Charles de Gaulle…And Other Asparagus Matters

March 31st, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Because of his height, big nose and high forehead, Charles de Gaulle was called by the irreverent French, “La Grande Asperge” — The Great Asparagus. Well, last night HG had some truly great asparagus. Big, fat guys purchased at Whole Foods and labeled European Asparagus. BSK steamed them and served them with olive oil, a bit of melted butter, lemon juice and sea salt. Yum.

Asparagus doesn’t marry well with most wine. HG likes them with Le Ferme Julien Rose if you can find it or a crisp white or even beer. When only skinny asparagus are available HG suggests they be cut into short lengths and stir fried with a bit of garlic and ginger. Fat white asparagus are a European obsession. Veronika H., the German-born pal of HG and BSK, said all work would halt in Germany on the first day these delectables hit the market. HG and BSK first tasted these lush asparagus many decades ago in a long gone restaurant on the Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris. They were wrapped in a linen cloth to keep warm and served with great ceremony by the maĆ®tre d’ who used silver tongs. A big gravy boat of Sauce Mousseline (Hollandaise mixed with whipped cream) accompanied them. Wow! This was followed by rare spring lamb and souffle potatoes. The meal ended with the first wild strawberries of the season. Ah, springtime in Paree when we were young and the exchange rate favored the dollar!!

Babe Ruth had the last word on asparagus. Invited to a classy dinner of blue bloods, the rough diamond of the diamond, was asked by the hostess why he declined the asparagus: Said Babe: “Because they make my pee smell funny.”

More Woof Woof

March 30th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

A cautionary tale about hot dogs and Mallomars. Many years ago HG had a real estate mogul client. He was a big guy. His weight varied between 275-300 pounds. He was on a perpetual diet. Some lettuce leaves and cottage cheese for lunch. However, HG knew his guilty secret. His baronial desk had a drawer stuffed with Mallomars (an oddly regional and seasonal Nabisco confection of a cookie base, marshmallow top, all robed in sweet chocolate). Most evenings the mogul would pick HG up at his Broadway office and drop him off at his West Side (rent controlled) apartment en route to the mogul’s Westchester estate. Lounging in the leather seats of the chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, HG and the mogul would hatch various public relations ploys to further enrich the mogul and gild his image. Every night the Rolls would come to an abrupt stop at the Gray’s Papaya at Broadway and 72nd. The chauffeur would leap out and bring back six hot dogs and two pina coladas (the relationship between “healthy” papaya drinks and Hot Dogs that exists only in New York is a story for another day). The mogul would wolf them down while continuing his business conversation. “I can’t resist hot dogs,” he explained. HG is sure he had some more lettuce leaves and a piece of grilled (skinless) chicken breast for dinner in Westchester. He was a sweet guy. He died young. There is a park in Queens named after him. But, no memorial plaque at the Gray’s Papaya.

Barking Omission

March 29th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Forgetfulness is a curse (one of many) of advancing years. HG apologizes to the upstate New York city of Rochester for not including it in his recent posting of regional hot dog favorites. Rochester, you see, is the home of “White Hots” — a bow wow that is white and not the familiar reddish hue. Absence of food coloring? Inclusion of veal? HG doesn’t know (but this great regional hot dog blog does!). HG was introduced to these strange (but very tasty) tube steaks by Donald K., Rochester native, public relations mogul, round the world sailor. The Rochester dogs, in HG’s opinion, don’t take kindly to sauerkraut. Try them (if you can find them) with a bit of mustard and relish.

Bow Wow

March 27th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

HG hasn’t had a hot dog in years.

In the past, HG loved these regional hot dog champions: The hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut at Nathan’s Famous in New York’s Coney Island with ocean breezes and the noise of the roller coaster in the background; Chicago’s Vienna Beef dog with all the fixings…tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, pickles, mustard, celery salt on top of a snappy all-beef wiener; the stupendous hot dog served at a shack in Cliffside Park, N.J. (so good that owners opened a big, formal hot dog restaurant which, of course, failed…you can’t formalize a lowly dog); the excellent, dirty water hot dog served at the fast food counter in New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue.

The true appetite quenching dog was known as “The Special” and was served for many years in New York delicatessens. It was BIG, fat and juicy. More a knockwurst than a frankfurter. As reported in a post some months ago, HG was very fond, in the early days of their marriage, of BSK’s grilled hot dogs served with baked beans mixed with sauteed onions and Heinz chili sauce. Love might have had something to do with it.

Hot Dogs. Fit For Royalty….And HG.

March 27th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG watched (with pleasure), “The King’s Speech”, and his thoughts, inevitably, turned to hot dogs. In one of the great public relations ploys, President Roosevelt invited the royal couple—King George VI and Elizabeth II— to the United States in 1939 for a 5 day visit. FDR, knowing that war was imminent, wanted closer ties with Greaat Britain. The visit (first to the USA for a Royal Couple since the American Revolution) was a huge success. The highlight was a picnic on the lawn of Top Cottage, FDR’s property on the Hyde Park estate. The King and Queen were served hot dogs and expressed their pleasure with this All American fare. Yes, there was also some excellent ham, smoked turkey, strawberry shortcake and other goodies. But, the hot dogs were in the spotlight. Those tube steaks played a big role in history.

Spanish Canned Tuna. Ole!

March 26th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s worth it. HG is referring to Spanish canned tuna. Infinitely better than American. Even better than Italian. HG likes to eat it in three different dishes:

Number one: Mix it with thinly sliced red onions, Goya canned white beans and capers. Make a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Number two: Empty the tuna fish can on a platter. Surround it with scallions, carrot shavings plus parboiled and cooled haricots vert, cauliflower, broccoli (or any combination of raw and cooked vegetables). Make a goodly quantity of aioli (garlic infused mayonnaise with a touch of cayenne), Accompany it all with a baguette and a bottle of very cold Spanish rose.

Number three: Saute a robust quantity of finely chopped garlic, parsley and sweet onion in olive oil. Toss some linguini fini in salted boiling water. When done, drain and add to frying pan with the done-to-pale-gold onions and garlic. Top with a can of tuna. Add some tablespoons of capers (and some slices of kalamata olives, if you like). Some Italian hot pepper flakes are a good idea. Just warm the tuna a bit in the pasta mixture (you are not cooking it). Top with a bit of chopped parsley before serving. This is true Mediterranean comfort food. And, Doc, no cholesterol.

They Know A Gent When They See One.

March 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Why is HG a Brit-loving Anglophile? HG recently studied his discharge summary from University College London Hospitals. The summary starts: “This nice gentleman is in London on holiday, etc.,etc.” HG has been called many things in his time but “nice gentleman” has not been among them. HG welcomes the recognition of his better qualities.

More Fast Fish

March 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Fresh Sole is usually available at your local fish monger or supermarket. These are very thin fillets and can easily fall apart in the cooking. Here’s what HG does with this very fragile fish: Start by asking your fish purveyor to give you the fattest fillets. Like his mother, HG is demanding when purchasing food. HG rejects the skinnies. Once you have the pudgiest Sole in your hands, dust the fish with some flour (or my favorite Zattarain’s Fish Fry). Heat safflower oil or grapeseed oil until quite hot. Put a serving platter to warm in the oven. Saute the fish very quickly. Maybe 40 seconds per side. Don’t worry about them being under-done. You’ll pop the fillets into the serving platter and they’ll finish cooking in the slightly warm oven. You might want to put some paper towel on the platter to drain any excess oil.

HG likes to serve this Sole with Japanese Soba (buckwheat) noodles. The noodles cook rapidly, typically in five or six minutes. When done, put them in a colander and give them a rinse in cold water. These noodles are best at room temperature or cold. Put them in a bowl. Add sesame oil and a squirt of sriracha. Serve alongside your Sole with a mache salad and you’ve got yourself a nutritious, low calorie meal.

Like his mother, HG worries about your health.

Fast Sea Treats

March 25th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

First, pour a glass of icy white wine. Sip. Finely chop some garlic and parsley. Heat your pan to high. Give it a glug of olive oil. Toss in the garlic, parsley and a bunch of shell- on shrimp. Dust liberally with piquant Spanish paprika. Saute quickly at a high temperature. You’ve got a spicy dish prepared in minutes. Another HG seafood trick that he picked up in Rhode Island. Cut up calamari into rings and tentacles. Dust lightly with Zatarain’s Fish Fry. Saute in some olive oil. Give it a hit of red pepper flakes. At last moment add some Mazzetta Mini Hot Pepper Rings (or any other vinegary peppers you like). Do not overcook — Bad for squid! Keep it on heat until peppers are slightly warmed. Sip some more icy wine. Be happy.

Almondina. Exemplary Cookie.

March 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

HG just discovered Almondina, This is a crisp, not sweet cookie filled with almond slices and dried fruit. Perfect with red wine or port. HG prefers it (Sorry, Italian pals) to biscotti. HG buys Almondina at Trader Joe’s but is sure it is available at many other grocers. As Don Corrado in “Prizzi’s Honor” (the John Huston classic) said to Angelica Huston: “Have a cookie, my dear.”