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Suzanne F

When there are bahn mi and po' boys,

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I want to thank you first for joining us. Second, for turning me on to the delights of banh mi and chicken skin po' boys.

You practice serious food scholarship -- on "humble" dishes, in a non-academic way. Do you have any interest in "haute cuisine" and its attending debates (such as those on this site)? If you were to focus on one element or dish of haute cuisine, what might it be?

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Jeeze, this is my first reply and I've just discovered all these emoticons! Scary! But to get to the question -- it must be a matter of temperament but I've never been interested in haute cuisine, either as a cook or as an eater. :blink: For instance, I've been to very few (almost no) high-end restaurants in my life and I don't feel a twinge of regret, whereas I do often feel a wish that I could spend a busman's holiday as one of Jim Leff's tastebuds. The same is true of my cooking: I could count on one hand the number of haute dishes I've made, and even those I'm not sure as to how "haute" they actually were. One that comes to mind is a dish that I made following Julia Child's instructions. You boned a chicken leaving the carcass intact and then stuffed it with some sort of pistachio-studded pate... Haute cuisine? or haute vulgare? Dunno. What I do know is that by the time I had finished it I had left myself behind somewhere with the chicken scraps. :wacko:

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John, I spent a busman's holiday as one of Jim Leff's tastebuds and I assure you the experience is overrated.

Seriously, though, what do I need to say to convince you that having a few direct haute cuisine experiences makes sense for any food writer, even one who has no intention of writing about haute cuisine? If you made a study of art, for example, and you really only had an interest in impressionism, wouldn't you still think it essential to experience the other schools enough to be conversant?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What you say is true. But I'm not making a study of food writing, I'm doing it, and my way of doing it is to go my own way. In a way, you sound like my editor at North Point, who is always urging me to write a book (instead of just assembling one). I don't know what she imagines when she says this -- something that will sell, I suppose -- but it certainly isn't a book length version of "Cod and Potatoes" or "Desperately Resisting Risotto," to name two of my essays that I shudder to think of being expanded into 250 pages. If you haven't, I recommend you read my essay, published in POT ON THE FIRE, called "Knowing Nothing About Wine." The subtitle isn't "and loving it," as you might expect -- on the contrary. It's about the complicated ways of palate and personality. There's a reason why I'm an essayist and not a book writer; just as there's a reason I write from the isolation of my study instead of tromping off on excursions to Parisian pastry makers. There are plenty of others who can carry that ball, and I truly wish them the joy of it. But it's not me.

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I could count on one hand the number of haute dishes I've made, and even those I'm not sure as to how "haute" they actually were. One that comes to mind is a dish that I made following Julia Child's instructions. You boned a chicken leaving the carcass intact and then stuffed it with some sort of pistachio-studded pate... Haute cuisine? or haute vulgare?

Fortunately this is not the first topic I've read and from what I've read I'm interested enough to move on and read more, but I have to comment before I reply anywhere else, that I've never found this dish vulgar. Galantines and ballotines are dishes my wife used to prepare with some frequency. They do take a bit of time and a bit of skill--ducks I am told, are far easier to bone than chickens and a better bird to start with. I'm also fond of pistachio nuts in sausages and pates. I understand it's not you and it's not the way you wish to cook, but it's not vulgar. It's a lovely party dish, an economical way to extend a bird with sausage meat and above all, a good way to democratically carve and serve a bird at a dinner party.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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You'll get no argument from me. I was commenting on my own ignorance and not about the dish, which was quite well received by the dinner party I made it for. My point was that I am not well enough informed to make meaningful distinctions here. No offense was meant and I'm sorry if any was taken.

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No offense taken. I was just questioning the use of "vulgar." I wouldn't necessarily be offended by the word--well at least within certain contexts.

:biggrin:

Actually eGullet has taught me to understand and appreciate a wider variety of foods. My own interests, even within the French food I love, run from the very rustic to the very "haute." I don't cook as much complex stuff as I used to, but when I do or did, I got more satisfaction from the process than the result. Our friends who truly love food are often happier to get rustic dishes.

I suppose we all develop our skills and interests in a certain direction as we grow up and as we age. One of the reasons we read food writers is to learn the things we want to know. Another is to remind ourselves there are paths we may have missed along the way and things we hadn't thought of learning yet.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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What I do know is that by the time I had finished it I had left myself behind somewhere with the chicken scraps. :wacko:

Why did you have scraps?

But with those scraps you could have made a terrine and perhaps better understood where the ballotine came from in the first place.

John, I wish you could have been at my school this week - Le Cordon Bleu Paris - because while the students made the ballotines - a recipe similar to yours but with a thick foie gras center - the chefs also made terrines. Now, I've seen them pick at the lobsters and maybe fine cuts of beef, but these guys come running when it comes to terrines. It's the soul food of French chefs.

So much so that the executive chef de cuisine broke out baguettes, cornichons, good mustard and wine for his tasting - that never normally happens.

You would have found with them a brotherhood of cooks who while perfectly capable of executing the finest haute cuisine much prefer the alchemy of transforming scraps to something truly fulfilling.

And I have to agree that while I quite liked the ballotine it was a bit bizarre in the making.

And thanks for the Q&A. I often visit your site late at night when I need some confirmation of good things in this world. :smile:

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One of my favorite volumes from the Time-Life Good Cook series edited by Richard Olney is _Terrines, Pâtés & Galantines_. It gives detailed instructions for carrying out some elaborate recipes whose complexity goes far beyond what my impatience would tolerate. But there are wonderful simple recipes as well. In fact, some of the more time-consuming set pieces suggest combinations of ingredients which can be effectively combined in simpler ways which satisfy the palate, if not the eye.

A friend who worked on the whole monumental projects tells me that Olney made things difficult on this volume -- he didn't really know all that much about this aspect of culinary art, but kept putting his oar in anyway.


John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Hey, man, I'm not that dumb! I'm talking about the bones and the cartilage and the other things you're now going to tell me I should have roasted and put into a stockpot and transformed into a delicious broth. :hmmm: As for terrines, I don't consider them haute cuisine, I consider them French soul food. Sounds from what you right that the brothers agree. Nice to be in a kitchen where chunks of foie gras are being passed around. I'm lucky to sink my teeth into it once a year. As for the French manner of transforming cuisine out of nothing, I've written about that with great appreciation in "Pot on the Fire" -- the essay that gave the name to my last book. However, the point I was making was that I'm NOT a chef myself and have no ambitions to become one. It takes all my intelligence to make sense of mashed potatoes. :wacko:

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Hey' date=' man, I'm not that dumb! I'm talking about the bones and the cartilage and the other things you're now going to tell me I should have roasted and put into a stockpot and transformed into a delicious broth. :hmmm: [/quote']

OK, man!

When you said scraps, I thought meat. I'm surprised that the recipe didn't call for putting those bones and cartilage, etc. in a pot for a bouillon in which to poach the ballotine. :hmmm:

And yes, my point precisely about terrines. The ballotine's just a fancy ladies luncheon version of what the guys out back are eating. But quite frankly were it not for the elaborate presentation it's pretty much the same.

In fact when I brought it home, my sister took a look at it and said "Oh. Fancy chicken roll." Chicken roll being a childhood favourite deli product that now that I think about it must have been mostly chicken skin with a bit of meat. Absolutely delicious on the softest white bread or grilled in butter as one would a grilled cheese sandwich.

As for the foie gras, I must tell you that this was out of a can. Good but canned this was. The recipe called for one tin, but we were told to split one between two, but as there were extra tins a friend and I each use a whole one. The chefs told us later that they normally only allow one tin per three students. Their eyes bulged when we told them we'd use a whole one each - think almost soup can diameter, as long as the chicken - but then nodded approvingly.

And yes, thanks, I'm familiar with "Pot on the Fire" - I do need to catch up on reading your writing. :smile:

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" Chicken roll being a childhood favourite deli product that now that I think about it must have been mostly chicken skin with a bit of meat." Yes! Thanks exactly what I remember thinking when I tasted it. And, yes, it was good, after its fashion. Better than deli turkey breast, certainly. Also, the reference to "scraps" might also refer to the bits and pieces of my knuckles that were lying around on the cutting board after I finished boning the chicken. Certainly, I know that they gave the finished ballotine a certain special quality.... :rolleyes:

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