As a happy coincidence, shortly after my return our dear friend Philippe had his birthday, which occasioned an event that cushioned any culture shock I might have been feeling after ten days of immersive and hedonistic Gallic gastronomy. John ordered a hundred Wellfleet oysters from Gerard and we had a quick telephone consultation about wine. And then we partied.
Keep reading Plus Ça Change…
Those gnocchi from the previous post had a second life in a more elegant dinner this weekend. We had some friends visit from Boston, so I made a dinner on Saturday night that benefited from a bit of forethought, even though the actual cooking was not too complicated. The presentation was nice, in any case.
Keep reading Bananas And Phở…
On Saturday we had a wonderful birthday party for a dear friend. There was much good food, and some pretty epic wines. Caught up as I was in first the making and then the enjoying of the food, I didn’t take a single picture. This has been pretty common lately; I’ve been ignoring the requirements that this blog imposes upon some of my meals and just, you know, making, eating, and enjoying them with family and friends. It makes for a more relaxed and well-lived life, but of course it’s anathema to the vicarious internet experiencing of the same events by others. And I’m OK with that.
Keep reading All The Ladies In The House Say Paella…
A dear friend’s impending birthday gave me an excuse to spend an afternoon cooking, so after I ran a bunch of errands (including picking up 12 lbs. of pork belly for bacon) I got down to business in the kitchen. In the five hours between my return home and the arrival of the guests, I made a few dishes that turned out pretty well, and one that was damn good. And the wine, courtesy of John, was a beautifully curated study in Bordeaux-type wines vinified in places that (mostly) were not Bordeaux.
Keep reading That’s More Like It…
Thanksgiving, 2010. First off, the prep:
Keep reading Bring It On Home…
So, after much finagling, Claudia and Michael came for dinner. I know that this has been something she’s been waiting for for ages, mostly because she lives in freaking Kentucky and has WAY too much time on her hands, and I’m all about charity. But we pretended that we were happy too, and there was only a small amount of awkward throat-clearing, foot-shuffling, and sidelong watch-glancing while I scrambled to make like a million courses to keep them amused.
I’m deep into working on an important project in the studio right now, so I was stressed out and impatient prior to their arrival (which, you know, always makes the food taste better) and even more so after they arrived, on account of she’s a giant pain in the ass. But, because I literally lie awake at night thinking about dinner parties, I even had something ready in the fridge: tartare of miso-cured Arctic char with ramps and crispy skin. I had rubbed the char with miso a couple of days ago (these were the trimmings from the sushi) and gave it a rinse this afternoon, then cut off the skin. The flesh I chopped super-fine–too much, really; it got a bit gluey–then mixed it with finely chopped ramps, and the skin I put in a hot skillet with sesame seeds until it was well-browned on both sides. Putting it skin-side down first helps keep it stuck to the pan long enough to stay flat, so that it makes a good cracker for tartare-eating. I also added sesame oil, usukuchi, sudachi juice, and white pepper to the mix for a nice complex flavor profile. Garlic chive, red mustard, and the crispy skin cracker all added contrasts flavoral and textural.
Keep reading Kvetcher In The Rye…
On Sunday we cobbled together a good group on rather short notice. We went back and forth during the week about whether we wanted to have a thing or not, and eventually decided to go for it. Not that we like people, really; I just wanted to show off the new kitchen. I did not have a ton of time to do anything ambitious, so we stuck to basics, centered around a beautiful local lamb leg. I pulled it out of the fridge in the morning and poked it all over with a paring knife, tucking pinches of rosemary and a garlic clove into each hole. Then I rubbed it with a freshly-ground mixture of coriander, cumin, 5-spice, coffee, smoked paprika, oregano, marjoram, thyme, lavender, fennel, and black pepper and let it sit, glistening, on the kitchen table until it was time to go on the fire.
My lovely family peeled all of the hard-boiled eggs we had dyed earlier in the week, and we sliced and de-yolked them. I made a simple mayonnaise and mashed the yolks together with some of it, along with paprika, curry powders, salt, mustard, and a little kimchi brine. We piped the filling into the halves and anointed the plate with parsley, garlic chives, and more parika.
Meanwhile, I steamed and mashed a ton of Yukon gold potatoes, beating in an egregiously splendid quantity of good olive oil and a little melted butter along with ramps, nettles, and garlic chives I had just picked from the spot . . . → Read More: Feaster
This post can be filed under “reasons why it’s not always a good idea to try something fancy right before a dinner party.” I had this idea a while ago, and the a semi-promptu gathering last Sunday gave me an excuse to try it out. Not very well, as it turned out, but whaddayagonnado. Next time I’ll get it right.
Originally it was just going to be parsnip gnocchi, but then I noticed the variety of brightly colored winter produce we had on hand, so it got more ambitious. I steamed the parsnips and blended them with salt and a few drops of vanilla. I roasted a kabocha squash and puréed it with nutmeg. I roasted some beets and whizzed them with a bit of Banyuls vinegar, and lastly I pulled the rest of the purple potato purée out of the fridge. To each of these smoothnesses I added hydrated methylcellulose, doing little quenelle tests as I went to determine the right amount. Once I had (or thought I had) each mixture right, I put them all into individual bags and let them sit while I did some other stuff.
Each vegetable needed a different percentage based on its texture and water content, and for some reason I under-added a lot to the beet and potato mixtures. So when it came time to cook them (piped from a cut corner of the bag into simmering water) and then spoon them into the waiting roast chicken dashi, those two fell apart. So it looked . . . → Read More: Football Makes You Gay
We went to Boston for the weekend, and managed to cram a ton of socializing into a very narrow window of time. We managed to invite ourselves over to a couple of different houses for dinner, making for a much more enjoyable time since Milo is good for about 20 minutes in a restaurant before he starts to get bored. Friday Andrew made us celery root salad with preserved lemon persillade followed by polenta with sugo and then some excellent local ice cream. The next day we got treated to sammiches at a nice café in Somerville before heading off to the Museum of Science, which is every bit as great as it was when I was a kid, and eerily features many of the same exhibits that it did back then, in immaculate condition. I worked as a museum preparator for a time, and I’m astonished at the pristine condition of many of those mechanical things in vitrines where you push a button to make them go. They must have replaced a lot of motors over the years.
Yesterday was a long drive, but we went more or less straight to Duncan’s birthday party, where once again other people made our dinner. And a wonderful dinner it was, too. John made a roasted beef tenderloin, rubbed with herbs and cooked to a perfect rare. He also made braised daikon with a rustic version of gin-an sauce that was pretty spectacular. Pressed for time, I just sliced up a bunch of bresaola . . . → Read More: Season’s Tweetings
For the last two Thanksgivings I have thrown down 11-course extravaganzas (links here and here; menu for second link here) which took days to make and hours to eat. This time around, we were to have the meal in Vermont, and I just couldn’t deal with having to bring lots of components and more than a few tools, gadgets, and plates to do it there. So I just did a straight-up all-on-the-plate at once dinner, using traditional flavors but swapping in a much tastier goose for the bland, annoying turkey. Taking a cue from myself, I cut the goose apart a couple of days beforehand and made confit with the legs. The breasts I dropped in a marinade of wine, salt, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and herbs, and then let them sit in the fridge for a day or so. The carcass became 6 quarts of goose phở, from which I removed the fat after it chilled overnight. A lot of fat. A lot of goose fat.
So we are now well stocked with a big container of one of the world’s great cooking vehicles. My grandfather used to talk fondly of goose fat; growing up in a shtetl in Poland at the beginning of the last century, calories were in short supply. Slathered on bread with salt was how he liked it. Made into a roux and then gravy with goose phở and local hard cider is how we had it.
I scored and seared the breasts until they were just . . . → Read More: The Day Before Black Friday