January, 2010, the Fashion Institute of Technology featured me in their first bi-annual magazine to feature graduates who ended up with a career in the food world. They assigned photographer Matthew Septimus to do the portrait. I told FIT that I had many press photos so there was no need to waste everyone's time with yet another one, but they insisted that Matthew was so gifted it would be worth doing it. And boy was I glad they did. He shot this candid photo which I have been using ever since because it was the only one that managed to capture the mischievous side of my personality! In parting, Matthew said that it was his hope that someday we would work together. Seven years later, I chose Matthew to become the photographer for our upcoming Rose's Baking Basics. He has driven all the way from Brooklyn, NYC to Hope, New Jersey for 21 days of step-by-step photo shoots, usually three days a week. And he took this new portrait for the upcoming book. When we were enjoying our end of the day espresso and desserts, Woody tried to take a photo of Matthew and me together but Matthew, ever humble, resisted. If you'd like to see a sampling of his exceptional work you can view his site. And here is my favorite photos of him and his son Ezra.
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Many of you have already learned of Dorothy's untimely and tragic death this month and that she was the founder of the French Culinary Institute in 1984 which gave birth to a litany of renowned chefs and restaurateurs such as Dan Barber, Bobby Flay, and David Chang. Dorothy was an extraordinarily valuable, influential, and cherished member of the food community and will be missed greatly. As a neighbor (I lived a 10 minute walk from the school) the French Culinary made me feel like I had a second home. If I needed an emergency ingredient, they welcomed me to run over to the store room. I audited chef Amy Quazza's bread and Dieter Schorner's Danish courses and frequently judged final exams of the graduating pastry classes. And if I needed a venue for a demo, French Culinary was always my first choice. When my Pie and Pastry Bible was published, Dorothy generously offered to host a book party in the pastry kitchen suggesting that I do a small demo. I don't remember exactly what I made but what I will never forget is how she introduced me. Inspired by the press material which played upon the theme of "bible," Dorothy opened with: Rose is a worshipped woman--something I wish someone would say about me!If only she could have seen the standing room only turnout of worshippers--students, friends, and family--that filled Saint Malachy's--The Actor's Chapel Roman Catholic Church, on Tuesday October 25th. A celebration of Dorothy's life followed the service and was held at the school which is now called the International Culinary Center. In the crowd there were so many familiar faces--Deans Jacque Pépin and Alain Sailhac and his wife Arlene Feltman (who started DeGustabus at Macy's) Marion Nestle, Drew Nierporent, Jenifer Lang and her daughter Georgina, Mitchell Davis of the Beard House, Danny Myers--an endless stream. Matthew Septimus, who is the photographer of our upcoming book, also did several books for the French Culinary Institute and showed us photographs on each floor which he had taken of the Deans and other food celebrities--in fact--he designed this wall of photos. In every kitchen on every floor there were samples of delicious food such as shredded duck confit tacos, boeuf bourguignon, cassolet, rabbit paella....and video memories of Dorothy, all accompanied by Abba's "Dancing Queen" playing in the background. Here are a few of the photos Woody managed to capture of me with some of my all time favorite people.
Matthew Septimus, Me, Dean Jacques Torres, and chef Mark Bauer
Dean Cesare Casella
Chef Kir Rodriquez
Pastry Chef Tony Lynn Dickson, Chef Daisy Martinez and Me, delighting in a photo of her first grandson
François and Patrice Dionot of the famed L'Academie de Cuisine
The bread baking kitchen with an array of bread and charcuterie
A fabulous rabbit paella
This week, Woody and I drove into New York for a most delightful book launch. A New Way to Dinner, by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The subtitle says it all: "A playbook of recipes and strategies for the week ahead." And we got to taste an array of recipes contained in the book. I almost passed up the chicken fingers because they are always so dry but, knowing Amanda and Merrill, I put my initial resistance aside and was richly rewarded by a crispy panko crust and deliciously juicy moist interior. When I met Merrill and her mother I learned the secret. This is the recipe her mother made on a regular basis when she was growing up and instead of the usual sawdust chicken breasts she employed the more flavorful and moist chicken thighs. I would buy this book just for this recipe alone and I can't wait to try many of the others. We were so happy to see our old friend Eunice Choi, whom we first met 7 years ago at KitchenAid's Epicurean Classic in Michigan when she was a recent graduate of Cornell University and was working as a prep assistant. We knew she would have a wonderful career in food and sure enough she went on to work at Food and Wine Magazine and now is on staff at Food52. And what a great surprise to discover that our terrific publicist, Allison Renzulli, who worked with us on The Baking Bible, is now at Ten Speed Press--the publisher of A New Way to Dinner. On a final note, I am so proud to have my best pie crust featured in the book as a Rhubarb Galette. Food52 A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead
It has been 19 years since I visited and wrote about Claude Troisgros's restaurant CT when it was in New York City (the review and recipe is at the end of this posting). And it has been 44 years since I visited his family's renowned restaurant Les Frères Troisgros in Roanne, France. Claude and his Brazilian wife moved to Rio, where he is now owner of five restaurants. He is considered to be the top chef in Brazil and, of course, I was determined to visit at least one of his restaurants during our recent trip to Rio for the Paralympics. Claude was on vacation in Sicily, so sadly we were not able to see him, but he alerted the restaurant of our impending arrival at CT Boucherie in the Barra Design Center, which was the closest one of his restaurants to where we were staying near the olympic stadium. Chef/manager Didier Labbe and chef Jessica orchestrated a fantastic array of the restaurant's specialities. As there were eight of us family members (from both coasts of the US) enjoying the experience, and four preferred white wine, we were able to order one bottle of white and one of the house recommended Salentein Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza, Argentina 2012, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We began with two delectable appetizers.
MINI PORK, HAM AND ONION SAUSAGES, HONEY MUSTARD
HEART OF PALM AND TENDERLOIN "PASTEL"
RIB EYE STEAK WITH A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS STREAM OF ACCOMPANIMENTS AND SAUCES
AN EXQUISITELY LIGHT AND CREAMY GUAVA CHEESECAKE
MOLTEN DULCE DE LECHE
SERVER WEARING THE TRADITIONAL BUTCHER'S APRON
A MOUNTAIN OF FABULOUS CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
Written for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate A food and wine lover never forgets her first pilgrimage to France. Mine was in 1972 and it served to crystallize in me the determination to devote my life to the pursuit of flavor. The expedition was shared by a friend, Elaine Kohut. We rented a typically powerless small car and tooled our way from Paris to Provence, enjoying many adventures, some of which included revelatory meals. But only one dining experience actually brought me to tears of joy at its conclusion and this was at Troisgros in Roanne. I had read in awe about the degustation menu starting with lark's liver paté with an intriguingly bitter edge from the larks' diet of juniper berries, the velvety texture of which resulted from the gentle technique of heating the terrines and then removing them from the oven and wrapping them in heavy blankets to cook overnight by indirect heat. I anticipated that food so lovingly prepared would be extraordinary beyond anything I had ever experienced. But nothing had prepared me for thrilling intensity of the signature dish Saumon à l'Oseille (Salmon with Sorrel). The moist, rich salmon, cloaked in a fish stock embued cream sauce was magically lightened and enhanced by the most exciting counter balance of acidity I had ever tasted--flecks of bright green sorrel (also known as sour grass). It made me more than gasp in astonishment, I was so overcome with pleasure I actually dropped my fork with a loud clang right into the sauce. Within moments, the waiter appeared with both a large plate containing a clean fork and an amused if somewhat supercilious smile, charmingly informing me that there was no need for concern because there were many more forks in the kitchen. He seemed decidedly less amused however when I proceeded to subject the second fork to the same fate experienced by the first. I managed to hold onto the third fork long enough to polish off every last morsel of the fish and used an ideally flat sauce spoon designed by Jean-Baptiste Troisgros, the founder of the restaurant, to consume every bit of the sauce. Over the years, I have occasionally reencountered salmon with sorrel in other restaurants and wondered if it had been the newness of the experience that had made it so memorable because no subsequent version ever caused me to come close to losing my grip on the fork. But when Jean-Baptiste's grandson Claude opened his restaurant, CT, in New York, I finally had the opportunity to rediscover and understand the dish, not only as it had been but side-by-side with Claude's up-dated lighter and even more brightly flavored version. When asked how this wondrous balance of flavors had been conceived originally, Claude explained that the Troisgros family has a particular passion for acidity. This was fascinating to me because I realized that often I find something missing from an otherwise well-conceived recipe and that it is most probably the enlivening acid component. I brought Claude my cherished signed menu from Troisgros and we both laughed with disbelief when we saw the price of the six course degustation menu from 23 years ago: 65 francs (about $13). Claude said: "It's gone up a bit since then."
Saumon à l'Oseille CT
Decor: 4 scallions 4 medium potatoes (preferably purple) boiled in lightly salted water with skins on, then peeled and sliced
Sauce: 1/2 cup dry white wine 1/2 cup water 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped 1 medium onion, quartered 2 cloves garlic bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, sage, tied together or wrapped in cheesecloth) 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) softened butter, preferably unsalted 2 teaspoons tomato paste 2 cups fresh sorrel, washed, stemmed, center veins removed, then torn into 1-inch pieces 2 salmon steaks, about 2 pounds, cut 1-1/2 inches thick, bones removed sliced in halves olive oil fresh coarsely ground black pepper salt.
Trim the roots and most of the green from the scallions. Use a sharp knife to make several long cuts to within a half inch from the green end. Drop the scallions into ice water until shortly before serving.
In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, water, carrot, onion, garlic, bouquet garni, celery and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Sieve, pressing well to release all the juices. Discard the solids and return the liquid to the saucepan. There should be about one-half cup.
Over very low heat, gradually whisk in the softened butter until incorporated. Season to taste, remove from the heat and keep warm.
Salt and pepper the salmon. Brush a little olive oil on skin sides. On medium heat, preferably using a Teflon pan, cook 5 to 6 minutes per side for rare, 6 to 8 minutes for medium. (Claude & I both prefer slightly translucent rare in the center to opaque as the texture of the salmon is more moist.)
Place each piece of salmon on a plate. With the tip of a knife, make a small hole in the center of the skin side to insert the scallion. The curled white section will have the appearance of streamers. Arrange the potato slices alongside the salmon and spoon the sauce over the potatoes and around the plate.
Maria Bonawits visited our booth at the Monroe Farmers' Market in Stroudsburg, PA two summers ago as part of our book tour "The Baking Bible." She brought several of my books for me to sign and also to get the newest one. I was enchanted by her exceptionally vibrant and charming essence. Since that day, we have become dear friends. When we did a demonstration and book-signing event at the Buck Hill resort last month, Maria and friends came to see us. Over dinner, we made plans to stop by her house the next morning to see her and her husband, Malcolm. Maria is originally from Puerto Rico so when the subject of pasteles, one of my favorite Puerto Rican specialties came up she offered to teach us how to make it. Maria told us that it normally takes her three days to make but that with three of us working we should be able to accomplish the task in one day. We picked a day for Maria to come to my home and kitchen and she offered to make the pork shoulder filling ahead to speed up the process. This dish is traditionally a seasoned pork shoulder, cubed and mixed with ham, garbanzo beans, onions, garlic, peppers cilantro, olives, capers, and raisins which are encased in a dough made of taro root, green bananas (and plantain, and in her version also potato and pumpkin), which is then wrapped in banana leaves and finally in parchment paper which is tied with string as individual servings. The packets are then placed in a pot of boiling water to cook for 45 minutes. It could be considered as a relative of the tamale--a meat filling encased in a masa harina dough, wrapped in a corn husk, and steamed. This version of pasteles is an old family recipe which Maria had been preparing since childhood, when she and her sister helped her aunt make dozens upon dozens of them, using a hand grater instead of a food processor. After Maria arrived and was given a quick tour of the kitchen, she set up two stations for making, assembling, and cooking the pasteles. Maria explained to Woody what to purchase for banana leaves which are readily available under the Goya brand at his local Shoprite. Woody was given the task of boiling, drying, and cutting the banana leaves into individual servings. Maria and I took the task of preparing the dough. With vegetable peelers, knives, food processor, and many stories to share, we made the paste like dough. Maria did a couple of tests on the dough, frying up small spoonfuls in oil before she was convinced it had the balance of flavors she remembered. At first Maria thought the banana was too predominant but when more meat juices were added it turned out to be perfect. She explained that the dough has to be extremely soft because it firms up on boiling.
After a speedy cranberry scone lunch on the porch, it was back downstairs for the assembling phase. The three of us each assembled individual pasteles, perfecting our newly learned technique. A 13 by 9 inch sheet parchment with a rectangular piece of banana leaf was then smeared with an oval of the dough and topped with a heaping spoonful of the filling. The banana leaf and parchment are then folded over lengthwise and then each end folded over to form an encased packet. Two pasteles are then tied together with string. (We took a short break to see a Daisy Martinez video to see how she tied the string.) We next enjoyed a short needed break for the three of us with Elliott to take a tour of the Hope area, as Maria had never been to this part of New Jersey. The final task was boiling enough pasteles to have for dinner. Maria also brought ingredients for a salad of leaf lettuce with slices of avocado, Vidalia onion, and fresh local tomato. On the porch the four of toasted with margaritas for our enjoyable bonding day of making pasteles. The folded open banana leaf served as a surface for the pasteles and salad. The banana leaf lent an intriguing flavor to the filling. Maria commented that for many, pasteles is an acquired taste. Any of her doubts disappeared as Woody and I were splitting a third one. She explained to us that this is a traditional Christmas entree which, due to its lengthy preparation, assembling, and cooking, is frequently made as a family participation event. Since they freeze well for months, we made 24 to enjoy in the future while many families make dozens and share them amongst the many participants. Hopefully, more future "family participation events" will be in the kitchen for us with my dear friend Maria.
Whenever life takes us to the Hudson River Valley, our dear friends Biliam Van Roestenberg of Liberty View Farm and Agnes Devereux of the Village Tea Room host a spectacular dinner and we all invite friends from the area. The warm spring weather enabled us to dine outdoors with a view of the apple orchards in full bloom! This month, we were once again presenters at the International Wine and Food Festival at the Mohonk Mountain House. By happy coincidence, Sara Moulton was also a presenter so she and her husband Bill Adler were among the dinner guests. (We each bought and personalized each other's newest books.) And we were delighted that Nina Smiley, of the Mohonk Mountain House could join us. We learned that she had just started a Wellness program which includes meditation, T'ai Chi, and "forest bathing." When we were in Vancouver for Nathan Fong's wedding, we met fellow award winning author Hiroko Shimbo and discovered that she and her husband Buzz have a house near New Paltz so they were also invited guests. Coincidentally, Hiroko was just featured in Sara's beautiful new book Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101. Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better Agnes prepared a delicious dinner beginning with warm roasted red onion salad with ewe's blue cheese and a sherry vinaigrette. The main course was pan roasted salmon with rhubarb relish and Hawthorne Valley yogurt, accompanied by an amazingly delicious red cabbage braised in rhubarb, and a local arugula salad with stone ground mustard vanaigrette. Once the sun set the temperature began to drop so we enjoyed dessert indoors: Agnes's signature Honey Bee Cake (which she says was inspired by my Honeycomb Chiffon Pie from The Pie and Pastry Bible). She also served pastry cream filled cream puffs and Orchard Hill Cider Mill Ten 66 Pommeau.
What a challenge to try to summarize all the exceptional talents and qualities of Diane Boate. Perhaps her father said it best when, as a little girl, he dubbed her Mrs. Much. Our friendship began 20 years ago when she called me and introduced herself as "the cake lady of San Francisco." She was planning a trip to New York City with her partner Robert Meyers (now her husband) and hoped to get together. She also told me that she had lost her only two sons to AIDS and that the reason she brought it up in our very first conversation was that she wanted to avoid an awkward moment should it inevitably arise later on. Contemplating the devastation of such an unimaginable loss I expected the possibility of a defeated person but instead discovered again and again over the years that followed that instead of succumbing to self-pity, Diane turned her grief to the joy of creativity and most of all to helping others and making the world a more loving, beautiful and interesting place. I have never known a person to possess so many skills: from artistry, photography, crafts, cooking, baking, writing, gardening, and even playing both the piano and banjo by heart and ear. You may have seen the recent posting of this exquisite crocheted blouse she made for me after my having admired it years ago. I asked Diane if she would write a short bio, and in her own words highlight the activities and accomplishments she values most in her life. From 1966 to 1976 I held three of the only regularly paying jobs I would ever have, for The Dating Game TV Show, The Egg and The Eye Gallery, and The Renaissance Pleasure Faire. From 1976 to the present 2016 it has been a 40 year run being The Cake Lady, the Hat Lady, Photographer, Botanical illustration artist and published writer. Special awards were winner in Gourmet Gala March of Dimes food extravaganza, winner SF Urban Fair cake decorating contest, being selected to produce cake for 2000 visiting mayors, winning a contest at National AIDS Grove Mad Hatters fundraiser for a huge hat comprised of 27 handmade dolls, being made President of the SF Hat Society, being selected to write a regular baking column for EATDRINKFILMS.com. Working through the grief of losing my sons to the AIDS epidemic, I embarked on learning new skills as in taking my first Art History class and earning an Aplus from a tough European trained instructor. If I can do that, I told myself, I can do anything. For escapes I disappear into knitting and crochet projects, and always back to reading books. (One year in the 60s without a job, I read 87 books.) I have come to an idea that everything I do has a foundation of music behind it. I started music school when I started kindergarten in a Convent School in Eureka, California, my home town, graduating 10 years later, going on to Napa High School and College. I see color when I hear music. Music has given me mathematics, form, cadence, harmony, structure, and joy. If you listen carefully when I play the piano, you would understand where my flights of fancy come from when making a hat or decorating a cake, or where patience and discipline fit in when constructing clothes or any number of crafts, or where sadness tried to drag me down but I came out the other side, singing. The main thing with me is, what is the next new thing I am going to do? How can I surprise someone today?
I'm delighted to share with you an unusual profile which Tom Natan just posted on his new blog First Vine on Line--a food, wine, and culture blog. Tom is co-owner of First Vine, a Washington DC importer and retailer of quality wines. We first met when his neighbor David Hagedorn was writing an article for the Washington Post on making pie crusts, featuring my favorite cream cheese pie crust (which became the most requested Washington Post recipe for years running!). Tom offered to help with the prep for the photo shoot and we had a great time talking about taste, texture, and wine. I especially appreciate this profile because it highlights details of a side of me never before revealed--my passion for wine. But most of all I am deeply impressed by Tom's writing and feel honored to have this fine portrait in words. I also rediscovered that we are true kindred spirits.
(Hanaa is holding an amazing spiced cake called sellou or sfouff, so fragile it just barely holds together with a fine almost sandy texture. I miss it still!) We started our Minneapolis visit with a long anticipated and fabulous Moroccan dinner at our Alpha baker Hanaa's home with her husband, T, and Marie and Jim Wolf. Hanaa pulled out all the stops with a vast variety of savories including the best spiced olives and a wide variety of extraordinary baked items. Hanaa is one of the most gifted and imaginative bakers I've ever met and it was a very special treat to taste her baking first hand in addition to meeting her and her lovely husband for the first time. We had the pleasure of staying with Marie and Jim, and finally got to meet the infamous JJ and the adorable baby Lilly. While I slept late, recovering from the intense events of the Chicago Housewares Show, Woody did the entire prep for our demo/book signing at the Nordic Ware Factory Outlet store. This included baking a cherry lattice pie, making two extra piecrusts for rolling out, and baking some Rollie Pollies to show how to make good use of the dough scraps. Photo credit Linda Stewart The event turned out to be one of the most enjoyable of my memory because it was comprised of a large group of dedicated bakers. This resulted in a lively Q & A exchange. We were especially delighted to welcome several olds friends including Mike Quinlan, VP Sales and Marketing, and Woody's charming daughter Maran, who is a professor of Philosophy at Minneapolis Downtown Community College. Photo credit LoAnn Mockler My dearest friend, Michelle Gayer, owner of the "Salty Tart" bakery generously provided her deliciously chewy/chocolaty meringue cookies. Michelle and I baked together years ago when she was pastry chef at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago and we have been friends ever since. Photo credit LoAnn Mockler The following evening we returned to one of our favorite restaurants-- 112 Eatery and got to meet Anna, Michelle's valued associate and to congratulate Michelle for her James Beard nomination for Best Pastry Chef--Midwest. A serendipitous visit to The Kitchen Window kitchen supply store, turned out to be a delightfully dangerous place for an equipment junkie like me. Fortunately, we only take carry-on bags for our flights, which limits my purchasing impulse. This incredible store has a mind-boggling variety of high-quality kitchen equipment and also conducts around 400 classes a year in three classrooms above the store. We talked in length with Ken, one of the salesmen and a fellow x-New Yorker who has lived all over the world. His in depth knowledge of the equipment was so impressive we made a second visit the following day. Our last meal before our return home was lunch at the award winning 46th Patisserie. Marie and Jim are so lucky it is in walking distance from their home. I was totally blown away by their pastries, bread, and chocolates. It is no wonder it is rated as one of the top bakeries in the nation. Chef-owner John Kraus sat down with us along with two weekly regulars, Woody's daughter Maran and her friend, Tom, while we enjoyed the amazing Brioche Bostock and coffee. Photo Credit Jim Wolf Photo Credit Jim Wolf Chef Kraus was about to fly to San Francisco on a pastry fact-finding mission, so I gave him a few suggestions along with my new mini SynGlas rolling pin to show our SF colleagues and to try out on his return. He gave us a terrific walnut and current bread, half of which we shared with Marie and Jim and the other half with Elliott on our return.
This was our third appearance at the International Housewares Show in Chicago. Dan O'Malley, of the American Products Group, hosted us to promote the new Rose's Signature Line, which includes my SynGlas nonstick rolling pin, dough mat, fast tracks (dough guides), cutting mat, and mini rolling pin. The APG booth was constantly overflowing with prospective buyers, APG staff, and representatives. Woody and I were delighted to have been invited to present my new line in action at the KitchenAid Cooking Theater. We demoed our favorite flaky piecrust and cherry pie. When we entered the backstage prepping kitchen to go over our lists and to prep for the following day, my dear friend Emeril Lagasse, who was just about to give his presentation, took the time to give me a big hug. He asked if I would like a second set of hands for our demo and tempted as I was, I declined realizing he was needed at his booths to promote the re-launch of his product line. The demo turned out to be the perfect testimonial for the truly non-stick rolling pin and dough mat. Although the recipe, like most butter based pie crust recipes, advises to refrigerate the pie crust for 40 minutes to rest and firm after mixing, we had to use the room temperature dough that was just demoed. With just a mere dusting of Wondra flour on the dough mat and dough, the crust rolled out easily, without sticking! In addition to meeting many people at the booth, including two women bakers who asked for me to sign their aprons. It was great to meet one of APG's top reps, personality plus Jenny Johnson and her talented designer/partner Andrea Daugherty. We walked several miles each day, stopping at many of the 2000 plus booths, including visiting Sam Weiner at our favorite knife sharpeners and waffle makers booth: Chef's Choice/Edgecraft We also visited my product display at Harold Import Company, home of Rose's Perfect Pie Plate. It was a delight to see my wonderful friends Elizabeth Karmel and Helen Chen, representing their product lines. It was Elizabeth who introduced me to Harold's Kitchen owner Robert Laub. She now also has a beautiful new French porcelain line with Revol--check out the red roosser roaster! And I love Helen's new and very useful rice and quinoa rinsing bowl which I'm holding in the photo. And it was heart warming to see the enthusiastic young C-Cap student chefs clamoring for a photo with their hero (could it really be me?!) We gave them 4 signed Baking Bibles. Evenings were reserved for enjoying some of Chicago's best restaurants, including The Girl & The Goat and The Purple Pig. Dan hosted a delightful dinner at the appropriately named Rosebud's Steakhouse. Our last morning, before taking off for Minneapolis, was a conversation-filled catch-up breakfast reunion with Janet Besk Zaslow, one of my favorite students from when I had the Cordon Rose Cooking School many years ago. I was very impressed by her album of baking photos including wedding cakes she had been inspired to make over the years. Tune in next week for the Minneapolis leg of our Midwest Visit.
At the beginning of August she announced in quiet triumph that she had finally discovered the perfect recipe. She had thawed eight wild ducks that Luke had killed the previous winter. The stock she made from the discarded duck bones and parts was dark as chocolate and its flavor was wild and sun-charged but slightly overpowering. She cut the wildness with a little red wine and a dash of cognac. She then sat down for an hour and thought about everything she knew about the flavor of wild duck. She cooked the ducks slowly with turnips and onions and tart apples and scuppernong grapes from the arbor. She considered the mysteries of balance and proportion in a perfect meal. When we sat down to dinner, we could sense her apprehension. She was worried about the grapes. She had consulted no cookbooks; she had cast off into the unknown without her copies of Gourmet to guide her. Using only what she found in her larder, she was on her own. I was worried about the turnips but my mother assured me that wild duck was the only meat she knew of capable of holding its integrity against a turnip. That bothered me not at all; I simply hated turnips. But the fruit cut the bitterness of the turnips and the turnips played their role flawlessly by diminishing the cloying sweetness of the grapes. The meat was the color of wild roses and even my father ceased his nightly lament on the joys of fried food and ate with silent gusto. It was my mother's own creation, it was marvelous, and we stood and gave her a standing ovation after the meal was finished. It was her seventh standing ovation of the summer. The following article, with the above quote from Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides, was written for my column for the LA Times Syndicate many years ago: Pat Conroy is my favorite contemporary writer. When I read this poignant passage from his most recent novel, The Prince of Tides I considered it to be the most exquisitely enticing culinary prose I had ever read and became intent upon reproducing the recipe. The very words scuppernong grapes resounded with magic that I had to know first hand and the phrase "the meat was the color of wild roses" all but sent me into anticipatory culinary ecstasy. So I wrote what is probably my very first fan letter and a year later when I still had received no response, wrote again. It was then that I discovered the full brilliance of Conroy's imagination. His wife Lenore called to tell me that they hadn't responded in all this time because they could not decide who should be the one to tell me that the dish never actually existed. [Note: Pat told me that his mother was not much of a cook and her speciality was frozen fish sticks!] Lenore did, however, invite me to dinner and, in the end, I was so glad I had written those letters because even though I did not end up with the recipe I had so single mindedly pursued, I did find the friendship of two very special people that I treasure far more. I tried to reproduce the imaginary dish, and although the turnips in the rich brown sauce prepared from home made chicken stock were the most delicious I had ever experienced, my tasters and I all agreed that the best way to eat duck is roasted, with moist flesh and crispy skin.
This is a special story which I wrote years ago for the LA Times Syndicate. Because someone on Face Book this week wrote about his visit to Bernachon in Lyon, France, I was inspired to share this story with him and with all of you. It starts out with a special technique I discovered for roasting duck but my favorite part is about Maurice Bernachon and the lunch we shared at one of the finest restaurants in the world--Chapel. And only now--this very moment, after all these years--as I write the name Chapel, do I realize how fitting was Alain Chapel's name, for eating at his restaurant was truly a religious experience. Perfect Crisp Roasted Duck (a revolutionary technique for the fairest of all fowl) Duck, with its rich moist flesh and flavorful crispy skin, can be the most delicious of all poultry. However, when not cooked properly it is greasy with fat, the flesh over-cooked and dry and the skin soft and uninteresting. Because I love duck so much and even in restaurants have more often than not been disappointed, I set out years ago to find a way to roast duck which would eliminate the maximum amount of fat while maintaining the juiciness. The solution turned out to be extraordinarily simple: boiling water is poured over the skin to tighten it, then the duck is air dried (which can be accomplished overnight in the refrigerator). The most important part is that during roasting, the skin of the duck is pricked, the oven temperature is very high to release the fat and boiling water is poured directly on the duck to keep it moist and to prevent the fat from splattering. The resulting duck is virtually fat-free, moist with crisp skin and, as an added benefit, it cooks in under an hour. I have never prepared duck another way for 15 years since this technique evolved. But I do have a memory of quite a different duck that was more delicious still at an unforgettable lunch in the south of France. I was in Lyon, working with the Bernachons on the translation of their book: The book is no longer in print but is still available for a song at some bookstores and Amazon, where it received a 5 star review. Papa Bernachon invited me to lunch to celebrate its completion and asked me to choose between Bocuse and Chapel. I was torn. Both were brilliant chefs but Chapel, with his near military precision and passionate perfection was the chef of my heart and soul and his was my favorite restaurant in all the world. Despite this, and after some hesitation, I chose Bocuse because I knew that Maurice Bernachon's son Jean Jacques is married to Paul Bocuse's daughter. Politesse won out over passion--not to mention the fact that I knew we would eat magnificently at either place. And I comforted myself with the promise that someday soon I would return to Chapel. The day of the luncheon arrived. We folded our aprons, changed out of our whites, and drove off to what turned out, to my joyful astonishment, to be Chapel. The greeting Bernachon received from the Maitre d' was worthy of a king. But then, of course, he is considered the king of chocolatiers in France and his neighbors in the food establishment are very proud of him. But with his silver mane of hair and courtly gallant manners, I felt as if I were dining with the long fantasized French grandfather of my dreams. Chapel came out to greet us and serious discussion ensued (as only seems to happen in France) about our culinary fate (choice of food). I was so overjoyed I could have cried with pleasure. The first coarse arrived and from then on the meal seemed never to end. We ate for four hours, but so slowly I had the illusion of never being too full. (Afterwards, though, I went to my hotel and slept for 5 hours. And when I awoke, I was not hungry for dinner!) I remember best the splendid regional Vacherin Mt. d'Or, which was at its peak, the glorious burgundy that was the best I ever tasted and seemed like a musical note to rise at the end of each sip, and the canneton à la vapeur which was the best duck I ever tasted. (Canneton is a young duck which he poached in a flavorful broth and then roasted the legs to have the contrast of the crisp skin.) When Bernachon mentioned my appreciation to Chapel, as we were enjoying our digestif brandy on the porch, his answer was approvingly emphatic: "she is right. I asked my purveyor to find the best duck in France and it turned out they come from Alsace." I felt as if I had passed an exam. At some point, during the course of the meal, I mentioned to Bernachon how much I enjoyed the French facial expressions known as les moeux--how you could see in their faces exactly what they are thinking. To my surprise his response was: "You also have a face like that." And finally I knew how it was we ended up at Chapel instead of Bocuse! And a good thing too as it turned out to be the last time. My beloved Chapel died soon after. Herewith, my best recipe for duck. It will make even the ordinary varieties taste like something special.
salt and pepper to taste
A broiler pan with slotted rack (this keeps the fat from splattering the oven) Day ahead: Remove all loose fat from duck* and pour boiling water over skin. Sprinkle lightly inside and out with salt and pepper. Place on a rack suspended over a pan to catch any drippings and refrigerate 24 hours. Preheat oven to 450°F. Wrap foil around wings to protect from burning. Rub duck with the garlic and place it in the duck's cavity along with the apple. Prick duck all over with a fork, being careful not to go deeper than the fat layer. Pour 1/4 cup boiling water on top of duck and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, prick and add water again and return to oven. Repeat every 15 minutes until duck has spent at least 45 minutes in oven.** Test for doneness by tipping duck tailward. Juices should run almost clear. Allow to sit 10 minutes before carving. If desired, place back under broiler for a few minutes to crisp skin. *Note: For a totally fat free duck, make a small incision in either side of the duck's cavity, approximately between were the leg and thigh joints are located and remove the long strip of fat that wraps itself around the top of the leg. **Note: If broiler pan is shallow, it may be necessary to drain accumulatedfat half way through the cooking.
Pastry Chef Jason Pitschke and His Fantastic Tart Tatin. Those of you who enjoyed the postings on the Nathan Fong/Michèl Chicoine Vancouver wedding cake will be interested to know a little more about the pastry chef Jason Pitschke who generously not only gave us an area in his kitchen in which to work, but also loaned us his special equipment, and most important of all, his expertise, especially when the raspberry ganache turned out less than silky smooth. Pastry chefs have to be artists, engineers, and often detectives. Jason quickly thought to ask me what percentage cream we usually use for ganache, and when I said 40% he replied, in an ah hah moment: "That has to be it--we only have 36%--it needs more fat." He got out his immersion blender and started adding more cream and voila: perfection! 36% would have been just fine for an ordinary chocolate and heavy cream ganache. (As I write ordinary I recall how a mere 30 years ago few people ever heard of ganache in this country. I used to define it as the ultimate nosh--yiddish for treat or snack.) But this ganache replaced a large amount of the cream with raspberry purée. I was impressed by so many qualities Jason possessed: focus, humility, dedication, fortitude, and creative artistry. It turned out that we have a very special dear friend in common: Jean Franç Bonnet. Jason worked under JF when he was head pastry chef at restaurant Daniel in New York City. About 20 years ago, I wrote a letter to the government pleading to keep JF in this country and saying that we risked losing a culinary gem to France. I told JF that I would do this if he promised to stay humble because he was going to become the best pastry chef in the country. We have been friends ever since. JF is now owner of Tumbador Chocolate. I first met JF when I was writing a story about financiers for Food Arts Magazine for which I was interviewing pastry chefs. JF was the only one who actually took the temperature of the beurre noisette and I saw immediately that he had a rare and deep understanding of the science of baking. I would often call him with questions and he always knew the answer. As Jason and we worked in our close but separate areas of the pastry kitchen, between dashing off to the ovens across the way, we exchanged stories and tastes of what we were making. Here's a photo of one of his signature desserts which was every bit as delicious as it is stunning to behold: Jason's version of the red velvet cake. Talk about kindred spirits: it is enhanced with raspberry just as I brushed my red velvet rose with raspberry purée which gave it a moist and delicious flavor.
Fifteen years ago, during a spirited conversation with Nathan Fong, I told him: "If you ever get married, I will be glad to make your wedding cake." Fast forward to December 2014. Woody and I were working on our computers when I received an email from dearest Nathan, to which my reaction was something like this: "Woody, Nathan is getting married... wants us to make his wedding cake... will fly us up to Vancouver....what? January 16th? We cannot possibly do that in less than a month.... I'm emailing him right back, to say --no!" Nathan quickly replied to my reply, with: "it's not January 2015 it's a year later"! Nathan's choices were a chocolate cake for Michèl with the addition of raspberry for him. He assured me that there definitely would be no more than 250 guests at the dinner. He also told me that birch trees were to be the theme for the wedding decor. Woody and I decided to make the Deep Passion Wedding Cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, with the added enhancement of raspberry in the cake and the frosting, which would be ganache. For the birch theme, the cake was to be decorated with the "Meringue Birch Twigs" from The Baking Bible. It was a year of testing, planning, spreadsheets, confirmations, laminating our recipes, and crossing our fingers, before we flew to Vancouver, Canada for what was to be an extravaganza wedding and a celebration of food event. Nathan is a renowned, world-class food stylist and event planner. He had pulled out all of the stops for planning his and Michèl's wedding. Michèl, in addition to having been a pastry chef, is also an event planner and talented decorator. Going to Canada meant that virtually all of the ingredients and equipment had to be supplied by Nathan and his staff. We arrived on a Monday night to Vancouver's typical winter weather--raining and in the mid 40's F. One of the biggest challenges of baking in an unfamiliar location is always the oven. How will it bake our cakes? Especially since, we were making 9 cakes from 6 inch rounds to 18 by 12 inch sheet cakes.
Tuesday, our first day, was coordinating with Naomi Horri, Nathan's invaluable assistant, on what she was able to acquire, Vin, the Sutton Hotel's restaurant pastry chef, and Jason Pitschke, the special event pastry kitchen's head pastry chef. We immediately made two tests of our 9 inch round cake to evaluate how the oven baked. We saw that we had a big problem. The commercial Blodgett convection oven always needed to be in convection mode as we were told that the heat would not circulate without it. For the first cake, the savory chef advised us to bake at the same 350°F temperature that we normally use. This may work for savory cooking but it was another story for the cakes. The porridge like batter for this delicious cake, which magically mushrooms just a few minutes toward the end of baking, was instead getting blown to the back of the pan by the oven's convection circulation and higher heat. This made the baked cake lopsided. (We later discovered, after gradually decreasing the temperature, that the oven needed to be set a full 50°F under the usual temperature.) Our solution to the uneven layers was, when sandwiching the layers, to reverse the two same size layers so that from the outside they looked perfectly even and level. Fortunately, the 18 by 12 inch sheet cakes ended up being only slightly off kilter and the final one, baked at the proper temperature was perfect. Our next 10 hour long 3 days were spent racing between the two kitchens, baking the cakes, brushing the cakes with ganache syrup, frosting the cakes, and what would become a fingers crossed all day adventure--the making and mounting of the birch meringue twigs. Humidity is the enemy of meringue, and effectively capable of turning crisp meringue columns into bending, collapsing spires. Our solution was to attach them to the ganache-covered cake the morning of the wedding but in order to keep them from absorbing moisture from the ganache, we painted each of over 200 meringue twigs with melted white chocolate. We made double the number we needed not only to allow for breakage but also for plating along with the slices of cake from the sheet pans. Vin, the pastry chef for the hotel restaurant, did a beautiful job of cutting and plating. He starts his work day in the wee hours of the morning so needed to cut and plate the cakes 6 hours in advance of serving. Miraculously the cake stayed perfectly moist! photo compliments of our new friend from Milan, Italy: journalist Isabella Radaelli Speaking of breakage, we learned an important lesson about ganache. The cream available in Vancouver is 36% butterfat and our recipes are developed with 40%. Because some of the usual amount of cream was replaced by raspberry purée, more butterfat was needed. Pastry chef Jason ended up adding quite a bit of extra cream, emulsifying it with his immersion blender, and saved the day. Our evenings were spent at Nathan's planned events and meeting old friends including many from the International Association of Culinary Professionals where Nathan had been a board member. Nathan also scheduled me for an early morning (pre baking) radio interview on Vancouver's CBC Early Edition radio program with legendary host, Rick Cluff. He was also to be Nathan's emcee for the reception. We didn't want to miss the wedding ceremony that was to be held at Christ Church Cathedral, the same Church where Nathan's parents had been married 57 years ago. So to be safe, we decided to affix the birch twigs before the 11:00 am wedding. The night before the twigs were perfectly crisp and firm, but the rainy morning of the wedding, to our horror, we found them in a softened marshmellowy state. Fortunately, our assembly took place in the reception lobby where the room was air-conditioned. To dry out and stiffen the twigs to keep them standing tall, as they would be in a forest, on our three-tier chocolate "mountain," Woody acquired two fans from housekeeping. The cake was intended to be the centerpiece to greet the over 450 guests as they arrived from the church. We left for the church, where we were spellbound by the grandeur of the wedding ceremony, until the moment near the end when I was summoned by the event planner to take a phone call concerning the cake. We quietly but quickly left the church to attend to some of our falling timbers due to the air-conditioning and fans having been turned off. Though we had moisture-proofed the backs of the meringues, the fronts were still able to absorb moisture from the air. Even as the reception guests were arriving, Woody was running back and forth from the Bride's room to replace some of the twigs while I was uselessly wringing my hands. Then came the next unanticipated drama when a few of the guests wanted to touch the twigs. One guest even managed to pull one of them off, which Woody calmly replaced, as I shrieked NO! In order to be able to join the rest of the guests who were enjoying everything from crispy pork belly sandwiches, to fresh oysters, to geoduck, we secured a hotel staff member to guard the cake with strict orders to slap any meringue-twig-seeking hands. Along with our cake, Nathan had orchestrated a Who's Who of 20 chef-friends from all over the world to serve their best at several tables at the afternoon reception and later for the fantastic 8 course black tie wedding dinner with excellent wine pairings. We breathed a major sigh of relief when Nathan and Michèl finally arrived in time to see the wedding cake still in perfect shape. There were many delightfully engaging speeches, a Chinese tea ceremony, a Japanese fan dance, and finally the cake for Nathan and Michèl to cut and feed each other their first pieces as a married couple. The following day we enjoyed a tour of the city by Barry Rector, Nathan's gregarious high school music teacher, followed by giving a fun talk and book signing at "Barbara-jo's To Cooks Bookstore," an impressively elegant cook books-only bookstore with demo kitchen for classes and talks. We brought some of the wedding cake to add to the two chocolate cakes already on display before an attentive group of baking lovers. I was so happy to meet Tee Jay, one of my Vancouver blog masters, in person. Barbara-jo's assistant Janice did an excellent execution of the tricky Marble in Reverse cake from the "Baking Bible" and pastry chef Kamel made the challenging cover cake from "Rose's Heavenly Cakes." The glaze looked perfect which did not surprise me when I discovered he had worked at Robuchon in Paris, one of the best restaurants in the world. Our last stop was at Jackie Kaiellis's divine "Beaucoup Bakery." She had laboriously sourced all of the many special ingredients for the cake. We were treated to a sampling of her pastries and were also given a box of goodies for our next day's flight home. We departed filled with happiness and joy, carried on the wings of a week of being surrounded by the most supportive and loving people imaginable. And we were so gratified to have succeeded in producing a cake of our dreams for a long-time friend who is the soul of generosity, and our newer friend, his husband Michèl Chicoine, who is clearly his soulmate and equal. The Cake Details The Cake: Deep Chocolate Passion from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, brushed with: Milk Chocolate Ganache Syrup from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, flavored with Raspberry essence from Mandy Aftel's Aftelier, frosted with: Raspberry Ganache from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, adorned by: Meringue Birch Twigs from The Baking Bible.
Carol Ritchie came up with a delightful idea to start a start Whisk Movement Cookin' with Carol featuring "the whisk." She asked me to contribute a recipe and also a story about what whisks mean to me. I first met Carol almost 20 years ago on a food symposium trip to Australia. We bonded over this mollusk at the Fleurieu Peninsula. It was the very first of the season and they handed it to Carol but I was the one with the ever ready Swiss army knife to open it. Then soon harvested a few more and I still remember the amazing ocean-freshness. When my book The Pie and Pastry Bible was published, and book tour brought me to Texas, Carol invited me to be a guest on her show. We had a delightfully fun time pulling strudel and to this day she is in my icontacts address book as: "great tv host--did strudel" so I would always remember. I'm honored to be a part of her new online (ad)venture.
I Love Agata & Valentina! They always come through. When I saw the photo of the pork shoulder ragu on Food52 a few weeks ago I knew I would have to make it as soon as possible. We were planning to go into New York so I called my favorite butcher Pino to order the pork shoulder and then we stopped by Agata & Valentina for the handful of fennel called for in the recipe. After spending about 20 minutes with Jeff, the store manager, sorting through the large selection of spices, we realized that they were out of fennel. I explained why it had to be fennel, saying that it is the predominant spice in Italian sausage. Joe asked me to wait for a few minutes while he asked the store butcher if he had any left, saying he had been making sausages that very week. I waited at the cash register and just as I was about to leave, Ramon, the meat manager appeared, much to my astonished joy, with a little package of fennel as a present. I have to explain that neither Jeff nor Ramon knew me or that I am a food professional. I'm certain it was a combination of my intensely conveyed longing to have this ingredient but mostly the store's policy of supportive neighborly consumer service. People might except this in a small town but not usually in New York! See why I love them? The ragu was soul satisfying accompanied by a 2012 Joseph Swan pinot noir. The brandied cherry ice cream was dessert. Happy New Year!
I first met pastry chef Thomas Raquel of Le Bernardin at the Gramercy Tavern in-house pie contest and was so charmed by his manner that I lost no time in arranging to have dinner at Le Bernardin at the first opportunity, which was a dinner in New York City with dear and food loving friends chef Elizabeth Karmel and her sister Mary Pat Wachter. The fact that I only have one photo to share is a testament to how much all of us enjoyed the many desserts offered. Yes, I took photos of everything, but most were out of focus due to my eagerness to taste everything at the proper consistency. Sorry! Chef Raquel is a rare master of pure and exquisite complexity. Every element of every dessert is at its very best. It is complex without being contrived and a real adventure in deserting. Woody (who graciously accompanied me, as Elliott had other plans that evening) and I were so full after the excellent dinner and tasting each and every dessert that we had to walk a mile to the subway with the excuse that we needed to see the Swarovski Crystal Snowflake on Fifth Avenue. We got back to Hope after midnight, but it was worth every bite.
As a former resident of New York City (once a New Yorker always a New Yorker), I was astonished to discover that this special club called Doubles was hidden within the Sherry Netherland Hotel on Fifth avenue and 59th street. When my dear friend Holly Arnold Kinney, who owns the Fort Restaurant in the foothills of Denver CO, invited me to a holiday lunch. I arranged to come into New York because it was a rare opportunity to see her. I had no idea what a special experience it was going to be. Once a year, the club pulls out all the stops to offer a holiday luncheon of excellent food and a huge variety of desserts. Each table was given a turn to go up to the massive dessert display and choose as many servings as could fit on a large plate. I love the decoration on the gingerbread man cookie that Holly chose. And Holly, being Holly, had a present for everyone at her table. When I left the hotel I was greeted by a sunshiny spring weather day but filled with holiday spirit just the same.
Jenn Knitty Baker sent me these beautiful cake photos and story describing them and generously allowed me to share this with you. The first picture is of the Génoise au Chocolat from the Cake Bible (my favorite chocolate cake), paired with the Light Whipped Ganache from the Cake Bible. I made this cake for a good friend at my local yarn store. We have knit night on Tuesday where we hang out, talk, and knit. One of the ladies was moving to Oregon so I asked her if I can bake her something and what her favorite dessert is. When she answered chocolate I knew that I had to make the Génoise au Chocolate. To compliment the lightness and chocolate flavor of this cake, I paired it with the Light Whipped Ganache from the same book. To achieve the height that I wanted for this cake, I split the recipe into two 7-inch pans. I stacked the two cakes, frosting the space between the cakes with a bit of light whipped ganache. I do not posses the skills (nor the patience) to frost the sides of the cake smoothly so I settled for frosting the sides the way it looked in the picture with a small offset spatula. As I told the lady I made this for, I was aiming for rustic elegance. Everyone loved it. The second cake is the Chocolate Cuddle Cake from the Baking Bible. I made it for a get together at a friend's house where we played a variety of board games. I used melted chocolate to make the "Game Night!" sign, the chocolate is not tempered but it held for a few hours at room temperature due to the dryness of the Denver climate. Hope you enjoyed the photos and the stories. I never would have been able to do any of this if not for having found your blog, Rose's Heavenly Cakes bake a long, and now the Baking Bible bake a long. Life is definitely richer and more exciting with baking!