Saturday, August 23, 2008

Alice Waters: Steamed Sole & Apricot Tart

That's an apricot curd tart, made from Chez Panisse Desserts, which isn't technically an Alice Waters cookbook -- it was written by Lindsey Shere -- but nonetheless falls under the umbrella of this project. 

You can tell the difference between the Waters books and the non-Waters books immediately. Waters' volumes tend to be restrained, elegant, a little precious. Paul Bertolli's Chez Panisse Cooking is long-winded, meditative, Italocentric. And Chez Panisse Desserts is overstuffed, mellow, generous, and playful. It is also packed with recipes I want to try, using rose petals, geranium leaves, black raspberries.

The apricot curd finished off the Utah apricots, and yielded a very smooth, tangy dessert. If I had a pastry bag I could have made more artful use of the whipped cream, but this was still the prettiest thing I cooked last night.

It was not, however, the most delicious. That would be the steamed sole with beurre blanc (Simple Food), one of the world's most fattening and excellent fish dishes. God, how do food writers do it? It was heavenly. All superlatives apply. 

This gorgeous recipe involved steaming the filets for seven minutes, placing them on a platter, then serving with some beurre blanc. How have I cooked all these decades and never made beurre blanc? You simmer chopped shallot in wine and wine vinegar, then add almost two sticks of butter (!!!), a tiny bit at a time, whisking as you go. It is creamy and superrich, but has a wonderful bite to it. The ideal complement to delicate white sole.

French cooking 101, which apparently I missed. 


  1. what about the roasted potatoes?! The best part of last nights meal? One of my favorite things you make and yet you fail to mention it. thanks alot mom.

  2. They weren't ROASTED potatoes, they were FRIED potatoes, and you're right, they were really good, like everything else in these Chez Panisse cookbooks.
    But they didn't seem unique enough to mention.
    Appreciate your dogged attempts to keep me honest, thanksalot. Consider a future in investigative journalism.

  3. roasted,fried,whatever! stil forgot to mention them.

  4. Hey, thanksalot, you should read my Closer blog and share your "helpful" comments there. You'd be in good company.

  5. Beurre Blanc For The Sole. That's the name of my new self-help book, or it will be, now that you've inspired me. A stick of butter. "A quart of milk, a loaf of bread, and a stick of butter."
    A stick is tough and scrawny and bark-y and knobby. But a stick of butter is not.
    -- Ida in Iowa