May 6, 2016
The most seductive dish I’ve been served recently. I can’t stop thinking about it. The Tropical at Jean-Georges, a ball of delicate coconut pastry, opens up to spill this gorgeous tumble of fruit. A fragrant tangle of tastes and textures (passionfruit!) I can’t think of a more exciting way to end a meal.
This is the Tropical’s humble demeanor as it arrives at the table:
A few other delights from that lunch at Nougatine:
Fresh pea soup. The croutons evaporate when you take a bite, topped with a pungent froth of parmesan. It’s like dreaming of spring while sitting at the table.
Pastina. Lemon. Sea urchin. Butter. Caviar. An edible punch: I leave the flavor to your imagination:
Here is the most delicious morsel I ate at North, a remarkably impressive restaurant in the pretty hamlet of Armonk: squid ink strozzapreti with rock shrimp and chives:
And finally, my favorite bite from a satisfying lunch at Via Carotta: delicate strands of lemony pasta tossed with peas, topped with prosciutto and sprinkled with Parmesan. A perfect classic combination. Eating this I thought: I’m glad to be alive.
May 5, 2016
You were all so interested in the Pioneer Cookbook that I want to share a few more details from the Deadwood Centennial Cookbook. Together they weave a fascinating portrait of life on the frontier.
First, some old-fashioned vinegar making. Don’t worry; if you’re confused by one of the ingredients…
…this 1928 Farmers’ Bulletin from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has you covered:
These “bees” were something you’d order by mail, as you would kefir grains. From the USDA’s tone, it seems they were possibly problematic.
And here’s a wonderful way to use up leftover rice. (Not exactly gluten-free….)
Finally, an amazing picture of the Wong family in Deadwood. I’m sorry to say that the book includes no recipes gleaned from the city’s Chinatown.
May 3, 2016
Yesterday was my father’s birthday, and I found myself thinking about him for much of the day. He would have been 116 years old, he’s been gone for more than 35 years, and yet not a day goes by that I don’t miss him.
As solace I made his favorite dessert. He loved this rice pudding, and I imagined him sitting across the table, reveling in the flavor as he watched the hawks outside hovering, almost motionless, in the air.
Longchamps Rice Pudding with Raisins
¾ cup long grain basmati rice, washed and drained
½ cup raisins
1 quart whole milk
¾ cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
sprinkling of ground cinnamon
Preheat over to 425 degrees.
Wash the rice in a bowl filled with water. Stir the rice with your fingers then pour out the water and repeat the process until the water runs clear.
Bring the rice to a boil with 3 cups of water, lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Drain
Meanwhile, cover the raisins with water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Stir the milk, sugar, and salt into the drained rice. Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon for 25 minutes until the mixture is the consistency of a thick porridge. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the egg yolks with ½ cup cream. Temper the eggs by stirring 1 cup of the rice mixture into the egg mixture, then pouring it slowly back into the saucepan with the rice, stirring, until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
Add the lemon zest, raisins, and vanilla, blending thoroughly. Pour the pudding into an 8”x 8” baking pan and let cool for 5 minutes until the top is firm.
Whip the remaining ½ cup cream until stiff and spread it evenly over the top of the rice pudding. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake for 10 minutes until the cinnamon browns slightly and the pudding is bubbling around the edges.
I’m guessing Dad was about 25 when this picture was taken.
May 2, 2016
And now for something….insane. That’s the only word for this “cookbook.” Brace yourself for something disturbing, disorienting and dark.
On it’s relatively modest face, this is a book of recipes from a restaurant in a fictional asylum called “Dippy House.” The waitstaff wear straight jackets. The “visitors” are never allowed to leave; perhaps they are the inmates? As the introduction ends the author exhorts readers to “come and see us, we know you should be here.” I believe that’s an author photo on the bottom left.
But let’s get into the “recipes”:
Is this a commentary on recipe-writing conventions? An art piece? The musings of a very disturbed mind? To be honest, I have no idea. It’s just one very strange hand-typed book dating from the twenties, and I pass it on for your edification.
May 1, 2016
The whole house is still redolent of smoke. If there’s a better scent, I have yet to encounter it.
All day the meat – pork shoulders and beef ribs – sat in this contraption, soaking up the smoke and becoming increasingly delicious. Barbecue Pitmaster, John Markus hauled his mobile pit up our hill and set up a tent. Then he returned in the dark of the morning – 5 a.m. – to fire it up.
This is one of the ribs. But you want to see it up close to see how truly marbled the meat is.
There was, incidentally, a LOT of beef.
But have I mentioned the pork?
This is what the pork looked like a few hours in, about the time John loaded in the beef. And this is what it looked like twelve hours later, when it emerged:
Then it got pulled, mixed with a Carolina mustard sauce, and devoured.
Watching John hover over the pit all day, watching the temperature, filling it with more coals, moistening the meat (he used apple juice), gave me a whole new respect for pitmasters. This is not cooking, it’s a labor of love and unlike any other activity in the kitchen. It’s biting your nails, wondering what’s going on inside that smoking behemoth, fighting the urge to open it up and take a look. It’s having faith and appreciating mystery. Above all, it’s patience.
This is Larry Martinelli, John’s friend and helper, with the first butt out of the smoker.
How did it taste? The pulled pork was the best I’ve ever had. And the beef….
I have an indelible memory of the first time I went to Luling Texas, walked into City Market and watched the man pile brisket onto butcher paper. I took a bite and went to some other place. It was a primal taste, all meat, mineral and smoke. I’d never experienced anything like it, and I’ve been chasing that flavor ever since.
In the meantime I’ve tried a lot of barbecued beef, in a lot of great places, and what I’ve learned is this: I got very lucky that day in Luling. I hit a magic moment, one that happens very, very rarely.
It happened again yesterday. I feel so lucky.
If you want to know what else we ate – there were about 50 of us – here’s the rest of the menu. I’ll admit I overdid it, cooking for days and making way too much….. But I never want anyone to leave my house hungry.
Lovely local cheeses.
Aunt Birdie’s Potato salad
Macaroni and cheese
Nicky’s Vanilla Cake
Art Park Brownies
Lots of beer and wine….