Inspiration, Move Me Brightly

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Details– demi baguettes wrapped in logo stamped craft paper– the evening started with a gift, an invitation to the diners from us to break bread with their fellow diners, to be part of something special, and ephemeral- a glimmer of magic for one night, for one meal, for two hours to be transported to another time, another place and fed and tended to.

Last week,  I participated  my first Pop-Up- an idea I’ve been tossing up around and over and under since I first heard pop-ups. I finally did it, and I’ll do it again. I didn’t do it alone, I had supportive partners, some great staff .

It was success, we totally pulled it off.

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Radishes washed and ready for their close up
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Cippolini onions roasted with sherry vinegar and orange for our vegetarian diner.

I don’t know that I’ve fully processed everything that went in to it, all the energy, the planning.

We banged out a 7 course meal for 2 seatings of 25. We got the early seating out and happy before the late seating arrived, (which was what everyone was worried about-except me, I had a plan and it worked). The room was pretty, the music was on point– it flowed, it jammed, it worked.

I think the food was really good, maybe I’d have liked a bit more soigne, and we could’ve refined the bouillabaisse stock a bit more but all in all I was happy with everything. AND I wish we got pictures of the Amuse- which was a gorgeous crispy fried orb of bechamel with Gryuere and toasted dulse which sat on a mussel shell with a dollop of pureed parsley.

We also did not get a picture of the Oxtail marmalade- nestled in little jars with buttered pan de miel, pickled mustard seeds and cornichons

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Plates mised for Amuse bouche & L’entree

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Le crudite- radishes butter and salt

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Le fromage– A Camembert style from Winter Hill farm in Freeport + local apples, spicy greens, maple vinaigrette and handmade oat crackers
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These were so so good.
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Le desset- lemon tart, ginger meringue, pistachio dust, grapefruit Lillet sorbet with thyme.
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The evening began and ended with a gift – Les mignardises- the last course- spiced rose truffles & salted pumpkin caramels

It felt good and it felt comfortable to be driving something forward again.

You’d think I’d need some time away from the kitchen, well,  so did I,  Friday night I threw together some kind of pasta with Brussels sprouts, we ate standing in the kitchen.

Renewed by pampering, as soon as I got back from getting my nails done on Saturday, I felt the urge. I was inspired by my day of reading.

I needed to cook, I needed to cook things I hadn’t cooked before. I had picked up 2 cookbooks at the library earlier in the day, one on Modern Israeli cooking ( not Solo’s book, they don’t have that yet, I don’t have it yet either but it is on my Amazon wish list)  and Rice Noodle Fish about eating in Japan.

The Israeli book, ok not much of a stretch, it’s the kind of stuff I cook all the time, but I found a recipe for Chicken Shwarma that surprised me, made sense and best of all, I happened to have all the ingredients in the house. So this was Saturday night’s dinner.

Chicken Shwarma

Beet Salad with Pomegranate

Israeli Salad

2 Ingredient Flat Bread

Oven Frites with NYC Street Vendor White Sauce

Tahini Sauce

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After breezing through the Isreali book, I began reading Rice Noodle Fish in earnest, I read it through from cover to cover in one day, imagining the smells and tastes and textures, the dedication required to do one thing until you are the master of that one single thing. Could I , I wondered, do that? Spend my life doing one thing until I did it better than anyone else? Probably not, I don’t have a helluva a lot of discipline, I’m not linear, I’m not very Japanese, I’m probably the opposite of everything Japan is, so much so that I am completely intimidated by Japanese cooking.

I’ll play around, I’ll make a souped up (ha!) ramen with homemade stock and I’ll totally ramenize my noodles ala Chang. I’ll tempura when I get the urge. But I’ll never be able to make real sushi– because it’s the rice man, it’s all about the rice, and I don’t have the patience. I crave real sushi, warm rice sushi, the cold rice sushi so indigenous and so mediocre it brings me to the edge of melancholy. I’ll eat it but not with much enthusiasm, same way I’ll eat one of those baby greens salad, those depressed and always slightly wilted mesclun mix greens that carry the scent of  industry. I’ll eat it  even though I know it’s a mimeograph of what it’s meant to be.

Equally intimidated by and enamoured of everything I read about Japanese food, I wanted to make Sukiyaki , but I lacked like 15 of the 20 ingredients.

I had all the ingredients though for a beef stew, and decided on Bo Kho, which is Vietnamese not Japanese, but it is sort of kind of close to Japanese- well ish. After reading pages and pages about aging and fermenting I wanted funk, and seasonality. I refined my recipe with Kim, who did my nails and eyebrows this weekend, she made me look a little less Sasquatch.  Her son cooks in a Thai restaurant, she’s saving up to open a place in Windham. I wish it was a place in Brunswick.

I ended up making this whole  Asian flavored dinner that had absolutely nothing Japanese in it.

Kung Pao Celery Salad

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Assorted dumpling that I had in the freezer (kimchi momos & TJ’s cilantro chicken wontons) with black vinegar sauce & watercress

Bo Kho

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Baguette

It it was not perfect fatty tuna belly melting on warm vinegary rice nor was it chewy noodles in rich pork broth it wasn’t even karage fried chicken with curry sauce but it was all very delicious and balanced and nuanced and everything good though not in anyway was it Japanese.

Recipes

Chicken Shwarma

  • 1 tbs garam masala
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 1 tbs powdered chicken soup ( I used this stuff I picked up as a joke called Cock Seasoning- you could use a ramen soup packet, or use Adobo seasoning instead, or a mashed up bouillon cube, or just some salt)
  • 2 tbs olive oil +
  • 1 grated garlic clove
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs ( you could use bone in with skin, I did- just makes more work)
  • 1 Large white onion
  1. Mix together everything but the onion and slather on the chicken
  2. Marinate over night or at least 4 hours
  3. Preheat oven to 200
  4. Cook thighs for 45 minutes
  5. Meanwhile- Saute onion slowly in a bit of olive oil, until brown and sticky- set aside
  6. Remove chicken from oven and cut into strips, about 4 -5 per thigh-THE CHICKEN THIGHS ARE NOT EDIBLE YET-DO NOT SNACK
  7. Heat a bit of neutral oil in a large saute pan
  8. Stir fry the sliced thighs until they get caramelized and a little crunchy on the ends (if you’ve ever made carnitas, its the same idea–cooking slow cooked meat over high heat till crispy but still succulent)
  9. Mix in the cooked onions

Serve with flat breads, parsley leaves and tahini sauce, or go full on and add french fries and salads, and pickles  and white sauce and hot sauce. Try these oven frites they will change you life. So will these 2 ingredient flat breads.

2 Ingredient Flat Breads

  1. Mix together equal amounts Greek yoghurt & self rising flour
  2. Let sit 1 hour
  3. Roll in golf ball size balls
  4. Roll out on floured surface
  5. Heat cast iron pan till blisteringly hot- spray with olive oil
  6. Place a flatbread in the pan, when it bubbles flip it (about 2 minutes) – cook another 30 seconds
  7. Repeat until done

(I used 1 pot of yoghurt then used the same plastic container to measure the flour- that made 6 flat breads)

NYC Street Vendor White Sauce

Whisk together the following:

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tbs Harissa paste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper

Add a little water if it’s too thick- it should drizzle like salad dressing. This is terrific on almost everything you eat.

Kung Pao Celery Salad

This is my new favorite thing, it has supplanted smashed cucumbers as my go to- it is spicy and cooling and crunchy and salty and sour– it is everything and a terrific foil to anything with juicy, meaty fattiness, but also would be quite awesome with strips of cooled poached chicken breast or shrimp.

  • 4 peeled celery stalks- sliced about 1/4″ thick on a diagonal
  • 1 tsp sichuan peppercorns (toasted & smashed)
  • Salt
  • 1 tbs black vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs neutral oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch dried chili pepper or 1/2 tsp chili oil or 1 fried chili pepper in oil chopped + some oil
  • 1/3 cup or so roasted salted peanuts (not dry roasted, unless you like them, 1 don’t)
  • chopped scallions & torn celery leaves
  1. Season celery with salt & sichuan peppercorns
  2. Whisk together vinegar, garlic & oils
  3. Pour over celery
  4. Sprinkle chilies, peanuts, celery leaves & scallion on top

My Maine Bo Kho

  • 1 pound beef stew meat- marinated 4 hours -I used local beef and it was so tender and flavorful, even though it was cut in quite small pieces and there was very little fat- this would be ridic with short ribs – adjust the initial cooking time to 2.5 -3 hours for short ribs.
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 star anise pods or 1 tsp powdered
  • 2″ fresh ginger, peeled- smashed not chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup white wine or Shoaxing cooking wine or sherry
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 cup beef stock
  • 4 medium size waxy potatoes cut in quarters
  • 1 large delicata squash cut into 1″ thick rings
  • 3 large carrots cut in 3″ pieces, washed peeled if necessary
  1. Burn onions- Slice onions in half and hold over flame with tongs until the face of the onion is blackened- if you have an electric oven- place cut side up as close to broiler as you can until it blackens — it should get dark but not like on fire crazy decimated cinders- just the tip, just get the tip blackened and a bit burnt- also you don’t HAVE to do this part
  2. Heat a small amount of oil in a dutch oven- I used chicken fat because I had some from the night before, you could use what ever you have, neutral oil, coconut oil anything really except bacon fat- too much flavor.
  3. Brown meat on all sides, remove and set aside
  4. Add star anise, cinnamon, ginger & garlic to the pan
  5. Stir around in the fat until you can smell the spices
  6. Raise heat a bit and add wine
  7. Deglaze the pan, getting all the brown bits (fond) mixed into the liquid
  8. Put meat back in pot , add onions, garlic
  9. Add fish sauce, stock + reserved marinade
  10. Raise heat- bring to boil
  11. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 hour
  12. Add carrots, potatoes, & squash
  13. Cook for another half hour or so until potatoes are tender

Serve with crusty baguette + fistful of fresh cilantro leaves & a few scallions

Marinade- marinate beef 3-4 hours, reserve marinade

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 white onion sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • fresh ground black pepper

Here’s some other stuff I cooked recently.

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Pork roast with spicy honey (or maple- can’t remember)
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Roasted pumpkin & red onion– a la Ottolenghi with tahini, parsley & toasted pine nuts
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Chicken pot pie – chicken breast , potatoes, carrots, celery, peas and onions in veloute enriched with Vella Dry Jack cheese and thyme with a buttery buckwheat crust topped with fennel pollen, lemon & smoked salt.
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I made my husband a cheese-steak, that was nothing like a Philly cheese steak but twould have to do– thinly sliced reverse seared NY Strip with pepper jack cheese sauce & caramelized red onion on a garlic rubbed baguette.

2 thoughts on “Inspiration, Move Me Brightly

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