G gave me two new cookbooks. A box set, actually, of two books by Thomas Keller, who runs French Laundry in the Napa Valley. The books are his recipes for French Laundry and a bistro he runs called Bouchon, which he says he opened to have a place to go to eat after a day of working at French Laundry. His recipes are beautiful and difficult, especially the ones from French Laundry. It was neat to read the intro to FL where he describes how he likes to serve many smaller courses because what you really enjoy about food, according to him, are the first couple of bites when the flavors really hit you, and he likes to have people wanting more but then having to move on to the next course.
The recipes in FR looks a lot more complicated than the ones in Bouchon, so I thought it would be good to start with the roasted beet salad at the beginning of the Bouchon book. It took a couple of hours, but it was well worth it and none of the steps were too difficult. The flavors were amazing. The addition of tarragon is a brilliant idea and goes super well with the beets. I made up a warm polenta to go with it, which I served with sautéed beet greens (until they are kind of crisp around the edges) and a drizzle of olive oil on top. Usually polenta is not my favorite because it’s not very flavorful so I experimented with adding dried herbs, onions, and garlic in the beginning and folding in butter and parmesan at the end, which helped a bit. Maybe I’ll try chicken stock next time because I still haven’t figured out how to get it quite right.
roasted beet salad
adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook
3 large red beets, with leaves cut off leaving a little bit of the stalk on
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar with extra to taste
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced green onions (just the green part)–note the original recipe calls for chives, but I didn’t have them
Fine ground sea salt or kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay out a large-ish sheet of aluminum foil. Wash the beets, but don’t peel them, and lay them on the foil. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pinch of black pepper. Mix the beets around it it as best you can then fold up the foil to kind of form a little container (see photo above) for the beets, but make sure it’s closed. Put the foil container in an oven proof pan and bake in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours. It took this long for me–you want the beets to be tender, which you can test by inserting one with a sharp knife…it should meet no resistance and should go in easily.
When the beets are done, unwrap the top of the foil and let them cool enough so that you can touch them. When they are cool enough, remove the skins by rubbing them with a paper towel. You’ll probably want to do this over a trash can. When they are skinless, cut off the stems, then cut them into quarters. Take the quarters and make about 1/4 inch slices (see photo above). Put these in a bowl and add a little salt and pepper (you can add more later to taste), the red wine, orange juice, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix this together so that the beets are evenly coated and let the bowl sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Keller says you can let it sit for up to a day, but I did 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the beets out of the fridge and let them come up to room temperature.
About 30 minutes before you want to serve them, peel the 1/2 red onion and cut off about 4 thin slices. I made mine about the same thickness as the beets. Separate the layers in each slice and add to the bowl. Add the tarragon and the green onion and mix it all up. Before you serve it, see if it needs more salt or pepper or red wine vinegar.