In addition to my most recent tendency to re-interpret American staples, Russian themes also hold a close place in my heart. As children, my late Grandma and Grandpa emigrated from the Kiev during the horrendous Pogroms of the early 20th century.
It isn’t that I was raised on this cuisine. My Grandma’s food mostly consisted of Ashkenazi styled Jewish food. Nonetheless, there is some strange pull which I attribute to the spirits of my long lost ancestors who come to visit me as I am meandering for inspiration in our walk in cooler.
Inevitably, a chill comes over me and I hear a soft whisper which soon becomes a cold and clear voice: “‘Phillip… wooooooooh… Make a borscht, Phillip… woooooooooooh; Order beluga caviar… are you listening, Phillip? Wooooooooooh… Get really drunk on vodka tonight, sing Russian folk songs and don’t wear deodorant… woooooooooooooh”.
I shiver and quickly look over my shoulder. Nobody’s there… only the soft humming of the compressor. One of the cooks then enters in search of his mise en place. I hastily compose myself. I say something authoritative, but fear is still coursing through my blood. Respecting the possible repercussions of an other worldly element, I cower and make the theme Russian. After work, I get drunk on vodka, eat caviar out of the tin, and sing songs in Russian (though I don’t speak a word!). My wife curses me, my daughter cries through the night, the neighbors pound on their walls, and the cats meow beneath my window. The next day I mysteriously forget to wear deodorant.
Apologies for the segue, but though flavorful, this isn’t as exciting as some of the more recent entries. There’s only one or 2 ways that I enjoy Brussels sprouts. Both of them require them to be prepared like cabbage. And the only way I enjoy cabbage is either with pork and/or with onions and apples (or quince and shallots in this case). The beet puree is made by blending cooked red beets with some Grenache vinegar and vegetable stock. The sturgeon is cut into small cubes and flash seared and topped with horseradish creme fraiche. The spirits of my ancestors are appeased… for now.