July 14, 1999
To know Patrick Clark was apparently to love him, judging by the new Cooking With Patrick Clark: A Tribute to the Man and his Cuisine. I never met him, and so I wasn't one of the many who prized this big, warm, food-loving chef who served as a model for many young African-Americans; finding work in the higher levels of kitchen staffs is not as easy as it should be, especially in New York.
When Clark died at the age of forty-two while waiting for a heart transplant, the professional food world, a tough one, went into mourning -- and also into action. Charlie Trotter, the Chicago restaurateur who is as ambitious as he is successful, mobilized the team that has produced his own series of lavish books, and Ten Speed Press responded with handsome layout and photography. In a warm introduction Trotter says that Clark was a model to him as a "loving husband and father" of five children, even more than he was as a chef. The essay by Clark's widow, Lynette, includes an affecting paragraph about the couple's children, whose educations will be funded by the profits from this book.
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Previously in Corby's Table:
Persian Appeal -- June 1999
Help! My Child Is a Vegan! -- April 1999
Seasons and Seasonings -- March 1999
Seductions of Rice -- January 1999
A Passion for Pastry -- December 1998
Soup With Style -- November 1998
Mangia, Mangia in the Mountains -- October 1998
Adventures in Grains and Greens -- August 1998
Vegging Out -- July 1998
America's Favorite Crustacean -- June 1998
More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound
Obviously, Clark's generous spirit and fondness for big flavors inspired fellow chefs to produce recipes in kind. Although many of the recipes in the book call for multiple ingredients and techniques that require a great deal of patience or a large staff, there are relatively simple recipes too. I've chosen several from the first half of the book, Clark's half, to give an idea of his own style; they were assembled from notes Clark made toward a cookbook and also recipes he wrote to keep busy during several hospitalizations.
Lobster and corn bisque, with its cream and bacon, might not seem exactly light and summery, but the prime ingredients are at their best in the summer. Grilled sweet potato salad with chile and ginger takes advantage of outdoor summer techniques to make a big, lush, main-course salad (okay, there's no protein, but I believe in living chiefly on carbohydrates); the grilled jerk chicken gives an unusually easy and powerful spice marinade that can serve for fish, too, and be an all-purpose grill marinade for protein-loving guests. And I would utterly trust Clark's barbecued ribs -- the sauce alone is worth the price of the book, and if you can find tamarind paste you'll understand why you'll never need to rely on bottled sauce again. There are plenty of autumnal recipes too, but to get them you'll have to get the book -- and, not so incidentally, help Clark's family in the process.
-- Corby Kummer
Excerpts from Cooking with Patrick Clark: A Tribute to the Man and his Cuisine, conceived and coordinated by Charlie Trotter
Extra lobster stock can be frozen for several months.
To prepare the lobster: Cook the lobsters in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes, or until slightly underdone. Remove from the water and let cool slightly. Remove the lobster meat from the shells, reserving the meat and the shells. Coarsely chop the lobster meat.
To prepare the corn: Husk the corn and remove the corn from the cobs, reserving the corn, cobs, and half of the husks.
To make the bisque: Place the lobster shells, corn cobs, husks, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and peppercorns in a stockpot and add enough water to barely cover. Simmer for 45 minutes and then strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids. Place the broth in a large saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes, or until reduced to 1 1/2 quarts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place half of the corn kernels in a small saucepan and add the heavy cream. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the cream is reduced to about 1 cup. Remove from the heat and purée until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook the bacon over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the fat is rendered but not brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and discard. Sauté the remaining corn, the potatoes, and onion in the bacon fat over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain any fat from the pan, add the puréed corn mixture, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until thick. Add the lobster stock in small additions until the desired consistency is reached. Add the lobster meat to the pan and whisk in the butter just prior to serving.
Ladle the soup into 10 bowls and sprinkle with the chervil leaves. Top with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
with Chile and Ginger Vinaigrette
This delicious variation of a traditional green salad is simple to prepare.
To prepare the salad: Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the tines of a fork can be inserted about 1/2 inch into the potato, but the centers are still firm. Remove the potatoes from the water and let cool completely. Peel and slice in 3/4-inch-thick slices. Brush the slices with canola oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill on a moderately hot fire for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through.
with Caramelized Vidalia Onions and Sweet Potato Cakes
To prepare the chicken: Rub the chicken thighs with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the chicken with the Jerk Spice in a resealable bag until completely coated and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine all of the dry spices on a small baking pan and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until their aromas are released. Purée the spices with the garlic, jalapeños, and ginger, adding small amounts of water to form a paste. Remove the mixture from the blender and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
with Spicy Coleslaw and Buttermilk-Chile Corn Muffins
The extra barbecue sauce may be kept in the refrigerator for up to one month.
To prepare the ribs: Sift the spices, salt, and sugar together into a bowl. Combine the spice mixture and vinegar to make a paste. Rub the paste into the meat, cover, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate overnight.
YIELD: ABOUT 1 QUART
Purée the onion and 1/2 cup of the orange juice for 2 minutes, or until smooth. Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and stir in the onion purée. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
YIELD: ABOUT 6 CUPS
Combine the cabbage, carrots, jicama, and onion in a large bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Combine the vinegar, garlic, shallots, peppercorns, jalapeño, and ginger in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and whisk in the olive oil. Pour the liquid over the cabbage mixture and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and buttermilk in a small bowl and add the jalapeño. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula until well mixed. Scoop the batter into mini muffin molds and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
My dad used to come into my classroom every year and serve cheesecake to my classmates. One of the more memorable years was in the beginning of second grade, when we first moved to California. It was only the second week of school and I hardly knew anyone. The cheesecake was a great icebreaker. I remember going home with new friends and, of course, I was in good with the teachers. A couple of years ago he asked me when I wanted him to come to my school. I told him I was too old for that now. I wish I hadn't thought I was too old.
Jody Adams emulated her mother's love of cooking, but it wasn't until she was in college that her interest in food took a professional turn when she took a part-time job with Nancy Verde Barr, a professional food writer and teacher Jody's culinary career began in Boston in 1983 at Seasons Restaurant under chef Lydia Shire. Three years later she became Gordon Hamersley's sous chef at Hamersley's Bistro. She moved to Michela's in 1990 and was executive chef there until early 1994. In the spring of 1994 Jody formed a partnership to open Rialto. Four months after the restaurant opened, the Boston Globe gave Rialto a four-star rating.
I became acquainted with Patrick at fundraisers, James Beard Awards events, and at various guest chef events. It may be something of a cliché to describe someone as an inspiration, but in a profession filled with hype, Patrick was the genuine article -- a great manager and a super cook. He was the calm at the center of the storm that is often the atmosphere of an off-site event. The orchestrator of many such events, he expected his participants to deliver their best.
Patrick set his own culinary standard. While not disdainful of dramatic presentation, he practiced a more modest style. He was an advocate of nuance. His food lay low on the plate, as though inviting diners to draw close, within whispering distance, to where a dish's virtues might be intimately appreciated.
Finally, it is as a chef with a family, as I am, that I remember Patrick. At the 1994 James Beard Awards he was sitting in front of me, with several vacant seats on either side of him. We both had been nominated, and I was churning with nerves, squeezing my husband's hand as the moment neared when the winner in my division would be announced. I wondered about his family. Some time later, when he visited Boston, he came to eat in my restaurant, and we had our first leisurely conversation. After he ordered, he produced photographs of his family. We shared our thoughts on how hard restaurant life is on family life. I imagined his wife and five children sitting together at home, waiting to hear whether he had won that night at the Beard Awards. And of course, he had won. When his name was announced, the room exploded with applause, as I'm sure it did in his home. We all had been holding hands for him.
Corby Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly and the author of The Joy of Coffee
More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound
Copyright © 1999 by Corby Kummer.
Recipes and links from Cooking with Patrick Clark conceived and coordinated by Charlie Trotter. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, California, 1999. Hardcover, 240 pages. ISBN: 1580080731. $35. Copyright © by the Patrick Clark Family Trust and Charlie Trotter.