Friday, January 15, 2010

The Single Chef

“Never be daunted in private
-MFK Fisher

Shopping for Christmas presents this year I discovered Judith Jones’ “The Pleasures of Cooking for One.” While the title lends itself to sounding a little cat-ladyish, the contents certainly live up to the word pleasure in the title. Judith Jones, you may now know thanks to her presence in the blog-to-book-to-movie “Julie & Julia,” is the editor who brought Julia Child to light in America. Living alone and being a declared foodie, one of the largest downsides is feeling the futility of grocery shopping and cooking for one when it seems to lead to waste. Jones’ collection of recipes contains a myriad of tips for saving and reusing your leftovers to create a whole new meal. She also includes recipes for meal enhancers to have on hand in the freezer such as duxelles, a rich mushroom sauté (see below). Since it is always less expensive to buy groceries in bulk these tips are also a great way to save money.
MFK Fisher’s found dining to be such an intimate activity she would share meals sparingly and only with a select few. The first letter of her “Alphabet for Gourmets” begins with ‘A is for dining Alone.’ Unfortunately, her foodiedom intimidated gentlemen who might otherwise ask her out to a meal as well as friends who wouldn’t dare invite her to dinner. Reading her entry of how she came to prefer dining alone to dining with a party of ashamed hosts and guests is disheartening. Writing “Alphabet” in the Forties when canned goods and frozen foods were all the rage in modernity it seems MFK Fisher was born in the wrong era. Today she would be an honored guest at a slew of restaurants and many aspiring chefs in restaurants, homes, and even on television would do their best to impress her, seeing serving her as a culinary challenge to be tackled and not shied away from.
However, as far as I can tell from my reading of Fisher, she might feel uncomfortably invisible in our day—but to consider this is to assume someone else would have played the same role she did in recording the American food revolution.

Duxelles A simple mushroom sauté best know for its place in Beef Wellington between the tenderloin and the puff pastry.
Very easy to make and luxurious to have. Chop up a bunch of mushrooms, sweat with salt then dry them, add to shallots sauteéd in butter until the pan juices evaporate and you're done! Simple, rich, and delicious. I made my first batch the same night I made the Boeuf Bourguignon from Jones' cook book and added a spoonful of the duxelles to the end product and you could really taste the mushroom's richness even with the meatiness of the stew (BB entry to follow).

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