16 July 2009

A Return To Cooking

With his French accent and boyish good looks, Eric Ripert is a favorite on television cooking shows. His food is marvelous. In the end, however, his food is “chefy” relying on a multitude of ingredients. For the home cook, these enormously long recipes can be daunting.

A Return to Cooking is not so much a cookbook as a Broadway production of gastro porn. Ripert travels around, cooking in various “vacation” spots: Sag Harbor, Montauk, Vermont, Napa, the Caribbean. He “vacations” with his family… and a writer (Michael Ruhlman), a painter (Valentino Cortazar) and two photographer (Tammar and Shimon Rothstein) and of course, an unseen crew, not to mention as Ruhlman writes, “And, oh yes, a 125-gram tin of the world’s best caviar and two white truffles each the size of a demented egg and weighing about three ounces.” Don’t try this at home.

No doubt, I promise, the book is beautiful and, yes, you would have given anything to be a part of the crew, but at home, you really don’t want to commit to a grilled cheese with 6 ingredients.

There is one recipe in this book that I adore, and it is well worth the time. Pique (pronounced PEE - kay) is a Puerto Rican hot sauce, that adds sweet heat to many a dish. I love the heat, so add a teaspoon to some mayo, add some to tuna salad, or salad dressing or a meat marinade. Most recipes call for vinegar, so Ripert's "ferment your own in pineapple juice" gives it a unique flavor.


2 1/2 cups water
6 ounces pineapple skin (from one pineapple)
8 tiny green hot peppers, such as Thai chiles
4 tiny red chiles, such as Thai chilies
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 oregano sprig
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch fine sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or as needed
Special Equipment
Heatproof narrow-necked bottle

Combine the water and pineapple skin in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and infuse for 5 minutes, then strain. Discard the pineapple skin.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge a heatproof bottle in the water to sterilize it. Remove with tongs and let dry on a rack.

Make 1/2 inch slit near the stem in each of the hot peppers. Add the peppers, garlic, oregano, peppercorns, sugar, and salt to the bottle. Cover with the pineapple-infused water. Slowly add the olive oil. The olive oil should completely cover the pique; if it does not, add more to cover.

Leave the bottle open for 1 week on your countertop, covered loosely with cheesecloth. Throughout the week, bubbles will rise to the top. After a week, the bubbles will have subsided. Seal the bottle and refrigerate. Pique should keep for up to a month.

Put up a bottle of pique and those truffles will be the farthest thing from your mind.

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