Last night, Chef Jonathan Waxman visited The Daily Meal’s test kitchen to prepare a friendly feast of California-inspired dishes in honor of his longtime friend Colman Andrews, whose memoir, My Usual Table, was recently published. Waxman and Andrews, both California natives, spent many of their formative culinary years together, and Waxman features prominently in the memoir, written from decades of detailed notes on memorable “meals, stupid things people said, and smart things people said.”
“I grew up in restaurants,” said Andrews, “not because my parents were in the restaurant industry but because Dad made good money, and Mom couldn’t cook.”
The structure of the memoir is itself an homage to Andrews’ favorite dining experiences. “I eventually realized that during every period, there had been at least one restaurant that was usually at the center of my life.”
For the event, Waxman and a small team from Barbuto prepared taquitos with chicken tinga and guacamole, shrimp toast, Lombardia-style pork ribs, fluke tartar, arancini with arugula pesto, and Jonathan Waxman signature wings with salsa verde.
Andrews, who has the kind of easy friendship with Waxman that makes them trail off from telling juicier stories when they remember the crowd in the room, joined Waxman in making shrimp toast. Although the dish is at least a century old and has its origins in Guangzhou, China, the dish as we might recognize it today is a true mix of Chinese and American flavors. Called “hatosi” (literally, shrimp toast) in Cantonese, the name borrows ‘tosi’ from the English word toast.
Although rarely seen on modern menus, the dish was once quite a popular appetizer in Chinese restaurants in California and along the East Coast. If memory serves correctly, Waxman might have referred to the current state of shrimp toast in America as “lugubrious.” As for Waxman and Andrews’ preparation of the dish, well-executed shrimp toast requires day-old bread, and equal thickness of shrimp. The dish should be fried, but can also be baked if you feel so inclined. “It’s nowhere near as good, but more virtuous," said Andrews.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.