Marion Cunningham

I was an incredibly fortunate young man when I was starting our as a cook way back in the early 80’s. At that time, there were few celebrity chefs, there were no television networks entirely devoted to cooking. And the glossy food magazines had articles by people like Richard Olney and Paula Wolfert, instead of following Bobby Flay around Manhattan looking for babes and BBQ.

Our culinary heroes back them were people who actually wrote their own books and cooked because it was their passion. Working at Chez Panisse, I was extremely fortunate to meet a lot of those people in person, including Jane Grigson, MFK Fisher, Maida Heatter, Julie Child, James Beard, and the aforementioned Richard Olney. Most of them are now gone, but there’s one person who is the last of the great, classic American cooks around: Marion Cunningham.

Our first interaction was when she came barreling in from the dining room, racing through the kitchen of Chez Panisse with her grey ponytail bobbing behind her, looking for the person who’d make …”that divine Butterscotch Ice Cream.” Fortunately that person was me, and for the next 15 years or so, I could reasonably be accused of bribing Marion whenever she came in with anything involving caramelized sugar; from salty Caramel Ice Cream (we both like it far before it was fashionable), to classic American Lemon Meringue Pie with an extra-deeply broiled topping I’d make just for her.

She loved them all.

But Marion was not a sugary-sweet person, in spite of her deep love for the stuff.

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What Do You Do With A Drunken (French) Sailor?

There’s a style of writing, called “The Confessional”, where the writer talks about their personal life, often in great detail. Sometimes the stories may include spouses or partners. Other times, there might be scenes of intimate family gatherings. Or in extreme instances, they could involve, say, drunken French sailors. And on a less-titillating note, cats for some reason frequently show up as well.

I don’t write like that for several reasons: a) Because I don’t have a cat, b) Because my apartment is too small for anything very exciting to happen, and c) I’m a good boy.

(That is, unless you count that weekend when I first moved here and a friend shared the secret for having beaucoup de relations internationaux.)

Oh-la-la! C’est magnifiq…

Oops. Sorry. I digress…

So I’m ready to admit who I’m sharing my apartment with right now. I thought the time was right to let you all in on it, since it’s gotten to the point where I can no longer contain myself.

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I’ve had this big, hairy hunk lying around my apartment for the past few weeks, and let me tell you, this is the best piece of meat I’ve ever had around here.

Jamón Ibérico is the most delicious ham in the world, cured from black-footed pigs which forage around the forests in Spain, snorting up wild acorns, which gives the meat has a distinctly nutty, earthy, yet robust flavor. The ham needs to be hand sliced, and ultra-thin, s’il vous plait, which is rather difficult since the meat is moist and for some reason (which I don’t remember from high-school biology) the pig leg has a bunch of wavy bones and joints that curve in more directions than a French driver does navigating around the Arc de Triomphe.

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Gale Gand’s White Chocolate Sorbet Recipe

Gale Gand is a terrific baker and her latest book, Chocolate & Vanilla, is a double-sided treat of a cookbook that’ll have you flipping the book over-and-over almost as much as you’ll flip over the chocolate and vanilla desserts inside!

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Last weekend I was invited to a birthday party, and as I flipped through the pages of her book, I was intrigued by the delicious-looking recipe for White Chocolate Sorbet, which seemed a snap to make (which held a certain attraction too, I’ll admit, during this busy holiday season.)

I had a hunch this would go perfectly well with my Buckwheat Cake, which has the earthy taste of blé noir, but with a surprisingly light, delicate crumb.

Continue Reading Gale Gand’s White Chocolate Sorbet Recipe…

Mo’ Men-Ho 3

Last time I checked, we were so close to the $30,000 mark, I couldn’t stand it anymore, here at Menu For Hope III European-central. Frankly, the thought that there are some of you out there that haven’t bid on anything was driving me nuts. So what are you waiting for? But even if you have already bid on something, let’s double the amount we made last year, shall we?

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Bid Here!

Here’s some of the European prizes, with some new additions…

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Choice of Italian Artigianale Products or Italian Cookbooks from Ms. Adventures in Italy

The basket is full of products you can’t get outside of Italy, and when Sara at Ms. Adventures in Italy added 2 more jars to the package, I just had to tell you about them! One is Salsa Tartufata Estiva, Summer Truffle Sauce from Campania, and Condimento Cime di Rapa a traditional Pugliese pasta sauce be served with orecchiette, made from turnip greens. Included is also a jar of the world-famous Bronte Pistachio Paste, which I could spoon right from the jar into my mug.
If you miss out on this one, you’re a knucklehead. (Prize EU15)

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Professional Logo or Header Design & Complete Blog Makeover from Lobstersquad and Bluebird Blogs

Does your blog look like crap?
Well, does it? If so, this prize is for you.

Continue Reading Mo’ Men-Ho 3…

Patrick Roger Chocolate: All I Want For Christmas

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That’s the new one meter box of chocolates from Patrick Roger, over three feet of pralines, caramels, nougats, and creamy-smooth ganache-filled bonbons, all enrobed in ultra-dark bittersweet chocolate.

I don’t know how someone would brave getting one of those home on the métro, but I’d surely appreciate their efforts if I found one under my tree!

Patrick Roger
108, Boulevard St. Germain (6th)
Tel: 01 43 29 38 42

Pretzel & Nut Mix: The Best Holiday Snack Ever

This is one of my ‘Greatest-Hits’ recipes, and in the spirit of holiday sharing, I thought it was time to share it with everyone.

I made it for a cocktail get-together the other night and my guests dove in so fast that I had to pull the bowl away just to get some for myself!

Although I confess, I ate my fair share before my guests arrived…but what’s a holiday party without at least one of your guests feeling guilty about doing something they might later regret?

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This is is a real “keeper”—not just because it tastes so good, but also because it’s quickly made from ingredients that most of us have on hand. So it can be made at the last-minute while you race around showering, shaving, and freshening-up anything around the house that needs freshening-up for your arriving guests.

When I moved to France, I had a bit of a time finding the small twisted pretzels that I prefer in this mix, so I’ve made it with pretzels sticks too, which are called ‘sticks d’Alsace’. But use any mix of nuts you want. Pecan halves are particularly appealing…at least to me, since those are the nuts I catch myself mostly plucking out before my guests arrive.

But whole almonds, cashews, peanuts, and hazelnuts are all very good as well in the mix.

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Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading

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Several of you had asked about how to avoid cookies from spreading out during baking, which can be rather vexing…especially when you’ve gone through all that trouble of getting the counter all covered with flour, then rolling ‘em out, and cutting them into all those nifty shapes.

So here are some tips…

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Menu For Hope III Update: More Celebrity Chef Prizes!

Did you see?

Today, we’ve reached the $15,000 mark and the auction’s just begun! To sweeten the pot, there may be a special surprise from me I’ll be adding in the future, so keep an eye on things around here…

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In case you missed them, a few brand-new prizes were added to the European prize list:

One is a Country Lunch at the home of cookbook author Susan Loomis, at her home On Rue Tatin. The other is a special gift from pal Gale Gand, host of Sweet Dreams on the Food Network.

But wait, there’s more!…How about a full-day gastronomic tour of Barcelona, one of the hottest culinary destinations in the world?

You can find more information just after the jump. Be sure to check some other new prizes that’ve been added at other auction hosts as well.

Big thanks for all of you who’ve donated and participated in this important auction. It’s very gratifying to see such an outpouring of support for all our hard work. And speaking of hard work, I’ll shortly be writing up a report here about my No-Knead mis-adventures, for those of you following my flour-driven drama.

Continue Reading Menu For Hope III Update: More Celebrity Chef Prizes!…