Yes, food is like fashion. There are some trends that chefs and restaurants have to follow to please their customers trough out the seasons and they are classics that are never to disappear from our tables. Here is a list of ingredients that I think are mostly “in” the game or are gaining in popularity. Fact: I am crazy about all these so here is a list of my current winter obsessions.
#1 : Sunchoke. On top of my list of favourite food these days, I find the Topinambour, more often called Jerusalem artichoke or sunchoke in the anglo-saxon community. It’s a root vegetable, very similar texture to potatoes but with a tangy taste that makes it so special and interesting. The great thing about it, is the food items it can be matched with for perfect palate feast. Celery, bacon, scallops, “foie gras” and the best : truffle: party in the mouth guaranteed.
It is a weird looking veggie and I was even reluctant to try to cook it because off those protuberances. Not easy to peel I admit, but the result in a smooth puree or soup is fantastic. You can also brush off the dirt and keep the skin on, cut in half to fry in duck fat like fries….marvellous….marvellous.
#2. Onions : This very common veggie is making a comeback according to many foodists and trend spotters. I agree. I am hooked on caramelized onions puree since a while now. So simple and tasty: Cut white onions and cook in a non stick pan with a little butter and salt until you get that great golden color. Add some soy sauce to glaze the pan then finish puree with a hand mixer while adding some lemon juice for a good emulsion. Looks great and tastes great
#3 Macadam Nuts I love a little crunch in a recipe so I always been a fan of nuts. Lately, macadam is the kind I use everywhere, roasted in a little bit of oil, paired with king oysters mushroom for example (my next food obsession) Great with salads, as garnish for any soup, make a great crust for some fish or meat, endless possibilities.
#4 King oysters mushroom Although I love ALL mushrooms (you are thinking is there any food she does NOT like?) My big fave right now is the king oyster. First, it is beautiful, its fun to cut the firm and white flesh and roasted with my obsession #3, its to die for. Add a little drizzle of walnut oil, some greens and you have a great personality side dish (you can see in pic on top )
#5 Chinese Five Spices This I decided to use following a Thomas Keller lobster recipe in the French Laundry cookbook. Since I did not have all the ingredients to make his “squab spice” mix I decided this was close enough…and now I am hooked. Use fresh spices mix if you can find and grind yourself, the aromas that come out are amazing and then the flavours of your dish will be as well. I use it on lobster meat before adding butter and finish cooking in the oven, fantastic also on duck breast.
#6 Fennel I love the taste of liquorice. One great thing about fennel is that it is as good if its cooked or raw. Its a great match with balsamic vinegar roasted in the oven. Also lovely thinly sliced in a scallop ceviche or a lobster salad. (classic mix with orange) I discovered a new mix this year: Fennel and tomatoes in a Cioppino recipe from Bon Appetit magazine. WOW!! I am tempted to use fennel in every tomato sauce I make from now on.
#7 Rabbit This obsession started watching a chef boning a whole rabbit on a TV show and giving great recipes to use each part. I told myself: This is cool, I want to do this! So off I went buying whole rabbits and make great sauce out of the bodies. The smell in the house was amazing and I’ve never tasted brown stock so good. The flesh is delicate and tasty, I even use the kidney for a rabbit spaghetti sauce. Rabbit is my new pork.
#8 Beet Beet is “in” since a while now, often served with goat cheese and salad in restaurants. I love them roasted with their skin on but my best discovery is to use a juicer and make a nice beet reduction. Just add some red wine vinegar and you will get a superb syrup that has a earthy taste. Put the reduction over the roasted beets for a maximum of flavours and also great paired with rabbit meat. I even make a beet cake that people are crazy about!!! Veggies in desserts is becoming big, watch and see.
#9 Brine Thanks to David Chang and his Momofuku cook book on this one. I am using his simple recipe to pickle all kind of veggies or fruits. 1 cup hot water, 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons of sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Cucumbers are great, yellow beets are my favourite, napa cabbage, sunchokes. I even use it to cure fresh salmon a couple of hours then pat dry and eat like sashimi. Pickles are in!
#10 Butternut squash Always loved that one for the silkiness it gives to soups, paired simply with onions or leeks. Last hit was diced squash roasted in the oven with Chinese 5 spices, salt, a little brown sugar and plenty of olive oil…cook at 425 for about 20 min then use on grilled pieces of bread with ricotta for a nice bite. (thanks to Bon Appetit again for the inspiration) Squash makes a great garnish for Risotto also and tastes fantastic with bacon. I’ve seen a chef making dessert with it too.
I hope this list will be inspiring for some good home winter cooking for you all, Happy New Year!!