The Book Vegetables

14. Grilled Bell Peppers With Criolla Sauce p. 557

the recipe

I was a big fan of this easy versatile colourful salsa. I made this one in a rustic cabin on a friend’s island in the Laurentian’s. Grilling is the perfect cooking method up there and these peppers turned out really well. Blackening them on the grill brought out loads of smoky flavours, which worked well with the bite in the rest of the salsa.

My version had all kinds of bite. I’m not a great connoisseur of peppers, and we don’t always have a wide selection in Montreal. I couldn’t find Serrano’s so I went with some nice looking scotch bonnets without really knowing the difference. Turns out the difference is about 250,000 Scoville units. I pitched in about one and a half peppers, and it just about took our heads off. After the fire of the first few bites had passed the peppers made the whole dish glow.

I’m not sure what this would have been like with Serrano’s, but the Scotch Bonnets made it memorable. We tossed the leftovers in with a steak and potato hash the next morning which worked exceptionally well. The recipe doesn’t mention letting this sit before serving, but I think giving this at least an hour to come together would be a good plan. Texturally it was all a bit mushy, something to give it a bit of crunch would have been nice. Maybe leaving the onion’s in slightly larger segments would do the trick. I’d also think about substituting the (useless) parsley with some cilantro.

Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb The Book

8. Steak Diane p. 427

I can’t find a recipe to link to, and that’s a real shame. This dish was a knockout. The classic version uses tenderloin, here The Book calls for much more affordable sirloins. The steaks were flavourful and ended up fillet mignon tender after a pummeling with an empty wine bottle. The steaks were seasoned with salt and pepper, then pan seared. I cooked down some shallots in the fat in the pan, and added a mixture of beef broth, Worcestershire, lemon juice, Dijon, Cognac, and Sherry (I used port). I reduced the sauce, and finished with butter and parsley.

The only change I’d make to this one would be to leave the parsley out of the sauce, it wilted kind of unattractively. I’d leave it out all together, but a bit in a chiffonade over the steaks would look nice.

This took all of 20 minutes to put together and it blew me away. I’m a sucker for a pan sauce because they rescue so much of the goodness you left behind in the pan, and can add complimentary flavours and complexity. In this case the sauce was exceptionally well balanced, and enhanced the flavour of the steaks without covering anything up. I loved that this took no time to prepare (dicing a whole cup of shallots was the most irritating part), didn’t cost an arm and a leg, and left a big impression with my guests. Traditionally the cognac is added right at the end of the dish and ignited table side, the recipe doesn’t call for it but big flames can do wonders to liven up a dinner party.

This was so good I’ve awarded it the first 5 mushroom rating of the project. Well done Steak Diane, well done.

Breads and Crackers The Book

3. Garlic Bread p.606

the recipe

Ahh Garlic bread, the ubiquitous starchy accompaniment to a big plate of my mom’s pasta. Weren’t the fat phobic carb happy 80’s a good time? So this is fairly idiot proof: apply garlic butter to bread, bake in tinfoil till warmed through, open tinfoil package to crisp up bread. Who could screw this up? apparently I can.

Things were going well through the cutting of the ciabatta loaf, and smearing butter stages. All clear for operation put in tinfoil and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Things were going so swimmingly I decided to focus on the rest of dinner. 15 minutes became 20, and the first hint of burning came to my nose. I never opened the package to crisp, and while the bottom of the loaf got nicely done, the rest of the loaf was the soggy mess of a thousand backyard BBQs.

Soggy garlic bread does have some fairly good memories associated with it, and
I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, I was really looking forward to the crispy crunch. Thankfully this is as simple a recipe as there is, so a redo won’t call for any untoward effort.

One thing I really appreciated about this was the suggestion to replace the parsley with basil (a suggestion not made in the linked recipe). To me parsley is a bit of waste of an herb, the Italian stuff has some nice flavor, the frizzy has none. All in all I’ll give parsley a pass whenever possible. Unfortunately The Book (and the whole world) seems to have a bit of thing for it. I won’t balk at spending eight bucks on a tiny piece of goat cheese, but that 79 cent parsley tax so many recipes charge really irks me.

This is a childhood classic not re-imagined in any way, as it should be.