Thursday, November 01, 2018

Remembering James Beard at the Stanford Court

Erica Peters, Marelene Sorosky Gray, Jacqueline Mallorca and John Phillip Carroll
In the 1970’s and 80’s James Beard, the "dean of American cookery" took up residence at the Stanford Court hotel. The hotel was his home for three months out of the year. The San Francisco Professional Food Society recently hosted a conversation with three of his friends and co-workers, John Phillip Carroll, Jacqueline Mallorca and Marlene Sorosky Gray who reminisced about his time at the Stanford Court. It was moderated by food historian Erica Peters.  

Here are just a few highlights from the event: 

On his time in San Francisco: 
This city and this hotel room were great refuge for him. It was chaos in New York. Julia Child once referred to his New York house as being full of loonies but here he was invited to everyone's home for dinner and he was taken care of. He said, “the city just gets into my blood.” - John Phillip Carroll (JPC)

He loved the West Coast and he had a lot of friends here from years back that pampered him. Chuck Williams would have him for dinner at least once a week. He kept his private life private.  He enjoyed his life, he had a good time and he lived it up. - Jacqueline Mallorca (JM)

Even towards the end of his life he loved to party, he would tell me--"Jackie don't get old." –  (JM)

On his career:
He had a genuine interest and admiration for American cuisine and how special it was. In his hands it was new and fresh. - JPC

I think he knew he was doing something important but he was humble. - JC

During his entire career as a freelance writer he did not make a ton of money off his books and he was never good on television. He was a bit envious of Julia Child’s success but they were very good friends and spent time here together. - JPC 

Illustration of James Beard by Jacqueline Mallorca
I worked with Julia Child and James, Julia was a teacher, that was what she loved to do, she was curious Jacques is the best technical cook in the country, no one can touch him and James was like an encyclopedia when it came to food. If you wanted to know anything you could ask him and he would go into a dissertation on it. – Marlene Sorosky Gray (MG)
Kraft offered him a huge amount of money to promote squeeze Parkay. Marion Cunningham and I made toast and he wanted to like it but he hated it and said no.  - JPC

He told me, “I wouldn’t do Aunt Jemima. I don’t look good in a bandana.” -  JM

Some funny anecdotes:
Jim (James Beard) was a very jovial man. We had gone to New York for a book signing at Bloomingdales and Jim walked very slowly. We were making very stately progress and a drunk came up and said, “Aren't you Winston Churchill?” Jim roared with laughter and said, “I wish I was!” he was always fun and very social, he loved to party. - JM

In a cookware shop a woman came up to him and said excitedly, “I can’t believe it, James Child, aren’t you the famous chef and he responded not unless there is a Julia Beard. He was never insulted; he just made light of the experience. - MG

In the holiday season in the mid 70’s in the corner suites, on the top floor was Julia and Paul Child, James Beard on the 7th floor, Marcella & Victor Hazan on the 6th floor and Craig Claiborne on the 5th. If the hotel had crumbled the food world would have changed. For me it was a golden age to be involved in any aspect of food, wine and hospitality. It was a much smaller world. We were all very good friends. We were lucky to all be there are the same time. - JPC

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Instant Indian Cookbook Review


Indian cooks have discovered the Instant Pot and how well it works for Indian cuisine—it can be used to cook everything from rice to yogurt to complex layered meat and vegetable dishes. There are at least 10 Indian Instant Pot cookbooks on Amazon at the moment, and I suspect there are more e-books out there on the topic as well. There are also a ton of blogs that focus on Indian recipes made in the Instant Pot.

I recently purchased an Instant Pot but had never used it. I tried it out with a recipe from Instant Indian: Classic foods from every region of India made easy in the Instant Pot! By Rinku Bhattacharya. The recipe I chose was Cozy Butter Chicken. The instructions for this dish were incredibly clear, so much so that I was able to make this dish without having ever used the Instant Pot before. The author points out that timing is an issue “You need to factor in the time it takes to come to full pressure, the actual pressure cooking time, and the time for steam release. I have accounted for the complete cooking cycle by noting a total time needed with all my recipes.” But that was the problem I had with the recipe which states:

TOTAL TIME: 40 MINUTES
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Sauté Time: 15 minutes
Pressure Cook: 10 minutes
Pressure Release: 10 minutes

I found that this does not include the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come to full pressure, and an accurate time for pressure release. It took almost another 10 minutes to reach full pressure and over 15 minutes to release naturally rather than the stated 10 minutes. That is a considerable amount of additional time.
Cozy Butter Chicken
Cozy Butter Chicken, on the right according to the instructions and on the left with the sauce reduced 
The other issue I had with this recipe was that the finished dish was incredibly watery and the chicken was somewhat overcooked and falling apart. The sauce did not resemble the thick creamy sauce I know from having had this dish in the past. I spent almost another 10 minutes reducing the sauce in a saucepan. Once I did, the sauce and the dish were absolutely delicious.

I struggled with the decision to purchase an Instant Pot because I really don’t have room for it. But I thought perhaps I would be able to replace my rice cooker and my pressure cooker with it. But I found it took longer for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure than it takes my old pressure cooker, so I’m not sure that it will replace it after all. The biggest convenience factor to making this dish was the built in timer which allows you to set the cooking time. I also like that it has settings for things like yogurt and rice.

So would I recommend the Instant Pot and using it for Indian Recipes? Probably, but I will need to do some more experimenting.

Disclaimer: A pdf of this book was given to me for review purposes

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

All About White Peaches

Recently I received a flat of white peaches. I was planning to preserve them but I quickly realized that wasn't such a good idea. White peaches are lower in fruit acid so they are extremely sweet. They have a lovely almost floral fragrance and a very soft juicy texture. All of this makes them great to eat out of hand, but not so great for canning or cooking. If you can them you need to add a lot of acid such as lemon juice and if you bake with them they lose their shape and can get very mushy. 

White peaches are the most popular kind of peaches in Asia, but in the West and in Europe we tend to prefer yellow peaches. White peaches ripen very quickly and require refrigeration once soft or they will spoil. Freezing them is also an option. Since using them raw is best, I had to figure out what to do with them as fast as I could. 

I decided to freeze most of the peaches. Frozen they can be added to smoothies. I also pureed some peaches and froze the puree to use to make the Bellini cocktail which is just prosecco and peach puree. But what else can you do with white peaches? 

Here are a few more ideas: 

Use them in simple syrup 

Make a shrub

Add them to kombucha 

Include them in fruit salad

Use a few slices to sweeten iced tea

Mix up a peach smash with bourbon or  whiskey

Disclaimer: My thanks to Washington State Stone Fruit Growers for the peaches. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Easy Peach Jam Recipe

Easy peach jam


I’ve made peach jam several times, thanks in part to an annual delivery of peaches courtesy of the Washington Stone Fruit Growers, but I continue to look for ways to simplify the canning process. Standard peach jam recipes call for a lot of sugar and some powder or liquid pectin. The result is good, but can be a bit on the sweet side and a little rubbery. My preference is for a softer jam with less sugar and frankly less fuss. I wondered if there might be a way to make jam without bothering with the tedious job of peeling peaches? It turns out, there is. 

The key to this recipe is the peels. Lemon peel and peach peel are high in pectin and so if you cook the peaches with them, you won’t need to add any additional pectin. I started with a recipe from A Sweet Spoonful, but the main difference was I skipped peeling the fruit and used the lemon peel as well as the juice. I added some slices of fresh ginger in my first batch but I didn’t find it added much flavor so I’m skipping it. You could certainly add some powdered ginger, candied ginger or even scraped vanilla bean if you like. 

This jam is in between jam and preserves. It has some skin in it, but it’s silky smooth and doesn’t detract from the texture or flavor of the peaches. The pureed skins add a pretty rosy tint. How much you puree is up to you, I estimate I pureed about 1/3 cup or so. Note: You could can this in half pint or pint jars. I used  a combination of both. 

Easy Peach Jam
Makes 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

4 pounds washed peaches, pitted and cut into chunks, about 8 cups 
2 cups ganulated sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon rind from one lemon, cut into large pieces

Instructions

Fill a canner with water and bring to a boil. Place the jars in the canner and boil. Put a small plate in the freezer so you can test the jam later. 

Place the peach chunks in a large non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice. Don’t stir–just let the sugar sit and macerate, this helps to release the natural juices of the fruit. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Add the fruit along with the lemon peel to a large pot and bring to a boil. Using a potato masher mash the peaches. Continue stirring the peaches as they cook, using a wooden spoon. After about 10 minutes skim as much of the peels out of the pot using a slotted spoon and puree them in a blender then add them back to the pot. Remove the lemon peel and discard. Continue cooking until the mixtures thickens, about another 20 minutes. Test the thickness by placing a teaspoon full of the jam on the chilled plate and let it rest for about 30 seconds. Run your finger through the dollop and if it stays separated where your finger was, it’s thick enough. 

Lift the jars out of the canner, pouring the hot water back into the canner. Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. After filling the jar, release the air bubbles by inserting a narrow silicone spatula or similar tool between the jam and the inside of the jar. Place the rims on top of each jar and loosely seal with the bands. Carefully place the jars back in the canner and process/boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the canner and let rest overnight, you may hear the lids pop. Store for up to one year. 

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Peaches were provided to me as part of the canbassador program by Washington State Stone Fruit Growers and to Ball Home Canning for the jars.