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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Novel Review and Menu: Jesse Browner

Over the years I have become an afficianado of Jesse Browner's work.

One of the most mesmerizing works to combine culinary and fiction in his novel, The Uncertain Hour, Mr. Browner brings us to visit and partake in the intense last hours and Roman feast of Titus Petronius. The tense narrative moves through saffron fields, Lucanian sausages, and an Umbrian boar with a stuffed belly of Chian figs and moist chestnuts. Delicious, no? (Think I am putting this on my bed table again!) But be warned the story is not all sweetness and light. Petronius is, little by little, ending his life as the feast and his lovers and friends swirl around him.

His most recent release Everything Happens Today gives us Wes, a poetic and distraught 17 year old who has had quite the day but is thus preparing a dinner he hopes will heal his disparate family. We watch while he presses and preps an elegant old world specialty- Ris de Veau, or Sweetbreads, or otherwise known as veal thymus glands.

Perhaps due to a European upbringing Mr. Browner creates worlds of culinary forays, intricate preparations in all their social and cultural realms. Mr. Browner entices a very intoxicating sensuality; and isn't this connection wrought with the most sublime and fragile emotions; yes, food! warm and flowing sauces brings us all to the door; opening to the kitchen or a banquet of words, I am there!

Accras de Morue, Fritters of Salt Cod from the Arles market
and from the C’est si Bon! kitchen

These fritters of spices and salt cod are so delicious you’ll be transported to the ancient streets of your choice. my inspiration are the hot little amuse bouche that call, their scent pulling me through the very raucous and Romanesque market in Arles.

1/2 pound skinless boneless salt cod, cut into 2-inch pieces and rinsed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. each cumin and coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
a 4-inch-long fresh hot red or green chili, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
3 scallions, chopped fine
vegetable oil for deep-frying

in a large bowl let the salt cod soak in enough cold water to cover it by 3 inches, changing the water several times, for at least 8 hours or overnight. 

drain the salt cod well in a sieve and in a food processor pur√©e it. add the flour, the milk, the egg, the baking powder, the ground cumin, coriander, thyme, and the garlic and blend the mixture well. 

transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the chili and the scallions. 

in a deep fryer or large deep skillet heat 1 1/2 inches of the oil to 360°f. on a deep-fat thermometer and in it fry teaspoons of the mixture in batches, stirring and turning them occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are golden and cooked through. 

transfer the fritters as they are fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. 

they are best served immediately and warm. 

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