The Ultimate Comfort Food

April 30th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, it’s macaroni and cheese. Frowned upon by the health police as a bombshell of carbohydrates, fats and calories. But, when done properly, it is lush, rich and super savory. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, it is impossible to find superior mac and cheese in a restaurant. It’s either too starchy, sticky or downright insipid. Best mac and cheese was found at New York’s long closed Automat chain. Young HG would pop nickels into the wall of treats and out would come a small ceramic bowl of mac and cheese lightly browned on top. Heavenly dish. Also very good were the Automat’s baked bean casseroles and beef pot pie. Yes, a handful of nickels could purchase great food. When HG/BSK lived in Colorado, a close friend and sturdy ally in political and environmental battles was the late Betty Miller. Betty was a progressive Democrat and an elected and appointed government official. Very able in all of her posts. At lunch one day, HG mentioned how much HG missed great mac and cheese. Betty replied: “I was born and reared in North Carolina. I know how to do it. Come to dinner Saturday night.” HG/BSK arrived to dine with Betty and daughter, Beth. On the table was a pot of mac and cheese and a platter of southern stuffed peppers. Plus a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon whiskey. Oh my!! one of the very great dinners of HG’s lifetime. Memorable.

Georgia On My Mind

April 30th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK will be in Atlanta in June for what promises to be a festive wedding and family gathering. Gourmand HG is sad that the visit will be brief. Atlanta has become a great cosmopolitan restaurant town with cuisines ranging from Japanese to inventive French and down-home southern. HG made his first visit to Atlanta some 74 years ago. Far left young HG (political thinking hasn’t changed over the years) found the “White” and “Colored” segregation signs shocking. Even more disturbing was HG’s sight of a chain gang in striped uniforms laboring under the hot sun. HG was in the then provincial city visiting HG’s brother, Bernard, and wife, Shirley (both deceased). HG would assist Bernard in his optometry practice (arranging frames, etc.). At lunch, HG developed a fondness for native Georgia cuisine prepared by African-American cooks. A favorite was Brunswick Stew. The stew was tomato based and contained pork, corn, okra, butter beans, other vegetables and a melange of spices. Served with cornbread and doused with hot sauce. Icy lemonade was the drink. Sublime. Sadly, Brunswick Stew has never traveled north, not even on Harlem menus (possibly, this has changed during this new Harlem rebirth). HG also liked the Atlanta cafeterias that offered “meat and three sides.” Old time southerners believed Brunswick Stew wasn’t authentic unless it contained “something that run by.” Namely, squirrel, rabbit or possum. James Beard has a recipe for Squirrel Brunswick Stew in one of his cookbooks. HG will pass.

Massimo and Broccoli Pasta

April 25th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

BSK cooks splendid penne with broccoli sauce. Healthy, delicious eating and a perfect companion for red wine. BSK does a sauce of pureed, blanched broccoli florets and stems. The florets and stems are carefully poached until tender (but not mushy). The water is drained and BSK purees them with an immersion blender. In a saucepan, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes and herbs are sauteed. Cooked penne is added to this sauce along with some starchy pasta water. Gives the pan vigorous stirs. Florets and stems go on top. Another stir. Finally, the dish is topped with slices of mozzarella and chopped tomatoes. HG likes to splash extra virgin olive oil on HG’s portion. BSK opts for grated parmesan. This delightful taste of Italy made HG think about a New York dinner at Delsomma Restaurant (long closed) some 36 years ago. This was HG/BSK’s introduction to the love of daughter Lesley’s life, Massimo R. (They wed two years later and are the parents of two brilliant and beautiful women, Arianna and Sofia R. The marriage has flourished). When HG looked at Massimo, HG saw a tall, athletic, ruggedly handsome man. (HG/BSK agreed that he looked like an Italian movie star.) Massimo’s initial nervousness wore off and he proved to be sensitive, erudite, politically progressive, a star tennis player and on his way to a distinguished academic career. And, he loved food and wine. The perfect son-in-law. The meal started with penne in broccoli sauce (That’s what provoked this remembrance). The meal progressed to lightly battered shrimp in a lemon/butter sauce. Don’t remember what else was eaten but am sure it was splendid. Indeed, Massimo has gone on to academic luster. Tenured Professor at Brown University and former head of the Italian studies department. Director of Brown’s foreign studies program at the University of Bologna. Author of a number of books and many scholarly papers. He has embraced modern technology and his pioneering work has made much of Italian culture available on the internet. His extraordinary visual exhibit on Garibaldi received acclaim. His achievements have been honored by the Italian government. The Italian film festival he organizes at Brown is a highlight of the academic year. He has lectured throughout the world. (Most recently in Tokyo where he and Lesley visited with Lesley’s brother, SJ, and his family). Massimo is an ardent feminist and has been supportive of Lesley’s excellent career as journalist, editor and communications director. No slouch at domestic responsibilities, he is the undisputed world champion of dishwasher stacking and a maestro at the ironing board. No, Massimo (familiarly known as “Max”) is not perfect. He likes his pasta super al dente and has passed this dubious taste to Lesley and (sadly) to BSK. HG does not approve but has been tactful (relatively).

Booze Bruises

April 23rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

As noted (repeatedly) on Hungry Gerald, HG is fond (much too fond, according to BSK) of alcohol. HG’s pre-dinner cocktail is self-invented “Jacona”, a tribute to the scenic neighborhood of Santa Fe County where HG/BSK reside. The drink is composed of tequila (100% agave), Noilly Prat dry vermouth and a splash of Campari. Big squeeze of lime juice. A sneakily potent beverage. Last night, HG had two Jaconas rather than HG’s usual single. Possibly added a bit more tequila to the mix. Drank two big glasses of a robust Pinot Noir with dinner. Watched the movie “Doctor Zhivago” on the big screen TV. Long, long movie. HG usually sips one snifter of bourbon while watching after dinner TV entertainment. Because last night’s film was lengthy, HG drained three snifters. Movie ended. HG walked (unsteadily) to HG’s office. Crash!! Inebriated (HG does not use the “D” word), HG fell upon the office coffee table. Both HG and the table were damaged. Big bruises for HG. Splinters for table. Lesson to self: Moderation!!

Spatchcocked Redux

April 21st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Cut the backbone out of a chicken and lay it flat. Looks a bit like a frog and that’s why the French call it “poulet a la crapaudine.” It’s the best way to roast, pan broil or barbecue a chicken. Crisp skin. Juicy meat. Big flavor. On March 15, 2011, HG wrote a post: “Spatchcocked chicken. Funny name. Great taste.” Look it up in the archive and you’ll have a good recipe. Also, check March 16, 2011 post for a comforting use of chicken leftovers. A few nights ago, BSK did BSK’s usual spatchcock wonders with a chicken. Big chicken so there was plenty of dark meat, chicken thighs, drumsticks and wings for HG/BSK to share. Neither like breast very much. So, the next night BSK cooked a pot of dashi broth. Added lemon juice, sliced onions, chopped scallions, shavings of carrot, spinach, lemon zest. HG added Chinese rice stick noodles. Loads of shredded chicken breast went into the pot. HG topped steaming bowls with sesame oil and hot sauce. Bliss.

Adam Gopnik on Race and White Rage

April 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker Magazine is the best essayist in America. He is the author of many illuminating books (his book on his family’s days in Paris is HG’s favorite) and contributes to the musical theater as a lyricist and librettist. His latest New Yorker essay is titled “The Takeback.” Using a positive review of a new book by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow,” Gopnik analyzes the failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War to provide true black citizenship. Gopnik refers to the late, great African-American intellectual and historian, W.E.B. Du Bois, who said the interests of poor southerners were ideological and tribal rather than economic. Du Bois noted that poor southern whites “would rather have low wages than see colored labor with a decent wage” and “every advance of the Negro is a threat to their white racial prerogatives.” Gopnik writes “It is the same sort of formula of feeling that makes today’s ‘white working class’ angrier at the thought that Obamacare might be subsidizing shiftless people of color than receptive to the advantages of having medical coverage for itself. Du Bois called it a ‘psychological wage,’ but this is to give a Marxist-sounding name to a non-Marxist phenomenon: ethnic resentment and clan consciousness are more powerful than economic class. It reflects the permanent truth that all people, including poor people, follow their values, however perverted, rather than their interests, however plain.” HG believes this is the American dilemma that makes a Trump possible.

New Mexicans

April 15th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s Sunday and HG is seated in Sopaipilla Factory, an excellent Mexican restaurant minutes from HG/BSK’s New Mexico home. On the table is a chicken enchilada served “Christmas style” smothered by both red and green chile. This is topped with chopped onions. Some chile de arbol on the side for added heat. The jolly atmosphere in the restaurant adds to the dining pleasure. Every table is filled with Latino (mainly Mexican-American) families. There are as many as 20 persons at a table (infants, young children, teenagers, parents, grandparents and, HG presumes, some great-grandparents). Family love is palpable. Much laughter. Old and infirm people are helped to bathrooms by the young. The families have gone to church in the morning. Their faith is important to them. Every aspect of HG/BSK’s home is handled by Latinos. Construction, Plumbing. Electricity. Well. Septic tank. Painting. House cleaning. Handyman services. Landscaping. Only HG/BSK’s indoor pool is serviced by Anglos. So, here you have the American ideal in HG/BSK’s Latino neighbors. Honest. Hard working. Church going. Family loving. Yes, there are some problems as there are in communities throughout the US. Lots of drugs in some New Mexican towns. But, this effects only a minority. So, why the hatred of Mexican emigrants expressed by Trump?

Friends, Asparagus and Parisian Memories

April 14th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Karen K. and David F. came to dinner last night and BSK created a lavish feast. It started with plump in-season asparagus. BSK steamed them to firm perfection and gilded them with butter and lemon juice. They were the best asparagus HG ever tasted since a Paris dining event some 52 years ago. Two-year-old daughter, Lesley, was watched over by a baby sitter and HG/BSK lunched in a chic restaurant on Boulevard St. Germain. The meal started with fat white asparagus in a mousseline sauce (the ultimate until last night). After the asperges, HG/BSK enjoyed slices of leg of lamb (rare) accompanied by French fries. Finale was strawberries with creme fraiche. Last night BSK replicated the spirit of that meal by serving a rack of lamb with grilled tomatoes. Instead of fried potatoes, BSK made an Indian fusion dish of turmeric potatoes. The dish is made with chopped onions browned in vegetable oil. Sliced new potatoes are added to the pan with turmeric, cayenne, stock and baby spinach leaves. Cooked until the potatoes soften. Meal ended with sweet black grapes, Belgian butter waffle cookies and glasses of Gruet Blanc et Noir sparkling wine (a New Mexico treasure). This was a meal created by BSK that had international influences. All delicious.

HG’s Perfect Night

April 13th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

HG flanked the living room Eames lounge chair with nesting tables in order to eat and drink while watching Virginia beat Texas Tech for the NCAA National Championship. This was basketball at its best. Great defense by both teams. Very few easy shots. Everything had to be earned. A startling play by Virginia that sent the game into overtime was, with seconds to play and behind by three points, Virginia didn’t settle for an easy two but moved the ball to De’Andre who drained a three. And, what did HG eat and drink during this hoops epic? HG heated Bueno brand green chile and pork stew. Added a pint of El Parasol menudo (with extra chile). The mix created a savory but muy caliente pot of New Mexican goodness. HG topped a steaming bowl with chopped onions, lime juice and slices of ripe avocado and crumbled Saltine crackers. Beverage was bottles of Anchor Steam IPA and Duvel Triple Hops. Overtime treat was BSK’s blood orange, sweet onion and avocado salad. Post game, HG reveled in Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Gelato. The night was a peek into HG’s visualization of heaven.

Scrambled Eggs

April 9th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

This morning HG picked up a Paderno non-stick pan (purchased by BSK in Prince Edward Island some years ago). The small, rectangular pan is perfect for making soft (very soft) scrambled eggs. Using a wooden spoon, HG coaxed the eggs into the delicate curds HG desires. Malden Sea Salt; ground black pepper; a warmed onion roll; large cups of cafe latte. That’s the perfect breakfast. HG mused about the difficulty of getting these kinds of eggs in a restaurant. There are some pleasant exceptions. Tecolote Cafe in Santa Fe (mentioned in a previous post) makes great scrambles topped with fiery green chile sauce (Hey, it’s New Mexico where everything but ice cream is topped with green chile). When on the road, HG gets softly scrambled eggs topping grits at the Waffle House chain. It used be easy to get proper scrambled eggs in New York. No more. The real estate monster has removed most of the Greek-owned coffee shops that usually served them to perfection.

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