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This is going to sound like a pretty obvious statement, but I just tried a recipe from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home and it was awesome. I had a taste for some Indian flavors, so initially I thought of dahl, but then I came across Keller’s recipe for lentil and sweet potato soup. I had a ton of aging sweet potatoes in my larder, so it didn’t take much convincing.
I read with some interest the top new restaurant lists from Pete Wells in New York City and Tom Sietsema in the D.C. area. I tend to stay local, so I need to try Rasika Westend, Seasonal Pantry, and Izakaya Seki. I don’t think I’m going to risk another meal at Mintwood Place. As a friend used to say, it would be really great…if you’ve never been to a restaurant before. I’ve been warned away from Rogue 24 by a local food writer, so mostly I’ll just keep going to Little Serow as much as humanly possible. It’s going to be a great year! Also, if you missed it, the Times had a great piece by Eugenia Bone about French truffles–where to buy them, why they taste smell so good, and especially whether all those truffle products are the real deal. Read It.
There are many suggestions flying around for grand meat centerpieces and hearty stews for these holidays, but it seems to me that we just did the big sit-down-dinner thing. And many of those turkey eaters will be back for seconds. I lean more towards the latke crowd, oh, and thanks New York Times for the obvious brilliant idea for blini and caviar. We’ll be doing both of those, but first a dinner that’s a bit of a throwback.
I suspect that this is common: Often when I’m grocery shopping I zone out and go on autopilot. Flowers, apples, spinach, Muenster, and at the meat counter, hot Italian sausages (for pasta sauce), chicken thighs (for soup), and skirt steak (for salad). Last week, as I waited daydreaming for assistance, I took a closer look at the wares on display. And, boy, am I glad I did. At my Whole Foods I found beautiful pork belly, something I’ve never seen un-cured or -cooked before. Despite having no idea how to prepare it, I didn’t hesitate.
The food sections this week range from meh (baked beans cover story) to ick (squirrel gravy with a description of butchering the rodent that will make your stomach turn), so steer clear. Or maybe just read Pete Wells’ review of the vegetarian joint Dirt Candy, and if you missed it last week, his review of the new outpost of M. Wells at MoMa PS1. I would have loved to try their short-lived diner of decadence in Long Island City. Escargot nestled in bone marrow? Foie gras grilled cheese? Truly a moment in time. And don’t forget the rant it inspired in GQ–a must read.
Let’s be frank: Turkey doesn’t hit you over the head with its flavor. It’s subtle, fragrant, earthy, fresh even. So, as you dress it up in its many iterations this year, you might want to keep some of these flavor enhancers in mind. Of course, they are good to have on hand year round. You’ll use them again and again.
What a success our Thanksgiving was this year! There were no misses on the table: A beautifully golden turkey–how is it that chefs on Top Chef can’t get that right?–sausage and apple stuffing; mashed potatoes and gravy; broccoli salad; roasted delicata squash with pomegranate seeds; roasted sunchokes–a conversation starter and a first for nearly everyone at our table–and pies, with salty caramel taking the, er, cake. The wine for the most part was a sparkling white made for Whole Foods that is a convincing stand-in for champagne called De Chanceny Cremant de Loire. All in all, a meal to be proud of.
I’ve made my lists and shopping has begin. Cooking for Thanksgiving is my favorite food event of the year. My turkey’s pretty standard with the olive oil and dried herbs, and my stuffing’s the same each year: with ground pork, onions, and apple. The gravy’s always made from the innards; the potatoes are always mashed. Mid-day the cooks feast on slivers of the turkey’s heart with salt and a bit of the liver seared with the leftover apple bits. Oh, and a bottle of the good bubbles gets popped.
The buzz of the week has certainly gone to Pete Wells for his “Dear Guy Fieri, how does your restaurant blow? Let me count the ways” review in the New York Times. That said, while a pan is always worth a read, the only line that made me laugh out loud: “And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?” The Onion’s piece about the owner of Bubba Gump Shrimp sending his sympathies is funny. But since few of us were going to be eating at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar (I don’t even know who this Guy is) in Times Square, the article on Jacques Pepin’s steamed turkey is a more pressing read. The technique seems pretty straight-forward and absolutely worth trying. 30 minutes of steaming means the bird only roasts in the oven for two hours.
Here’s a kitchen truth: You can have too much of a good thing. I recently made a meal whose individual parts were all lovely, but together they left “pleasant richness” in the rear view mirror. I guess we needed some salad in here somewhere. Or a level head guiding the hand in my larder.