Monthly Archives: October 2010

Great French Toast: Santa Fe via James Beard

In Marion Cunningham’s classic The Breakfast Book, she passes on her “favorite” french toast recipe. She learned it from James Beard (she was one of his most famous students: she did the 80s revision of Joy of Cooking) who found it in the dining cars of the Santa Fe railroad, back in the good old days.

Using Iggy’s French Pullman loaf, dip three slices in: 2 eggs, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and a big pinch of salt (I add a few drops of vanilla extract). Then press the coated bread (both sides) onto a plate of slightly-crumbled corn flakes. Fry in butter until brown and crisp. Serve with confectioner’s sugar and maple syrup. A wonderful treat for a weekday dinner!

Back to Jean-Georges’s Market

After checking out the oriental rug auction at Skinner yesterday, I stopped at Market in the W hotel, eating at the bar. It was my third visit and I’m still a big fan of Jean-Georges. Started off with the butternut squash soup with mushrooms; a bit runnier than I had expected but the flavor was there with an undercurrent of onions:

Then the off-menu, first-of-the-season Nantucket scallops with a cranberry(!) vinaigrette, fairly tart and a nice play against the tiny dabs of wisabi on each scallop:

Finally, the “rice cracker crusted tuna [log] with citrus-chili emulsion;” the cracker crumbs are adhered by egg white(!) and flash fried to crispness:

Highly recommended for those who like adventuresome eating. Amusingly, the menu also contains a column with the heading “Simply Cooked”: all the proteins from the rest of the menu, simply pan-fried without any sauce. Sort of like going to Le Bernardin and ordering filet mignon!

Tips and Tricks Meeting

We had a very nice meeting at my home on Sunday to explore some tips and tricks following the usual fine conversation about where to buy it and the latest restaurants.

We looked at bag-in-box wine which has the marvelous quality that one can drink a half-glass at a time for weeks without oxidizing the wine. I’m currently in thrall to this cote du rhone available at Wine and Cheese Cask ($30 for 3 liters = $7.50 bottle):

I’m also excited about this soda system (a tip from Niki!) which is available at Tag’s in Porter Square. The CO2 cartridge provides 100 liters of carbonation and is exchangable.

We fried some almonds in peanut oil to demonstrate the superiority of freshly made nuts: you can do the same with most others and I’m addicted to freshly fried pepita seeds.

Perhaps the most enthusiastically received tip was the German Pancake: 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 jumbo egg, and nutmeg baked in a preheated frying pan at 400 degrees for 22 minutes:

Then add lots of lemon juice and your preferred amount of confectioner’s sugar: yum!

Our Open Meetings coming up October 5-6

On Tuesday (5th) and Wednesday (6th) of the coming week, we’ll hold our first (and only) gathering of the year at HILR in hopes of attracting some previously undiscovered hard-core Foodies among the membership. Because of building rules, we can’t do any cooking on-site (can’t even offer to sharpen your knives — whatever they may be in the kitchen, they’re considered weapons at 51 Brattle; on second thought, I guess perhaps they’re weapons in the kitchen from the chicken’s point-of-view) and thus we’ll be content to talk about the pleasures of food. Please come, if you can, ready to extoll your favorite cookbook or recipe. (If you can’t come and wish to be retained on our rolls, just email to that effect.)

What we’re eating in this season

I make it a practice of photographing anything we make that looks good enough to eat (ahem, that means most of what we actually eat). I thought it might provide a bit of inspiration if I posted some examples. (Foodies: please email me your latest creations so I can post them here as well.)

We recently finished the wild Maine blueberry season which meant adieu to our Blueberry Tarte, something that gets made on the first day those fabulous blueberries appear in the market (Wilson Farm and Russo’s, in my experience); and, at least on that inaugural occasion, completely consumed by the two of us within hours. We average two blueberry tartes a week during the season. Recipe on request (the most requested recipe published by Women’s Day in their first 50 years)!

Then, of course, it’s also the tomato season and we’ve had terrific luck at the farmers’ markets at the Charles Hotel and in front of the Science Center. Every other day we have this boring combination of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (Mozzarella House at Russo’s), and Greek oregano with slivers of basil (not yet added).

With too many tomatoes (an oxymoron), we also make gazpacho from the recipe in David Rosengarten’s fabulous It’s All American Food, a collection of recipes for the classic dishes of various immigrant groups as made in America:

Last in the tomato category is the wonderful bread salad the Tuscans call panzanella, according to the recipe in Guiliano Bugialli’s The Fine Art of Italian Cooking (by which he means Tuscan cooking):

When we get into American-mode, one of our favorite things (after Buffalo Chicken Wings), is corned beef hash the way it used to be made, with sizable dice of corned beef, potato, and lots of onions with a fried egg on top:

Finally, dessert: the problem is to find good peaches and we’ve found it enormously hard. But when we do (Kimball’s Fruit Farm), we go for peach shortcake:

Then, here are a couple of Tips and Tricks which will whet the appetite for our meeting on October 17th where they’ll be demonstrated. We have a house rule that if we want to eat a potato chip, we need to have made it ourselves. And when the craving becomes too much to bear, that’s what we do. But when we need a lighter starch to go with the grilled sirloin, we do a variation the French call gaufrettes — you too can do it with your handy mandolin:

Finally, a garnish trick that I wish I’d known about years ago: fry a slice of prosciutto in bacon fat until well done; drain and blot on paper towels; and you’ve got a stunning garnish (I don’t mean pretty, I mean tasty), here crunched over our red pepper soup:

Cappuccino trick: who knew?

I’ve been steaming milk for my several-a-day cappuccini for many, many years. But I only recently realized something that every barista must know: in order to get that stiff foam which lasts during the period one drinks a cappunccino, you have to let the milk sit for two or three minutes after steaming it before you pour it into the cup. You’ll find that this make a terrific difference.