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into bowl and sprinkle with bacon bits and fresh cilantro leaves.