Counter Intelligence

Five on Food: Articles From the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in General Interest by melissamccart on December 31, 2008

1) Punch Makes a Classic Comeback. Los Angeles Times. Here in DC, it’s on the menu at The Gibson.

2) . . . A Rancho Style Repast. San Francisco Chronicle. Inspiration for a two-breakfast morning.

3) The Fixe Is In. Washington Post. DC restaurant deals in abundance.

4) How Caramel Developed a Taste for Salt. New York Times. It’s the flavor combination of the year.

5) Ten Take A Bow. Chicago Tribune. The ten most read recipes of the year.


Favorite Food Books:Blogger and Freelance Writer, Amanda McClements

Posted in General Interest, Recipes by melissamccart on December 22, 2008

Metrocurean and writer extraordinaire Amanda McClements lists her favorite books, only one of which I’ve read.  More to add to my list:

1. Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking. When I was growing up in Chapel Hill, Bill Neal’s restaurant Crook’s Corner defined Southern cooking and gave it new respect and national recognition. The shrimp and grits are legendary. The late chef’s book is full of great Southern classics like spoon bread, Hoppin’ John and fried chicken with country gravy. The one recipe I probably won’t make anytime soon: possum with sweet potatoes.

2. The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. Twenty years after Bill Neal’s book put Southern cooking in the spotlight, the Lee brothers did it again. I love reading it as much for the stories and history as the recipes.

3. Quick Vegetarian Pleasures. This was one of the first cookbooks my mom gave me when I went to college (though neither of us are vegetarian). It’s my go-to for meatless meal inspiration. The vegetable curry is super easy and really flavorful.

4. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. This spoof cookbook by Amy Sedaris is absolutely hilarious. The best piece of advice: don’t cook in wizard sleeves. A great gift for friends with a good sense of humor.

Holiday Menus from the ’50’s

Posted in Recipes by melissamccart on December 22, 2008

I’m booked to cook for Christmas dinner, featuring pork for the main. My father wants a brined bourbon and molasses deal, but that doesn’t seem very Christmasy. So I decided to look through Gourmet’s archives and came up with this terrific menu list from the ’50s.

In my brainstorming, I have liked this pork recipe,  Mario’s nine herb salad (mint, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, chives, spinach, lemon juice, olive oil); some kind of fennel (braised in white wine or as a gratin); glazed parsnips and carrots, gougeres, crispy potatoes from this month’s Gourmet, and chestnuts. Since they’re  everywhere,  I was thinking of this puree:

 Purée dc Marrons (Chestnut Purée)

With a sharp knife cut a slit or small cross in the rounded tops of 2 pounds of chestnuts and cook the chestnuts in a hot oven (425° F.) or under the broiler flame for 8 to 10 minutes. When the nuts are cool enough to handle, remove the shells and the skin beneath the shells. Put the chestnuts in a saucepan with enough salted water to cover and add 2 or 3 stalks of celery. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the nuts for 30 minutes, or until tender. Cool the nuts in the liquid.

Remove the chestnuts from the liquid and press them through a fine sieve. Reheat the purée with butter and cream, using 1 tablespoon each of butter and heavy cream for each cup of purée. Correct the seasoning with salt.

 I have no idea if  this menu works, or what to do for grazing food early on. And if my dad’s heart is set on bourbon and molasses, I’ll go with it and start over. . . .

What are you most excited about on your holiday menu?

Favorite Food Books: Nycci Nellis of Dishing It Out

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on December 19, 2008

nycciNycci Nellis of The List Are You On It and Sunday’s foodie radio show, Dishing it Out, is an avid cookbook collector with over 600 titles on her shelves. “It’s the only thing I collect and I’m passionate about it,” she says.

She is as enthusiastic about food magazines, with subscriptions to Saveur, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Food Arts, among others.  So it makes sense she loves cookbook compilations. “Every year I get Food and Wine’s “Best of the Best“: recipes from the year’s best cookbooks, according to the editors at the magazine.” Another one of her favorites this year is Bon Appetit’s Fast Easy Fresh. “It’s 770 pages: a huge book that’s perfect for someone like me, with two kids coming back from college and two small kids at home,” she says. “I always have a stocked pantry and can find hundreds of ideas every time I flip through. The pages are already becoming dog-eared.”

Nycci and husband David Nellis interviewed Fast Easy Fresh editor, Barbara Fairchild, the same day as Thomas Keller, who talked up his newest release, Under Pressure. “His a gorgeous coffee table book; the pictures are glorious,” she says. “You’ll also learn so much from every single page. Rather than apply sous vide to my home kitchen, however, I’ll leave it the chefs at CityZen!”

Andrew Dornenberg and Karen Page were also featured on the show for their newest, The Flavor Bible. “It’s a recipe as to how flavors work together. They worked on it for eight years,” she says. Check out the show featuring these authors here.

Most recently, Nellis just finished Marcella Hazan’s memoir, Amarcord. David and Nycci interviewed Hazan on the show this past Sunday. “It’s a tremendous book. She really is the Julia Child of Italian food,” she says.

Nycci and David Nellis’ Dishing It Out airs at 11pm every Sunday on WTOP (1500 AM). Tune in this week for an interview with Michael Mina of the newly opened Bourbon Steak and beer specialist Bill Catron of Brasserie Beck, who will be pouring Christmas brews.

Five on Food: Articles from the Wednesday Dining Pages

Posted in District of Columbia, Recipes, Regional by melissamccart on December 17, 2008

1) In Successful Paris Restaurant, Jewish Roots. New York Times. I wish we had one of these: “It is one of the smallest restaurants in this city, with 16 seats at tiny tables and no frills, not even flowers. Each night Mr. Rose cooks a set menu of four courses for 42 euros, about $58, nearly unheard of for a meal of its caliber.”

2) Dinner for a Dozen. Washington Post. David Hagedorn’s terrific Chef on Call, featuring Michael Mina and Ris Lacoste.

3)  Time to Clean Out, Restock Bar. Los Angeles Times.” Updating your bar is a bit like updating your wardrobe. If you’ve got most of the basics covered, you can fill in with a few key, stylish, well-made items that fit your taste and budget.” Good idea, though a bit sprawling.

4) A Holiday Dinner That’s Rich in Inspiration. San Francisco Chronicle. Go I-talian for Christmas dinner.

5) Make It Snappy. Boston Globe. Delicious bites for holiday entertaining, such as eggs on eggs.

Favorite Food Books: Tim Carman, Washington CityPaper

Posted in District of Columbia by melissamccart on December 12, 2008

Tim Carman, Food Editor of the CityPaper lists these as his go-to books these days:

1. As you can probably guess, I don’t cook as much as I used to. When I do, though, I often turn first to Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything“, even if I don’t end up using his recipe. I do so because Bittman’s recipes, to me, are like baselines. I trust Bittman to understand the fundamentals of a recipe, even if I want to try something a little different. Plus, Bittman’s breadth of knowledge just blows me away. I’ve been reading the James Beard Cookbook lately, which I like, but Bittman’s book goes places that Beard never even thought about. It’s not fair, perhaps, to compare the two books, but I think the point I’m trying to make is that Bittman is as ambitious as any cookbook author to come along.

2. I got Simon Hopkinson’s “Roast Chicken and Other Stories” for Christmas last year and immediately fell in love with it. Hopkinson organizes his chapters by favorite ingredients, which he understands perhaps better than any chef on earth (or, to tone down the rhetoric, any other chef I’ve spoken to). Plus, he writes with humor and passion and insight on these ingredients. I don’t often cook from this book, but I turn to it to get Hopkinson’s insights.

Favorite Food Books: Bonnie Benwick, Washington Post Food and Dining

Posted in District of Columbia, Recipes by melissamccart on December 12, 2008

Bonnie Benwick recommends these food books from the past year:

1. It’s just a thin paperback, but Lorna Sass’s “Whole Grains for Busy People” really hits all the right notes. It makes the grains user-friendly in a new way, with the author’s rating system and recommendations on brands she likes.

2. Anne Mendelson’s “Milk” because she’s such a lovely writer and it’s such a well balanced single-subject book. With good recipes!

It’s a tie for 3rd place between….

3. David Tanis’ “A Platter of Figs” because the Chez Panisse chef knows how to build a nice menu’s worth of seasonal food. There’s a range of simple to complex recipes within each menu, too, which shows he understands the nature of how much a home cook is willing or has time to do for any particular dinner.

3a. Eric Ripert’s and Christine Muhlke’s “On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin” is a very thorough, well-researched bio of the restaurant and how Ripert operates, giving full credit to his forebears. It’s fascinating to know which brand of olive oil is used, etc. As for the recipes…. They look like they’d be lovely to do in a more robust economy.


Favorite Food Books: Joe Yonan, Washington Post Food and Dining

Posted in District of Columbia, Recipes by melissamccart on December 12, 2008

Washington Post Food and Dining Editor Joe Yonan names two of his favorites of 2008.

1.”The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.” Quite simply the most stunningly designed food book that I have seen. I could look at the center-spread design, a tripped-out photo illustration of Heston Blumenthal’s brain combined with the table of contents, all day.

2. “A Day at elBulli.” Much more the picture of a restaurant told through journalistic photography than mere cookbook. With all the over-the-top photography we’ve seen of those wild El Bulli dishes, this is refreshingly messy. And there are captivating details on every page.

3. Now for something completely different: “Jacques Pepin: More Fast Food, My Way,” the companion book to the new TV series. Because he’s Jacques, and if he tells me to make a pear tart on a flour tortilla, I do it, and I love it.

Favorite Food Books: April Fulton, Blogger and Freelance Food Writer

Posted in District of Columbia, Recipes by melissamccart on December 12, 2008

April Fulton, blogger and freelancer food writer for Bethesda Magazine, Capitol File, NPR and the Washington Post among others, recommends:

1.  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” An oldie but goodie. Julia Child teaches the basics the right way, plus tips on variations for classic sauces and roasts – great for anyone who has never been to culinary school but wants to understand the fundamentals of cooking and not just trendy combos.

2. My new favorite for entertaining is Jose Andres new “Made in Spain.” Gorgeous photos and bold flavors. Plus it has Andres’ witticisms that would come across as phony if uttered by anyone else, like, “It is a well-known fact that I make the best gin and tonics in the world.”

Favorite Food Books:Warren Rojas, Northern Virginia Magazine Food and Wine

Posted in District of Columbia, Recipes by melissamccart on December 11, 2008

Northern Virginia Magazine’s Warren Rojas suggests books for every age and skill level.

1. Time-Life’s “The Good Cook ” series (youth). I snatched up the entire set at a yard/estate sale during college and used them to firm up my cooking fundamentals (my parents had taught me to cook by feel/sight/taste; time life filled in the gaps).

2. Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” (adult). My go-to for the past decade, bittman’s pragmatic instructions and on-the-fly substitutions taught me the value of improvisation in everyday cooking.

3. “The River Cottage Meat Book” (current muse). Fearnley-Whittingstall’s thought-provoking prose is dutifully matched by the gorgeous photos and diversity of cuisines.

4. My everest: “CIA’s Professional Chef .” This tome is so chunky/the text so dense that I feel dumb just thumbing through it.