The Food Amanac: Friday, March 15, 2013
Today is Pear Belle Helene Day. This is a rarely-seen dessert these days, once considered a classic. The fact that it's out of style makes it no less good. It's prepared by poaching pears in citrus juices and vanilla, then serving them with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Here's a very good recipe for it in which everything, including the ice cream, is made from scratch.
Pear Creek runs through the Clearwater National Forest in north central Idaho. It's about seventy-five miles as the crow flies west of Missoula, Montana. It rises in the rugged Rocky Mountains at 4400 feet, then drops 2200 feet over two miles into Skull Creek. From there the water makes its way to the Clearwater, the Snake, and finally the Columbia River as it heads to the Pacific Ocean. This is wild country, with the nearest town over 40 miles away. Pack a few lunches. Or catch some steelhead trout in the creek.
Salads Through History
It is the Ides of March, a bad day for Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E. Let's have a Caesar salad in his remembrance today, even though the Caesar salad is only indirectly named for him. Its direct namesake is Cesar Cardini, the Italian-Mexican chef who invented it in Acapulco.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States and the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, was born on this date in 1767. His statue stands in the most prominent place in our city, in a square named for him. So was Jackson Avenue, Jax Beer, and the Andrew Jackson Restaurant. It was a grand dining venue in the 1960s and 1970s in the 200 block of Royal Street. The restaurant's menu was largely created by Chef Warren Leruth on a consulting basis with the owners. It was a good but rarely brilliant restaurant, serving gilded versions of traditional local dishes. It's strange that no popular dishes are named for Old Hickory. Galatoire's used to have a great potato and ham soup called Jackson soup, but they don't serve it much anymore. There's a Jackson salad at Brennan's, but that's named for former radio personality and entertainment writer Jill Jackson.
Music To Eat By
Red beans and ricely yours, Louis Armstrong was honored on a postage stamp released on this day in 1995. . . Another trumpeter, Harry James, was born today in 1916. He gave Frank Sinatra his first major gig, which Sinatra always said was the big break of his career. Harry James was the granduncle of Clark Marter, the Gourmet Truck Driver, a regular caller to my radio show.
In 1965, the first T.G.I.Friday's opened in New York City. This is more significant than it may seem. The restaurant was the first singles pick-up bar, and according to founder Alan Stillman, its popularity largely owed to the recent introduction of The Pill. Stillman sold it and moved on to a little project called Smith and Wollensky. The modern T.G.I.Friday's is not much like the original. The New Orleans-area locations closed a bit before Katrina, but they are coming back, in the former Chevy's locations. That's a step sideways if ever I saw one.
Deft Dining Rule #163:
A person who will have a drink with you but will not stay with you for dinner will not be someone you'll like cooking with.
Eating Around America
Maine became a state today in 1820. It's one of the most productive places in the country for seafood, with several famous specialties. Most famous of them, of course, is Maine lobster--of the homardus genus, with the oversize claws, without questions the best in the world. (Although Canada actually outproduces Maine by quite a bit.) If you ever find yourself in Maine, go to a little town on the coast and eat as many lobsters as you can. They are distinctly better than their kind that travel to New Orleans first before being cooked. Also good in Maine are mussels and sea scallops. Indeed, most of the ones we eat here come from there. Then there is the. . .
Bosc pear, n.--Although the name is French and it was developed from a French pear variety, pears sold under the Bosc name are more likely to be from the American Northwest or Canada. It's a good, crisp eating pear, but chefs love it because its shape is dramatic and it stands up well to cooking, even when left whole. The neck of the fruit is slender and tapering, and its color is a beautiful reddish brown. The texture of the flesh is very smooth. If you allow Bosc pears to ripen until they're soft, they because brilliantly balanced between tart and sweet. The winter and early spring are the best time for Bosc pears.
Astronaut Alan Bean was born today in 1931. . . William Lamb, Prime Minister of England in the 1830s, was born today in 1779.
Food In Science
Today is the birthday (1858) of Liberty Hyde Bailey, who is credited with creating the science of horticulture. He wrote encyclopedias on the varieties of edible plants, and coined the word "cultivar" as a way of distinguishing a cultivated strain of a plant from its wild form.
Words To Eat By
"Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive."--Wallace Irwin, American writer, born today in 1875.
Words To Drink By
"I've rarely met a cocktail I didn't like."--Tim Barrett, educator, born today in 1953.