Monday, April 18, 2005

Waiter, bring me shad roe

Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it…

Oh, spring! Finally, finally, it was really warm yesterday, with the sweet old-lady perfume of plum blossoms and shy flowering apple trees making frothy bridal arches over the narrow streets downtown. E. was visiting from DC and we spent the day strolling the city, stunned with warmth, seeking iced tea and crossing paths with every dog in the city, from purse-sized to sheep-shaped.

the dutch in old amsterdam do it
not to mention the finns

Not surprisingly, the lines from the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, newly reopened after its winter hiatus, snaked back to the street and the benches were filled with people clutching hotdogs and little orange buckets filled with frozen-custard sundaes. Is the Otto gelato cart doing business in Washington Square Park yet?

cold cape cod clams ’gainst their wish, do it
even lazy jellyfish do it

Getting back to the house at 5:30pm when you’ve got 5 people coming to dinner at 7pm is, as you can imagine, a little hectic. Especially when you had to buy a extra folding chair from Home Depot on the way and then carry the chair along with four boxes of strawberries, a tub of Greek yogurt, a bunch of asparagus, a few pounds of baby potatoes and a carton of cream four blocks from the F train to home. It was dinner-party triage for the next hour: first shoving the enormous 6 1/2 pound chicken into the oven, then making room for the wine bottles in the fridge, heaving the potatoes in a big pot of boiling water, whipping up the batter for the madeleines, and wondering where all the butter knives went.

Luckily, no one showed up til 7:30, and by then things were sufficiently under control, or at least not frantic, and I was out of my sweaty t-shirt and into a summer dress and glitter lipgloss. The menu:

Roast chicken, roasted in a cast-iron skillet, served on a bed of tonic spring greens--chopped dandelion greens, pea shoots, and arugula--all quickly sauteed in the chicken pan and spritzed with lemon juice
Chilled asparagus
A little taste of sauteed ramps
Cold French potato salad, in a tarragon-mustard vinaigrette, which tasted much better the next day after it had marinated in the fridge overnight
...followed by..
Strawberries, dusted with powdered sugar and splashed with the sweet golden nectar that is Bonny Doon’s muscat vin de glaciere.
A bowl of Greek yogurt drizzled with heavy cream and honey
A basket of warm lemon mini-madeleines, fresh from the oven. Did you know that you can buy little plastic packs of madeleines from vending machines on the Paris Metro platforms? Like the accordion players and the people walking home holding baguettes under their arms, it’s nice when a place fits its stereotype, even just for a moment.
..and then some...
Robiola (Italian cow’s milk) cheese, brought by Julie from the Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, which came with a lovely little pine bough pressed into the top, served (with a little embarassment) with whole-grain saltines, the only crackers in the house.

The day before, I had gone to the greenmarket with high spring hopes; after all, there’s been asparagus and artichokes and fava beans in the California farmers’ markets for weeks now. But no—still just the same old potatoes and knobby roots and hothouse greens, storage apples and maple syrup. The only thing new were the ramps, wild leeks that look like tough, leafy crosses between green garlic and scallions. Snipping off the straggly corkscrewed root ends, I threw the whole stalks into a pan with a little olive oil, where they cooked down alarmingly. From two bunches, I got a small handful of cooked greens, which meant everyone got just a little taste.

But overall it was a lovely night, full of chicken and strawberries and a plethora of NYC celebrity-sighting stories. Julian Schnabel (multiple times), Jon Stewart (nearly everyone), Bill and Hillary Clinton, in sweatpants and t-shirts walking around the Stone Barns Farm near Tarrytown, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, whom everyone would sleep with.

why ask if shad do it
waiter, bring me shad roe...

And speaking of spring treats, the highlight of the week was a first-ever taste of shad roe, poached in butter and served with crisp slabs of English-style bacon, at Diane's home-cooking class on Park Avenue. Much less creepy than I expected, and fully worthy of its Cole Porter immortalization.

Let's do it, let's fall in love


Sugarkill said...

Reminds me of a very warm muggy overcast Friday in September, guests arriving in three hours as we work over a stove hot as a blacksmith's forge, browning chicken thighs, taking 30-second breaks in the living room every few minutes to avoid passing out. But the food was totally worth it, and so was the company. Listening to Ali G impressions until two in the morning, kicking out the last half-dozen guests so we can get some sleep. Always a sign of a successful party; you have to beg fascinating, entertaining people to leave so you can get to bed before the sun comes up. Then, a downpour at four in the morning that kills the humidity and leaves the air cool and clean. Much better for outdoor adventures at the natural history museum!

So when the heat gets too much for cooking, you can come out here were it's always fall or spring and cook in my kitchen, QS!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.
asparagus recipe