Thanksgiving Meal #2. Sunday roast staff meal at Lawrence — standing rib roast, crispy brussels sprouts, stewed cabbage, and mini yorkshire puddings (I use Hugh’s recipe!). Considering how chaotic brunch service gets, I’m pretty proud at how well we pulled this one together.
Around these parts, Thanksgiving is something of a week-long celebration. We’ll feast again with friends this Monday, but earlier in the week we hosted another small gathering. The idea was fowl, but definitely no turkey. What did we eat?
Fennel confit with saffron, currants, orange zest, coriander seed. (I make this all the time; it’s very popular around these parts! I always look for the tiniest bulbs at the market for the most tender flesh.)
Sauteed chicken livers with torn radicchio and honey vinaigrette
Shredded duck legs with lentils, kale, and duck-fat roast potatoes
Roasted butternut squash with herbs de Provence, fresh bay and smoked paprika
Crispy brussels sprouts with pancetta and pine nuts
A big hunk of Comté from Jura and sourdough bread
There was lots of laughter, record playing, and garland-making. One of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had in ages. There weren’t even any leftovers!
Hey Canadians! Don’t forget: Yung Chang’s gorgeous new documentary The Fruit Hunters opens today in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. (And check out this review of the film over at the Montreal Gazette!) (And for more photos of these cuties, click over to Adam’s blog).
I’m grateful for so much this year, but right at this moment I’m eternally thankful for impromptu pizza parties. I’m thankful that Bottega has take-out. I’m thankful for their ‘bacio della Bottega,’ which are tender, steaming golf-ball sized nubs of pizza dough stuffed with molten ham and cheese. I’m thankful for the marriage of anchovy and tomato. I’m thankful for the laughter and love of my friends. I’m thankful for Adam’s seemingly endless amount of pizza-wine pairing knowledge. Happy American Thanksgiving, everyone!
A few weeks ago, the team at Lawrence competed in the annual Gold Medal Plates competition, a charity event featuring Canadian chefs cooking their signature dishes for hundreds of people. Marc was invited to participate in the Quebec event, and we all helped him out. I felt like I finally had a taste of what it would be like hustling on one of those insane Top Chef challenges — complete with copious amounts of running back and forth between our display table and the onsite kitchens — and we took home a bronze medal! The dish? The ultimate marriage of sweet and salty: crispy pork cheek and mustard sauce atop a mini apple tart tatin. I’ve never made more puff pastry in my life.
[Photo of our apartment, a pretty cheerful post-birthday party scene]
Phew. It’s been another long week. I kind of always feel like I’m recovering from a really fun, intense, social party. Today I plan on doing nothing. This morning I rifled through the refrigerator to pull ingredients for a big pot of soup. I’m going to this new cafe for ramen (right in my hood, too!), then wander around the market, then stop by Milano’s to stock up on canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Then it’s back home to catch up on Downton Abbey and wait for my soup to finish. Just typing the words is bringing me relief and relaxation.
Restaurant critics have a tough job; one of the toughest. Pete Wells is surely one of the best because wow: I haven’t laughed this hard in ages. People often forget that food criticism can be art, too. It’s not just a public service, it’s entertainment. I lost it over his description of their dessert:
“Is the entire restaurant a very expensive piece of conceptual art? Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?”
Damn, I hope no one thinks that about our Alaska! Brilliant and witty, every single line. And does Guy Fieri’s new, abysmal restaurant reminds anyone else of George Saunders short story?
In the course of preparing endless amounts of sweet things for the restaurant, I end up with lots of odds and ends — bits of dough, packets of pastry, things we can’t serve to customers. I still am racking my brains over how to use a small lump of marzipan I made almost two months ago! I try never to waste anything, but it can be challenging to find new and interesting ways to use it all. (Right now, I love baking up the scone scraps into mini scone-nubbins for the staff).
We recently made a couple kilos worth of puff pastry for a major charity event (more on that soon!), and had so much puff leftover. I couldn’t bare to throw it away, so it became these tiny, crisp, light-as-air palmiers, some of which we gobbled up at work, and some of which I brought home with me to enjoy with hot coffee.
Palmiers have a special place in my heart. When I was growing up, my parents and I would head down to La Jolla Shores every Sunday morning to hang out on the beach for a few hours. We read the newspaper, walked in the sand, and collected seashells. It was the one time of the week that I was allowed to eat junk food (powdered sugar mini-donuts and orange juice), while my parents opted for more sophisticated choices like croissants and bagels. My mom, however, always went for the gigantic palmier — her favorite cookie. It appealed to me both in its sheer size (they’re called elephant ears, after all), and its impressively high sugar level.
It was really fun to recreate this special pastry at work, and insanely easy, too (if you don’t count the days that go into preparing a bar of puff). You could easily recreate this at home with store-bought frozen puff — just make sure that the list of ingredients only lists butter as the fat used. I roll out the puff very thinly, scatter with sugar, and curl both sides like a book. Cut thinly, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with more sugar, and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the sugar caramelizes and gets sticky. Sprinkle with even more sugar and eat hot. One of the best treats I’ve had in ages — buttery, flaky, and sweet.
Montrealers! My brilliant, amazing friend Yung Chang has been working on a documentary loosely based on the book ‘The Fruit Hunters’ that Adam wrote a few years ago. The film premiered on Saturday as part of RIDM, and screens again on Tuesday. (American buddies: it hits your movie theaters next year!) They held a fruit tasting party at the end, and Adam got to eat the obscure and impossible-to-find Barbados cherry – which tastes exactly like cotton candy – brought by a young fruit grower named Julian. Sounds like the best film screening ever, no? Sadly, I had to miss the opening night because of work, but I saw an earlier draft of the film (and had awesome behind-the-scenes adventures) and thought it was funny, sweet, smart, and weird. Run, run, run to see it if you can!
Bonus: Bill Pullman is in the film, too. Double bonus: Watch Adam with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, below. Hilarious and a little awkward.
Election day-derived anxiety calls for comfort food! We picked up a beautiful branch of broccoli from Birri, and I roasted it with lemon zest, olive oil, garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes until charred, more charred than you can imagine. (If we’re getting technical, about 10-12 minutes in a 450 degree oven). With some good bacon, grated pecorino, toasted pine nuts, and a handful of tiny, tender orecchiette, I enjoyed a big plate of coziness to help ward off election day jitters.