pears

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto, pears and celery root

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

Hello from Paris!

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas. I was a bit under the weather/jet-lagged, so Beau and I had a pretty mellow holiday: a walk over to Notre Dame to hear the Christmas bells toll, a leisurely stroll through the Luxembourg gardens with a stop for coffee at the Café de Flore. A seafood extravaganza for two and early to bed. We didn’t even pop the bottle of champagne we bought!

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com
Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root

But I’m planning to make up for our rather subdued Christmas celebration in a few days. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better place to ring in the new year than the city of light. Beau and I have a table booked at one of our favorite restaurants. There will be oysters. There will be champagne. There will be all manner of other deliciousness and then there will be heading out into the chill to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle over the city. 

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com
salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

But before all that, let’s talk about your New Year’s Eve dinner. 

If I were home, I’d be fixing this Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root. My friend Kyle and I served this at the pop-up dinner we hosted earlier this month. This beauty is Kyle’s invention. How he comes up with such creative dishes, I have no idea. Also, it takes him about two seconds to whip up an entire menu. Without cracking a cookbook. While I am jealous, I am also thrilled to be the beneficiary of his chef-brain. And even more thrilled that I got to eat this dish three times in one month: once while we were testing it, once at the dinner and again when I shot it for the blog with my friend Carrie

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

This roast sits at the intersection of easy and impressive. Exactly what you want on a holiday where you should be sipping champagne with your guests instead of sweating away in the kitchen. The salt crust seasons the meat while sealing in all the delicious juices. The roasted pears and celery root are a meltingly soft, subtly sweet base for the beef--far sexier than mashed potatoes. And the bright, herby pesto makes it all sing. Plus, how often do you get to smash open your meal with a hammer? Very exciting stuff.

However you decide to ring in 2017, I hope it brings you joy. Thank you for following along here and for all your kind comments and emails over the past year. You make this adventure I’m on so much more fun! 

With much love,

Olaiya


Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root

  • 2-3 lb boneless cross-rib roast (also known as a flat iron roast)
  • 6 cups kosher salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup cold water
  • Freshly-grated black pepper
  • 1 recipe Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto (below)
  • 1 recipe Roasted Pears and Celery Root (below)

Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto

  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup mint, gently packed
  • ¼ cup parsley, gently packed
  • ¼ cup cilantro, gently packed
  • 2 tablespoons dill
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • ¼ cup minced shallot (about 1 large)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup hazelnut or olive oil

 

Pears and Celery Root

  • 2 slightly underripe pears
  • 1 large celery root
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

 

*Notes: My wonderful neighborhood butcher turned me onto the boneless cross-rib (or flat iron) roast called for in this recipe. I love this cut because it’s flavorful and a great value when you’re feeding a crowd. It does have more connective tissue and marbling in it than some other cuts (sort of like a prime rib roast). If that’s not your thing, you might want to consider a different cut of beef. They’re considerably more expensive, but a tenderloin roast or strip roast never disappoint. 

- If you roast or grill a larger cut of meat even once a year, I recommend you purchase a corded meat thermometer like this one. You stick the probe in the middle of your roast, while the display sits on the countertop by your oven. Set the desired temperature and it will beep when your meat is ready. No opening the oven door and letting out the precious heat. No guessing as to when your roast will be the exact doneness you like. A corded thermometer will take your roast game to a whole new level. 

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

Remove the beef from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it so it can warm up slightly.

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed sheet pan and toast until the nuts turn golden-brown and fragrant, 8-12 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. When cool, roughly chop the nuts or crush them with the side of a chef’s knife or with a mortar and pestle (no need to peel). Place the nuts in a medium bowl. Roughly chop the herbs and add them to the bowl. Cut the preserved lemon into quarters and scoop out the flesh and toss or reserve for another use. Finely dice the peel and add it to the bowl. Add the minced shallot, lemon zest and juice, salt and olive oil and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Set aside to let the flavors come together.

To prepare the beef, mix the salt, egg whites and water in a large bowl until the salt is evenly moistened. Place a thin layer of the salt mixture just wider than your beef roast on a rimmed sheet pan. Place the beef on top of this layer and generously sprinkle with black pepper. Use the rest of the salt mixture to cover the roast, pressing to seal the beef in. Place in the oven and roast to desired doneness: 120°F for rare, 125°F for medium rare, 130°F for medium. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest, without breaking open the salt crust. (Don't worry if the crust has a few cracks in it when it comes out of the oven; that's fine.) Rest the beef for at least 15 minutes before you crack open the crust and slice it. 

While the beef is roasting, prepare the pears and celery root. Remove the skin and any roots from the celery root and slice into ⅓-inch thick pieces. Core the pears and slice into ⅓-inch thick pieces. Place the pears and celery root on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and  toss with olive oil to coat. When the roast is about 10 degrees under the desired doneness, place the pears and celery root in the oven. When you remove the beef, increase the oven temperature to 475°F and roast until the pears and celery root are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, 30-35 minutes. 

When the pears and celery root are done, crack open the salt crust on the beef using a rolling pin, meat mallet or hammer. Brush the salt off the beef and slice. Transfer the roasted pears and celery root and the beef to a serving platter. Spoon some of the pesto over the beef and serve immediately, passing the rest of the pesto alongside. 

Makes 6-8 servings.

Recipe by Kyle Wisner

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

blackberry-pear upside down cake

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

Hello friends,

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week. I was hoping inspiration would hit and I’d be able to send you all a positive message of unity and hope before Thanksgiving. But today, I got nothin’.

It’s been pretty dark in this corner of the world for the past two weeks. The weather, shorter days and post-election mood have conspired to leave me feeling more than a little bit upside down.

So today, upside down cake it is. 

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

I have faith that, as with so many things that seem undeniably bad at the outset, some good will come of our current political situation. Hopefully, the results of this election will spark a demand for greater equality and inclusion in this country and beyond. Yossy from Apt. 2B Baking Co. has put together a fantastic list of some things we can all do to turn our anger and frustration into action. So get to it.

In the meantime, cheer yourself up with a slice of cake.

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com
blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

Blackberry-Pear Upside Down Cake

  • 1 ½ cups (10 ½ oz.) superfine sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ cup (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 scant cup (4 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ¼ cups (7 oz.) hazelnut flour (or almond flour)
  • 2 firm-ripe pears
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 3 tablespoons apple jelly

Rum Whipped Cream

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons dark rum

*Notes: I used Bob's Red Mill hazelnut flour for this recipe and I love how it turned out. (I have no connection to Bob's Red Mill, BTW. Just love this hazelnut flour!) Store-bought nut flour works best in this recipe because its finer grind gives the cake a lighter texture. If you're in Seattle, Dilaurenti carries an amazing (but pricy) Italian hazelnut flour that would be perfect in this cake. Another great alternative is Trader Joe's almond meal since it's quite finely ground. 

- You can also make your own hazelnut (or almond) flour by placing toasted and cooled nuts in the bowl of a food processor or blender and processing until they form a fine meal. You will be able to get a finer meal in the blender. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar will help keep the nuts from turning to nut butter. If you go this route, your cake will be a bit more crumbly than if you use store-bought nut flour.

- I call for superfine sugar because it makes for an easier caramel and yields a finer textured cake. If you can't find it (or don't want to buy a box just for this recipe), you can make your own following the directions here

- If you use frozen blackberries, don't thaw them before baking. Raspberries or boysenberries would also be great in this cake.

blackberry pear upside down cake on millys-kitchen.com

Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan with 2 1/2-inch sides. Line the bottom of the pan  with a round of parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment.

To make the caramel, bring ½ cup (3 ½ oz.) of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, do not stir or your caramel could seize up on you. Boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel turns pale amber. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter. Swirl the pan until the butter melts into the caramel. Carefully but quickly pour the caramel into the cake pan, tilting it to coat evenly. Whatever you do, do not grab your pan by the bottom as it will be very hot! Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the remaining 1 cup (7 oz.) sugar until just combined. (You can also use a hand mixer or even do this by hand if your butter is soft enough.) Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the zest. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and work until just combined. Set aside.

Peel and core the pears and slice them about ¼-inch thick. Fan the pear slices over the caramel, leaving a bit of room for the berries to show through. If you need to, save some slices back to leave space. Pour the blackberries over the pears. Arrange any remaining pear slices over the berries and pears.

Gently spread the batter evenly over the fruit. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Remove the parchment  paper if it sticks to the top of the cake.

Just before serving, heat the jelly and  water in a small saucepan over medium-low until melted. Brush the top of cake with the apple glaze. Whip the heavy cream, sugar and rum together by hand or using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature accompanied by the whipped cream.

Makes 6-8 servings.

baked french toast with pears, hazelnuts and blackberry-cardamom syrup

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

I heard someone speaking the other day about the fear of catastrophe that follows intense joy. Like a streak of lightning after thunder. As though, gazing upon your sleeping babe, your soulmate, your safe and beautiful home, the happiness you feel is too great. So big it aches in your chest. Incomprehensible. And so you must conjure some horrible disaster in your mind to ward off the fear of what might be. A psychic sacrifice to the demons that poke and prick at us all. 

I'm all too familiar with that feeling. 

More often than I’d like to admit, I am afraid that the good things I have might be snatched away from me. Who am I to receive such gifts, experience such joy?, I think. To forestall the unthinkable, I tell myself: Don't get too comfortable. Be vigilant. Work harder. 

But to think like this is to not be fully alive. So for the past several years, I've been trying to let the negative and the dark hold less sway. To be in the here and now and to be wholeheartedly grateful for the many blessings I have.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

So as one year turns into another, I try to carve out a quiet moment to imagine fresh adventures. And to look back over my year at the many things I have to be grateful for.

This year, that list is huge. 

I got married to a kind and loving man who has made me laugh precisely every single day since we met. I have a husband who loves me as I am and helps me remember that nothing is ever as daunting as it seems with a friend at your side. For this, I am beyond grateful.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

My work is more inspiring and fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. When I left a business that I helped found and had poured my entire being into, to teach and write and lead culinary adventures, I was terrified. There were lots of days spent wanting to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head. What if everyone thought my plan was frivolous or stupid? Worse, what if no one showed up?

But you did show up. The tour I led to Paris last year was a lifechanger. Forming friendships with the women who came with me to Paris and watching them marvel in the city’s delights, was one of the high points of my year. For this I am grateful.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

As was connecting with all of you through this blog. In the beginning, I thought this space would be about posting recipes and sharing tips. Explanations of food science and proper technique. But when I sit down to write, this is what comes out. Thoughts on why cooking and gathering loved ones around the table is so essential. Things I hadn’t articulated clearly before. Even to myself. And the ability to catapult back in time. To summers past and trips to France. To the Thanksgivings of my childhood when my grandmother was still turning out huge trays of her oyster stuffing. And to snowy Christmases spent with good friends. For this, too, I am grateful.

And so, one of the things I am most thankful for this year is you. To all of you who came out to a cooking class, read my blog, shared with me on Instagram, and journeyed with me to Paris, I am so appreciative of all your support. 2014 was an amazing year for me, due in large part to the wonderful connections I made with all of you. So I’m sending you a huge thank you!

I've got a new recipe for you: Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup. It’s just the thing to get everyone around the table for a family breakfast or New Year’s Day brunch.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

You soak the bread the night before in a ginger-brown sugar custard. Simmer ripe pears in a luscious salted caramel sauce, stir in a handful of toasted hazelnuts, and you’re ready to go. Pop the whole thing in the oven in the morning and you have a simple, elegant breakfast that feeds a crowd. 

The recipe is below. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you share it with those you are most grateful for. 

Wishing you a Happy and Bright New Year!

- Olaiya 


Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts, and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup

  • 1 recipe syrup (see below)
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided, plus additional for greasing the pan
  • 1 1-lb loaf of country white bread or challah, preferably a day or two old
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 1 packed cup brown sugar, divided
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 4 ripe pears

For syrup:

  • 1 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B (which is darker and more delicious in my opinion)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Use a little of the butter to grease a large baking dish. Cut the bread into slices one inch thick. Cut the slices in half diagonally. Arrange the bread in the baking dish in two or three rows, overlapping the slices of bread as necessary to make them fit. Set aside.

Place ½ cup of the brown sugar in a large bowl. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds into the sugar to distribute them evenly. Add the eggs, milk, ginger and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Whisk well to combine.

Pour the custard evenly over the bread in the baking dish. Depending on the size of your dish, you may need to gently push the slices down into the custard with a spoon or flexible spatula so the bread can soak up as much custard as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours to allow the custard to soak into the bread. If you notice that there is custard pooling in the bottom of the baking dish, spoon some of the custard over the bread once or twice while it’s chilling. You can also place another roasting pan or pie dish on top of the soaking bread to gently push it down into the custard if your bread is on the sturdy side. The extent to which the custard is absorbed will depend on the type of bread you use and how dry it is.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

When you are ready to cook the French toast, preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator. If there is still a bit of custard pooling at the bottom of the baking dish, tip out the excess. Set aside.

If you are using pre-roasted and skinned hazelnuts, roughly chop them and set aside. If you have raw hazelnuts, place them on a rimmed sheet pan and toast until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove the nuts from the pan so they don’t burn. Place them in the middle of a kitchen towel. Bring the four corners of the towel towards each other and twist them together until you have securely enclosed the nuts in the towel. Vigorously rub the hazelnuts together inside the towel for a minute or so. When you open the towel most of the skins should have fallen off. Roughly chop the toasted and skinned nuts and set aside. 

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

Peel and core the pears then slice them ⅛-inch thick. Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the remaining ½ cup brown sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the pears and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and the caramel starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. If your pears are quite ripe, it will take a little longer for the moisture to cook off and the caramel to thicken. Remove the pears from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Stir to coat the nuts in caramel. 

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

Spoon the pears and nuts over the prepared bread, tucking some of the caramelized pear in between the slices. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into small pieces and dot the top of the French toast with it. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the custard has set and the French toast is golden brown.

While the French toast is baking, make the syrup: Place the blackberries and syrup in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the berries are soft and starting to fall apart, about 5 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pushing on the berries with a spoon or spatula to extract as much berry pulp as possible. Stir the salt and cardamom into the warm syrup.

Rest the French toast for 5-10 minutes before serving with warm Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup.

Makes 6-8 servings

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen