To Make 12 large popovers.
2 cups whole milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmagiano
1 cup grated Comte
Let sit for a half hour for flour to absorb liquid.
Preheat oven to 450deg. Preheat popover pans or muffin tins with a teaspoon of melted butter or bacon fat.
Quickly take out tin, shut oven door, fill wells half full with batter, top with handful of grated comte, quickly return to oven. Bake for 10 minutes, reduce temp to 375deg, continue to bake for 20 min or until done.
The secret to successful popovers is keeping the oven very hot for the first 10 minutes, or they will not rise.
With an incredible back log of recipes and musings, this floated to the top.
Ruby-toned. Almost reflective.
And I'm hanging on to it like a life preserver, promising the warmth of days to come.
Maybe it sounds like I'm exaggerating, and perhaps I am a tad, but this winter was cold and gray. And I'm excited for this year's thaw.
We're a few weeks away from the Michigan variety (which i usually hold out for), but these Washington state beauties caught my eye in Busch's yesterday.
Right now I have stewed 6 wide bright red stalks in a bit of water and a heavy hand of sugar.
I'll strain the mixture, saving the tender solids for a compote. For a delightful dessert, fold this compote into freshly whipped cream, and top with a spoonful of lemon curd.
The syrup will be saved for cocktails or Italian sodas.
Ringing endorsement for Cafe Memmi! We had a lovely date night on Thurdsay night. Our meal was so full of flavor. Unfortunately it was too dark in Bar at Braun Ct to take photographs. Everything was not only delicious, but also artistically beautiful. Pleasing to all senses.
My mouth was humming with the symphonies of Tunisia. From spiced nuts to greens with a citrus vinaigrette, frites with sun-dried tomato aoili, sole perched on a saute of onion, sweet pepper, and fried egg, to poached meringues in a citrus custard, everything was stellar. I walked away satiated but not stuffed.What struck me most of all was that everything was luscious and deep, but somehow light and delicate. I am not deeply familiar with Tunisian cuisine, but now I will make it my quest to learn more. It was an inspiring meal. Thank you, Amos and Sarah.
Certain kinds of nights call for homemade pasta-- In this case served with Pesto de Noce (not shown because it doesn't look quite so appetizing) Pesto de Noce (walnut pesto): Soak two small pieces of good bread (Zingerman's baguette) in milk while you set out the other ingredients. Toast two cups walnuts. In a food processor bowl or mortar & pestle, combine walnuts, one clove garlic, one quarter cup chopped parsley, softened bread, 1/4 cup grated parmigiana reggianno, 1/4 cup olive oil. Season to taste. Toss with pasta, fresh egg tagliatelle, in this case. Served with Kale Caesar -seen undressed at the bottom.
I'm working my way through MFK Fisher's anthology the Art of Eating. It is not a cookbook, but a series of books that contain short essays about food and eating and cooking and their social implications. Although I have come across her work in "best of" food writing collections, I decided to make the commitment to read through her whole body of work.
She is a fantastic writer, full of wit, tongue-in-cheek humor, insightful examinations of human behavior seen through the eyes of the cook and the eater. If prose can be poetry, she nails that subtlety. There are over 700 pages of nuance, so I'm not going to summarize it all. But I was so struck by something I read last night, I wanted to take note of it and share the experience with you.
The final book in this collection isAlphabet for Gourmets. As you'd expect, each chapter has some alphabetical significance in it's title and inspiration.
H is for Happy is a love song. She starts out by discussing the times when people are most happy at the table: when they're young, when they're in love, when they're alone... There are many more.
In a prior essay called The Pale Yellow Glove from Serve it Forth, Fisher discusses those moments of "complete gastronomic satisfaction". They're rare if you're a foodie, maybe because we are often more aware of the short comings of a food experience. But in this essay, she touches on those times when the stars align, when the food and the experiences, internal and external, are in harmony to produce a scintillating memory. It is the sense of being simultaneously satisfied, physically and emotionally. It could be the complicated result of a good friend making you a five star birthday dinner or the simplicity of eating blackberries from your garden that are more sweet than sugar and still warm from the heat of the afternoon August sun. For me, music can provide the same sort of accord between the physical and emotional. For a pregnant second, the world seems to stop so you can absorb something bigger than yourself, something immortal. It's as if you can feel LIFE.
Keeping that in mind, we'll travel back to H is for Happy. Fisher dwells on a memory of eating fried egg sandwiches, but not just any... Aunt Gwen's friend egg sandwiches. They were a secret treat at the time, something that neither her grandmother or mother would have indulged in. Take a look at this excerpt and recipe.
When I was a child my Aunt Gwen (who was not an aunt at all but a large-boned and enormous-hearted woman who, thank God, lived next door to us) used to walk my little sister Anne and me up into the hills at sundown. She insisted on pockets. We had to have at least two apiece when we were with her. In one of them, on those twilight promenades, would be some cookies. In the other, oh, deep sensuous delight! would be a fried egg sandwich! Nobody but Aunt Gwen ever made fried egg sandwiches for us. Grandmother was carefully protected from the fact that we had ever even heard of them, and as for Mother, preoccupied with a second set of children, she shuddered at the thought of such grease-bound proteins with a thoroughness which should have made us chary but instead succeeded only in satisfying our human need for secrets. The three of us, Aunt Gwen weighing a good four times what Anne and I did put together, would sneak out of the family ken whenever we could, into the blue-ing air, our pockets sagging and our spirits spiraling in a kind of intoxication of freedom, breathlessness, fatigue, and delicious anticipations. We would climb high above the other mortals, onto a far rock or a fallen eucalyptus tree and sit there, sometimes close as burrs and sometimes apart, singing straight through Pinafore and the Episcopal Hymn Book (Aunt Gwen was British and everything from contralto to basso profundo in the Whittier church choir), and biting voluptuously into our tough, soggy, indigestible and luscious suppers. We flourished on them, both physically and in our tenacious spirits.
AUNT GWEN'S FRIED EGG SANDWICHES
1/2 to 1 cup drippings
6 fresh eggs
12 slices bread
The drippings are very English, the kind poured off an unidentified succession of beef, mutton, and bacon pans, melted gradually into one dark puddle of thick unappetizing grease which immediately upon being dabbed into a thick hot iron skillet sends out rendingly appetizing smells.
The eggs must be fresh, preferably brown ones, best of all freckled brown ones.
The bread must be good bread, no puffy, blanched, uniform blotters from a paper cocoon.
The waxed paper must be of honest quality, since at the corners where it will leak a little some of it will stick to the sandwich and in a way merge with it and be eaten.
These have been amply indicated in the text, and their prime requisite-Aunt Gwen herself would be the first to cry no to any further exposition of them. Suffice it that they were equal parts of hunger and happiness.
Heat the drippings in a wide flat-bottomed skillet until they spit and smoke. Break in the eggs, which will immediately bubble around the edges, making them crisp and indigestible, and break their yolks with a fork and swirl them around, so that they are scattered fairly evenly through the whites. This will cook very quickly and the eggs should be tough as leather.
Either push them to one side of the pan or remove them, and fry bread in the drippings for each sandwich, two slices to an egg. It too will send off a blue smoke. Fry it on one side only, so that when the sandwiches are slapped together their insides will turn soggy at once. Add to this sogginess by pressing them firmly together. Wrap them well in the waxed paper, where they will steam comfortably.
These sandwiches, if properly made and wrapped, are guaranteed, if properly carried in sweater or pinafore pockets, to make large oily stains around them.
Seasoning depends on the state of the drippings. As I remember Aunt Gwen's, they were such a "fruity" blend of last week's roast last month's gammon, that salt and pepper would have been an insult to their fine flavor.
To be eaten on top of a hill at sunset, between trios of "A Wandering Minstrel I" and "Onward Christian Soldiers" preferably before adolescence and its priggish queasiness set in.
Can you not feel yourself walking & singing with Aunt Gwen? I'd like to advocate including both physical and spiritual ingredients in recipes, in addition to prescriptions of how to enjoy. Not just the common "serve with rice" but literally the how, where, who with. If we demanded this, can you imagine how many insipid recipes would be forced to come to terms with their irrelevance?
As I've said before on the Last Bite, sometimes food is fuel, and when you're cooking for a family, preparing food spiritually might feel like a stretch. But we should all remember that providing sustenance is more than fulfilling a physical need. It is filling a need bigger than a stomach. Because it is life sustaining, most literally, it carries a heavier weight than caloric input. It has the opportunity to reach someone deep down in their core being. It has the capacity to stop the world for a second, to cause a person to take inventory of where they are in the universe, to create a memory that will stick with them through the rest of their days.
Once a girl walked by a coffee shop. Although Intimidated by the hipsters within, she pulled opened the doors and ordered a Brown Sugar & Sea Salt latte. Girl watched the hipsters prepare her drink as if it were a scientific experiment, but when she took a sip it tasted more like a piece of art. She sighed....
And the next day she craved that final heartwarming sip which she had cherished the day before.
When Chef Alex and I were initially reading the Essential JAMES BEARD Cookbook, it was hard for us to choose only one recipe to bring to you, so we agreed to do episodes of recipes. Last time, Alex prepared Coq au Vin, which by its design was very complex.
This time around we knew that we wanted to work with oysters, but where to start and where to end? It is easy when dealing with some ingredients to let your mind wander, and suddenly one dish, as simple as a plate of freshly shucked oysters, turns into five or even six dishes. For many people, oysters are viewed as untouchable in the home kitchen, but James Beard and Chef Alex Young would disagree. Often you can find oysters on restaurant menus, but after this instruction you should be encouraged to experiment at home. Branch out: get a sack of oysters from your seafood market and start playing.
Oysters in their raw state are a succulent luxurious treat. Raw oysters glistening with the briny sea make quite a sensual impression. M.K.Fisher referred to them as "a lusty bit of nourishment", and I'd have to agree with this perfect description. You can enjoy them raw and experience the sea that they lived in. Because the oyster is an animal that lives to pump and filter sea water through its body, you can really get a taste of the water that the animal lived in, which can be good or bad. If you want to eat raw oysters, you should buy them in the shell and shuck them yourself. It is not advised to eat raw pre-shucked oysters sold in bulk.
FRIED OYSTERS: We wanted to take these beauties and transform them to a different, higher state. Fried oysters caught Chef Alex's eye. But simply serving a plate full of fried oysters was not enough. He wanted to show us several different applications. The Essential James Beard cookbook calls for breading oysters in crumbled oyster crackers, following an egg wash. We also fried a batch in cornmeal. For the best possible flavor we fried in Arbequina olive oil from California Olive Ranch. As Chef Alex explains in the video at the end of the post, he chose California Olive Ranch this year to source the needs for Zingerman's Roadhouse, totaling 1980 gallons. It is a full flavored oil, delicately balanced, and strong enough to hold up to the rigors of being fried in, but also lovely in its raw state.
Chef Alex cleaned out the shells for a natural presentation of fried oysters swimming in tartar sauce.
As a side note, Chef Alex’s tartar sauce is a unique blend based on what you would expect to be in a standard tartar, but amped up. He hand chops cornichons instead of using a prepared relish and also adds diced fresh tomato.
To make Roadhouse Tartar Sauce, combine the following ingredients:
N'ORLEANS STYLE PO' BOY: A standard po' boy sandwich represents the spirit of New Orleans. It can contain any number of fillings, but most traditionally is known to be filled with fried seafood. Chef Alex created this po' boy by slicing a Zingerman's bakehouse baguette, spread with his tartar sauce, fried oysters, topped with shredded romaine and sliced tomato. You can also add cheddar and bacon for more dimensions.
James Beard calls this an “Oyster Loaf".
If you're a huge po' boy fan, consider attending the New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival. You just missed it last weekend, but it's an annual festival, so you can put it on your calendar for next year.
PEACEMAKER: New Orleans legend says that men who had spent the evening in the French Quarter and were late to come home would bring this sandwich to their impatient wives in order to make peace. Another variation of the po’ boy, the peacemaker is made with a softer loaf, hollowed out from the inside, while the exterior remains intact. Plump fried oysters are stuffed into the cavity, which makes the sandwich more portable.
CANAPE: ANGELS ON HORSEBACK This dish is English in origin and traditionally is an oyster wrapped in bacon and grilled. Chef Alex’s version turns it into a tasty two bite appetizer. It begins with crostini made from Zingerman’s bakehouse baguette, a piece of fried Nueske's bacon, topped with an oyster fried in cornmeal.
CANAPE: PEACEMAKER To turn the Peacemaker into an appetizer similar to Chef Alex's Angels on Horseback, vertically slice the peacemaker sandwich into one inch pieces and top with jullienned bacon.
HANGTOWN FRY: Chef Alex describes this dish as the ultimate indulgence. It is the epitome of Californian cuisine and the historic gold rush era.
The legend of Hangtown Fry
A successful miner struck gold during the goldrush in Placerville CA, known casually as Hangtown because of the way that criminals were dealt with. The miner entered a downtown restaurant and requested a meal that combined the most expensive ingredients in the house: eggs, bacon, and oysters. The cook combined the ingredients for this one guest, not knowing that he created what some call the state dish of California.
A favorite at Zingermans’ Roadhouse, Alex knows how to whip it up. After watching him do this, I saw that it would be no problem to successfully prepare this at home. Chef Alex not only used the three most indulgent ingredients called for by the miner, but he also began the process with the golden elixir, extra virgin olive oil from California Olive Ranch. Chef Alex dipped the oysters in an egg wash, then crumbled oyster crackers, then fried them in a saute pan. When the oysters were almost completely cooked, he added chopped pre-cooked bacon to the pan and 4 beaten eggs, then stirred gently while the eggs cooked. Serve this with toast in a pie pan, remiscient of the pan that the gold miner might have used to collect his fortune.