Saturday, November 6, 2010

Forward into the Past in Quest of Craig Claiborne

I've been continuing to cook my way into Craig Claiborne's mind. Amanda Hesser's new Essential New York Times Cookbook reprints a ton of his recipes, and she has done an excellent job of choosing particularly evocative ones. For some longtime Brit friends last night I did Claiborne's roast filet of beef with bordelaise sauce. Filet is generally deprecated as mushy and flavorless, but that which I got from the Golden Gate Meat Company--which really does have the best of everything--was dry-aged and firm and luscious (and organic and amazingly expensive).

For the sauce I cheated a bit by using Golden Gate's veal stock, which they make completely according to the rules. It's a very easy sauce once you've got that. You just reduce some red wine with shallots down to a goo, combine it with the stock, and reduce that slowly till it's saucy-ish. At that point it seemed a little sour and a little bitter, so I strained out the shallots, which had gotten kind of pickly; then I added a wee tad of sugar, which did the trick.

The meat cooks very fast indeed--I barely caught it at 125 in the fat end after only fifteen minutes. After a good twenty-minute rest, however, it was uniformly rosy straight through. A few tablespoons of butter gave my bordelaise the body it needed, and bingo, that was one hell of a roast beef.

Per person I served also one carrot roasted golden brown and one ratte potato roasted crisp in butter, and that austere plate looked like something that Craig would have approved.

And now I've been thinking in the opposite direction--toward a future, this one most likely altogether hypothetical because it looks as if we're not going to be cooking a Thanksgiving dinner this year and even if we were, Elizabeth would never tolerate this menu. My idea was not one of these deconstructions that are so fashionable these days but rather an extrapolation of the basic American Thanksgiving stuff into classical French dishes. Or mostly or sort of. Hence this menu, which also postulates a bunch of staff, which of course is not in the cards either:


Consommé de dinde aux gnocchi di ricotta, di potiron, and de truffe noire.

Salad of “sticks”—puntarelle, celery, carrot, fennel, maybe fried bucatini, all dropped haphazard on the plate like “52 pickup” and dressed with walnut oil, lime juice, and salt.

With the first two courses, Champagne.


Blanquette de dinde à l’ancienne, aux trompettes de la mort; sauce à la crème et à la truffe blanche.

Three purées: chestnut, turnip, and carrot.

Candied crisp-roasted cranberries.

Cornbread “crackers.”

With this, a Rhine auslese.


Three blue cheeses: Humboldt Fog, Roquefort, and Stilton, each with a different honey; plain bread. With a young Port or an older Sauternes.


Warren pear, candied huckleberries, licorice. With eau de vie de Poire.

A nice nap.

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