"Waiter! Bring me shad roe!"

Friday, February 29, 2008

You'll be able to follow Cole Porter's lead for the next few weekends as the shad roe has arrived. It seems to me to be a bit early, but in any case, here it is.We'll serve it folded into soft scrambled egg enriched with Chapel Hill Creamery Quark and plopped atop a puff pastry vol-au-vent. I'm thinking we will only have it on Saturday and Sunday nights. Although lots of people ask about it, the number of takers is small. Shad roe is the food equivalent of what jazz was to music years ago when I owned the Cat's Cradle. People would lament in sad, slow, serious tones the lack of jazz in town. "If only there were some really good jazz", they would mourn. Occasionally we would book such a band and three people would come. Shad roe fares better than that and happily the music scene around here is now much matured. There are all kinds of audiences of all kinds of shows. We'll see what happens this season. If you are a fan, call ahead to make sure we have it.

This Saturday will also see the last corned ham of the season. The menu is getting too crowded, with lots of new stuff clamoring for space. Soon gone as well will be cheese pork and gumbo. I am happy to bring back, after a long time, our artichoke stuffed with breadcrumbs and all kinds of other stuff- mostly cheeses. We call it Artichoke Vieux Carre, because it is a style often seen in New Orleans. I learned of it years ago from an old friend who was born and raised there. Like so many other recipes, this one now bears little resemblance to the original. It actually bears little resemblance to the last time we served it. Normally, among it's ingredients are capers and finely minced anchovies. This year I had half a wheel of Chapel Hill Creamery's Hickory Grove cheese that I hadn't used. It had gotten a little strong, but it was still delicious. I cut it into tiny little dice and tossed it into the stuffing which already included Parmesan, butter, fresh rosemary, garlic, olive oil, pimientos, red onions, lemon peel, and of course breadcrumbs. Capers, suddenly seemed inappropriately sour and anchovies might be gilding the lily. Besides, anchovies, although I consider them an essential seasoning, have a repellent effect on much of the population equalled only by liver or beets.

The artichokes are steamed and cleaned and then a disk of Celebrity Dairy's chevre is placed in the bottom. Then I cram as much of the above mentioned stuffing as possible into the heart and among the leaves of each one. They are topped with a lemon slice, drizzled with olive oil and baked until they almost fall apart. Some people can't seem to see bread crumbs as something to eat and try to rake them to the side. I don't see what is wrong with bread myself. I guess these are the same people who object to crust on fried chicken. In Spain, I've actually been served a little dish of fried bread crumbs at tapas. And, oh yes, when the Hickory Grove is gone the capers will return.

Next Wednesday (March 12th), I will have the great pleasure of helping Sara Foster host our pal Kim Sunee for a signing of her new memoir A Trail of Crumbs at Foster's Market in Chapel Hill. Kim is the food editor of Cottage Living Magazine and a good friend of many of us in the food business around here. The event will begin at 5:30 and we will be serving recipes from Kim's book, including a wonderful almond saffron cake that I'll be bringing. Please join us.

posted by Bill Smith at 9:34 PM


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