One of the favorite meals of my youth was beef fondue. I’d request it for my birthday dinner and Mom and Dad would make sauces and cut up vegetables and beef tenderloin. We had a steel fondue pot—this was the mid 1970s—and Dad would bring out the hot oil and we’d cook our food right there. I loved cooking my own food at the table, dipping the hot fried beef in a thick Bearnaise sauce.
Ann bought me a great fondue pot at Stock PVD as an anniversary gift last month, with all the fixins for the dish: good cheese, bread, wine, kirsch. So simple. And just like my dad used to make for Christmastime parties. It’s the kirsch that is the genius seasoning. A few people in comments thought that cheese fondue has the reputation for being difficult. It’s not.
As with anything that’s mainly fat (such as chocolate) it’s all a matter of bringing a liquid to a boil, in this case white wine, lowering the heat and adding the cheese. Just enough corn starch is added to the cheese to give it the right consistency.
So given the fondue pot, and our recent adventures with the 1970s classic party chicken, Ann requested beef fondue. I was surprised how fresh, clean, and light everything tasted, even though it was fried in oil. The only drawback was the fact that the oil cooled too readily with three people cooking cold meat in the pot, requiring several breaks to bring the oil up to temp.
The potato chip omelet…
This omelet, made only with eggs and Lays potato chips, got so much attention when I posted it on Instagram, I thought I’d include it here with the recipe. Created by Ferran Adria, the Spanish modernist chef, it’s a classic Spanish tortilla, simplified. The following serves two people.
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 bag of Lays potato chips (8 ounce bag or about 3 cups of chips
drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle of very dry bubbly (optional)
Combine the chips and eggs in a bowl. Toss the chips till their well coated with egg. You can break them up a bit if you wish. Leave them alone for a minute or two while you get an appropriate skillet (Ann, who makes, uses a 10-inch non-stick pan) and turn the broiler on.
Over medium heat, add the oil to the pan. When it’s hot, add the eggs and chips. Stir the mixture. As with any omelet, the more you stir, the finer the curds will be. Once the eggs start to set, leave them alone. When you sense that the bottom is set (all this should only take a minute or two), put the pan under the broiler for another minute or two or until the eggs almost set but are still very moist.
Serve with Champagne or other dry sparkling wine. Potato chips go especially well with Champagne.
The Online Demo…
It’s been ages and ages since I’ve done any food demos, but Brandeis University’s Arizona alumni chapter asked me to host a demo with Jonathan Waxman cooking, and then one with Ann and me cooking, and a third with Thomas Keller next week. What fun it’s been. I got to talk about my obsession with roasted chicken and all that you can do with it. Roast chicken was really the impetus for my last book, From Scratch, in which I take ten staple meals and show how much you can learn from mastering one dish.
First I got a chicken roasting an hour before the demo. I was able to set up an induction burner on a rolling cart to cook in front of an iphone on a tripod, and keep all the messy mise en place off camera. I demoed trussing a chicken and salting it. I popped that in the oven and removed the finished roasted chicken to demonstrate:
Making a simple pan jus in the cast iron skillet I’d roasted the chicken in, using just carrot, onion, wine and water.
Making a refined sauce fines herbes from that simple jus.
Carving and serving the roasted chicken.
And then using the carcass with more mirepoix to make my easy overnight oven stock.
I never tire of this meal.
What we’re reading…
On my bedside table currently is a word book by Daniel Menaker, the late New Yorker editor who collected funny mistakes that came across his desk, such as the book’s title, The African Sveldt. I’ve mentioned this one before but it’s something to dip into frequently, a delight.
I’ve also been poking around in Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries, a kind of year in the life of the always excellent British food writer, with recipes and gorgeous photos.
And I’ve been continuing my study of YA and children’s lit with a brilliant YA novel Eleanor and Park (thanks, Cait!), and a delightful oversized volume of The Annotated Charlotte’s Web, which explores the creation of this classic. E.B. White’s prose still continues to astonish with its precision and lightness.
Ann is reading The Absolutist by John Boyne and says, “This is a triple-crown winner for me: it takes place in Ireland, shortly after WW I, and John Boyne wrote it! These are three of my favorite things. The story of a soldier seeking out his best friend’s sister to tell her how he died is part mystery, part love story.”
And finally, a fascinating issue of New York Magazine, exploring the history and meaning of the office in New York City and what it means. (Possible paywall, not sure as we subscribe.)
No! Not finally! Ann has just published an extraordinary YA novel called Jude Banks, Superhero, about a boy who feels responsible for the death of his younger sister. It’s a touching and moving book for middle graders but really for all ages in it’s exquisite handling of the complex grief shared by a family. Read The New York Times Book Review, which agrees.
What we’re watching….
Ann and I have absolutely fallen in love with The Durrell’s In Corfu, a PBS Masterpiece Theater production of the story of Louisa Durrell (mother of Lawrence who would go on to write The Alexandria Quartet and other novels, and Gerry Durrell, who became a nature writer), who takes her family (there are two other children as well) and moves to Greece in the 1930s.
And I have to mention My Octopus Teacher, which we watched a while back but after it won the Oscar for best documentary reminded me of it. One of the most astonishing nature documentaries and stories I’ve seen.
Up next, per Ann’s son Sam, August: Osage County, which none of us had seen, but which Sam says is outstanding. And missing live theater, I’ll like watching this adaptation of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer-winning play.
Obit of the week, how the Post-it came to be …
Spencer Silver (what a great name) is the man responsible for the Post-it note, and his NYTimes obit is a reminder to appreciate the things we take for granted (and also to wonder what might be next?). Silver, an adhesive engineer for 3M, accidentally created a low stick adhesive, and one that was also reusable.
No one cared because no one knew what to do with it. Including Silver. But he persisted, proselytizing on its behalf throughout the company. He patented the adhesive four years after inventing it. Not until six years after its invention did an engineer in the tape department, Art Fry, take interest, but he didn’t know what to do with the adhesive either.
Until he got tired of all the bits of paper he used as place markers kept falling out of his hymnal at choir practice. Eureka. The Post-it was soon to be born, formally introduced in 1980.
If you’re into cats being cats…
This is one clever cat. Click on Living Morganism, not the image for the video:
Having silly fun, they’re good at. But cats can also jump out of a fifth story window of a burning building and trot away, unscathed.
Links we’re loving …
A reader left this link in comments in the last newsletter and I’m glad she did, a treasure trove of recordings of interviews and readings by the world’s greatest writers:
The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress dates back to 1943, when Allen Tate was Consultant in Poetry. It contains nearly two thousand recordings—of poets and prose writers participating in literary events at the Library’s Capitol Hill campus.
How do we adequately thank those who make such material available to everyone in the world who’s connected to the internet?
My wife is a devoted reader of The Guardian. I first read The Guardian in the mid-1980s as a student at the University of Sussex, and realized then how liberal a paper could be. It remains so. It began 200 years ago in Manchester. This is an interactive exploration of the first edition of the paper, fascinating if you love newspapers and history.
Now that I think of it, it’s not really “interactive,” as you don’t do anything other than scroll. I think it better called a dynamic presentation. Another example is the NYTimes series on classical paintings, including one of my favorites, “a bloody masterpiece of pain and healing” called The Gross Clinic.
Why you can’t believe your eyes: Optical trickery explained, from The Guardian.
It’s waterfall season! A survey of some of the best waterfalls across the country, via the NYTimes.
Also from The Times, this breathtaking photography of Sweden in summertime (listen to the gorgeous, haunting wolves!). The work is by Marcus Westberg—lose yourself in his site if you’re longing for travel during the pandemic.
I’ve been enjoying Felicity Cloake’s dives into specific dishes. A couple weeks ago Ann had a hankering for an omelety thing she’d eaten in Japan. She couldn’t quite remember its name. Then lo and behold here it was in The Guardian: okonomiyaki. Likewise Cloake’s take on chilli crab, a dish native to Singapore, where I first tried it during my 36 hours there watching Jeans-George open his restaurant, The Dempsey Cookhouse.
And listen to this moving story and audio of a Harlem choir singing in person for the first time since the pandemic.
And finally …
I leave you with an early scene from the delightful Durrells in Corfu: