Andrea Reusing: The Key 3

Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.

Here are Andrea's keys, as told to Lynne:

The Key 3 for me are Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad. If you can master these three, you can have dinner very quickly and it will be a direct, delicious, flavorful meal.

1. Turnip Soup, with Rosemary and Black Pepper

This recipe is for when you come home from work and think you have nothing in the kitchen. You can just Stone Soup it.

Start with a big onion and do a tiny dice. I think it is really important to salt the onion right away; it really builds the flavor.

I don't peel the turnips because a lot of that flavor and a lot of that spice and aroma is really in the skin and that outer layer. If the turnips were a lot older and the skin was tough, I would peel them, but then I might not use them for soup.

I use long-grain, aromatic rice called Carolina Gold Rice. I put it in a spice mill or coffee grinder for a second, and after a couple pulses, the pieces will be about one-third of their original size. We'll get a creaminess from the dust we made by grinding.

About a quart of water is where I start. Depending on how much rice I've added and how fast it thickens, we'll just kind of adjust as we go. With soup, I find it's really hard to get the consistency you want far in advance, so even at the restaurant, we're always adjusting the texture of the soup at the last minute. I always start with less water than I think I need, so I can adjust by adding more.

I ladle the soup right from the pot into the bowl, and I finish it with some fresh rosemary needles, a lot of black pepper, and a little bit of grated, aged cheese. I like pecorino, but you could use cheddar or Parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, or water
  • 1/2 cup Carolina Gold rice grits
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 medium turnips, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 small branches fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste

Instructions

1. In a heavy 8-quart pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until tender and turning golden, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pour in the wine and stock. Bring to a simmer and then add the rice grits, seasoning with salt and a little pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. Then add the turnips and one of the rosemary branches. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the turnips and rice are tender throughout.

2. While the soup cooks, pull the leaves off the remaining rosemary branches and roughly chop them.

3. Check the soup for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Discard the rosemary branch. Spoon the soup into bowls, and garnish with a generous grinding of black pepper, some chopped rosemary leaves, and the Parmesan.

2. Overnight Braised Short Ribs

In this recipe, the ribs are braised very gently overnight with vegetables. You basically take things you have in the house -- mushrooms, garlic, a bay leaf -- and throw them in the oven with the ribs for as long as you can sleep. Six or seven hours.

Then, when you wake up in the morning, you have this amazing smell in the kitchen, you open the oven and you have lunch. It's a stew that you can serve a number of different ways.

You can garnish it with mustard and pickles and sea salt. You can garnish it with horseradish. If you want to take an Asian turn, you could do some fresh wasabi and sea salt.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons expeller-pressed vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (about 1 ounce) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 bunch (about 12 medium) radishes
  • 2 medium carrots, or 1 bunch of baby carrots
  • 1 bunch spring onions, or 1 medium leek
  • Horseradish, mustard, coarse sea salt, and pickles, for serving

Instructions

1. Trim the silverskin and any excess fat off the short ribs, and season them with the 1 tablespoon salt and the pepper. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 225° F.

3. Heat a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add the oil. Sear the ribs on all sides until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat and discard any remaining oil. Put the ribs back in the pot, meat side down. Add enough cold water to cover the ribs by 2 inches (about 3 quarts). Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook, repeatedly skimming off any foam, for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the porcini, onion, garlic, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring back to a simmer. Tent the meat with a piece of parchment or aluminum foil by placing it on top and then crimping it snugly around the ribs so that the edges nearly meet the liquid. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, transfer it to the oven, and braise for 6 hours.

4. Trim the radishes, leaving about 3/4 inch of green stem. Unless they are very small, cut them in half. Cut the carrots on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick rounds; or, if using baby carrots, peel and trim them, leaving 3/4 inch of the green stem. Trim the spring onions or leak and slice into chunks (wash the leek well). One vegetable at a time, blanch in boiling salted water until just tender.

5. Remove the ribs and strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into the saucepan. Skim the fat from the broth; then add the blanched vegetables to the broth and reheat gently. Adjust the seasoning and serve the ribs and the vegetables in the broth with the accompaniments.

3. Tomato Salad

This is a salad that I make a lot in the summer. It's just basically salted tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and then whatever I have around. Maybe a little bit of really good feta, some mozzarella or other kind of cheese, some chili peppers, or some basil or mint.

The first step in the salad is to make sure you have really ripe tomatoes.

Buy them all summer -- ripe or unripe -- and store them at room temperature. (Never put a tomato in the refrigerator.) Even a tomato that is sold to you is perfectly ripe can usually sit on the counter for maybe a week and still improve before you need to use it.

Then, every day, go looking for the ones that need to be used right now. Touch them and rotate them. You want one that is extremely heavy, very soft and in danger of not lasting until tomorrow.

So I take a bunch of different tomatoes -- usually different colors, different shapes -- and I like to get a big long platter and cut them in different ways. If it's a very tiny tomato, I might leave it whole; if it's a big beefsteak, I might cut it into wedges. Each one gets its own treatment. I salt them with kosher salt.

Then I take some other things. Maybe a little sweet red onion -- slice it very thinly and salt that separately. Maybe a cucumber -- salt that separately. Let everything just sit in the salt for maybe 10 minutes. Sprinkle the onion slices all over the tomato, then add some herbs.

I salt the onions separately to take the heat off of them. I don't really want to have a raw onion for lunch. The cucumber gets salted because it rids it of water and it concentrates.

You end up with this delicious dressing at the bottom of the plate. You need to have some bread for that. I've been known to eat it with a spoon when I'm by myself with my chiles.

Arrange them in groups on a long shallow platter and season generously with salt, fresh pepper, and olive oil. As your guests hover expectantly, let the tomatoes sit for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Serve with a spoon for the juices.

My dad, Vince, prefers his tomatoes in big rounds, seasoned generously with sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and layered on top with thinly sliced red onion, a good quantity of olive oil, and a little red wine vinegar, with bruised fresh oregano leaves strewn over the top. With the tomatoes, Vince serves a grilled flank steak that he has marinated in spicy mustard since morning.

The Key 3 is a series of discussions with great cooks (not just professional chefs) about the three recipes or techniques they think everyone should know.

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Andrea's Turnip Soup

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