Saturday, January 30, 2010

No, I Wasn't Ready for my Closeup

A quick update to my last post.  I saw a link to a video online of Chef Daniel Boulud talking to Chef Nate Appleman.  When I watched it, I was surprised to see that it was a video of me and Chef Boulud talking to Nate.  I guess my 15 minutes of fame countdown clock has started.

View more news videos at:

I've been taking advantage of NYC Restaurant Week.  Hit up Blue Smoke, Danny Meyer's BBQ place on Monday.  As is always the case there, ate way too much of the wonderful fare.  Taking a cab the few blocks to the PATH train home did cross my mind.

We hit Tao for lunch on Thursday.  Tao is an Asian-fusion restaurant where the food has to compete for attention with a giant statue of Buddha and its hipper than hip clientele.  I'm glad to say that at our lunch the food won.

The alumni association of my alma mater, Stevens Institute of Technology, held a scotch tasting event.   Even though I find myself on campus a lot, every time I go I get that anxious "I should be doing work" feeling.  Happily, that feeling went away by about scotch number three.  Not sure how many it would take to remove the memories of Theoretical Chemistry I and II, but it would be much more than advisable.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Citymeals-on-Wheels Benefit at Bar Pleiades

2.1 million meals.  Just let that figure soak in for a minute.  It's kind of hard to try to visualize that amount of food, isn't it?  That is the number of meals that Citymeals-on-Wheels delivered in 2009.  That is the extent of the need of people whose illness, age or other considerations preclude them from preparing their own food.  When I received an invitation to attend a cocktail party benefitting this charity, I readily signed up.

A quick glance at the culinary talent assembled for this event, give you an idea of how important this cause is to people.  I'm sure Chef Daniel Boulud ringing you up helped persuade the attendees a bit as well.  Nate Appleman, ex-SF super star and new NYC super star was there.  He liked the sable fish dish he whipped up for the event so much, he is going to put it on the menu in his new restaurant Pulino.  Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook fiom Animal in LA were there serving a very tasty chicken liver pate dish.  George Mendes from Aldea served a tasty shrimp dish based on a classic Portugese recipe.  Not to be outdone, Cafe Boulud's own Chef Gavin Kaysen served an array of hor dourves, each one better than the previous.

Of course, it wouldn't be a cocktail party without cocktails.  The cocktails were ably handled by Bar Pleiades mixologist Cameron Bogue.  I never had a cocktail with butternut squash puree in it before, nor would I thought that such a concoction would be palatable in the least.  His elixir proved me completely wrong.

Yes, the evening was a complete blast.  Yes, it was fun seeing Gael Greene and Barbara Fairchild.  And yes, it did put a spotlight on the needs that exist in our own communities.  So, when you open you wallet to help out Haiti, which we all should do.  Keep it open a minute more to help out your less fortunate neighbors.  Your next meal will taste that much better for it.  

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pommes Darphin

For 22 weeks, I got up early on Saturdays to drag myself and about 15 pounds of kitchen tools into the city to attend the French Culinary Institute.  I made well over 100 different classic French dishes from souflees to pot au feu.  The one dish I get asked to make time and again, pommes darphin.

I must admit, it has become one of my favorite potato dishes.  Its crunchy on the outside while creamy on the inside nature makes it irresistible.  Adding to its beauty is the fact you can make it ahead of time and reheat it later without loosing the crisp exterior.  It is light on ingredients but pretty heavy on technique.  It might take a few tries to get it correct, but at least you can eat the mistakes.

For this dish you will need the following:

  • Three medium russet potatoes
  • Vegetable oil, preferably canola or grapeseed oil to withstand the high heat
  • One table spoon of butter, cut into four equal pats
  • An 8" skillet
  • Slotted turner or other fairly long utensil for flipping
  • Mandolin or great knife skills
Peel potatoes and julianne them using a mandolin or by hand.  You need a fairly small julianne.  Do not rinse the potatoes!
Place the potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the water.  This step is crucial! You want to remove moisture but keep the starch so the potatoes will stick together in a cake.  Place potatoes in bowl and season.
Preheat skillet over high heat.  Put enough oil into the pan to totally coat the bottom.  You are not looking to deep fry, but a pool of oil about 1mm deep or so is ideal
Heat the oil until wisps of smoke appear.  You want the pan screeching hot to avoid sticking.
Place the potatoes in the pan and form into a round cake.  Press down firmly to get the potatoes to adhere.
When the bottom is golden brown, flip the cake.  Here is where the small skillet and long turner come into play.
Turn down the flame to medium and place one pat of butter at 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock.  Cook until the bottom is brown and the center is cooked through.
If not serving immediately, place on a cooling rack.  Reheat in an oven to serve.

This may take a few trial runs to get it right.  If the potatoes did not stick together, they were still too wet or were cut to large.  You really need to get most of the moisture out of the spuds.

When you do get this right, it is well worth the effort.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Doh! While Rolling Dough

A snap, a gasp, a moment of disbelief.  Then the full gravity of the situation floods over you.  I broke the rolling pin that has been in my family for more than 46 years.  I don't know exactly how old it is, it was always there for us.  Ready to make a pie dough for a festive occasion, or one to cheer up a sad situation.  But always there at the ready.  Tonight, rolling out some cookie dough, it gave its all.

In the kitchen, we rely on many inanimate objects to create our dishes.  Some become trusted partners, nearly extensions of our own limbs.  Others are only begrudgingly dragged out when needed, our thoughts turned to how to beat it into submission.  Some become nearly totem like, passed down as a sacred object from generation to generation to continue a beloved family recipe.

My rolling pin's time had come.  The wood inside the handle was dry rotted so if it did not go gently into that good night tonight, it would have gone soon.  I will miss that ancient rolling pin and the connections and memories it held for me.  I only hope these damn cookies taste good!