So today’s blog is supposed to be about dinner parties but I can’t start that without first telling you about this new delicacy. One of the things I love about the New New Thing (ie the world being so small and that we can follow trends all over the world as soon as they happen) is that a guy on twitter in Sydney gets to hear about this amazing pastry called a cronut in New York. The best thing is, its new, only two months old. http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2013/05/cronut_fever.php and THAT reminds me to tweet to our resident pastry genius Adriano Zumbo @zumbopatesserie to let him know (though he probably already does). There’s that’s done.
There is this little newspaper cut out on my wall, it’s a quote from Thomas Keller the creator of the gastronomic experiences of The French Laundry and Per Se to the relaxed and vibrant atmosphere of Bouchon, the family style dishes of Ad Hoc and the familiar sweets you’ll discover at Bouchon Bakery. The quote talks about what it was that made him want to be a chef and the simple answer is he likes and desires to please people. For me its ‘same same but different’. Ie the same same is I want to please which is why I love to cook with the best ingredients. The different is…I’m no Thomas Keller – I’m more Laundry than French, more Hoc than Ad, more Helen than Thomas, though I strive to be as courageous. I find that for the home cook who likes to entertain its because they have a serious yearn to please (and, sadly for my guests, to get feedback – I NEED feedback – preferably – good).
Soon after I moved to my second place which I was in my early 20s I developed a need to please. The catalyst was…women. The instrument to woo them was…a dinner party. My sous chef Geoff (I had already appointed myself executive chef) and I were to cook up love on a plate that could not fail. The menu was to be a delicate little entre of small fried calamari with a home made sauce and to follow a simple pasta ( hand crafted). These were the two staple but exotic dishes I had been eating at home for years. My Mother Kate was a most adventurous and excellent cook. She had found her way into the kitchens of some of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney and, as is her way, ingratiated herself with them to the extent that they parted with some precious recipes and secrets of the trade. One was – the smaller and fresher the calamari the better. Same goes for sardines. Both of these were used as bait by fishermen at the time and the common Aussie would have found the thought to eat them repulsive. So, as they were being eaten monthly at my place – just how hard could it be to recreate exotic Mediterranean nirvana in the little brown laminex kitchen with small bench, single sink and electric stovetop we called home. My mise en palce was the small benchtop and Geoff’s was the little table we set up just outside the kitchen – close enough to the fridge for a topup as required.
We sat down at the table bang on 7pm and we cracked open the champers (commonly known as leg opener by other crude types who didn’t even KNOW what mise en place was!1) things were going extremely well for the first hour, many a laugh and knowing glances between the executive and his sous – we were onto something with this dinner party caper. It was about 8pm that I gave the Sous the nod… it was time! With great ceremony we announced we would just duck into the kitchen to get the first course on the table.
- In truth it would be another 30 years before I truly understood the beauty and power of a well-prepped mise en place.