February 23, 2009


Inspiration comes in many forms and from many different places. Although lately I’ve felt as though my cooking inspiration has overwhelmed my writing inspiration and I’ve been struggling to find ways to tell you about all of the things I’ve been making. And then I realized that I should just tell you what’s been inspiring me to cook.

I don’t even think it’s necessary to say how inspiring my experiences were at the Thomas Keller restaurants, The French Laundry, Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bakery in California. While I was there I kept a list going of all the things I wanted to make once I returned home. Somewhere on that list were simply the words “make anything Thomas Keller”. If it’s on the list, it has to be done. I decided to go with a recipe from the Bouchon cookbook, which is ironically, the only Keller restaurant that I didn’t eat at while in Yountville. I guess I felt like I was missing out and needed to fill that void with my recreation of a Bouchon meal, Boeuf Bourguignon. In typical Keller fashion, no detail is left out and the steps required to make the dish are multiple. It’s worth it in the end.
Bone Marrow from Bistro Jeanty (Left) and My Kitchen (Right)

While in Yountville I managed to eat at one non-Keller restaurant and that was Bistro Jeanty. I had received a recommendation from the good folks at Foodbuzz that Bistro Jeanty was a fine place to go and I’m glad I went because it was there that I was introduced to bone marrow. They had it on the menu as a special appetizer for the evening and I was immediately drawn to it. I’d heard nothing but good things about bone marrow and I’ve lived for far too long without trying it. That appetizer was the best part of the meal and when I got back to the hotel that night I wrote “make bone barrow” on my to-do list. So of course, it had to be done. I used a recipe from Fat, (subtitle: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, oh yeah!) and did my best to recreate Roasted Bone Marrow with Red Wine Sauce. And although it would have been easier to eat if my bones had been cut in half, it was tasty nonetheless.

Apricot Ginger Scones

Sometimes inspiration is as simple as Mom requesting that I make her something with apricots. Occasionally such broad guidelines are agonizing for me because I can’t choose only one thing. Other times one word is enough to spark an idea and I immediately know what I’m going to make. When Mom said she wanted apricots it meshed perfectly with my desire to make scones and Ginger Apricot Scones were the result. If only it were always that easy…

While in New York City in January I ate at Bar Boulud and Café Boulud and enjoyed both experiences very much. This made me want to recreate some Daniel Boulud magic in my own kitchen. I have the Café Boulud cookbook, (co-authored by Dorie Greenspan) so I pulled it off the shelf and promptly lost the next hour just reading through the book before deciding to make Spiced Fresh Pork Belly with Lentils. You can never go wrong if the dish you’re making contains the almighty pig.

Spiced Fresh Pork Belly with Lentils

One of the places that inspiration comes from is, like it or not, The Food Network. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about TFN but I get tons of ideas from it. I don’t love all of the shows, but I can still manage to find inspiration even in the ones I don’t like. For example I decided to braise oxtail for the first time in my life after seeing Paula Deen make them on Paula’s Home Cooking. I usually switch to the music station when Paula Deen comes on because in general I find her terribly annoying and can’t stand how she uses “y’all” as punctuation. But on this particular day, the remote control was out of reach and I was quite simply too lazy to be bothered to get up to change the channel. The result was that I saw how ridiculously easy it was to make braised oxtail and decided to make it for dinner the following night. I loved it and will definitely be making oxtail again.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Braised Oxtails with Egg Noodles

Braised Oxtails (from Paula Deen)

2 whole oxtails, sliced in 2-inch pieces

House Seasoning, recipe follows

Several dashes soy sauce

2 large yellow onions, sliced into half-moons

3 to 4 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Trim fat from oxtails. In a broiling pan, toss oxtails with House Seasoning and soy sauce. Top with onions and bay leaves. Add water to fill pan 1/4 of the way to the top. Cover pan with foil and bake until oxtails are tender, about 2 1/2 to 4 hours. Remove foil cover from meat and brown in oven for an additional 5 to 8 minutes.
Paula served her oxtails over rice, I chose egg noodles.


Snooky doodle said...

Wow all amzing dishes. Surely you ve got great inspiration :)

Anonymous said...

Great post :) I am constantly inspired by cooking shows and to the dismay of many I too will plead guilty to an immense enjoyment of the Food Network (i'm just not that elite sorry) :) I also get inspired by color palettes and music oddly enough. Would love to hear more about your Thomas Keller adventures :)

Dragon said...

You are always and inspiration. :)

LyB said...

I most definitely find inspiration on the Food Network. One of my favorite shows is Chef at Home, and we often watch it with the kids. They're the ones who'll say "Mom, you should make this!", and they love it when we adapt a recipe to our tastes. I've never had oxtail, I'm not even sure I could find it at the grocery store, but you sure make it look good! :)

Anonymous said...

I often get inspiration reading other people's blogs. Lately I've been inspired by anything sunny and summery, since I'm just plain sick of winter. Occasionally I'll hear of or read about an ingredient (usually a fruit, flower or herb) that I've never tasted and I HAVE to hunt it down and make something with it (usually elaborate cupcakes). I hope to get some amazing inspiration on my next trip to NY.