Friday, March 4, 2011

My Old NYC and Lentil-Chili Soup with Divine Orange Sherry Cream

 Jefferson Market Courthouse – a little before my time!

Very soon after I came to New York City, I moved to the West Village.


11th street between 5th and 6th.  It was a great neighborhood with fabulous caring neighbors and a great inclusive spirit. My first cooking experiments started in that 11th Street kitchen (oh yes, Renaissance Veal Pie – ICK, puff paste glue – YUK, coq au vin -- AHHH) that had a giant window overlooking the gardens of 10th and 11th Street. I did my first renovation (very grown up!) on that kitchen and Pierre, the craftsman that did the unorthodox counters with copper and deep-blue-sea tile, became a great friend.

My dining table was in front of another giant window that looked out over what must have been the inspiration for Hitchcock’s Rear Window .  I can’t tell you how much fun we had watching our neighbors… especially one couple that cavorted between the living room and the bedroom, often en déshabillé.  We took to waving but they didn’t seem to care.  It made for very amusing dinner parties and made up for some of the food disasters that came from my reach exceeding my grasp in the kitchen. My friends were very good sports. It also helped that the meals were lubricated by a stock of spectacular wines that the local merchant had discovered in his cellar when he bought the place. He was charmed that I was interested and shared them with me for a song. We often had old Lafite, Latour, Haut Brion, Margaux, Petrus and Yquem from the 1950’s to wash down the food experiments.  What a world.
I shopped at Jefferson Market – on the west side of 6th Avenue, between 10th and 11th Street. The store (with a lovely crew that included owner Angelo and my favorite – very Irish Frank) had a policy that is inconceivable today, they shopped for you (you told them what you wanted and they gathered it for you) when I started going there!  One day before a dinner when I forgot my checkbook, they just said not to worry…I could pay next time… can you imagine??  It was a great store.

When I moved to a loft in the yet-to-be-named NOHO in the 80’s, I was inconsolable.  It was barren and forlorn. Ok, the loft itself was a bohemian dream and 2500 sq feet with the best windows in NYC but there were no people… the neighbors were sequestered, doing their arty things (one made jewelry for Madonna) and I never saw them since we all kept odd hours (only 5 years before there had been an eccentric brothel on the top floor). It was a real artist’s building then.  Leo Castelli and Andy Warhol risked their lives taking our 100-year old elevator (after riding with Warhol I grumbled “there goes the neighborhood”, boy, was I right) on their way to the artist lofts above.  The neighborhood is now crawling with people and all the artists are gone to the outer boroughs.  The lofts now sell for millions and rent for the 10’s of thousands!

Former Hairy Guy Greasy Spoon – now posh shop 

I so missed Jefferson Market.  The only thing around us then was a really pathetic greasy spoon with smelly sandwich meat and an owner with dense black hair exploding exuberantly from every possible place save the top of his shiny bald head… he didn’t look any cleaner than his display cases and leered every time I entered (as well as trying to look down my shirt whenever possible).  His gag-making aftershave couldn’t mask his mighty B.O.  I decided I’d rather starve and at first, went back to my old neighborhood to shop.


Then I found Dean & Deluca just a few blocks away.  Back then it was  on Prince Street, (much, much smaller than the giant that’s on Broadway now) and there was a Whole Foods next door (not related to the giant food chain at all –it started as a funky artist/ hippy health-food store).  By the time I got there they were already trendy and not as warm as my beloved Jefferson, but between the 2 --  I could get what I wanted.

I missed the familiar faces and intensely personal service.  At Jefferson people worked there for decades… it felt like family and like the old Cheers TV show, everybody knew your name and what you liked (“Deana, those little artichokes are coming in next week!!”).

I think that’s one of those things I miss with mega stores.  Minimum wage jobs don’t encourage long-term commitments.  Everyone is on their way somewhere else or depressed that they have to be working there.  Once upon a time when someone worked at a place like Jefferson, they could afford houses and cars… they were taken care of and they had enormous pride in their work (like well paid waiters in great restaurants – coincidence??).  Now they are commodities.  It is the cost we pay for saving money, or in D&D’s case, the cost for high quality… lots gets thrown away and high priced employees would make the quality unaffordable (their prices are already extremely high … but when I have to do food for a film, I load up there because everything is PERFECT).  

When they came out with the Dean & Deluca Cookbook in the mid-90s it became a favorite of mine.  David Rosengarten   did a bang up job.  As a self-taught food writer, his voice is unique and nuanced.  You will love the book especially if you entertain frequently. I can’t tell you how many times I used it for parties.

One of my absolute favorite soups comes from this book.  It is a lentil soup that can be totally vegetarian or not… it is crazy good with orange and chili and sherry (that I added to the recipe years ago) giving it richness and warmth -- perfect for these last gasps of winter and that cream will rock your world.  If soup can be sexy… this is one voluptuous bowl of red.

I really recommend getting the petitgrain… it is a very special orange so it takes the cream from good to great… well sublime, actually. I had used orange for years and loved it but the petitgrain blew it out of the water—no contest. Mandy Aftel, the sorceress behind the magic says “Usually petitgrain includes the leaves and the twigs of the bitter orange tree but this is special and included some flowers too so resembles a neroli – floral but restrained – a very sophisticated orange with floral notes.”  Since you only use a drop or 2 it is affordable elegance.  It goes together with the deeply flavored Pedro Ximenez sherry like a perfect love affair. Like the petitgrain above orange juice, Pedro Ximenez stands heads above cream or amontillado sherry. I found it thanks to Manuela's Portuguese blog, Tertúlia de Sabores.   Don't get me wrong... it is delicious with orange and sweet sherry... but best with these additions.

You can only get Aftelier products online!

I like the cream best made the day before.  It allows the 2 elements to refine their duet before the performance at the table.


Creamy Lentil & Ancho Chili Soup based on a recipe in the Dean & Deluca Cookbook
Serves 4-6

4 ancho chilies
1 cup hot water
½ t ground allspice
pinch of ground cloves
½ t dry rosemary
 ½ t black pepper
1 T tomato paste
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c chopped chorizo (optional for vegetarians)
1 T vegetable oil
½ Lb green lentils
6 c water
grated zest &  juice of 1 orange
1 bay leaf
salt to taste (Chorizo is salty so add salt after everything else)

Sherry Orange Cream

1-3 T Sherry (I like Pedro Jimenez , but a cream sherry will do)
1 cup sour cream
drop of Aftelier Petitgrain  or 1-2 T orange juice
6 T fresh cilantro, minced

Toast chilies in a 200º oven for 5 minutes.  Discard seeds and stems.  Place in a bowl with the hot water for 15 minutes.

Remove the chilies, reserving the water.  Add the chilies to the herbs, spices and salt in a food processor with tomato paste and reserved liquid to blend. 

Cook the onion and garlic in the oil till the onion is soft… 10 minutes.  Add the chili mixture and chorizo and fry for 2 minutes.  Add the lentils, water and orange juice and zest and any remaining reserved chili water.  Cook partially covered for 1 hour.

Remove from heat and cool somewhat… If you wish, puree some of it (or all of it) with a few pulses of the food processor or leave it rough.

Take the sour cream and stir in a little bergamot essence or orange juice and enough sherry to make it spoonable… this will vary with the thickness of the sour cream. Warning, this stuff is really delicious.  Do not eat it all before you finish the soup!

Pour the soup in a bowl and swirl the sour cream on top… sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


Since I am on a lentil roll… I thought I’d also share a dish that captured my imagination when I read the description a few weeks ago.  It’s from Guy Savoy in Paris… lentils with sweetbreads and truffles that I read about on a Luxeat,  a blog that takes you to the best restaurants in the world (what does this person do to have such a life, I wonder?). I mixed it up a little with truffle oil (don’t scrimp on this… bad truffle oil has no truffles and is a completely chemical reproduction of the scent without the flavor) since truffles are out of season.  Because I loved that lentil chestnut soup I made a few weeks ago, I wanted to add nuts to the soup somehow.  I was still thinking of Barry Wine’s idea of sweetbreads with a hazelnut crust so I put the 2 together… lentils and hazelnuts are a marriage made in heaven.  If you don’t like sweetbreads, it would be great with salmon too! Sometimes it’s fun to put a recipe together from a description… gives you lots of room to be creative.

Lentils with Hazelnut Crusted Sweetbreads (or Salmon) and Truffle Oil

1 leek, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 mushrooms
2 T duck fat
1 cup lentils (either French green or simple brown)
4 cups chicken stock
1 t fresh thyme
1 t fresh marjoram
1-2 T sherry vinegar
2 T Armagnac or cognac
Pinch chipotle powder
2 T hazelnut ‘flour’

1 cup hazelnuts, made into flour*
½ lb sweetbreads, cleaned and prepped* OR  Salmon
1 egg white mixed with equal part water
3 T flour
1 t each thyme and marjoram
¼ c duck fat
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

1 T hazelnut oil
Good quality white truffle oil 

Saute the vegetables in the duck fat until soft.  Add the lentils, herbs and stock and cook for 30 minutes or so until the lentils are soft.  Add the vinegar and armagnac at the end and cool. Season to taste with salt and pepper and chipotle powder

Take the hazelnuts and grind them in a coffee grinder or food processor… a nice mix of powder and small bits is the best and add the s & p, herbs. Dip the sweetbread pieces into flour.  Dunk them in the egg white mixture and then roll the pieces of sweetbreads or salmon  (3-4 pieces per bowl would be good) in the hazelnuts to coat.  The coating will stick better if you refrigerate them for an hour after this. Fry them in the duck fat till golden and crisp.

Place the soup in bowls and lay the sweetbreads (or salmon) on top.  Drizzle with truffle oil and hazelnut oil and serve.

*see HERE  for instructions on how to do the sweetbreads if they are new to you.
** toast the hazelnuts in a 350º oven for 7 minutes.  Allow to cool a little and rub their skins off in a towel.  The skins are slightly bitter so you want to remove as much as possible.

PS If you want to make this vegetarian, just put the ground hazelnuts in the soup as it cooks, it will add a delicious flavor.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting FOODIE FRIDAY


Diane said...

Having never been to New York, or the Americas for that matter, you give a good insight as to what it is/was like.

There seems to be a run on lentil recipes at the moment, took another one off a blog earlier which I plan for dinner tonight, and I copied another one yesterday. Now I have yours to copy as well, they sound delicious. Diane

Claudia said...

Is Jefferson Market still there? Once upon a time I lived at Tenth & Hundson and I just loved the building and was amazed that they would be your personal shoppers.

With winter not going away anytime soon, the lentil recipes speak of warmth. Which is paramount.

Lora said...

The lentil and ancho chili soup looks wonderful. Yes to the sherry addition! Not a day goes by I don't mourn the NYC of the 70s and 80s. Seems like it's soul has left...

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I had to smile at your reference of your apartment being similar to the scenes in Rear Window. I must have made for good people watching ;) It's still soup weather here and your lentil and ancho chili soup sounds wonderful! I love lentils and just made some lentil soup.

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef said...

Couldn't help but think, "When did this girl live in NYC and have an experience like this?" Ah...yes...30 years before I did. Well then. Glad you got to experience what NYC used to be like.

Frank said...

Ah, your post brought back memories. I lived in the West Village in the early to mid-80s and loved the food shopping there, especially the Italian strip on West 4th Street. And Balducci's on 6th Avenue when it was a real Italian market. And, yes, of course, the Jefferson Market was wonderful. Good times for a food lover... of course, they would have been even better if I had had a neighbor with a wine cellar you mention... ;)

Marjie said...

I love your story of moving around in NYC! I've always lived in the suburbs, but I have to be close to civilization (never more than 5 minutes from an interstate) because I have a phobia of living near bears. Yes, bears. I know they're out there. And, yes, I saw one while driving my sons to scout camp, and freaked out. He just stared at me over the hood of my station wagon as if to say, "Just what are you doing in my yard?" At least you won't have bears in your neighborhood!

Lovely soup, BTW. But I like the memories the best.

Anonymous said...

Lentils are sooo good and this looks fantastic. I'm sure it was delish!

Julian said...

Another wonderful, heart-felt post Deana. I too so miss the personal service that one used to find in shops of all kinds. Experts, they were, knowing their products like the back of their hand and guiding your shopping to ensure you had exactly the best items for your needs. As you note, even great waiters are hard to find these days.

I run a small business and employ a staff of 60. We pay a fair, living wage that has permitted us to keep our little group together for many years, and I like to think we are a little island of expert, friendly, service in a world of anonymous mediocre service. While we do serve a well-healed clientele, and as such can afford this luxury of a lost past, I dearly miss shops such as your Jefferson Market.

tasteofbeirut said...

your nostalgic post took me back to the few months I spent in New York City back in the eighties, living in an empty apartment next to my great aunt Ellen; it was on a street called La Guardia Place near Houston and 5th if I recall, and I loved walking all over Soho into Little Italy and Chinatown; I had a friedn who danced with a ballet company and had rented a tiny studio in the meat district long before it became fashionable; in her days,it was scary. Anyway, New York to me is the most exciting city in the whole wide world and you have been so lucky to live there all these years. Love the soup and discovering this new essence and the cream with the herb is so clever. Love everything that you do. so innovative and classy!

Emily said...

I often dream of NYC and your memories were so wonderful to read, just as I imagined the city. I'm a terrible voyeur so the idea of a Hitchcock Rear Window really appeals to me, as does the community you describe - how sad to leave that. I saw a short clip recently of two artists in Berlin saying that Berlin today is like NYC in the 70s. Beautiful recipes too!

Lucy said...

I too fondly recall the old NYC when I was in art school and you could live in Manhattan, work part time and do your art and hang out with your friends. Those days are truly done and will never come again, alas. This also recalls our lentil phase of the 70s and 80s when everyone was just beginning to try out that new way of eating, so called "health food", organic, home made, rich grain and legume and vegetable dishes. Feeling very nostalgic now. On balance in return, we now have the revival of many neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Harlem and the UWS, with lots of restaurants and events, since Manhattan is more the showcase now, rather than the incubator. But it's still inspiring. As Laura Nyro used to sing about NYC, "sidewalks and pigeons, you look like a city, but you feel like religion". As long this place pulls in the cream of the creative crop from the rest of the country, it will keep that sense of purpose and legendary energy.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Deana dear,

You are so gifted. You know the secret of communication, mixing various passions together with the written word, including the many senses. But never have I known a writer to take the sense of smell and taste and extract it out of my mind as much as you. Visuals, even sounds and of course emotions, can be touched by a skilled writer, but I have to say that a food expert/ writer is the perfect recipe for an unforgettable experience. Like Babette in BABETTE'S FEAST, you are an artist that MUST speak through BOTH these arts....and in this virtual world, you have managed to feed us, your readers, with a meal that though we are unable to taste with our human senses, are able to savor with the intellect as well. That makes for a memory of love, and yes, YOU CAN TAKE THAT WITH YOU....thank you for coming by, and thank YOU for this luscious trip down memory lane, to a New York that I love. DEAN AND DELUCA? OH YEAH! My first trip there was like a pilgrimage!!!

Love to you this weekend and always, Anita

Linda said...

Deana...I so loved this post. It takes me back to the places I shopped when I lived in San Francisco in the late 70's and 80's...times have certainly changed and not for the better in so many ways.

I would have loved to see that kitchen with the blue tile and copper counters...sounds like my kind of place!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Barbara said...

Love your NYC stories, Deana. My daughter has lived there since 1980 so I know it well. But she prefers TriBeCa to live...has moved several times and her gallery used to be in the West Village, but she moved last year to get better traffic.
I love Dean and DeLuca...really enjoy taking my time in there. You New Yorkers get so spoiled with all that's available to you.

Also have been meaning to ask the names of your favorite outdoor markets....)

Lentils are an all time favorite. Doesn't matter if it's soup, or a side dish. I love them. Had them the other night, served under a filet, oddly enough.
Haven't made sweetbreads in ages! Yum!

Michelle Krell Kydd said...

Terrific post! Like the use of essential oils in cooking. I used a food grade neroli to make Crumiri. Might want to give it a whirl:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences in NYC! The soup sounds amazing with ancho chilies and chorizo, such wonderful flavors! Loving the lentils with hazelnut crusted sweetbreads dish too, super delicious!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Is Jefferson Market still around? I love that small neighborhood charm and treatment.

I can't imagine having a 2500 sq ft apt in New York, that seems so gigantic!!! What did you do with all of that space?

I'll have to look for Aftelier Petitgrain, the flavors sound intriguing!

2 Stews said...

Oh yes, I remember shopping at Jefferson Market...maybe we bumped elbows. I lived in Chelsea (it was up and coming, but who knew it would take so many years!) and midtown. I dreamed about living in a loft, and unfortunately left town before any of that happened.

I think I'll have to pick up the Dean and DeLuca Cookbook, it sounds interesting. I have a heavy stash of French de Puy lentils and will look for the Aftelier Petitgrain today at Whole Foods. Thanks for the introduction.

Thanks for the recipes...I WILL be substituting salmon for the sweetbreads!

Unknown said...

Oh I am so jealous of you, living in NY in some of my favorite foodie neigborhoods, and running into Andy Warhol (OMG!!!!!!!!!!) on a regular basis. Wow. LIving in NY is an absolute dream to me. I wonder if that will ever happen--though i kind of doubt it. Anyway i think i'd turn into a big fat Murray bagel and I'd smell of sturgeon all the time LOL. Not pretty.
From my last recipe of veggie chilli with orange, I know how good this combination is, but I am so intrigued by this petitgrain! I do hope I come across it some time.
*kisses* HH

Anonymous said...

Lovely post and gorgeous soup.

Sue said...

I am green with envy - you lucky girl drinking 1950s Haut Brion, Margaux . . . :-)

La Table De Nana said...

I loved my visit to NYC..would of course like to go back one day..Because I have been..your post was so nice for me..
I have yet to try the real Puy day..Your soup looks good!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ahh those stores and the wonderful personalised service. Mega stores will never replace them in our hearts! I adore sweetbreads, one of my favourite types of offal! :)

Lisa @ Tarte du Jour said...

The lentils are my kind of food! They look delicious! I love reading your blog..... always so interesting.

Ken Albala said...

What a neat neighborhood. And so changed in the past 20 years (the last I lived in the city). Love this recipe too, such an interesting combination of seriously rustic and remarkably elegant at the same time.

Tasty Trix said...

I wish I had gotten to NYC early enough to experience that. Although I will say I got to know some of the crazy store people in my Brooklyn neighborhood ... but yeah, it's not the city it used to be. I love your posts so much ... and then, you give these awesome recipes, which you totally wouldn't need to do because your stories are so great!

ThisIsWhyIWant said...

Thank you for sharing this its very helpful for us i like your written skills its very important for learners.