Frozen Peas as a Palliative

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Another post from outside the kitchen. I've had to have what I'm describing to my friends as "gentleman's surgery" It makes walking difficult and peeing a real adventure. As a result I've missed a week of work, sort of unexpectedly. My surgeon said that I should apply cold compresses for a few days after the operation. He then chuckled and leaned toward me as if to impart a secret. "We have found that packages of frozen peas work very well in this area as they conform nicely to the shape of the body." He was particularly pleased to be recommending this to a cook. He was correct. No, I did not later eat the peas. It would have felt unseemly somehow.

There are plenty of things to talk about, just the same. Today is the second anniversary of my friends Israel and Rosibel Cruz. They both have to work today, so last night we went to the Plaza Garibaldi in Durham for a little celebration. I am particularly fond of these two, in part because I attended their wedding in the mountains of Oaxaca. Our fiesta included huarachas, cocktel de camerones, and caldo de siete mares. It was just like being in Mexico except that there was a Big Lots across the parking lot.

Back at Crooks, I've begun bringing back the layer cakes that were so popular last summer. Again, many of them will come from Nancie McDermott, but this year I'll be able to expand my repertoire. All last year, people told me "you need to try my grandmother's this or that cake" and began giving me family recipes. I've also gotten some favorites from friends. Our first one this season is a wonderful orange cake from my friend Marcelle Bienvenu at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. It's delicious and of course served with a big blob of fresh whipped cream. It is made with frozen orange juice.

Lastly, as I have been confined to quarters I have been studying my house a little. When I first bought it in 1994 it suddenly occurred to me that I could paint things any color I wanted. And I did. One Saturday at the Farmers' Market, I bought a bunch of yellow beets for that damnable goat cheese salad that we are serving right now, fourteen years later, as luck would have it. When I cut open the cooked beets, their color was so wonderful that I stole one and took it to the paint store to have it matched. The color is a lovely rosy gold and is still the color of my hall today. I had hoped for a Tuscan effect, but I think I got Mumbai. Anyway, I still love the color and I have had it copied every time I repaint. The picture above is remarkably close to the original

posted by Bill Smith at 2:03 PM 0 comments

A Rooster in the Neighborhood

Monday, April 14, 2008

When I first moved into this house in 1985, there was an old woman who lived nearby and who kept chickens. Early in the morning we would hear her roosters. It reminded me of when I was little. You would always hear roosters way off somewhere and no on thought much about it. I was told by roommates that it was now illegal to have chickens in town, but that the old woman was grandmothered in. When she was gone there would be no more. She and her chickens are long gone, although we did see the occasional wild chickens pecking along the roadside for a while after. Lately, I have been hearing a rooster again in the neighborhood. I don't know where the rooster lives, but I love that it's here, especially now that this house sits in the middle of a big city. Hopefully none of my neighbors will complain to the city fathers. What has all this to do with cooking? I'm assuming that these people are keeping chickens for food rather than as pets. I am reminded of a Vietnamese friend who used to keep a live duck in a cardboard box in her apartment whenever a holiday meal approached. This is unappetising even to me.

It appears that a lot of this edition of A Year in the Kitchen will actually take place outside of the kitchen. I had the great great pleasure last week of hosting Lynne Rossetto Kasper and some of her friends from WUNC Radio for dinner at Crook's. I had done a demonstration with her once, and we have chatted on the phone a couple of times, but this was the first time that we were able to just sit and talk. What a delight. She was in town signing her new book How To Eat Supper and to do some fund raising for the radio station.

Also, I recently was asked to take part in a fund raiser for the Culinary Curriculum for Carteret County Community College. This is my neck of the woods so I am always happy to do things down there if I can. I was asked to cook shrimp and grits for a sort of roving picnic and then to be one of three judges for an Iron Chef competition that's secret ingredient turned out to be lamb. I love lamb, but lots of the good things that can be made with it take time, not the hour and twenty minutes the teams were given. To my surprise and relief, most of the dishes were pretty good. A tartare with fresh basil and soy sauce was delicious. An assortment of little satays and finger sandwiches were quite nice, too. The winning team produced a main course that sounded awful, but turned out to be surprisingly good- shepherds' pie with a sweet potato crust, sprinkled with blue cheese. The event was held at The Coral Bay Club at Emerald Isle. I have worked there with Chef Tony Garnett and his staff before and it is always a pleasure.

posted by Bill Smith at 4:34 AM 0 comments

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