Recipe Drift and, alas, no Jerusalem Artichokes

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's interesting how recipes change in the hands of people who use them every day. People who return to favorite recipes at holidays for instance, try to recreate them scrupulously. But there are already recipes from my book that I have altered when I serve them now at Crook's. The recipe I use for ice cream I believe started in Bon Appetit in the early seventies. We used it as a basis for our espresso ice cream at La Residence. It had probably been at least quadrupled for restaurant use, then was lost and finally rewritten from memory. Who knows how close it is to the original now? The basic theory of the recipe survives. It is very eggy and it contains a surprising amount of whole butter that makes it hard to scoop unless a little alchohol is added to retard the freezing

Cheese crackers made me think of this lately. I like to send out a little cracker or something with soup and for years used the cheese biscuit recipe from Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking. It is the first recipe in the book, and thus always easy to find. Cheese biscuits in the South are actually little round crackers, and are one of the few foods that I remember being really spicy. The merits of a person's cheese biscuits were whispered about behind her back. They appeared most often at holidays and weddings. When I began the research for updating and expanding my book, I found a lot of my grandmother's recipes. I decided to switch to her cheese biscuit at work. Well, I've used it as written for about a year. Actually, with one small alteration. My friend Mary Clara Capel gave me a little pig shapped cookie cutter to use, so I began adding black sesame seeds to the dough to make the pigs look like little spotted ossabaws. Then about a month ago I had the idea to substitute that very hot curry powder from Kerala Curry Company in Pittsboro for the original cayenne pepper. The color is altered and the taste is delightful. Curry is often thought of as a difficult match with other flavors, but so far these have worked well with all of our soups.

Mrs. Andrews told me yesterday that she doesn't think there are enough Jerusalem artichokes to be worth digging. She said that a lot of the plants seem to have died in the drought. This is remarkable, given how aggressively invasive they are. Most people won't plant them at all for fear of them taking over. I've always thought that they could survive anything. Hopefully there are dormant corms in the ground for next year. She once told me that no matter how thoroughly you dig, you can never get them all, so they always come back the next year. I'll keep my fingers crossed. I have a tiny patch in my front yard that doesn't look at all promising either. I deliberately planted them in a place that was especially dry and barren, thinking that they could thrive anywhere. I guess I'll investigate and perhaps move them to a more clement spot in case this dryness is here for a while.

posted by Bill Smith at 6:18 AM


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