Friday, February 1, 2019

What I've Been Cooking - 5

We had two small dinners in January, and I made some old favorites and some new dishes, too. I like to make something I am comfortable with when I have guests but also to experiment a bit; this way at least some will be good.

For Joan's old high school friend and his new wife, I made an eclectic meal. As an hors d'oeuvre, I served my own creation: sun-dried tomato, lemon zest and ricotta crostini on toasted baguette croutons.

Bobby Jay's sun-dried tomato and lemon zest spread
Although I rarely start with a salad, that night I served an appetizer salad inspired by one we had at Grüner, in Portland, Oregon. It consisted of thinly slice mushrooms, even more thinly sliced radishes, radish sprouts, arugula, lots of chopped dill and chives, parmesan slices, toasted pumpkin seeds and a pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette. Sounds like a lot is going on, but somehow it works.
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Next up was Marcella Hazan's lamb stew with artichokes, a classic that I hadn't made in about ten years. Still excellent, with the subtle earthiness of the artichokes complementing the lamb perfectly. I served it over simple slow-cooked polenta, with roasted asparagus with almonds, capers and dill as a side.

Lamb stew with artichokes, polenta
For dessert, I tried apple tart Normande, based on a recipe from David Lebovitz' blog. It came out beautifully and tasted great, although it is a rather rich tart due to the addition of a fair amount of cream (hence "Normande").

Apple tart Normande
Later in the month, we had the assistant director of a major museum, who goes by the name Kintaro, for dinner. We had simple but elegant cauliflower soup from Food52 Genius Recipes, garnished with chopped pumpkin seeds and pistachio oil,

Cauliflower soup
followed by roast halibut with tahini-herb sauce (see post of January 30), accompanied by green beans sautéed with almonds and herbes de Provence.

After a simple salad with a hearty Caesar-like vinaigrette, I served a blackberry and raspberry batter cobbler, based on a recipe from Food52 Genius Desserts, which came out exactly as pictured in the book.

Blackberry and raspberry cobbler
Almost forgot that I made chocolate and coconut filled macarons mutines, slavishly following a recipe from Pierre Hermé, the king of macarons, for Joan to give to her clients and colleagues at The Winter Show, New York's premier art and antiques show, where she is an exhibitor.

Macarons mutines
These are really great! Making them is a great way to become popular, definitely worth the considerable effort they take.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What I've Been Cooking - 4

Chocolate orange tart
As is our custom, we spent the end of the year in Paris. We mostly eat out when we're there, and what I cook there is often not very photogenic. In fact, most meals are half cooked and half provided by the excellent traiteurs and charcutiers and fromagers in the neighborhood.

Until Christmas, that is. As is our custom, we invited our Japanese ceramics artists/friends for Christmas dinner.

We started with salted pork tenderloin from the Vosges, which I found at Maison Plisson, not far from where we live and an easy visit during my daily walks. Very tender and perfectly seasoned.

Salted Vosges pork tenderloin
This was followed by Serendipity Chicken Livers, invented by the renowned Dorie Greenspan the day we shopped and had dinner together en famille at her apartment. We were shopping at a very fine volaillerie in the Richard Lenoir market, near the Bastille, when Dorie spotted some gorgeous chicken livers, which she said were a favorite of her husband's. So she bought a bunch and prepared them that day, roughly chopped with various Asian flavors: a wildly successful improvisation! After refining the recipe a bit, she graciously furnished it to me under strict orders not to share it unless and until she published it. So I have jealously guarded the recipte, but I did make and share the chicken livers themselves, and they were almost as great as when Dorie made them. We had them for lunch several times in the days after Christmas.

Serendipity chicken livers
For the main course, I made slow-cooked lamb shoulder over pommes boulangère, a classic from Tom Kerridge, the owner-chef of the only pub in the world to hold two Michelin stars. Starting with amazingly good (and expensive) lamb from Boucherie Gardil, on the Île Saint-Louis, what could go wrong? And nothing did.

Lamb shoulder with pommes boulangère
After a light green salad with a perfect Vacherin du Mont d'Or, my absolutely favorite cheese, only available in the winter months, I served a chocolate orange tart from Milk Street TV. Pretty and tasty if a bit too sweet for my taste. (Pictured above.)

We finished with some Armagnac and then more or less collapsed.

Bobby Jay

What I've Been Cooking - 3

I've been interested in Middle Eastern cooking for a number of years, and was psyched to read Naz Deravian's Bottom of the Pot, named for the tahdig crust formed on the bottom of a pot of Persian rice (before being inverted to make a gorgeous top), one of my top ten foods in the world.

Joan was away so I decided to make just one dish to get acquainted with this book, which I had read in full: kashki bademjan, an eggplant dish made with kashk (a pungent cheesy distillation of cooked down and concentrated yogurt) and a topping of fried onions, garlic and mint.

The dish was tasty if not pretty, with an interesting interplay among the earthy eggplant taste (accentuated by turmeric), the funkiness of the kashk and the kick of the onion-garlic-mint mixture:

Eggplant dip with kashk
I accompanied the dish with Persian rice, not one of the ones in Bottom of the Pot, which entail quite a bit of work, but rather the recipe in Melissa Clark's Dinner in an Instant, which I have made numerous times (indeed, this picture is from an earlier meal). I added tons of dill and, with the eggplant dish, had a lovely and healthful meal.

Persian rice
Joan returned from Japan the next day, and she enjoyed reheated versions of both dishes, the eggplant dish having been given a shot of brightness by adding pomegranate seeds, an innovation I will use again next time.

Bobby Jay

What I've Been Cooking - 2

While Joan was still in Japan, I received a package of persimmons from a great friend, who had gotten them from her friend in California, who has a wonderful tree. But they came with a stipulation: I was required to make a dish incorporating persimmons to be photographed and sent to the person with the tree for her judgment. Two others were included in the competition, both far more experienced than I; indeed, one has a well-known pastry shop in New York.

I thought about this for a couple of days and decided to make a tarte tatin using persimmons instead of apples. I used the basic techniique from the Confrérie des Lichonneux de la Tarte Tartin (Brotherhood of Tarte Tatin Lovers), with some brilliant additions from Paula Wolfert's The Food of Morocco, namely the addition of dried currants (Wolfert uses raisins but I wanted something less sweet) and orange flower water.

Here's my tarte tatin aux kakis Yamazaki. Quite a beautiful tart, I think,

Persimmon tarte tatin
but the persimmons were a bit mild-tasting for this dessert, being a bit overwhelmed by the bitterrness of the caramelized sugar and the heavily scented orange flower water. If I make it again . . .

When Joan's away I like to bake bread, so I made some levain country rye loaves from Chad Robertson's iconic Tartine Bread.

Levain country rye bread
It is so satisfying to get loaves that look like this, and have that sour taste that can only be found in a genuine levain bread. A serious scheduling problem, since the process takes about 24 hours and has a number of steps, but worth it when it comes out.

Bobby Jay


What I've Been Cooking - 1

People I meet, when they learn of my passion for cooking, invariably ask what kind of food I like to cook. And the answer is "everything" because I love learning new techniques and flavors. That being said, I return again and again to certain favorites, generally Italian, French or American. Looking at some of the main things I've cooked over the past couple of months gives a flavor for how I approach selection of dishes to try and how I like to plan menus.

For the first major meal after Thanksgiving, I made roast halibut with tahini herb butter, a brilliant recipe (intended for cod, which Joan doesn't like) from Christopher Kimball's new book, Milk Street Tuesday Nights (more on this book and the others mentioned herein in a later post). To counterbalance the very interesting flavors of the fish I served Peruvian fingerling potatoes from the great potato grower at the Upper West Side greenmarket sautéed with rosemary,

Roast halibut with tahini-herb sauce and Peruvian fingerlings
sautéed leeks with a little crème fraîche and a simple green salad. Dessert was a baked Winesap apple (courtesy of my idol Jacques Pépin's Essential Pépin) stuffed with wonderful griotte cherry preserves that I buy in Paris.

Continuing with Milk Street Tuesday Nights recipes, I  made Singapore Shrimp the next day, a dish imbued with Southeast Asian flavors, such as ginger, lemon grass, fish sauce, rice vinegar, etc. Easy and very flavorful, if probably not authentic. I served this with Jasmine rice and green beans sautéed with a little soy sauce and Japanese furukake, a blended spice mixture. The starter was artichoke steamed in the Instant Pot. As you can see, I am not married to any culture, even for one meal, but like to mix and match.

Continuing in the same vein, the next day I made (for myself since Joan was in Japan) Moroccan chicken skewers, also from Milk Street Tuesday Nights, incorporating a North African profile to elevate pretty simple skewers of boneless skinless chicken thighs. The following day I continued with Vietnamese meatball lettuce wraps from the same cookbook. Both dishes were successful, particularly the chicken skewers.

Now a new cookbook arrived: Simple, from Yotam Ottolenghi, one of my favorite cookbook authors. I was still alone and took advantage of Joan's absence to have a steak, which she does not eat. In this case it was Ottolenghi's harissa steak, made with skirt steak and a strong harissa sauce. Although it was fine, I found that the harissa marinade dissipated in the grilling of the meat, requiring me to heap raw harissa over the final product.

A couple of days later, it was back to Milk Street Tuesday Nights for jerk-roasted chicken wings (the recipe is for chicken parts, but a lonely bachelor needs his wings): simple and very well spiced, it was worth using the recipe's homemade jerk sauce rather than using store-bought.

Jerk-roasted chicken wings
Next I took a baking interval, as described in the next post.

Bobby Jay