Fava Beans, Ham, And Parsley Sauce

The fava bean has a difficult time.  The growers here are still swayed by the village fête mentality: “the first prize goes to the largest fava bean” (by which time it’s tough, dull, and starchy).  Or restaurants peel off the gray-green skins, leaving a little bright green kernel, with nothing fava bean about it.  Leave the fava bean alone; just pick it at the right time.

This is the most delicious way of using up the remaining boiled ham, in fact so good it is worth boiling a ham especially for the dish.

Ah, the fava bean.  Before this recipe, I’d read about them, I’d heard them talked about on various TV shows and blogs, but never once had I eaten or cooked with them.  After seeing this bunch sitting around at Central Market, I knew it was finally time to experience the buttery texture and slightly bitter, yet lovely nutty flavor.  Unfortunately, it seemed like these fava beans were of the “tough, dull, and starchy” variety. I suppose I was lucky to even find them, so beggars can’t be choosers.

Now, above Mr. Henderson mentions that shelling the fave bean of its little jacket is not recommended.  I’d heard differently from other places though.  In the name of staying true to the recipe, I left the grey-green skins on even in the face of “explosive” gas.

The day before I made this recipe, I boiled a brined picnic ham just like I did back in December last year.  I saved some of the cooking liquor, which was needed for cooking the fava beans and warming up chunks of the ham.  After a few minutes in the boiling broth, the beans were drained and set aside.

At the same time, my wife was kind enough to whip up a bunch of parsley sauce for me.

The still warm beans and ham chunks were nestled into a bowl, and then the parsley sauce was poured on top.  This was a very simple, delicious meal.  My only problem with it was that the beans hadn’t been cooked enough, so I quickly put the beans I hadn’t used back in the ham broth and cooked them until they were properly tender.  At that point, I finally understood all the hub-bub: fava beans are delicious.

One down, ninety eight to go.

Vegas Vacation Update #4: Brains!

I’m writing this from the comfort of my own home after a day of rest and recovery.  Before I get into the details of the food I had at Mario Batali’s restaurant, I’d like to point out what an amazing place Las Vegas is for people that care about food.  I suppose I could try and come up with a list of how many celebrity chefs there are with restaurants in Sin City now, but it would probably take me a few hours and even then new places are opening ever 30 seconds or so.  I’m very grateful that I only need to fly to one spot to try cuisines from places all over.

The last night of our vacation, my wife and I managed to secure reservations for Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich’s B and B Ristorante.  When we arrived, every seat was filled, including all of the chairs at the bar.  Rock music was playing fairly loud, but not loud enough that we couldn’t hear each other over it.  Apparently, one way to tell if Mr. Batali was in the kitchen was the volume of the music.  If it was so loud your ears started bleeding, Mario was in the house.

I had originally planned on taking pictures of our food, but the light was so low, and there were so many waiters and other diners around that I really didn’t want to be “that guy.”  Even then, I’d prefer not to show such amazing food unless the pictures could do it justice.  Sadly, I’ll have to use my limited grasp of the English language to try paint a picture of culinary bliss for you.

We started off with the Warm Tripe alla Parmigiana which I had actually tried to cook myself a few months back.  The restaurant’s tripe was much more tender, and the tomato sauce that accompanied it was very spicy, adding another dimension to the dish.  If you check the recipe above, you’ll notice that there isn’t an ingredient that would add heat.  I’m not sure what was added to bring the spiciness, but when I make this again I’ll be sure to add some chili flakes.  We ate as much as we could, but ended up having leftovers that were packaged up.  We were given a claim ticket to pick them up at the receptionist area later.  In all my years, I’ve never had that happen, but it’s a great way to show you the level of service we received.  Unbelievable.

Next up was the Lamb’s Brain “Francobolli” with Lemon and Sage.  I was very intrigued by this dish because of the lamb brain recipes that I have already made.  When the postage stamp shaped pasta arrived, the first bite yielded the rich and familiar flavor of lamb brains, mixed with ricotta cheese and butter, offset by the acidic lemon and earthy sage.  If you can make it to Babbo in New York, or B and B Ristorante in Vegas, order this.  I swear to you, you’ll enjoy it a good deal more than you could possibly imagine.

Lastly, we enjoyed a prickly pear sorbet special for dessert.  The chef and cooks had gone out to pick the pears themselves earlier in the day.  It was sweet, and tart, and the perfect way to end the meal.

After paying the bill, we went to go pick up our leftover tripe appetizer.  When we handed our claim ticket over, the hostess was unable to locate our takeout bag.  It turns out that someone had come by and taken our tripe.  While we were a bit disappointed, knowing that the thief was met with an “unconventional” meal seemed to make it okay.

Next week, it’s back to normal, see you then!

Vegas Vacation Update #3: BAM!

Yesterday morning–well, afternoon, really–my wife and I decided that we were going to take our friends out for a meal on our dime.  We had originally hoped to dazzle them with Bouchon at the Venetian since they have never had the chance to try anything guided by Thomas Keller’s vision.  Unfortunately, Bouchon is only open for brunch on the weekdays, so we just got to look around a little while before heading back to the lobby.

After a few minutes of discussion and looking at the directory, we settled on Emeril’s new restaurant at the Palazzo, Table 10.

“The name Table 10 reflects the modest table in a simple red warehouse in New Orleans where Lagasse began planning his restaurants. He reviewed blueprints, developed menus, interviewed staff and discussed plans at Table 10 as he prepared to open Emeril’s, his first restaurant. When the restaurant opened March 24, 1990, every evening ended at Table 10 with lively conversations and a creative environment for new ideas.”

And so when Emeril started working on opening his tenth restaurant, it had already be predetermined that it would be called “Table 10″ in honor of the original table 10.

We started off with some wonderful marinated goat cheese with Spanish olives, peppadew peppers and greens with herb vinaigrette.  We realized as soon as it made it to the table that it was meant to be a starter for one, but in retrospect, splitting it four ways was a good thing.

I can’t remember the exact specifics of the special I ordered, so I’ll give you what I can recall.  This is a dish of applewood smoked lamb with a reduced pan sauce with bits of truffle and a bacon and mushroom risotto croquette.  It was superb, and I dearly wish I had another plate of it in front of me right now.

We were stuffed, but after looking at the desert menu we just had to order something.  I selected the sweet potato cheesecake with graham cracker crust, orange marmalade and pecan praline sauce.  It was just as good as getting a 21 dealt to you right after sitting down.

Emeril might have had his sitcom hopes dashed, but that’s okay:  it’s pretty apparent his true calling is concocting amazing food.

Vegas Vacation Update #2: Hookah!

Last night we dined at Paymon’s Mediterranean Cafe & Hookah Lounge, which was featured in an episode of “$40 A Day With Rachel Ray“.  While I’m not a huge fan of Mrs. Ray, she sure can pick restaurants.  The food was fantastic, and the service was impeccable.

We started off with some Falafels with a nice Tahini sauce.  My wife and I then split a Gyro platter, which had rotisserie beef and lamb, thinly sliced and served with Mediterranean vegetables and Vermicelli Pilaf.

Our friend Jackie had the Lentil soup which was made with lentils that had been slowly cooked in chicken broth with fresh vegetables and Mediterranean spices. They then topped it with creamy feta cheese.  Jackie was kind enough to give me a spoonful of the soup, and they really did a great job of elevating the simple lentil into something fantastic.

Once we finished the meal, we headed over to the Hookah lounge and enjoyed some wonderful cherry flavored tobacco.  I had taken a few pictures, but the light was so low that none of them came out very well.

Thanks Mrs. Ray!

Vegas Vacation Update #1: Crêpes!

This morning, our group found ourselves at the Paris hotel for breakfast, standing in front of Le Crêperie, a lovely little crêpe station that serves sweet and savory crêpes.

First up was the “Fruits Des Mar” crêpe, full of shrimp and scallops and a nice Béchamel sauce.

Next was the “Napoleon”, a crêpe with a sweet lemon sauce and various berries.

Here’s my friend, Robert Schwartzer, about to dig into his crêpe, which was filled prosciutto, mozzerella and covered in the same Béchamel sauce.  We shared the various crêpes amoungst ourselves before heading back out on The Strip.