So there we were, fresh off the plane, enjoying a spectacular meal at 2am French time (8pm local time), tired but happy. It turned out that the very first meal of our 10-day New York trip was also one of the very best, shall we say easily in the top three ! We had been gently dragooned from our comfortable hotel room by our great New York friends, Matt and Yolanda, they had told us we were in for a true, as good as it gets, New York experience. They were right. Sitting with (some of) our children in one of the booths at Russ and Daughters, sipping Bloody Marys and Lower Eastsides and in case of the children, cream sodas (I don’t really know what a cream soda is but is tastes good and sounds fabulous). We had chopped chicken livers and pickled red onion, matzo ball soup, whitefish croquettes. We had potato latkes and kippered salmon, we had more cocktails, we had desserts. And by desserts I mean things like Challah bread pudding and Halvah ice cream. Gosh what I would do tonight to be at Russ and Daughters having that food all over again (I actually said that just now to my husband who is sitting opposite me in the kitchen editing photos, having a glass of wine and noshing on a piece of Parmesan cheese).
Next day, a Sunday, we revisited, for old time’s sake, one of my favorite places in NY, the Spotted Pig. The haddock chowder and Cuban sandwich did not disappoint. That meal was Hudson’s favorite of the whole trip, a burger and a mountain of fries downed with ginger ale. He was perhaps buoyed by the fact that the Spotted Pig is just off Hudson street and there literally everything is named “after him”, Hudson flowers, Hudson bakery, Hudson wine, for an already over-confident young man having your own street can be a dangerous thing. Matt and Yolanda kidnapped us again that night for drinks at the legendary Bemelman’s bar at the Carlyle followed by a trip to Wolfgang’s steakhouse where we started with shrimp cocktails and enormous pieces of bacon before proceeding to the very big, very delicious, dry-aged steaks. All very “Mad Men”, the mood was American and so was the wine.
I know I am taking a risk of being a bore here, recounting all the food I had on my trip, but I have to admit I am enjoying revisiting all these glorious meals. On Monday I finally got to try out the lamb burger at the Breslin, oh yes and their version of Scotch eggs. That evening was our big party, A Condé Nast Traveler celebration of “A Taste of the Médoc” due to their recent coverage of our beloved region. The talk of the evening was, I think, the wine. Who does not love to have a few glasses of 2004 Chateau-Lynch Bages on a cold Monday night in November? One of my absolute favorite wines. They also served a few tasty little dishes from my new cookbook, A kitchen in France, it was fun to see little recipes that originated in my kitchen in France being prepared by someone else in the big city. Worked very well I might add. I had a great time, the evening was judged a success by the NY post so it must have been good, non ?
The next few days and nights saw us having many meetings, great food galore, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino’s, Franny’s in Brooklyn. I breastfed at Balthazar (also for old times sake), had a donut for the sake of it and scoffed down a pastrami sandwich between meetings. We had two enjoyable and very successful book signings where I had cherished encounters with some of my readers, we went to a wonderful Maille event at the New York Historical Society where two talented chefs from Brooklyn prepared a tasting menu of 10 dishes. The big surprise of the evening was that we were seated next to all our fabulous instagram friends. On Friday morning I even got to have breakfast with the incredibly amazing Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen, she is as sweet as you could possibly imagine. Let’s just say we had fun.
On Friday night we went to our favorite “restaurant” in New York City, Chez Rica’s. Unfortunately for you it’s a secret address and open very rarely, mainly for friends and family. It’s got great view and only one table, a chef’s table. I’ve had the pleasure to dine their twice, a divine experience. I am of course talking about the home of my editor, Rica Allannic (or RicaSuave as she is known to some). Her husband, Cyrille, is an amazing chef (he’s French) and Rica is herself a pastry chef in her own right – a winning combination. Last time we dined there I shared with you their recipe for scallops (a staple recipe in my house these days) this time it’s a broccoli soup with a twist. I think all of us are open to ways of cooking broccoli, one of the healthiest foods you can find, this soup will become a regular at my table, it’s a feel good soup in every way. On the menu that night after the soup was lamb with baby carrots, lovely American cheeses (my favorite is called Greensward) and Rica’s delectable chocolate soufflé.
Here is where I stop all this food recounting and pause to tell you something important about myself. I loved Twin Peaks – the TV show. I have always had this fantasy of sitting at a diner in a small town, having a cup of Joe and cherry pie. This time that fantasy almost came true, almost. Matt and Yolanda picked us up on Saturday morning and drove us to their beautiful house upstate New York. More than a house it’s actually a whole property – called WM Brown Farm. I’m pretty bad at geography, apparently it is in the Catskills – let’s just call it upstate. On the way up we stopped by a very charming farmer’s market, had a quick vegetable soup and bought provisions. Further up we passed by a food truck at the side of the road and snapped up their very last smoked chicken and spare ribs. This was just a snack, what followed, courtesy of Matt’s cooking were Martini’s, bottles of white wine called Kistler, an appetizing pizza with guanciale, grilled scallops and swordfish fresh from Montauk. Rounded off with a very delicious, very seasonal apple galette. I am sharing a couple of those recipes too.
Many good stories have great food descriptions, moments when the characters sit down, have food, think about food. In writing this little story about my American trip I seem to have gotten carried away and skipped the story. But at least I didn’t forget the food – that’s what Manger is all about.
In the last post I announced that we would be starting the cooking ateliers in March. The response has been overwhelming, so many of you have reached out, shown interest, sent me emails. Regrettably I haven’t been able to answer you, partly because some things are still undecided. But here is a promise. Next week I’ll put up a special post with all the details and dates, descriptions of the workshops and, of course, prices. From then on I’ll be taking bookings – like they say in America – I’M EXCITED !!!
Finally I’d be a very bad salesperson if I did not take this opportunity to remind you of my cookbook, A Kitchen in France (the perfect Christmas present) available for sale on Amazon – B&N – Indiebound and in bookstores….
On a related note those of you who preordered the book before it was published and stand to receive one of three complimentary prints, don’t worry if you haven’t received them. The prints didn’t turn out how they were supposed to and rather than send out something that didn’t measure up to their high standards the good people at Random House are having them reprinted and are doing everything they can do get them to you before Christmas! We are sorry for this delay, but quality comes first.
2 broccoli (stems & florets) – save a few stems for the shavings
Olive oil, to drizzle
500 ml/ 2 cups chicken stock
A few slices of country bread
Salted butter – for the bread
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the broccoli (stems & florets) in a large pot of boiling salted hot water until tender but still quite green. After draining, cool with ice water. Purée the broccoli with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Blend (with a stick blender) the broccoli with the chicken stock and heat the soup just before serving. Season with salt & pepper.
Slice the little bits off broccoli florets. Toast a few slices of bread, slather the salted butter on each slice and sprinkle the broccoli shavings on top.
Onion and Guanciale Pizza
2 large onions, sliced finely
8-10 thinly sliced guanciale
Olive oil, to drizzle
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dough
2 cups/ 240 g 00 flour
2 cups/ 240 g plain flour
1 &1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 & 1/4 cup/300 ml lukewarm water
7 g/ 1 sachet dried yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt. In another bowl, mix the water, olive oil and dried yeast. Leave to rest for 3 minutes, then pour into flour mixture. Knead for 3 minutes, and set aside for 20 minutes. Knead again and shape into a flat ball. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for at least 3 to 4 hours. Place dough on a heavily floured surface and use your hands & fingers to stretch to desired shape (I shaped rectangular for this recipe).
Slice the onions finely. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the base, then scatter the onions all over. Place the guanciale slices on top, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook in a preheated oven 200°C/400°F until the dough turn golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
For the crust
240 g/ 2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
125 g/ /1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
3 tbsp ice water
1 egg (for the eggwash)
For the filling
450 g/1 pound apples, sliced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 lemon, juice squeezed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 g/1/2 cup granulated sugar
50/ 1/4 cup muscovado sugar
Pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Continue to pulse while pouring the water gradually until the dough holds together. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Shape into a ball and wrap in cling film. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/ 375°F
Prepare the filling. In a large bowl, toss the sliced apples with lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon.
Spread the mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a 3 inch (approx) border. Fold the edges. and brush dough with egg wash. Drizzle a tablespoon of maple syrup in the center.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.