Tag Archives: James Beard Foundation

THE PIE LADY

Susan has long been known as the pie baker in our family. Her crusts are always flaky; no one else can seem to master the skill. She says that it is something her mother taught her, and that the only secret is to keep everything cold.

Because of her reputation, she was drawn to a new cookbook on Sarah’s shelf when we were in San Francisco. The book is titled, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, (Grand Central Life & Style, New York, 2013).  It won an award by the James Beard Foundation as one of the best cookbooks of the year. The recipes sound wonderful, and the illustrations are beautiful. On top of that, the authors are two sisters, Emily and Melissa Elsen, from South Dakota who have gained fame in Brooklyn running a pie shop with the same name as the book. The two women hail from the little town of Hecla, population 224 ±, located just a few miles northeast of one of the main metropolises of South Dakota – Aberdeen. That’s where many of my relatives live and close to where both of my parents grew up, so it has some personal interest.

I ordered a copy of the book so that Susan could study it while we were in Los Angeles with our grandchildren there. I was hoping she would be inspired to bake, and I was not disappointed. She baked two pies that both disappeared quickly.

Cover of the cookbook

Cover of the cookbook

The first pie was a lattice-topped peach pie. Susan usually makes her crusts with vegetable shortening, but this time she followed the cookbook and used pure butter. It turned out not to be as flaky, but the flavor was outstanding. Judge for yourself about the beauty. Peaches came from the local farmers market.

Lattice-topped peach pie

Lattice-topped peach pie

A slice of peach pie

A slice of peach pie

The second pie was a black bottom lemon pie. Susan again used pure butter for the crust. For the filling, she made ganache and a lemon curd according to directions  from the cookbook. The only change to be made was that the recipe called for 30 minutes in the oven. In the end, it took twice that much time, although that could have been because of the oven. In any event, a warning to watch the baking time, and make sure that the lemon curd has set up at least three inches from the edge of the pan before you take it out to let it continue cooking while it is cooling.

Black bottom lemon pie

Black bottom lemon pie

A slice of black bottom lemon pie

A slice of black bottom lemon pie

Glad the Pie Lady has not lost her touch, and with this beautiful cookbook, she may continue to surprise us with new delights.

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FOLLOWING FAMILY ADVENTURES

Over the years, I have often written about the food adventures of my various family members. In particular, you have read about our daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Evan Rich, as they have gone from working in the restaurants of others to trying out a pop-up in a borrowed restaurant, Radius, in the Folsom Street area of San Francisco, to opening their own restaurant, not knowing if anyone would show up.

Since then Sarah and Evan and their restaurant, Rich Table have become successful. The restaurant is busy, and Sarah and Evan have had the opportunity to create some delicious food like their sardine chips, porcini donuts, deconstructed ice box pies, and tagliatelle with strawberry-braised pork Bolognese.

Along the way, they have been recognized by the San Francisco food scene along with Star Chefs magazine, Food and Wine, the James Beard Foundation and others. They have been invited to cook in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Shreveport, Louisiana, Mumbai, Hawaii, Mexico, and Yosemite.

If you watch Top Chef, Iron Chef, or Chopped, you know that professional cooking has become a competitive sport. Not surprisingly, Sarah and Evan are in the competition. Right now, they are competing in Food and Wine magazine’s annual competition, in contention for People’s Choice for Best New Chef, 2015. If you want to read about the contenders (or even vote) check out the web site. Voting ends April 8.

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BUTTERMILK PANNA COTTA AND CHOCOLATE GANACHE

I’ve been watching more of my DVDs from The Great Courses and the Culinary Institute of America. I have particularly enjoyed “The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts.” The presenter is Chef Stephen L. Durfee who is an instructor at the Greystone campus of the CIA. He certainly has earned his chops – he is a James Beard Foundation winner and has been the pastry chef at The French Laundry, among many other accomplishments and awards. His lessons have been very instructive, and his style has been friendly and conversational.

The lessons have come in handy. Susan has had a minor procedure needing a soft diet for a few days. That seemed like a perfect time for me to try out Chef Durfee’s recipe for panna cotta. What could be easier than panna cotta?  On top of that it’s very tasty. Another nice thing about the recipe is that it invites variations. Buttermilk gives an interesting flavor, but the usual fruit toppings were out. What could be easier than chocolate ganache?

RECIPES

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. Place 1 cup of the buttermilk in a wide-rimmed bowl, reserving the rest
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the buttermilk and let rest for 5 minutes to bloom the gelatin.  The surface should wrinkle up as the gelatin blooms. You can ensure an even process by exposing more of the buttermilk by breaking the surface with a whisk.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, dissolve the sugar in the cream and bring to the boil.
  4. Pour the boiling cream into the bloomed gelatin mixture and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and reserved buttermilk to cool the mixture.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. This step is very important to remove any clumps of undissolved gelatin and buttermilk..
  7. Pour the strained, cooled mixture into 6 serving dishes or ramekins. The mixture should be cooled before pouring it into the dishes or ramekins. Otherwise it might separate into layers.
  8. Refrigerate several hours or over night until the panna cotta is set.

Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 ounce corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)

Method

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces about the size of an M&M candy to make sure it will melt with the added hot cream before the cream cools off. . Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Combine the cream and corn syrup, stirring to make sure the syrup is completely  dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil in a small saucepan..
  3. Pour the hot cream and corn syrup mixture into the chopped chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for a moment or two to let the chocolate begin to melt.
  4. With a spatula, stir the chocolate from the center outward until the cream has been completely and evenly incorporated.
  5. If desired, add the orange liqueur and stir until completely incorporated.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes or so until just warm to the touch.
  7. Ladle one or two tablespoons onto each of the tops of the chilled panna cottas. Return to the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour. This will form a  firm chocolate layer. If you want something softer, use more cream when you make the ganache.
  8. Serve.

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GAZPACHO CRUDO

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and Evan cooked at the James Beard House operated by the James Beard Foundation in New York City.  We had the pleasure of watching them via a webcam in the kitchen.

Their dinner menu included a number of the dishes that have become favorites at Rich Table in San Francisco, including gazpacho with strawberries, chicken skin, and burrata. I have enjoyed that dish several times, but I am not a skilled enough cook to duplicate it, so I’ll just need to make do with gazpacho.

For me, the taste of traditional gazpacho is wonderful. But I don’t like the mouth-feel. It reminds me of baby food. I much prefer seeing the vegetables and bread intact so that it’s almost like eating a liquid salad in a bowl or cup.

I found just the right ingredients at the farmers market, including an Armenian cucumber, aka snake melon. It is not really a cucumber, but it has the crispness and crunch of the freshest of regular cucumbers and without having to worry about seeds. It also has the charm of being slender, long, and coiling around itself. It’s easy to see why it has the name of snake melon.

Vegetables for gazpacho

Vegetables for gazpacho

Easy to make, and refreshing in the fading days of summer.

Croutons on top, ready to serve

Croutons on top, ready to serve

RECIPE

Gazpacho Crudo

Ingredients

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ripe large heirloom tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded, membrane removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 small Armenian cucumber, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed into paste
  • ½ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large, I inch-thick slice of good-quality bakery bread, crust remove and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly

Method

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, cucumber, garlic paste, and parsley, making sure to coat the vegetables with the lemon/olive oil mixture.
  3. Stir in chicken stock. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  4. In the meantime, let the bread cubes dry at room temperature for 1 hour.
  5. In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove the garlic slices, and add the bread cubes, stirring frequently until lightly browned and crisp. Drain the croutons on several layers of paper towel. Cool, and set aside until ready to garnish the gazpacho.
  6. Serve the gazpacho in bowls or in large cups with a spoon. Garnish with croutons.
  7. Serves 4.

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RICH TABLE – KEEPING OUR FINGERS CROSSED

What a year this has been! About this time last year Rich Table was a construction site, and Sarah and Evan were wondering if they could open on time. They were also wondering if they would get enough customers to pay the bills.  Their anxieties have been addressed. The doors of their new restaurant opened right on schedule, and almost from the beginning, they have been busy. One of the biggest complaints on Yelp is that getting a reservation is almost impossible. As proud parents, we know the feeling. When we are visiting San Francisco, we need to call Sarah weeks ahead to make sure we have a table. Sometimes we have had to sit at the bar, and once we only got in when there was a last-minute cancellation.

Great reviews on local food blogs and by Michael Bauer in the San Francisco Chronicle have certainly helped with their popularity, but the excellent service by “celebrity” wait staff, creative cocktails, and – of course – the imaginative food have drawn in lots of repeat customers and regulars.

The chefs have travelled to places as far away as Chicago and Mumbai to cook at the invitation of restaurants and chefs in those settings.

Now, even before the first anniversary of their enterprise, Sarah and Evan are enjoying an experience that once they could only dream of. Along with their friends,  the husband-wife team who operate State Bird Provisions in another part of San Francisco, they are among five finalists for the James Beard Foundation award for the outstanding new restaurant in the United States.

For those of you who don’t know, the James Beard Foundation Awards is cooking’s version of the Oscars. It is black-tie/long dresses in the Lincoln Center in New York City. There are categories for all sorts of food-related honorees, including best chef, best restaurant, best restaurateur, best television show, best cookbook, even best food blog (I am not on the list). There are lots of pre- and post-event parties, so it becomes a days-long celebration of food. I am certain that there is a lot of amazing food at all of the parties and events.

I thought you might be interested in the lists of finalists in two categories: Best New Restaurant and Individual Food Blog, so here they are:

BEST NEW RESTAURANT

  • Empellón Cocina                       NYC
  • Grace                                           Chicago
  • The Ordinary                             Charleston
  • Rich Table                                  San Francisco
  • State Bird Provisions               San Francisco

INDIVIDUAL FOOD BLOG

  • Cannelle et Vanille                       www.cannellevanille.com    Aran Goyoaga
  • Hunter Angler Gardener Cook   www.honest-food.net           Hank Shaw
  • Vinography                                      www.vinography.com           Alder Yarrow

Cookbook, television, and journalism awards will be announced on May 3, 2013. The other awards will be announced May 6, 2013. If you are interested in checking out all of the finalists in all of the categories, go to www.jamesbeard.org/awards

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