Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Dishes like this have all but disappeared from the French restaurant scene, and it’s a damned shame.  To a home cook it may at first look challenging, but with a food processor it’s really very easy.  It’s also persuasive proof that the classic cuisine française should not be overshadowed by innovation, weirdness, and dazzle.  All of those, now common in contemporary restaurant cooking, have their place; but classicism reminds us that elegance is a virtue worth preserving, and that the evolution of traditional food has strongly selected for deliciousness.

The mousse purifies the flavor of the fish; its airy lightness is a joy on the tongue; and the dugléré is one of the best-tasting things in the world.

This recipe makes six to eight main-course servings.  It’s very rich, so the servings should be small.  The dish also makes a fine first course.

For the mousse:

1¼ lb. filet of sole
2 eggs
salt, pepper, cayenne, freshly grated nutmeg
1½ cups cream

Cut the fish into one- or two-inch pieces.  In a food processor blend the fish and the seasonings to a coarse purée.  Add the cream in a slow stream through the top.  It’s important not to over-process the mixture.

Butter a four- or five-cup ring mold and pour in the mousse.  Or make individual servings in ramekins.  Cover with the mousse with buttered wax paper.  Set the mold or ramekins in a heatproof container and add water to a depth of half an inch or so.  Bring the water to a boil on the stove, then bake until set.  For the ring mold, that will be 35 to 45 minutes; for the ramekins, check at 25.  Let stand for five to ten minutes.

For the sauce:

1.5 lb tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped; canned tomatoes are fine
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced shallots
2 tbsp minced onion
1 tbsp flour
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup fish stock—this is important, don’t leave it out
1 cup cream

Cook the shallots and onions in the butter, gently, till translucent.  Add the flour and cook briefly.  Add the tomatoes and cook about fifteen minutes—until medium-thick.  Add the wine and the fish stock and cook for ten more minutes.  You may want to strain the sauce at this point, especially if there are tomato seeds in it.  Add the cream and bring to a boil.  Season to taste.

Unmold the mousse and nap with the amazingly bright-pink sauce.  Craig sprinkles on chopped parsley, but you may find that that detracts from the beauty of the dish.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Quoted in the New York Times of May 15, 2012: “With the relatively small number of people I feed, is it really my responsibility to worry about carbon footprint?” Mr. Keller asked. “The world’s governments should be worrying about carbon footprint.” 

For shame!  One of the most talented chefs alive, and as such a person with great influence--Keller really ought to understand that chefs and restaurateurs can lead their customers, and indeed the citizenry at large, toward a consciousness of sustainable farming and fishing.  Many other chefs and restaurateurs are already doing just that, and it can be very effective.  It's not just a matter of "carbon footprint."  There's a vast array of moral issues that arise from our food system--and who better to address them than a great chef?  I do hope Thomas Keller will reconsider his foreswearing of moral responsibility.  He's too intelligent not to understand what a force for good his leadership could be.

Keller might start by considering how well our government is doing in its "worrying about carbon footprint."  The United States' failures to act meaningfully on the issue are a disgrace, and our political leaders won't start moving in the right direction until there is sufficient pressure from the public.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


So much great stuff happening for my new book.  Wonderful pub party in New York.  Amazing coverage in the New York Times on the very day of publication:

--Not only the big piece by Pete Wells but additional ones by Jacques Pépin and Bryan Miller, plus two memorable pieces by Craig himself.

And now I'm in the plush comfort of Southern hospitality--readings, radio, TV, friends old and new.  Best of all has been a party given for me by Marion and Claiborne Barnwell in Jackson, Mississippi.  Claiborne Barnwell is Craig's nephew, and he and his wife brought together a splendid crowd of fascinating people. 

Mississippi is an amazing place: Lemuria in Jackson and Turnrow Books in Greenwood are two of the finest bookstores I've ever seen, both run by dedicated lovers of good writing.  Tomorrow I'll be reading at another of the state's extraordinary literary crossroads, Square Books in Oxford--cheek by jowl with Faulkner's house and Ole Miss.  It was John T. Edge of the latter, head of its Center for the Study of Southern Culture, who gave me the push I needed to get going on The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat, back in 2009.  And it was John T.'s grad student, Georgeanna Milam Chapman, whose master's thesis on Claiborne saved me many months of research; Georgeanna's generosity in sharing it with me warms my heart every time I think about it.

And oh, Memphis barbecue!  Without question the best in the world.  Leonard's my hangout since childhood, iconic, still the best of the best.  Central Barbecue new to me, with a uniquely powerful sauce and delightful staff.  Today will be lunch at the Barbecue Shop, another temple of barbecue greatness.