To get to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market from where I live, you have two choices: you can take highways (the 101 to the 110 to the 10 West) or you can take streets. If you do take streets, there are probably many speedy options; streets that take you far west with minimal traffic. Of all the streets that you can take to Santa Monica, the slowest is probably Santa Monica itself–it moves at a crawl–and that’s something I learned the hard way (even though I’d be warned!) as I chose that as my primary route last Wednesday to the farmer’s market most frequented by chefs and food lovers here in L.A.
No matter what holiday you celebrate this holiday season, there’s going to be a dinner and since you’re reading a food blog right now, there’s a good chance people are going to expect YOU to make it. Your options will be fairly limited–people have certain expectations when it comes to holiday dinners–and in the canon of culinary techniques available to you, you’ll most likely choose roasting since that particular verb yields so many classic holiday dishes: roast beef, roast turkey, roast reindeer (see my banner.)
Dealing with expectations is a tricky endeavor for every cook, whether at home or at a four-star restaurant.
Granted, the four-star chef has a harder time: diners at a four-star restaurant expect impeccable service, pristine surroundings, and food at the cutting edge of what food can be. At home, things are a little different. You don’t have to make a streak of sauce on the plate with the back of a spoon, you don’t have to scrape crumbs off the table with a crumb-scraper, but if you’re going to serve something familiar, as I did recently with Butternut Squash Soup, it better be the comfortingly sweet version that everyone knows and loves. Sad to say that this one, which comes from one of my favorite cookbooks ever, Suzanne Goin’s “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” isn’t.
When I get invited to dinner parties, these days, I pretty much make it a policy not to take pictures. This takes the pressure off the host or hostess, who may be nervous that their food blogging friend is scrutinizing every bite, preparing to skewer them for all the world to see on his food blog the next morning. Mostly, though it takes the pressure off me: by not taking pictures, there’s no expectation that I’m going to blog about it. So if you’re wondering why the sweet potato souffle you cooked for me didn’t make it on to the blog (that’s just a hypothetical) it’s most likely a function of my policy. Unless, of course, you cook me the lasagna in the photo above.
Admit it: we all watch “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” So we all saw it when Dina’s daughter derided the coleslaw set out for her going-away party to Cyprus. “Who ordered all this coleslaw?” she groused and we all laughed because that gloppy, mayonnaisey mound of coleslaw did look pretty nasty.
But take heart, New Jersey housewives: I give you a recipe for coleslaw so simple and so satisfying, I can type the whole thing in this paragraph. It comes from Suzanne Goin’s “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” and takes no time at all. Here, have your personal chef do the following: slice half a green cabbage really thinly and half a red cabbage really thinly. Toss together with one grated carrot and half a red onion sliced thinly. Now take half a cup of red wine vinegar, put it in a little pot, and boil until reduced by half (“Oy that smell!”) Add 2 Tbs honey to the hot vinegar and then pour over the cabbage, carrot and onion, along with salt and pepper. Toss and let sit 15 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup mayo, chopped chives and chopped parsley, toss all together and you’re done. Colorful, killer coleslaw! Enough to make your husbands go, “Fuhgetaboutit.”
Have you ever had a son or daughter who plays the piano like a real champ, such a champ that you invite all your friends over one night and set up a little concert–with fliers and cocktails and a video camera on a tripod–and when your son or daughter finally sits down to play they totally freeze up and won’t hit one note? That’s how I felt two weeks ago when I had friends over to eat not one but TWO dishes from a new favorite cookbook, David Tanis’s “A Platter of Figs.” My love for this book ran pretty deep for a variety of reasons: (a) it was a gift from Craig’s parents; (b) David Tanis is the chef at Chez Panisse, one of my favorite restaurants; and (c) the book is knock-you-out beautiful, with gorgeous pictures and recipes and writing that’s heartfelt and really, really smart. But when it came time to perform, I’m so sad to report that the two recipes I made from it–the Green Chile Stew & the Spicy Pickled Vegetables–were total duds.
Cooking a big meal for a friend’s birthday is something that I enjoy, especially when that friend is Diana. But, inevitably, the party will end, the dishes will be stacked in the sink and, most devastating for a food blogger like me, there will 1,000 pictures of the meal in my camera and I’ll feel an overwhelming duty to blog. Especially when I spent the time to make Suzanne Goin’s chorizo-stuffed lamb from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques,” a recipe that Goin herself deems the most difficult in the book; I know my readers will want to hear about it. But the pictures have been on Flickr now for weeks and just the idea of taking you through this whole dinner, step by step, fills me with dread. Do you really want to know how it all went down, to the last detail? Aren’t you happy just to look at that pretty picture of Diana with those pretty flowers? Can we leave it at that? No? FINE, I’ll blog all about it. But first: Diana has a play debuting this week at Brown University called “Girls on the Clock”! For ticket info, click here. To see Diana’s birthday lamb, click ahead!
Please ignore the short rib in the above photo and focus on the cloud of white beneath it. That, my friends, is what we in the cooking industry (or the food blogging industry) call a potato puree. It’s a blend of riced potato innards (Yukon Gold & russets), two sticks of butter, heated cream and milk.
We owe this recipe to Suzanne Goin and her “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” which caused us some consternation two weeks ago when it almost killed us with melted plastic.
But my friend Jimmy was coming over for dinner last Sunday and I wanted to impress: so I turned to page 301 for Suzanne’s “Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Puree.” The rib recipe was fairly typical: brown in oil, aromatize with onion, carrot and celery, and deglaze with red wine and stock (plus, here, port and balsamic vinegar). The end result was scrumptious and comforting in this cold weather, but my heart belonged to the potato puree.