This has been a shitter of a week. WOW. I swore in the second sentence on this post. That is a first I think, even for me. I normally wait till at least the fifth paragraph!
Drake has been sick. Really sick. 104.5F fever and chest X-Ray sick. The most nerve-racking week of my life for sure. Thankfully we have the most amazing pediatrician that ever was, and Drake is now feeling much better.
That really hasn’t left much time to think about anything else – even food. Worry does that you doesn’t it? I did however find time between watching Drake just laying on the floor not wanting to move to cook some lunch. A bloody fabulous lunch it was too. So much so, it is my new favorite lunch. By quite a long shot.
It could be the wonderful mushrooms and proscuitto cooked in sage butter. It could be the fantastically fresh collard greens and leeks. I am sure it has something to do with a deglaze of apple brandy. Come to think of it, the roasted beets on the side helped too. This is now my lunch of choice. It has outdone crusty bread, brie and chutney. It, however, isn’t quite up there with a nice steaming bowl of mussels – but I rarely have time to cook that for lunch these days (those mussels take some scrubbing you know..)
But wait..there is more. 12” more to be honest. THERE IS SNOW! A crap load. Snowed in so you cannot go to work amount of snow (which, lets be honest is the best kind of snow there is).
What is the best thing about living on a steep hill? Why, when it snows of course!! – for the following reasons:
You have an instant sled run outside your front door
You get to watch nut-cases try and drive up (and then slide down…) the road
Reassurance that the 4×4 you drive around in was a wise purchase…
This years snow is fun. Seriously fun. Waaay too much of it for our own good. Drake loves it. We have built snowmen, gone down the hill in a laundry basket, thrown snowballs and done snow angels. And fallen flat on our arses a good number of times. Having a son is awesome.
But this is a food blog after all, so I should talk more about this lunch.
It is actually really very fast. And fun. It all starts with a really slow caramelization of red onion and leeks – to which some thyme has been added. This gets deglazed with a serious helping of apple brandy. If you are in luck, the pan is hot enough to catch the brandy alight, and you can tart around with 4ft flames whilst the alcohol burns off (and not try and look scared in front of your friends..). To this some sliced collard greens gets added. This is then slowly wilted down in the reduced apple brandy/leek/onion mixture.
In a separate heavy bottomed pan, some mushrooms are searing nicely in some sage butter. Proscuitto gets added at the last minute to crispen up.
This all gets plated a top a lovely piece of crusty toast. The juices from the greens mixture, and the sage butter from the mushrooms just seeps down into the bread.
Oh, and on the side, if you have them to hand, some roasted beets are just fantastic.
So if you haven’t had collard greens yet, I highly recommend them. They are closer to cabbage than kale (if you ask me), and retain a great texture when cooked. They aren’t crazy bitter – but are bitter enough to work wonderfully with some sweet apple brandy. You want to cut out the thick stem from the huge palm like leaves. Roll them up into a cigarette shape and slice across to get strips – just like doing a chiffonade of basil.
I am not going to get all funky pretentious about the apple brandy, or the mushrooms either. Use Calvados if you have it – or Applejack. I use the later, since this time of year I use quite a lot of apple brandy in cooking, and Calvados isn’t cheap, but it is wonderful. Mushrooms – I used shitake mushrooms (PLEASE, PLEASE CLICK THAT LINK ON.. it might be the funniest sketch about mushrooms ever..), I couldn’t get my mits on some nice wild mushrooms, which would have been first choice.
Now, I mentioned a new pan didn’t I?
So I have been looking for a pan to replace a non-stick pan I have. There is actually nothing wrong with the non-stick pan at all – in fact, for non-stick it is great. If you are in the market for a non-stick (and you might not be, after this post), I highly recommend Swiss Diamond.
I however, am looking for a better performing pan. Nothing against Swiss Diamond (in my opinion one of the best non-sticks out there), but I want something that can handle high-heat better. I want something that gives a better sear, but without the potential sticking problems of stainless. I want something with better heat control than cast-iron.
That really just leaves a carbon steel pan doesn’t it!
So, meet my new lovely little DeBuyer Carbone Plus carbon steel pan. deBuyer are a French maker of professional pans, and have been doing so for ages. Their carbon steel pans are used throughout restaurants all over the world. This Carbone Plus pan is the thickest they offer, which means it is more suited to high heat applications (less chance of bowing).
All I can say is WOW. Well, OK, that is a lie.. I can say a lot more about it.
After seasoning it is pretty much completely non-stick. Even at high temperatures. Eggs? No problem. Fish? no problem. All with a great sear if required. My only problem is not finding this pan sooner. Build quality is fabulous too – I can see Drake using this pan when I am old(er) and gray.
DeBuyer can be hard to find. Most online places I saw that had it listed (Amazon..) and it down as deBuyer, but then just before paying it said it was World Cuisine – a Chinese version of the pan. Nothing against that, but I wanted the DeBuyer.
I found mine at FinestCookware.com. Really pretty reasonable prices too (cheaper than the World Cuisine in fact). Delivery took a little long, but they were the only people I could find that stocked this thicker Carbone Plus pan.
If you do end up ordering one, I recommend going a size up than what you think – my pan is smaller than expected.
Collard greens, mushrooms, proscuitto, apple brandy and sage on toast
1 head of collard greens – thick stem trimmed, cut into slices
1 red onion – sliced
1 leek – sliced crossways into rounds
1 small handful of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 small handful of fresh sage leaves, chiffonade
1 handful of mushrooms – washed, trimmed and sliced
4 slices of proscuitto, torn into pieces
2 slices of good quality bread
salt and pepper as needed.
In a large pan melt 1 tablespoon of butter with some olive oil. When the fat is hot, toss in the red onion and leek, season gently. Cook this gently until the onion and leek are very soft, and are nicely caramelised. Turn up the heat a little, and pour in a good glug of apple brandy. Stand back. It could well catch on fire. If it does, don’t scream like a schoolgirl (I always do, even though I know the flames are coming), just let it do its thing and burn down. Patch your eyebrows back on later.
When the brandy has cooked down a little, toss in the collard greens. Gently mix up, and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Turn the mixture over every minute or so.
In a thick, heavy pan – cast iron is ideal, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When hot, toss in the sliced sage leaves. Now add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are slightly wilted, and going brown at the edges, add the proscuitto to this pan. Cook until the mushrooms are nicely browned, and the proscuitto is crisp. Resist the urge to push the mushrooms and proscuitto around too much – it won’t brown as nicely if you do.
Toast the bread
When the toast is done, and the collards are slightly soft, lets plate. Put the toast down on a plate. Top with the collard green mixture. Top this with the mushroom mixture.
I like to let this sit for just a couple of minutes, to let some of the fabulous brandy and sage butter juices soak down into the bread.