One month down, eleven to go!
recently informed that 2005 is the Year of the Rooster. It
reminded me of a farmer I once met. I asked him: how can you
tell the difference between a rooster and a hen? That's easy, he
said. The rooster says: "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" while the hen says:
Here's wishing you a year to crow about...
A LETTER FROM SAN FRANCISCO CHEF ANDREA FRONCILLO
yes. The first newsletter of 2005! Well, I guess it's better
late than not at all...
As you know by now, Las Vegas is one of my favorite cities.
Tracy and I spent a whirlwind Christmas there, and spent
Christmas evening at Picasso in the Bellagio Hotel. Julian
Serrano prepared an incredible 7-course white truffle dinner to
die for - and all I had to do was show up! For a guy who is
usually going mad in the kitchen, that sounded like a good deal
to me... and it was. We ate until we couldn't eat any more, and
in my mind, that's the perfect way to spend Christmas Day. But
just to let you know: yes, we did cook together in our own
kitchen on other days throughout the holiday season, and had a
wonderful time doing it!
Vegas is celebrating its centenary year in 2005 - can you
believe that it was 100 years ago when the town officially came
into existence? And just to think that it might have all ended
when, in 1910, a strict anti-gambling law was passed that forbid
so much as a coin toss. The newspapers reported that gambling
was stopped "forever."
In Vegas, "forever" apparently means "three weeks,"
because that's how long the the gambling tables remained quiet.
And that little story demonstrates the main reason why I love
Sin City: people are determined to have a ball without hurting
anybody else. It's come one, come all, and do whatever makes you
happy. Nobody asks you to put out your cigarette or tells you
that you've had your last drink. It's a city for adults, and I
During the holidays, I happened to catch an episode of Gordon
Ramsey's hit show in which he "schools" restaurants on
everything they're doing wrong; it reminded me of the book
"Kitchen Confidential" by the ever-so-bad Anthony Bourdain. It
always amazes me how many people run around and tell other
people how to run their businesses and their lives...
In some ways, Ramsay seems like a pampered chef with big
backing who runs around and scolds those who are trying
their best to make something happen with limited resources. A
sharp script and a good producer sure do make things look
easy... Ramsay (who is an excellent chef, but that's beside the
point) tries his hardest to make the chef feel like a complete
ass. Thanks, Mr. Ramsay, but the marketplace generally does that
job quite nicely; either people come and the place survives or
they don't come and the doors shut. Either way, lessons are
learned without the extra bonus of the chef being publicly
Mr. Bourdain made a big splash with "Kitchen Confidential"
by revealing the "inside" secrets of the restaurant
industry, telling tales of a chef making it with the new bride
over the back freezer, and the so-called "fishy" fish on
As for hanky-panky in the kitchen, we all know it
happens; every single person who has spent more than a couple of
weeks in the biz has heard a tale or two of certain shall-we-say
exploits. In my upcoming memoir: "Under the Counter and Over the
Top" I recall lots of spicy moments in countries and kitchens
all over the world... But the business is full of professionals,
too, who come to work to get the job done.
A restaurant that serves bad fish any day of the week
won't be in business for long no matter how much "special
sauce" is poured over top. Any good chef knows how much food to
order based on the average cover count of the restaurant, and
they generally don't have a lot of exta sitting around. And if
that chef is worth his or her salary, he won't gamble the future
of the restauarant on trying to stretch out old or questionable
ingredients to save on food cost.
I think the reason Bourdain felt at liberty to make such
blanket statements is that he has never owned a restaurant.
He's always been the guy on salary who can crack (Oops! Line
'em up, Tony!) shots at the owner without risking his own
investment. When I read his description of the rich guy who
hired him as an "idiot," I thought - well, yeah - since he hired
you. Sure, go ahead and make people feel queasy about what comes
out of the kitchen - why do you care?
I wouldn't serve anything that I wouldn't eat myself. I
think it comes down to that - a restaurant won't stay open for
more than a few months if the chef doesn't have the pride of
ownership. Flash-in-the-pan restaurants don't last, Ramsay or no
Ramsay. In answer to Bourdain's fearmongering, yes - perhaps
there are places who do serve old fish (like the ones Bourdain
worked at). But any chef who has pride in his or her work not
only knows how old the fish is, but also what it ate for its
last supper... of course, controversy drives up book sales, but
why would you eat and shit in the same plate or bite the hand
that feeds you?!
So please! Let's see fewer Monday-morning quarterbacks
and more people who are focusing on creativity, the fun and
excitement of the restaurant industry and - most important of
all - how we can take better care of the people who effectively
pay our salaries by dining at our tables. As Howard Cosell would
have said: "Put up or shut up!"
And now, having said all of that, I'll close. I want to
offer my condolences to anyone whose loved ones were affected by
the tsunami in Asia. I sincerely wish all of you a safe, happy
and loving year. I promise to do my part in helping that happen
by sending you lots of recipes and ideas for ways in which you
can cook to your heart's content! Since Valentine's Day is only
a couple of weeks away, you can expect a special edition of this
newsletter in just a week or so!
Ciao for now!
SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI w/ BROWN BUTTER &
potatoes make these gnocchi slightly heavier than the
traditional ones made with regular potatoes. They have a rich,
mellow sweetness that is perfectly offset with browned butter
and crispy fried basil leaves.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ brown butter & basil
• 2 large yams
• 1 cup unbleached white flour
• 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano cheese
• 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
• 10 small basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil
• 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (Farenheit). Wrap yams in
aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the
middle is soft when pierced by a fork. Remove foil and let them
cool for 10 or so minutes. Peel and discard skins. Place the yam
flesh in a bowl and mash with a heavy fork.
Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter in a microwave or a small
saucepan over low heat. After butter is completely melted,
cool for 3 to 4 minutes; pour over the mashed yams. Stir. Sift
flour over the top of the yams; stir slowly to incorporate. Add
1/2 cup of parmesan and all of the blue cheese. Season with salt
Cover bowl and place in refrigerator to cool the mixture
completely, one to two hours.
Lightly flour a smooth, solid work surface. Separate the
yam dough into three pieces. With floured hands, roll each piece
out into a rope-like strip about 3/4 inch in diameter. With a
sharp knife, cut along the strip every 1 inch to make gnocchi.
Press the pad of your thumb into the middle, or use the tines of
a small fork to make indentations along the middle. Each gnocchi
should look like a miniature rectangular dumpling.
In a heavy saucepan, heat water to boiling; add gnocchi
and cook for 2-3 minutes or until they begin to float. Don't
overcook! Remove and drain quickly.
In a skillet, brown the remaining 1/4 cup butter over
medium heat, stirring carefully as the butter begins to bubble.
Sprinkle the basil leaves over the surface of the butter; they
will become crispy within about 30 seconds. Add nutmeg. Add the
gnocchi to the pan and gently toss to coat. Remove from heat.
Sprinkle with remaining parmesan and fresh basil strips. Serve
SALAD OF ENDIVES with BLUE CHEESE,
TOASTED HAZELNUTS & GRAPES
Endives have a refreshing, watery crunch;
when paired with the bitter edge of radicchio, sweet grapes and
creamy blue cheese, it makes a delightful winter salad.
• 1 head Belgian endive
• 1 head Vicenza radicchio (the long, narrow ones)
• 3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
• 2 tablespoons whole toasted hazlenuts
• 1/4 cup red or white seedless grapes, rinsed and patted dry
• Extra virgin olive oil
• 1/2 Meyer lemon
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• Fresh organic rose petals (optional, for garnish)
With a sharp knife, cut the end off of the endive and
radicchio and separate the leaves. Arrange on a large salad
plate. Place the grapes on top of the leaves and sprinkle with
toasted hazlenuts. Drizzle olive oil over the salad; squeeze the
lemon half to distribute the juice amongst the leaves.
Sprinkle the blue cheese over the top. Season with salt
and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.
Of course we recommend that you pick up the endives like
miniature boats and feed them to each other... mmm!
You are receiving this email because you're a fan
of food and romance...You think life is a sensual adventure, and you
hope to nibble and sip your way to bliss. We hope this helps. If you're
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Copyright 2004 • Sex and the Kitchen, Inc. • All Rights Reserved.