Shop, Cook, Eat New York

Shop Cook Eat New York by Susan Meisel and Nathalie Sann, 2016 Rizzoli, paper $27.50, 192 pages

Shop Cook Eat New York by Susan Meisel and Nathalie Sann, 2016 Rizzoli, paper $27.50, 192 pages

I think you know that when an American stays away from New York too long something happens to him. Perhaps he becomes a little provincial, a little dead and afraid.

Sherwood Anderson

New York is a great Christmas city–maybe you’re planning a little trip to see the windows and holiday decorations. And of course, to shop.

This book will help you avoid the recently invaded 5th Avenue, and find your comfort food, whatever it may be. Maybe it’s the artisanal expertise that goes into making Laduree macarons or the egg tart pastries at Lung Moon Bakery. Perhaps you’re looking to set an ecumenical brunch table with Kosser’s bialys and Sahadi’s pickled vegetables.

Go high end at the Bellocq Tea Atelier or home comfort at Make My Cake. Keep it old school ethnic at the Bari Pork Store, Pastosa Ravioli, and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices. Or opt for hipster cool at Mast Brother’s Chocolate and Momofuku Milk Bar. God, I love immigrants!

Susan Meisel and Nathalie Sann have done the leg work. I’ll bet they’ve gone through numerous reusable shopping bags to write this book. But their effort was more than about writing the book. “We’ve met people who are the best (perhaps the best anywhere) at what they do. And while they may have achieved neither notoriety nor wealth, they have derived enormous satisfaction from their pursuit and achievement of unmatched excellence.”

Those sentences give me chills–puts me in mind of what’s really important. And if we can take a little of that skill and excellence to our tables, to share with friends and family, who cares how much it costs per pound.

You can make your own attempts at excellence with the recipes included–Oeufs en Muerette from the Burgundy Wine Company, Despana’s Salmorejo, or (if you must) Baklava from Artopolis.

Better yet, get out, talk to people, smell things, taste stuff, find a new favorite and a new friend. Food makes it easy, and it’s more important now than ever.

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Some Things Never Change

this is the year you'll make it!

this is the year you’ll make it!

And thank goodness for that!

As you know it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving at our house without fragrant, warm bowls of Indian Pudding, with a lump of vanilla ice cream sledding down the side.

Molasses–check, milk–check, cornmeal–check. We’re ready and loyal to the Durgin Park recipe. Cranberry sauce with orange, lime, and jalapeño is in the fridge. A stalk of brussels sprouts is monopolizing a lower shelf, and tomorrow we’ll go buy the London Broil.

Yes, London Broil. No turkey this year, because the meat cook says so and I’m pleased to sign on because I still get to make and eat all the sides I can fit on the table. Sweet potatoes, corn pudding, Parker House Rolls, shaved Brussels sprouts with French radishes and apples. And a new side this year–dressing inspired by a Southern Maryland recipe–Stuffed Ham.

As a Yankee, I am never quite sure about ham–cured, smoked, salted, corned, brined–so I stay on the outskirts. I had stuffed ham once, down in Charlotte Hall, Maryland, and it was a perfect combination of briny pink ham, and bitter dark and spicy greens. I’m turning the dish inside out–lots of chopped kale and celery, the right amount of cayenne, some sautéed bits of ham and corn bread to make a dressing.

Something old, something new, everything delicious.



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Symmetry Breakfast

Symmetry Breakfast by Michael Zee, powerHouse Books, 2016

Symmetry Breakfast by Michael Zee, powerHouse Books, 2016

See if there is any bacon, and if there is, ask the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs and if so, try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily.

–Zelda Fitzgerald

Michael Zee takes (and in this book, records) a much more hands-on approach to breakfast.

Moved by love, curiosity, and an admirable sense of order, Zee gives the morning meal more attention than it is usually afforded. He is not about to serve a marginal muffin or grab a paper cup of coffee on the way to work.

This is an approach I appreciate. If I get up early, it’s to move through the quiet and make a nice warm meal, not to blow-dry my hair and paint on eyeliner (though I do spend a bit of time on that sort of thing). Even better is  is to share that meal with a partner. And sometimes, if the light is right, the meal is good, and the plates are perfect, to take a picture of it.

Basically, that’s the premise of Zee’s book, times 100. It grew from a series of Instagram posts and the symmetry comes from his arrangement of plates and cups for photography–on an axis, shot from above. But there’s also a symmetry in the couple he’s part of,  and the regular cooking and presenting of a morning meal.

The concept has life because Zee never serves Lucky Charms (which he’s tried but doesn’t like). Instead, his curiosity leads him to breakfast tables around the world, here grouped by intuition–a chapter called Keep It Simple groups Mexico, the Southern US, and Canada, on the theory that simple things like beans and fried chicken are among the hardest to get right.

On a bolder morning, you might turn to recipes from Thailand, India, and Myanmar in the Sweet, Sour and Spice chapter. Zee’s goal is to wean you from the familiar blanket of chewy muesli in favor of puffy Idli rice pancakes and a milky spiced Masala Chai or Thai grilled pork skewers with a chili dipping sauce. As I said, on a bolder morning.

And there’s nothing wrong with dinner’s leftovers for the next day’s breakfast, though none of the American slacker’s cold pizza for Zee. He suggests Ethiopian stews–Doro Wat and Mesir Wat, served with spongy injera bread.

He sees breakfast as a matter of identity–are you coffee or tea? Borek or spanakopita, blintzes or pancakes. Seeing they differences in something as seemingly simple as breakfast is what makes cooking and eating fun. That Zee shares his table with us makes it even more fun.

Courtesy of the author, here’s a recipe:


Makes 12 tarts

1 pack ready–rolled puff pastry (13.8 oz is standard in most supermarkets)

1 whole egg

2 egg yolks

2⁄3 cup superfine sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

1 2⁄3 cups whole milk

Zest of 1⁄2 lemon

Take the pastry out of the fridge and packaging at least 30 minutes before unrolling.

In a cold pan, place the egg and egg yolks, sugar, and cornflour, and mix until combined. Pour in the milk and gently whisk until you have a smooth liquid.

Place the pan on a medium–low heat whilst continuing to whisk. The secret to smooth custard is to take your time; if the heat is too high you risk making scrambled eggs. Once it starts to thicken you can turn theheat up very slightly and continue to stir for another 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest. The custard should have a thick yet pourable consistency. Pour the custard into a glass bowl and cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming.

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Unroll the pastry and remove the plastic. Cut it in half lengthways and place the sheets on top of each other. With the long side facing you, roll the pastry tightly into a long sausage and cut it into 12 discs. Place each disc in a lightly greased muffin tin. Dip your thumbs into some water and press into the middle of each round. You want to flatten the bottom and push the pastry up the edges. It is OK if the edges come up a little above the tin.

Divide the cooled custard between the 12 pastry cases and bake for 20–25 minutes. You want the tops of the tarts to be burnished with black spots and the insides still to be soft, with a little wobble. Leave the nata to cool and enjoy them like the Portuguese do, with a small coffee –um pingo (espresso with a touch of milk) – and eat with a teaspoon. That way it seems to last longer.


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Dining with Rebels, Leaders, Heroes, and Outlaws

CHoW is celebrating its 20th year with a new website and an exciting list of speakers. Join us at a meeting, or subscribe to CHoWline, to keep up with our explorations of culinary history.

Curious about what dictators eat? Concerned about what might be appearing on the White House menus? Check out Dining with Rebels, Leaders, Heroes, and Outlaws by Fiona Ross.


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Les Dames d’Escoffier Miami Marketing Symposium

I’m excited to speak at this Saturday’s LDEM symposium and especially excited about the topic I’m speaking on–LDEM’s new partnership with the Special Collections at the University of Miami Libraries to build a culinary collection focused on South Florida and the Caribbean.

Consider buying a ticket--this event is not limited to members

Consider buying a ticket–this event is not limited to members

I’ll be sharing some historic images of foodways and restaurants that illustrate the way our visions of luxury and exoticism have changes over time.

drinking at a trendy bar--some things never change

drinking at a trendy bar–some things never change

food--it's why we (I) travel

food–it’s why we (I) travel

who knew that your dusty souvenirs have historical value?!

who knew that your dusty souvenirs have historical value?!

And many thanks to our sponsors!



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Favorite Recipes of a Famous Hostess

Favorite Recipes of a Famous Hostess by Daisy Breaux, 1945

Favorite Recipes of a Famous Hostess by Daisy Breaux, 1945

With just a little scratching and stirring it’s fun to find the story hidden behind this dull green cover.

Its author, Daisy Breaux, was born in 1863 to immigrants from Canada and Ireland. She married three times, and as noted in her obituary, “each of her husbands being prominent, and each building a mansion for her.”

The first husband was a Charleston banker, the second a New Jersey bank president, and the third was a “distinguished Washington jurist.”

In each of her households, she entertained presidents–Cleveland, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson–along with the Prince of Wales and the Sultan of Fez. She really was a famous hostess.

the famous hostess

the famous hostess

And she’s feeding her guests accordingly. There are lots of terrapin and lobster recipes, elegant sauces, and delicate desserts like Peach Meringue Cake. But she seems to have picked up most of her recipes during her first marriage–they have a distinct Southern turn–Hoppin’ John, Barbecued Spare Ribs, Sweet Potato Pone, Brunswick Chicken Stew, and Mint Juleps.

She doesn’t strike me as a woman who would tie on an apron to make Pureed Peas, cooked with a sprig of mint, or Eggs Benedictine. But there are hints in the book about the skilled cooks behind the scenes. “Mom Hannah,” her “old cook in Charleston” outdid herself with breakfasts of “fruit in season, fried whiting and hominy grits, hot biscuit, chops, steak, stewed kidney or liver, always winding up with waffles and syrup.”

And she begins the book with a bit of famoushost2uncomfortable dialect, when advising on how to set up a pantry, suggesting “Condiments for ‘Jes de rite case.'”

But even if she wasn’t cooking, Breaux was paying attention. She recommends the soft clams on the New Jersey coast, steamed and dipped in butter. She warns you not be break the gall bladder when cleaning a terrapin or you have to throw the whole thing out. She’s also a fan of Bisquick and Velveeta–“pepped up with Worcestershire, mustard and tabasco,” or served as Golden Buck with a poached egg on top.

The recipes are a mix of traditional Southern, Victorian puffery, and ladies’ lunch dainties. It’s quite a departure from current celebrity cookbooks which seem to be about green drinks and gluten-free.

rossdhucastleHer last mansion, by the way, was Rossdhu Castle in Chevy Chase, Maryland. After her death, it became apartments, then a nightclub, and was eventually torn down when the land was rezoned for smaller, single-family homes.


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Savor the South–Chicken

Chicken by Cynthia Graubart, UNC Press 2016, $20.00 cloth, 160 pages

Chicken by Cynthia Graubart, UNC Press 2016, $20.00 cloth, 160 pages

I don’t know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens.

–E.B. White

For the farmer/essayist, chickens may be frustrating, but for the cook, chickens are a wonderful culinary canvas for flavor and cooking technique.

As with all the books in the Savor the South series, this one ranges from classics to new southern flavors. There’s Country Captain, a Low Country chicken and rice casserole, and Nashville Hot Chicken, a dish currently at the center of pop food culture. And of course, Crispy Fried Chicken.

But the book also includes recipes that plumb the new South–Latin Fried Chicken with Smoky Ketchup, Asha Gomez’s Kerala Fried Chicken with Mango Drizzle, and Hoisin-Sauced SEC Wings. Salivating yet?

Graubart begins with some childhood memories of grandma’s fried chicken, tugging the wishbone for luck, and a comfort food menu of savory roasted chicken, creamy mashed potatoes, and tender green beans.

She also explores chicken’s place in Southern foodways, including the newly-freed black  women of Gordonsville, Virginia who served fried chicken from the platform to train passengers, to support their families. During the Depression, Jesse Jewell vertically integrated chicken production and made Gainesville, Georgia the “poultry capital of the world.”

But chicken goes way back in culinary history. Aesop was the first to warn against counting your chickens before they hatch. Roman, and later, Renaissance physicians advised on the medicinal properties of chicken, and rulers have been promising chicken-in-every-pot prosperity since King Henry IV of France.

Graubart encourages you to start with a whole chicken, and notes that current wisdom says not to rinse bird; pat it dry to avoid spreading bacteria around. She directs you on how to cut it up and offers tips on dealing with “ghastly large” chicken breasts and general trimming.

And despite the compact size of this book, she covers a lot ground–brining, frying, roasting, stewing, braising, baking. Graubart cooks chicken under a brick, with 40 cloves of garlic, in a bog and in a mull (an 1890s recipes for a long-stewed chicken, served amid a sleeves-worth of crushed saltines). She makes use of the wings, the tenders, and the livers.

But she doesn’t stop there because nothing is more appealing to the harried cook than chicken ready to be deployed in salad, potpie, dumplings, and from competing and complementary grandmothers–Memorable Matzoh Ball Soup and Greek Lemon Chicken Soup–both guaranteed to cure what ails you.

A book worth crossing the road for? I think so.

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