Monday, November 15, 2010

The Parlor and the Kitchen- Stew for your Crew and Killer Rice Pudding

Okay, Chickens. Get ready. This is a big post. Much to tell you.

First off, again, I apologize for the absence, I was actually in lovely NYC for a week, seeing friends and having some meetings and then a glorious weekend of art and food and pals with Charming Suitor. G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S.

Some dining highlights:


This great seafood restaurant by David Burke and Donatella Arpaia is pretty flawless, the best halibut I have ever had in my life, lovely room, terrific service…all of which will be difficult to remember after the Can ‘O Cake. I will not ruin it, half the fun is the discovery of it as an amazing piece of dessert theater. All I can say is ORDER IT, and sit back and wait for the fun to start. We were the first ones in our section to get it, and I guarantee that every other table in the room ordered one after they saw us having so much fun.

Collichio and Sons

Major crush on Tom Collichio notwithstanding, this man can run a restaurant. Food is impeccable. Innovative enough to not be boring, but familiar enough to bring all the soul satisfying comfort of old favorites.

The Red Cat
An old favorite that never disappoints, do not skip the tempura green beans on penalty of your life.

The Spotted Pig

We went for brunch. We ordered the pot of pickles, since anything vinegary makes me swoon with delight. These did not disappoint, green beans, carrots, radishes, tiny cornichons, little onions…all very yummy. Then I ordered the Dutch Baby pancake which comes with house-smoked bacon. Now where I am from, a Dutch Baby is a very large unwieldy delicious but heavy dish. I have never been able to get through half of one. They usually require a major nap immediately following. April Bloomfield’s version is a whisper of a pancake. It is insanely delicious, but totally ethereal. It literally melted away on the tongue, barely there, like it was made of rainbows and butterfly wings. So when the server came back to see if there was anything else she could bring us, I didn’t hold back. I gestured at my empty plate.

“Yeah. I’m going to need to do this again.” Cause that is how your Polymath rolls.

She did an excellent job of looking unsurprised that someone just said “Ditto” to a whole breakfast.

Charming Suitor did help me with the second round, just as delicious as the first.

Rice to Riches

I have spoken about them before, and I shall do it again. Rice pudding. All rice pudding, all the time. Ever since my dear friend Brooklyn Harry took me, nearly four years ago, I have never skipped a pilgrimage when I go to NY. I even once shipped it in for a dinner party. But the shipping is exorbitant, and I needed to be able to have this one in my back pocket. It took 13 tries spread over 2 years, but Chickens, I HAVE NAILED IT! And because I love you, I? Am totally sharing the recipe. See below. And you’re welcome. And if you think you hate rice pudding, make this and then tell me how very very wrong you were.

Once we got back from our wonderful mini-vaca, Charming Suitor and I had to gear up for a dinner party we were hosting. Since Fall has fallen in these parts, and the weather was due to be brisk, we knew we wanted warm bowls of comfort food. Charming Suitor had the perfect thing.

Back in 1983 there was a cookbook published called The New American Cuisine. A sort of ominous black cover revealed glossy pages filled with a whole lot of French cooking for a book supposedly about American Cuisine. With pictures from before the time of really good food photography, where all the food looks either garish or gray or as if it is made of plastic.

But in the Feasting section, there is a gem. Burgundian Beef Stew. Not sure why they call it Beef Stew, since there is also pork and sausage in it, but no matter. This is French peasant cooking at its finest. A one-pot meal, full of meat and veggies and starches, in a rich broth that begs to be sopped up with bread. The fact that you serve it topped with a ridiculously delish crème fraîche sauce, which brings wonderful brightness to the dish, and crispy bacon bits for texture (and bacon-ness) elevates this to perfect dinner party food. I tweaked it a bit for my own taste, but the essence of the original is retained in my version. 

We put out the usual cheese and olives and such to start. Then everyone grabbed their bowls and headed to the stove to make their perfect plate. Crisp baguettes on the table for everyone to tear off hunks and dunk. A crisp green salad with a simple vinaigrette, served after the stew in the traditional French manner. Easy. We made the stew and dessert the night before, since both taste even better the next day, making day-of prep insanely easy. Plus, it is the kind of recipe that is totally fun to cook with your sweetie, nothing hard, some simple chopping and dicing, tossing things in a big pot…it is a forgiving dish, so no worries about anyone missing a step or doing something wrong. And as the house starts to smell warm and delicious, everything gets very cozy.

And for that dessert?

Yep. Rice pudding. Gilded with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a sprinkle of chopped toasted salted Marcona almonds for crunch.

If you have friends who feel like family, or family that feels like friends? Invite them over for this meal. It tastes like love.

And pork.

But mostly love.

And if you have a similar dish that works for you? Share with the class!

Burgundian Stew
Adapted from The New American Cuisine Cookbook (1983)

12 oz diced slab bacon or salt pork
2 medium onions, chopped
1 c chopped celery heart, with the leaves
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
2 leeks, white part only, chopped
2 small turnips, diced
1 ½ lb lean pork shoulder, cut in 1 ½ inch cubes
1 ½ lb beef shoulder, cut in 1 ½ inch cubes
1 ½ lb kielbasa sausage, in 2 inch chunks (use a good local butcher version if you can get it, grocery store versions can break down and get mushy)
Bouquet garni of 3 sprigs parsley, a celery stalk with the leaves, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves tied in cheese cloth or just wound with butcher’s twine
8 cups good beef stock
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
1 small green cabbage (I use Savoy if I can get it) cut in 8 wedges, with the core intact to hold the wedges together
2 c flageolet or cannellini beans, soaked overnight
3 T demi-glace or condensed beef stock (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy-bottomed wide Dutch oven, cook bacon slowly over medium-low heat to render the fat and make it crispy. Drain bacon and reserve for serving. Add onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and turnips to the hot bacon fat and sweat vegetables slowly about 10 minutes. Add all the meats and bouquet garni to the pot and cover with the beef stock. Raise heat to high and bring to boil. Skim the foam, then reduce heat to low and cover, and simmer gently about 1 ½ hours, the meat should be tender, but not falling apart. Add the beans and cook about 1-20 minutes. Stir in the demi-glace if you have it. I like to cook it to this stage, cool it down in the pot and then refrigerate overnight for up to two days. If you are making and serving it the same day, just continue immediately with the next steps. The day you want to serve, bring to a simmer over medium high heat, add the potatoes and cook about 15 minutes. Nestle the cabbage wedges down into the broth and cook covered another 10 minutes. Taste to be sure all the vegetables are cooked through and the meat is the right level of tenderness, and season the broth with salt and pepper. Turn on low and leave until you want to serve, it is fine to be on low for 3-4 hours.

To convert for a slow cooker, once the vegetables have been sweated with the bacon fat, transfer them to your slow cooker, add all of the rest of the ingredients except the cabbage and cook for about 8 hours on Hi. Add the cabbage about 1 hour before serving.

To serve, have the crispy bacon bits for people to add to their taste, and crème fraîche mustard sauce to put on top:

Creme Fraiche Mustard Sauce
2 c crème fraîche
3 T Dijon mustard
2 T lemon juice
4 T chopped chives
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together and keep chilled until service.

I serve this in the kitchen, letting everyone get their perfect bowl with the right amount of broth for them (be sure to have loads of good crusty bread for dunking!).

This and a crisp simple green salad is all you need for the best Fall/Winter get together.

Stacey’s Ridiculous Rice Pudding

Serves 12-16 generously, making it a great dish for your upcoming holiday events, can be halved with no problem.

3 c arborio rice
8 c whole milk
4 c heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
¼ t almond extract
1 ¼ c sugar
Pinch salt

Cook rice in rice cooker (or on stovetop using regular method), fluff with fork and spread on baking sheet to cool at room temp, but do not use cold rice out of the fridge if you can help it. Bring milk, sugar, vanilla and salt to a boil. Add rice and cook over medium-low heat about 30 minutes, stirring frequently looking for a good creamy slush and that the rice has puffed up and is cooked completely through without being mushy. Should not boil, just keep at a lazy simmer. Whisk egg yolks with 2 cups of cream and then mix into rice mixture off heat. Return to heat and let come to a lazy lava-like bubble, then remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool. Let cool until slightly warm to the touch. Add flavorings now if you choose, see below. Whip remaining cream to soft peaks and fold into pudding.

Stir in while pudding is still warm but not hot.

1 c Nutella
1 c dark caramel sauce
1 c melted creamy nut butter, my fave is pistachio, but almond is also great
1 c fruit puree or butter of your choice, raspberry and blueberry are very good, ditto apple and pear butters and pumpkin
1 c lemon curd
8 oz melted chocolate mixed with 2 oz cream
8 oz softened mascarpone or cream cheese or goat cheese for a cheesecakey flavor
4 oz flavor syrup (coffee, spice, maple)
Replace the initial 2 c cream with egg nog
2 oz liqueur (rum, amaretto, kahluha, bourbon, marsala etc.)


Chopped nuts
Chocolate chips
Cookie crumbles
Fresh fruit or dried fruit macerated in liqueur until softened
citrus zest
cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spice (add 1-2 t to your taste)

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath


  1. Um yeah, I think I'll be cooking when I get home this weekend! Yum! And I'm definitely putting those restaurants on my list if/when I ever make it to visit NY!

  2. I came to your site through Jen Lancaster's site and I absolutely love it. Your posts are funny and the recipes are just mouth-watering. I was never a Marie Claire fan (too trite IMHO) and after reading your post re: that horrible article I feel vindicated in snubbing them. Hoping to get brave enough to attempt your rice pudding recipe. God help the family is all I can say...

  3. Girl - how do a score an invite to your house for dinner? YUM! My mouth started watering as I read your post - and I will be delighting in that Rice Pudding this weekend!

    Thanks also for the NYC recommendations - I'm headed there for a conference the first week of December, but haven't been since I was 14. Thrilled to have your recommendations - can't wait to enjoy!

  4. That rice pudding sounds absolutely amazing. I need to try that!! :)

    I'm going to NY in January. If I can, I'm gonna try to check out at least one of the restaurants you mentioned here. They all sound amazing!

  5. I am one of those "I DONT LIKE RICE PUDDING" people. However my friend who also lives in Brooklyn took me to Rice to Riches on my first trip to NYC a few years ago. I agree with you 100% it is AWESOME!!! I never thought I would enjoy rice pudding but I was wrong Rice to Riches is the BOMB!
    Thanks for cracking the code! I can't wait to try it.

  6. I luuuuuurve rice pudding but never get that better-than-kozy=shack-but-just-as-creamy kind I'm looking for. Is this it?

  7. I always loved rice pudding but when I first tried Arroz Doce at a winemakers dinner a few years ago, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Not far off from your recipe, either: