Archive for June, 2010

Miss Eydie in Tinseltown – Music and Mouthful Minimalism

Miss Eydie has hit Tinseltown for The Playboy Jazz Festival, a huge outdoor event at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. It’s an intense all day affair –each group gets only 50 minutes to play, and if one band  goes over they are immediately removed from the stage by a rotation of the circular platform, much like the proverbial “hook” from the days of vaudeville.The Bowl is packed with revelers; both music lovers and people just out for the social scene and an al fresco lunch.

My closest friend, who made the drive in from the Yucca Valley to check out the jazz festival and indulge in her foodie proclivities, was excited about checking out a restaurant called The Bazaar by José Andres. The concept is tapas…small plates of food with a Spanish accent. But there is a twist. One half of the menu is “traditional” tapas and the other half is governed by the principles of molecular gastronomy,the art of bringing the instruments and experimental techniques of the laboratory, into the kitchen. Food is chemistry, after all. This really appeals to me…both as an aware,enthusiastic eater, and a performer. I know there will be thought, theatre, and provocation involved in this meal. I know I will want to eat, drink, sniff and smoke this food! As a fan of the surrealists, the deconstructionists, the dadaists, I see this kind of cooking as art, pure and simple-and as valid as the realists and the traditionalists.

The only thing I know in advance about José Andres, is that early in his career, he trained under Ferran Adria at El Bulli. As in singing, one must know the structure and rules before one can improvise on,bend,or even discard rules. So it is in cooking…”It is not enough to know the principles,one needs to know how to manipulate.” (Michael Faraday-Chemical Manipulation 1827) Our dining group this evening is delightfully diverse –  my dearest friend  who is an acupuncturist and a doctor of Chinese medicine, an interior designer and her husband, a musician who travels the world and has played with David Lindley, Sheryl Crow, Timbuk 3, Crowded House, (yeah!!) Bruce Hornsby, and many others,  their adorable 4 year old girl, my partner in love and supporter of culinary adventure, and yours truly, Miss Eydie Gourmet.The restaurant itself, designed by Philippe Starck, is romantic and gorgeous to behold, and at the same time full of fun and visual trickery-its ambiance is conducive for culinary experimentation and we are totally ready for anything.The hotel lobby ( this restaurant is in the new SLS hotel, which used to be Le Méridien , near the Beverly Center) features unique Starck-designed display cases presenting rotating design items,curated by Murray Moss, (who owns the most fabulous design store in NYC )which if you are in the least inebriated or otherwise intoxicated can be disarming.

Waiters pass by with fixings for what I will soon learn is the signature “magic mojito.” Served in a shaker and poured over a martini glass of cotton candy,this magical elixir provides a small amount of theatre along with your rum and mint,as the house-made cotton candy disappears into the drink. There are tableside presentations of both Rojo and Blanca Sangria and also, those intoxicating Brazilian treats, caipirinhas. Other temptations abound, like the “liquid cherry” Manhattan and the “New Way” Dirty martini with its “olive spherification “(more about that later) and olive brine air. To my mind though, the only quaff for this meal is Spanish wine,  so we start off with some cold Albariño from Rias Baixas. Lydia confidently orders a Shirley Temple….when  my son was little this was also his beverage of choice when we went out…he would order that and I would stage whisper to the waiter…”And Ill have a Shirley Temple’s mother.” ( meaning a vodka tonic!)

Lydia and her Temple

We try and order a balance of both traditional and deconstructed items. First things to arrive: a plate of  sautéed wild mushrooms infused with hazelnut oil and a hazelnut praline. I’m transported momentarily to the Oregon woods as opposed to Barcelona. Sweet

Sweet Potato Chips, yogurt, tamarind paste, star anise

potato chips are not so unusual these days, but the dip is an airy, whipped Greek yogurt with a swirl of tart tamarind paste, and a sprinkling of star anise. Next to arrive are some traditional tapas, that really cant be missed Sweet piquillos peppers are stuffed with goat cheese and next to them, a plate

Piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese

of small codfish fritters or “buñuelos” with a honey aioli. We also have , in the more modern style, a serving of Ottoman carrot fritters.  These are a delightful surprise ,tasting a bit like a tzimmes one might have for Rosh Hashanah dinner. …except better. Much better. They have small bits of apricot in them and lie on top of a bed of pistachio sauce. What I love about these small bites, is the concentration and explosion of flavor, of essence. One of the simplest dishes we tried was something called watermelon/tomato skewers with a sherry reduction- very much resonant of a watermelon gazpacho on a stick.

Watermelon/tomato skewers

Umm…Ok..speaking of “explosion” -back to the olive spherification. Are you with me? I’m pretty sure that José learned this technique while under Ferran Adria’s tutelage. This dish is a reworking of a familiar, age-old concept- the serving of olives to accompany a cocktail or aperitif. The waiter patiently explains the process to us… the olives are first pressed hard to completely release their juice, then reassembled in a bath of sodium alginate ,which is  the sodium salt of alginic acid and calcium chloride ,which is used in cheese making. This develops a

Olive spherification

“curd” around the olive jus so when it is put in the mouth it literally explodes with a burst of olive flavor- the liquid in contact with the alginate produces these tiny spheres of texture. This sounds horrifying to many at my table, but we all dig in. The small spheres of “olive” are artfully laid out, each on its own white porcelain soup spoon. As they enter our waiting culinary cavities, the taste of the Mediterranean washes over us like a wave of nostalgic embrace. BAM!! For real.

Moving on, our 4 year old guest Lydia astounds everyone by going for the American caviar cone, the sautéed shrimp with garlic and guindilla pepper, and the sea urchin buns, which are mini versions of the Chinese char siu bao,without the barbecued pork. Instead, inside the steamed bun lies a glistening, coral tongue, a single raw sea urchin, layered with green avocado. She chows down on these,

Sea Urchin steamed buns

as opposed to more age appropriate choices such as the “Philly” cheesesteak which is composed of something called “air bread,” cheddar and Wagyu beef or the papas Canarias: salty,wrinkled fingerling potatoes with/or without a mojo verdé (just cilantro, sherry vinegar, garlic and oil) or even chicken and bechamel fritters. Just goes to show you that many children will respond to an opening of their palates, if they are just given the opportunity.My son had a wide range of taste when he was little, and I ascribe that to the fact that after breast milk, I gave him goat’s milk. That opened his taste palate to the range of sour and bitter flavors that he enjoys to this day. I’ll never forget a chef running out from the kitchen to watch a 3 year old devour a goat cheese and eggplant terrine! Our 4 year old , Lydia has finally noticed the martini glasses of cotton candy going by, and calmly,but firmly asks the waiter for a plateful. Little genius that she is, she lets her head drop completely into the plate, which she says feels like “stuffing.”

It’s time to switch to red. How I love those words.

We order Alvaro Palacios’ 2007 “Camins del Priorat,” a masterful blend of Cariñena/Garnacha/Cabernet/and Syrah grapes from the Priorat region of Spain. Perfumed and sweet in the mouth, with a spicy, sexy overtone, we all fall in love with it…and quickly order another bottle to go with the cheese platter we are bound to order before dessert. The gentleman who brings our dishes to the table and announces them, reminds us of James Earl Jones playing “Othello.” With a resonant baritone and a theatrical air, he announces,”Desdemona…Had it pleased heaven to try me with affliction,had they rained all kinds of sores and shames upon my bare head, Still ….would I  lie before you

Baby Japanese peaches,burrata,arugula and hazelnuts

this platter of baby Japanese peaches with burrata,hazlenuts and arugula.” More dishes arrive..that’s the cool thing about small plates -you can share and try a bit of everything. (of course when the bill arrives, that’s a different story) Sautéed cauliflower “couscous, a mixture of fried quinoa,lemon, harissa and cauliflower purée arrives, and is ravished. Japanese eggplant with yogurt comes sprinkled with bonito flakes,which add a depth and resonance of aroma and flavor.

Watermelon "nigiri" w/yellowtail,wasabi, red wine and soy

A final plate before cheese of refreshing jicama wraps filled with mint,cucumbers, pickled ginger and an insane coconut dressing.

Pa'amb tomaquet-Catalan tomato bread

Cheese arrives with a platter of Pa’amb tomaquet…toasted bread rubbed with raw tomato and garlic-it’s raw baby-Catalan style! 3 sheep and a goat. Manchego , La Serena, Idiazabal and the goaty one: a semi-soft Murcia al vino. We drain the bottle dry…in the meantime, Lydia is bored with us and has wandered over to the next table where she sees another small person.

Dessert is as creative and crazy as the rest of the menu. There is a whole confectionery section with bon-bons,chocolates tablettes, cookies and lollipops. I must have them all…but settle for a Maldon salt dark chocolate square, an olive lollipop, a white chocolate /red peppercorn lollipop and a Earl Grey bon-bon. Someone else must have the mini-cheese Danish (wha??)a few

My heavenly coconut dessert

different ice creams and sorbets,and something called a “creamy chocolate heart” We’re out of control. Where did that port come from?? Why does the ladies room feel like I have been suddenly transported to The

Cheese, glorious cheese

Matrix?? Will Keanu Reeves pick up the bill? Lydia has made friends with Stevie Wonder’s family ,who are sitting at the next table. As for me, I am under the influence of some kind of ambrosial coconut concoction I ordered, that has a crunchy, cold  shell and inside, a creamy core. (a lot of “c” words I know) There may have been espresso ordered,or The Iron Goddess Of Mercy,the greatest of all the oolong teas…. I frankly don’t remember. But I do remember happily being squeezed into a cab, and seeing the familiar lights and glitter of L.A. stream by, as I revisited all the flavors, textures and sights of the evening. Molecular Gastronomy-LA style… I’m inspried to get out my old chemistry set, order up some sodium alginate and start cooking.

To all you hipster dipsters out there who love good food and drink.Live long.Love well.Be Real . And be real gone!!

Miss Eydie

 

Where’s the Boeuf? – Miss Eydie tackles tradition

The back story:

It’s December 2009 in New York City and a huge blizzard is coming in tonight. That means I’ll be making soup, (I still have an old goose carcass somewhere in the freezer I think, among the odd body part) and wrestling with my fireplace to get a glow on. The first furry flurries have already started. My dear friend and ex-neighbor, filmmaker Steve Lippman, has requested that for the occasion of his 50th birthday, a traditional Boeuf a la Bourguignon, be made by Miss Eydie for himself and 8 of his friends. I attribute this request to a) the fact that Steve is a raging, unapologetic carnivore and b) to the popularity of the film “Julie and Julia.” Suddenly, everyone is dusting off their old copies of “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking” and craving old school Gallic goodies like Coq au Vin and Coquilles St. Jacques. I am up to the challenge, having made an “authentic” Boeuf when I lived in Los Angeles years ago.  Let me tell you it was not easy finding a calf’s foot in LA. I finally found a Kosher butcher somewhere deep in the Valley and procured this essential ingredient.The procedure takes two days….It’s more than just a bowl of stew…and it starts with the best butchers in NYC- The Ottomanellis.

Assembling the ingredients: Day 1

A Girl and Her Butcher

My first stop is to visit my old friends on Bleecker St. at Ottomanelli & Sons : Frank,Jerry, Peter and Joe. This shop smells like meat and blood…if you’re a vegetarian -forget it, don’t even go near this place, or you’ll have a convulsion.There are hanging carcasses, dead bunny rabbits in the window,and the butcher brother/cousins wear bloodstained white coats much like mad lab assistants. But I have been coming here ever since moving to the West Village in 1981 – the old man himself was behind the counter then, Onofrio Ottomanelli. My then-boyfriend and I would buy our game,usually a goose or pheasant, for Thanksgiving holiday, my son grew up on the bologna and the rib-eye steaks, I’d order a beautiful trimmed rack of lamb for special dinners, and I could always get fresh squab, D’Artagnan products and fresh chicken breasts for Gabe’s Jamaican nanny to make her famous jerk chicken. The West Village was much more down home Italian back then…there was a “social club” on Bedford St, Zito’s Bakery, where you could be tantalized by the smell of the delectable semolina loaves being baked if you were out partying late enough , Cafe Lucca, where my parents and I would sip cappuccino and play backgammon, and an appetizing store where the owner would make fresh mozzarella cheese in the back room. Murray’s Cheese was a tiny, cramped storefront on Cornelia and Bleecker and Kenny & Eve Shopsin ran their legendary grocery store /sandwich shop on my corner.

Calf's Foot

Frank cuts me about of 6 lbs of beef chuck into large pieces,trims it a bit, then holds it up for inspection. Bello! I already have some slab bacon at home, but think that a little bit of pancetta will also be a nice touch to sprinkle on top with the parsley and croutons. Frank doesnt bat an eye when I ask him for the split calf’s foot, but runs in the back and gets one. I ask him to slice it with his super frozen meat saw,(wow…did I just write that??) since I like to add it incrementally…the purpose of this ingredient is to add gelatin, and thus body to the dish… I remember my mom and grandmother talking about eating jellied calf’s feet.

Anyway….after more schmoozing with Frank as he wraps my packages, I head to the wine store. The selection? Obviously red burgundy. Not quite the gallon jug of Almaden Burgundy I used to guzzle in college, but wine that comes from the Burgundy region of eastern France. That’s where this famous dish is from and I want to wine to reflect and add to the authenticity.  I never cook with anything that I wouldn’t drink on its own- but there’s no need to get crazy with the wine I am going to marinate the beef and vegetables in. I do spring for a couple of more upscale bottles to actually drink with the bourguignon. 2006 Hautes Cotes de Beaune should do the trick on my

Frank O. shows off his beef

budget. Off to the Union Sq. Greenmarket for the vegetables -carrots, yellow onion, white mushrooms, leeks, garlic, and for the bouquet garni: Italian parsley, bay leaf, and thyme.  Brussell sprouts will make a great accompaniment,combined with pistachios and grated Pecorino cheese. My last stop…Murrays Cheese, for some Turkish pistachios, an aged Pecorino and a Tom Cat baguette for the croutons.

Prepping the Bourguignon : Chop,chop,marinate

First…I must put on some cooking music.Hmmm -if I put on vinyl,Ill have to run over to the turntable every 25 minutes or so. No good.The ipod will be just fine…I have a playlist full of incredible music, mostly 78s, that  my friend Harry Arends sends me every Friday. That’s some good chopping music: The Ponce Sisters, (personal faves) Helen Kane, Teddy Wilson, Artie Shaw, Earl Hines, Al Katz and His Kittens, Miss Sophie Tucker and for speed chopping, “Tiger Rag” by The Mills Bros.

Next, my cooking clothes go on… I’ve recently come into possession of a snazzy black cook’s jacket ,but I still have my favorite stained aprons…many with buttons pinned on them….”I Slept With Bill Clinton” is probably my favorite.( I nicked it off of Kenny Shopsin’s apron)

First thing to do is prepare the vegetables…the beef has already been cut into pieces. Carrots are first peeled and diced,  ( as well as I can- my knife technique leaves much to be desired. SEND ME TO COOKING SCHOOL….SOMEBODY!) then the onions are divested of their papery wrapping and also sliced and diced. Miss Eydie’s Cooking Tip #1 : To avoid eye irritation whilst peeling onions, wear your snorkeling gear. That’s right…the mask AND the snorkel. You may look ridiculous.However,your eyes and other delicate membranes will thank you. You can forgo the fins if you wish.

Leeks need to be carefully washed,as dirt hides in the folds of the vegetable. Chop the white part, while discarding the tough top green leaves. I make a bouquet garni in a small cheesecloth bag with a bay leaf, some parsley and thyme, about 5 or 6 black peppercorns,and 2 or 3 peeled garlic cloves.

Beef, carrots,onions, leeks,bouquet garni-before the marination

That’s all she wrote..for now. Combine the beef, the veggies and the bouquet garni in a large bowl or stewpot. Open 2 bottles of your Burgundy, and pour over the mixture. Resist the urge to take a swig .Wait for the good stuff. Cover, and marinate in fridge overnight. Go out for dinner.

DAY 2 -La cuisson a commencer-It’s Party Time

Now the fun begins…its best to let the Bourguignon sit a bit and develop its favors before you dig in…but I made this the day of the party. Here’s where you need many strainers, all kinds of spoons and utensils and extra pots…if you can wrangle a sous-chef or a willing teenager (do these exist?) or partner to wash up while you’re constructing this…so much the better. I do not own a dishwasher…my original impulse was that it was a beneficial Zen exercise to just focus on the simple task of washing dishes-there’s something very satisfying about putting 100% of yourself into this uncomplicated,elementary activity. Also, people that do dishes together, share secrets…trust me on this.

Let the marinating begin!

Back to the prep: Drain the beef and vegetables. This turns out to be more complicated than it sounds.You need to reserve the marinade and bouquet packet separately and set the vegetables aside. The problem is the beef won’t brown properly if it is wet. I’ve made this mistake before. So I begin the time consuming, but necessary process of patting down the beef with paper towels. This is a tricky thing, cause the beef is now plump and soaked with marinade and you don’t want to lose that. Once the beef is no longer dripping with marinade and ready to be cooked, season it with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil ( I use either olive or vegetable ) in a heavy casserole, and brown those suckers!! Doesn’t it smell great? Keep a careful eye on the proceedings, while dancing around the kitchen to Aretha and Fred Hammond, turning the beef so that the pieces brown evenly. You just want to create a nice caramelization on the outside-the slow cooking to soften and tenderize the meat fibers comes later.

Remove the browned beef to a bowl, and then add the diced veggies to the casserole.Stir and dance, stir and dance. Shake it like a Polaroid PICKCHA! Return the beef, sprinkle with a bit of flour , and cook ,while stirring till the flour in no longer raw.Add marinade (this is a great moment- enjoy it!) bouquet garni, and the calf’s foot. Bring all this to a boil- then skim the foam that rises.Reduce heat to low and cover the casserole. Simmer until beef is tender -about 2 1/2 hours. Take a nap or write a song.

Feeling refreshed, you return to work. Remove the beef from the pot and put into a clean bowl.Discard the calf’s foot and the bouquet garni. Bye bye little foot. Now you want to reduce that sauce…put it on Weight Watchers .It’s got all that  beefy goodness and gelatin which will make it thick and shiny. If I have beef stock or even some demi-glace lying around, I may add it at this

Miss Eydie in action, straining sauce

point, just to take it over the edge.While the sauce reduces over medium heat, you can make the homemade croutons and prepare the bacon/pancetta.First,  take out your crusty,trusty  baguette and slice it. Preheat oven to 350, and lay the slices on a cookie

Making garlic rubbed croutons

sheet. Toast till golden.(I like to do both sides…so I flip them) While they’re still warm, rub them with raw garlic…and cut into cubes or squares or whatever. If you like to multi-task like me, then you will start heating  a iron skillet, cut the pancetta into cubes and/or lay the slab bacon out . While the bacon is cooking, clean, trim and slice the white mushrooms.Cook till crisp -then remove ,drain and set aside. leave the fat in the skillet and throw the mushrooms in and cook for about 5 minutes or so.

A recap and the final steps

Ok…so let’s review at this point . We’ve got the sauce reducing happily, the beef set aside. The bacon is cooked, the croutons are made., the mushrooms are ready. Start a big pot of salted water

Pancetta and bacon

boiling for the egg noodles. Wash and trim the brussel sprouts, score them with a cross on the bottom ( it helps them to cook)and start their steaming process. Ummm….Now comes a messy part.

I like to press the sauce with a big wooden spoon through a medium fine strainer over a bowl…this process refines the sauce and presses out the last bit of essence from the vegetables….It takes some time and you need to put a little bit of muscle into it. Put on some Stevie Ray Vaughan and get to it. When you’re finished, you’ll have a big bowl of glistening, robust, sauce. Taste for seasonings and add the beef back into the bowl. Sauté some pistachios in butter and pour them over the brussel sprouts, coarsely grate the Pecorino over that. Your noodles should be drained, buttered and placed on a nice serving dish, perhaps with a sprinkle of parsley.

Garnish the beef with bacon, mushrooms,parsley and croutons and ladle out over a serving of buttered noodles. Gather your friends, open the great Burgundy, pour , and crank up the music.

Ahhh....the brussel sprouts

The Menu:

A glass of Champagne/Vodka tonics

Marcona Almonds

Parmesan cheesesticks

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Boeuf a la Bourguinon

Buttered Noodles

Brussel Sprouts w/ pistachios and Pecorino

Dandelion Salad

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Birthday Cookies

_________________________________________________________________________________________________The

David prepares his salad- birthday boy in back

The birthday dinner was a fantastic evening and my darling carnivore Steve was contented, with all his prezzies, his friends gathered, the music and the coziness of it all….the snows did come and there is little more fully satisfying than good friends, a roaring fire, great wine, music and conversation and a bowl of stew made with love!

A tous mes amis…Bon Appetit,

Miss Eydie