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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guest Author Post: Kim Wright and a "Mid Air" Christmas Party

I asked my friend, Kim Wright, how being a food writer helped her become a novelist. I first met Kim once upon a time in a writing workshop in Charlotte, NC led by the Infamous Author and Creative Writing professor, Fred Leebron. It’s a  great pleasure to witness Kim's work flourishing so! Kim is a fantastic inspiration! Read what Kim says about the connection between Food and Writing. Below her post below I’ve included some C’est si Bon! recipes created for her novel, Love in Mid Air's, delectable Christmas Dinner Party scene.    




Kim Wright is the author of the novel Love in Mid Air  and a nonfiction guide for writers called Your Path to PublicationShe was a professional food and wine writer for twenty years.  



People often ask me if my former job as a food and wine writer has any influence on my present career as a novelist.  I think the background of the writer always affects the private inner lives of their characters. The only question is how.
For example, there’s the old saw that literary writing comes out of character, which gives rise to the further issue of “How much does a writer need to know about his or her character in order to convincingly write him?”  Do you need to know his date of birth? The kind of car he drives?  Her height?  Her favorite song?  Even the most detailed books and the most complete character studies won’t include all this information….it’s a bit like what William Faulkner used to do.  Apparently he wrote out full and complete bios of each character before he began his novels – probably 95% of what he’d written in these bios never made it onto the pages of the novels, but the important thing was that he knew it.  It informed how he wrote about them even if it wasn’t explicitly on the page.
So we have to know a lot about our characters to craft a book, but precisely what we need to tell is open to wide interpretation.  Some writers get deep into inner lives while never giving their characters specifics.   Can anyone remember the color of Emma Bovary’s hair, the precise age of Scrooge, or Ishamel’s last name?  What constitutes an important detail, worthy of going into the book, depends on the writer.
My characters eat and drink.  They eat and drink their whole way through the books.  A lot of scenes take place in restaurants.  Even more take place in kitchens.  I know that Kelly doesn’t eat avocados and Elyse drinks Pinot.  I know the precise menu of their Christmas dinner party.  I list all four of the desserts the ladies share on the sampler platter.   I describe colors in terms of food – celery and eggplant and chocolate.  People are always feeding each other, especially in bed.  They take their kids to Ben and Jerry’s.   They make huge vats of soup.
It’s a weird little quirk and I doubt most readers pick it up.  But it’s a definite leftover from my career as a food writer and one of the primary ways I pin down my characters.  A sophisticated palate tells us a lot about someone’s past life.  Making soup is a yearning for a simpler kind of life.  An adventurous eater might make bold choices somewhere else.  A person who chooses white wine over red simply so her teeth won’t get stained – well we all know she won’t end up well, don’t we?
What can I say?  Once a foodie, always a foodie. 

Kim's newest release, called Your Path to Publication - fills a much needed "How to Make it as an Author" void for aspiring writers who have completed a work of fiction. 


Now then, here are the recipes so you can prepare and revel in Kim's Christmas Party right in the comfort of your own home, and who KNOWS what that might inspire. Bon Appetit!


Write to me for more information about Our Trip to Gascony coming up in five weeks! October in Southwest France is time for Cepes, (France's porcini,) Duck, and the Wine Harvest. The  party is just getting started in Gascony's kitchen! 



Cooking Up a Tres Gascon Storm, or Two


Roasted squash bisque
A perfectly smooth entre for a sexy holiday gathering.

serves 8

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, split and seeded
Drizzle of olive oil
¼ pound bacon slices
1 cup each minced carrot, celery, and leeks
1/2 cup each chopped fresh chives, parsley, and thyme
zest and juice of 1 orange
4 cups half and half
4 cups chicken stock
salt and freshly cracked black and cayenne pepper to taste
1 tablespoon additional fresh chopped chives, garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 and drizzle a bit of olive oil on a sheet pan. Place the butternut squash curt side down and throw in the oven for a good thirty to forty minutes. Or until tender enough to scoop out.

In the meantime heat a large soup pot over medium heat. add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside for garnish. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Save for another use of desired. Add the celery, carrots, leeks, and herbs. Stir well, cover, and sweat over low heat for 15 minutes. Do not brown them. Add the orange juice and zest and roasted squash to the pot, stir well. Then add the half and half and the stock. Season with salt and both peppers. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook, partially covered for another 20 minutes or till all the vegetables are very tender. Process with a stick blender to desired consistency. Pour into a tureen and ladle up at the table. Garnish each bowl with the chopped chives and reserved bacon.

Waiting For Fromage...

Pear and blue cheese salad
This salad offers fantastic contrasts of sweet, salty, crunchy, and spicy, tastes; bien sur! What could be next on the menu?

Serves 8

Body:
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
couple handfuls of salad ready spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
one handful of arugula, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
8 ounces blue cheese - crumbled
4 ripe pears, cored and chunked (leave skin on if pretty or peel)
½ cup walnuts, chopped

Annointing:
2/3’s cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed, salted, and minced
salt and pepper to taste

Arrange the lettuce, spinach and arugula on plates and top with the blue cheese, pears, and walnuts.


In a small bowl whisk the balsamic and oil together, add garlic, season with salt and pepper, then just before serving, drizzle over the salad.



Your Table's Ready

Salmon en Papillotte
The fragrance of leeks and salmon lure you to slowly but surely, open the delectable packets on your plate. Umm. 

serves 8

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced

1 leek, washed, cleaned of grit and julienned

3/4 pound french green benas (haricot vert) sliced thinly on the bias 
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, sliced thinly on the bias
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds skinless salmon fillet (about 1 1/2 inches thick), cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry sherry

Preheat the oven to 375°. 
In a nonstick skillet, heat the 4 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. add the onion, leek, and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook over moderately high heat, stirring until translucent, 5 minutes. add in the green beans and the sugar snaps and cook just another minute or unitl the color comes up. transfer to large platter and let cool slightly.
Heat 2 large, sturdy baking sheets in the oven. On a smooth surface, lay out eight 14-inch-long sheets of parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Mound some of the vegetables on half of each sheet. Set the fillets on the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Fold each packet in half, then fold up 2 sides to seal, leaving 1 side open. In a small bowl, combine the stock and sherry; spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons into each packet. Fold up the last side, sealing tightly.
Transfer the packets to the preheated baking sheets. bake for 9 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Plate the packets and serve to each guest to open at the table.


'Bout Time For Something Sweet

Write to me for more information about Our Trip to Gascony coming up in five weeks! October in Southwest France is time for Cepes, (France's porcini,) Duck, and the Wine Harvest. The  party is just getting started in Gascony's kitchen! 

Mocha Panna Cotta
Inspired by the scandalous and clandestine love affair of coffee and chocolate this dessert marries a late moonlit night with a morning in the piazza - comfortably, oh so comfortably.

Makes 8 servings

Panna Cotta
3 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder, or substitute instant coffee powder
1 cup cream
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups mascarpone
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup high-quality chocolate sauce

Espresso Chocolate Sauce
½ cup high-quality chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon brewed espresso or strong coffee
1 cup heavy cream

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of the water. "Bloom" until the gelatin is soft. 
In another small bowl, combine the espresso powder with the remaining 2 tablespoons water. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream, sugar, sour cream, mascarpone, vanilla, and chocolate sauce. Add the espresso mixture and the gelatin and mix well.

Place the mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth and hot (approximately 150 degrees to 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer).
Remove from the heat and divide the panna cotta evenly among 8 pretty coffee cups. Cover the cups with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the custard. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours to set.

To make the chocolate sauce: heat a small saucepan over medium heat with the heavy cream. When the cream is hot, add the espresso and the chocolate, stir until smooth. The sauce may be made the day before, refrigerated and then warmed in the microwave when ready to serve.

To serve: top each cup of Panna Cotta with some of the Espresso Chocolate Sauce. Serve each “coffee cup” on a saucer or larger plate.


Write to me for more information about Our Trip to Gascony coming up in five weeks! October in Southwest France is time for Cepes, (France's porcini,) Duck, and the Wine Harvest. The  party is just getting started in Gascony's kitchen! 






2 comments:

  1. Thanks, Dorette. Your recipes are beautiful and anyone who gets the chance to travel to France with you is a lucky, lucky person!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh Kim, And I thank you -- I love your "Mid Air Love!" story and all the questions pondered and feasted on. You enlighten and make me laugh! The best recipe of all.

    ReplyDelete

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