Gift suggestions galore. And a vintage holiday menu that includes a long-lost recipe.
The late writer Art Buchwald wrote Le Merci Donnant in 1952 when he was a young reporter for the Herald Tribune in Paris. Buchwald figured since we sit down to the same meal every Thanksgiving, he could run the same article every year as well.
I’m not planning on running this article every year, but I am running it again. Because it’s about Thanksgiving. More than that, because I’ve always believed that by watching what people eat you can find out almost everything about them - and in this article Ian Dengler proves it.
This is one of the first long pieces I ever wrote, and it has always meant a lot to me. I spent hours listening to Ian talk about his research. It took my breath away. It still does.
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The Latest Thing
Know someone who thinks she has everything? I bet she doesn’t have this magnolio. Chances are she’s never even heard of it.
The people at Lindera Farms, who make some of the country’s finest vinegars, decided to replicate an obscure Swiss product called mugolio, made of flower buds and leaves. This one leans on magnolia and pinecones steeped with honey before aging. The flavor is woodsy, sweet and floral - the yin to aged balsamic’s yang. Any creative cook will find a thousand ways to use it.
Island Creek Oysters are my favorite east coast oysters, and I’ve been ordering them for years. They harvest the oysters today, put them in the mail, and you’ll have them tomorrow. And here’s the best part: shipping is free.
When I have a few free moments nothing gives me more pleasure than trolling through the online catalog of Corti Brothers in Sacramento. The site is always filled with new and wonderful things to eat.
In the early seventies, when I moved to California, people in need of truffles, great olive oil, or the best Parmigiano, invariably called Darrell Corti who would send it off to them on a Greyhound bus. Darell was selling balsamic vinegar before anyone else in America had ever heard of it, and collecting California wines before most people understood how good they could be. I still think he knows more about food and wine than anyone else in the country. And the store is still importing foods you can’t find anywhere else.
You find old copper pots in antique stores all the time, and you stand looking at them, coveting their heft, their color, their sheer coolness in the kitchen. But then you look at their battered state and know you’ll never bother to have them re-tinned. Which pretty much makes them useless. And so you buy a new copper pot – which doesn’t make you nearly as happy.
If you want a vintage copper pot, one filled with both beauty and history, go to East Coast Tinning. Jim Hamman not only finds breathtakingly beautiful cookware, he also re-tins it. So your friends can start cooking on copper right away.
Jim also makes his own gorgeous line of hand-made copper pans. Some are lined in sterling silver – which is a better conductor of heat than even copper. And now, in an extremely bold move, he’s making a line of solid sterling pans with leather-covered handles. They’re sexy and gorgeous – kind of like jewelry for the kitchen – and if you have a lot of money and want to give someone a gift they will never forget, consider this incredible solid sterling pan
Want to know how to cook in this exotic pan? Jim’ says he’s perfected a process that eliminates eggs sticking to tin and silver-lined copper pans.
1.) Set your favorite egg pan on medium heat
2.) Add about a tablespoon olive oil
3.) Add a thin butter pat – coat the cooking surface
4.) Heat only until a drop of water dances on the pan (crucial point)
5.) Add eggs – scrambled for omelette – whole for fried
6.) Cook and, while still slightly wet on top (they should not stick), flip fried eggs or fill and fold an omelette and flip again.
7.) Slide off onto a warmed plate.
8.) For the second set – slightly LOWER the heat add a 1/2 pat butter and repeat.
The Greatest Scissors
I’ve read many odes to Joyce Chen’s Kitchen Scissors, but until I bought a pair of my own, I never quite got it. Now I can’t imagine how I ever lived without them.
Your friends may not thank you for introducing them to Bjorn Qorn; it’s frighteningly addictive stuff. (I ate an entire bag the first time I encountered it.) On the other hand, it’s made from non-GMO corn, solar popped and though it'tastes like cheese, it’s totally vegan (the flavor comes from nutritional yeast). I buy it by the case….
For Restaurant Lovers
John Donohoe has spent the past few years drawing restaurants all over the world. In the past he’s covered New York, Napa and Paris; this year he’s tackled London. If you have a friend who’s in love with a certain restaurant, one of his drawings would make a great gift. And if their favorite place isn’t on his list, he does custom work as well.
For Allium Freaks
”It is hard,” Julia Child once said, “to imagine a civilization without onions.” Historian Mark Kurlansky obviously agrees. After taking on a few of our most important foods - among then Salt, Cod, Oysters and Milk - he has just published his latest tome, an ode to the most indispensable member of the vegetable kingdom. The Core of an Onion is definitely worth your attention.
While we’re on the subject of onions, here’s one of my favorite recipes, courtesy of James Beard who called these tasty little canapes Onion Rings.
1 loaf brioche, pullman bread or challah
4 small onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
Begin with a sliced loaf of brioche, sturdy white bread, or challah. Using an inch-and- a-half round cookie cutter, cut a circle out of each slice. Slather the slices with good commercial mayonnaise and sprinkle with salt.
Put a thin slice of onion on a circle of bread and sandwich it with a second piece. Repeat.
Spread mayonnaise on the edge of each little round sandwich and then roll it in parsley. You will be astonished by how quickly these disappear.
This menu is remarkably similar to what The Hollywood Roosevelt served for Thanksgiving during that era. But that menu did not include those mysterious snowflake potatoes.
During the first half of the twentieth century snowflake potatoes were a classic American food. Mashed potatoes were mixed with copious amounts of sour cream, cream cheese and chives (some recipes added paprika and garlic), and then baked. (You can find a recipe here.)
Sounds to me like a perfect dish for the Thanksgiving table.