Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beggar's Purses with Bacon and Cheese

Barry Wine of the Quilted Giraffe, 1990’s (?)

When you are known by friends and acquaintances as a “food person”, there are a few questions that get asked regularly.  One of the most frequent would have to be, “What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten?”

My answer?  There are a few… and that’s not hedging my bets.  Perhaps 5 on my list, but hey, I’ve been around a while now and eaten a lot of great food.  Place, company, event… all contributed to the reason they were best dishes and the top spot changes from time to time even if the list rarely does.

I’ll let you know about one that’s been at the top for 20-odd years that came from Barry Wine’s The Quilted Giraffe in NYC.  The food was all over the place, eccentric and full of hits and misses but creative and fun… this guy was pushing the envelope.  The dish that made me want to genuflect to the diminutive Mr. Wine?  Beggar’s Purses… crepes filled with beluga caviar, crème fraiche tied with a chive.  You popped them in your mouth… I think there were 3 on a plate.  I believe I was such a glutton we had to get another plate and that threw the service off but I didn’t care… I was in love.

New York Magazine, Nov 7, 1983 – that’s Clerc with the moustache!

Mr Wine was inspired to make them after a visit to another great self-taught chef (like himself) in France, François Clerc at La Vielle Fontaine outside of Paris.  Clerc’s Aumônière (that means a little draw-string bag/pouch) became Wine’s beggar’s purses and reading about Clerc I can see why…he and Wine shared the same wild souls when it came to food (although the mad moustache was all Clerc).
Wine was a University of Chicago-schooled lawyer with very little training in the cooking arts (he took a few classes at The Culinary Institute in Hyde Park) but it was probably the fact that he had no preconceived notions that drove him from “chicken cordon bleu and a salad with canned mandarin oranges” to really inventive cuisine.  The NYT wrote “ By the early 80's, Mr. Wine was drizzling red-pepper oil around portions of grilled swordfish, serving sea urchins from Maine and thickening a sauce with mashed potatoes, all strikingly new concepts at the time. David Burke... said Mr. Wine "was the first chef who showed me how creative and whimsical you can be." Don’t forget Wine was the guy who introduced tuna and wasabi pizza and hazelnut-coated sweetbreads! 

The Quilted Giraffe was also a veritable breeding ground for great chefs.   Aside from David Burke, David Kinch of Manresa  spent 4 years there and considered Wine a mentor, Tom Colicchio (Craft and Gramercy Tavern) another self-taught chef, also cooked for Wine – leaving a gig at Alfred Portale’s Gotham  to take the plum opportunity to work with the mercurial Wine.  They (and so many others) remember the experience fondly.  Collicchio remembers making those beggar’s purses all day long!

For years at my New Year's house parties in the country, my great friend Diana would bring a tub of good caviar as her offering.  We all would pig out on caviar and whatever the main course and desserts were that year and drink champagne… normal New Year's behavior.  But New Year’s morning, I would get up late and as the sleepy guests made their way downstairs I would begin making beggar’s purses and a line with plates would form and reform and reform as people returned for 2nds and 3rds and 4ths.  Warm crepe, cool caviar and crème fraiche with a tiny bit of lemon… it was worth not being piggish with the stuff the night before so we could indulge in these beauties for a great beginning to a New Year, with the rest of the champagne of course!

Since then I have done them with salmon caviar, smoked salmon, foie gras even once with whipped cream and raspberries (sans chives!) and they are always wonderful.

The remarkably generous and creative bloggers Natasha and Lazaro (of 5 Star Foodie and Lazaro Cooks) invited me to be part of a great group asked to come up with something fun using bacon and eggs... I was thrilled with the challenge.   I thought I would do something Mr. Wine would appreciate… throw a concept on it’s ear and make something different.

I decided to make the crepes -- but instead of fancy caviar -- fill them with chopped bacon in a creamy cheese sauce.  The idea of popping them in my mouth at brunch appealed to me utterly. I think they would also be fun with a piece of grilled fish, chicken or pork for dinner.  They can be made ahead and warmed gently in the microwave for a few seconds…. They are very rich and 1 or 2 should be plenty (Dr. Lostpast said 3!).  PS, I had chives in a box… bad idea… get full length so they are easy to tie!!!

The recipe for the beggar's purse crepes comes from The New Basics… the classic 80’s Silver Palate cookbook.  They are nearly foolproof.

Bacon and Cheese Beggar’s Purses, makes 10-12


¾ c milk
2 eggs
½ c  flour
¼ t salt
butter for pan

Throw the milk eggs flour and salt into the blender and let ‘er rip for a minute or 2.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Use a stick of butter to coat your pan with butter like a magic marker…be especially generous the first few and use the butter before each pour of batter.  Swirl batter around the pan and flip once set... do not allow to brown too much!

Use 2 T of batter per crepe.

Bacon Cheese Sauce

2 T Butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
½ c cream
pinch of nutmeg
1/8 to ¼ t chipotle pepper, ground
1/8 t pepper
3 T grated parmesan
¼ cup finely grated cheddar
1 t cognac or armagnac

4 strips smoky bacon, chopped and cooked till crisp
12 chives, put in salted boiling water for 5 seconds and drained

Sauté the garlic and shallot in the butter till softened…. I like the butter to brown for an added nutty flavor.

Add the cream and warm, reduce a little and add the cheeses and cognac. 

Lay out a crepe, fill with about ½ T bacon cheese sauce (it is rich).  Tie with a chive into a purse… should your chives not be long enough… tie them together and cut off the excess… makes it easier!


La Table De Nana said...

I love these too.. My favorite so far were my son in law's w/ escargots..

His filling was divine..

Your purses look so pretty.I must admit you eat with the eye first and these have eye appeal:)

Kathy Walker said...

These sound divine! Your purses are cute. Love the ties.

2 Stews said...

As I sat reading, I was tasting each one in my mind. How about a potpourri of fillings making each one a surprise?

Love this post and you've got me thinking!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a wonderful recipe and creative idea. I really love these. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of these beggar's purses! They are just adorable and would be a perfect appetizer for any party! The bacon cheese sauce sounds so flavorful with the chipotle pepper and nutmeg, very rich and satisfying. Excellent!

Sarah said...

I cannot believe that another week has passed. I had forgotten about beggars purses. What a great idea for a cocktail party. I made them with phyllo pastry and baked them in the oven. I must keep these with crepes at the top of my list.

Jennifer-The Adventuresome Kitchen said...

What a fun and flavorful presentation! That would be so fun as an amuse for a dinner party! I love your sense of play and the combination of flavors! So glad to have found your blog!

tasteofbeirut said...

I had been thinking about beggar's purses lately, don't know why, and here they are! lovely, delicious, stylish and the story of the quilted giraffe to gild the post!

Diane said...

I want that Quilted Giraffe, it is beautiful :)) I have made a note of this recipe, I will be busy when I return to France! Dciane

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I'm drooling. Try as I might I can never resist crepes of any kind. I even tried convincing myself once that I didn't like them (all those carbs). It didn't work :P And caviar? The food of the gods I have to say!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I can just imagine you asking for more at the Quilted Giraffe! Well done! Even better is the New Year's Day tradition. What better way to welcome the new year?

Tasty Trix said...

I am going to HAVE to say this is brilliant ... because I did a variation of a beggar's purse for the 5 star makeover! lol. Now I KNOW that great minds think alike! Mine has an Asian twist, and oddly was also based on one of the best things I've ever eaten, yet something that is completely different from your best thing. Very cool. (Will post tomorrow.)

Lazaro Cooks said...

Lovely presentation. Creative contribution to the makeover.


Linda said...

Deana...I am drooling here. Honestly drooling!
I love these and your look amazing!

Sue said...

Coming here to read your posts is one my favourite pastimes. I loved your piece on the Winter Queen - and it evoked some memories for me having just read Patrick Leigh Fermor's two books on travelling (on foot at the age of 18) across Europe in the 1930s. I was fascinated about her and - lo and behold - you wrote wrote about her! Thank you! Needless to say your recipes are stunning and your photos look like paintings sometimes - I could put the one of the trout on my wall!

Barbara said...

Very cute, Deana. Be fun for a brunch. Not only did you put your own twist on bacon and eggs, but you've given us great background info as well. It's come to be what I expect from you. :)

Marjie said...

"Beggar's Purse" is a great name, regardless of what it is! What a nice New Year's party story, even if you didn't get much of your creations.

Frank said...

Very tasty, very elegant!

Joanne said...

Ah yes, the impossible question. i have no idea what the best thing I've ever eaten is. But these purses are so cute! And delicious!

angela@spinachtiger said...

I've eaten at the quilted giraffe a long time ago. But, I never had what sounds like amazing purses. What a cute idea for the challenge. I had no idea of the history of that restaurant.

Daily Spud said...

Those purses have gone firmly onto the must-make list but it's the history behind them that truly fascinates.

Unknown said...

So lovely, people must always be so impressed when you serve something like this. I'd never be able to pick a favorite food, I have so many. I guess it would be like asking a parent to pick their favorite child LOL.
Hope you have an amazing weekend.
*kisses* HH

Claudia said...

I have stared at the Quilted Giraffe's recipe for eons and eventually the book got dusty and I put it somewhere. Now I am inspired to make them daily with new fillings. Starting with breakfast and your delectable beggar purses.

Table Talk said...

The bacon cheese sauce sounds killer! I would definitely beg for one of these purses~
Happy weekend!

Faith said...

What a wonderful addition to the Bacon and Eggs challenge! The little purses are gorgeous and that bacon cheese sauce sounds like the perfect filling!

Bren said...

love the garlic and nutmeg in this! how cute. great for parties and shows some serious patience! :)

Lori Lynn said...

My friend was just telling me of those rich heady days when her company used to take clients to the quilted giraffe and eat platefuls of beggars' purses and drink unlimited Cristal.
excellent addition to the event!

Peter said...

I love things like this because they're completely open-source. Once you make crêpes, there's pretty much nothing you couldn't do this with.