Farm egg with Morels, Peas, Crème Fraiche and Basil Purée

Last week I was at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia and came across some beautiful farm eggs at an Amish farmer stand. Of course I couldn’t resist buying a dozen because common sense tells me to always trust a white-bearded farmer wearing a hat and suspenders. The thing is, with good eggs, there’s not too much you should do. Simple is best. In greengrocers’ and farmers’ markets around the country, signs of spring are all around so it was really a no-brainer to simply match them up with seasonal spring ingredients.

The arrival of fresh sweet peas, fava beans with their buttery texture and slightly bitter, nutty flavor and morels with their smoky and earthy tones is something I look forward to every year. They were sauteed in butter with shallots and finished cooking with the sunny-side-up egg. To make the flavors pop I made a basil puree and added a scoop of crème fraiche and some sun-dried tomatoes to the pan. Some cracked pepper and a sprinkle of fleur de sel to finish things up and let me tell you, this makes one fine week-end breakfast.

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One word. Butter. And lots of it. One of the thing I miss the most about living in Paris is the smell of freshly baked breads and pastries coming out of bakeries early in the morning. For a long time the smell of toasted butter from the boulangerie downstairs was my alarm clock right around 7 am. I would rush down the stairs (and almost tumbled a few times in my butter induced frenzy) and pick up a croissant or pain au chocolat for my commute to school.

On my days off I would have a croissant with café au lait for breakfast, sitting at a sidewalk table at the Café de la Paix near Opera, sipping a café crème and eating a croissant with confiture, watching the morning bustle and hustle of Parisian life. Those are hard to tame habits and as a result I think I’m forever doomed to a life of random cravings for warm buttery croissant. It’s not always that easy to find great ones here in the US unless you live in big cities so let’s make some, shall we?

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Sous-Vide Duck Confit with Pomegranate Poached Pear & Mache Salad

Confit preparations originated as a means of preserving meats without the use of refrigeration. The centuries-old process of making duck confit hasn’t evolved much for the simple reason that our ancestors realized it would be dumb to try to improve upon something that’s already perfect. And dumb it would have been. The biggest improvement is relatively recent. Sous-vide machines like SousVide Supreme gave us more control over the temperatures – which is crucial for the break down of the collagen in the legs – while using far less fat than the conventional method because the legs are sealed in a vacuum bag with much less volume to fill.

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Octopus a la plancha with Garlic Purée & Miso-Squid Ink Sauce

I’ve always been a big fan of octopus “a la plancha” that can be found in Tapas bar in Northern Spain. I also had my fair share of bad octopus experiences in the past but to be honest octopus can be a real pain in the [insert body part] to cook. I had good luck cooking it sous-vide recently but I like to experiment with different techniques to try to recreate the taste and texture I remember from my youth.

Last year when I interned in the kitchen at Le Bernardin I learned an interesting way to cook octopus – in a chorizo braising liquid. I thought that was just brilliant because the flavors of both complement each other so well. The pot containing the braising liquid was kept in a corner of the stove and never allowed to boil for about 2 hours. The tender octopus was left to cool in the rich broth and then kept in a miso marinade before being charred to order, which is also genius. It’s a bit like putting umami on umami. For this version I wanted to keep the smokey paprika flavors alive but served it with a nicely balanced Miso-Squid ink vinaigrette.

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Mango Tart with Lime

Mango is the perfect fruit but it rarely crosses my mind to enjoy it any other way than with my bare hands over the kitchen sink. I do like a good mango lassi on occasions but there are so many other possibilities from compote and chutneys to more savory preparations. Today I used them in the same way I would for a tarte fine aux pommes, on a circle of puff pastry with a purée of the fruit underneath the thin slices of mangoes, brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar. The baking concentrates the flavors, the mangoes become incredibly luscious and literally melt into the caramelized crust, a lime syrup is brushed on top while still warm with a dusting of lime zest to finish it off. If I had to rate this dessert on a deliciousness scale from 1 to 10 this would definitely be a 11.

The success of this recipe almost entirely depends on the quality of the fruit. I used perfectly ripe (the skin starts to wrinkle) Ataulfo mangoes from Mexico which are flooding the markets right now if you’re living in the US. They are also known as Champagne, Honey or Manila mangoes. The flesh is velvety smooth, with almost no fibrous texture and a wafer-thin pit. I would pick them other the Tommy Atkins kind any day. If you don’t count the 35 minutes baking time this can be assembled in 10 minutes or less and taste like you worked on it all day. Enjoy!

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