Tag Archives: Coi

SEEING STARS

Today is a celebratory event in our family. The announcements for the 2018 Michelin star restaurants in the Bay Area had been delayed because of the terrible fires in the Napa/Sonoma region. Sarah and Evan were on tenterhooks because Rich Table had been dropped from Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list from last year. That meant they were either going to get a star or they were going to get nothing. Originally the stars were to be announced one week after the Bib Gourmands, but on the eve of the announcement. Michelin decided to delay. That was a good decision because some of the restaurants were threatened by the fires, and those that weren’t were cooking food for the fire victims.  Sarah already had experience with that. In 2001, she worked at Bouley in Lower Manhattan a short way from the World Trade Center. The restaurant was closed for months after 9/11, and each day for weeks she helped cook meals and then transport them to the site.

Back in San Francisco, there was no further notice about when the list would be released until yesterday. The wait was agonizing, and the silence, of course, stimulated social media gossip including one person who allowed it would be March before the announcements came. No way! Michelin has books to sell.

All morning long I checked my cell phone. Nothing. Until I got a text message from Sarah that burst into a flurry of stars. There were no words, but the message was clear.

It’s official: Rich Table has been awarded one Michelin star. That matches Michael Mina where Sarah worked as sous chef. As well, Coi, where Evan worked as chef de cuisine, has gained its third and ultimate star.

I know that Sarah and Evan plan to celebrate this evening. We are also going to have our own little celebration.

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POACHED MIGAS

Sarah always has a lot of new cookbooks. She and Evan buy a lot, and on top of that they receive others from publishers. During our last visit, we spent a lot of time looking at recent selections. One, in particular, caught the attention of both Susan and me. I wound up buying a copy because I think that anyone who likes cookbooks would want this one on his or her bookshelf.

The name of the book is Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook. The book is written by Kristen Miglore, Executive Editor of the food website, Food52.com. It is filled with beautiful images by the author and published by Ten Speed Press, Berkeley.

Genius Recipes

Genius Recipes

Some critics complain that the recipes are not really “genius” and that some of them don’t work. They are partially correct. Some of the recipes, at least in my hands, don’t work and some of them I will not make again.

The real genius behind all of the recipes is that they contain tricks that you never knew or methods that make you think, “Now, why didn’t I think of that.” As well, there are recipes that have become classics. An example of that is Shirley Corriher’s Touch-of-Grace Biscuits that was daughter Carol’s first contribution to our family cookbook. Who would think that a wet blob of dough could turn into light Southern biscuits?

Another recipe that intrigued me was Daniel Patterson’s Poached Scrambled Eggs. Daniel is chef/owner of Michelin-two-star Coi where Evan and Sarah worked before they opened Rich Table. The story behind the recipe is that Daniel’s wife made him toss out his beloved Teflon-lined sauté pan, so he had to come up with a new way of scrambling eggs for his breakfast. The genius of the recipe – why didn’t I think of that – is based upon a common folly of cooks who have tried to poach the perfect egg only to have it break in the cooking water. Patterson simply mixed the eggs before he put them in the poaching liquid, and mirabile dictu, he had a scrambled egg.

This recipe takes that technique one step further. Migas are a great Tex-Mex dish which requires two basic elements – eggs and stale corn tortilla pieces – and whatever else suits your fancy. I first ate them at a cafe in Austin near the University of Texas campus. Since then they have become a family favorite that is always on the menu at family gatherings. One of the keys to this recipe is to have all of the add-ins prepped and ready to go before you cook the eggs.

RECIPE

Poached Migas

Ingredients

  • 3 corn tortillas
  • 4 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • vegetable oil
  • 3 scallions, cut in ¼ inch slices, including green tops
  • 2¼ ounces sliced black olives
  • 3 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled
  • ½ green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 snacking peppers, chopped
  • 4 ounces Hatch green chiles, diced (optional)
  • 1 medium tomato,  seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (use a combination of the two if you wish)
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • salt and pepper
  • salsa
  • sour cream for topping

Method

  1. Lightly coat the tortillas with vegetable oil. Cut into ¼ inch strips and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 200° F for about 20 minutes or until the strips are crisp. Cool and set aside.
  2. Sauté the mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Set aside
  3. Gather the add-in ingredients on your work surface.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to the boil. Turn off the heat, stir the water vigorously to create a vortex, and pour the beaten eggs into the vortex. Cover the saucepan tightly for a full minute. Remove the lid and drain the cooked eggs in a fine-meshed sieve, shaking to remove any excess water.
  5. Return the drained eggs to the saucepan along with the melted butter. Stir to loosen the eggs and incorporate the butter.
  6. Stir in the tortilla strips, mushrooms, scallions, olives, bacon, peppers, optional green chiles, tomato, cheese, and cilantro.
  7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Top with salsa. Serve immediately while still hot. Pass sour cream for topping if desired.

 

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BOOK REVIEWS: COI, BAR TARTINE, AND FLOUR+WATER

For Christmas, Sarah and Evan gave us autographed copies of cookbooks written by some of their San Francisco colleagues and friends. They are all beautiful books, and certainly worth a place of honor on my cookbook shelves. Good and successful restaurants seem to go through the same sort of trajectory. First, there is the nervous anxiety after the opening and before reviews appear. Then, there are professional reviews, almost always glowing. Next come the Yelpers (I call them Whiners) with their smarmy comments: “Why do they charge so much; who do they think they are?” ” I could do better at home on my hot plate.”  “They seated someone else at my table even though I was only an hour late for my reservation.” ” When I told them I didn’t like the filet mignon after I had eaten it all, they refused to comp me.” After the whiners, the real customers take over, and the restaurant is wildly popular. Then there are demonstration tours, and finally a thick, beautifully illustrated cookbook appears so that the diner can try making the dish at home – ha.

Coi, Bar Tartine, and Flour+Water are three of the best, most popular, and most successful restaurants in San Francisco, so it is not surprising that they all have beautiful cookbooks. Here are some of my random thoughts on all of them. Cookbooks-3 Coi: Stories and Recipes by Daniel Patterson (Phaidon Press, London and New York) is really more of a memoir than a cookbook, and it is illustrated with lush images of the California countryside along with relatively few food shots. Daniel Patterson is an accomplished writer as well as a Michelin-starred chef. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Lucky Peach, Food and Wine, and the Financial Times among other publications. The photographer, Maren Caruso, clearly knows how to operate a camera. Besides all that, Patterson is gracious in recognizing many of the cooks who have helped to make Coi a success. To be sure, there are “recipes” although they do not appear in the typical format of lists of ingredients and the steps in putting them all together. In my view, you can reproduce some of the dishes only if you study the instructions very carefully and already possess a high level of cooking skill. The most engaging parts of the book are the personal stories and philosophical statements – meditations, really – that accompany each of the recipes. The feeling that the reader comes away with is that of understanding the author as a thoughtful person as well as an accomplished cook. Cookbooks-2 Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns with photographs by Chad Robertson (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2014) is reminiscent of Chad Robertson’s already classic Tartine Bread except that there is a lot more color. If you have been lucky enough to eat at Bar Tartine, you know that Nicolaus and Cortney have fun with their cooking. It has the same precision that you expect in high-end food, but at the same time it is playful. The chefs delight in using ingredients you may never have heard of, or in ways that you have never thought of. And that’s sort of how Balla and Burns approach their cookbook. There are delicious recipes and gorgeous images aplenty, but the emphasis is on ingredients  The first sixteen chapters are devoted to topics like “Drying”, “Assorted Powders”,  “Spice Mixes”, “Sprouting and Soaking”, “Oils & Animal Fats”, “Vinegars”, “Pickles & Preserves” along with suggestions about how to use ingredients like dried strawberries (The two love their dehydrator), kefir butter, schmaltz, and even burnt toast. The recipes look accessible but you will definitely need to expand your pantry. For me, the book is more like a beautifully illustrated instruction book than a conventional cookbook, and there are detailed instructions about how to make all of the powders and dried foods that serve as the basis of or as seasoning for the fabulous foods of Bar Tartine. The images by Chad Robertson add greatly to the final product, and in the credits, Balla, Burns, and Robertson also do all of the food and prop styling. The book is beautifully done and truly a labor of love, just like a meal at Bar Tartine. Cookbooks-1 Flour+Water: Pasta by Thomas McNaughton with Paolo Lucchesi and photography by Eric Wolfinger (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA) is a detailed treatise on pasta, but it is fascinating reading and studying. There is a two-page spread immediately after the frontispiece showing the author intent on rolling out a length of pasta dough. From that single image you get the feeling that McNaughton wakes up and goes to sleep thinking of pasta. His descriptions about seemingly arcane topics such as the differences between Italian 00 flour and semolina flour turn out to be fascinating reading. And coupled with detailed, well-organized images, the narrative provides step-by-step instructions that even a tyro is willing to try. There is also an abundance of recipes for what to do with the pasta once you have made it. “Mouth-watering” does not adequately describe the images of some of the spectacular dishes: spaghetti with black trumpet, poached egg, and cured yolk; burrata triangoli with preserved lemon, summer squash, and mint. A bonus is the back story of McNaughton’s pilgrimage to Italy and his long, humbling hours of learning how to make pasta  under the tough guidance of a room full of Italian grandmothers. With that, the reader realizes that anything done well requires commitment along with hours, days, and years of practice.

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CHEFS’ NIGHT OFF

I just got back from San Francisco where Susan and I took care of our grandson so that my daughter and son-in-law could prepare and serve their latest pop-up dinner. During the dinner Susan took care of the baby, so I got to enjoy the meal.

 This time the dinner was held at Coi, the Michelin two-star restaurant where Evan is the chef de cuisine and where Sarah worked for a short while early in her recent pregnancy. The dinner turned out to be a big success with a waiting list for reservations.  The kitchen crew was experienced, so the food came out on time and with a beautiful presentation. Most of the servers were recruited from the regular staff of Coi, so service was unobtrusively attentive. The wine and beer selections were small but very well-chosen to complement the meal.

Wild-Fennel-Pollen-Dusted Kettle Corn

Popcorn is the classic American snack food for movies and with drinks. Kettle corn raises it to a new level with a light sugary accent to the salty tang. This version, dusted with wild fennel pollen raises the bar one notch. In Northern California, wild fennel grows everywhere, so it is easy for foragers to gather the pollen from the golden flowers when they are in full bloom. The aroma and taste are subtle reflections of the stronger accents of fennel seed or cooked fennel. This is rapidly becoming a standard dish for the Chefs’ Night Off pop-ups because it is so popular and so perfect with cocktails, beer, or wine before dinner. One group of guests worked their way through six bowls.

Sun-Dried Tomato Fritter with Shiso

Fritters may be one of the signature dishes for Chefs’ Night Off. This version showed off sun-dried tomatoes folded into a stiff béchamel, crusted with cornmeal, and fried. Shiso, also called perilla or Japanese basil, is an aromatic leafy green.

Dungeness Crab Louie with Little Gems and “Saltine Crackers”

This is the season for Dungeness crab in San Francisco, and it is found on many menus prepared in many different ways. This version called for the pink, sweet morsels of crab to be combined with apples, celery, and house-preserved pickles, seasoned with a light, siphoned sauce Louis, garnished with a chiffonade of little gem lettuce, and hidden beneath a tuile made of saltine crackers in the style of an Italian frico.

Avocado, Little Gems, and “Saltine Crackers”

For vegetarians, this dish imitated the Dungeness crab Louie, substituting avocado ribbons and avocado balls stuffed with avocado mousse.

Plancha Bread with Roasted Squash, Smoked Pancetta, and Burrata

This complex dish used rectangles of flat bread baked on a plancha (iron griddle) and topped with roasted squash purée, crisp smoked pancetta, a siphon of burrata ( the creamy, earthy cousin of mozzarella) and herbs. For the vegetarians, the pancetta was replaced by smoked onions.

Chicory Salad with Date Vinaigrette and Persimmons

A beautiful and interesting break from the main courses, a leaf of chicory was dressed with a date vinaigrette siphon, grilled chicory chiffonade, and diced persimmons.

Roasted Chicken with Chestnuts, Pomegranate,  and Pine

Chicken legs were deboned and prepared pressée, stuffed with truffle and seaweed mousse. Chicken breast was stuffed, under the skin, with truffles and seaweed. The dish was served with chestnut purée, seaweed salad, frisée, pomegranate seeds, and seaweed chips.

Gnocchi with Chestnuts, Pomegranate, and Pine

For vegetarians, gnocchi poached and seared in brown butter were substituted for the chicken with the addition of shaved white truffles.

Chocolate Cremeaux with Coconut Whipped Cream, Rice Ice Cream, Fried Puffed Rice, and Yuba Strips

Not quite mousse and not quite ganache, the chocolate cremeaux anchored dessert, but there were lots of flavor surprises. Who would have thought of fried puffed rice? But it definitely fit in. Yuba, the skin that forms when tofu is heated, finished the dish.

Black Pepper and Blood Orange Marshmallows

These were definitely not the marshmallows you put in s’mores. The spiciness of the black pepper played off the blood orange and made this a fine end to a special meal.

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