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19 August 2009

unexpected tastes in the kitchen

melted leek coulis

You think you know someone and then he surprises you.

For me, wishing to be married was like walking around thirsty all the time, and only getting gulps of lukewarm tap water once in awhile.

Finding the guy I would marry was like a long cool drink, in fast slurps at first (with stops for a moment to pant), and then long slow sips, knowing the well wasn't going to run dry after all.

Now, it feels like floating down a river, the water always there, always moving, part of my breath, clear and there if I need to lean down my hand and have a drink.

And then I find a small pool of melted leek coulis.

* * *

Yesterday, our good friends Matt and Danika came over in the morning, loaded down with bags of food and fabulous cameras with various lenses. Little Bean waved to them as they walked through the door. We all talked fast with our hands. We had a mission.

The men had cooking to do.

Next week, Danny and Matt are going to be the guest chefs at La Boucherie, here on the island. It's the restaurant run by the folks at Seabreeze Farms, one of our favorite small farms in the Seattle area. We're regular customers. So are Matt and Danika. Naturally, we all began talking, and sharing portions of head cheese, and pork and game terrine, and talking about making our own butter and curing our own meats. Our friendship has been forged of many forces — our children; our love of this area; gardening; ridiculous humor — but cooking food grown by local farmers has been one of the strongest.

Bantering turned into conversations became plans. The folks at Seabreeze asked Matt and Danny to be guest chefs and they jumped at the chance. Danny has been cooking a bit outside of our home, here and there, but it has been nearly a year since he was a restaurant chef. (wow.) He's so excited that he's walking around the kitchen, making shapes with his hands, imagining.

And so, next Thursday, August 27th, Matt and Danny will be cooking this menu:

Smoked Salmon, Tomato, and Horseradish Cream Napoleon

Charcuterie Plate: Head cheese, Game Pate, and Red Onion Confit

Homemade Sausage, Piperade, and Roasted Potatoes

Chicken Leg Confit with Bacon-Dripping Lentils

Pork Belly Roulade with Mushroom Duxelle with Melted Leek Coulis

Lemon Chocolate Tart

And the entire menu is gluten-free!

To be sure, it's a meaty menu. However, this is a chance for the fellows to show off the Seabreeze product. Since they raise cows and pigs, here it is. But for Danny and Matt, this is a delight. They just can't wait to feed the people who arrive.

(There are just a few spots open, so if you'd like to be part of this tasting menu experience, go here for more details and to make a reservation.)

So Matt and Danny bustled in the kitchen together while Danika and I hovered, taking pictures. At one point I sat on the kitchen counter to get a better angle and Danika nosed in like a roving reporter. We all stopped to laugh. We were the food blogger paparrazi. She and I stepped away from the food to talk and let the boys work.

(If you'd like to see our photographs of the afternoon, here are some of my photographs and some of Danika's amazing shots.)

It was an extravaganza of preparation in the kitchen. And these were only practice portions -- the real cooking happens next week at the restaurant. Danny tended pots on all four blazing burners while Matt chopped herbs and prepared the casings for the homemade sausages. Conversation stopped and we just watched as they stepped, stirred, and sliced, asked quick questions of each other and learned how to work together.

That kitchen smelled like Danny's skin at the end of a long restaurant day.

We sat down to sample a small portion of each dish. The chicken confit made Matt giggle. It tasted that good. We grew silent and then jabbered. Little Bean grabbed for a chicken leg, a handful of lentils, a few slivers of red onions. We sat around that table for a couple of hours, at least.

Danny put the last dish of the day -- the pork belly roulade, stuffed with mushroom duxelle, accompanied by pickled okra -- down in front of me. To the side of it sat a small skim of green sauce.

Earlier, when he had finished making it, he offered a bowl full of that asparagus-green to us. We dipped our fingers in it. We couldn't wait.

It was warm and green, like the feeling of sunlight in May. It had the depth of a sauce with veal stock but without any meatiness. I could have drunk that bowl down.

"What's this?" I asked him, surprised. I thought I knew all his sauces by now.

"Melted leek coulis," he said.

As we at the table, I dug into the roast pork belly, then dipped my bite into that green. The cool green sauce cut the unctuous fat of the belly, making a new golden mean of flavor.

"Oh god," I shouted. "This is amazing."

I turned to Danny and batted him on the arm. "Why haven't you made this sauce for me before? It's unbelievable."

He shrugged, in his shy way.

That's part of the reason I love him. He has so much more up his sleeve.

melted leek coulis III

Melted Leek Coulis

Danny first learned to make this when he was the sous chef at Papillon, one of Denver's best and biggest restaurants. There he drizzled it atop seared salmon. But I'm already imagining it with the Thomas Keller roast chicken we have been eating lately. It seems to me the leek coulis would also brighten up any kind of fish (halibut, artic char), or a dish of quinoa or millet.

Really, it's friendly with so many foods.

For those of you who are bemoaning the fact that eating gluten-free seems boring? You don't need much to liven up the plate. A well-roasted chicken lightens up a dark evening with its crackled skin and juicy meat. Slice up the breast, drape it over a hill of fluffed jasmine rice, and share this sauce with both. You won't complain about dinner again.

1/2 pound leeks, white part and just a touch of the green part
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, fine chopped
2 teaspoons fine-chopped fresh thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 bunch spinach, stems removed and rough chopped
1 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Wash the leeks. Drain and dry them.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.

Sauté the leeks and fennel until they are soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme. Cook until until the thyme is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour in the cream. Turn the heat to high and bring the cream. to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer the cream until it begins to thicken slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach and let it wilt in the hot cream. (Don't let it sit for a long time. Maybe 2 minutes.)

Transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend to a smooth puree. Slowly add the grapeseed oil into the mixture as you are blending. When the mixture has become coulis (perfectly blended), stop.

Strain the coulis through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving some of the pulp. Add 1/4 of the pulp back into the bowl of sauce. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes roughly 2 cups.


At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Lorna Yee said...

What a lovely green, and what lovely images. I can't wait to try this recipe!

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Cate said...

shauna, this sounds divine. i love being led into something like this. once our kitchen cools down into something approaching bearable (i can hardly think of cooking these days), i think the roast chicken and coulis will have to land on our table. thank you!

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous dancing kitchen said...

I can't help but crush on Danny just a wee bit.

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Susan said...

I just wanted to comment on your amazing just draws me in every time open your blog. I have been reading your blog for several years now and very rarely comment, but tonight, the way you opened this entry just really made me want to tell you how much I love to read your blog. And your recipes are inspiring as well!!

At 5:51 PM, Blogger LoLo said...

Sounds wonderful. Though being dairy and soy free what substitute for the cream would you suggest? Coconut milk? Almond creme? And for the spinach leaves do you think borage leaves would be a good substitute?

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Gina said...

If marriage would bring every girl Melted Leek Coulis I wouldn't be so leery of it. This will be my new test for potential husbands: make me your best sauce and I'll consider your proposal.

Thanks for the recipe, this sounds wonderful!

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Swiss said...

Your writing is a yummy as the food.

Was totally going to make a reservation - but saw it was a Thursday - that menu is amazing and I want to try it so much.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

It's GOOD that he's still got a few secrets. Keeps things lively.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Paula said...

What a beautifully written post. You have a real gift to touch the hearts of your readers, and give us great recipes! This is my first comment, but my millionth visit to your blog. Bravo. Keep up the great work. My "Little Bean" loves your recipes, too. Thank you,

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous La Niña said...

Booth and I wish we could be there. That sounds sooo good! Husbands who take care of their wives like Danny and Booth are true treasures. Relish every minute!

I love leeks. The leeks that I grew from seed are woefully inadequate for coulis right now. But I'm getting them at our island market. Unfortunately I don't tolerate heavy cream. Does Danny think I can substitute chicken stock? I've done that before.

Love to you both... and Little Bean, too, naturally.

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous StuffCooksWant said...

Sounds amazing! Your writing style is very engaging and I'm so glad you are out there reminding me that eating gluten-free is not a life sentence of tasteless food.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Sarah said...

I made this tonight and served it over halibut. Divine.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Julie said...

I recently found your blog and love it! This recipe looks wonderful! I'm sure I'll be making it soon. I love the bright green color from the spinach. Thank you for sharing!

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Tony R. said...

Tonight my wife and I made some zucchini pizza (
but I was wondering what you think we could do to make it even better?


At 9:18 AM, Blogger jbeach said...

Amazing post. What a wonderful scene you paint.
oh and that melted leek coulis (love the name, too) sounds and looks magical. go green! :)

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Taylor said...

Thank you so much! I planted leeks in my first-ever garden this year and really have had no idea what to do with them. This sounds sounds perfect!

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Sho said...

That is exciting news about the restaurant! If we lived there, we would be there. Heck, after reading all your posts, I even feel like moving there, which isn't really possible for us.

I think the population of that island is going to rise from your great blog!

Good luck with everything.


At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Ivy's Kitchen said...

Oh, I love leeks! I love them like family members (the good ones). Thank you for sharing this great idea with us.

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous cathy said...

oh no, I don't even know what grapeseed oil is!! time to google!!!

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Castal said...

I know I am a little late to the party, but I have a question on the recipe.

When you say to bring the cream to a boil ... won't that break the sauce and cause it to curdle? I know that the next step is to cook it at a simmer for a little bit, so maybe it is just to a boil then lower...

Gah! So confused and I want to make this so badly! (in my house I am the chief cook and bottle washer and my husband is the willing guineapig for trying out new ideas on food (and yes, I do sneak in my altered gluten free foods just to see if he gives me the look of "should you really be eating this?").

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Pétra said...

I finally made this sauce last night! We served it with some pork tenderloin that was rubbed with lots of spice and it was so good.Although I think I might have liked it even better this morning when I added a few dollops into a scramble with some fresh chocolate cherry tomatoes from my garden, a slice of toasted g-f orange cinnamon swirl bread on the side, and a nice cup of Stumptown Hairbender. This is the best breakfast I've had in a long time!

Now what can I do with the rest of this sauce? I can't bear to waste a drop!


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