What Does a Restaurant Critic Cook at Home?
Dear Ms. Gim:
Thank you so much for asking. Because even I cook at home sometimes, and Tuesday night dinners are a much better way to gauge these things than, say, Saturdays, when one is apt to show off with a complex display of tarts and tians, or Sundays, which are all about establishing the comforts of home with braises, roasts and such. Tuesday is when the farmers' market produce on your counter is likely to be at low ebb, but you aren't quite ready to recycle Sunday's supper into shepherd's pie; when the frugal imperative that led to Monday's pot of beans has relaxed a bit; when you're ready to pop a bottle of Moulin-a-Vent or a modest Aglianico, but aren't quite up to the Nebbiolo you might be drinking later in the week; and when you don't want to spend more than a few minutes in the kitchen.
A roast chicken is perfect on Tuesdays, especially if you're using one of the great-flavored Vikon chickens you can find at almost every Chinese supermarket, and especially if you remembered to dry the bird carefully and massage its skin with salt and crushed fennel seed when you brought it home on Saturday or Sunday. A green salad, some new potatoes tossed with a little olive oil and tucked under the bird: dinner. A smoked pork chop from Schreiner's in Glendale, sauteed apples, a big spoonful of fresh black-eyed peas blanched for a couple of minutes with a chunk of bacon: you're there. (The really good black-eyed peas are just coming into season -- check out the Weiser stand at the Santa Monica, Hollywood or Pasadena farmers markets.) Pan-fried sand dabs with succotash? A big melon salad with strips of prosciutto and a little lemon verbena? Spaghetti tossed with the orange Juliet tomatoes from Harry's Berries sauteed just until they split and release their sweet juice?
If you're asking what I cooked this Tuesday, it was pan-grilled salmon from McCall's with a green-zebra tomato vinaigrette; tiny boiled potatoes that I smashed and fried in olive oil; zucchini from a friend's garden, sliced paper thin and sauteed with garlic and fresh marjoram; and an O'Henry peach cobbler. I love late summer in Los Angeles. It's the best time of year to be a farmers market geek.