Friday, December 29, 2006


We made a sort of ragout from the goose meat. First, of course, we fished (fished?) out the goose skin and fried that for grivenes / gribenes / greebenes / grivns, spell it how you will, the crispy scraps of poultry skin, sprinkled with kosher salt (what else): essentially a goose potato chip.
Then fried onions in some saved goose fat, sprinkled with just a bit of flour for a roux, added some chopped goose meat, red wine for sauce, and the goose vegetables at the end.
Licked the platter clean.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Two More out of Seven Fishes

Next day: an appetizer of octopus, and a luxurious shrimp salad made with whole shrimp, chipotle remoulade, and a little chopped onion, yellow bell pepper, and celery. Disguising the fact that it's still all leftovers.

Two out of Seven Fishes

It was Boxing Day and all the guests had departed, so a perfect time to bring out the tasty leftovers from the Feast of Seven Fishes. Bluefish is time-sensitive and doesn't keep long, so that was first on our plates, just cold with a squirt of lime. Then a mouthful of the skate with caper butter. And to freshen it all, Napa Cabbage Slaw with Blue Cheese, made with a tangy cider vinegar dressing, from our friend Kathy's recipe.

Your goose is cooked

Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.

Another first. Always wanted to try a traditional goose for Christmas dinner.
We began with a wild goose chase. I called up Jungle Jim's on the Thursday before Christmas to make sure they had geese. "Sure, lots!" I was told. Well, put one aside anyway. "No need. I got a fresh shipment coming in tomorrow." And, of course, when we arrived on Saturday, we were told that they'd sold out of geese on Friday. After raging and gnashing of teeth (and a kind offer of six ducks to equal one goose, from the guy who sold me the veal breast, below), we returned laden with fish, but gooseless. While Dad and I put the fish away, Barbara kindly ran out to the local grocery store, where she'd priced geese before. And behold, it befell in those days, that the checkout guy hath said unto her, "$47.93 for a goose? That's ridiculous! Sell it to you for ten bucks." Truly a Christmas miracle.
Goose is just like duck, only more so. We followed Julia's method of steaming the goose in a closed roaster with just a cup of water for an hour, then pouring off the fat--six cups of fat. (It was very appropriate that the roaster in question - labelled "Savory" - was a legacy from our dear friend Bob, whose birthday was around Christmas, and who always loved such celebratory meals.) Made a sausage and sage dressing from the last of the duck bread (also appropriate). After stuffing the goose (with a lemon in the neck as a stopper to hold the stuffing in), we roasted it closed and bottoms up for an hour, over cut-up turnips, carrots (crudités from the festival of fish), and the last of the shallots, then bosom side up and open for another 30 minutes to crisp the skin.
The meat is all dark, dense, and despite the steaming, still covered in a layer of fat. The vedge had braised in the goose grease. A little Cumberland sauce (Thanks, John and Priscilla!) on the side. Delicious, but to be frank, there's really just not a lot of meat on a goose. One will just about do for four people, tops.
Had it with another bottle of Paradigm, a merlot (Thanks, JoDee and David), so it was a family feast.

Post-game analysis. I think next time I do a goose, I'll cook it like a duck, i.e. break it down completely beforehand and cut off the breast meat. Roast the legs in a high oven and sauté the breast in thin slices. There's no meat in the wings except a thin strip between the ulna and the tibia. However, on Boxing Day, we simmered the carcass and rendered out 2 more cups of goose fat. It's easy to see why the fat was so prized: it's abundant, semi-liquid even when cold, and very pure. So now we've got lots of schmaltz and our stock for some time to come is going to be Goose Juice.

As Apicius said, "De goosibus non est disputandum": There's no denying, them geese is tasty.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Seven fishes

Christmas Eve
We had Barbara's cousin Eric, his family, friends, and other machatunim (people you're related to but it would take a genealogical chart and your mother-in-law to detail exactly how) over for Sette Pesci, the traditional Italian Christmas Eve fest of seven fishes, because none of us are Italian. Barbara has a childhood memory of Karen's dad, Ralph, doing twelve fishes! But maybe the scungilli (conch) just seemed like five extra.
Here are our seven:
1. Boiled shrimp with classic cocktail sauce (kid friendly)
2. Lox with cream cheese (kid friendly)
3. Little crab cakes with a chipotle remoulade (semi-kid friendly).
4. Octopus (not kid friendly): Still trying to recreate the octopus at Fino in London. Boiled the baby cephalopods for an hour to tenderize, sliced, then fried with a healthy shot of pimentón della Vera (see posts for Sept. 1 and Oct. 6). Added lemon juice.
5. Brandade. This was a new one for us: bacalà--salt cured dried cod--reconstituted by soaking in water for 24 hours, then ground with garlic and whipped with olive oil and cream. Served with lots of crudités* for dipping. Delish--close to whitefish salad but more primeval.
*Pronounced Crud-ites, the inhabitants of the ancient kingdom of Krud (and weren't they all)
The great advantage was that most of these could be prepared the day before.
6. Skate with black butter. Wish I had a picture of the skate, which is truly primordial in its ugliness. Very easy to prepare however. Just dropped the skate wing into the court bouillon left over from cooking the shrimp. About 20 minutes later, remove to a cutting board. The slimy yet spiky skin peels right off, and you simply scrape the rich meat off the central cartilage. For beurre noir, heat butter till it begins to brown, then add lots of capers. Fry them and add a shot of lemon juice. Pour over fish.
7. Baby blues. Possibly Barbara's favorite fish - they match her eyes. So glad we found two little bluefish at Jungle Jim's. Tossed them into a 400º oven, with the new probe in the thickest part. When it beeped at 125º (leaving us free to talk with friends), arranged them on a platter to look like Pisces (which they are) and anointed with Barbara's basil oil.

For those who were either fed up with fish or still hungry by this time, there was a huge platter of baked ziti; in fact, they were campanelli drenched in tomato sauce thickened with pureed sun-dried tomatoes, then layered with mozzarella and parmesan.
We ate the smaller cold dishes while nattering around the house. Then al tavola! for the big hot fish. Barbara expertly flensed the blues. Everyone tried everything. The kids tried most things that didn't have suckers.

For desert, more of the piña colada cake (we're officially out of lady fingers now), lovingly frosted with whipping cream, and biscotti: pistachio and cranberry (green and red for Christmas), and hazelnut-chocolate chip (both from the 1992 Gourmet that we keep with the cookbooks). Tobias had brought a rosé dessert wine, SoloRosa, that went perfectly with them.

Veal breast

Sat. 23 Dec.
Poitrine de veau, actually, more a petto di vitello, since the recipe is Italian (Marcella Hazan), but in fact it differs nary a whit from the French version.
We went with Holt's father out to Jungle Jim's for the full jungle experience. Besides the fish for the Sette Pesci, we bought a veal breast. This is a bony, fatty cut of meat, but one of the best ways to have veal. There's much less waste than you might think and at $1.99/lb. we buy one every time we go to Jungle Jim's. This also accounts for the superabundance of veal stock that we have in the freezer.
You can stuff a veal breast very easily, just by running a knife under the ribs (a Mr. Sparafucile taught me that trick). Fill with spinach, bread crumbs, etc. But even simpler is just to roast it at the People's Temperature, whole, covered, with a little garlic and rosemary, adding a cup of wine at the start. After an hour toss in your choice of root vedge. Cook for another hour. The cool thing is, as the meat braises, it auto-Frenches, that is, the meat pulls back from the ribs. Cut between the ribs (that's easy), and then locate the corresponding point on the chine, to separate into ribs (that may take a bit of force). We served that last of the yard chard on the side, with the vedge and pan juices.

Grilled romaine salad

Friday 22 Dec.
Had this at Bacaro in Champaign-Urbana (blog for Oct. 13), so we decided to recreate it at home. It seems to be a Bobby Flay invention. I found a couple of recipes on the net, but forgot to bring them home, so just winged it. But the concept ain't exactly that difficult.
Find a nice head of romaine lettuce. Pull off any floppy leaves. Cut in half, paint with olive oil, and toss on the grill cut side down first. Flip after about 3 minutes, and grill on the curved side for 3 minutes more. It chars nicely, the leaves don't curl up much, and the grill marks look cool. Cover with a Caesar dressing (anchovies and parmesan), top with fried-up duck bread* croutons - they'll fall off, but who cares - and sprinkle with more grated parmesan. Had it with a few slices of the cold rare lamb.

*Duck bread, an explanation. Our favorite BBQ joint, Mr. Pig at Findlay market, does fine ribs and a fabulous brisket (not always available and so a more desired treat). They include a couple of slices of spongy white bread draped over the plate of ribs. However generous the act, let's face it, Spongy White Bread is 1) the worst name for a rapper ever, and 2) fit only to be fed to the ducks in Burnet Woods, hence the culinary term "duck bread." To be honest, sometimes the ducks are so well-fed and fussy that they won't eat it either. I've just submitted the term "duck bread" to UrbanDictionary. Let's see if they'll take it.
Update: They have! It's now an official bit of urban slang: Duck bread.

Broccoli and anchovy pasta

Thurs. 21 Dec.
A light dish for the run-up to Christmas, and a good thing to do with the winter green of broccoli. Cut off the stems of the brocs, trim off the tough outer bark, and cut the interior into batons. They're really quite tender, more tender even than the florets, which you cut into small pieces.
Sauté them all in olive oil. Add two big cloves of chopped garlic and 8 or so anchovy fillets. Toss everything so it gets coated. When the garlic starts to color, add 1/2 cup of white wine and cover. This steams the florets and the wine and oil make a nice sauce. Serve over penne with lots of cheese.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lamb redux

Left-over lamb. Sliced the roast thinly and set out on a plate so it could warm up. Meanwhile, boiled a small bunch of parsnips and potatoes. Beat with cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. The parsnips add a brighter, sweeter note to the tatties. Heated up the lamb in the microwave, just enough to take the chill off (45 sec. + 30 sec. seems to have done the trick). Made emergency lamb gravy and poured into the caldera of Mr. Parsnip and Ms. Spud.

Here's how to make quick gravy for meat when you don't have the brown bits from roasting. Did this for the deep fried turkey at Thanksgiving, too.
Trim any fat that the meat provides, dripping, what have you, Then trim off about a half cup of the crustiest outer bits of skin or meat. Sauté in the fat, adding more oil or butter, if necessary. When the meat is fried, you've created your own instant brown bits! Add just a bare sprinkle of flour to make a roux and brown that thoroughly, too. Then pour in your liquid--stock, white wine (for poultry), red wine for the lamb, plus any juices from the plate. Voila!

Penne with salami and zucchini

See the post for
A perennial fave.

Stuffed leg o' lamb

The apostrophe is part of the flavoring. Normally, I buy legs o' lambs and bone them myself, then make scotch broth out of the bones and trimming, but this was too good a buy ($3.99/lb.) to pass up. The disadvantage was that whatever machine did the deboning out in Australia* made a real butchery of it. Big flaps of meat flapping meatily everywhere. Nonetheless, decided to do it stuffed. We had a frozen tub of chard cooked with garlic and bacon left over from the last chard harvest. So in it went, after suitable squeezing. Some ingenious lamb bondage with clove hitches sealed the deal (mostly).
Popped it in the oven at 375º. And we finally played with my new toy! The remote sensing oven thermometer, a birthday present (Thanks, Dad!), worked a treat. I plugged it into the lamb, set the gizmo for 125º, and we sat down on the couch with a glass of wine and read companionably until the buzzer went off. Set the lamb on the sideboard to rest for 15 minutes. All right, 10. I just couldn’t wait and the house was filled with lamby smells. Perfectly cooked to nice pinky medium rare, and the salt in the chard filling had seasoned the lamb.
Lamby, how I love ya, how I love ya. My dear ol' lamby.

*Most prepositions at the end of a sentence: a young girl in her room on the second floor complains to her father about his choice of bedtime story: "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of up for?" Now let us imagine that the book was about Australian cricket: "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of about over after over out in Down Under up for?" Cheating? You betcha!

Tilapia with salsa

Sunday was quick fish. Lynne L. had left some pleasantly ferocious and virulently green salsa in our fridge, perfect for tilapia, which, let's face it, is dull but worthy. So we just dredged the fillets in seasoned cornmeal and fried they little fishy butts off. Removed to heated plates, and poured the last of the salsa into the pan. DO NOT INHALE! Served on the side of the fish with a few fried zuke batons with garlic. And where did this fiery fiesta, this hot habañero, this salacious salsa come from? Why Athens, Ohio, of course. Yeeeeee-haaaaa!

Monday, December 18, 2006


For the second night of Hanukkah. Barbara's family is of the savory rather than the sweet persuasion—when it comes to latkes, that is (boy, that was a close one). A small onion to about five smallish potatoes. I follow Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food. The key is to throw the grated potatoes into cold water instantly (these keeps them from discoloring and removes excess starch). Squeeze dry, and then add the onion and egg. Fry in miraculous oil. Serve with yogurt strained through cheese cloth. If you're making this the main course of a meal (and we are), top with lox and capers.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A going-away party for Lynne

Our good friend Lynne is leaving the tropical paradise of Cincinnati for Florida, so Jack and Shari threw her a going-away pot-luck party. Lots of tasty food: baked ham and turkey, delicious eggplant from Kathy (soy-sauce, ginger marinade), a great Salat Olivier (Russian chicken salad) from Steve, yummy butternut squash (I never found out whose), three other salads, plus lots of stuff I've unfortunately forgotten. For dessert a splendidly moist carrot cake from Chuck.

We brought an experiment, something, of course, you're never supposed to do. I wanted to try to create a Piña Colada tiramisù, a sort of we're-just-back-from-the-Caribbean-&-you're-going-to-Florida theme, and mostly because I had all these frozen ladyfingers. I found a recipe online for a coconut and pineapple filling, which I'll never use again because it did not set up. I did an emergency rescue by adding some gelatin dissolved in rum, to turn it into a Bavarian. I would have added the rum in any case, but now my ethnicities were all screwed up: an Italo-Caribbean-Bavarian co-production. But now it solidified quite nicely and besides, with enough rum, who cares?

Since it was also the first night of Hanukkah, I made our challah menorah. (Why Hanukkah but challah, you ask? Tradition!) I read years ago in Gourmet that Zabar's was selling challah menorahs, and though I've still never seen one of theirs, I decided to create one. Basically a two-tiered challah with nine balls of dough for the candles. Not as high, but in some ways even more impressive, is to make three braids of three strands each, join them together, but fan out the ends for the candles. Looks rather harp-like (or hydra-like if you’re of a morbid frame of mind, and you know you are).
Below are some pictures of how to do a challah braid if you've never done one. The clue is to think "middle." So take the right-most strand and bring it over to the middle. Then left to the middle, then right, then left. I usually leave the starting knot only loosely pinched, because you can often tighten up the look after you've made the complete braid.

And the finished product. Taa-daa!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Roast pork hash

The last slices of roast pork from Saturday, but this time, we really made a hash of it. You can either hash by hand if you have the time and feel like meticulously chopping everything up in tiny little cubes, or use the robot-coupe, which is faster and more accommodating to those who are already hungry. Guess which method we use most often.
So: chop up two onions and salt, and start them frying in oil in a big, broad, oven-proof pan. While they're cooking, chop up a couple of big potatoes, peeled or not, as you choose. Add them to the pan, and shuffle them about to let them and the onions cook on all sides. Then add three or four cubes of frozen stock, preferably of the same type as the meat to be hashed, but others will do, or even water, ad lib. Cover the pan and let the potatoes steam and become tender. Chop up the pork, mince a handful of fresh parsley and sage leaves, and add all that last. Stir about to mix, pat down, and run under a hot broiler for four or five minutes, to get the top brown. Serve with HP or sauce Americaine, i.e. ketchup (which we used up the last of, in making BBQ sauce).

Chili, reprise

Sunday's chili left over, but Holt made fresh cornbread muffins to go with it. The cornbread recipe is from my work in progress, The Fear and Loathing Cookbook, and uses both baking soda and baking powder, but I can't remember where I cribbed it from.


Napa sausages, that is, from Kroeger's in Findlay Market. These are flavored with wine and peppers on the inside, and so: wine, peppers, and onions on the outside.
We still miss their garlic metts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Barbecued pork and creamed leeks

One of our quick meals out of (mainly) leftovers, in this case the scrappy bits of roast pork from Saturday, "pulled," shredded, and anointed with every bit of old barbecue-like sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire we had. Accompanied by our new favorite, creamed leeks, cited often in the pages below.


No, not Cincinnati chili - we are not so acclimated to this place, and anyway, that's just Greek makaronia me kyma with a couple of odd garnishes. Holt insists on his Southwestern heritage when it comes to chili. So we pressure-cooked some pinto beans to start them off, and then let them simmer on the stove for hours, while Barbara tended them and gardened intermittently. When the beans have almost sucked up all the liquid they can take, a can of crushed tomatoes gets stirred in. Ground beef (or venison, if David had any to spare) is fried separately, with chopped onions, and then seasoned with heaps of ground coriander, cumin, and purest chile de Nuevo Mexico. Finally, beef and beans are combined, and simmered along with the secret ingredient, a generous splash of red wine vinegar. Shhhh…don't tell anyone. It's delicious.

Pork Roast with Winter Vegetables

Saturday was an ideal day for a big roast beast, for many reasons. Holt wanted to try out the new probe thermometer his Dad gave him for his birthday; Philip was coming to dinner, so we wanted to serve something American and generous; and it was a cold, blustery day. Of course, pig is the typical beast to roast here in Porkopolis, and happily enough, pork sirloin was on sale at IGA. Holt seasoned it Italian style, by stuffing garlic slices and rosemary leaves (garnered by Barbara before the plants went into hibernation) into slits poked into the meat. Then he strewed the vegetables - onions, turnips, carrots, later some parsnips - around the roasting pan and shoved it all into the oven at the People's Temperature.
We had some drinks and snacks when Philip arrived, and then went out into the cold for the Clifton Carriage Rides: two patient Percherons towed a carriage of willfully merry Cliftonites around a couple of blocks, accompanied by jingly bells and Christmas carols (if anyone knew or could read the words). Of course, when we got back, the alarm on the probe thermometer had already gone off, so Holt didn't get to hear it. But the roast was juicy, the vegetables roasted to a turn, and the dessert, of Graeter's coconut chip with the last of Michael's gingered pears, was a sweet, though cold, finish.

Pork steaks Modena style with potatoes

See blog for October 6, 2006. Thick pork chops with the bone in, tomato (canned), and sage. Makes a rich, dark gravy, which is perfect for pouring over a mound of garlic mashed potatoes. Potatoes, tomatoes, thanks New World (sorry about the smallpox and stuff).

Arugula & parsley pasta

Stayed late for a lecture (Thera blew up in 1628 B.C. Deal with it!), so we were starved and needed something quick. The arugula, too, had wintered very nicely, so we did a variant on Ms. Williams' pesto (see post for Oct. 24, 2006). The parsley mellowed out the peppery taste of "The Last of the Arugula" (that beloved novel by Mary Renault). Hmm, more anchovies and garlic. Are we in a rut? No, remember Barbara was raised by a pack of wild Neapolitans.

Albacore steaks with chard

More steaks, if different phyla, and possibly the last of the chard from the yard. Barbara had carefully banked and mulched the garden before we left, so the bottom leaves of the chard were in surprisingly good shape. Just chopped and sautéed the ribs and leaves in oil, then covered till tender. Served with a shot of lemon, a Greek touch. Sautéed the albacore in the cast iron pan for no more than 2 minutes a side. Drizzled basil oil over, for that Chef Willy on the yacht touch.

T-bone steak with ginger pureed carrots

Our first full day back, and a simple grilled steak, brushed with a dab of soy sauce for extra flavor. Winter, and the fact that we hadn't gone to the market on Saturday, calls for earthy vegetables, i.e. stuff in the bottom of the drawer. So nice carrots. Chopped up, boiled in a little water, then puréed in the RobotCoupe with a knob of stem ginger in syrup (and a bit of the syrup), a prezzie from our friends John and Priscilla in Eynsham (just outside Oxford, in case you're in the neighborhood).

Pasta Puttanesca

On Monday we returned home, fat and happy. So a quick dish after a long drive: Pasta Puttanesca. Ran across it first in a restaurant review in Gourmet years ago and thought, "That can't possibly mean what I think it means." But yes, it is indeed "Whore's Sauce," or pasta alla prostitute. Etymology mercifully unknown, though I've always favored the idea that it got its name from the fact that everything goes into it. The constants are tuna, anchovies, and olives. Since this is a dish many of whose ingredients are or can be canned, it's perfect for winter.

So sauté garlic in olive oil plus some oil from a jar/can of anchovies. Add crushed tomatoes, lots of chopped black olives (though we had it once in a joint in the Campo dei Fiori topped with a single green olive), handful of capers, healthy shots of oregano, basil, and pepper. When thickened add a can of tuna (preferably in oil, but frankly the cheap stuff that's barely a step up from cat food will do just fine with so many other things to cover it up). Serve over spaghetti or what you will. Bizarrely, despite anchovies, capers, and tuna, the sauce often needs extra salt. Pasta Puttanesca is one of the great exceptions to the "no cheese with fish" rule, since otherwise it wouldn't be slutty enough, would it?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Smyrna, Tennessee: Sunday post-sermon Pot Luck

(Sun. 3 Dec. 06)
There couldn't be a more complete cultural shift. We went from the Seabourn Pride tastings to a real southern American pot luck at the Auburntown Church of Christ. This particular Agape had a galaxy of bean dishes, at least three pinto, one lima, and one green- with ham; the winner in that category was a bean soup with spicy sausage disks. There were two coleslaws, one normal and one pink; various creamy casseroles (cheese-noodle, cheese-rice, corn); lasagne; nachos; beef chili, pot roast, and a great spicy-sauced meatloaf; sausages with saurkraut; smoky-flavored pork loin (unpulled pulled pork?); crisp pickled chile peppers; ham biscuits; and two kinds of corn bread. All accompanied by swee'tea, of course. JoDee had hearkened to her mother's old saying and brought a plateful of pb&j sandwiches on white bread; sure enough, they disappeared in an instant. Her blueberry cobbler was also favored in the cobbler stakes (other entrants: cherry and raspberry), and there were tiny chocolate bundt cakes, a classic red velvet cake, and a jello mold (sine qua potluck non), among many desserty others. But at this point we gave up, and can only return our thanks to the fine cooks of the Auburntown Church.

End of the Cruise: Bridgetown, Barbados

(Sat. 2 Dec. 06)
Back in Barbados, we had to clear the cabin by 8 AM, and though the condemned couple then made a hearty meal in the Restaurant, we were soon thrown out of paradise. Since we were on a horrible airline at a horrible airport (Charlotte SC) at dinnertime, we will recount our last long lingering lunch instead.

At a shaded table at the Waterfront Café, overlooking the bridge, boats, and buildings of Bridgetown, we had Barbadian Pepperpot of long-cooked and well-spiced meat, and batter-fried flying fish hoagies, Barbados' answer to the po'boy. We eased the virulent pepper sauce for the fish with mayonnaise, and added cold Carib beers. Ahhh, vacation.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Seven, Admiralty Bay, Bequia

(Fri. 1 Dec. 06)
Though this was a squally day, we liked green and friendly Bequia best of all the islands. We hiked for a swim at Princess Margaret Beach, passing Mimosa Cottage, where we want to retire, or at least vacation. This was our last night for the Veranda Café, though this time it was a more bistro-standard menu, with choices.
First course: both had escargots in standard garlic butter. Rather ho-hum, but we didn't want to press our liver luck with the mousseline of foie gras.
Soup: lobster bisque with a little lobster salad.
Salad: mesclun with goat cheese and bacon.
Main courses: sea bass Niçoise with tomato-lemon confit and fried caperberries; lamb chops Provençale with roasted vegetables and potato gratin.
Desserts: melted chocolate ganache cake with vanilla chantilly and brandy ice cream; roast pineapple with frozen yogurt and almond brittle.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Six, Fort de France, Martinique

(Thurs. 30 Nov. 06)
Despite the romantic aura of To Have and Have Not, the dockside was grey and drizzly, and our morning snorkeling excursion rather lackluster. But that evening was our first chance to get the Tastings @ 2 menu at the Veranda Café. Seven complex dishes are served, and in the usual modernist mode, the diners are completely in the power of the chef. Luckily, Chef Willy was pleasant and easy to talk to, and the servers didn't blindfold us and make us inhale bubbles full of licorice essence.
First: Caviar on top of foggy potatoes (shot out of the thermo-whip); absolutely delicious, though the little lobster salad underneath was slightly out of tune.
Second: sushi rolls with centers of seared flank steak and barbequed salmon, and a duck confit pop, all with various sauces and dips.
Third: tea-smoked game (but what sort?) cleverly set up in a cafetière to produce bouillon pressé, served with chestnut spätzle; a honey-spiced squab and fig empanada; and a luscious cup of porcini and chestnut "cappucino."
Fourth: post-modern surf and turf, i.e. a tiny grilled beef tenderloin with mushrooms and truffled emulsion next to a "floating lobster" on pesto cream with red-pepper fondue and lime froth.
Fifth: sweet and sour apple snow and granny smith confit; a palate-cleanser.
Sixth: heavenly beignets stuffed with apricot jam, with calvados ice cream and shots of bittersweet chocolate milk. Deceptively innocent.
Seventh: the nightcap, orange amaretto. Sweet dreams.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Five, Charlestown, Nevis

(Weds. 29 Nov. 06)
Once again, spent the early part of the day at an idyllic and deserted beach within walking distance of dockside (Penney's Beach, with the boat "Rescue the Perishing" anchored off-shore, having just sailed in from Derek Walcott) . This one had cheaper, colder, better beer than St. Barth's, nicer people, and playful cats (and crabs).

"Chef's Dinner" at the Restaurant was a progressive tasting menu:
First: Smoked duck breast (too bacon-like) with guava jam and papaya salad.
Second: Grenada conch and scallop chowder.
Third: oyster and shrimp gratin with (mmmm) lime sabayon.
Fourth: frozen sugar cane punch with grenadine essence.
Main courses: Creole sautéed flying fish fillet with a corn and rice cake, plantain chips, and a yummy green salsa; jerk-spiced pork filet with sweet potato and parsnip purée.
Dessert: banana rum cake (really a conical mousse with a ganache bottom) with coconut ice cream.
Cheese: Pain d'ange, Pont l'Eveque, and Roquefort, with nutmeg jelly.
Camerhogne spiced rum truffles.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Four, Marigot, St. Martin.

(Tues. 28 Nov. 06)
The most exhilarating day, spent out sailing on America's Cup yachts, grinding and winching and being bossed around by people who actually know how to sail. We went aboard Canada II, and actually won the race on an abbreviated course, under the able guidance of Captain Paul ("the best thing about winning is gloating").

At the Restaurant, we were hosted by the Entertainment Director and seated at opposite ends of the table, so we were not able to share our courses, for the first time in years!
First course: B, cured and roasted tiny slices of lamb loin, with mango coulis; H, twice-baked goat cheese soufflé with roasted garlic cream.
Soup: lobster bisque for both.
Salad: none, but I should have had the fingerling potatoes with quail eggs and bacon.
Main course: roasted venison tenderloin with foie gras sauce and mashed butternut squash for both.
Dessert: double chocolate cake for both.
Many fewer choices available, so pooh for sitting apart.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Three, Gustavia, St. Barts.

(Mon. 27 Nov. 06)
Spent the afternoon swimming at Shell Beach, which was sandy salty fun (warm beer: four euros), but we felt the need for some elegance rather than the deckside barbecue on offer that evening. So back to the Restaurant.
First course: seared tuna, soba noodle, and seaweed salad in a cilantro dressing; corn and cream cheese tortellini topped with black truffle shavings, in a sweet corn broth.
Soup: artichoke with preserved lemon, with tiny potato croutons floating on top.
Salad: braised and raw endives with bits of sweet and sour apricots, in a lavender dressing.
Main course: cumin and coriander crusted sea bass with two sauces, carrot and parsley; calamari stuffed with shrimp forcemeat, with roasted peppers, arugula, and "pasta pearls" (Israeli couscous).
Dessert: poire tatin with caramel and ice cream; white chocolate/mocha mousse in a chocolate shell with bittersweet chocolate ice cream.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day Two.

(Sun. 26 Nov. 06)
The day was spent steaming steadily north through the Lesser Antilles, and acquiring our sea legs (not kamaboko, but a sense of balance). We attended a cooking demonstration by Chef Willy, who's in charge of the Veranda Café and likes to foam things up with CO2 in the modern food-as-science-experiment way.

Followed by a fascinating galley tour by executive Chef Markus (champagne and caviar snacks provided, of course).

That evening was the Captain's first-night celebration, so we wore formal attire for the party (smoked salmon hors d'oeuvres as well as the caviar) and dinner; several of the staff complimented Holt on his black-and-gold brocade Balinese jacket.
First course: caviar (what, again?) on a potato-shallot cake with remoulade; a torchon of foie gras with fruit terrine, roasted hazelnuts, and hazelnut brioche. Holt only had a mouthful of the latter, as he is of the opinion that even the best liver is still liver, and he says the hell with it; but he also said, on the record, that this was the best liver he's tasted.
Soup: duck broth with confit and vegetables, served in a coffee cup with a pastry crust over it. Cute, and good too.
Salad: grilled portobello mushroom with balsamic vinaigrette.
Main course: polenta-crusted lobster tail with corn purée and a tasty little lobster fritter; veal osso bucco with shallot confit and potato purée.
Dessert: this was where Seabourn service actually screwed up. For some reason, no one brought us dessert until the dining room was almost empty, so they apologized by bringing us - another dessert. The first was a trio of cremes brulées, the most memorable of which was basil-flavored; and the extra was a melting chocolate mini-cake with raspberry sorbet.

Cruising the Caribbean: Day One

(Sat. 25 Nov. 06)
As part of Holt's semicentennial celebration (see Birthday Dinner, below), I gave him a cruise vacation, which is one of the cleverest gift ideas I've ever had, since I got to go along too. He chose the Seabourn line for its small ships and excellent reputation for food, wine, and service - and boy, did it live up to the hype. We were greeted with champagne and fruit in our cabin, had some more after the lifeboat drill, and this continued for a full week. If you got hungry after breakfast, you could have brunch; then lunch; then fruit and smoothies on deck; tea and cakes at 4, hors d'oeuvres at 5, dinner in either the elegant large Restaurant or the bistro-like Veranda Café, and of course dessert; and someone would bring you more of pretty much any of these, or malossol caviar and champagne, anywhere, anytime.

So here's the dinner we sat down to as we set off from Bridgetown, Barbados.
First course: jumbo shrimp with cilantro, lime, and a hint of chile; crab cakes with a roasted red pepper coulis.
Soup: tomato and white bean, with crostini floating on top.
Salad: frisée with duck confit, with sherry shallot dressing.
Main course: scallops with bacon and braised cabbage in a juniper reduction.
Dessert: chocolate terrine with hazelnut parfait
Cheese: Caciotta al tartufo with a honey-apple syrup.

Taco Pizza

(Friday 24 Nov 06)

Okay, it sounds odd, but our niece Melanie hates regular pizza (something we had thought genetically impossible), and Becky wanted to provide one of her favs as a home-from-college treat. It's normal pizza dough spread with taco-seasoned ground beef, and is pretty tasty. Accompaniments: nachos--natch--and a green salad.

Thanksgiving, family-style and Top-chef style

(We've been on vacation for two weeks--more later--so here's the first installation of our catch-up)

This is the biggest family-and-food day of the American year, and we are fortunate to have an abundance of both, not to mention great cooks to produce said food.
Of course, the centerpiece is turkey: David lovingly injected two big birds with flavored butter and then deep-fried them using his special deep-fryer, which stands a nice long way from the house. This prevents fires, while any oil overflow - there will be lots - goes into a part of the grass you don't want to mow anyway. The turkey cooks in an amazingly short time, and is moist and tender with nice crispy skin.
JoDee first made her own classic southwestern cornbread, and then made that into two separate dressings, both sacred to Parker family traditions: sausage and oyster. These were true dressings, as they didn't get stuffed into anything - just you try deep-frying a stuffed turkey.
Joanna made mashed potatoes, rich with cream and butter.
Holt and I only had a little of our cranberry chutney to bring with us, so we made two pounds of cranberry-clementine sauce. Just those two ingredients ground up with lots of sugar, either raw or cooked - we did cooked.
Becky was the Pie Queen, providing pumpkin, pecan, and apple-pumpkin pies (the last surprisingly appley). Any cream left over from other uses got whipped to adorn these beauties.
Jo Linn made her famous buttermilk fudge, which is based on Uncle Plem's secret family recipe. Actually, it's not so secret, as he's given it out to all of us, but only Jo Linn has really gotten it right.
Oh, and there were fresh rolls and steamed broccoli, but who cares? A green vegetable is almost immaterial on the Thanksgiving table.

In the evening, after the statutory football games, we watched the Top Chef Thanksgiving Challenge on the Food Network. Several aspiring chefs were each ordered to produce one course of a "cutting-edge" Thanksgiving dinner, and after the usual competitiveness, bitching and crises, they produced a fairly lousy and uncoordinated (duh!) menu to be sneered at by Anthony Bourdain.
Since then, Holt and I have been putting our thoughts together on what we would have chosen to serve for this challenge. Given that we were in co-operation rather than competition, our job was much easier, and we were able to match and contrast flavors, textures, temperatures, and even states of the union. Not to mention that we didn't actually have to cook anything.
Pumpkin bisque garnished with Maryland blue crabmeat;
Turkey breast California rolls with avocado, served with cranberry gelée, ginger relish, and wasabi mayonnaise;
Turkey-leg confit with caramelized onions under a cloud of Idaho potatoes (gassed through an iSi thermo-whip, for that El Bulli touch);
Butternut squash flan with candied pecans and crème fraiche.
Take that, Top Chef.