Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In This I Believe

I think I've told some of you about this book project I'm working on with Charles Phan, chef-owner of the Slanted Door here in San Francisco. It is taking up a lot of time and brain space, but in the most excellent way. I'm so happy to be here. I'm learning so much (although not all lessons are good ones--yesterday I popped a cube of fermented red tofu into my mouth, having never tried it before. For others unfamiliar, I caution you--bad idea).

Once or twice a week, I head down the Slanted Door kitchen, where we work on recipes, shoehorning our Dutch ovens filled with sizzling pork belly right next to the pastry cooks and their nice, polite, coconut tapioca. I think they love it. Yesterday we worked on this recipe, above, for beef stew fragrant with lemongrass and star anise. We used brisket, cubes of carrot and daikon, and a knob of smashed ginger.

Some of our recipes fail on first attempt. Some fail on the second. Some we decide aren't worth the work necessary to make them great, so we replace them with something better. But sometimes, when the Gods of recipe development are shining brightly upon us, a recipe works brilliantly the first time around. I get so happy when that happens, not only because it means we'll have less work to do but also because I imagine someone cooking the recipe and making a really great dinner and feeling pleased as punch. And this stew will do that. We tasted it, and we loved it, and then we topped it with Thai basil and minced Thai chilies and I loved it even harder.

When this recipe debuts in the fall of 2012, people will be so glad. And there is no sweeter reward for all this work.

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