Monthly Archives: April 2011

COUNTING ON CASSOULET

Have you ever made a proper pot of cassoulet from scratch? It sounds deceptively simple — it’s just a pot of beans and pork, right? — but the truth is that it’s a long, drawn-out, painstaking process that involves days of work and quite a lot of money. And the reward doesn’t always seem like enough, because, well, it’s still a pot of beans and pork. But it’s still one of my favorite dishes of all time.

We were recently at the Jean Talon market, and while at one of our favorite meat purveyors we noticed a small pack of goose confit tucked into a corner of the glass case. We snatched it up, and I knew that we had to make cassoulet. To be honest, our iteration wasn’t perfectly authentic — we didn’t confit the fowl ourselves, after all — but I loved it all the same. We bought the rest of the ingredients — pounds of dried cannellini beans, bacon, duck fat, Toulouse sausage — and got right to work.

And once it’s finished, a pot of cassoulet is truly the gift that keeps on giving. The flavors really peaked around the third day, but we enjoyed the leftovers all week long — I’d eat it with eggs in the morning, with lemony kale for lunch, and with extra sausage at dinner. And while it was delicious, by the sixth day I was happy to see it go.

READ ON

I wrote a super-short piece in this week’s Montreal Mirror about Gabrielle Hamilton — of the popular NYC East Village restaurant Prune — and her upcoming appearance at Appetite for Books. (Many thanks to AEB for alerting me to the event!)

Like so many others, my first introduction to Hamilton’s writing was through the New Yorker, where they published “The Lamb Roast,” an excerpt from her debut book Blood, Butter and Bones, a memoir about her childhood and entrance into the world of food. There’s so much to admire about Hamilton, from her incredible work ethic to her culinary talents to her remarkable writing ability. For me, she really epitomizes the person who combines a love of both writing and food in a flawless way. Though I don’t ever see myself owning a restaurant, Hamilton is the kind of woman that I think I would like to be, too.

From the Mirror:

New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s 30-seat East Village restaurant Prune has developed a feverish following for its spectacular and simple food. Her beloved dishes—whole grilled fish, leeks vinaigrette, roasted marrow bones—are menu mainstays and have a direct provenance to her rural Pennsylvanian upbringing.

In her memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter, Hamilton writes thoughtfully on her thorny childhood, her reluctance to become a chef, and her tumultuous personal relationships. She’s in Mon­treal this week, Monday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m., for an event at Appetite for Books (388 Victoria) where she’ll discuss the book while audience members enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine ($45 with a copy of the book).

A graduate of University of Michigan’s writing program, Hamilton’s prose is as elemental and direct as her food. “The lambs roasted slowly, their blood dripping onto the coals with a hyp­notic hiss,” she writes of her father’s lamb roast celebration. “My dad basted them by dipping a thick branch covered with a big swab of cheesecloth into a paint can filled with olive oil, crushed rosemary, garlic, and chunks of lemons. He mopped the lambs with soft careful strokes, as you might paint a new sailboat.”

SIMPLE EQUATIONS

Paprika + thyme pan-fried potatoes // Chickpea, shallot, carrot + broccoli stir-fry with garam masala, black pepper, garlic + curry powder.

Morning coppa // honeydew melon // cantaloupe // maple syrup

Braised lamb shank // boiled purple potatoes + fleur de sel // haricot verts + lemon zest // seared endives + bacon

Cannellini bean + kale + red pepper flakes + Pecorino + lemon + penne

Himalayan red rice + lentil ‘fried rice’ // diced green beans + potatoes + parsley + lime + soy sauce + fish sauce + garlic + rice vinegar (a splash) + sesame oil (even less)

Cheese // cheese // cheese // cheese

Lentil fried rice // merguez, seared // pan-fried potoates + parsley + butter

Spring pasta // rigatoni + shrimp + asparagus + peas + lemon + white wine + cream + salt

SPRING! My partner is going to Italy this month. What should I ask him to bring back for me??

EASTER REMAINS

Easter Sunday leftovers. Still amazing.

ORGANS FOR EASTER

Easter Sunday supper

Richard Olney’s caul-wrapped lamb heart, liver and kidney brochettes, strung onto rosemary branches // Spring vegetable pilaf with Swiss chard ribs, new carrots, fresh peas, scallions, mint, and parsley

Red leaf lettuce and roasted red beets dressed with minted-lemon vinaigrette // Tomato, red onion, parsley and mint salad // Cardoons poached in lemon water

Grilled endives, scallions, and tomatoes // Grilled toasts, rubbed with tomato and cloves of garlic

Lulu’s Walnut Gâteaux

The sunny Easter morning began with potent coffee and S-shaped cookies in Little Italy, followed by a gluttonous feast of dim sum, and then a predictably rad shopping excursion to our favorite butcher shop in Montreal, Abu Elias. Because we don’t make it over there that frequently, we always stock up on staples like hummus, pita, whole roast chickens, soujouk.

But because it was Easter Sunday, Abu Elias had a few special items lounging around. Knowing our deep love of offal, the butcher mysteriously gestured to a pile of organs that they kept out of the display case. As he dangled them in the air for us to inspect — an attached system of the heart, kidneys, liver, and bloodied lungs from a baby lamb that was freshly slaughtered for the day’s Easter celebrations — I knew we couldn’t turn it down. For about $12, it was a bargain.

Then came the awesome task of wondering just what we were going to do with it all. Adam, knowing that I desperately wanted to fire up our grill, immediately remembered an Richard Olney recipe that called for lamb liver and heart, diced into small bits, wrapped up in translucent caul, and strung onto skewers of rosemary. It’s a classic Provencal dish, meant to be eaten with Domaine Tempier Bandol and a fluffy spring vegetable pilaf. It was the perfect idea.

But I was more reluctant to embrace the lungs, which honestly freaked me out. A moment of validation came when, after a bit of research, we realized that the lungs aren’t really meant to be eaten. They’re basically dog food. I felt apprehensive about the extensive cleaning the bloodied lungs required, and couldn’t imagine how I could possibly grill them. (In a particularly grotesque moment, we imagined the lungs filling with air and ballooning up on the grill to gigantic proportions, eventually exploding in our faces and splattering the walls with tiny lung bits). So we threw them in a bowl, poked at the narrow esophagus for good measure, and decided to skip them. (But if anyone has a good lamb lung recipe, I would love to see it!)

With the concept firmly in place, we rang up a few friends, and held an impromptu Easter celebration. As the early spring breezes licked at the flames and in the final seconds of grilling the lamb, we threw handfuls of fresh sage and rosemary leaves directly onto the glowing coals. Fragrant, intoxicating smoke billowed around the skewers. It was a moment of indisputable magic.

Because the flavor of lamb offal can be quite strong, it can handle equally pungent herbs and wines. We marinated the liver and heart in mint, scallions, lemons, olive oil, parsley, diced red onion and raw garlic, and drank powerful Mourvèdre all night. It’s worth noting that the caul — which added much-needed fat, juiciness, and a porky counterpoint to the tiny morsels of lamb offal — is an essential ingredient. I also made sure to serve plenty of vegetables to offset the richness of the meal, and it was our first truly spring-like meal, charred with flavor and bursting with life.

Our lovely set of organs.

Though we decided to nix the lungs.

Defrosted caul, ready to wrap stuff.

DREAM CHILL ZONE

I seriously flipped out after I saw these outrageously awesome photos of Jayne Mansfield’s house — dubbed “The Pink Palace” — on Cat Party. (According to Wikipedia, Mansfield paid a scant $76,000 for her Beverly Hills mansion). Between the heart-shaped pool and expansive checkered terrace, this is my ideal backyard setting for all of the grilling I plan to do this summer. Outstanding.

[Images via Cat Party]

FLOWER UN-POWER

 

Oh, barf.

I was recently combing the internet for acceptable bridesmaid dresses, and ended up on Anthropologie, a weirdly reliable site for buying super-discounted Rachel Comey shoes. I immediately noticed this dress (top two images) for exactly what it was: a blatantly simplified copy of Stella McCartney’s incandescent 2011 resort collection (bottom two images), of which I have waxed poetic on many occasions, including here. Yet this copy is so embarrassing, so derivative, so lame.

THE HUNT CONTINUES

Everybody has been sending me so much rad maid-of-honor advice, but ugh, it’s still so hard to shop for solid-colored dresses! Everything is either too clinical or too casual, it all feels so boring. I keep getting distracted by stuff like this and this and this.

[images via Frances May, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Creatures of Comfort, Steven Alan, Dona Monroe, Net-a-Porter, Dace]

PIZZA PLAY

Upon our arrival to the Vermont woods, we were surprised with an amazing pizza dinner made by our rad friend Ithamar. After that long drive, it felt so good to walk into a warm house filled with the unmistakable sights and smells of pizza, my favorite food. The house where we stayed was insane — the fireplace had a little pizza oven slot built right into the back of the chimney. He made a seeded baguette in there, too. I almost passed out, it was so great.

BREAKFAST CHOICES

It’s crazy to imagine that as recently as two years ago I couldn’t stand to eat eggs for breakfast, because now hardly a day goes by without them sitting on my plate. Eggs are fast, easy, cheap, and unremittingly delicious, and they effortlessly make my breakfasts feel more substantial. I’m not sure when, exactly, I started to love eggs, but now they’re a part of my daily diet, as natural as coffee or bread.