It’s not as bad as the night we tried to LIVE IT UP with Paula Deen and ended up with what was essentially a mayonnaise casserole, but it’s not good and is made even more tragic by its source: Suzanne Goin! Sunday Suppers at Lucques!
I can sum it up for you in one word: beets.
Make that three words: terrible, terrible beets.
It was not my decision to segregate the beets, she made me do it.*
The dish was herbed pan-seared halibut with arugula** and roasted beets in horseradish-creme fraiche. The fish was flavored with lemon, thyme and parsley, a combo I didn’t realize until later is quite a favorite of Goin’s. The only difference was the lack of saffron in this dish, and thank god because I would have been PISSED if I’d wasted saffron on this beet stinkbomb.
I was also going to make the dessert she suggested as an accompaniment to this menu, a brown butter-hazelnut cake with caramelized pears. I didn’t make that, because we both had to work late and I ran out of time.
In retrospect, that was a mistake. Instead of cooking the beets, trying to eat them and THEN throwing them into the garbage, we should have thrown the raw beets directly into the trash and eaten cake. (Or eaten them raw in a salad, because I know for sure that I like beets that way.) Live and learn, live and learn.
Anyway, I dutifully scrubbed the beets, tossed them in olive oil and salt, and put them in a roasting pan with some water, which was then covered tightly with foil. Which, excuse me because I am not the head Chef at Lucques, but would that not be steaming the beets? I believe the general rule is:
- Steaming: Using boiling water, to be used when you want to preserve color and nutrients but keep your vegetables tasting vegetal
- Roasting: Using high, dry oven heat, to be used when you want to make your vegetables taste good
*Next time – if there is a next time – we’ll bus some of the golden beets over to the red beet neighborhood. Maybe that will help things.
**Or spinach, if you happened to HATE arugula.
Duo of shallots. Raw shallots + steamed beets. Yum!
While the beets “roasted,” I threw the dressing together. There are actually two of them: a simple vinaigrette of shallots, 3 different kinds of acid (balsamic, red-wine vinegar and lemon juice) and olive oil that you toss with the beets to try and make them taste like something*, and the horseradish cream, which is drizzled over the whole dish.
I’m sorry if I’m giving away too much about my feelings surrounding this dish too early in the post. The disappointment, it is difficult to bear.
Did I mention that we didn’t get to start cooking until 8.00 and we were starving and the fucking GIANT MUTANT BEETS took an hour to “roast”? And that then they had to cool? I’m just saying.
I admit it: It’s my first time eating horseradish. Which did not make me more excited, because could there be a less appetizing name for a food?
The horseradish cream was next: creme fraiche, heavy cream, a good dose of horseradish, some cracked black pepper and more lemon juice.
I have to take a minute to tell you about this heavy cream, because I have never encountered a substance of this texture that purported to be a liquid. I’m going to throw it into the standing mixer tomorrow to see if there is any lag time at all between “whipped cream” and “butter,” because I have a feeling that just grabbing it from the fridge too quickly would churn it into butter. Delicious butter, but still.
It comes from SkyTop Farms in New York, and I have never seen a liquid so thick that poured so slowly. It didn’t just taste like heavy cream. It tasted like HEAVY FUCKING-ASS CREAM, MOTHERFUCKER.* It gets all up in your face like I DARE YOU TO TRY AND POUR ME, and I almost didn’t dare because I was a little scared of what was going to happen. Which is just what the cream wanted.
I made Brian watch me pour it, and he was all like “Is that still good? It looks kinda thick.” And I was like YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. Also, don’t distract me, because if I pour too fast it might turn into butter before it hits the bowl.
*Yep, more grotesque searches on the way.
Dressings complete, it was on to fish.
I often fail to read recipes ahead of time. Or I do, but fail to comprehend them, maybe because I am so easily distracted by heavy cream. I was supposed to let the halibut sit with the lemon and herbs for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight, but instead it sat for about an hour while we wasted our time waiting for the beets to finish “roasting” and cooling, because of course they had to then be peeled.
At least they were pretty.
We had both red and yellow beets, as Suzanne had instructed us to try and find multiple colors (unfortunately, there were no fun chiogga beets, widely known as the most party hearty of all beets). Also as instructed, we kept the cooked, peeled and sliced beets in separate bowls so the red beets wouldn’t bleed all over the gold ones. Because “roasted” red beets will bleed all over anything and everything and will make your kitchen look like you’re the demon barber of Fleet Street. Anyway, I kept them segregated and dressed them with the vinaigrette in separate bowls although I can’t see what damn bit of difference it makes because they all end up on the same plate anyway but I’m sure there’s a great reason.
They were pretty, the beets. I can say that for them. Beets. Pretty colors. Maybe they’re meant to be decorative only?
Brian seared the fish off, while I followed Suzanne’s precise instructions for assembling the dish for presentation:
Seriously, they were really detailed.
- Scatter most of the arugula spinach on a serving platter. Arrange the beets on top.
- Drizzle some of the horseradish cream over the beets.
- Strategically tuck bits of arugula spinach into the nooks and crannies among the beets to fill out the dish and make it look like the greens are growing organically from amongst the beets because that is totally believable.
- Put the fish on top, add more horseradish cream, and top with a drizzle of good olive oil
Guess which one of those steps I found the most irritating and unnecessary? I’ll even give you a hint: it’s not 1, 2 or 4.
That was not very interesting, so an aside: Have you seen Coraline? Have you been considering not seeing it because you’re a person who doesn’t go to see cartoons? Screw your principles and go see it. Or at least read the book, and then read everything else Neil Gaiman has ever written, especially Neverwhere. And then thank me. Because you will.
John Sununu is on The Daily Show, and I was SO CONVINCED that he was a character from Star Trek. Turns out he’s just some lame ex-Senator
So there’s dinner. Surprisingly, I liked the horseradish cream. Especially with the hint of olive oil, it was fantastic on the halbut (and actually pretty good on the spinach as well). Creamy, peppery, some bite to complement the richer side of the fish.
Should I even tell you how I felt about these beets? If you have an eye for detail, you’ve probably already discerned my feelings.
These beets tasted like nothing. A complete absence of any flavor whatsoever. It wasn’t even a “not that bad, I’ll just eat them anyway” thing. Literally, after putting a beet in my mouth and chewing, I had to stop myself from going slack-jawed and letting the half-chewed beets fall from my mouth to the plate. I didn’t, despite the fact that I was in the privacy of my own home, but I wanted to. Even coated with vinaigrette, mxied with raw shallots and topped with horseradish cream, they tasted like NOTHING. They were like a flavor tractor beam that sucked the flavor out of any foods that touched them (I had to isolate my fish on the plate so I could finish it).
I still like the book and the other recipes I’ve pulled from it have all been tasty. But these beets? MASSIVE FAIL.
Damn, I wish I had made that fucking cake.
ONE YEAR AGO: Time to make the donuts!