Tag Archives: Sarah Rich

SHAMELESS COMMERCE

Our family has heard some exciting news from the Bay Area. Sarah and Evan have been working on a cookbook for well over a year. The process has included selecting recipes, testing them exhaustively, food styling sessions and long photo shoots along with extended conferences with editors. The book is due to be released on September 4. Amazon has it available for pre-order at $29.68. Of course, we have not seen the finished product or even the galleys. But we have heard all about the challenges, delays, deadlines, and disagreements that all go into the crafting of a book. Both Sarah and Evan have learned that book writing is a lot different from cooking. For them it is not as much fun.

The book features some of the foods that come out of the kitchens at Rich Table and RT Rotisserie, but it also includes comfort foods and accompanying family stories from childhood. Proud dad that I am, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy,

Here’s a look at the cover:

 

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ROASTED CHICKEN

At least in my neighborhood, it has become increasingly difficult to find a whole chicken at the grocery store. Nowadays, there are shelves and shelves of chicken parts – breasts, wings, thighs, and drumsticks – with increasingly processed sub-types – chicken tenders, boneless breasts, “drumettes”, skinless thighs, and ground chicken. You get the idea. When Ralph’s announced a sale of whole chickens, my menu-driven mind went into overdrive. Usually I boil a whole chicken for the resultant stock along with enough meat picked from the bones for gumbo or green chile chicken or something similar. This time I wanted to do something else that was also not too hard or tome-consuming. I flashed on roasted chicken, inspired by Jacques Pépin who wrote in his classic La Technique, “There is nothing as simple and as delicious as a well-cooked roast chicken.” He went on to say, “Unfortunately, to get it properly done in a restaurant is as rare as it is simple.” That sounds like an intimidating challenge from one of the most important cooking experts of our time.

Sarah knows about intimidation by Jacques Pépin and André Soltner, both very warm and generous individuals. They were deans at the French Culinary Institute in New York City when she was a student. Chefs Pépin and Soltner  provided instruction in their lectures and demonstrations along with kindness and encouragement in their personal interactions, but they were also involved in examinations. Roasting a chicken was one of the tasks in the final exam. Sarah was anxious, but she passed – with great relief and celebration.

This recipe is drawn freely from Pépin’s La Technique. If you can find a copy, you should by all means buy it. Published in 1976, it is out of print, but you can find it on-line. The book is a heavily-illustrated step-by-step narrative of French cooking techniques, and the photos are all of Pépin himself performing the actions required in each technique. On top of that, La Technique is an excellent cookbook in its own right. It goes without saying that my roast chicken is not in the league of Jacques Pépin’s, but hopefully it would pass the test.

RECIPE

Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup water

Method

  1. Remove liver and other giblets that may be packaged with the chicken. Pat dry and sprinkle generously inside and out with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large cast-iron or other heavy, oven-proof pan, melt the butter. Place the chicken in the melted butter, and using a basting brush, paint the entire chicken with the butter.
  3. Place the chicken on its side in the pan and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 400° oven for 15 minutes. Turn on the other side and roast for another 15 minutes.
  4. Turn the chicken on its back and baste with dripping using a large metal cooking spoon. Continue to roast for an additional 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes with scraped-up drippings and frond.
  5. Add water to the pan and roast for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover with foil, and rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile stir the pan gravy. Correct seasoning if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  8. Carve the chicken and serve immediately.

 

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PAIN PERDU – NEW ORLEANS-STYLE FRENCH TOAST

We have been spending several days in San Francisco, watching two of our grandsons while their parents are off to London and Paris for a cooking demonstration along with “professional observation and study” of some amazing restaurants in both cities. I have been in charge of packing lunches, and each evening I look at the lunch boxes to see what has been eaten. It is usually a big let-down but also a stimulus to pack something they will eat. Pirate’s Booty seems to be a sure-fire winner. Keep in mind that they are six and three years old. Still.

Susan and I have been sharing breakfast duties. Of course, there are always toast soldiers and dry (no milk!!) Cheerios to proffer, but that gets monotonous, even for the cook. So far, Susan has been the winner with plates that include maple syrup or – the kids’ favorite – Louisiana cane syrup from Shreveport. Taking a cue, and wondering what to do with a dried-out hard loaf of French bread that Sarah had left after using part of it for Thanksgiving dressing, I decided to make French toast.

“French toast” apparently got its name in England; there are other names for the dish in other countries. In France and New Orleans it is known as “pain perdu” i.e. “lost bread”. I’m not sure about Paris, but I am certain that it is a staple in New Orleans. Most of the cafes and bistros that are open for breakfast in the French Quarter feature it.

Honestly, I am not a big fan of French toast like my mother used to make. Slices of store-bought sandwich bread dipped in egg and fried always seemed like  a soggy egg and toast. But pain perdu is a totally different experience. Done properly the dish should be puffy and golden with a crisp outside and a custardy inside. The secret is to use good-quality dry bread and give it enough time to soak up the egg and cream bath.

RECIPE

Pain Perdu

Ingredients

  • slices of dried French bread
  • eggs (one egg for each slice of bread)
  • cream (½ cup for each slice of bread)
  • Vanilla sugar (1 tablespoon for each slice of bread) Note: you can make vanilla sugar by placing a vanilla bean in a covered container filled with sugar and letting stand overnight. Alternatively, you can substitute  plain sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • unsalted butter (1 tablespoon for each slice of bread)

Method

  1. Arrange bread slices in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer
  2. Beat the eggs well and then combine with cream, sugar, and if needed, vanilla extract.
  3. Pour the egg mxture over the bread slices, turning the bread once before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating overnight. Turn occasionally to make sure both sides of bread absorb the egg mixture.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-low flame. Add butter and heat until the butter stops foaming. Add the soaked bread and fry until both sides are golden. Serve immediately with syrup or fruit compote.

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SLOW COOKER BRISKET

I have written about the family recipe for braised brisket before. The previous time, two years ago, I combined it with latkes in honor of a family celebration. This time, I have modified the recipe for the slow cooker. That requires essentially no modification, the difference being that you braise a smaller brisket in a slow cooker rather than a larger brisket in the oven. It works just as well, and the results are always the same. Cheers go up from the crowd when the brisket is sliced, and no one needs encouragement to go back for seconds. That’s the same reaction Sarah gets when she does a brisket for family meal in whichever restaurant she might be cooking.

A good friend of Susan shared the recipe over 50 years ago. That was an act of regard and true friendship, because the recipe had been passed down in that family for years and, in the custom of the day, was considered to be a “family secret”. Actually, that’s how we treated the recipe for many years.

There are only a few rules to follow in preparing brisket by this method.

First, you will need to have the butcher cut the brisket to order, as a whole brisket is way too large to fit in the usual slow cooker. If your pot is smaller, you probably only need a 2-pound piece.  If the pot is larger, a 3-pound piece is a good size. That presents the problem as to what to tell the butcher. One end of a full brisket is called the “first cut” or “flat cut”. The meat is leaner and may require longer braising. The other end has more fat and is called “second cut” or “point”. During braising, the fat will render and the remaining shards of meat will be tender and can easily be shredded.

Second, it is important to marinate the brisket over night. This recipe uses a marinade that includes liquid smoke and is then used as the braising liquid. If you have your own favorite marinade, by all means use it.

Third, lower is better, and so is slower. It is hard to get the temperature too low although you shouldn’t try for anything lower than 170°F. Keep in mind that you will need to cook the brisket longer the lower the temperature. At 170°F you should plan on at least 12 hours cooking.  If the cooking is not long enough, the meat will be done but not as tender as you might like. Fortunately, it is hard to ruin the brisket by cooking it too long.

When you are ready to serve the brisket, let it rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes and then slice it thinly on the diagonal with the grain of the meat and with a 45° angle with the cutting board. It should be fork-tender. Shred it, using two forks, if you prefer.

RECIPE

Slow Cooker Brisket

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2-3 pound brisket
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Combine the liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings in a metal pan. Add the brisket, and cover with aluminum foil.  You can use a large zippered freezer bag if you prefer. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.
  2. Place the marinated brisket in a slow cooker large enough to hold it flat. Cover. Set the cooker on LOW (about 200°F in my slow cooker) or SIMMER (about 185°F in my slow cooker) and cook for at least 10 hours, turning frequently during the cooking process.
  3. When the brisket is done to your satisfaction, remove from the oven to a cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes. Then slice on a diagonal with the grain of the meat. Serve immediately.

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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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BUTTERMILK-BRAISED ROAST CHICKEN

It’s been six weeks since our stove and oven quit working. The saga of the long delay will have to wait for another blog – when and if the stove gets repaired. This time I will deal with how someone who likes to cook copes without a stove.

Six weeks is a long time to go without cooking for some households, at least ours.  During this time, we have eaten some delicious meals at Carol’s house, and for that we thank her. We have eaten at some little neighborhood restaurants across the street. But we have also depended upon our supply of plug-in appliances, along with a slow cooker that we borrowed from Carol. Waffles with the waffle iron, panini from the George Forman grill, and rice from the rice cooker have all been on the menu. The main thing I have done, though, is to use the slow cooker. It works beautifully and confirms all of the enthusiasm for its utility for busy people. You toss some things in the pot, turn it on, leave it unattended for a few hours, and return to a delicious dish just waiting to be served. The only problem, in my hands at least, is that everything comes out looking and tasting like stew. I know that there are myriad cookbooks filled with interesting recipes. I know that there are even some enthusiasts who claim you can bake a cake! I have not succumbed.

The one appliance I haven’t used since the demise of household fire is our Sunbeam rotisserie. I have written about it in the past; it really does do a good job of roasting things as if they were on a spit. It’s my turn for Sunday family dinner, so I thought it would be a good time to get out the rotisserie. It also seemed like the opportune time to try out Sarah and Evan’s recipe for roasted chicken that appeared in this month’s issue of Food and Wine. (Check out “Winner, Winner” on page 46 of the October, 2017 issue.) Since Douglas fir trees don’t grow at this altitude in Southern California, I substituted rosemary. Also, since the original recipe was for oven roasting, I have made a few changes to accommodate the absence of the stove and the demands of the rotisserie. Otherwise, everything is the same. The chicken is brined over night in a bath of buttermilk, salt, sugar, garlic and rosemary with the secret ingredient of porcini mushroom powder. The mushroom powder adds distinct umami to the mixture. The final touch of roasted garlic oil is also an important taste profile. Without a stove, I had to use the microwave to heat the garlic slices in olive oil.  Surprisingly, the garlic browned, although I am sure it could easily burn and become bitter. In any event, the process worked well, and the family had a pleasant Sunday dinner.

I will be glad when we get our stove back.

RECIPE

Buttermilk-Brined Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 11 garlic cloves, 9 smashed and 2 thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 chicken, 3 to 5 pounds
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Combine ¼ cup Kosher salt, smashed garlic, sugar, rosemary and bay leaves in a large microwave-proof bowl. Stir in 2 cups of water. Heat in the microwave on high for 6 minutes. Remove from the microwave, stir to dissolve any undissolved sugar and salt. Add 2 cups of water and cool.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a large container big enough to hold the brine and the chicken. (I used an 8 quart plastic bread-proofing container.)
  3. Grind the porcini mushrooms to a powder using an electric spice grinder.
  4. Whisk the ground mushrooms and buttermilk into the salt and sugar mixture. Place the chicken in the mixture, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Be sure to remove any giblets that have been packaged inside the chicken.
  5. When you are ready to roast the chicken, remove it from the buttermilk brine, drain it well, and pat it dry with paper towels. With kitchen string, truss the bird: tie the legs together; tuck the wings behind the back and tie them firmly. You should wind up with a compact package that will fit easily on the rotisserie spit. Season all over with salt.
  6. Arrange the chicken on the spit so that it is firmly seated and will not come in contact with the heating element. Cover the rotisserie with the protective lid and turn on the spit.
  7. After 15 minutes, stop the rotisserie, brush the chicken all over with the softened butter.  Restart the rotisserie, and roast for an additional 50 minutes or until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 165°F as measured with an instant-read probe thermometer.
  8. Transfer the roasted chicken to a cutting board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the sliced garlic and olive oil in a small microwave-proof cup or bowl. Heat the bowl in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. The garlic should brown. Check to make sure it does not burn. Remove from the microwave.
  10. Remove the trussing from the bird. Cut into serving pieces. Brush lightly with the garlic oil. Serve immediately, passing the remaining oil at the table.

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FRIED CHICKEN AND CREAM GRAVY

Fried chicken has always been popular in our family. Probably it is in most families. And there have been lots of family cooks who have staked their reputation on their version of the delicacy.

My mother was celebrated among her family contemporaries as the champion, and her special family dinner was always fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cream gravy. A picnic in the mountains was an anticipated treat of childhood. My mother would fry up two chickens, pack them into a big glass jar that she reserved for the occasion, and arrange the jar in the back window of our Willys Overland Americar to keep the chicken warm until we reached our destination. (Why none of us ever came down with a fatal food-borne illness I will never know.) At the picnic table we would reach into the jar and pull out a favorite piece – or the back if we were too late. There was never any chicken left.

My mother-in-law often served fried chicken when family had gathered around her table at the farm. The crispy skin and juicy meat  stimulated sibling rivalry at the table, sometimes triggereing mild rebuke from PopPop, the patriarch, who had high expectations for table manners.

Sarah, also known as Sally Hurricane, has for years made fried chicken for family meals at the restaurants where she has worked. Now she serves an off-menu treat at RT Rotisserie that is known as Sally Hurricane’s Southern Fried Chicken. I have written about it in this journal, and there is a story about it in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Susan and Carol also make some mean versions of fried chicken, but Susan has largely turned from cooking to gardening, and Carol doesn’t like to fry things. So, for a recent Sunday family dinner I decided to make fried chicken (one of Carol’s all-time favorite foods) with salt-crusted fingerling potatoes instead of the usual mashers but keeping the traditional cream gravy.

Inspired by a recent visit to RT Rotisserie, I have been thinking about fried chicken a lot lately. RT ages its chickens before roasting them on the rotisserie. The cooks arrange trussed chickens on big racks in a large cold room in order to dry them a bit and make the skin crispier. That’s similar to what is done to make the skin on Peking duck so crispy.

Also, I have become interested in slower cooking: a potato baked longer at a lower temperature seems fluffier, and a braise at a lower temperature seems more flavorful. (Think crock pot?) Usually I start frying chicken at a high temperature until it is brown and then reduce the temperature to complete the cooking. I thought that I would give “slow from the start” a chance. All in all, my experiments turned out ok. I thought the chicken was crispy and tasty. What more can one ask? One important thing I did learn was that when you fry chicken at a lower temperature be sure to get the skin as dark as you want it before you turn it. Turn each chicken piece only once; otherwise it will stick to the pan and you’ll lose the crispy skin that you have been trying so hard to achieve.

RECIPE

Fried Chicken and Cream Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Method

  1. Using a very sharp large chef’s knife, cut the chicken into serving pieces. You should wind up with 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 or 3 pieces of breast meat depending on how you cut it up, and the back, which you can fry after cutting into 2 pieces or for some other purpose such as making chicken stock. If you prefer, you can buy ready-prepared chicken parts.
  2. Place the cut-up chicken in a large pie plate and set in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight. Turn occasionally while it rests.
  3. When you are ready to fry the chicken, combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and poultry seasoning in a sealable quart plastic bag. Mix well, then reserve 2 tablespoons in a separate bowl to be used later for making cream gravy.
  4. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-low heat. Make sure it is up to heat before you add the chicken. (I used a ceramic cooktop set at 2.4 with a full range of 10)
  5. When the frying pan is heated, add one piece of chicken to the plastic bag, seal and shake. Remove the chicken from the bag, shake loose any excess flour mixture and place in the hot oil, skin side down.
  6. Repeat the process until all of the pieces of chicken have been floured and added to the frying pan. If you have one, cover with a spatter shield. Do not cover with a lid.
  7. Fry the chicken without turning for 15 minutes or until the skin has browned to your liking. Turn the chicken pieces and continue to fry, again not turning, for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is well browned and cooked through. An instant-read thermometer may be useful at this point. The internal temperature of the chicken should read 170°F.
  8. Transfer the fried chicken to a large plate and place in a warm oven until the gravy is made.
  9. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the frying oil and return the pan to the heat. In a Mason jar, combine the reserved flour mixture, milk and chicken stock, seal with a screw lid and shake until completely mixed. Add  the mixture to the heated frying oil.
  10. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a low boil and cook until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve while still warm along with the fried chicken.

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