Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Maurice? Mai oui!

The J.L. Hudson Maurice salad

When I was younger, J.L. Hudson department store in downtown Detroit, a fixture on Woodward Avenue, was a glamorous and big city destination. It was a very big deal to go downtown. When I was in high school and maybe jr. high, my sister and a couple friends would dress up (sometimes in our spring coat -- remember those) and maybe even gloves, to spend the full day there.

Always alluring were the "aisles of beauty" where you could test fragrances, check out new make-up but, because we were students, could never afford to buy. Made no difference, the sleek cosmetic clerks were as close as we could get to glamour.

We'd wander around the multi-level store, gotten to by elevators manned by elevator operators in snappy uniforms. I always thought of them as pretty powerful, maneuvering the elevator to just meet each floor.

And lunch was the highlight. Up on the top floor, with rows of windows letting in light but judiciously tempered by long, elegant curtains, the Hudson dining room was elegance par exellance.

So what did we order? Maurice salad, of course. A gorgeous plate of shredded, ice cold iceberg lettuce topped by thin batons of ham, turkey and Swiss cheese. And then the dressing. The dressing!

Creamy, a little bit tangy - and I recall studded with sweet gherkins, it was heavenly. Rich, piquant, a little saucy it made the day. Seriously. That salad was that good.

So, on this hot day, I decided to recreate the J.L. Hudson Maurice. Got the recipe off the internet, made a couple tweeks (minced onions rather than onion juice.)

Shredded the lettuce, laid on the sliced ham, turkey and Swiss and then, the crowning glory, the dressing.

Maybe not exactly, but close enough, to Hudson's dining room. A couple bites in I was roaming those upper floors and the aisles of beauty.

Here's the recipe:


2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons onion juice
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 hard-cooked egg, diced
1 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound turkey breast, cut into strips
14 ounces Swiss cheese, cut into strips
1/2 cup sliced sweet gherkin pickles
1 head iceberg lettuce - rinsed, dried, and shredded
12 pimento-stuffed green olives

Prepare the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, lemon juice, onion juice, sugar, Dijon, dry mustard and mayonnaise. Add the parsley and egg; mix well.
In a large bowl, combine the ham, turkey, cheese and pickles. Add the dressing and mix well. Divide the lettuce among plates, top with salad and garnish each plate with 2 olives.

Note: Mixing the cheeses and meat and pickles is great. But as I recall, the salad came unadorned, so you could as much of the dressing to your taste. Do either, it'll still be delicious.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kansas City 'Q Fest

Once again the baker blogger made his trek to Kansas City to be a reader for the AP Psych Exams. This is a big deal. Tons of readers for many of the AP tests -- psychology, biology, calculus and others converge in KC for one week of reading thousands of exams. The psych folks alone read some 400,000 essays. The backside pain and the mental exhaustion caused by reading and thoughtfully grading essays for 8 hours a day were ameliorated by access to world class 'q in KC.

We have been holding the annual KC BBQ Fest since 2009, when the trips to KC began. For this year's feast, I brought back ribs, burnt ends and pulled pork from Arthur Bryant, ribs from Big T's, and ribs and beef brisket from Oklahoma Joe's. Bryant's and OK Joe's are repeats from past years, but Big T's ribs are new this year. I sampled the Big T's rib plate this year and came away very impressed - meaty, juicy, tender as a KC jazzman's love song. T's ribs were the favorites of the BBQ Fest's guests.

The OK Joe brisket is wonderful - in KC. For the second year in a row, the brisket has failed to make the overnight trip from KC to Detroit. The counter guys at Joe's suggested that the hot brisket is only good for an hour or so, but that the cold brisket should make the trip successfully. We tried the cold brisket. It was better than last year - not dried out - but it still lost that ineffable essence of brisket that, in KC, you not so much taste as become one with. My reading partner tried the brisket, at OK Joe's combination rib shack and gas station. She's from North Carolina and seemed almost willing to forswear NC BBQ is she could eat Joe's brisket regularly.

I should mention that just down the street from Big T's is another well-known KC BBQ landmark - LC's. I wanted to get a sample plate from each of them to compare and consider for inclusion onto the BBQ Fest menu. I did not eat anything from LC's. I did not like the joint from the second I entered. There were only a couple people inside, and they didn't seem happy; the waitress was scowling; the place felt dirty. I studied the menu for a minute before I realized I didn't want their food. Lots of people love LC's; I am afraid of it.

This reader stopped at Arthur Bryant's, Big T's and Oklahoma Joe's for smokey, delectable q, maybe the best since he's done the epic take-out.

Accompanying the take-out, homemade baked beans (with good chunks of salt pork) and corn bread, a great Caesar salad from our neighbor Donna (time to and a citrus-y delicious cake from Allison across the street.

Hands down winner: Big T's ribs. Huge, meaty, great rub smoked in. And the BBQ sauce was saucy and hot, just needed a bit, because the ribs just rocked it.

Hands down winner #2: Arthur Bryant's burnt ends. Bryant's ribs were delicious, deeply smokey, and with a good chew. The pulled pork is stringy deliciousness, and we had to just put down the fork, to move to other 'q favorites.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Days of Wine and Kroger's

Professional Pours is a new business with which we're associated. Now that Michigan passed a law that allows wine tasting at retail outlets, Professional Pours provides specially trained, professional staff to serve according to state regulations, as well as provide knowledgable commentary on the wine with a focus on personalized service.

We were thrilled to be part of Kroger's first tasting at its 15 Mile and Lahser store, featuring an appearance by chef Tyler Florence. He was there to sign his new book, "Family Meals."

And we were there to share the new wine Tyler has partnered with Michael Mondavi and his son Rob Mondavi, a fourth generation winemaker. Their Folio Wine Partners has worked to create five wonderful blends, of which the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon are the first two.

The wine is delicious; the Sauvignon Blanc was the stand-out for us. Fresh, crisp and well-rounded it has overtones of citrus - grapefruit and Meyer lemon, and a refreshing acidity that makes it great with food. Perfect for summer.

Kroger's bistro served a rich asparagus risotto with black truffle oil. And to accompany the Tyler Florence Cabernet Sauvingnon, hangar steak on a bed of creamed Swiss chard with a demiglace reduction, and caramelized onion crostini. Both wines were a great match with the food.

Nice way to kick off a new venture! We'll be back at Kroger next weekend (June 18,19) for another wine tasting.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It may be utopia

I had the opportunity to sample Sam Adams Utopia beer - if beer is the right word. The decanter-like container held, I was assured by the friend who acquired it, a beer aged for more than twenty years, part of the time in old bourbon barrels. It is made with a proprietary yeast and is about 25% alcohol.

The taste was a subtle mix of beer (faintly) and whiskey, with the whiskey mainly noticeable in the finish. The aroma was that of old port, and the mouthfeel was lightly viscous, almost the consistency of light olive oil. Utopias is intense, syrupy, almost sweet.

We sipped it from shotglasses, which was just about the right size serving.

We enjoyed this on a patio on a lovely, early summer afternoon. I'd do it again in that venue, but I really think Utopia is made for a man with grown sons, who share sips with him before the fireplace on an evening before New Year's while the father reminisces of more dangerous, more intense times, of life more full.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Trying frying = eh

We love to post our triumphs, our finds, our small joys and successes in good chow. But in the interest of full transparency, we also want to share our also-rans.

After a number of media exposures (TV, articles) to awesome fried chicken, we were hankering and hungering for some. This weekend was the experiment.

Great chicken, marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce. .... Check
Properly heated oil in heavy cast iron pot...... Check
Well prepared batter, nicely seasoned..... Check

End Sometimes all the ingredients are great, you have an instructive and appealing new recipe to use and the results fall flat -- or in this case soggy. Upside, the chicken was moist and well-cooked. Downside, flabby and not very crusty outside; leftover a disaster.

Next up: egg wash and flour only

Have to offer even more props to those folks who cook this wonderfully. Not as easy as it tastes.

We did a re-do of the chicken. Same marinated in buttermilk chicken, seasoned flour, a wider pan with same oil and temp. Result = pretty good fried chicken. Key was finishing it in the oven @ 350 degrees. We're not rare chicken people so we kept it there more than the recommeneded 10 minutes. Turned out pretty good. Still have some work to do, but we're on the right track here.