Red Salad from Fergus

December 31, 2009

Most people think of Fergus Henderson as a man who mainly cooks meat. His best-known book is Nose to Tail Cooking, in which he successfully uses all parts of the pig. In the first season of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie we watched Fergus lovingly place half of a pig's head on a plate.  But the first time I ate at his London restaurant, St.John, the dish that blew me away was not his famous marrow bones, but a simple plate of asparagus. Plump spears, each one still taut and dripping with flavor. I ate them with my fingers, licking up every morsel.

Last night a friend cooked an entire dinner from Fergus' newest book, Beyond Nose to Tail. The most memorable dish was this gorgeously simple salad. Think of it as a deconstructed borscht, the way you wish borscht would taste except it doesn't. It glows with color – the perfect winter vegetable. And I love the way Fergus writes; who could resist "nustle your blob"?

Serves 6

2 raw beetroot, peeled and finely grated
¼ raw red cabbage with its core cut out, very finely sliced
1 small red onion, peeled, cut in half from top to bottom and finely sliced
6 healthy dollops of crème fraîche
2 healthy bunches of chervil, picked

For the Dressing

Healthy splashes of extra virgin olive oil
A little gesture of balsamic vinegar
A small handful of extra-fine capers
Sea salt and black pepper

Method
Mix everything together for the dressing. Toss all your raw red vegetables in the dressing, then on six plates place a bushel of this red mixture.Next to this, nustle your blob of crème fraîche as if the two ingredients were good friends, not on top of each other as if they were lovers. Finally a clump of the chervil rested next to the other ingredients in the friendly fashion. A very striking salad ready for the eater to mess up.

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More Favorite Flavors of 2009

December 30, 2009

    As the year comes to a close I find myself indulging in taste memories, flipping through the card file in my mind, calling up my favorite flavors.  It's an extremely satisfying way to remember the year.
    First up, the glorious smush of chicken liver on toast that begins every smart meal at The Spotted Pig, Disgustingly ugly, insanely decadent, and a fine reminder of how good it is to be alive.
     The kale salad at Osteria Mercato in Red Hook, perfect proof that not everything that tastes good is bad for you.
      Enrica Rocca's seafood pasta.  The secret is that the spaghetti is cooked right in among the seafood, absorbing the stock until the pasta itself becomes one with the shrimp, squid and clams. (This recipe, from Adventures with Ruth, is at gourmet.com.)
      Peking Duck buns at Corner 28 in Flushing.  Is there a better $1 snack anywhere in the world?  I doubt it.
      Fish and Chips at the King's Arms in Bath, England.  The perfect collision of crackling crunch and smooth silky fish.  Eating it with Dianne Wiest, who likes it even better than I do, doesn't hurt.
      Nancy Silverton's hamburgers.  Everything Nancy makes is wonderful, but her burgers are the best. Her secret? She grinds in extra beef fat so that they are juicy and filled with flavor.
       The uni sandwich at El Quinto Pinto on 24th St.  Crisp, buttered ficelle stuffed with the soft roe of sea urchins; need I say more?
       Tuna with foie gras at Le Bernardin. When Eric Ripert hides a nugget of foie gras perched on a crisp slice of toast beneath a sheer sheet of bright raw tuna, the clash of textures and flavors is so intense that I gasp every time I encounter it.
        The one tomato that survived this rainy summer in my garden. It may have been the most expensive tomato on earth, but it was worth it.  The promise of a sunnier summer in every bite.
        More later.  Maybe.  I am making myself very hungry…..

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December 30, 2009

As the year comes to a close I find myself indulging in taste memories, flipping through the card file in my mind, calling up my favorite flavors. It's an extremely satisfying way to remember the year.
First up, the glorious smush of chicken liver on toast that begins every smart meal at The Spotted Pig, Disgustingly ugly, insanely decadent, and a fine reminder of how good it is to be alive.
The kale salad at Osteria Mercato in Red Hook, perfect proof that not everything that tastes good is bad for you.
Enrica Rocca's seafood pasta. The secret is that the spaghetti is cooked right in among the seafood, absorbing the stock until the pasta itself becomes one with the shrimp, squid and clams. (This recipe, from Adventures with Ruth, is at gourmet.com.)
Peking Duck buns at Corner 28 in Flushing. Is there a better $1 snack anywhere in the world? I doubt it.
Fish and Chips at the King's Arms in Bath, England. The perfect collision of crackling crunch and smooth silky fish. Eating it with Dianne Wiest, who likes it even better than I do, doesn't hurt.
Nancy Silverton's hamburgers. Everything Nancy makes is wonderful, but her burgers are the best. Her secret? She grinds in extra beef fat so that they are juicy and filled with flavor.
The uni sandwich at El Quinto Pinto on 24th St. Crisp, buttered ficelle stuffed with the soft roe of sea urchins; need I say more?
Tuna with foie gras at Le Bernardin. When Eric Ripert hides a nugget of foie gras perched on a crisp slice of toast beneath a sheer sheet of bright raw tuna, the clash of textures and flavors is so intense that I gasp every time I encounter it.
The one tomato that survived this rainy summer in my garden. It may have been the most expensive tomato on earth, but it was worth it. The promise of a sunnier summer in every bite.
More later. Maybe. I am making myself very hungry…..

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Hoarfrost

December 26, 2009

Woke up yesterday to the most astonishing vision: Every tree was etched in a filigree of frost, delicate lines of white outlining every limb, every leaf. I’ve never seen anything like it before; up close it was as if some giant creature had waved a wand and flocked each tree with snow.

Nick and I went walking through the woods, following deer trails and looking around like two wide-eyed little children. The soft snow crunched deliciously beneath our feet. We came in breathless, red-cheeked, happy, built a fire and began to cook.

Does anything smell better than a really good prime rib, slowly roasting? It’s such a sensual smell, and as it began to fill up the house I iced a cake in billows of 7 minute frosting that looked just like snow, dusted it with freshly grated coconut, and began to braise celery root and apples.

A dozen of us sat down to dinner. Another year has passed, and we’re still together. We toasted the season and each other. It all felt very Dickens as we tucked into rare roast beef, baked potatoes, green beans with shallots, celery root puree and big puffs of Yorkshire pudding. I wonder if Tiny Tim ever tasted coconut cake?

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Best Bites of 2009

December 21, 2009

   Away for almost a month, eating only my own cooking, I find myself dreaming about the taste of New York. At odd moments the flavors of my favorite dishes come drifting into my mind.
    This morning I woke up to the taste of Marea’s sea urchin bruschetta, the rich golden roe encased in a glistening sheet of melting lardo. It is the single most indulgent dish I know.
     Right behind that came the memory of the first bite of a Gray’s Papaya hot dog, that snap when your teeth cut through the dog, the outside of the bun is still toasty, the onions still slightly warm.
How wonderful that would be with an Elio’s martini, so cold that a thin layer of ice floats across the top.
      Spaghetti neri at Esca, the only place i know that gets the balance of the squid ink, chiles and pasta exactly right.
      And now, suddenly, I must have the rice sticks with sausage and Chinese broccoli at Momofuku, a giant mouthful of heat and texture  And while I’m there, just a single bite of the slcik raw hamachi topped with its crisp salty crumbs.
        Caesar salad at Pearl, the most macho salad I know, all crunch and cheese, every bite dusted with garlic.
        Chiles with black beans at Grand Sichuan, pure fire when the chiles are right.
        The ridiculously wonderful $26 hamburger at Minetta Lane.
        A rare Porterhouse at Peter Luger.
        Uni chawan mushi at Sushi Zen.
        Pollo alla Diavolo at Lupa.
       I think it is time to make myself breakfast.  This morning: leftover pureed watercress topped with a poached egg, sprinkled with grated parmesan and a dash of Sriracha. Just the thing to celerate the shortest day of the year. Tomorrow, the days grow longer!
       
      
   
    

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