Friday, July 15, 2011

Tamara & Fergus, Sittin' In A Tree... C-O-O-K-I-N-G!

The man himself, and a friend.

Oh Fergus, How I love Thee. How I picture me and Thee, walking through fields filled with suckling baby pigs, selecting just the PERFECT one for a feast...

Then, off to the kitchen, and you teaching me lovingly, gently, (but with an appropriate amount of roughness) how to make trotter gear, so I can bring that knowledge back to Astoria, NY and share The Gospel of Fergus with all who will listen...

I picture me putting the kettle on for tea and, while we wait, we listen to the mayonnaise changing in the blender together. I learn to love Fernet Branca with you! We eat trifles and pigs ear salads and drink bicyclettes and feed each other duck hearts on toast! Our spouses will mourn our absence, yes, as they are both decent, loving, wonderful people. But they will ultimately understand our bond, too powerful to break...

Our love, Fergus, is as serious and intense as Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad, goddamn it!

Well, maybe it's a little one-sided...

So when Zora O'Neill and I were shopping our book, Forking Fantastic! to Bloomsbury publishers a few years back, the editor asked if I had any questions. Any questions about our book that they were thinking of publishing. I replied that I did, in fact, have just one question, and that was: "If you do buy our book, will you introduce us to Fergus Henderson?"

The poor man reacted as if I'd told him I didn't think his dick was big enough to warrant taking off my clothes.

It was an awkward moment.

He recovered, and graciously said, "Well, of course we could introduce you to Fergus!" My heart leaped, and thank Christ they didn't end up bidding on the book, because I probably would have made the publishing decision based on that alone...

Okay, I'm a fan.

Anyhow, Bon Appetit has recently replaced their editor and has undergone some serious internal woodshedding to get their "new look and focus". This was of great interest to me, as I am a WAAAY disgruntled Bon Appetit subscriber. The only reason we have a subscription at all is that it was Condé Nast's consolation prize when they discontinued Gourmet in Oct 2009. I'm still pissed about that, but I digress...

I was hopeful, in this new overhaul of BA, that they might skew the content a little more towards former Gourmet readers; A little more complex, a little less dumbed down. Fewer "Easy Weeknight Dinners in Thirteen Minutes!" recipes and maybe embrace more aspirational cooking. Right now, Saveur is the only magazine with that focus and, with the notable exception of Ian Knauer's brilliant Farm To Table blog, Bon Appetit hadn't been writing for me, or for anyone I know.

So imagine my surprise when I received the June 2011 Bon Appetit with... Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover.


Inside was a huge spread about how, she's really skinny and beautiful but... She EATS! She COOKS! She wrote a COOKBOOK! I think if an editor feels compelled to write a letter defending his choice of cover subjects before the magazine has even hit the stands, it's time to reevaluate that choice. Of course, as much as I hate that she's getting this much press in the food world, I completely understand why Bon Appetit's editor did it, because, after all, US Weekly sells way more issues than all of the other food magazines combined-- but the cover of Bon Appetit? Jesus Christ.

I was almost at the end of the magazine, and preparing to write a terrible, ranting letter to BA, (not that they'd care, because, after all, I'm just some home cook who learned to make food from the pages of Gourmet and will probably never get over its demise) when I discovered, deep, deep inside, on page 92, a LOVELY article about Mr. and Mrs. Henderson and their Sunday Roast Dinner.

Okay, so, back to my Fergus obsession: I am now more than a little sorry that the beautiful and fantastic Margot now must learn the expanse of my love for her husband, but she had to know she was marrying GENIUS. I am sure that once she has forgiven Fergus' and my torrid, one-sided kitchen affair, she'll realize that she and I have much in common...

It was a superb article about the British Tradition of the Sunday Roast, with Spinach Gunge (Creamed Spinach, of a sort), Salad with Anchovies, his famous Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad, and a rich, truffly Chocolate Ice Cream. An article featuring the best of User-Friendly Fergus. My heart warmed - it burst, in fact. And Bon Appetit was spared my wrath, at least for another month.

I thought it was such a timely article about Fergus' own Sunday Night Dinner tradition, (something that we have also been doing here for ten years) that it made me want to replicate it.

The Menu:

Radishes with Butter and Salt

Their Tops with Dijon Vinaigrette


Farm Lettuces "Disciplined" With Anchovies and Cherry Tomatoes

Butter Bean, Leek and Cauliflower Salad

Roast Sirloin of Beef

Spinach Gunge

Orbs of Joy!

Potatoes with Green Sauce


Dr. Henderson's Fernet Menta Ice Cream


Big John The Butcher selected an unbelievably gorgeous top sirloin roast for me. Huge. A Big Splurge.

He also gave me all of this extra fat to cap the roast. I gave it a good rubdown with salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil. Simple is best for a cut of meat this gorgeous.

It came out crisp and crusty on the outside, and beautifully rare inside. Awesome.

Radishes came from the Union Square Greenmarket. I scrubbed and trimmed them and chilled them on ice until we were ready to serve them with soft sweet butter and kosher salt.

Still my favorite way to eat a radish. The tops weren't quite nice enough for the dijon vinaigrette so we skipped 'em.

The salad was greenmarket lettuces and cherry tomatoes tossed with big pieces of anchovies and a sherry vinegar/dijon vinaigrette. So refreshing, and yet bitey with the anchovy. Mmmm.

Then there was the... Orbs of Joy. Who doesn't fall in love with a chef who calls braised whole onions ORBS OF JOY, for fuck's sake?

I got lovely smallish red onions at the greenmarket, cut the tops off, and put them in a roasting pan.

Karl had previously (back in April) boiled down a Guinea Hen carcass, some Quail carcasses and aromatics from a previous dinner and made a dark, rich stock.

Perfect for those onions. I added butter, thyme and cider vinegar and baked away. Even with the fantastic centerpiece of meat on the table these were the runaway hit of the evening.

Butterbean, Leek and Cauliflower Salad was the perfect dish to straddle the line between Spring and Summer.

Fresh cauliflower was chopped and lightly blanched, as were some frozen lima beans, and then these were chilled with capers, parsley and dressing until right before serving, when warm, blanched, salty chopped leeks were mixed in, which ultimately brought the dish nearly back to room temperature.

Loads of fresh garlic in this one - I never tire of these flavors together.

Greenmarket spinach was rinsed of TONS of grit (about a hundred and fifty times) and then was quickly wilted in butter, with more dijon mustard, grated parmigiano cheese and sour cream (substituting for creme fraiche) added.

Gunge, Glorious Gunge...

I grated a teensy bit of nutmeg, just to warm it up a bit. Divine, and neither gloopy, nor overly creamy the way a lot of the steakhouse creamed spinach ends up.

Potatoes (Yukon Golds!) were boiled simply and served with green sauce on the side - parsley, basil, tarragon, savory, with capers, anchovies, garlic, olive oil and lemon. Bright, acidic sharp flavors to the creamy potatoes.

Earlier in the week, I'd had an important meeting at a TV network. Karl was so nervous for me that he made gallons of ice cream while I was gone because it helped keep him sane.

It was Dr. Henderson's Fernet Menta ice cream from Beyond Nose To Tail -- creamy, sort of medicinal and, frankly, quite startling. People were freaking out at the pure deliciousness of it, and rightly so.

Fresh berries complimented the brilliant Ice Cream perfectly.

It reaaaaaallly felt like a Sunday - more than any Sunday Night Dinner in recent memory. Maybe it was The Roast, but maybe it wasn't just the fact that I was paying homage to a cook I admire so completely, maybe it was that our dinner was graced by two lovely ladies from the U.K. (one of whom is a beat copper in Brixton) adding to our British credibility...

All I know is that both my soul and my tastebuds were fully satisfied and that is a wonderful place to be. Thanks, Fergus.


rosannabrass said...

I've managed, (believe it or not) to finally have time off work that I can actually follow your blog, I was the copper who attended this Sunday evening, and I think about you and all the amazing people I met that evening. I have tried so many recipes from your book and absolutely adore them, and you! Rosanna x

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