You think you know someone and then he surprises you.
For me, wishing to be married was like walking around thirsty all the time, and only getting gulps of lukewarm tap water once in awhile.
Finding the guy I would marry was like a long cool drink, in fast slurps at first (with stops for a moment to pant), and then long slow sips, knowing the well wasn’t going to run dry after all.
Now, it feels like floating down a river, the water always there, always moving, part of my breath, clear and there if I need to lean down my hand and have a drink.
And then I find a small pool of melted leek coulis.
* * *
Yesterday, our good friends Matt and Danika came over in the morning, loaded down with bags of food and fabulous cameras with various lenses. Little Bean waved to them as they walked through the door. We all talked fast with our hands. We had a mission.
The men had cooking to do.
Next week, Danny and Matt are going to be the guest chefs at La Boucherie, here on the island. It’s the restaurant run by the folks at Seabreeze Farms, one of our favorite small farms in the Seattle area. We’re regular customers. So are Matt and Danika. Naturally, we all began talking, and sharing portions of head cheese, and pork and game terrine, and talking about making our own butter and curing our own meats. Our friendship has been forged of many forces — our children; our love of this area; gardening; ridiculous humor — but cooking food grown by local farmers has been one of the strongest.
To be sure, it’s a meaty menu. However, this is a chance for the fellows to show off the Seabreeze product. Since they raise cows and pigs, here it is. But for Danny and Matt, this is a delight. They just can’t wait to feed the people who arrive.
(There are just a few spots open, so if you’d like to be part of this tasting menu experience, go here for more details and to make a reservation.)
So Matt and Danny bustled in the kitchen together while Danika and I hovered, taking pictures. At one point I sat on the kitchen counter to get a better angle and Danika nosed in like a roving reporter. We all stopped to laugh. We were the food blogger paparrazi. She and I stepped away from the food to talk and let the boys work.
It was an extravaganza of preparation in the kitchen. And these were only practice portions — the real cooking happens next week at the restaurant. Danny tended pots on all four blazing burners while Matt chopped herbs and prepared the casings for the homemade sausages. Conversation stopped and we just watched as they stepped, stirred, and sliced, asked quick questions of each other and learned how to work together.
That kitchen smelled like Danny’s skin at the end of a long restaurant day.
We sat down to sample a small portion of each dish. The chicken confit made Matt giggle. It tasted that good. We grew silent and then jabbered. Little Bean grabbed for a chicken leg, a handful of lentils, a few slivers of red onions. We sat around that table for a couple of hours, at least.
Danny put the last dish of the day — the pork belly roulade, stuffed with mushroom duxelle, accompanied by pickled okra — down in front of me. To the side of it sat a small skim of green sauce.
Earlier, when he had finished making it, he offered a bowl full of that asparagus-green to us. We dipped our fingers in it. We couldn’t wait.
It was warm and green, like the feeling of sunlight in May. It had the depth of a sauce with veal stock but without any meatiness. I could have drunk that bowl down.
“What’s this?” I asked him, surprised. I thought I knew all his sauces by now.
“Melted leek coulis,” he said.
As we at the table, I dug into the roast pork belly, then dipped my bite into that green. The cool green sauce cut the unctuous fat of the belly, making a new golden mean of flavor.
“Oh god,” I shouted. “This is amazing.”
I turned to Danny and batted him on the arm. “Why haven’t you made this sauce for me before? It’s unbelievable.”
He shrugged, in his shy way.
That’s part of the reason I love him. He has so much more up his sleeve.
Danny first learned to make this when he was the sous chef at Papillon, one of Denver’s best and biggest restaurants. There he drizzled it atop seared salmon. But I’m already imagining it with the Thomas Keller roast chicken we have been eating lately. It seems to me the leek coulis would also brighten up any kind of fish (halibut, artic char), or a dish of quinoa or millet.
Really, it’s friendly with so many foods.
For those of you who are bemoaning the fact that eating gluten-free seems boring? You don’t need much to liven up the plate. A well-roasted chicken lightens up a dark evening with its crackled skin and juicy meat. Slice up the breast, drape it over a hill of fluffed jasmine rice, and share this sauce with both. You won’t complain about dinner again.
1/2 pound leeks, white part and just a touch of the green part
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, fine chopped
2 teaspoons fine-chopped fresh thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 bunch spinach, stems removed and rough chopped
1 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Wash the leeks. Drain and dry them.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.
Sauté the leeks and fennel until they are soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme. Cook until until the thyme is fragrant, about 1 minute.
Pour in the cream. Turn the heat to high and bring the cream. to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer the cream until it begins to thicken slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach and let it wilt in the hot cream. (Don’t let it sit for a long time. Maybe 2 minutes.)
Transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend to a smooth puree. Slowly add the grapeseed oil into the mixture as you are blending. When the mixture has become coulis (perfectly blended), stop.
Strain the coulis through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving some of the pulp. Add 1/4 of the pulp back into the bowl of sauce. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes roughly 2 cups.