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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
Tue April 29, 2014
You and Me Darlin’. Like Ham and Eggs. Like Cream and Sugar. You know what I mean Love?
Like Bogey and Bacall some things are meant to be unified a Oneness out of Two. It is the way of the world. When I think of the great food marriages I swirl in a dance of dualities. Salt and Pepper. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Chocolate and Vanilla. What causes some things to match so perfectly that we rarely think of them alone? That their still stunning singularity is magnified by more than a power of two when twined?
The magic is in their differences I’m sure. It is often noted in human love affairs that ‘opposites attract’. But we often see how those opposites change in our relentlessly evolving and inescapable human ways. Unlike food we never stop morphing. But as near as I can tell the great food match ups remain constants through very long periods of time. I feel reasonably assured that when Mark Twain had a breakfast of biscuits and gravy it would be quite similar to a properly made rendition of the same in this century. Of course any damn fool can play with the properties of food and many will. Some might make biscuits out of potatoes and gravy out of emulsified pea soupeee gads! But I guarantee it won’t create a line to a table like my friend Natalie Dupree’s version!
I can lay claim to knowing a thing or two about “Fusion Cooking”. I have not gotten into that topic much during my weekly programs of “A Word on Food”. There is not enough room honestly for the full range of things I have to say with this time frame. Google me if you want more. But I will take the time to say is that what struck me cooking in the early years of how many fitting unions one could make if the chef was not shy about some border crossing. And I was not shy. I will wait for history. As long as I can but when I ‘fused’ a smoky plantain cream sauce with my Pork ‘Havana’ I hit some kind of cross-cultural nerve. I know because many of the chefs who once worked for me continue to do versions in the restaurants they now cook in. I am happy about it actually. ‘Flattery’ and ‘Respect’ can be partners too!
For my wife Janet’s and my Anniversary we decided to go to a celebratory restaurant we have loved over the decades and have a true feast. The pairings in that dinner included classic unions of Oysters and Sauce Mignonette, Foie Gras and Sauternes, Heirloom Tomato Fondue with Gnocchi, Brook Trout and Almonds, Steak and Béarnaise. At the end of all of that we asked for the cheese cart and enjoyed a meltingly proper Èpoisses made with cow’s milk as it has been since the early 1500’s by Cistercian monks in the Burgundian village of Èpoisses with homemade Fig Marmalade. After some ‘resting time’ the restaurant sent out their justifiably famous ‘Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Crème Anglaise’.
When I looked at her in the magical glow of that dining room after the end of that meal and I asked her if we had it all?
She smiled at me with the chocolate frosting still on her lips and said with a wink
“Just like Bogey and Bacall”
RECIPIE FOR DRIFTWOOD VINAIGRETTE
Yields: 3 Cups
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 peeled and minced shallot
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2.4 ounces Red Wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Balsamic
- 1 Cup canola oil
- ½ Cup pure olive oil 1 Cup X.V.O.O.
- 1 oz. dark roasted sesame oil
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Whisk the salt, shallot, Dijon and vinegars first in a medium bowl.
Add the remaining. Season to taste. Adjust acidity if needed. Reserve until needed.
A Word On Food