January 30, 2017
My family were never friends of Ike; we were Adlai people all the way. Still, from where we now sit, the man looks like a saint. Turns out he did more than issue a warning about the military-industrial complex; in a time when real men wore no aprons, Ike did all the family cooking. He’s looking better all the time!
This is from Ike The Cook. I found a copy on my bookshelf, but if you want one, you can find it here.
Here’s Ike and Mamie on their wedding day – a surprising picture since you’re used to seeing them only as grandparents. Who knew they were both so beautiful!
Here are a few of Ike’s favorite recipes:
And because I can’t resist, here’s Ike in his apron.
January 28, 2017
Just listened to an interview with Cecilia Chiang on NPR, offering some optimistic news. At 97, Cecilia sees the move from the Year of the Monkey – nothing’s worse than that troublesome trickster – to the Year of the Rooster. “The rooster wakes you up,” she said, “and that’s a hopeful sign.”
Cecilia is never wrong. Twenty-eight years ago, when I was nine months pregnant, she insisted that should the baby fail to arrive by the end of the month I must have him induced. “You want a dragon baby,” she insisted. “Very important.”
The baby obliged, showing up in the nick of time. To this day Cecilia calls him “Little Dragon.”
If you want to celebrate Chinese New Year and a better future, here are Cecilia’s recipes for a few classic recipes:
steamed fish and dumplings.
Feeling more ambitious? Here’s a recipe from Taiwanese cooking celebrity Pei Mei’s 1969 cookbook.
And while thinking of Cecilia, I was reminded of another nonagenerian San Francisco Chinese food celebrity, Henry Chung. His tiny Hunan Restaurant introduced many of us to the fiery food of the region. Here’s his easier idea for duck.
January 19, 2017
Looking for old Chinese-language Chinese food cookbooks I came across Chong Jan & Co’s Chinese Cookbook: A High Class Cook Book in English and Chinese. As I flipped through the pages – amazingly, available online through Harvard – I expected to find imperial cuisine of the Manchu emperor variety, or recipes in the tradition of chop suey – a dish that was surely ubiquitous in 1913 San Francisco.
But what I found was quite different. Recipes for forcemeats, hard sauces, fricassees. Instructions ridding those pesky English currant stains from linen tablecloths. This is a housekeeping manual for Chinese-speaking servants and while there is no mention of Chinese cuisine in the entire book, there is a chicken curry. And a mulligatawny soup:
The first commercial curry powder, should you care to know, was also a product of Anglo attempts to reproduce Indian flavors at home. It was available for sale at a “perfumery” in England in 1784. Here’s the ad that announced this new elixir in the Morning Post:
Among a few specious claims, I like this one best. Curry powder, supposedly, “contributes most of any food to an increase of the human race.”
January 5, 2017
I found this recipe for Nina Simond’s Ch’eng Tu Tzu Chi in the February, 1979, issue of Gourmet. Since I happened to have some of the ingredients on hand, I decided to make a slightly truncated, less fussy version.
Here’s Nina’s Recipe
And here’s what I did.
Spicy Chicken with Peanuts
Skin, bone and cube 3 or 4 chicken thighs.
Mix 2 teaspoons of cornstarch into 5 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, 1 tablespoon of water and a splash of toasted sesame oil, add the chicken cubes and allow to marinate for about half an hour.
Meanwhile, gather all your ingredients and set them near your stove.
Mince 3 scallions, a couple of cloves of garlic and a small knob of ginger and set aside.
Combine 4 tablespoons of chicken stock with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice wine, a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and 3/4 teaspoon sesame oil. Stir in 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Mix well and set aside.
Measure out a tablespoon of chili paste (you could also use hot bean paste, if that’s all you happen to have).
Slice a handful of fresh shiitake mushrooms and wash a generous handful of baby spinach leaves. If you have some romaine lettuce, tear it into 2 inch pieces and add them to the pile.
Put a handful of peanuts in a dish and have them near your wok as well.
Get a wok very hot, add a couple tablespoons of peanut or grapeseed oil and allow that to get very hot. Toss in the shiitakes and stir fry just until they begin to wilt. Remove to a plate.
Add a bit more oil, get it hot, add the chicken and stir-fry until the meat changes color. Then put the chicken cubes on the plate with the shiitakes.
Add a bit more oil, allow it to get hot and add the scallion mixture along with the chili paste. Stir fry until the fragrance is floating over the pan, then add the spinach and lettuce. Toss vigorously for a minute or so. Return the chicken and mushrooms, to the wok along with the broth mixture. Bring to a boil and cook very briefly, until the sauce begins to thicken.
Add the peanuts, toss around for a bit, and turn out onto a platter.
Serve over rice, with Sriracha for those who want added heat.
This will serve two or three people.
January 4, 2017
When I wrote my own review of the (now defunct) restaurant in the New York Times, my editor refused to let me say that Ponte’s occupied the only block in New York where you could leave a camera on the front seat of your car knowing it would still be there when you returned. It was not, he said, sufficiently subtle.
I was interested to see how other reviewers handled that issue. John Canaday, as you can see, simply called the place “sinister.” Jay Jacobs, in his 1983 Gourmet review, put it slightly differently.
And then, just as a reminder of when this review was written, here’s an ad from that issue of the magazine.