I’m a cookbook-a-holic. There’s no denying it anymore. At some point, I’m going to have to move into a house with another freestanding building on the lot that I can turn into the RWT Memorial Cookbook Library. I should loan these things out. A recent obsession was A Platter of Figs And Other Recipes by David Tanis. I loved everything about it – its simplicity, honesty and stunning photography. When I was invited to a small lunch gathering to celebrate the release of his newest book, Heart of the Artichoke and other Kitchen Journeys, I accepted immediately.
For those not familiar with David’s story, he’s long been co-chef at Chez Panisse in California. The legendary simplicity of Chez Panisse is easily recognized in the cooking featured in both of his cookbooks. The emphasis is on the quality of ingredients, the rituals of cooking and the stories that come out of being a dedicated lover of food and cooking. Tanis cooks at Chez Panisse for 6 months out of the year and spends the other months living – and cooking – in Paris.
A small group of us gathered at local Atlanta food mecca Holeman & Finch for the intimate lunch – 12 of us, along with Mr. Tanis, enjoying recipes from his newest book prepared by James Beard nominated chef Linton Hopkins. There was no better location for this lunch – great house Rosé, sunshine streaming through the large windows, craft paper on the tables that would hold the family style platters. It was comfortable, familiar and delicious – everything that embodies the cooking in these books.
Conversation at the table was easy and often spirited. David seemed truly interested in what we all did and how we came to sit at the table with him – we were a mixed bag of Atlanta bloggers, authors and journalists. This notion of community in cooking and dining was reinforced throughout our lunch. The lost art of dining. Whether or not cooking simple food was actually harder than vertical food with six different sauces on it. His thoughts on cameras and phones in dining rooms. The idiosyncrasies that we all have in the form of our kitchen rituals. No subject was too tabu and I fully appreciate his almost stubborn dedication to the return to cooking. Even after 12 hour days at Chez Panisse, he still goes back home and cooks a midnight supper.
Let’s not lose the point of this lunch because I’m enamored with Mr. Tanis and how similar our philosophies about food are. We were there to celebrate amazing recipes gathered in this one book. All of the dishes we tried that afternoon were straight from The Heart of the Artichoke. Lemony Caesar salad that was instantly devoured. Pimento cheese paired with H&F black pepper crackers. Pickled veggie relish trays. Roasted chicken with sage and an apple-studded cabbage dish that would change any one’s mind about the lowly vegetable. We wrapped up the meal with a sublime Molasses Pecan Square that Hopkins made with local sorghum, which Tanis wholeheartedly approved of.
One of the highlights of this meal – and there were many – were the light as a feather Crab Stuffed Deviled Eggs. They were the very first thing we noshed on that afternoon…and their depth of flavor and amazing texture were the perfect bite to set the tone for a wonderful afternoon. David’s method for cooking the eggs is now my go-to method for hard(ish) boiled eggs. The yolks are fully cooked but still rich yellow orange with no shot of cooking them till they get that green cast. This recipe would be an amazing base to ad lib as you see fit – if you can’t or don’t eat crab, they’d be delicious without it, too. Paired with a simply dressed arugula salad, they made for a wonderful late lunch.
– Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Carefully put the eggs into the water and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs to a bowl of ice water, and when they’re cool enough, crack them gently and return to the ice water, so they’ll be easier to peel.
– Peel the eggs. Cut them in half, scoop out the yolks, and put them in a bowl (reserve the egg white halves). Mash the egg yolks with a fork, and fold in the mustard, sour cream or creme fraiche, cayenne, and half the chives. Gently fold in the crabmeat and lemon juice, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and spoon the mixture into the waiting egg white halves.
– Put the eggs on a platter or two, cover, and refrigerate. Just before serving, sprinkle the eggs with the rest of the chopped chives.