Archive | September, 2006

Q·E·2: The Rooster’s Chicken

28 Sep

I sometimes call myself The Head Hen. Why? Well, it’s nicer than calling myself The Granny (I’m only in my early 30s!), or The Chicken In The Cart (though that is my gmail alias). And why not just call myself Ann? Eh, who knows… Sometimes I call myself Simone too, like at places where I have to call a large coffee a venti, ya know? It all just seems so pretentious, why not play along with their game? (Some people do it for other reasons).

Everyone needs an alter-ego. I can picture my hen-ness as being all chic (kinda like this beauty from Ct) and urban, not at all Chicken Run biddy-like. Either way, if I’m The Head Hen, then I guess that makes the boy The Rooster.

This past Sunday we went out to Ikea. Here in NYC there’s no close one. The nearest one is out in New Jersey across the Turnpike from Newark Airport. Since most New Yorkers don’t own cars, or even have access to them, those crafty Swedes run a free bus to and from their emporium of all things cheap and Scandinavian.

I just love Ikea, especially that particular one. I love to cruise through the furniture, work up an appetite, pop into the cafe to get some Swedish meatballs and their delicious lingonberry sauce, sit at one of the window tables and watch the planes take off and land at Newark. I let my mind wander… I wonder where that plane’s going? Where did those lucky people just get back from… I hate flying, but I love planes. Go figure.

We picked up some new storage vessels, rugs and other fun stuff and then hopped back on the bus.

Of course it was time to talk about dinner. I had bought some la ratte potatoes earlier in the week,intending them for salt potatoes, and there were some Brussels sprouts leftover from the velouté. We decided that it would be fun to roast them with some of Dines Farms astoundingly good boneless chicken thighs.

It took a little longer than I thought it would, but OH! was it worth it! This dish entirely embodies the idea of a Q·E·2: Quick. Easy. For 2. dinner. Couldn’t be easier, was concocted entirely out of what was at hand and required almost no effort.

The Rooster has declared this “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Cooked” (I wonder if he’s already forgotten about the harissa glazed lamb).

The Brussels sprouts went all gooey and caramely. The la ratte potatoes are silky, waxy and buttery, and the chicken? Well, when it’s Dines’ its always perfect.

So, even though it sounds a little weird, I hereby dub this dish The Rooster’s Chicken. Can’t wait to chow down on the leftovers tonight!

Head below the break for The Rooster’s Chicken.
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heirloom·modern: Velouté de Tomates à la Provençal

26 Sep

I wrote about Roy Andries de Groot in an heirloom·modern piece a few months ago. I found him by accident back then, having stumbled upon his wonderful book Feasts For All Seasons. Among the amazing things I learned about Mr. de Groot include that he had been made mostly blind in the Blitz, that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and that he wrote a book that some feel was one of the most influential food books of the last century, Recipes From The Auberge Of The Flowering Hearth.

A few weeks later, as seems to happen to me, I was scouring about in one of the little used bookstores that dot Manhattan, and et voila there she was, Mr. de Groot’s masterpiece, first edition, with a dust jacket and at a reasonable price. Thank you East Village Books!

Velouté de Tomates à la Provençal

(Adapted from Recipes From The Auberge Of The Flowering Hearth by Roy Andries de Groot)

Mr. de Groot had a thing for Green Chartreuse. He served it to all his guests and yet knew nothing about it. After years of deflecting questions he finally decided to look into the who, where and why of his favorite tipple. He learned that the liqueur is made by hermits high in the mountains of France, that they had been ejected from the country by the army, not once, but a few times, and that he needed to go there. It was on this trip to visit Les Peres Charteaux that Mr. de Groot stayed at the Auberge (or Inn) of the Flowering Hearth for the first time.

After many trips and many stays at the Auberge, Mr. de Groot finally decided to put his feelings on the place and the valley in which it sits down on paper. He agonized over this decision, “If the Auberge of the Flowering Hearth were to be invaded by thousands of tourists, almost everything that I write about it would cease to be true.” Whether or not the valley was ultimately overrun by yelping, yapping tourists he doesn’t say, but he does admit that changes were happening already, that the modern world was beginning to push in on the idealized rural existence within which the Auberge floated.

When the ladies who own and run the Auberge of the Flowering Hearth, Mademoiselle Vivette Artaud and Mademoiselle Ray Girard, set their table with the animals and birds of their valley and its surrounding mountains, with the fish caught by their friends in the nearby lakes, with the cheeses carefully made and the fruits and vegetables laboriously grown by their farmer neighbors, with the wild mushrooms they pick themselves in the woods, with the wines from the nearby mountain vineyards, they are fulfilling the unity of the way of life–a unity which seems to me to be of the deepest value but which the world seems to be rejecting.

Can you see how this guy influenced Alice Waters?

This time of year in the Northeast is possibly the most wonderful time for produce, hands down. Summer still has a hold on the produce, but autumn is beginning to make her presence known. There’s still tomatoes, even if they’re a little ugly, but there’s also apples and Brussels sprouts. It’s a vertiginous time at the Greenmarket, full of dizzying color and unbelievable bounty.

Mr. de Groot not only returned to New York with wonderful memories and a humdinger of a book, he also returned with a memento, “some of Mademoiselle Ray’s extraordinary recipes. I recorded them in her kitchen as she prepared each in the form of a lesson.” Some of the recipes are very French, complicated, using ingredients that are not readily available here in the States (chamois anyone?), but most exemplify that other side of French cooking, so easy, so basic and so good.

This velouté is a perfect example of the latter style of recipe. It highlights all the bounty of the season in such a complex interplay of smoky, sweet, surprisingly creamy and delightfully sour. The recipe comes from a chapter featuring the other Mademoiselle, Mme. Vivette who was in charge of the Auberge’s wine cellar. The chapter is wonderfully titled “A Proud Wine Cellar on a Low Budget,” a task seemingly made easier if you live in France, 75 miles from Burgundy, but there are tips that not only apply to buying wine, but also produce.

Her first lesson, then, is to get to know as many as possible of one’s local suppliers. It is almost ridiculous–except when buying a standard bottle of gin– to expect to get all one’s wines from the nearest liquor store on the next corner. Each shop after all, is a reflection of the personal opinions of its owner or manager. Each, in his way, has a special slant on buying wine.

The problem is the same with food. If you are even half a gourmet, you will shop around for your fancy foods. You will buy your olives from the Greek grocer. You will prefer the long French loaf of one baker over another. You will buy your veal from one butcher, your pork from another. It is just as important to shop around for your wine.

And the wine he suggested serving with this soup? “White Bordeaux, 1964, Château Laville Haut Brion, Talence, Graves.” I don’t know anything about this wine, but, I have a feeling, that even if I could find a bottle of it, I certainly couldn’t afford it!

Not only did I substitute a different wine (a 2003 pinot noir from Burgundy) I also substituted a sweet German Riesling for his suggested Sauternes, green and yellow tomatoes for red and Brussels sprouts for cabbage. As Mr. de Groot said:

This is no ordinary soup. It is touched with the aromas of smoky bacon and fried salt pork, enriched with the oils of leeks and onions, the fruitiness of soft white wine, with everything finally enveloped, in the true Provençal style, in an all-pervading mash of garlic. At the end, it is converted into a richly creamy velouté in a unique way–by being thickened with a whipped purée of rice.

This really is a unique, soul-satisfying end of summer treat. I hope you try it, and if you ever see a copy of Recipes From The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth grab it.

Head below the jump for my adaptaion of Mr. de Groot’s and Mme. Ray’s Velouté de Tomates à la Provençal.

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‘tauk Talk

19 Sep

As S’kat said in the comments to my last post “Montauk is fun, golden, sunshiny, (and full of) seafood-filled times.

Man, that S’kat and her pals sure now how to describe a place and a time. I couldn’t have said it better.

The light is really, really different out there.

Everyone looks beautiful in it, the world looks beautiful, all cares drift off on a gorgeous sea breeze (and I’m not talking about the cocktail).

Is there anyplace in the world more perfect than a perfect seaside town after the “season” is over? I think not.

The wedding and reception were beach-side in full Tiki theme, replete with women (and men) in grass skirts and coconut bras.

But the highlight was for me, (after the vows of course) a whole spit-roasted pig (something I’d been hankerin’ for since the disaster at the Big Apple BBQ), and for the boy, the rosemary grilled, freshly caught, stripped bass.

The fantastic proprietress of Brooklyn’s coolest wine & liquor store totally beat me at my own game by cajoling the chef into giving her the pig’s head. I have no idea what she’s going to do with it. Me? Not sure either… But I would have relished the challenge!

The next day, slightly dazed and confused, I combed my little heart out on the pristine beach and worked up quite the appetite.

Luckily we found a place called Lenny’s that served exactly what I wanted: clams and lobster.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they were out of steamers, so we got littlenecks instead. They steamed them in white wine and garlic, and served them with butter and lemon. Verdict?


I felt a wee seismic tremor down in my soul. Might this be better than steamers?

The jury will have to remain out, as I think a “trial” such as this calls for a head to head challenge!

The lobster was delicious but the clear star of the show was those clams…

Oh, and the guy that walked onto the dock with say, eight, of the largest stripped bass I’ve ever seen!

And then he let kids play with them! And then he gutted and fileted them… I’ve never wished for a car with a cooler in the trunk so much as at that moment…

Ah well, no loss. Someone had a fabulous meal that night (and we had a fabulous weekend). Montauk, ya did good.

Flattery Farro Salad

12 Sep

On Sunday, after a huge Mexican brunch at my new favorite East Village restaurant we decided to explore the other end of the island. We walked up the Hudson, saw the Little Red Lighthouse, the place where the earth ate the cars and the grave of John James Audubon.

Eventually, we turned inland (which isn’t hard up there, the island gets very narrow) and headed north into the wilds of Ft. Tryon Park (best known as the home of The Cloisters). It’s very hard to believe you’re still in The City when you’re in that park. Look at that picture of the Cloisters. It almost looks like we spent the day in Tuscany. And that picture of the collonade? There’s a highway just on the other side of those arches. We rambled about looking at plants and the view until my legs began to give out and the boy got attacked by an acorn.

It was time to pack it in and think about dinner.

All day I had been quietly obsessing over what I wanted to make. I kept thinking back to a few posts I had read recently. Tiny Banquet Committee had exhorted us to remember that corn season is nearly over! Then there’s Sher who recently tossed out a Succotash and a rice, corn and bean salad, both of which made my heart go thumpity thump. Ilva made farro caprese, Gothamist pulled back the shell on fresh peas, Luisa‘s gone corn crazy and Heidi made an, as usual, gorgeous and complicated gnocchi and shell bean salad.

You can see where this is going. I wanted corn. I wanted beans. And I wanted grains.

We finally made it back to our stomping grounds, the Tompkins’ Square Greenmarket, only to find all the stands were sold out of corn and beans. Dang. Well, at least I was able to score some of the teeniest, tiniest, tomatoes and some of Dines Farms insanely good bacon.

Having to settle for bodega corn and frozen edamame when you had your heart set on farm fresh goodness is kind of a bummer, but you know what? When the meal comes out this good, who cares? This was easy and seriously, seriously delicious. It was hearty, yet fresh, toothsome, yet elegant and has gone immediately to the head of the “do again!” recipe list!

Head below the jump for Flattery Farro Salad.

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I ♥ NY

11 Sep

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