Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Time for a breather amid my tales of our trip to Japan . . .

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and, as always, our family met at our apartment. This year we had fourteen, and I decided to repeat my menu of 2018 with few changes. Why argue with success? Here's what I made:

For hors d'oeuvres, I made Michael Romano's great bar nuts from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook, roasted with an inspired combination of rosemary, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, butter and salt,

Union Square Cafe bar nuts
as well as Whipped Feta Dip, from Milk Street, served with fresh pita chips.

Whipped Feta Dip from Milk Street
For some reason, I have been craving tonnato (tuna) sauce lately, the kind used in vitello tonnato. I turned to Marcella Hazan's iconic Essentials of Italian Cooking for her recipe, but altered it greatly to make it into a stand-alone dip, served with little endive leaves for dipping.

Tonnato dip with endive leaves
This was accompanied by Dorie Greenspan's simple but delicious mustard batons and my hors d'oeuve de résistence, Shrimp with Toasted Garlic (Camerones de Ajo) from Tyler Florence.

Tyler Florence's Shrimp with Toasted Garlic (Camerones de Ajo)
This is always a huge hit, especially with my seve year-old great nice and her grandfather (my brother).

For me the actual dinner is less interesting. I made my usual turkey, a version of Julia Childs' deconstructed turkey (which Michael Chiarello's fennel seed rub) cooked over sausage stuffing from The Food Lab (also the source of my gravy recipe),

Deconstructed and carved turkey
accompanied by hashed Brussels sprouts quickly sauteed with lemon and poppy seeds, also from the Union Square Cafe Cookbook (I added toasted pine nuts, which I love, but found they offered little to this dish),

Union Square Cafe's Hashed Brussels Sprouts
and Sweet Potato Gratin from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook,

Ottolenghi's Sweet Potato Gratin
together with my fiery cranberry mostarda, a confit of dried cranberries and cranberry juice, mustard seeds soaked in wine, mustard powder, orange zest, cinnamon and lots of Champagne vinegar, a recipe from Food and Wine.

Cranberry mostarda
For dessert, guests were kind enough to bring a pumpkin pie, a chocolate cake and (yes, it's true) a peppermint cake, but I had to make at least one, in this case Clotile Dusoulier's Flourless Orange and Ginger Cake, a moist masterpiece of a cake suitable for serving friends with celiac disease (my celiac-afflicted friend has become addicted) and for Passover. This is one of my best recipes: it's easy, can be made a day or two in advance and never ceases to please. By the way, I use clementines rather than oranges.

Clotilde Dusoulier's Orange and Ginger Cake
So there it is, a large meal, followed by a good night's sleep and thoughts of what to do next year.

Bobby Jay

Monday, November 25, 2019

Japan 2019 - 4 Gora Kadan

After Tokyo, our ceramics tour moved south and west, and we spent a night at the marvelous ryokan (inn), Gora Kadan, which Joan and I have been going to since 1999. A member of the prestigious Relais and Chateaux group, the still-modern rokan has elegant architecture, great outdoor baths (some private in or just outside your room) and excellent food.

Some highlights of our kaiseki dinner:

Kaiseki dinner at Gora Kadan
The next morning, after enjoying an early walk in for-the-moment around the stylish inn,

Views of Gora Kadan
we enjoyed a beautiful traditional breakfast, generally the best part of a stay at a great ryokan.

Principal elements of breakfast at Gora Kadan
Between the three hot baths I took and the wonderful dinner and breakfast, I felt very close to heaven for fifteen hours or so.

Bobby Jay

Japan 2019 - 3 A Surprising Meal

Our first artists visits took us to Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, where we visited the rising star Akashi Ryotaro, who was exhibiting on the top floor of a friend's restaurant in a charming old house. After being dazzled by Akashi's ceramic sculptures (like this huge one),

Large ceramic sculpture by Akashi Ryotaro
we adjourned to the restaurant on the ground floor for what turned out to be a totally unexpected but really excellent lunch.

Lunch with Akashi Ryotaro
The food was less elegant than you might find in a fancy restaurant, but the flavors were vivid and the presentation captivating. Memorable food sometimes turns up when you least expect it.

Bobby Jay

Monday, November 18, 2019

Japan 2019 - 2 Tempura

After our first day of artist visits, the tour group at at Tempura Kondoh, a highly regarded classic tempura restaurant in Ginza.

The highlight, as at any good tempura place, is watching the preparation and cooking of the lightly fried vegetables and seafood. Here are some photos showing the brilliant knife skills that resulted in a delicious shredded carrot tempura that is not classic: a showstopper.

Slicing a carrot at Tempura Kondoh
Carrot tempura (no batter)
Another treat was a fried shrimp soupy rice dish that tasted as good as it looked.

Shrimp soup at Tempura Kondo
A good start to a very food-oriented tour.

Bobby Jay

Japan 2019 - 1 Ramen

Joan and I spent three weeks in Japan in October, by ourselves at the beginning and end, and leading a group of ceramic lovers through several areas of typhoon-ravaged countryside. As always, the food was exciting and memorable, and this will be the subject of numerous posts, beginning with this one.

Before the tour began, we ate with friends at old Tokyo haunts, having wonderful tempura and yakitori. But on one day when Joan had to work preparing for the Japanese launch of her book, The Allure of Japanese Contemporary Ceramics, she spent the afternoon at the hotel, while I went out and about. But we both had ramen. Mine were my favorite spicy tan tan men, at Hashigo,

Tan tan men at Hashigo
while Joan's were elegantly prepared noodles from Ippudo, served via the hotel's room service.

Ippudo ramen at Peninsula Hotel
Two very different takes on ramen, both delicious.

Speaking of noodles, we ended our trip in Kyoto, where we were able to eat at our favorite soba shop, Omen. Although I didn't get any noodle shots, here is the elegant starting vegetable plate:

Vegetable plate at Omen in Kyoto
Japan is not all about elaborate kaiseki meals (although subsequent posts will be replete with photos of these). And nothing beats great noodles.

Bobby Jay