Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dinner with Thomas Keller: Marinated Skirt Steak and Asparagus with Tomato Bacon Stew

L. to R. Eric and Adam 
One night last week, Andrew, our friend Kathy and I all went to see Eric Rippert, the Chef Extraordinaire at New York’s Le Bernardin. Chef Rippert was appearing at the YMHA as part of the “Conversations with Chevaliers” series.  The participants in these talks all have one thing in common: They have all received the prestigious French ‘Legion d’Honneur’ or Order of Arts and Letters from the government of France.  It’s no surprise that Chef Rippert would be so honored. For the 20 years that he has been there,  “Le Bernardin” has been consistently listed at the top of any roster of New York’s best restaurants.  It’s also listed as the #18th best restaurant in the entire world according to San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best List.   I’ll save a lot of what Chef Rippert had to say to the moderator, The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, for a separate post.  Today I’ll tell you what he recommended when asked “What Cookbooks should a home cook own”.         

To paraphrase, Rippert said you only need 3.  He’d start with any great book that actually teaches you how to cook, the techniques for producing great meals at home.  The books that made this list were Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook” (Alfred A. Knopf 1989) is still in print although you may have to buy it in paperback.  Almost in the same breath, he mentioned the great Jacques Pepin whose “Essential Pepin” (Harcourt Mifflin Harcourt) came out in 2011.  Both books are filled with techniques and skills.  Finally, the author of “Avec Eric” (John Wiley & Son 2010), offered up Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” (Artisan Books 2009) as being the third essential cookbook.  (Cookbook fanciers, like yours truly, were encouraged to hear that Chef Rippert himself has ‘about a 1000 cookbooks’ which sounds about right to me.)
The Great Man himself, Thomas Keller
         Now I have all three of the recommended cookbooks. I have gone to Julia and Jacques for help more times than I could possibly remember.  Thomas Keller, on the other hand, is well-represented in our kitchen but all three volumes we have--“Bouchon”, “The French Laundry” and “Ad Hoc at Home”-- all seemed to fall into the category of ‘too intimidating’ and have remained as ‘coffee-table books’ that just happen to be kept in the kitchen.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spicy Pork Noodles with Bok Choy from David Tanis...and they're Gluten-Free!

Maxim's Palace Hong Kong as I've never seen it...
I love dim sum, the tapas of China. I will never forget Andrew and my visit to one of the world’s most famous dim sum palaces, the strangely named Maxim’s Palace in Hong Kong.  And if you think it’s an odd name for a completely Chinese restaurant, you will likely find it equally surprising that the place takes up the entire second floor of Hong Kong’s City Hall.  There, in a vast space that resembles a western-style hotel ballroom complete with chandeliers, legions of Chinese ladies push cart after cart of dim sum through a maze of tables for 12.  The place is perennially packed, takes no reservations and requires a level of patience which quickly escalates the longer the wait.  We went there on a Sunday at noon.  You might have been able to convince me that every family in Hong Kong was there, so massive were the crowds and so long was the wait.   But the dim sum were sublime, the best I’d ever tasted.  I’ve wondered if I could ever re-create some of the dishes there.  So I was delighted to see that David Tanis had taken up the challenge.  In his New York Times column, David came up with a recipe for one particular dim sum for which I have a special fondness.  It’s the spicy pork-filled dumpling full of garlic, ginger and chiles.  And he did so without having to fill endless wanton wrappers to enjoy the flavors of this very satisfying dish.