When I talk about the joy of cooking, I'm often surprised by how many people who say they don't know how. And I shouldn't be, because it isn't a skill I was somehow genetically infused with -- I learned -- like anyone else. I had many good teachers, and I had a lot of trial and error.
The simplest things often came the hardest for me. For example, the humble baked potato. By the time I got to college, the hideous trend of microwaving them was catching on, so I just stopped eating potatoes. (I wasn't an Animal, for chrissake....which reminds me....)
Since today is Rosh Hashanah, I am thinking of one of my first culinary mentors, my former colleague and friend Joanie Abramson -- who taught me the perfect hollandaise, mouth-watering brisket, and that it was both acceptable and preferable to eat asparagus with one's fingers (as long as it's not sauced).
I often asked if I could just "apprentice" in her kitchen, and over the course of many holidays and cookouts and river trips, she graciously did take me under her culinary wing.
She also taught me how to make the best baked potato ever. I watched her do it repeatedly, but insisted she let me write it down. "Oh Buffffffffffffff, she'd say, it's a Potatooooooooooooooo." But finally she got out a post-it note and scribbled this down:
Wash. Butter. No fork.
For 30 minutes.
THEN fork it.
Then 15 to 30 minutes more.
That post it has held a place of honor on the inside cupboard of every house I've lived in since then: first Hanover, then Clay, then Marquis, then back to Clay.
The second thing she taught me was the perfect hard-boiled egg. (Go with farm-fresh and you'll alleviate the guilt + fear that the poultry system can outrun your immune system: it can). Mine were always runny, or developed a green ring around the yolk.
put the water on to simmer,
and put your eggs in a big bamboo spider under hot running tap water,
to temper them (so they won't crack).
Ease them into the water which should, by now, be a simmer-to-boil.
As they boil, turn off the water.
Let sit for twelve minutes in their hot water bath.
The yellows will be bright gold, but not runny, with no green tinges.
You might also enjoy:
The Last Supper
A Taste of Romance, with Potatoes Anna
The Sombre Frittata
Smuggles at the Movies
Everybody deserves their own Personal Joanie.