26 March 2007

That Fruit Salad with Custard

OK, I have to write another quick post about that fruit salad. We stopped by the fruit cart on 57th and 1st on our way back from a walk. I had seen some cheap asparagus and dead cheap ugli fruit on our way out, and wanted to stop back in. The asparagus was cheap and rightly so. It was just on the verge, and the stalks were very thin. Still, they taste like asparagus, so that's why you use them for soup. I bought six ugli fruit for $4, but they turned out to be a little bitter and not very sweet. Still, maybe I can resurrect them with a bath in some honey. I think M might be permanently put off.

It was then that we decided that fruit salad would make a nice dessert. We got a red papaya and a couple of melons and some huge black grapes. One of the uglis made it into the bowl, but mostly this was about melon, papaya, and grapes. They were all incredibly good. This guy has a good eye for fruit. They were also relatively cheap, and not supporting the highway robbery of D'agostino's is an added benefit.

I pulled a recipe for creme anglaise out of my Cooking A to Z (still lamentably out of print). I had already beaten a couple of whole eggs, so I couldn't follow the recipe as it was written, but it worked out anyway.

Creme Anglaise

2 cups half-n-half
1 vanilla bean, preferably Bourbon vanilla, split
2 eggs, plus two egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar

Put the vanilla bean in the half-n-half and put it over low heat. Don't worry about a skin forming, as you'll be straining this anyway, but make sure it doesn't burn. Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil, and get out two metal bowls, one big, one small.

Put some ice, coarse salt, and water in the large bowl. In the small bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until they're lemon-yellow. Take the split vanilla bean out of the heated half-n-half and scrape out the black paste of tiny seeds inside, returning the paste to the pot and throwing away the husk. Put the small bowl with eggs over the boiling water, and pour in the heated cream. Whisk briskly until thickened (enough to coat the back of a dessert spoon you dip into it.

makes 3 cups

I absolutely adore fruit and custard. I grew up on Birds Custard and canned peaches. This is fancier, but still the same concept. Cream and vanilla make chopped fruit special. Thank you also, to Chocolate & Vanilla for turning me on to Vanille de Mayotte. Good vanilla is as important as good chocolate. (Good vanilla is often in good chocolate, too.)

I gotta start taking pictures of this stuff!

23 March 2007

Bronze Age Pasta

I cooked bucatini all'amatriciana: cured pig cheek (guanciale), onion, tomato sauce, Aleppo chilli and grated pecorino romano. I got special pasta at this place, Buonitalia, in Chelsea Market. It's made in the "traditional" way, though it's weird that there's such a thing as a traditional way of producing an industrial product, which pastasciutta is. This involves extrusion through traditional bronze dies. Modern dies are Teflon-coated, which makes the pasta easier to produce, but makes its surface very smooth. Because of that, sauce doesn't adhere to it as well. Running your thumbnail down the length of these noodles, they have a roughness that's appealing. The surface of the shorter pasta looks whitish, rather than the light yellow of normal pasta. You can literally see the nooks and crannies that the sauce is going to seep into. I wonder if it makes better pasta water as well. One would assume that some of those microscopic peaks dissolve out into the cooking water, moreso than with a smooth surface.

I don't know if I can tell the difference, but I'm going over to buy another type of pasta to try again tomorrow night. Maybe organetti.

18 March 2007

Back from Denver

I've just returned from a week of relaxing and skiing with family and fiancee in sunny Colorado. It was gorgeous. Of course, there was a real culinary aspect to it... though calling it culinary is giving it maybe a bit too much. The priorities were:

First, My Brother's Bar (the oldest bar in Denver, and not actually my brother's) for good conversation with friends and a damn good burger and onion rings, served in greasy wax paper. When M heard the bar's pedigree (oldest in town, best burgers many years in a row), she despaired of having a good night, but this place is never a bad choice. Tin ceilings, old wood, no pretention, no television, only classical music. Just awesome.

Second, though it never materialized was Jack 'n' Grill to introduce M to real green chile. We didn't end up getting there, as it's a bit out of the way, but my mom made up some posole and chicken soup with green chile out of a can. It was very satisfying, and now I realize that when you're within 8 hours drive of Hatch, New Mexico, you can be picky about your green. Living in New York, I just need to make sure I have the stuff on hand. In previous years, I've ordered 10 pounds of frozen whole fire-roasted chiles straight from New Mexico, but it just never worked. I could never make a good chile out of it. This time, I brought back a big-ass 27-ounce can of Hatch chile and I'll at least have decent green chile a few times a year. Green chile stirs up strong feelings like macaroni & cheese, so if I have to take it on the chin from the purists again, so be it. I'll just be over here enjoying my food.

The other two highlights were dinner at Domo, the awesome Japanese restaurant in Denver, and dinner at the top of a mountain at the Alpenglow Stube. More tomorrow.

06 March 2007


Got caught by a wicked stomach virus early yesterday morning. It has allowed me to renew my culinary interest in bananas and unseasoned white rice.