Saturday, April 16, 2011

Very Easy Beef Tenderlon and Thick-Cut Steaks

John, raised on a beef farm in southwestern Virginia, is a dedicated carnivore. For health reasons, we do not eat nearly as much red meat as we used to, but when we do we always choose lean cuts of the best quality we can find and cook them carefully so that the cow from which they came will not have died in vain.

The advent of a real butcher shop just down the street from us in Fredericksburg has made it easier to find superior cuts of beef. The Olde Towne Butcher has become a Mecca for meat-lovers in the area. It also offers the highest quality pork, lamb, free-range poultry, a great variety of delicious sausages made on the premises, and fresh milk in glass bottles from near-by cows. Across the street from the local farmer’s market, it is certainly one of the blessings of living in Fredericksburg.

These are two of our favorite recipes.

Very Easy Beef Tenderloin

2 pound center-cut beef tenderloin, bound with twine

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Remove tenderloin from fridge and let it warm to room temperature.

Preheat Oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit

Rub salt and freshly-ground black pepper into all sides of the tenderloin and then coat it with the olive oil.

Place tenderloin on a roasting rack in a pan and place in oven.

After ten minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and cook for another twenty-five minutes.

Remove from oven and let rest for ten minutes before slicing and serving. It should be medium rare to rare.

Sufficient for four normal people or two dedicated carnivores.

Thick-Cut Steaks

We have found this a good way to prepare steaks that are over an inch thick.

Take the steaks out of the fridge and let them warm to room temperature.

Rub salt and freshly ground pepper all over the steaks.

Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.

Place steaks on a tray and place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove and brown in a non-stick pan over high heat for one minute on each side. They should be rare to medium rare.

                       John in his native habitat, near Glade Spring, Virginia

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Matt & Ginja's Cold Corn Soup

Matt and Ginja Moseley are among the most skilled, imaginative and dedicated cooks in southern Louisiana, where excellent cooks are the rule and not the exception. When we first became friends more than thirty years ago, they seldom left home without their Cuisineart. I remember one house party in the early 1980s at their beautiful house on Avery Island where they spent an entire day preparing the most delicious quenelles I had ever eaten. But by the time Matt and Ginja arrived at the table bearing their glorious creation, they were almost too exhausted to eat. Their guests were not. We feasted while they nibbled and looked somewhat dazed. I recently reminded Matt of this wonderful meal that had taken so much out of them “That was the first time we ever made quenelles, he told me. “And the last time.”

The passage of time has taught Matt and Ginja how to pace themselves and how to produce delicious food that is less demanding and that requires fewer hours in the kitchen. The following simple recipe is a good example:


Six ears of corn, cleaned & scraped off cobs

Scrape off juices with back of knife

1 ½ cup yellow onions, finely chopped

4 cloves finely chopped garlic

8 cups chicken stock

Sour cream or crème fraiche

Crabmeat or scallops to garnish

Sauté onions until translucent in enough olive oil to lightly coat bottom of heavy pot

Add garlic and sauté

Add corn & corn cobs

Add chicken stock

Simmer 25-30 minutes

Remove corn cobs

Puree mixture

Strain, season with kosher salt

Chill, add crabmeat or cooked scallops to garnish

Serves 6
Ginja pre-quenelles, Avery Island

Saturday, April 2, 2011

David Swoyer’s Chicken Liver Pâté

It was while running an art gallery in Louisiana that I decided to specialize in dead artists. The occasion that provoked this wise decision was a solo exhibition by a talented regional artist who painted abstractions inspired by Interstate Highway 10, and whose husband’s great wealth enabled her to play the role of a somewhat bohemian grande dame. In spite of the banal subject matter, the paintings were actually quite good. The problem was the artist, a demanding and imperious egomaniac who could not be pleased, even though we tried very hard to please her. Before her show, we did a great deal of publicity in print and on the radio, and sent out many invitations for a gala vernissage. John Bullard, the director of the New Orleans Museum of Art, who was courting the artist, not so much for her own work, but for her interesting collection of paintings by 20th century artists much better known than she, came for the weekend of the exhibition, and at one point was even helping us to wash windows while we were sprucing the place up. David Swoyer, a NOMA curator, himself a gifted painter, poet, and a brilliantly imaginative cook, was also on hand to help hang and light the show. After it was hung, and very beautifully, we thought, we invited a number of our best customers for a preview and soon had commitments on several of the works before the show began.

The gallery was in a beautiful garden setting and we had planned to have a few tasteful flower arrangements to complement the paintings, but the afternoon of the opening, a phone call from the artist, full of demands and warnings, included her instruction that there be no flowers or decorations of any kind that might distract the guests from the works of art.

The artist arrived half an hour before the opening. She was wearing an ankle-length black dress, a Paisley shawl draped over her head, and had smeared generous dabs of kohl under her eyes. She looked as if she were channeling Louise Nevelson.

The artist was not happy with the positioning of the pictures and insisted that some be re-hung and the lights re-adjusted, which we hurriedly did. For the rest of the evening, she had two facial expressions, alternating between sneer and scowl. The guests began to arrive and I introduced her to the several people who had seen and decided to purchase her work. She could not have been ruder to them. By the end of the evening, they were all having second thoughts, and eventually we sold nothing.

There was food and there was drink. I don’t recall if on this occasion we served a concoction we sometimes prepared for openings: a potent drink made with lots of vodka and a moderate amount of fruit juice that we called “Let’s-buy-another-little-picture-punch,” but the star of the evening turned out to be the delicious chicken liver pâté made and brought by David Swoyer. When the artist realized that the gathered crowd was speaking with more enthusiasm of David’s pâté than of her paintings, she became livid.

She caused a small scene before she left that evening, but it is the hysterical phone call that I received from her the next morning that I remember most vividly. During her rant, I picked up a Sotheby’s auction catalogue of 19th century paintings and drawings and began to thumb through it. It contained many lovely and interesting works, all by artists vanished and mute.

Here is David’s celebrated recipe:

8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1 pound chicken livers, trimmed

1/4 cup Calvados, applejack, brandy, or bourbon

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup heavy cream


Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the apple. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and cook until the shallots and apple are tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out skillet with small .

Melt 1 Tbsp of the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the chicken livers and cook, stirring occasionally, just until are firm and slightly pink in the center when cut, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with another Tbsp of butter and the remaining livers. Let cool completely.

Heat Calvados in a small saucepan over medium heat until warm. Carefully ignite the Calvados (preferably with a rolled taper of mediocre art). Let flame for about 20 seconds. Smother the flame. Remove from the heat.

Combine the chicken livers, apple and shallots, thyme, salt, and pepper in a food processor; pulse to blend. With the processor running, add the remaining 5 Tbsp s butter and the heavy cream. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Serve chilled.

Yield: about 2-1/2 cups

          David Swoyer, pleased with the success of his pâté.