Friday's lasagna wrapped up a month-long focus on "classic" dishes, a theme I used loosely in different ways:
- I explored classic dishes by notable chefs: A Beef Stew by Jacques Pepin, Bolognese Lasagna from a recipe by Marcella Hazan, and a Spice-Brined Roast Chicken inspired by local Palena chef Frank Ruta. None of these are fast dishes; they all took hours to make (and 2 days in the case of the chicken), but they are all good examples of the value of time in developing flavors. The hours were well worth it.
- I looked for ways to update two once popular dishes that have fallen out of vogue: Fish Almondine, which I made with grouper, styled after a dish recently served at Poste, and Beef Stroganoff, which I tried to take back to its simpler Russian and French roots, as well as push forward with a mashed potato base inspired by Range. The almondine may fade into history, but the stroganoff was quite tasty.
- I updated three classic salads with fresher, lighter ingredients: a Smoky Waldorf Salad with a vinaigrette dressing, Cobb Salad with honey-smoked almonds instead of bacon, and a Wilted Spinach and Bacon Salad that uses warm ingredients instead of hot bacon fat to wilt the greens.
- I had one week focused on bacon as a classic versatile ingredient for salad (aforementioned Wilted Spinach Salad, soup (Smoky Pinto Bean with Red Wine and Sweet Potato), pasta (Smoky Trofie with Mushrooms), risotto (Bacon-Mushroom Risotto) and a cocktail (an Old Fashioned made with bacon-infused bourbon). One the great things about bacon is how much flavor it can impart to a dish, even in small quantities.
- For a vegetarian dish, I made a Red Lentil Stew with unusual inspiration: it's based on the dish a main character makes in the novel Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach.
- In addition to the bacon Old Fashioned, other cocktails for the month included the Gin Tonic, Spain's sophisticated update of the class G&T, the Singapore Sling, an old drink that really shines with quality ingredients (no sour mix) and the resurgent use of shrub in cocktails (specifically grapefruit).
- For dessert, I included a simple classic that never goes out of style: Apple-Pear Crisp. Although it feels at home in the fall, it's good any time of year.