Cause Celeb

7 Jan

I was in SoHo yesterday.

SoHo Sign

Isaac was off shopping for books and wine while I was, theoretically, returning something, buying sweet things and foraging for dinner provisions. In reality I was wandering around looking for pictures to take with my new toy.

I took pictures of buildings, of architectural details, of old signs, the usual things. I was wandering, thinking. Perhaps I should start taking pictures of people, I thought. I found myself on the corner of Broadway and Spring, and there, just across Broadway was a family, striking the most perfect tableau. I prepared to shoot. Then something registered in my brain, I looked again. Something looked familiar about the father. I looked one more time.

Sacrebleu. It was Eric Ripert.

SoHo Detail

We New Yorkers have a problem with celebrities, real, personal or imagined. We’re New Yorkers. We walk amongst some of the richest, most famous, most talented people on the face of the earth every minute of every day. We’re supposed to be cool, unruffled and unfazed when rubbing shoulders with Lloyd Blankfein, Maggie Gyllenhaal or Mario Batali.

But sometimes we run into someone that gets us excited. It’s a very personal thing.

Parker Posey always seems to be at the Kmart in Astor Place when I’m there. I think its funny, but I would never walk up to her and say, “Ohmigod! I loved you in Party Girl and you were so ridiculously, neurotically perfect in Best In Show.” I just couldn’t.

But running into Eric Ripert? It made me pause.

The Mirror at Balthazar

A few years ago when my office was on another street in another neighborhood, I was leaving work very late one night when I found an uncorrected proof of A Return To Cooking (written with the estimable Ruhlman I might add) in the lobby. This was odd for two reasons: 1. There were no book publishers in that building and 2. The lobby of this building was not a “free” space.

“Free” spaces are one of the more magical spots a building can have. For no discernible reason they pop up in dorms, offices and apartment buildings around the world. Bits of counter become the place to leave the detritus that one no longer wants or needs. My office has one, hidden waaaay back by the printers that no one uses, where I once found a $190 bottle of sunscreen and a collection of “Classics In Half The Time” books. I took the cream, I left the books (and I am proud to say that 6 months on, the books are all still there).

The roof at Savoy

I took Chef Ripert’s book home and leafed through it. There’s a few simple recipes, but on the whole, as one would expect from a three-Michelin starred chef, the bulk of the book is made up of complicated, daunting and futzy recipes. But, they are also tasty.

Each New Year’s Eve for the past four, Isaac and I have passed the evening cooking, drinking, eating, talking and laughing with the same couple. The first three years were at their place in Brooklyn, this year it was my turn to host. And so I turned to Chef Ripert for inspiration. And he provided amply.

SoHo Water Tanks

Isaac made Chef Ripert’s cauliflower soup as our starter. It was utterly perfect. Sweet, creamy, silky, buttery, rustic yet sophisticated, it is wonderful. We couldn’t find smoked scallops so we used bacon instead, and decided to substitute goat’s milk for heavy cream. Tinkering with a celebrity chef’s recipe is fun! And so I did a doozie on the main course.

It was to be Pan-Seared Muscovy Duck with Cherries and Rhubarb Purée, but come on people! It’s winter! There’s no way the fresh cherries were going to be good, and even though I found frozen rhubarb, I decided not to use it. So we ended up with Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Mixed Berry, Dried Cherry and Cognac Sauce.

Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? And it was. Partly because of my inventions, but a lot because of Chef Ripert’s exquisite techniques.

Happy New Year!

So it was all these things I was mulling as I stood on the corner of Broadway and Spring yesterday, asking myself, should I walk up to this man who’s just trying to enjoy a day out with his family and thank him for helping to make my New Year’s Eve dinner so spectacular and memorable?

The light changed, my heart beat a little faster. I started walking towards him. And then he ran into a friend and they all stopped in the middle of Broadway for hugs and kisses. My decision was made for me. As I passed them I smiled, and carried on.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Ann’s Berry Sauce for Duck, a la Ripert.

Ann’s Berry Sauce For Duck, a la Ripert

prep time: 20 minutes ~ cooking time: an hour or so

  • 6 Chicken Wings
  • Canola or Olive Oil
  • 2 Shallots, sliced
  • 5 cloves Garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbsps AP Flour
  • 3/4 c Cognac
  • 4 c Water
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 1/2 c Frozen Mixed Berries
  • 1 tsps Sugar
  • Vanilla
  • 1/4 c Wine, Sherry or Sugar Cane Vinegar (this is what I used and it was awesome, Ripert calls for Banyuls Vinegar)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c. Tart Dried Cherries

Cook’s Note: Making the stock and the berry purée for this sauce can (and probably should) be done a few hours before dinner to allow the flavors to develop and for ease of preparation.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash the chicken wings and chop into pieces. Heat a glug of the oil in a large, deep, oven-safe sautée pan over a medium-high flame and add the chicken parts. Cook, turning occasionally until golden brown. Add the shallots and garlic, toss to incorporate, turn off the flame and place the pan in the oven and roast until the chicken parts are deep brown.

While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in another sautée pan over a medium flame. Add the berries and coat in the butter. Place a lid over the pan and allow to cook until the berries break down, stirring frequently. Add the sugar and a dash of vanilla, stir to incorporate. When the berries are completely broken down, turn off the flame and carefully strain them through a fine mesh sieve into a container and place in the fridge.

When the bones are deep mahogany brown, remove the pan carefully from the oven, turn off the heat and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Sprinkle the flour over the bones and stir to incorporate. Place the pan over a medium-high heat and add 1/2 cup of the cognac. Scrape up all the brown bits and stir to incorporate. Bring to a boil and then add the water. Bring to a boil again and allow the sauce to cook down until it coats the back of a spoon, stirring frequently.

Turn off the flame and carefully strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a container, pressing on the solids to get all of the sauce. Place in the fridge.

Just before serving, plump the dried cherries in 1/4 cup cognac in a small sauce pan over low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add the berry purée and the chicken stock to the pot, stir to combine. Cook until heated through.

Serve with pan-seared duck breasts. Enjoy!

To pan-sear a duck breast a la Ann:

Trim each breast of excess fat, score the skin with a razor blade or sharp knife in a diamond pattern and season heavily on both sides with salt & pepper.

Heat a small glug of olive oil in a large sautée pan over high heat. Place the breasts, skin side down, carefully into the pan and sear until golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Turn the breasts over and carefully remove some fat from the pan if there’s too much (it should just cover the bottom of the breasts by less than 1/4″).

Place the pan in a 400°F oven and cook 7-10 minutes, until medium-rare. You can check the breasts by poking them, checking their temperature or cutting into them. Serve whole or sliced with Ann’s Berry Sauce.

For more information on cooking duck breasts, click here.

18 Responses to “Cause Celeb”

  1. Jennifer Hess January 7, 2008 at 5:21 pm #

    What a fun story! I think I’d have been completely flustered, but ultimately, I probably would have done just what you did. :) Your meal, by the way, sounds lovely.

    I’ve got my annual holiday lunch date with one of the attorneys I work for on Thursday – and we’re going to Le Bernardin! I’m super excited.

  2. Ann January 7, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    Congrats on the new toy! I may pester you with email– Jack and I are thinking about a new camera and we just can’t quite make a decision.

    You know… I never notice celebrities. I’m always hearing later how I was sitting next to Patti Smith or Steve Buscemi. I just don’t see them. Except for the time I ran into Johnny Depp and wet my pants (figuratively speaking, of course).

  3. Lydia January 7, 2008 at 7:36 pm #

    Your new toy is great — as always, your photos are so compelling. Growing up in NYC, celebrities were everywhere, and we were taught not to “pester” them. Now our daughter teaches in a school where the children of many famous folks, including some star chefs, go — and whenever I see one of these celebs, I remember my mother’s words: “Don’t pester them!” But maybe just a hello, one of these days, would be okay!

  4. Christina January 7, 2008 at 8:23 pm #

    My famous person story? (For in the LA environs, we also have crap-tons of celebrity sitings.) I was crossing a street at the crosswalk with a friend and Giovanni Ribisi came to a screeching halt, stopping in time not to hurt me, but his car did brush against the side of my leg. Frazzled, my friend and I continued walking to the coffee shop, but he parked, hopped out of his car, and ran past us to get there quickly. We giggled as he ran by, but then were blown away when, as I reached to pull open the door of the coffee shop, he shoved the door open in my face, nearly knocking me over.

    Yes, one day Giovanni Ribisi almost killed me, but I lived to tell the tale.

    This sauce sounds delicious. You’ve done Ripert proud, my friend.

  5. Miriam January 7, 2008 at 8:24 pm #

    In 2 years of NYC, only one celebrity … I tried on shoes next to Joan Allen, and I know I looked at her funny because I couldn’t quite tell if it was she. But I finally realized yes, it was, because no one is really very polished when trying to convince a teenager to purchase shoes, as she was that day.

    Your blog remains one of the highlights of my day, months after I first found it. If I could choose to write a different blog I would choose yours.

  6. clumsy January 8, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    MMmmm bacon in cauliflower soup—I need to try that! I don’t really have a famous person story, I think I need to hang out in the city more often… I did get a signed copy of a Daniel Boulud cookbook when I went to Daniel though (my dad’s friend knows him well.)

  7. clumsy January 8, 2008 at 9:09 am #

    I love your pictures too!! Yay for new toys!

  8. Mary January 8, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    That’s impressive, but I would have gone up to him, blathered on about how great he is and made a complete fool of myself. I admire your self-restraint. However, I once met Graham Kerr while working at a Williams-Sonoma in downtown Cincinnati and managed to keep myself under control.

  9. Julie January 8, 2008 at 12:52 pm #

    Nice new toy! And a nice new batch of photos too.

  10. ann January 8, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    Jenn — Ooooooooh! Enjoy lunch! I’ve never been to Le Bernardin, but it’s on my list.

    Ann — Ooooooh! Johnny Depp! Delightful! I usually miss celebrities too… I’m too busy dodging tourists to notice them ;-)

    Lydia — Pester! Yes! That’s the word I was looking for the entire time I was writing this. I’ve got a bit of the flu and so my brain isn’t working very well at the moment. That’s really neat about your daughter, I bet that’s one tough gig!

    Christina — Oh my gawd! I would have killed him! If I ever run across him in NYC, I’ll trip him for you ;-)

    Miriam — That’s so funny! I did that to Candace Bergen once. She was standing next to me cheering on runners during the Marathon. I kept staring at her going, “Murphy Brown? Cheering on runners?” Finally she smiled at me and I knew it was her. Thanks so much for the nice compliments. You’re so kind :-)

    Clumsy — Doesn’t bacon just make everything better? I don’t think the soup actually needed it. I think a swirl of harissa or a drizzle of walnut oil would have been nice as well.

    Mary — I have blathered in the past, don’t get me wrong. There was the time with Michael Stipe that always brings bright red spots to my cheeks. I’m not always able to contain myself. I’m no saint ;-)

    Julie — Thanks! I’m still learning how to use it (there’s a steep learning curve) so hopefully the pictures will just get prettier and prettier. I hope you had happy holidays!!

  11. French Laundry At Home January 8, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    Sigh…… I saw Chef Ripert in October in NY on 57th and Broadway. He was there, with his perfect hair, his perfect face, his perfect teeth, and accompanied by his perfect wife and perfect child. He is absolutely breathtaking, and I wasn’t able to continue the conversation I was having with my friend and her family. And they just didn’t get why I was so gobsmacked. Dreamy……

    I bought a new camera, too. A Nikon D80 SLR. Cannot WAIT to play with it! Happy new year……

  12. Terry B January 9, 2008 at 3:49 pm #

    Have fun with your new toy, Ann—you’re obviously already doing it justice. I briefly got my hands on one in an artist’s studio in San Francisco. She loved it!

    New cameras are in the air, apparently. This fall I finally made the leap to digital SLR, a Nikon D40X. I am quite smitten, but I’m sure your new toy can do just about everything it can and then some—and yours can tuck into a pocket. For that reason, I sometimes opt for my pocket-friendly Canon PowerShot on the way out the door.

  13. K January 9, 2008 at 10:41 pm #

    I don’t know what I’d do if I saw Parker Posey; she’s such a perfect creature. I’d probably skulk around after her, ogling her shopping basket, and eventually get escorted out by Kmart security. Yeah, that’s not creepy or anything…

    Your new toy is amazing so far. Keep up the great work!

  14. Kevin January 9, 2008 at 11:16 pm #

    I was just about to claim that I’d likely have done the same thing, but then remembered that a few weeks ago I ran into one of my favorite bands in H&M. I actually did go up to Jason Wade from Lifehouse and say hi. Notably, he didn’t seem to give a crap to chit-chat with a stranger. Don’t blame him.

  15. Andrea January 9, 2008 at 11:50 pm #

    Ugh. I don’t think I pay enough attention to my surroundings. I’ve seen Mike Myers in the three years I’ve lived here and that’s it — with the exception of my Top Chef trio (but that doesn’t count because it was a book signing and not random stumble, right?). Anyway, any friend who visits me sends me furious texts while I’m at work, telling me all the celebs they have sighted during their day on the town. It must just be me!

  16. Toni January 12, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    Congrats on the new toy!j I lug my Canon D30 with me and love the photos I take with it, but I sometimes wish I had something I could slip into my purse….

    I don’t see many celebs here in San Diego, but when I visit my brother in LA, they’re everywhere. Your restraint is exemplary! (As is your duck recipe!!)

  17. ann January 12, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    Carol — He is just perfect isn’t he? Ooooh! I can’t wait to see the pictures you take with your new toy! Your site is going to be the bestest then!

    TerryB — Yeah, I just couldn’t go all the way to an SLR, they’re just too big and screaaam, “Hey! I’m a tourist!” because my main reason for buying it was for an upcoming family trip to Italy. I mean, I love you guys and all, but I love Italy more ;-) it’s actually not all that small, you’d have to have pretty big pockets to fit it in there, but I love it, so I’ll sacrifice. I can’t wait to see the pictures you take too! You’re right, something must be in the air!

    K — LOL! That’s funny! Posey Stalker. It sounds so harmless :-)

    Kevin — Awh, that’s crummy of him… I bet if you’d invited the band over for moose burgers they would have been much more amenable to chitchatting ;-) Bands on the road are always looking for good food, far more often than for girls or “party favors.”

    Andrea — Oho, that’s funny! I do the same thing, I never see anyone!

    Toni — You should get a little point and shoot, they’re pretty cheap now, and they really are teeny tiny. I love my Casio Exilim if that’s any help. I should go to LA more. I bet I’d actually spot the celebs there :-)

  18. tim January 12, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    great blog. love the pics. have fun with the new toy.

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