More Innards: Sweetbreads

April 30th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Sweetbreads are the thymus gland of a cow. When cooked properly, they are one of the truly sublime delicacies. They have always been a staple on the menus of fashionable restaurants in New York. Veal sweetbreads are the best. In Paris, sweetbreads (ris de veau) are served in scores of eating places catering to budgets big and small. They are usually sautéed and served with a variety of sauces. The trick is in making the exterior crispy while keeping the interior meltingly soft. HG’s favorite sweetbreads dish was served at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. The sweetbreads were presented on a slice of lightly fried Virginia ham and topped with a generous amount of Béarnaise sauce. Very good sweetbreads were obligatory as part of the vast appetizer presentation at Jewish weddings, Bar and Bas Mitzvahs. BSK got a surprising (and shocking) revelation about culinary overabundance at the first New York Bar Mitzvah feast BSK attended with HG after their marriage. The event was at a fancy Queens catering hall. There were two appetizer tables–cold and hot. Cold featured chopped liver, smoked salmon, sable, whitefish, kippered salmon, red salmon caviar, egg salad, herring salad, potato salad, whitefish salad, olives, pickles, sliced onions, scallions, celery, Greek salad, green salad plus cheeses, bread and rolls. The hot table held sweetbreads, sliced tenderloin steak, baby lamb chops, pigs in a blanket, Greek spinach pastry plus bowls of a mushroom, wine and onion sauce. Glass of white wine in hand (later replaced by red), BSK took modest helpings of all the good things, cold and hot. HG, with a frequently refilled glass of vodka, attacked everything with gusto. After more than an hour of eating and drinking, BSK said: “Wow!! What great food. I overdid. I ate too much.” Then a voice sounded over the loudspeaker system. “Ladies and Gentlemen: Dinner is served. Please take your seats in the dining room.” Astonished BSK said: “They’re kidding. This is a joke.” “Nope,” replied HG.

More Innards: Tongue

April 29th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK doesn’t like tongue. Her reason: Cow’s tongue looks like a very large human tongue. This resemblance has never bothered HG. Instead of corned beef or pastrami, HG often ordered a tongue sandwich on rye (slathered with mustard) at traditional New York Jewish delis (alas, now dwindling down to a precious few). Unlike many innards, tongue has a firm, juicy texture. It is delicious. Tongue (you’ve got to special order from your butcher) cooks easily in a crock pot or Instant Cooker. When done, remove the outer membrane and heat in the sauce and juices that are in the pot. Best tongue dish ever was served at Al Cooper’s (long closed), a favorite eatery of New York’s upper crust garmentos. The thick slice of juicy tongue was served with perfect creamed spinach and a crock of hot English mustard. Tongue often appears on Paris bistro menus with a variety of sauces: Horseradish/mustard; mushrooms and onions; capers and shallots, etc. In Santa Fe, HG gets his tongue fix at Adelita’s Taqueria on Cerrillos Road where lengua (tongue) and tripe tacos are on the menu.

More Innards: Liver (Calf and Chicken)

April 28th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

During HG’s youth (many decades ago), liver and onions were served at all working class diners (“greasy spoons”) in New York. The liver was a thin slice with a grey interior. Young HG would give the unappetizing slice a big hit of mustard and gobble it up. Unlike the health police of today, HG’s late Mom insisted “Liver is good for you” and served HG many overcooked portions. Mom redeemed herself with chopped calf’s liver. Her version contained chopped onions (sometimes a bit of hardboiled egg) and an abundance of chicken fat. Some kosher salt, ground pepper, Stuhmer’s pumpernickel bread, cold beer—and Mom’s chopped liver. Eastern European heaven. HG never realized how delicious calf’s liver could be until he had a broiled slice at a modest Paris bistro. A thick slice with a juicy, pink interior. The liver had been marinated in Xeres (sherry) vinegar and served with a splash of melted butter. Accompanied by potato puree. Simple French cooking at its best. Chicken livers are one of HG’s favorite bits of offal. Greek owned New York and New Jersey diners used to serve them over rice pilaf. The liver were dusted in flour and fried to a brown exterior and pink interior. Good eating. Surprisingly, the New York chain of Schrafft’s restaurants (long closed) served a hearty dish of scrambled eggs with chicken livers. In France, chicken livers are often served as a topping for green salad. Sautéed chicken livers are the foundation of Spaghetti a la Caruso, a favorite pasta dish of the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso. Try this lusty pasta variation and you might warble some arias.

Innards: Tete De Veau

April 27th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

That’s right. HG refers to cow’s (or calf’s) head. The interior (brains, tongue, cheeks) are wrapped in the calf-skin — a treat. Guidebooks warn Americans to avoid this dish (served at almost every modest bistro in Paris). Adventurous HG has never heeded this counsel. HG finds the dish lush. Don’t try to make it at home. The cooking and dismembering of the head is very complicated and is best left to a French-trained butcher. (HG doubts that many of HG’s followers are going to rush to their butchers for the heads of cows). HG has had splendid tete de veau in Paris at Le Stella brasserie. It’s good at Le Vaudeville near the Bourse. Enjoyed it at a (name forgotten) little workers bistro near the Bastille. The dish is unthinkable without a substantial amount of Sauce Gribiche. This is a sauce composed of mayonnaise, mustard, chopped parboiled eggs, capers, chopped herbs (and, sometimes, cold little boiled potatoes). HG makes this sauce at HG/BSK’s oceanfront summer home on Prince Edward Island. It is sublime topping fried hake, haddock or sole. Adds zest to poached cod or left over chicken breasts. HG gives the sauce added zing by adding a modest amount of cayenne. Food critics who like old fashioned, hearty French dishes, tout the tete de veau at a rough and ready wine bar on the right bank, Le Rubis. The Sauce Gribiche is served in gargantuan portions. Ah, yes. Next time in Paris.

More Innards: Kidneys

April 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Prepared properly, kidneys are delectable. However, they have to be properly cleansed before cooking in order to get rid of any urinary undertones (Do some Google research to find cleansing techniques). On the other hand, Leopold Bloom (fictional hero of James Joyce’s Ulysses) famously stated that he liked kidneys for the faint trace of urine they left upon his palate. Kidneys (rognons) are on almost every French bistro menu. Prepared in a variety of ways. Mustard sauce. Wine and garlic. Tarragon and butter. HG had lamb kidneys seared on the exterior and pink inside at a pleasant bistro near the Eiffel Tower, Au Bon Accueil. The kidneys were served with ample, buttery potato puree. Mario Batalli, the colorful Italian chef, has a good recipe for fiery Kidneys a la Diabolo. Sardi’s, the New York theater district landmark, had tasty lamb chops accompanied by grilled kidneys (Caution: This was 50 years ago). Steak and kidney pie is an English standby, of course, and HG had a lush version at London’s Connaught Hotel. When Greenwich village residents, HG/BSK often picked up a container of kidneys in mustard sauce from the prepared foods section of Balducci’s, the wonderful Sixth Avenue grocer. Most Americans are suspicious of kidneys. They are missing a treat.

Do I Miss New York?

April 25th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

That’s the title of Dave Frishberg’s nostalgic tune (Frishberg is also the author of the ultimate baseball song, “Van Lingle Mungo.”) So, does HG miss New York? No and yes. HG spent the first 56 years of HG’s life in New York and its environs and the next 32 out west in Colorado and now in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The New York HG misses no longer exists. It has been taken over by the rich, the semi-rich and the wannabe rich. While some quirky little shops and restaurants remain, much has been crushed by the Real Estate Monster (It’s a sign of the times that a Real Estate Monster is POTUS). What HG misses most are HG’s youth and young manhood. Non-recoverable. However, there’s a bright side. BSK is the best wife, companion, lover, intellectual and political comrade that any lucky man could have. HG hit the marital jackpot. Will celebrate 55th anniversary in July. HG remains in love and eagerly awaits BSK’s next culinary and artistic creations. Santa Fe has wonderful climate, distinctive architecture, nearby natural wonders. Progressive, super-liberal politics. More artists and art per square foot than anywhere else in the USA. Unique culture: Anglo, Hispanic and Native American. Tasty, inexpensive Mexican-New Mexican-Tex/Mex eating places. Also, very good Japanese and Indian food. A movie town de luxe with big screens cinematheques and repertory. Museums, galleries, live theater and music of all kinds. Plus lectures on all aspects of politics, government and the environment. However. No city, region or person is perfect (except BSK, of course). Santa Fe does not have a good Chinese restaurant. HG has always thought that an abundance of Jews spawned Chinese restaurants. Well, Santa Fe has Jews (two synagogues), but inferior Chinese food. Go figure.


April 22nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

No, HG is not referring to the intellect or anatomy. Rather, HG is referring to a favorite Paris bistro dish: Cervelles au Beurre Noir (sautéed calf brains with black butter sauce). This is usually served with boiled potatoes dusted with chopped parsley. When HG was in the midst of HG’s Madison Avenue public relations executive career, HG ate them at twice a week luncheons at the venerable Le Veau d’Or. The lush, buttery dish was preceded by mussels in mustard sauce (a freebie), warm sausage in a crust with hot mustard and cornichons. Creme caramel for dessert. Drank hearty Cahors. Afternoon work was impaired by drowsiness. Lots of traditional Jewish restaurants like Moskowitz and Lupowitz served garlic strewn cold brains as appetizers and the small theater district French bistros featured them. Brains are not a health food (high cholesterol) and so have disappeared from New York’s health conscious menus along with the restaurants that featured the delectable dish. Had excellent flour dusted fried brains in Rome with lots of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Also enjoyed fried brains tacos at a nondescript Mexican eatery in Denver. This was also a good place for tongue (lengua) tacos and menudo (tripe stew). Innards heaven.

Garlic And Chicken Fat

April 19th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s two favorite writers on food and restaurants are Calvin Trillin and SJ (No nepotism. SJ’s blog,, is both appetizing and brilliantly perceptive about many aspects of Japanese culture). HG shares with both writers a love for garlic and chicken fat, staples of HG’s late Mom’s Eastern European kitchen. Sammy’s Rumanian, the raucous, venerable restaurant in Manhattan’s lower east side features HG’s “Holy Trinity”: Garlic, Chicken Fat and Vodka. Here’s what Trillin has to say about Sammy’s: “Following the Rumanian tradition, garlic is used in excess to keep the vampires away. Following the Jewish tradition, a dispenser of schmaltz (liquid chicken fat) is kept on the table to give the vampires heartburn if they get through the garlic defense.”). Happy HG is looking forward to a dinner of chicken sautéed in olive oil with thirty gloves of garlic (plus lots of herbs from BSK’s garden). There will be a loaf of fresh ciabatta to soak up the juices and to spread with savory soft garlic. Count Dracula, beware!!!

BSK: Improv Two

April 17th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s another comfort food improvisation from BSK that made HG purr with delight on a chilly night. From the pantry: dried shiitake mushrooms, polenta, shallots, garlic From the fridge: cremini and shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms were cooked in olive oil, boullion, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper and a dash of white wine and vinegar. When the dried mushrooms had softened, they were added to the mix along with the water in which they had soaked. Meanwhile, HG gently stirred the polenta in a pot of boiling water. With a cocktail of bourbon, blood orange bitters, Campari in an ice filled glass held in HG’s left hand, HG’s right hand did the stirring with a long wooden spoon. A happy task followed by happy eating.

BSK: Improv One

April 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK has always excelled in improvisation. As a theater student at Ohio State University many decades ago, young BSK was a hit at campus coffee shops with a ventriloquist’s dummy, “Thelonious Monkey.” BSK did many “improvs” during New York acting classes with Lloyd Richards, Lee Strasberg and Michael Gazzo. But, BSK’s kitchen “improvs” are those that delight HG. Last night, BSK plucked a package of recently bought Trader Joe’s baby zucchini from the fridge. Found a package of Sardinian Fregola Sarda in the pantry. (Fregola Sarda is composed of toasted tiny balls of semolina flour. They taste like a cross between kasha and Israelia couscous. But, better). BSK cooked the Fregola in chicken stock, garlic, tomato paste, shallots, tarragon and parsley. Gave it all a hit of Aleppo pepper. When done, BSK topped the Fregola with zucchini and cherry tomatoes sizzled quickly in olive oil. Showered with grated parmigiano, this was comfort food at its best.

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