My brother introduced me to salt baked fish. It's a simple, clean tasting method for baking fish. Besides the fish (any white fish will do) all you need is salt, egg whites, herbs and some lemons. Baking time is 25 minutes at 450F.
The introduction to this blog has a story relating to my dad's cooking in Paris. It's also a story that my mother shared with us kids, namely the family lore of art and cooking.
My father, who was a painter, met my mother, when he was working in a Paris kitchen as a cook. As she remembers it, one night she came in. That evening, my dad forgot to clean the ends of the green beans. My mom complained. He responded by inviting her out to the movies. In a few years, those green beans and date would deliver moi (me).
Anyway, recently I found a book written by my father's biggest fan, art collector Dr.Jurgen Thimme. In the book, he captures this period in Paris with a story about my dad. Here's a passage.
"But one cannot live from selling a few canvases and drawings,without knowing hunger and despair in all stages. For a certain time, Shapiro saved himself by cooking meals in his studio for friends, artists and students. For ten francs you could dine at Shapiro's, six courses, wine included, dance to the music of Brummé and his harmonica or talk all night long. His studio smelled of New England oyster stew, Indian curry, Polish meatballs in cabbage leaves. His studio is told to have been famous in these days the tourists arriving in Paris to be led to the "Restaurant Shapiro."
Sounds romantic, no? Cheers to the memories of my dad and love to my lovely mother.
The ongoing no-gas crisis continues in my building. Tired of the electric coil burner-top offered by my landlord, I went out and bought an Induction cooktop. The one problem is cookware, namely my collection of stainless steel pans with copper lining. Apparently there are issues with metallic magneticism. Well, for my first efforts I used stainless steel bowls usually used for mixing doughs. But then I successfully tried some cast iron works. It makes up for no gas for now, and it's a great option for catering, too. Maybe!
Imagine you wake up and go to brew coffee on your favorite stove (the one in your own kitchen), and there's no flame. Happened to me. Turns out there is a major a leak in the building's gas line. Could be months without cooking at home. Ouch! To cheer myself up, I brought some sourdough starter to work. First order of business were pizza and bombolini tests for a upcoming event.
Instead of England's early Sunday dinner, a post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. "Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting." Beringer wrote. "It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week. — from At Brunch, The More Bizarre The Better, by William Grimes, New York Times, 1998
I hated making brunch when working as a hotel chef. It meant endless service and never-satisfied customers, even after many poached foods off the buffet. Regardless, last weekend I made brunch for some friends. Whatta'ya know, it was fun! What's not to like? Bellini's, eggs benedict, quiche, and some unusual additions; taralli, gluten free crackers, hummus with bottarga, and alfajores to fill out the more traditional fare.
The other evening I was lucky to spend an evening with Stefania Barzini. Hosted by Beatrice Ughi, Stefania is a well renowned Italian chef and author. She also runs a cooking school, as well. With five of us sharing a typically small New York City kitchen, Stefania led us gracefully through preparing a wonderful set of dishes that included - among other things - polpette (meatballs), as well as a unique hummus made with shaved bottarga. It was a tasting preview for an upcoming workshop.
Baking before last week's blizzard, I noticed lack of oven spring in a miche. Worse, 40 minutes into the bake, I spotted an uneven color. The next day I went to turn on my oven. It was dead. This has happened twice in my kitchen. I did manage to put out a few loaves with my Breville counter-top oven. Now I'm waiting for an upgraded big stove. For now, though, baking is confined to crackers and flat breads!
Usually at work we reserve lobster for the summer, whether served alone or in various guises, garnishes and salad. But this autumn - and more recently - I've brought into more regularly to the menu. It's always popular. Lobster poached in butter, then served on braised leeks is always a dining room favorite, its velvety textures and succulence bringing relaxed smiles to even the grimmest winter face. This last week I filled some pasta with a lobster mix that also included scallop and shrimps, enveloped in fresh pasta dough. Served with a reduced chicken, olive oil stock, along with spiced carrot juice, I finished with a drizzle of lobster oil. Sold out, no surprise!
It may be nostalgia. It may be January's chilly temperatures. Maybe the two go together. Regardless, I've been going into a retro food phase. Most recently I made quenelles, the classic pike or fish dumpling poached and blanketed with lobster sauce. I've also returned to baking madeleines, a treat from my early days as a commis, a time when they were a regular staple in my kitchen. Maybe it's time to pull out copies of Escoffier and Bocuse, dust off the books on the shelves, and just embrace winter. All to say till the springtime sunshine comes, I may well be looking to the past for cooking and baking treasures.