In Julia's KitchenJody Adams's Sweet and Sour Sole, Venetian Style
Zarela Martinez's Corn Relish
When I got the galleys to In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs, the book written to go with Julia Child's new television series, I dropped everything and read it straight through. I don't usually do this with any book, but something right away told me that this was special--one of those rare books packed with information that's a pleasure to read.
What's more, it gives you a warm, familial sense of being on the set and right there with Julia and her guest cooks--a group of cooks from all over the country who really care about what they're doing and produce food that the home cook can cook, too.
As it happens, I did visit the set while the series was being filmed--the set being Julia's house (everyone calls her "Julia," of course, whether they know her or not, which is okay with her). Every pantry, closet, parlor, and basement storage or laundry area corner was occupied either by equipment or people, including Susie Heller, the culinary producer, a sprite who kept the menus going and everyone cheerful, and Nancy Verde Barr, the co-writer of the book, both established with laptops. The very controlled chaos is best described by Julia in her introduction: "Trucks, cars, and miscellaneous equipment lined the street, a big Dumpster was parked in the driveway next to the strange orange-colored air-conditioning pumper, and wires of all sorts were running in every direction. The inside was even more peculiar, beginning with the bulky air-conditioning pipe laid from hall to kitchen, and all those people wearing headsets wandering around or crouched over monitors, all those lights and machines, and our own company television chefs, Charlie Saccardi and Bernard Giordano, constantly running up and down from cellar to kitchen carrying platters of food. A strange and busy household indeed, but the smell of good cooking was always in the air."
Everyone clearly thought that there was really no place else to be. That feeling comes through the book, which is why I was so pleased to read it all at one time. It's as rare to capture a mood in a book as it is for a writer to be able to write the way he or she speaks. Look, for instance, at the notes from Julia to the cook about aspects of a chef's menu that caught her interest, whether it be sweetbreads (yes, you should try cooking them) or veal (she likes it pink and classic, not "baby beef") or "garlic lore and handling tips." They ring with that authoritative, infinitely useful voice every American cook treasures.
Here are two summertime recipes from excellent cooks: Jody Adams, chef of Rialto, a restaurant in the heart of Harvard Square, not far from the Julia homestead; and Zarela Martinez, an animated woman and New York restauranteur who loves transmitting her passion for the food of her native Mexico.
-- Corby Kummer
INGREDIENTS FOR 4 SERVINGS
FOR THE SOLE:
8 fresh skinless and boneless sole fillets (imported channel sole or gray sole), 4 to 5 ounces each and 3/8 inch thickFOR THE SAUCE:
4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (1/3 cup)FOR THE GARNISH:
16 pieces pickled red peppers, either homemade or store-boughtSPECIAL EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED:
A 12-inch no-stick frying panPREPARING THE SOLE: Season the sole fillets with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the frying pan with 1/8 inch of olive oil. When very hot but not smoking, saute the sole until golden brown on each side and just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.
PREPARING THE SAUCE: In the same frying pan, over moderate heat, add the shallots and saute a minute or two, just until tender. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in the red pepper flakes, the raisins with their Marsala or sherry, and the pine nuts; reduce to a glaze--a minute or so. Swirl in the orange juice and boil down by a third. Then whisk in the olive oil to thicken the sauce; stir in the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the fish, and garnish with the red pepper strips.
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Chef Jody suggests you accompany the dish with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh spinach.
ZARELA MARTINEZ'S CORN RELISH
INGREDIENTS FOR ABOUT 2 1/2 CUPS
2 large ears of fresh cornSPECIAL EQUIPMENT SUGGESTED:
A corncob stripper or 4-sided graterPRELIMINARIES: With a sharp knife, remove the kernels and juices from the corncobs, preserving the juices--you should have about 2 cups. (See also Dean Fearing's ingenious kernel removal using the large holes of a grater, below.) Heat the griddle or skillet over moderately high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Arrange the peppers on the hot surface, turning often to cook evenly until the skins are blackened and the flesh is somewhat softened. Remove the peppers and wrap them in a kitchen towel, letting them steam for several minutes to loosen the skin. Then peel, discard the seeds and veins, and coarsely chop them.
MAKING THE RELISH: Heat the oil in the frying pan, stir in the onion and garlic, and saute for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they are softened but not browned. Blend in the peppers and saute one minute, then stir in the corn and continue sauteing for 4 to 5 minutes, just until tender. Stir in the cilantro, and salt lightly to taste.
DEAN FEARING'S CORN STRIPPER AND FRESH CORN PUREE
To cook the puree, Dean pours it into a skillet and bakes it for about 20
minutes in a 350 [degree] F oven, until thickened and cooked through. He
seasons the puree with salt and a little lime juice, plus drops of maple syrup
or honey to sweeten off-season corn.
Copyright © 1995 by Corby Kummer. All rights reserved. Recipes from In Julia's Kitchen With Master Chefs, by Julia Child, with Nancy Verde Barr. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995. Hardcover: $35.00. Copyright © 1995, A La Carte Communications.