Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Revelation, If You Will - Braised Cucumbers

I was beside myself when the third course at Beast found it's way onto my table and the plate in front of me. The smell was out of this world. I consulted the menu: Fondue de Lapin a la Creme, or, Rabbit Stewed in a Light Curried Cream with Concombres Persilles, Braised Cucumbers with Parsley. There was a touch of marsala in the curry sauce, and the smell was literally driving us all a bit wild. It was a race to grab a fork and dig in.

This course was the highlight of the meal for me. Maybe just for the braised cucumbers alone.

Like every other food obsessed person in the country, I recently watched Julie & Julia. I read the book a couple years ago. I felt similarly about both. Loved the Julia parts and couldn't stand the Julie parts. There was far too little detailed cooking for me. I didn't want just the emotional turmoil, I wanted recipes, I wanted trial and error, I wanted every little detail of the cooking process. While watching the movie my ears pricked up at the mention of braised cucumbers. What a strange concept. What would that taste like? It sounded completely strange and just...well...wrong! But I was intrigued. I wanted to try it.

So there they were, on my plate at Beast. I sliced off a tiny piece, brought it to my mouth and was love. Hot, cool, comforting and refreshing all at the same time. Not quite a pickle, but not just a cucumber. It's somewhat difficult to describe. The next night I fired up the stove and a saute pan and gave it a go. I came close. Perhaps I haven't quite hit the exact recipe, but it's close. I'll keep refining. For now, give this a try:

Braised Cucumbers
serves 2
Inspired by Beast and Julia Child

1 large cucumber, cut in half, seeds scooped out and discarded
2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mint

Slice the cucumbers into half-moons. Toss in a medium bowl with vinegar, sugar and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.

When the cucumbers are ready, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the cucumbers. Saute over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Try not to let the cucumbers brown. Reduce the heat if necessary. Taste the cucumbers for consistency, they should be tender but not too soft or mushy. When done, remove and toss in a bowl with the mint. Serve while warm.

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