Tuesday, May 6, 2008
We've been so busy this month that I've fallen way behind and there's lots to talk about.
It is, of course, honeysuckle season and it looks like there's going to be a lot. Everything that survived the drought at all seems to be coming back with a vengeance. I've become quite an observer of honeysuckle and its habits, so I'll probably hold forth at length while it's in bloom. It is also the season for soft shelled crabs. It looks to be an average year for these. Both of these things invariably arrive at the same time and almost without fail they arrive with UNC Graduation and Mothers' Day. This is the time of year when I am least able to deal with foods that create a frenzy among the public, but these are two of the few foods which do just that. This is my thirtieth year in a restaurant kitchen in this town on this weekend. It is my fifteenth at Crook's. Not remarkably, I'm long since out of patience with all this song and dance. Rather than feeling the need to show off to our visitors, my instinct is to batten down and try to protect my staff from being mowed down. I can do this with confidence because I am always pleased with our menu anyway, so a choosing simple, elegant recipes from our repertoire is in no way a step down. It shows off what we do best.
Sometimes I wonder how many crabs I have dispatched in my time. I am lucky that I grew up on the coast cleaning fish, because generally I find dressing animals before I eat them a little off-putting. This has come up from time to time in Mexico. We will serve them as we always have, with basil and garlic and browned butter. Two garish colored slaws are at their side. One is a standard cabbage and vinegar slaw, but made with purple cabbage. The other is a shockingly good carrot, lemon and garlic slaw that I got years ago from a friend who had a French grandmother-in -law. It is bright and tangy and refreshing and is great with anything fried.
This week we also brought back our ever popular fish baked in paper with risotto. This incarnation uses tilefish, which I've never been crazy about, but Paul thought up this rub of freshly ground cumin seed and lime peel that is absolutely delicious, so I've had to change my tune. Another new item is a strawberry buttermilk sherbet that my friend Donna Florio put in this issue of Southern Living. Ordinarily, I don't steal recipes from magazines while they are still on the newsstand, but this is so good that I'm making an exception. And as I said Donna is an old friend and probably won't mind. Besides, it's strawberry season now, and by next year I will probably have forgotten the recipe
posted by Bill Smith at 11:43 AM