Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jessica Pigza's Desert Island Cookbook

Name: Jessica Pigza

Rare Books librarian, Handmade Librarian, and half of the duo behind NYPL's Handmade: Crafternoons!

Desert Island Cookbook:
The Cook and the Gardener by Amanda Hesser (1999)

Why The Cook and the Gardener? Jessica explains:

Amanda Hesser’s The Cook and the Gardener is part cookbook and part meditation on four seasons of local growing and cooking (the locale here being Burgundy, France). It’s one of those great cookbooks that are as satisfying to read as they are to cook from.

Produce takes center stage on these pages—both in Hesser’s recipes as well as in her tale of befriending and working with the taciturn gardener Monsieur Milbert throughout the year. And along the way, Hesser also reveals her great respect for those who tend and coax food from the land. Each seasonal chapter includes a variety of dishes that reveal Hesser’s knowledge and wide-ranging curiosities. Her recipes for meats, jams, vegetables, breads, liqueurs, and sorbets never overwhelm or intimidate, and in each she shows her enthusiasm for well prepared foods eaten at their peak.

A few favorite recipes that I return to again and again are for carrots. The delicious Carrot and Bay Leaf Salad possesses an elegance sometimes lacking in carrot salads. Although Hesser doesn’t call for it, I like to splash a tiny bit of white wine vinegar or a squeeze of lemon over the carrots as well before serving, to counter the oil. I’m also a big proponent of her Roasted Carrots with Thyme, as well as the sweet and savory Carrots and Calvados. These, like many recipes in The Cook and the Gardener, offer tasty reminders that you needn’t do much to a vegetable to coax out its flavor.

(photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, American Memory Project)

Favorite Recipes:

Carrots, Three Ways

Roasted Carrots with Thyme

Carrot and Bay Leaf Salad

Carrots and Calvados

Carrots and Calvados (adapted from The Cook and the Gardener):

8 medium carrots, trimmed and peeled
Sea salt
1/4 lb. thickly cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strip (lardons)
1/2 c. Calvados
1/2 c. winter stock (beef based stock) or water
1 T. butter

Bringing a medium saucepan of water (seasoned with salt) to a boil. Add the carrots and boil until just tender on the outside but still crisp in the center, 4-5 minutes. Drain and cut into 1/2 inch diagonal pieces.

Melt the lardons of bacon in a large saute pan over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Brown them on all sides and then remove them to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan, and then return the pan to the stove over medium heat. Add the carrots and toss to coat with the bacon fat. Add the Calvados and increase the heat to high to reduce the liquid to a syrup, about 2 minutes.

Add the stock. Bring to a boil and let it reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are tender all the way through and are beginning to brown lightly, 5-6 minutes. If the carrots are colored but aren't cooked through, add more stock and reduce again. Remove from the heat and add the lardons. Stir in the butter. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.

Be sure to check out the Handmade: Crafternoons! at the New York Public Library this Saturday, October 10th, from 2-4 pm for an afternoon of knitting with KnitKnit author
Sabrina Gschwandtner, and two of the knitters she profiled in her book: Teva Durham, author of Loop-d-Loop and Annie Modesitt, author of Confessions of a Knitting Heretic.


Amanda said...

Jessica, I'm honored that you named my book, especially given that it's been out for a long time. And I like your tip for the carrot salad, which I plan to try next time I make it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm delighted to see the book resurface and is as beloved as my own copy. I dip into it frequently.

I made the strawberry jam last year to envious accolades. Braised chicken w/Scallion puree is another gem... perfect for this time of the year!

I acquired my obsession for fresh bay leaves from this book.