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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Emergency Crostata

December 20, 2009

There was a foot and a half of snow in the city, but up here on the mountain the storm went right around us, and people kept showing up all day. I just kept cooking.

I began by putting a ham in the oven, letting it cook very slowly while I made applesauce from the last of the Knobbed Russets – they do make the most wonderful sauce.  A luxuriously cheesy Gratin Dauphinoise was as much cream as potatoes; the secret is to slice the potatoes, cook them in cream on top of the stove, and then dump them into a casserole and bake it  the oven.  It’s the most forgiving dish I know. I pureed watercress, and took the leaves off Brussels Sprouts and quickly sauteed them in butter, adding a few toasted pinenuts at the end. 

It was all delicious, but the piece de resistence turned out to be the Cranberry Crostata.  It’s a recipe of Gina’s, but I’ve made it so often now that I’ve ended up making it my own. I generally double the crust recipe and put half in the freeze; you never know when you’ll need an emergency crostata.
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Here’s my recipe:

11/2 sticks butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2/4 cup toasted almonds, ground
grated rind of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
drop of almond extract
pinch of salt
2 cups flour

Beat the butter with the sugar in a stand mixer until light.  Add egg, then remaining ingredients.
Form into two disks, wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes (or more).

1 package raw cranberries
juice of one orange
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup sugar

Cook cranberries, juice, jam and sugar at high heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes.  Cool.

Roll out one disk of dough into a 12 inch circle. Don’t worry too much about this step; it will tear, and you can just press it into a 9″ springform pan, bringing the sides up about 1/2 an inch.  Put cranberry filling into crust.  Roll out remaining disk and cut into 8-12 strips, forming a lattice over the crust. Again, they will be soft, but don’t worry.  You can patch them together.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until golden. 

Cool on a rack, removing the sides of the springform pan.
(I like it even better on the second day. )

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What we ate last night…

December 12, 2009

  Raucous party: a dozen adults and 5 little kids who spent the entire evening chasing from one end of the house to the other. Loved the noise and the action. And the fact that it was a really easy dinner that tasted terrific.  Here’s what we ate.
 
   To Begin:
    Bacon-Cheddar Toasts – a glorious smoosh of chopped bacon, Montgomery, onions and horseradish, slathered onto thinly sliced white bread and baked in a hot oven until it’s melted into a crusty jumble.
    Chicken liver mousse
    Tomato-Red Pepper Dip with vegetables – an easy take on muhammara made with bottled sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, toasted walnuts, olive oil, vinegar and pomegranate syrup.
     Guacamole (avocados were ripe and cheap at the store)

     Main Course:
     Pork loin, stuffed with cognac-soaked prunes and braised in white wines with onions. The meat stays moist, and the onion, wine and prunes turn into a sweetly seductive sauce.
     Pommes Dauphinoises – Jacques Pepin’s recipe is one of my go-to dishes.  First you boil sliced potatoes in milk and cream, then you bake the whole thing with cheese until it’s dissolved into a rich potato pudding.
      Sauteed Brussels sprouts. (The oven was full. And I love sprouts when they’re julienned and quickly cooked.  Although I have to admit that I overcooked them.)

     And Finally…..
     Raspberry crumble tart
     Blueberry pie.
     Vanilla ice cream

     We drank a lot of delicious wines.  My favorites were a 2005 Chateau Lagrange and an extraordinary 2006 Raven from Sine Qua Non.
    

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Ode to a microwave

December 11, 2009

   Leftovers are my life, which is one reason I have such a close relationship with my microwave oven. Last night I discovered one more justification for their existence: Nothing makes better basmati rice.
   I learned this long ago from Julie Sahni, and I should have known better than to doubt her. But despite all her assurances that the microwave not only cooks basmati rice perfectly, but actually makes each grain longer, I've continued to use the conventional method.  Last night, however, every burner on the stove was occupied. I decided to do it her way.
    It couldn't be easier: You wash 2 cups of basmati rice until the water runs clear.  Then you put it in a bowl (or some other microwave-friendly vessel), add 3 cups of water and cook at the highest power for 15 minutes.  Cover the bowl, cook it 5 minutes more, and let it stand for an additional 5 minutes.
    Fluff with a fork and proudly serve the remarkably fragrant rice. This rice is long, thin and extremley elegant. More importantly, each grain retains its individuality, refusing to reach out and grab its neighbors in the clingy fashion of so many lesser rices.
  And it makes great leftovers.

   

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Biography

December 11, 2009

Ruth Reichl is the author of Delicious! a novel published by Random House in May 2014. She was Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine from 1999 to 2009.  Before that she was the restaurant critic of  both The New York Times(1993-1999) and the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993), where she was also named food editor. As co-owner of The Swallow Restaurant from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California. In the years that followed, she served as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines. 

Ms. Reichl began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. Since then, she has authored the critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs Tender at the BoneComfort Me with ApplesGarlic and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally, which have been translated into 18 languages. She is the editor of The Modern Library Food Series, which currently includes ten books. She has also written the introductions to Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur (1996) and The Measure of Her Powers: An M.F.K. Fisher Reader (2000), and the forewords for Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji (2007), At Elizabeth David’s Table (2011) and .  She is featured on the cover of Dining Out: Secrets from America’s Leading Critics, Chefs and Restaurants, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page (1998).  She is the editor of Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from GourmetRemembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from GourmetThe Gourmet Cookbook, released September 2004; History in a Glass: Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet, 2006 and Gourmet Today, September 2009. Her lecture “Why Food Matters,” delivered in October 2005, was published in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Volume 27, in 2006. In March 2007, she delivered the J. Edward Farnum Lecture at Princeton University. 

Ms. Reichl hosted Eating Out Loud, three specials on Food Network, covering New York (2002), San Francisco (2003), and Miami (2003). She is the executive producer of Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie, public television’s 30-episode series, which debuted in October 2006 and Executive Producer and host of Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth, a 10-episode public television series which began airing in October 2009. She is currently a judge on Top Chef Masters.

 Ms. Reichl has been honored with 6 James Beard Awards (one for magazine feature writing and one for multimedia food journalism in 2009; two for restaurant criticism, in 1996 and 1998; one for journalism, in 1994; and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, 1984.  In 2007, she was namedAdweek’s Editor of the Year. She received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, presented by the Missouri School of Journalism, in October 2007. Ms. Reichl received the 2008 Matrix Award for Magazines from New York Women in Communications, Inc., in April 2008. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan and lives in Upstate New York with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer.

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