Friday, April 22, 2011

Royal Icing

Okay, I will admit it; I cannot wait to see William and Catherine get married. I adore all the pageantry, the excitement, the clothing, the jewels. Against my nature and all adult reason, I will force my eyes open way too early so I do not miss a thing.

On April 29th, every public move made by the Happy Couple and Britain’s Royals will be televised, re-shown, You Tubed and commentated to death. I will, I am certain, thoroughly enjoy the spectacle along with multi millions of others.

But what we will not see much of, or perhaps even learn about, is the food those fabulous folk will enjoy. There has been some chatter about the wedding cake---booze soaked fruit cake laden with white butter cream and “Sweet William” flowers---and the groom’s cake---filled with broken cookie pieces (biscuits to the British), nuts, chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. The Groom's cake recipe is said to be a Windsor family favorite and requires no baking; you just glob everything together, pour it into a pan and chill.

Now I also understand that these confections are being prepared by two of Britain’s finest patisseries so the cakes themselves should be quite upscale and quite lovely to look at. Piping on the wedding cake is said to be done in the style of Joseph Lambert---fine garlands and latticework done in royal icing over fondant. Let us just hope they are just as delicious to eat as they are certain to look.  

Of course, I am aware that I will never know for sure as I have not been royally invited and therefore will not be able to taste aforementioned cakes and in turn pass along my judgment.

So all of this leads me to fantasize as to what a royal wedding costing millions of dollars (or pounds, excuse me) has in the way of food. Will proper English staff in brass-buttoned morning coats pass shiny silver trays laden with caviar and foie? Will they dine on exotic game birds like pheasant or partridge or quail, or lovely pink lamb or oysters and cod?  Sip magnums of rare Champagne and exotic teas? 

Or is too much being spent on clothing, pomp and restoring the Abbey to leave any budget for food. Will they instead have a wedding breakfast of tiny cucumber sandwiches, kedgeree and eggs?

There is a recent survey of top American Chefs suggesting that the menu include lobster with truffles (Alex Guarnaschelli---I’d go for that!) fish and chips (Marcus Samuelson---a little messy I’d say) and banana pudding (Paula Dean---that figures!) However, I doubt any celebrity Chef from the former colonies will ever be asked to cook on such a very British day.



So what will they eat for the post wedding breakfast or the gala that night? Like the rest of the world, I---and you---will just have to stay tuned.


 In Honor of William and Catherine
 (Adapted from a recipe from The 2 Fat Ladies, 1998)

8 ounces poached chicken, minced
Mayonnaise to bind
Black pepper, freshly ground
Tabasco to taste
20 slices Pepperidge farm white bread
10 thin slices of rare roast beef
       For the mustard butter:
12 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons of grainy mustard

For the mustard butter, beat all the ingredients together to a smooth paste.

For the Sandwich:
Mix the chicken and mayonnaise with a fork, season with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Spread half the slices of bread with the mustard butter. Lay slices of rare roast beef over the mustard butter and spread with the chicken mixture. Add sprigs of watercress. Top with the remaining slices of bread to make sandwiches, trim the crusts and cut into dainty squares or triangles. 

Serve on a shiny silver platter festooned with silk ribbon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

About the Radish

My friend and I have been looking for radishes. We thought, with the weather getting warmer and Spring firmly in place, that they would be in good supply. After all, early spring is for the radish.

But for days none of the supermarkets had radishes. Especially those little beauties with the lovely greens still attached. The kind I ate in France years ago with fleur de sel, warm bread and sweet farmer's butter. We did find some that looked like it once was a radish, all withered, old and over grown and a few others garbed in plastic. Not good.

So we wondered, my friend and I, with all the demand for locally grown and seasonal foods, why our super markets did not pay closer attention and stock produce by season?  Why do we still find tasteless tomatoes in December and strawberries priced like caviar when no one in the Northern hemisphere could possibly be growing summer fruit?

No answer here......just wondering.

But.....when you do find those lovely radishes with their lovely greens attached, do this:

  • Undo the bundle of radishes, being careful to keep the greens
  • Wash them well under cold, running water and cut off any discolored greens
  • Trim off the root end, do not pat the radishes dry
  • Lay the radishes out in a glass or porcelain container, fill with ice water, cover loosely and soak over night

Pour about 1" of sea salt or fleur de sel into a wide shallow bowl
Drain the radishes and lightly pat them dry
Lay the radishes over the salt, allowing the greens to hang over the edge of the bowl
Place the bowl on a larger platter
Diagonally slice a baguette and spread each slice with sweet butter (use the best bread and best--sweet, unsalted--butter you can find, it will make a world of difference)
Fan the buttered bread around the bowl of radishes and serve

Encourage your guests to take bites of salted radish and buttered bread together. This is a delicious treat to enjoy on soft spring evenings with a glass of Viognier or Shiraz.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eating Memories

We all have an innate drive to maintain a connection with the past through objects or mementos. These objects serve as “witnesses” and help us invoke the event and feelings of the time.  I heard someone once describe mementos as “great literature”.

In that way food can also be a visceral reminder of emotions, important life events or people we love who may be gone from us. It is why a recipe for Grandma’s chicken or Auntie's pie is so important to enjoy on certain holidays and occasions.

The smells and tastes take us back. They serve as confirmation of that memory and keep it sharp and alive.

If our memory was traumatic, life altering or unique in some way, we are even more likely to covet and cling to the tastes, sounds, smells and objects of that time.  By not forgetting, we recognize the importance of that symbolic transformation in our life and its affect on our future.

This spring we celebrate two transformative holidays; Passover for Jews and Easter for Christians. Both are laden with prescribed familial traditions and foods. 

In my house there will be a (day early) Seder featuring the traditional foods and old recipes that I grew up with. I will share this meal with newer friends who are not Jewish and I am excited to add this coming dinner to my Passover memory bank.

I look forward to remembering that Bill asked for seconds on the matzo balls---that I made light and fluffy as he asked---or that Joey enjoyed the roast chicken that Nana used to make and that I had a big bowl of charoset on the table because son Stuart always loved lots of it.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover everyone! May your new memories be happy.

(haroset or charoses ( חֲרֽוֹסֶת [ḥărōset])

A mixture of apples, walnuts, cinnamon, sugar and sweet Passover wine. It is eaten to commemorate the mortar with which the Israelites used to cement bricks when they were enslaved in Egypt.

  • 2 Macintosh apples, cored, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup shelled walnuts
  • Cinnamon and sugar to taste
  • 1 jigger of Passover wine

Put every thing in a food processor and pulse until the mix is coarsely chopped. It should not be runny. The result is not too pretty but it is very good. Refrigerate covered until ready to serve. Traditionally spread on matzo but also good on celery sticks.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Did Someone Say Sardines?

My middle name should be antique or sentimental as I am continually harking back to the past. I love so many of the old-fashioned foods and old ways of doing things. I get all blubbery when I think of eating at my Grandmothers’ tables; remember eggs ala russe or the tuna casserole I learned to make in the 8th grade. I frequently crave egg creams, penny candy and neighborhood grocery stores with worn wood floors. I enjoy kneading dough and use my copper bowl for beating whites by hand. I prefer linen napkins. It has often made me feel like odd gal out. That is, until recently.

An email came from friend Angus. He was looking for a recipe for something his mother Edith (a superb cook) used to make, “…an hors d’oeuvres using sardines, Worcestershire sauce, plus other ingredients that she would mix up in a small frying pan and then spread on toast points and broil…”

At that point, it hit me. We're all a bit sentimental. Lots of us have fond memories of a food we once ate or a dish we used to love. We’d like to have that food again but we don’t have the recipe, can’t find it on the net and have exhausted the resources of family and friends.

Let’s have a recipe hunt (actually, Angus suggested this) and see if we can’t rediscover some of the foods we used to enjoy. Send me a description of the recipe you are looking for, I’ll blog it and we'll see if all of us (and our extended contacts) can find what you’re missing.

So I'll go first with Challenge #1 (something I’ve been looking for):
There was a steak house in New York, now closed, called Manero’s. They served the most incredible loaves of warm bread dripping with butter that came precut and wrapped in paper napkins. Does anyone know how they made it?

I am excited to hear from you!

My Take on Edith’s Sardine Canapés

• 1 can skinless and boneless sardines, drained and mashed
• 1 TBS softened sweet butter
• 2 TBS minced shallot sautéed in butter until wilted
• 1 Tsp finely minced parsley plus several leaves for garnish
• Several dashes of Worcestershire
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• Pinch dry mustard
• Pepperidge Farm white bread toasted, with crusts removed and cut into 4 triangles
• 1 hardboiled egg, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°
• Lightly butter toast points with softened butter
• Mix together mashed sardines, sautéed shallots, minced parsley, Worcestershire, dry mustard and cayenne
• Spread mix evenly over buttered toast points and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
• Bake until just warmed through, about 10 minutes
• Sprinkle the center of each canapé with chopped egg and garnish with one parsley leaf
• Serve warm with wedges of lemon

Friday, April 1, 2011

Just Food

Someone recently asked what my “word” was. A single word to describe me. Just one. I had to think long about that until it finally hit me: Food. My word is Food.

Food is nourishment and comfort. Food is friends and family. Food is tradition and essential for life. It crosses cultures and oceans and holds memories. Food is fun, food tastes good. Food has a history older than civilization yet continues to evolve. And most of all, food joins us as a community.

I love Food and it’s my way of saying, “I give you love”.