There is only about a month or so to go until the Brassica book is released! I don’t have the exact date yet as I’ve learned that cookbook publishing is a little less organized than I would have thought. Yet somehow, 25 recipes were tested and photographed and the gardening text was researched and written. Rebecca and I have yet to see the layout and cover but are hoping to this week. And in the blink of an eye, we will see it out on shelves! That’s not to say that the process has been easy.
I find working from home to be a challenge. In fact, working on projects where you are the motivator and the do-er and the “boss” (meaning I set my own deadlines and report back into me which is a disaster) is something that I have not entirely mastered. Some days I am really productive and cross a lot off my list. Some days I’m pitiful and become so overwhelmed with the list itself that I don’t really know where to begin, which only leads to me doing just a few small things or thinking about what I need to do. Plus the constant beeping of the washing machine which fits about 1 pair of jeans per load doesn’t help matters much.
And some days, I just throw in the towel and go for a lady lunch. I’ve been fortunate to meet incredible women in Paris, mostly American and many who work in creative fields (writing, photography, illustration and more) who also to be working on different book projects. This leads to us all being able to sneak away from our “offices” and meet up to discuss projects, keep each other on track (accountability partners do really work!) and vent about lack of contracts, odd requests from editors and so forth. It’s a breath of fresh air to have someone serve you coffee in a fresh mug instead of staring at the fifth mug on your desk, adding to the dirty four that are already taking up precious work space.
Our hangout leads towards one place and one place only: Holybelly. Located in the 10th near the Canal (like everything else cool these days in Paris), Holybelly never disappoints. I wrote about them last October when they first opened and offered a kale salad on the menu. Since then my love affair with this place has not died out. They are consistent with everything: food, service, hot & strong coffee and most importantly smiles. Walking into the bright environment guarantees leaving with a skip in your step. Co-owner Nico greets you with a friendly hello and the other co-owner and chef, Sarah always drops by with a bisou to see how we’re doing. While I tend to lean towards their eggs whichever way with killer homemade baked beans and sautéed mushrooms, (including their homemade hot sauce which is so good I just dip bread into it) they do monthly lunch specials as well. This past December’s specials offered a meat, fish and veggie option and the fish option of Brandade de Morue was a savory combination of creamy potato and salted cod with a side of crisp fresh salad.
Brandade happens to be one of Philip’s favorite meals and something he will crave and beg to go to Brasserie Lipp for. It also happens to be a dish I had yet to cook at home. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not very good at planning meals a few days in advance and the idea of buying salted cod, soaking it for a day beforehand would always trip me up. But after a lady lunch of Brandade, I decided to go for it and surprise him.
Like developing the Brassica book, Brandade can be a simple recipe with a little bit of planning ahead. Finding the salted cod was the first of many easy steps. And I was lucky to spot fresh purple mustard greens in a box hiding behind the butter lettuce and asked for a few poignées as well. For the salad, you can do whatever you want but I advise to keep it simple with just lettuce, salt, pepper, olive oil and a vinegar. This compliments the potato/fish mixture and almost acts as palate cleanse between salty, creamy bites.
The recipe was simple and Philip had two helpings and even wanted to take it for lunch the next day. That’s a success to me.
Brandade de Morue
Ripailles by Stéphane Reynaud
Makes enough for six
1 kilo salted cod
1 kilo potatoes
8 cloves garlic
1 liter whole milk
250 ml cream
1 bunch of chives
1 head of Boston lettuce
3-4 handfuls of purple mustard greens
150 ml olive oil
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
1. The day before, soak the cod to remove the excess salt, changing the water regularly. (I began this process early in the morning to cook it during early evening).
2. Peel the potatoes, cut them into cubes and boil them with the peeled garlic for 40 minutes. Put the potatoes and the garlic through a food mill, add the pouring cream, snipped chives and olive oil. Season.
3. Poach the cod in a mixture of milk and water for 30 minutes and then flake the cod. Arrange a layer of purée on a plate and top with flakes of cod. Cover with a second layer of purée, add the salad mixture and season.