December 5, 2009
Woke up early, snuggled into bed and reached for the nearest books on the table. First up, “A Place of Greater Safety,” (I’m on a Hilary Mantel jag, and no wonder when she writes sentences like these. “I have tried to write a novel that gives the reader scope to change opinions, change sympathies: a book that one can think and live inside. The reader may ask how to tell fact from fiction. A rough guide: anything that seems particularly unlikely is probably true.”)
I got so absorbed that I began to understand how easily I could spend the entire day living inside of that book, so I moved on to the old cookbooks I bought at Bonnie Slotnick’s store last month. (Another addiction.) “The House of Chan Cookbook” turned out to be a ridiculous volume from 1952 that begins in embarrassing pidgen English and offers entire chapters on Chop Suey and Chow Mein. But “Cooking a la Longchamps,” with its evocation of a long-gone New York, was a wonderful slice of nostalgia. It was a time of “Crabmeat Exquisite,” “Abalone Steaks in Rhine Wine Sauce” and gnocchi that were called “Baked Cream of Wheat with Parmesan.” Turning the page, I realized what had made me buy the book, My father couldn’t pass Longchamps withoug going in for a bowl of rice pudding. And why not? They were famous for this dish, which was served in little brown custard cups, with a pitcher of cream to pour over the top. I loved it too.
I haven’t made the recipe yet, but I will, soon. I have to admit that the amount of cream seems suspiciously small; how do you whip half a cup of cream and make it cover an entire casserole? And doesn’t this rice cook an awfully long time? We’ll see.
Longchamps Rice Pudding with Raisins
3/4 cup rice
1 quart milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
grated riind of 1 lemon.
Parboil rice in 3 cups boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and combine rice with milk, sugar and salt and cook for 25 minutes until mixture is thick.
Meanwhile cook raisins in boiling water for 10 minutes and drain.
Beat egg yolks with half the cream. Add to rice with raisins, vanilla and lemon rind. Put in a casserole. Whip remaining cream until stiff, spread on top of rice miture, sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 8 minutes, until cream turns golden.
Cool and serve with more cream.
December 4, 2009
There I was, with a craving for dumplings, and no Chinatown within miles. So I went scrounging through the refrigerator to see if I had anything that might pass for dumplings. Happily, I had some wonton wrappers. And a few raw shrimp. In mere minutes I had produced a very satisfying substitute for serious shrimp dumplings. Herewith, the recipe.
Sort of Shrimp Dumplings
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled
2 cloves garlic
a small knob of ginger
3 skinny scallions
1 teaspoon soy sauce
splash of grapeseed oil
I never bother to devein shrimp, but if you’re fastidious, do that. Then chop the shrimp finely (this is much faster and easier than it sounds).
Mince the garlic, ginger and scallions and mix them into the shrimp. Add soy sauce and a splash of oil and mix well.
Put a rounded teaspoon of filling in the middle of a wrapper, dab the edges of the wrapper with a bit of water and fold into a triangle, pressing the edges together. Fold corners together to make a tortellini shaped-object.
Plop into a pot of gently boiling water for about 3 minutes, until filling is cooked.
Eat very happily, dipped into ginger-scented soy sauce.
This makes about 20 little dumplings.
December 3, 2009
Today I’m craving the savory matzos from Blue Ribbon Bakery. “Matzo” doesn’t begin to describe these crisp, cheesy crackers (although while we’re on the subject, is there anything more delicious than a square of matzo spread with cold sweet butter?), but they are utterly impossible to stop eating. These wonderfully crackly rounds taste of garlic, rosemary and parmesan cheese leave your fingers slicked with such delicious olive oil that you simply have to lick them clean. We ate dozens of them during Thanksgiving week, and I am feeling bereft now that they’re gone.
In fact, today I’ll go foraging in the Berkshires, and see what I can find that might replace them. Stay tuned.
December 2, 2009
It took me a while to get the weekly Gourmet Newsletter right. I thought we'd be writing about all the great stuff we found out in the world, like the incredible Satsuma oranges that are available for just a couple of weeks every year. Tiny, intensely flavorful and so irresistible that you eat a dozen before you know it, they're a treat I want everyone to experience. Or the amazing Richter raspberries, summer's ripest flavor, that come bursting out of the box, begging you to eat them.
Alas, it turned out that what people really wanted were recipes. So that's what we started to give them, week after week. It was easy – but pretty boring, at least to me.
Here, of course, I can say anything I want. And what I want to write about is the foods I find myself craving. Today it's dumplings from Supertaste on Eldridge Street, just below Canal. Bud brought them as a Thanksgiving house gift, but we ate them so greedily every morning that now they're gone. You buy them frozen – 50 to a bag- and simply throw them into a pot of boiling water for 7 minutes. The transformation – from frozen white lumps into knobbly little pockets of fragile dough filled with a sweetly pungent mixture of pork, garlic and scallions – is astonishing. As they bubble merrily in the pot they send wafts of fragrant steam up into the air. The anticipation is so intense that by the time they're ready to eat you're willing to burn your mouth, and you find yourself dumping them into the sauce and scooping them into your mouth without even bothering to let them cool downl.
December 1, 2009
Does everybody get depressed when the holidays end? I've so loved having this houseful of people to cook for, loved the way people roll out of bed when they smell the coffee brewing, come into the kitchen, faces hopeful, to see what might be for breakfast. I love the way fresh orange juice smells when it mingles with frying bacon and the warm brown scent of buttery toast. I love the hunt for different kinds of jam and the pawing through the refrigerator by the people who prefer leftover meatballs to just-made pancakes.
I love the constant conversation, the going out for walks or off to the movies, the feeling of life happening in every room. Now that everyone's gone back to their own lives, and even Nick is back in school, the house feels yawningly empty and slightly hungry, waiting for what's next.