LA MAIN SHOUTOUT

There’s a lovely mention of Lawrence in this month’s Bon Appetit. (Pictured above: the sweet-and-savory Gloucester pancakes that I make with beef suet.) We’re in awesome company, too — our buddies at Foodlab, Hotel Herman, Sardine, and Caffe San Simeon are included in the roundup too. And my personal favorite — the impeccable breads at Joe la Croute — don’t go unnoticed, either.

Read it here!

HOT POT ADDICTION

In the dead of winter, traditional Chinese hot pot might be the perfect remedy. My thought process of the last month: Quick! Before winter ends… and it’s going to end soon… You have one final thing to accomplish. A hot pot feast at home!

I adore everything about hot pot. Thinly sliced meats — like beef, lamb, chicken — perched delicately in a mesh wire basket, are lowered into a bubbling cauldron dotted with floating mushrooms, a tangle of rice noodles, cubes of tofu, and a mysterious thicket of vegetables. As the meat simmers to doneness, the fixings, like a big spoonful of spicy, rich sesame sauce, are arranged in a tiny bowl, alongside a few wedges of crisp Chung Yao Bing, or a savory scallion pancake. As the night crawls forward, the broth gets thicker, meatier, richer, condensed with the dazed memories of the meats and the seafood that entered and exited its steamy world.

My fondness for hot pot has been documented on this site before. There’s that time I had it in Hong Kong, which was pretty mind-blowing. But organizing a hot pot feast at home  — as I did once in California — is not even that hard, and maybe even more fun than going out. So for my friend Karine’s birthday, I knew right away that I wanted to throw her a party that we’d all remember forever.

The day of the dinner, we drove down to Chinatown and scooped up all of the ingredients for a proper hot pot experience. As for prep, that’s about it. The night of the party, it’s an every-man-or-woman-for-himself kind of situation. You make the food as you crave it, gulp it down as soon as it’s ready, and don’t stop until you’re about stuffed, practically hallucinating with pleasure, peering through the steamy room that feels as hot as a sauna.

It’s the best way to say zàijiàn to winter.

5 MINUTE LUNCH

Good thing it’s still winter (haha, NOT), because at least I’m still not sick of brussels sprouts, especially when charred in the oven and tossed with my all-time favorite pasta shape, the adorable orecchiette. The key is a bracing amount of aleppo pepper, lemon zest, and a splash of starchy pasta water to bring everything together. A big handful of grated pecorino doesn’t hurt, either.

PINING

Can we take a BRIEF MOMENT to take a break from my (admittedly super-sparse dinner party posts of the last three months) usual blogs to lament the newly acquired information that there is supposed to be a major snow storm in Montreal tonight? I know winters are hard, but it’s true what they say: March is always the worst. I can’t stop fantasizing about warm water, fruity cocktails, park picnics, and RIDING MY BIKE. To say I’m going a little loopy is a modest assessment. I saw this cute card and actually got goosebumps thinking about how wonderful it would feel to hang in an innertube, holding a wine spritzer and a pair of red sunglasses.

PASTA NIGHTS

Our freezer is always stocked with one of or two loaves of my sourdough, ready to be transformed into slices of toast, a tupperware of breadcrumbs, or a pan of garlicky croutons. Recently, I read about a curious walnut-bread sauce, thick and creamy and off-white in color, spooned over pasta and served with a glass of cold Ligurian wine. I pulled out some bread from my freezer and got to work.

It all starts with a loaf of stale or defrosted country bread, torn into manageable chunks and soaked in a pot of warm milk. A pan of walnuts is lightly roasted and then crushed in a mortar and pestle. A few cloves of garlic are peeled and lightly flattened. Then, the entire aromatic mess is blitzed with an immersion blender until pureed, but still chunky. With a wooden spoon, I whipped in a few cups of grated Parmesan and half a cup of good Italian olive oil. What appeared next was one of the most voluminous, gorgeous sauces I’ve ever made. It’s rustic and pasty — who likes that wan, pale shade of beige, anyway? — but the taste is totally remarkable. There’s that faintest shade of garlic, the salty punch of cheese, those sweet, earthy walnuts, and the tang and heft of the milk-soaked bread. I used Rachel’s recipe as a guideline and inspiration more than anything else, but if you’d like to follow it exactly, you can find it here. When we were ready to eat, I thinned out the sauce with a big splash of starchy pasta water, which loosens and relaxes the sauce, perfectly coating your pasta.

Okay, a few notes about the linguine, which was so easy to make. Marcella Hazan’s basic pasta recipe has always been my favorite, and I love her preference for intuitive dough-making: the feel and look of the pasta is way more important than precisely scaling out ingredients. Hazan estimates about one cup of flour for every two eggs, and I find those proportions to be exactly right. Our dough was springy, soft, and smooth.

The rest of the dinner was light and fresh, starting wedges of Tuscan melon and smoked Charlevoix ham. Next, an easy and colorful chopped Italian salad, using mostly bitter-tasting vegetables like radicchio and dandelion greens, all brightened by red bell pepper, golden raisins, shaved fennel, and chopped almonds. It might be my new favorite winter salad.

The rest was seriously simple: a wedge of my favorite 18-month aged Comte, straight from Jura, eaten with slivers of ripe Comice pears and sourdough toasts, followed by Italian blood oranges and dark chocolate-covered candied ginger, a lovely Valentine’s gift from my mom. The night was a perfect homage to the region of Liguria, and the certainly perked up our cold winter nights!

BIRTHDAY QUAILS

Not that I need an excuse to throw an elaborate dinner party, but it’s become something of a tradition around these parts that I host a big feast in honor of my friends’ birthdays. (Sometimes, of course, the birthday parties end in blood and tears).

So for Fred’s birthday, something special was in order. We began with fresh oysters, halved radishes, bowls of salty pistachios, and local charcuterie. We moved onto a creamy purple potato dauphinoise spiked with thyme and sage. We relieved palates with a shaved fennel, dandelion greens, blood orange and chicory salad. The main event was a heaping platter of roast quail, fried in duck fat and stuffed with black cabbage and bacon. We ate them with our fingers, squirting the birds with juice from lemon wedges. Then we tackled a huge board of cheeses – most of them local Quebec products that we also feature at the restaurant. (Have you ever had the Alfred le Fermier? It’s one of my favorites, like a creamy, milky gruyere).  For dessert, a leftover baked alaska pinched from work and a sweet chocolate ganache tart contributed by Seeger. There’s just something about cooking for friends… it always makes me feel great.

(Quail photo by Marc)

AFTERNOON TACOS

I may not work at Le Pick Up anymore, but I’m totally one of those annoying regulars that plops down at the best seat at the bar and then hangs out for hours. Literally, hours. I like to chill there all afternoon on my days off, eating potato chips and drinking ginger ale. Like any good diner or burger joint, Depanneur Le Pick Up has a killer secret menu. A tip from me to you: Both their famous pulled porc and the grilled halloum sandwich taste even more delicious as a trio of petite tacos. It’s really a great late afternoon lunch.

LUNCHING LAWRENCE

Because I work every dinner service at Lawrence, my only opportunity to actually enjoy our food (as a client)is during lunch. Luckily, a lot of the goodies that we offer at dinner — like potted rabbit, pickled smelt, grilled ox tongue, and, of course, our desserts! — are available on our lunch menu, too. (And so much more affordable!)

The other day I stopped in with a friend and we went nuts over the menu: golden shallots with fresh goat’s curd; baked borlotti beans with chewy bacon and horseradish cream; creamy, gooey celery gratin (it’s so good, it reminds me of cheese pizza); our famous housemade charcuterie and pickles… it was a feast. All it was missing was a few bottles of wine.

SCENES FROM HOME

Glimpses into my room…

Crucial Frank Ocean / Gary Numan shrine.

Even more crucial Scott Walker shrine, he guards my room.

My mom made this beautiful pink quilt for me years and years ago. (My favorite color). It’s even brighter in real life. I love how it looks with my (much more muted) APC quilt.

A small slice of my tape collection.

A beautiful painting from my friend Andrew Paine (they’re so striking in real life), and my favorite Kate Bush photo ever, torn from a magazine, I don’t know where.

Bright colors, unwieldy shapes, patterns upon patterns, inevitable clutter… my home environment is a pretty good reflection of my wardrobe aesthetic too. Consistency!

FAIL SAFE

Whenever I feel totally uninspired by cooking and the contents of my refrigerator, I reach for a few fail-safe tricks. Like: Boiling a pot of beans with an onion and some bay. Simmering a quick tomato sauce and adding dried pasta. A scoop of miso dissolved in some vegetable broth.

One of my all-time, fool-proof favorites: Roasting whatever I have around in the oven at high heat until dark, caramelized, and fragrant. I like to cut everything into similar sized pieces — here, I used a head of broccoli, a few wilting brussels sprouts, and a few cloves of peeled garlic — and coat with olive oil, lemon zest, aleppo pepper, and lemon juice. Simple. Twenty minutes later, fresh out of the oven, charred and crispy, I deglazed the pan with a little white wine and some starchy pasta water, just enough to make a light sauce. If none of that inspires you? Delivery pizza is totally a legit alternative.