Every Thursday through Monday, I anxiously await one specific email to hit my inbox.
And yes, of course it's food related.
About a year ago I had the "fantastically-delicious" pleasure of dining at Thomas Keller's restaurant, Ad Hoc, in Yountville, CA (Napa). I vividly remember the four course set menu - served family style; the casual-yet-unpretentiously-upscale cuisine with use of everything "as local as it gets" from the surrounding Northern California areas (including The French Laundry garden up the street). There was something about this place, and its food and ambiance, that I just couldn't get enough of.
But the best part about the food was that even though this was a Thomas Keller restaurant (of The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Per Se...) there was nothing stuffy, fancy, or overzealous about it: this was just really good ingredients prepared really (really) well.
So, upon leaving an amazing dinner that night, I signed up to receive the daily menu for Ad Hoc via email.
And, since then, every Thursday through Monday, I anticipate with pleasure opening my email, reading the day's menu, and attempting not to drool over what is being served that night. For a look at what I am talking about, here's the link to Ad Hoc's daily-changing menu. For example:
"Salad of Baby Mixed Greens -...
" Buttermilk Fried Chicken
" (Cheese Course) Fiscalini Farm's San Joaquin Gold - Jacobsen's orchard apple butter, palladin toast...
" Chocolate Cake - popcorn ice cream..."
Honestly, those examples are the tip of the iceberg of amazing goodness that oozes from this place, besides the fact that the fried chicken, according to most, is the BEST fried chicken in the world (I have yet to sample). Few menus, let alone cookbooks, provide much creative stigma for me when it comes to cooking, but when I am inspired, all good things (kitchen related) happen. I had to get my hand on these recipes, no matter what. So, I recently bought the Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook, which quite frankly, could have been one of the best cookbook purchases EVER.
After pouring over every page, my taste buds on "fire" from the combination and choice of ingredients, it was time to try out a recipe from the book. Last weekend, Fellow Foodie and I thought it would be great to try out the Green Bean and Potato Salad with Mission Figs - a light salad/vegetable dish as a side to BBQ'ed filets from Chaffin Orchards. This is a great flavor-packed and textural salad for the remaining months of Summer.
Here is the photo from the cookbook that got us excited to try it out.
But, in the nature of how I cook, I never truly follow a recipe. So, we set out with all of the ingredients, less the Spanish "prosciutto" (aka Iberico Ham), changed some techniques, and here's what we came up with.
- French or Blue Lake Green Beans, ends trimmed
- Walnuts, toasted
- Cherry Belle (most common) Radishes, thinly sliced
- Mission Figs, quartered
- Fingerling or yellow-skinned new potatoes, quartered
- bay leaf
- thyme sprigs
- whole peppercorns
- sea salt
- Olive oil
- Goat cheese, crumbled
- Fresh chives, minced
- 1/4 C cherry-infused balsamic vinegar (or a good quality balsamic vinegar)
- 1/4 C red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/3 - 1/2 C good quality extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
First, whisk together the vinaigrette: I like to do it all in a glass measuring cup. Add both vinegars and honey and whisk until honey dissolves. Add oil, slowly whisking, until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Next, the potatoes. We "adopted" Keller's technique of adding "aromatics" (aka, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns listed above) to the water the potatoes would boil in. So, add the potatoes and aromatics to a pot, cover with cold water, add some salt, and bring to a boil over the stove. Cook until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes for what you see below) and drain on paper towels - allow to cool for about 15 minutes. And, after tasting them, this is a technique I would highly recommend.
Next up, our twist on the potatoes - heat up a saute pan with some olive oil and add each quartered potato (will have to do in batches to not "crowd the pan") to brown on each side (this will give the potatoes a little more texture with the dish, but you don't have to do this step).
While the potatoes are cooking, get another pot boiling with some salt. Add the green beans to the pot and cook until ever-so-slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
Remove from pot and place in an "ice bath" which shocks the beans from not cooking any further but also helps to retain their vivid green color (ice bath = ice + cold water). Allow to sit in bath for about 7 minutes and then drain and dry on paper towels.
Now, for the assembly: toss the beans, radishes, and potatoes together in a bowl. Add vinaigrette as needed to coat the vegetables (the potatoes will soak up a lot of the vinaigrette). Add the walnuts, figs, goat cheese, and chives and season with salt and pepper.
The textures alone - crunch from the walnuts as well as from the green beans, softness of the ripe figs plus the goat cheese, crispness of the radishes and the slight "fry" of the potatoes - plus the acidity from the vinaigrette with the slight onion-pungency from the chives...this was one of the best side salads/veggie dishes I had ever tasted. It paired lovely next to the filets, which were seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Funny enough, as I went to write this entry the other day, Ad Hoc had listed this on their daily menu accompanied with Filet Mignon that night:
TFL Garden Fig Salad
black mission and kadota figs
toasted walnuts, breakfast radishes
preserved lemons, prosciutto di san daniel
They too changed up their salad as we had of theirs.
Perhaps Ad Hoc had gotten wind of our pairing of this salad with filet mignon before they thought of it? In my infamous words, "I am going to go with, NO".
But, needless to say, it was an incredibly simple and delicious meal. A fantastic combination of flavors and textures, which makes me yearn to try almost every recipe in the Ad Hoc cookbook.
And, even though I know I will find myself cooking through the whole cookbook, I still wait ever-so-patiently for Ad Hoc's daily menu to show up in my email inbox, lusting for every dish they list for the evening.