By Kim Dannies
Around this time of year I default to happiness. Goodbye resolutions, hello! fine food. This year, I was lucky to do it in style traveling to the Cayman Cookout with Vermont Creamery rock star Bob Reese and family. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being “with the band,” but I’ll take it.
From the get-go, flutes of Tattinger flowed and our job was to chat up celebrity chefs Eric Ripert (Le Bernadin), Jose Andres (MiniBar) and Anthony Bourdain (well, you know). Top Chef Spike Mendelshon whipped up Asian duck and lamb loin-shank while Eleven Madison Park marvel, Daniel Humm, did a demo with strawberry gazpacho. There was a brigade of James Beard winners, each trying to out-cook the other at events held morning, noon and night. This was the Superbowl of Foodies—did I have the chops to survive six days of debauchery?
I have so much respect for food professionals. I doubt you will find a more devoted, passionate, skilled group of fun people in any industry. These folks work hard, and their work is their play. The proof really is in their pudding.
What did I learn at this glorified frat party? Pureed cauliflower and grits are the new mashed potato. Tuna and foie gras taste really great together. Burgers can be crab, shrimp and scallop, or black bean—the key is to douse them in a savory-sweet sauce on fresh brioche buns. Combine quinoa and tabouli for an unforgettable crunchy grain salad. When it comes to fish, fresh is best—lemon, butter and salt, that’s it. And don’t be stingy with oil, salt or butter—chefs are generous with the stuff (that’s why their food tastes so good!). What I learned is when something tastes delicious, a few bites are all you need. The palate and the body are instantly alerted to goodness and become satisfied quickly. That’s the real secret of great cooking.
De-stem the base and chop up two heads of white cauliflower. Place cauliflower in a soup pot, along with eight garlic cloves and 32 ounces of chicken stock. Cover and simmer until the cauliflower is soft enough to blend with immersion blender. Add 4 tablespoons butter and puree until silky. Season for taste.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters. Archived Everyday Gourmet columns are at kimdannies.com. [email protected]