There are two rules that seem to be constant in my life.
One is that I, like most bakers, crave anything with salt and vinegar. I’m sure it’s working around sugar and chocolate all the time that does it to me, but nine times out of ten, if it’s salty and if it’s sour, I want it.
The second constant of my life in Paris, is that whatever I’m looking for, they’re sure to have everything around what I’m looking for. And I mean, absolutely everything—but the one and only thing that I’m specifically in dire need of.
At the end of last week’s Paris chocolate tour, I was craving pickles. Specifically the half-sour spears offered in New York delis. You know, the kind that aren’t the least bit soggy, and have that salty, sprightly refreshing crispness. So I turned to Arthur Schwartz, who’s pretty much the guy that everyone turns to nowadays for all-things Jewish. And New York-ish.
His newest book, Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking, has a recipe for “Kosher” Dill Pickles accompanied by a stunning photo of the homemade wedges themselves, generously packed into a dish with other marinated goodies, although I never managed to find the appeal of those pickled green tomatoes which only old Jewish men seems to enjoy. (Maybe in a few years I’ll “get it.” But for now, I’m sticking with regular spears.)
Since it was Sunday, I sleuthed a basket of small Kirby-ish cucumbers at my market and a big bunch of fresh dill. But since it’s best to use white salt for pickles—grey will make them cloudy; I stopped in my local supermarket, which I knew had just started opening on Sunday. But only in the morning, though.
Off course they had all kinds of salt on the shelves; fine salt, sea salt, flavored salt, fleur de sel, and three kinds of grey salt…except there was a barren spot on the shelf, underneath which read: “Gros sel”, large white crystals of salt. When I asked where it was, and if they had any more in the back, the clerk frowned and shrugged, “It’s Sunday…what do you expect?”
I guess the moral of the story is not to plan on pickling anything on Sunday in Paris. Dejected, I lugged my shopping basket home, loaded down with cucumbers and dill, and resigned myself to being stranded until later in the week.
Once I find a box, I’ll began. So like me, you’ll have to wait until they get around to re-stocking the coarse salt before I share the recipe and the results.