Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kebabs, Bourdain and Strawberries!

Our Hero!

Greetings Hungry Kiddies!
Oh News, News, so much news. First off, Karl and I are still married after the first BBQ here, so we thought we would try another. After watching weather.com like a maniacal bride all weekend it *seems* that it will be 87 degrees and sunny on Saturday (the one sunny day this week!) so we are obligated to have an outside fete, aren't we? If nothing else, just planning to be outside is sort of like taking a mood lifter, isn't it?
In other News: Time is ticking ticking in the march towards the release of Forking Fantastic! Put The Party Back In Dinner Party, Zora's and my first cookbook. (my first book!!) We are now in the crunch of needing already famous people to say nice things about us/the book on the back cover so others will be interested in buying it. Oh Fame! Oh America! And the kicker is, we have like... 2 weeks. Awesome. So, I need your help, oh well connected eaters.
Do you know Anthony Bourdain? Do you like me or Zora a teensy bit? If you Can answer YES to both of these, can you PLEASE make the intro? We would LOVE LOVE to ask him to blurb us, but amazingly, neither of us has ever crossed paths with him save that shoot we did at Ali's Kabab Cafe a few years ago and that was so early in the morning and we were eating sheep balls and looking like that was totally normal at 8am. Needless to say, we did not come away BFF with Tony. After all, as women, the stamp of approval from a cussing, swaggering, drinking man is....necessary. (America doesn't know us for the cussing, swaggering, drinkers that we are!!)
Even if you just know how to get hold of him that would be a great help. I am reluctant to stalk... Thank you thank you for your help in advance.
AND.... much smaller news, but fun. For the next 5 Fridays, (and last Friday) I am guesting on a blog called nakedapartments.com.
No, it is not about swingers parties. I am writing a little dinner party column.

Check it out here.

Here is the menu for this Saturday. I hope to see your greasy little faces!

I am thinking:

Za'atar flatbreads with cucumber yogurt sauce
Veggies and Tonnato Sauce

Grilled romaine and halloumi with mint vinaigrette
Grilled Yogurt Marinated Chix Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper
Slow Cooked Romano Beans with Garlic and Tomato
Maybe some other green market veggie thing?
Strawberry Shortcakes with Goslings Whipped Cream and Millicent's Biscuits

RSVP and address supplied with confirmation. No cancellations after Friday@ 3pm, please, I gotta get right with my butcher. In Love and Garlic... Tamara (Mrs!)

We held our first Sunday Night Dinner in the new apartment only six days after we moved in.

That is some crazy, retarded shit, yo.

What was I trying to prove? Anyway, dinner turned out great, it was so nice to see everyone and we took absolutely NO pictures.


Cut to: The NEXT dinner, two weeks later.

It was notable for two wonderful things: Strawberries and Anthony Bourdain (No, not together, naked, in a mountain of whipped cream flavored with dark rum. That's another post...)

First, the Anthony Bourdain thing. We got our galleys for Forking Fantastic! and we had around 13 days to distribute them, beg for a blurb and pray to god that someone would take pity upon us, pick up/read/peruse/gloss over/browse the book, write something nice about it and/or us, and return said blurb in a timely fashion, so that the fine people at Penguin could put it on the back cover.

Apparently, the way to sell one's book is to demonstrate that notable (i.e. more famous than you) people approve of your book. I compare it in the humility scale to having to ask for a letter of recommendation so you could apply to be allowed to sing the Met auditions. Brutal.

We needed to get to Anthony Bourdain -- asap, and I realized that our email list was a great place to spread the word.

Three people replied instantly with his assistant's email address, but then, Patty Sunshine went one better: She called to say she happened to be in the same room with Bourdain at her job... editing his show (things like this never happen.)

I sprinted downtown, book in hand, and waited nervously in her office, watching Patty edit footage. After a few minutes, Anthony popped in to have a smoke, stayed to talk, and I managed to hand him a copy of the book and to ask for his endorsement. Oh, also, too... I had written a little accompanying letter listing ten reasons why he might want to consider blurbing our book. I was sweating that fear sweat, and I could hear that my own voice was much higher than usual, and all I kept thinking, over and over, was 'Ohmygodiamsuchanasshole.'

The next morning, at 8:30am, there was an email from Anthony Bourdain in my inbox. I almost peed myself. I immediately phoned Zora and Peter (generally, a NO NO until at least ten a.m.)

I forwarded the email around like it was notice of a full ride scholarship to Oxford. And here are the words that made me all swoony:
"This eccentrically enjoyable book by two strange and wonderful women may well be the cookbook America needs right now.

Fun, deliberately unintimidating and filled with interesting -- even ingenious -- recipes, it inspires the non-professional to raise their game--and have a good time while doing so. Both book and authors are clearly good for the world. "

- Anthony Bourdain

It was like a New York Miracle. And we weren't even on 34th street!

The other wonderful thing was the strawberry dessert.

I tried some strawberries at The Greenmarket and they were pretty good. I say 'pretty good' because I went to France this May, and was served THE MOST LUSCIOUS STRAWBERRIES OF ALL TIME.

Had I never tried THE MOST LUSCIOUS STRAWBERRIES OF ALL TIME in France, I would have thought our Greenmarket strawberries were really excellent. Now that I have been shown the light (by a sixty year old waitress wearing espadrilles, no less,) I can say they were only 'pretty good.'

However, if you bake a buttermilk biscuit, whip some heavy cream and blend with dark rum, vanilla and powdered sugar and top the whole thing with some fresh strawberries, 'pretty good' can be transformed into a first date that lasts a week!

The rest of the dinner was vaguely Turkish, a kind of cooking I always associate with the summertime. I have never made grilled kebabs (I know -- weird) and I was intrigued by a yogurt/aleppo marinade recipe that I read about in Food and Wine.

Halloumi is a Greek cheese that tastes SO FUCKING GOOD with a hard, grilled crust on it, and grilled romaine lettuce tossed with mint vinaigrette accompanied it perfectly. The char of the romaine, the burn and melt of the cheese, the brightness of the mint vinaigrette... Magic!

Grilled green onions from the greenmarket with just salt and pepper.

A Greenmarket salad with cucumbers, radishes, and an herbed buttermilk/yogurt dressing.

I always want to eat slow cooked romano beans with tomatoes, garlic and basil, so I put that in play, and I found some fabulous Za 'atar flatbreads at the Trade Scare.

I also found fatir there, which is like you imagine a croissant would taste if no one sliced it into pieces, and just left it flat.

Butterly, flaky, doughy goodness.

There was brief weather/drama in the beginning -- We were ahead of schedule, the tables had been set, Karl lit the fire and POOF! The sky opened up and everything got soaked. (Everything but me; I managed to remain inside). After much discussion/hoping/praying, it cleared up and we managed to have a lovely second dinner in our new garden, with tiki torches and everything!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Venison Feast, With Guest Chef: Millicent Souris!

Another one from the archives.. January 2009 to keep you company while I unpack boxes in the new place. Enjoy!

Presenting Millicent Souris, one of the lesser-known but best chefs I know. She is a bad-ass in the BEST way: She loves what she does, is really fucking good at it, loves feeding people, and Led Zeppelin runs through her veins. In short, if I was a lesbian, we would be married.

Millicent and I met at the Queen's Hideaway (R.I.P.) in its early, heady days. I eventually wound up working there, where I observed her supreme pastry skills, her bordering-on-German work ethic, (I'm allowed to say that -- I grew up with that shit!), her excellent eye for detail, creativity, sublime album collection, and general fabulousness.

Despite her genius, she didn't manage to get much press, but we all know what she contributed, and it was a fucking LOT.

Fast forward to today. Millicent works in the kitchen at Egg, and has saved my small catering business' ass many times in the last year. Naturally, I always want to cook with her.

Last January, in the brutal cold, she was good enough to guest chef a Sunday Night Dinner. We had just acquired a deer shot by our friend John "The Hunter" McCormack (also "The Sound Mixer.") New Jersey has a deer population problem, and John has a bow and arrow habit. He hauls the deer out to Tom, who dresses and butchers the deer (grass fed and humanely killed, kids!) and seals the cuts in shrink-wrapped, neatly-labeled packages. The perfect combination for a venison dinner!

Many years ago, (all of these posts seem to somehow make their way down memory lane) my mother's family left the Old Country for a small town in Wisconsin. Hortonville, to be exact. Some of them still live there. My Papa Melvin (mother's father) shot deer every season and made his own venison sausage. Now, as every good Raised-On-Disney child does, I refused to eat venison in its original state, but DAMN, I looooved that venison sausage. And it didn't even LOOK like deer, so it was very easy to take the plunge into DeNile.

Every year, the big sausages would arrive in a box packed along with homemade mincemeat, and a dessert that I always thought was named for my mother's family, Kringle. (Near as I can tell, it comes from Racine, WI and is a German thing, but not specifically my family's.) The only times I have eaten venison since those days, is when John The Hunter has shot it.

When Karl and I were first dating, we were dancing to Sam Cooke one morning (in Karl's kitchen) when the phone rang: It was John calling, wanting to know if he could drop off some venison to Karl at work. Karl asked me if I wanted fresh venison, which I didn't even know was an option... Hells, Yeah! A beautiful relationship was born. Later, when I worked at the Hideaway, I hooked John up with Liza and Millicent, who helped enable his bow and arrow habit, since they cooked every day! He supplied the deer meat, and they supplied the love. A match made in heaven. It was such a pleasure to reunite Millicent with John's venison - and a damn shame he couldn't make it to dinner.

The Menu:

Smoked Bluefish Salad (yes! We will smoke it ourselves.. in the F***ing cold!!!)
Spicy Venison Sausage and Carmelized Apple Tatin with Cheddar Biscuit Topping
Roasted Venison, Sliced
Fresh Shell Beans
Dandy Greens
Floating Islands with Custard and Cider Glaze

Millicent thought it would be fun to smoke fresh bluefish outside, in 25 degree weather. It kind of was, in a perverse way. We picked it off the bone and made a salad with dandy greens, bitter greens, radishes, little potatoes, and a citrus vinaigrette.

A smoker at a smoker...

Bluefish fresh from the smoker and pulled into pieces,

The smoked bluefish salad,

Beautifully cooked, rare venison roast with gravy,

Fresh shell beans, cooked with garlic, shallots, herbs and stock,

dandy greens and escarole simmering away in the pot with vinegar, stock, garlic & chili flake,

Then there was the ridiculous hit of the month, a cheddar biscuit baked with caramelized apples and pears, and venison sausage.

Uhh, yeah.

Like a pineapple upside down cake, but way better.

Brown sugar and butter, a perfect match!

cheddar in that biscuit dough

How can you not love this woman?!

Oh my god, that fucking biscuit!!!

She was interested in Floating Islands, (basically egg whites whipped into a frenzy and poached, served in a sort of creme anglaise soup situation)

Floating Islands look right at home in plates from the Aunt Phoebe Collection, don't they?

Then, there was the setup,

Golden, setting the table to perfection,

A lovely dinner on a cold night, with my friend Millicent in the kitchen preparing a deer shot by John the Hunter. I'd say that is about as respectful as you can be to the animal.