November 17, 2016:
With the holidays here, we sat down with All-Star Chef Alex Raij to discuss one of her favorite fall recipes with an exclusive twist. Alex is the chef-owner of the Spanish restaurants Txikito, El Quinto Pino, La Vara and Tekoa located in New York City. We visited Alex in her home to learn about what she is most excited to cook on her BlueStar Platinum range.
“Before I started cooking in the Spanish Basque tradition I had never cooked endive, just use it as raw in salads. Growing up in the Midwest I had many hot dishes and casseroles so creating this dish just seemed natural to me. It is the midpoint between the two cultures and it is also very easy to make and shop for so it fits perfectly for my busy holidays. In this recipe, its lingering bitter notes play off nicely against the creamy, salty bleu cheese – bitter loves nothing more than salt and fat – creating a dish that is rich yet light and full of compelling textures. It pairs equally great with fish, poultry, beef and lamb but in winter I love it with duck. To bring a truly holiday feel to the dish, I recommend sprinkling it with pomegranate seeds. It makes it super festive and fun! The dish conveys all the hallmarks of a comfort cozy dish, but its flavors are elegant and serious in a way that belies how easy it is. The reason I love to make this at home is because this dish is all about high heat which my BlueStar can handle. It can be made for two or twenty with the same amount of effort,” says Raij.
Gratin of Belgian Endive and Basque Bleu Cheese (Achicoria con Queso Azul)
Note from the Chef: Bleu des Basques is less salty than other French or other Spanish bleus, which makes it ideal here, but feel free to substitute your favorite bleu and use a little less. It may seem like a lot of mayo is used, but it breaks and separates during the cooking: its oil braises the endives, making them tender and flavorful, and its yolk turns crispy and golden brown. I like to make the gratin in a pretty baking dish that can go straight from the oven to the table. | Serves 4 to 6
- 3 or 4 large heads Belgian endive
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, homemade or store bought
- 1 cup crumbled bleu des Basques cheese
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- Leaves from 14 marjoram sprigs
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Peel off the outer layer of each endive and discard, then trim off the base of the stem. Cut each endive lengthwise into thirds. Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with salt. Spread the mayonnaise on the endive portions, dividing it evenly. Scatter the cheese over the top and sprinkle with the pepper flakes and marjoram.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the endives are tender and the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the lemon juice and parsley, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.
Americans might not believe it, but mayonnaise is an extremely sophisticated sauce. As an Argentine, I grew up in a small family that prized mayonnaise, so when I discovered that Spaniards regard it the same way I felt an immediate connection. Mayonnaise is a workhorse sauce that gives and accepts flavor equally. It’s great for pintxos and shares DNA with pil pil, the famous Basque emulsion sauce. By looking at pil pil, I have learned to think of mayonnaise as a flexible sauce that can be imbued with numerous flavors and characteristics. And because my versions of mayonnaise contain a little water, you can replace the water with any flavored liquid, or use flavored oils, herbs, or spices to create new flavors. Just remember that because salt isn’t fat-soluble and mayonnaise is very oily, it can be difficult to season properly. I recommend dissolving the salt in water or lemon juice. You can store any mayonnaise in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Always bring to room temperature before serving.
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt dissolved in 1/2 cup room temperature water
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups canola oil
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the egg yolks, mustard and a small splash (about 2 tablespoons) of the salted water and process for about 20 seconds, just until combined; scrape down the sides. Add the lemon juice to taste, salting it first if the mayonnaise needs more salt, and pulse briefly to mix.
- Combine the olive and canola oils in a container with a spout.
- With the processor running, slowly add the oil in a thin, steady stream.
- When an emulsion forms and begins to thicken, lighten it with another teaspoon or so of salted water. Then slowly add more oil, followed by another splash of salted water, and then the remainder of the oil. Add the lemon juice to taste, salting it first if the mayonnaise needs more salt, and pulse briefly to mix.
Notes: If your mayonnaise is about to break, you will see a ring of oil start to form around the perimeter of the processor bowl. Turn off the processor, add a splash of lemon juice or water, and restart the processor before adding more oil.
You can check out more wonderful recipes in Chef Alex Raij’s cookbook “The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of Txikito”.