Friday, July 24, 2009

Recipe Finders

Need a recipe for something fairly ordinary (apple pie, roast chicken, lasagna) or for something more exotic (what to do with ostrich, dukkah, vadouvan, etc.), either because you don't have one or because you want to compare several in order, perhaps, to take points from more than one source?

The online resources to find these things are dazzling: fast and comprehensive.

I always start with, which has recipes by chefs I often know and trust, as well as many from Gourmet and Bon Appétit.

Other sites that are very comprehensive are, which picks up Gourmet and Bon Appétit, and

Of course, the way to get the most recipes, without any filtering by content providers, is to use Google. That will often draw from one of the other sites mentioned above, but also displays results from many more, including newspapers and sources outside the US. You just have to be more discriminating in sifting through the volume of information.

In most cases the recipes are rated by readers, and it is often worth reading the comments where possible. The negative ones sometimes signal a bad recipe, but just as often give you pitfalls to avoid in using the recipe ("There's no way this can be done in 2 hours"). Even the favorable comments contain interesting insights ("I did it with milk instead of cream and it was still great").

I am sure there are many more general sites and of course there are specialized sites for various cuisines, pastry, chocolate, etc. Please share your favorites.

Bobby Jay

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sweet Corn -- One of Summer's Delights

I love summer for many reasons, but a number of them are gastronomic. Namely real tomatoes, especially heirlooms, local fruit and, best of all, local sweet corn. That's pretty much all you need to eat for a couple of months (although I am not so virtuous).

Last summer I developed a corn soup that is simple, virtuous (no cream) and delicious. I just served it the other night for the first time this year and it was a big hit. Click More below for the recipe. Enjoy!

Bobby Jay
Bobby Jay’s Corn Soup


• 5 ears of corn
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced (seeds and interior membranes removed)
• 1 Tbs butter
• 3 C water
• 2 Tbs chives, finely chopped
• Best quality olive oil
• Salt and pepper


1. Put the most delicate ear aside. Take kernels off remaining 4 ears of corn. Cut the cobs into thirds.

2. Sweat onion and jalapeño in butter with a little salt until soft. Add corn kernels and sauté another minute or so, just to warm through.

3. Add cobs and water. Bring to boil and simmer for 20-30 mins.

4. Remove cobs and puree the soup with a hand or standing blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. It may need salt to cut the natural corn sweetness.

5. Separately, bring a pot of water to a boil. Take off the heat, add the last cob of corn, cover and wait 7 minutes. Remove kernels.

6. Serve soup in individual bowls. Garnish with kernels from the last ear of corn, chives and a few drops of olive oil.

Can be served cold or hot. If cold, chill and garnish just before serving.

Serves 4

Friday, July 17, 2009

Move Over, Bánh Mì: Make Way for Porchetta

Since I have become a professional amateur foodie, I have spent a fair amount of time talking to the sellers of interesting foods. Yesterday I was discussing my
bánh mì fetish with a cheesemonger at Saxelby's, who told me about Porchetta, at 110 East 7th Street. Needless to say, I went there today.
I discovered porchetta (skin-on roast pork) in Italy about 10 years ago, travelling with friends on the road from Siena to Cortona. A truck alongside the road had a big banner announcing "Porcetta" and we stopped to have one of the great sandwiches of all time.

Fast forward 10 years, go West from Tuscany to the East Village and voilà: Porchetta. A wonderfully seasoned sandwich of roast pork, served on a roll with some crunchy skin (cracklin'), for $9. As you can see, the place is not prepossessing, but it is worth the trip for the sandwich. It turns out that New York Magazine has discovered it, too; Porchetta is mentioned in this week's "Eat Cheap '09" issue.

I am not sure if Porchetta's porchetta is authentic, like the one we had from the truck in Italy. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

Porchetta /por'ket:a/ is a savory, fatty, and moist boneless pork roast of Italian culinary tradition. The body of the pig is gutted, boned, arranged carefully with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood. Porchetta is usually heavily salted in addition to being stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel, or other herbs, often wild.

Authentic or not, though, it is definitely delicious.

Bobby Jay

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chocolate . . . Again

Having read about Taza Stone Ground Organic chocolate, I was happy to find it recently at Fairway, on New York's Upper West Side (at $5.99 per bar!). My French teacher Caroline (a chocolate expert) and I sampled their 60%, 70% and 80% bars in a recent tasting. She was skeptical because Taza is made by an American company in Massachusetts, not the normal pedigree for a great chocolate.

Our findings: All had an extraordinary granular mouth feel which made the flavor seem to pop more than in conventional chocolate, and also resulted in a very long after-taste. We both loved the 70%, which was beautifully balanced and lingered delightfully in the mouth. The 60% tasted very sweet. The 80% left a bitter after-taste, although the texture was surprisingly good for such a high cacao percentage chocolate.
Taza chocolate does not taste like others. Here is the company's description of why:

"Our chocolate making process is unique. Taza chocolate is stone ground and minimally processed, and we do not conch [a fine grinding process]. We use authentic Oaxacan stone mills instead of steel refiners to grind our cacao. Due to the imperfect surface of a granite millstone, unrefined cacao particles and sugar granules remain in the finished chocolate. These pop with explosive flavor on the palette, lending our bars their distinctive granular texture."

Works for me. But not for everyone: my wife did not like any of the bars we sampled, finding all of them too sweet. Not surprisingly, she preferred the 80%, which I found to be bitter, over the others.

Bobby Jay

Thursday, July 9, 2009

France - A Gastronomic Weekend in Talloires

Auberge du Père Bise and Lac d'Annecy

My wife and I recently spent a weekend with old friends at the famous Auberge du Père Bise in Talloires, on the beautiful Lac d'Annecy, which is near Geneva. The hotel, situated on a spit of land adjacent to the tiny port of Talloires, has views of the lake and surrounding Alps on all sides.

Talloires and neighboring Annecy (and Annecy-le-Vieux) also are home to a number of wonderful restaurants, and we did our best to sample them. The best of them is Marc Veyrat, which gets three stars from Michelin and the only 20/20 in France from Gault-Millau, is closed for the season due to the illness of its celebrated chef-owner. However, to say we ate well would be a serious understatement.
Specifically, we dined in "downtown" Annecy at La Ciboulette (one Michelin star), whose 44-euro menu is one of the best buys in France. Simply excellent food prepared with wonderful ingredients, including a cheese platter specializing in local cheeses (the local tome crayeuse is a revelation).

Next was Clos des Sens, in Annecy-le-Vieux (two Michelin stars), where interesting molecular and other modern techniques are practiced. We found the decor to be a not very successful fusion of French and Japanese elements, and the food (and its presentation) to vary from excellent to over the top. See the pictures below of mushroom appetizer, tuna plat, foie gras and lime sorbet in a sugar bag.

Another one-star restaurant that we tried was Le Belvédère, on a hill in Annecy with a lovely lake and mountain view. Here the food was a little less cerebral than at Clos des Sens, but still very imaginative and really delicious. See pictures below of asparagus and tomato appetizers.

Our last meal was at Père Bise itself, which is run by Sophie Bise, who has not changed since we ate there 30 years ago. She knows how to run a hotel and restaurant, to be sure, but we found the restaurant to be a little out of date and a mere shadow of the legendary three-star palace of the seventies (perhaps belied by the frogs' legs and lobster dishes pictured below). Still, if the weather is good (and ours was perfect), an elegant dinner with good friends on Père Bise's terrace is a memorable experience.

Bobby Jay