Blais has a number of what he calls "impastas" in the book--most are in the "I-wouldn't-mistake-this-for-pasta-any-day" camp. However, the potato "linguine" stands out. He first made the dish on Top Chef Masters (those viewers among us will probably remember the chef-testants doing their best to look cool cooking in bathing suits) and appeared to fool the judges into thinking that the potatoes were indeed freshly made pasta. Indeed, russet potatoes make ideal pasta substitutes, as they are mild in flavor and high in starch. Mingled with chopped conch (or clams), parsley, oregano, and bread crumbs, this "linguine" is more than just a substitute for pasta.
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Richard Blais's Barely Smoked Salmon with Pumpernickel-Avocado-Egg Salsa and 'Everything Bagel' Vinaigrette
Blais's Barely Smoked Salmon with Pumpernickel-Avocado-Egg Salsa and "Everything Bagel" Vinaigrette takes a deli staple, bagel and lox, and upends its style in a decidedly refined form. The anchor is a small fillet of salmon, smoked for only five minutes. This leaves the fish almost raw with a faint whiff of smoke. The bagel appears crumbled and crunchy in a "salsa" like assemblage with avocado and peeled cherry tomatoes. Capers, red onion, and egg also show up, along with the "everything bagel" seeds and spices present in the vinaigrette. It makes for a beautiful plate, unfamiliar in appearance, but comforting in flavor.
With Passover right around the corner, it is the perfect time to perfect a roast brisket recipe. For something different than the standard salt, pepper, and go method, look no further than Richard Blais's Brisket with Coriander, Black Pepper and Brown Sugar. Hidden towards the back of his new cookbook, Try This at Home, this brisket is piquant enough to awaken any family member dozing in the middle of an hours-long dinner.
When I was younger, I used to eat caesar salad all the time. Over the years, however, I have grown tired of the often over-dressed and heavy salad, preferring instead crisp, bright vinaigrettes and tender baby lettuces. But Richard Blais's smoked version of the caesar in Try This at Home has totally changed my tune. As in the classic, the basic salad elements are sparse: lettuce (Blais calls for either baby kale or romaine), croutons, dressing, and parmesan. The creamy dressing is what really sets this salad apart. He starts with a mayonnaise base (homemade or otherwise), and blends in a trifecta of smokey elements. Smoked sea salt, hickory powder or liquid smoke, and smoked paprika mingle with the anchovies and lemon for a potent dressing that clings perfectly to the greens.
Pimento cheese is one of my favorites from the Southern canon, and I find it is at its best with sandwiched between buttered white bread and grilled until crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. So when I run into a pimento grilled cheese recipe in a cookbook, it's one of the first things I bookmark. That said, the Pimento Jack Cheese Sandwich in Richard Blais's new cookbook, Try This at Home, is nothing like a pimento cheese sandwich you'd see down south. There is pepper jack where there should be sharp cheddar. There are homemade roast poblanos instead of jarred red pimentos. There is cilantro and lime zest. Surprisingly, these apparent foibles turn out to be assets once the sandwich takes shape, and I immediately regretted scoffing at the ingredients once taking a bite.