Thursday, January 9, 2014

Toad in the Hole, British Comfort Food at its best.

Bangers and Mash
I have a weakness for English dishes with picturesque names. Even the simplest of these is a riddle.  “Bangers and Mash”, or Sausage and Mashed Potatoes, is the simplest to understand.  The sausages used in the original recipe, which first came on the scene during World War I when times were tough, were so full of water that they sometimes exploded (Bang!) when they met the heat of the pan.  Other dishes are even
Bubble and Squeak
less descriptive.  “Bubble and Squeak”, a fried patty, is made with leftover vegetables that accompanied the Sunday Roast. It could likely form the basis of an interesting guessing game at the dinner table.   “Angels on Horseback” is completely oblique.  It’s an appetizer or savory dish that followed the main course at a formal British dinner. "Angels" are oysters, or sometimes scallops, wrapped in bacon, "Horseback". Try as I did to
Angels on Horseback
find out how on earth this name came about, I was stymied.  One British food historian simply gave up and suggested that the dish was actually French and called "Anges en Cheval". This might be the first occurence ever of the British conceding anything to the French. "Angels" are 
close cousins of “Devils on Horseback” in which dried fruit replaces the oyster.  Both “Angels” and “Devils” have made it to
Devils on Horseback 
North America even if their names have not.   Then we come to "Toad in the Hole”.  It may be the oldest of all these dishes and to me, it’s one of the most delicious.  It has no pretensions: It’s an inexpensive one-dish comfort food that makes a great one plate dinner.  And what exactly is “Toad in the Hole” ?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

30 Years of Fabulous Food in St. Barths FWI

        This morning, New York set a new record in Central Park. It was 4F. For our friends who use Celsius, it sounds even worse: -15C.   So we likely couldn’t find a better day to travel south to the French West Indies and the island of St. Barthelemy or, as its friends and devotees call it, “St. Barths”. The island was named for Christopher Columbus’ brother Bartholomeo, when the explorer did a sail-by in 1493.  If he’d stopped on the island, I doubt he would have ever left. It truly is 8 square miles of pure bliss.  White sand beaches, glorious views around every corner and a climate that those of us struggling through the “Arctic Vortex” can only dream of.  And did I mention the food?  The key here is the word
  When attached to “West Indies” it means food that is taken seriously.  Food that is flown in from France, vegetables from nearby Guadaloupe, seafood from right off the island and a profusion of restaurants that offer everything that global cuisine now means.  This Fall, I was invited to write about our 30 year love affair with the food on the island. The offer came from WIMCO, the island's premiere rental agency.
 We’ve rented spectacular villas from them more times than I can count. WIMCO has, hands down, the island’s best properties, the best service and I wouldn’t dream of using anyone else.
  (WIMCO isn’t confined to St. Barths—you can use them everywhere from Tuscany to Nantucket).