Hey there good people of The Amateur Gourmet newsletter,
Do you like pretty food? Wait 'til you see the dishes I just posted from Ottolenghi's original cookbook (before he wrote "Plenty"): fennel salad with feta and pomegranate seeds AND couscous with butternut squash and apricots. Click that link and you'll be rushing to the store to buy the necessary ingredients; they're that good.
As I looked at all my pictures from the previous week and began plotting this week's newsletter, I made a discovery: I went to the same places last week as I did the week before (in parituclar, LaMill and Golden State). Here's the thing, though. I'm a man of routine. I like going to places that I know are good.
It's true that the last experience I had at LaMill was just ok (I thought the sandwich was a bit of a rip-off) but this latest visit--which happened on Saturday when Craig wanted to see that section of Silverlake--was way better. Our coffee drinks were pretty spectacular:
I loved my iced caffe con leche (it was sweetened with brown sugar) and Craig loved his macchiatto.
Then Craig said, "I'm going to order something now and I don't want to hear anything about it." He was saying this because it was 4 o'clock and we were going to an early dinner at 6ish before going to the Aimee Mann Christmas concert (which was lots of fun). He knew I'd probably say something Jewish mothery like: "You'll ruin your appetite!" So I didn't say a word when he ordered himself this cheese plate:
Instead, I ordered myself a fruit bowl:
The fruit was good, but I ended up sneaking many bites of cheese. That cheese was way tasty---especially the Humboldt Fog (which you can see on the right) and the blue cheese right next to it.
Drinking an intense coffee drink with cheese is a strange experience, but it kind of works---they keep up with each other, the way cheese works with a strong wine.
So, anyhoo, that was my revisit to LaMill and, of course, I revisited Golden State which is pretty much a regular lunch haunt for me now. This time I had their tuna sandwich and their Persian cucumber salad:
That salad was truly something else: the arugula in there was top notch, totally fresh and bright and bitter. And the dressing was super tart and lemony and a great foil for the tuna sandwich which was its own triumph on crusty, toasted bread. I'll be ordering this agan.
And, yes, we went back to Mozza, but only because our friends Mark and Diana (who are moving to L.A. at the end of the month!) hadn't been there (well, Diana had been once for lunch) and we wanted them to experience it. Needless to say, they loved it; and I loved the white anchovy pizza I had this time:
Have you been keeping up with "Top Chef"?
I'm particularly invested this year because two of the chefs are chefs that I cooked with for my cookbook and I liked them both very much. (One of them, sadly, already went home!)
On this week's challenge, there was a lot of drama concerning a gratin. This woman who went home (spoiler alert!) screwed up a gratin and Tom Colicchio was incredulous: "If you can't make a gratin, you don't belong here."
Funny enough, there's a recipe--or, rather, a formula--for a gratin in my cookbook. So the next night, after watching this, I decided to take the potatoes I was going to roast with my chicken and slice them into thin rings along with the leftover butternut squash from that Ottolenghi couscous. I layered it, as I was taught (and you'll learn this too when you see the book in Fall 2012), dousing everything with cream and dotting everything with butter and baking it in a hot oven. Here it is before going in:
And here it is when it came out:
It was a pretty luscious gratin, a bit heavy on the cream, but a great side for the chicken that I roasted. Here's a free recipe, though: if you make a gratin in a separate pan, you can roast the chicken by itself in its own skillet. When it comes out of the oven, lift the chicken out and then pour out some of the fat (leave a tablespoon or two). Add a big spoonful of flour, turn up the heat and cook the flour with the fat until you have a roux. Then add a big glass of white wine and whisk like crazy. You'll have this thick, incredible, winey sauce that's enriched with all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. That's what you see spooned all over the chicken and it was crazy wonderful:
In case you're wondering how I could eat such a rich dinner remember: I've been going to the gym five days a week since November 1st! I can eat whatever I want now WAHAHAAHAH!
Finally, last night on Netflix Instaplay I discovered the Mike Nichols film of Norah Ephron's "Heartburn" starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep:
This is a famously bad movie and there's a lot about it that doesn't work: Jack Nicholson is totally miscast, there's zero chemistry between him and Meryl Streep (who are supposed to be in love), the movie barely sets up Meryl's character before plunging her into a marriage, and the food--which, apparently, is at the center of the book the movie's based on--is only a minor element (though it plays a prominent role in the film's final dramatic moment).
Still, I kind of liked this movie by the end. The first hour is bumpy. But if you stick with it, you can get sucked into its orbit and find it hard to turn off. Plus there are so many actors you'll recognize in minor roles: Catherine O'Hara, Joanna Gleason, Stockard Channing, Jeff Daniels, and a very young Kevin Spacey.
That's all for this week folks! I'm off to finish up editing my cookbook proofs which go back to my editor tomorrow.
Until next time....
Adam (The Amateur Gourmet)
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