TND – Playing Parlor GamesNovember 18, 2011
What is your favorite word? Liminal
What is your least favorite word? Prejudice
What turns you on? Generosity of spirit
What turns you off? Pettiness
What sound or noise do you love? The sound of a cat purring
What sound or noise do you hate? The sound of my smoke detector going off every time I cook
What is your favorite curse word? Oh for f**k’s sake
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Professional Organizer
What profession would you not like to do? Commercial fisherman
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Yes, Shakespeare wrote the damn plays (I wish everyone would stop asking that); Stonehenge was built by ____________, I can show you a time lapse on how they did it; JFK was killed by ________ . . . . “
If you live in the US, you’re probably familiar with these questions from the last 10 minutes of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” when the plumy voiced James Lipton asks his celebrity guest du jour to name their favorite swear word, and identify what profession other than their own they’d like to try.
If you’re marginally pretentious, or lived in France for any length of time after 1975, you might recognize a version of these questions from the (mysteriously) wildly popular French talk show “Aspostrophes” hosted by Bernard Pivot. Personally I always found “Apostrophes” lethally boring in a uniquely French intellectual kind of way, but it was on the air for a solid 15 years so maybe I’m just not French enough to get it.
If you’re the kind of person who reads Proust for fun, you’ll recognize them as something he wrote two responses to – once in the mid-1880s when he was a teen, and then again in the early 1890s when he was a young man. Both sets of answers are as Proustian as you’d expect.
Where would you like to live?
(angsty teenage answer) The country where I should like to live.
(angsty young adult answer) A country where certain things that I should like would come true as though by magic, and where tenderness would always be reciprocated
Originally these questions were a cross between a Victorian parlor game and a 19th C personality quiz. Mostly people don’t use them as parlor games anymore – do people still even play parlor games? – and the questions have moved from written down in ‘confession albums’ to TV and the internet (Vanity Fair has an online version of the questions they ask celebrities). They’ve also spawned a thousand variations. There’s a new cookbook “Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants” that includes a riff on them they called the ‘Escoffier Questionnaire’ tailored specifically to chefs. They asked a variety of professional chefs to answer the questionnaire, but I think it’s too much fun to limit to people who do this for a living.
What was your favorite food as a kid? My mother used to make something she called ‘Cold Supper’. It had variations, but it almost always involved a sliced hard boiled egg, and apples or celery with peanut butter, and was one of my favorite dinners. Unless, Mom, was there something else that stands out in your mind?
What was the first meal you made that you were proud of? I don’t remember what it was, but the first time I cooked a whole meal on my own without my mother there to supervise/help and served it to my father and he said, ‘it tastes like something your mother would have made’ (this was a good thing, just to clarify).
What three adjectives describe your cuisine? I’d say: homey, unfussy, aromatic. I’d be curious about what other people would say.
What book most influences your food, cookbook or otherwise? Probably whatever book I’ve read most recently that featured food prominently.
What chef do you most admire? Rick Bayliss (innovative chef, and seems like a decent human being).
What is your favorite ingredient? Cinnamon
What music do you like to hear when you cook? Something upbeat and bouncy that I can sing along to (and if nobody else is home, occasionally twirl around the kitchen to).
What is your favorite hangover meal? People can eat when they have a hangover?
What is your favorite midnight snack? Anything salty and crunchy, currently half sour pickles.
What kitchen utensil is most indispensable to you? Chef’s knife
What is your favorite pot? Dutch oven
Who do you most like to cook for? Friends
What do you most value in a sous chef? This assumes I could give up enough control in the kitchen to have a sous-chef. I don’t cook well with others.
What food trend would you erase from the annals of history? Molecular gastronomy
What one food would you take with you on a desert island? Bread
What is your favorite guilty pleasure treat? Cherry crumble. And let’s be clear here, I’m not talking about a good cherry crumble. I want cherry pie filling from a can, and too sweet gooey crumble topping. And then I want to eat an immoderate amount of it straight from the pan.
What most satisfies your sweet tooth? Milk chocolate
What would you eat at your last meal, if you could plan such a thing? Iskender Kebab
Cheeseburger or foie gras? Foie Gras
What’s your favorite place to go for (and what is your favorite thing to order) Happy Hour? Happy Hour isn’t something that features in my life all that often, but we went out to Noir recently and that was a good time.
Splurge meal? Assuming that proximity is not an issue? August in New Orleans. Closer to home somewhere like Hungry Mother or Eastern Standard. My requirements are an interesting menu (including dessert), and a great cocktail line up.
Late night meal? Fried eggs on toast
A cup of coffee ? First cup of the day is large and doctored with so much milk and cream that it only bears a passing resemblance to coffee. At the end of a leisurely and elaborate dinner, a straight up shot of espresso with a twist of lemon is my preferred poison.
A greasy spoon meal? Griddled bacon, egg, cheese & spinach sandwich, with a side of pancakes for the table.
Bread desire? Baguette is the perfect bread, but only if it’s made in France. For every day purposes When Pigs Fly is my go-to source.
Groceries? Wilson Farms + farmers markets during the summer/fall.
Anyone else want to play?
Sausage & Sweet Potato Soup
Pomegranate Roasted Tomatoes
Sausage & Sweet Potato Soup
We threw/staged an elaborate cocktail party this weekend which was a lot of fun, but also kind of exhausting. I knew that Dinner this week needed to be something that required minimal advance preparation, and something that I had made so many times before that I could cook it on autopilot. This is both.
Recipe previously given: For His Heart Was Pure
Pomegranate Roasted Tomatoes
Leftover from Saturday’s cocktail party, but definitely something I will make again. Also, since you’re slow roasting the tomatoes you can do this with even subpar out of season tomatoes because the roasting will concentrate the flavors.
Preheat oven to 300.
Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled foil or parchment paper.
Slice tomatoes in halves or thirds lengthwise depending on the size of your tomatoes – I don’t suggest using anything much larger than a roma tomato. I used largish roma tomatoes and sliced them into thirds and they still took forever to cook.
Cut garlic into thin slivers – you’ll need as many slivers of garlic as you have tomato halves.
Toss the tomatoes with salt and pepper and olive oil and then lay out cut side up on the baking sheet. Tuck one sliver of garlic deep into each tomato half (you want them mostly buried – if they’re exposed they run the risk of burning in the oven).
Drizzle each tomato half with a little pomegranate molasses – the easiest way is to hold your thumb over the opening of the bottle and shake out a little bit onto each tomato.
Roast anywhere from ½ hour to 2 ½ hours depending on how big your tomatoes are and how fast your oven cooks – my mother did it with large cherry tomatoes in about 30 minutes, my large roma tomatoes took upwards of 2 hours. Resist the temptation to turn up the temperature of the oven to get it done faster, you’ll just end up burning the tomatoes.
When the tomatoes have dried out to the degree you desire remove them from the baking sheet and allow to cool. You can store them in the fridge for at least a week and probably longer assuming they last that long.
I served mine sprinkled with some fresh pomegranate seeds and chopped mint. They’d also be good in sandwiches with mozzarella, on pizza, in pasta . . .
Also left over from the cocktail party on Saturday.
Recipe previously given: Oscars 2010