Day into night at home / 09
A dose of celebration for cooking at home!
I’ve never felt strongly one way or another about Valentine’s day, but for some reason, if I do think about it, my mind instantly goes to a dimly lit French Brasserie. Maybe yours does too? I don’t know if it’s that French food has an inherent coziness that is perfect for this time of year or that the kind of romance Valentine’s espouses makes me think of Nancy Meyer’s movies, which always seem to be scored by Django Reinhardt, but this week’s menu is inspired on missing that kind of restaurant— not just the food but the woven chairs, tiled floors, brass details, and carafes of wine.
We start with an onion soup, because what better time to enjoy it than on a snowy week. If your home isn’t snowy then let each bite transport you to the feeling of eating something warm and yummy on a rainy day. I recently discovered that adding a splash of Marsala wine to veggies as they cook down for soup completely transforms them. Having a dusty bottle of Marsala wine in the back of your cupboard is not a bad thing. It seems to always wait for you. The one I used was left over from a personal chef job I did a few years ago and tasted exactly the same as it did when I bought it. Hooray for fortified wine!
The soup is followed by one of my favorite French dishes, Sole Menuiere, which I ended up making with Barramundi, because making it to my favorite fish store (The Lobster Place, in case you are wondering) is a bit of an ordeal these days. It was delicious with the Barramundi. If you have a hard time finding sole, any other thin white fish will be just as delicious here.
The fish is served with a celery root puree, which is rounded out with a little potato and garlic confit. Grassy, herbaceous celery root is lovely with fish. Garlic confit is one of my all time favorite condiments. Its uses are endless, as you will see over the months to come.
For dessert chocolate mousse, which always reminds me of Chez Janou, one of my favorite restaurants in Paris, where they bring a giant bowl of mousse to the table and you can serve yourself as much as you like. Chocolate mousse is a dish that never fails to delight. It’s made with simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand, and it is a wonderful recipe to master.
A note on portions, which I haven’t been completely clear on. The main courses in all the at home menus serve 2-3 people unless otherwise noted. For the first course I usually write ingredients per person, for example 1 handful of arugula per person. This way you can either plate each individually or throw the amount needed into a salad bowl. I chose to do it this way to avoid waste— nobody wants leftover wilted salad.
As for dessert, cakes usually serve 6-8. Some desserts, as was the case with the poached pears from a few weeks ago, will ask you to make a certain amount per person. Dessert keeps all week, and often when one is not too sweet, I will suggest that you have some for breakfast.
If you are cooking for more, you will need to double or triple the main course recipes. If you are unsure, you can always reach out with the number of people you are thinking of cooking for. I will help you figure it out. You can always reach out with any question. Just hit reply to any of these emails.
Multiplying and dividing recipes, something one constantly does in a pastry kitchen, inevitably makes you a better cook because it creates mastery and intimacy with the recipes. You begin to understand them in a deeper way and this in turn makes you more knowledgeable and comfortable in the kitchen, or if you are already comfortable it deepens the command you already feel there.
When we cook in our home kitchens we are guided by all we’ve eaten, all we’ve ever read or watched about food, and our cravings. Cooking is a language that you learn with your hands, your senses, and also with your body, because there is a dance between you, the ingredients, your burners, the oven, the sink, and the counters. If you love to eat and you enjoy cooking it can be a lifelong love affair between you, your ingredients and your space.
Happy Valentines, xx Ana
Here's a break down of the steps to make the menu:
(It will take you about two hours to make everything.)
1. Press play on the music
2. Make the mousse and let it set in the refrigerator
- Clean up a little -
3. Slice the onions and start caramelizing them
4. Make the celery root puree
- Clean up a little -
5. Finish the soup
6. Cook the fish
Let music create atmosphere.
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