Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chef's salad, Pot Roast and Picky eaters

I love Chef salad. Any excuse to eat cold cuts, cheese and hard boiled eggs is alright with me. I suppose that my fondness for this goes back to the time when my father (alev shalom) used to take my brother and I to New York City for the weekend. He used to take us one at a time and we would go to shows, museums and to eat out. My recollection is that we had lunch in the basement of either the New York Hilton or the Waldorf and I ordered the Chef Salad. One of the cold cuts was something that I did not recognize but I seem to remember that I ate it anyway; odd being that I was a picky eater (see below). After I had finished it I asked the Old Man what it was and it was tongue. He also took me to a restaurant called the Hickory House which was the first place I remember eating London Broil. You can keep your filet mignon, give me a big pile of rare flank steak any day.

Besides being a picky eater I must have been an expensive eater as well. Years later my brother told me that when my dad was giving his version of one of those trips he was talking about some meal and the Old Man said "And Johnny had steak. Again."

Pot Roast and green beans are two controversial issues at our house. Nancy and I do them differently and each is convinced the other one does it wrong. My version has beer, stock, mustard, bay leaf, red wine, garlic, onions, stock, parsley, tobasco (or some hot sauce) and Worcestershire sauce. The first chef I worked for put tobasco and Worcestershire in almost all of his soups and stews so I do it too. This includes marinara and meat sauce for spaghetti. I didn't put carrots or celery in the pot roast that night because we had no carrots or celery in the house. I have started putting carrot juice in a lot of my sauces because it adds some sweetness and body but I don't like putting carrots in spaghetti sauce since they never cook completely and I don't like little hard bits of carrot with my pasta. This started when someone left us with a quart of carrot juice and I had to use it for something. I was making a big batch of meat sauce and thought "why not?".

Note to my children the other alternative of course would have been "Well then make CARROT SOUP!"

Picky eaters...

Nancy is being way too charitable about some of the folks that came to dinner last night.

I decided to cook lamb because it had been a long time since we have had it and I was pretty sure that one of the guests really liked it. Anything that can make Pete Bernstein happy is worth doing; he's aces with me. He was the one that said he didn't eat mushrooms but he did add "I can pick them out." and that's cool. They were chopped up so fine in the rice that you would have been hard pressed to pick them out but I think he ate it anyway.

Tom and Eva like their meat more well done than Nancy and I and that's cool also. What do they say in Paris, Ren? Chacun a son gout? I cut the lamb leg in three pieces so some could be more well done and the rest rare.

But when I put the lamb on the table one of the guests just looked up and said "I don't eat meat." It was not prefaced with "Gee I'm sorry..." or "I should have told you..." or anything else of that nature just "I don't eat meat." Well guess what? You are never invited back. I had had just enough Domaine du Mas Blanc Cosprons that I was too stunned to say anything but not so much that I went into a Chris Rock act.

Note to Alison, okay so the '01 was, according to Jerry, "a difficult vintage" but that wine is delicious.

Actually I did say something, I told him that the rice was made with chicken stock.

I got no beef (pun intended) about cooking for vegetarians, kosher folks or people with food allergies. Usually people who have dietary restrictions let you know in advance. Those that don't fall into might fall into three categories.

One, the stupid. When I was cooking at the Governor's house a woman came to lunch that was allergic to fish and didn't tell anyone. She told the staff and the ambulance crew "I thought if I just had a little it would be okay." This is the same kind of logic many noted Heroin users have employed.

Two, the incredibly polite and worldly. Two very good friends of ours are strict vegetarians and have been so for decades. When they come over or when we see them at others' houses there is no muss and no fuss. They eat what they can and realize that they have made a choice that not all cooks are accustomed to accommodating. They are both gracious and appreciative.

So I guess the third category is the unspeakably rude who don't really care that you have just been busting your ass for a couple of hours and that a small token of hospitality might be called for.

Let me know what you think and call ahead if you are allergic to carrot juice.

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