What’s the difference between a home cook and a chef? For me, the answer lies right there in the pages of Daniel Boulud’s braising book which came out back in 2006. I’m a big believer in braising; nothing makes me happier than to sear a tough piece of meat, stir in some aromatics, add a cooking liquid, and then to let thing go for three hours, only to have the meat melt beneath the tines of a fork when you’re done, the sauce right there without any extra labor. But as for those individual elements–the meat, the aromatics, the liquid–the best I could come up with, if pressed, would be all the usual suspects: chicken thighs, onions, garlic, white wine, etc. That’s because I’m a home cook. Chef Boulud, on the other hand, fills his pages with the most startling combinations: beef shank with coconut and avocado, pork belly with pineapple and plantains, lamb shanks with mint, prunes, and bourbon. And so on Saturday, I decided to channel my inner-chef and make the recipe that called out to me the most: Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries, and Sweet Potatoes.
Tweaking a Daniel Boulud recipe is a little bit like rewriting the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song. It’s a brazen thing to do.
But when I made that Smoky Beef Chili for Diana’s birthday (and, by the way, not enough of you liked that recipe on Facebook and Twitter; I think it’s because chili is hard to make beautiful…a fact confirmed to me by a food stylist I met the other day) I had leftover homemade chili powder. So the dessert recipe I meant to make–Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate-Ginger Pound Cake–instantly became Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate Chile Pound Cake. Don’t tell Daniel Boulud.
What happens when a famous French chef offers up a recipe for chili? Here’s what happens: the birthday girl that you make it for (in this case, Diana) writes you an e-mail the next day that says, “Best chili I’ve ever had, hands down.”
Notice I’m not the one saying that. It’s not because I don’t agree, it’s that I’ve already done a post called The Best Chili of Your Life. That chili came from Michael Symon, a man who was born to make chili. This recipe comes from Daniel Boulud, a man who was born to serve foie gras-stuffed truffles at his Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel. Symon’s chili is all explosive flavor; Boulud’s chili has deep, layered flavor, flavor that doesn’t hit you over the head but sort of blooms in your mouth.
Once upon a time, I bought Richard Olney’s “Simple French Food,” a classic text that’s required reading for many an aspiring chef. I remember reading it casually (I even cooked from it once: Squid & Leeks in Red Wine) and I remember making a mental note that if I ever found sorrel at the farmer’s market, I would buy some.
Maybe I’m crass, but when I think bladder, I think pee.
When the bladder comes up in conversation, it’s usually in the context of “my bladder is going to explode, please pull over” or “ouch, don’t sit on my bladder, I just drank a liter of Coke.” It’s rarely: “Mmm, you know what would be delicious? Puffing up the bladder of a pig and cooking a chicken in it!” If someone said that to you, you might stare at them, mouth agape, wondering how quickly you might get to the nearest exit. Yet, at some point before I arrived at the NYT 4-star Michelin 3-star restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side, the visiting chef–another Michelin 3-star chef, Chef Eric Frechon from The Bristol in Paris–made that very statement. And no one recoiled in horror; in fact, they helped him do it.
One subject everyone can relate to, regardless of where you live in the country, is the decision-making process one goes through when one plans a night on the town. Of course, there’s dinner but what to do after dinner? And how important is the after dinner activity when choosing where to eat dinner? If you eat dinner in an obscure part of town with nothing else to do, is the night ruined? Inversely, if you choose an awesome after dinner activity (let’s go rollerskating!) are your plans foiled when the only place to eat nearby is a 3rd rate pizza joint?
Happily, living in New York provides many opportunities for a fantastic dinner AND a fantastic after dinner activity. Allow me to share two such examples, after the jump.
Vegas Days 3 & 4: Picasso, The Cook Off & Grand Tasting, “Love,” Daniel Boulud Brasserie, Craftsteak
If you go to www.endoftheinternet.com you reach a page that tells you “sorry, but you’ve reached the end of the internet.” I bring this up because on Saturday night, at Craftsteak at the MGM Grand, I received a message from my stomach that said: “Sorry, but you’ve reached the end of eating.” It waved a white flag, as did the stomachs of my companions, and by the time we left Vegas on Sunday morning we vowed never to eat like this again.
Here are the people we saw last night at the Gourmet.com launch party at Bar Boulud:
– Calvin Trillin
– Mark Bittman
– Eric Ripert
– David Chang
– Jonathan Waxman
– Aaron Sanchez
– Michael Psilakis
– Rebecca Charles
– April Bloomfield
– Alfred Portale
– Joey Campanaro
– Daniel Boulud (it was his place, after all)
and, of course
– Ruth Reichl (it was her party).
To say the room was choc full of food celebs would be a profound understatement. I spent most of the party wandering around with Craig saying, “Whoah–do you know who that is? He’s/she’s a legend.” I also had fun chatting with all my food blogging cohorts–Ed Levine & The Serious Eats Team (Adam and Alaina), the Eater crew, Josh Ozersky. I befriended the managers of The Little Owl and Market Table (the latter of whom was freshman roommates with one of my college friends). I shook hands with Daniel and told him that one of his close friends was one of my favorite teachers in grad school (a true fact!); I kibitzed with Rebecca Charles who told me how she cooks a rib-eye at home (no oil, extremely hot pan, render the fat from the side of the meat first, then finish in the oven—oh and lots of coarse salt and pepper). It was a whirlwind of glitz and glamour, but mostly it was just passionate food people talking about food. And speaking of food, wait ’til you see the spread.