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February 12, 2007

A Hymn to Left-Overs

Filed under: Japanese Food,Mrs. Henry,What Mr. Henry is eating,Wine — Mr. Henry @ 10:29 am

For the past week Mr. Henry has been turning out his light early, sleeping until one or two, and then rising quietly so as not to wake either Mrs. Henry, perfectly unperturbable as she busily thrashes, talks, and even
laughs in her sleep, or to rouse the faithful Pepper nestled at the foot of the big bed. Since unlike princes of yore Mr. Henry does not permit himself a midnight capon or goblet of vintage port, in place of victuals Mr. Henry sneaks off to his chilly office garret, carves out a free spot from his cluttered daybed and reads A Stew or a Story: an assortment of short works by M.F.K. Fisher, the doyenne of food writers, indeed, the most remarkable of writers about places and the feelings they arouse.


She studied at the University of Dijon in 1929 and was still writing in the 1990’s. Equally at home in California and in France, she absorbed the deepest secrets of both places. Ever the gracious hostess, she wrote in small servings humbly sandwiched in the most unliterary journals. Who today would remember the magazines Holiday or McCall’s, or expect them to hold such riches? Who would think House Beautiful a trove of great writing?

For Mr. Henry, her sentences and paragraphs are finer than food or drink. Her styles, for indeed there are very many, established the template for this century’s food blogging. Rather than make you ache for a seat at her table, she quietly invites you, slyly prepares the tone, conjures the physical setting, and lays out recipes in amusing, clear prose that is readable and re-readable. She adds unexpected spice to a line, never too heavily, that illustrates concisely and elegantly exactly what taste truly is. She is never fussy or bombastic. (Might Mr. Henry find a lesson herein?) Her spirit is mischievous and what was once called ‘gay.’ Her laugh must have been indescribably attractive.

In A Hymn to Left-Overs (Pageant, 1950), writing of serving room-temperature roast chicken to her disapproving father, she says, “He is baffled…and I am happy, for nothing is more devoutly to be wished for in family gastronomy than the strong element of bewilderment.”


Housebound by last week’s unremitting winter wind, Mrs. Henry embraced this ethos and served up a truly original stew composed of odd bins found in the fridge. It began with chick peas soaked all day and boiled in preparation for a hummous that Mr. Henry failed once again to prepare. (Such things, after all, take time.)

After sputtering and fuming in the direction of her feckless consort, exclaiming how he never, ever comes up with new dinner ideas, how he leaves her to do all the planning, and how there is now no possible way she could come up with a suitable dinner — a stream of invective nearly unsuitable for Little Henry’s tender ears — she yanked out every left-over container and set to work.

First she sautéed some crumbled-up Italian sweet sausage. Removing it from the fire and wiping away its grease, she quickly did the same with some chopped-up sliced ham. After sautéeing chopped onion in olive oil she added chopped tomatoes and kale. After the kale had wilted she added a small container of vegetable stock and the chick peas. Finally the meat went back in just long enough to heat but not to steam. Topped with grated parmesan this amusing, elegant invention was eagerly devoured on the new Henry couch in front of the TV.

Since the stew tasted vaguely Mediterranean but not exactly site-specific, Mr. Henry decided he had traveled to a hidden corner of Spain and chose to drink a glass of rich, dark de Ribera. This kind of traveling reduces jet lag.

December 18, 2006

Feasting plain and simple

Planning a meal is at least as difficult as preparing one. The planner must imagine which flavors and which textures might survive a culinary marriage all the way through the gastro-intestinal tract of each fussbudget friend.

While Mr. Henry believes that each of us is responsible for his or her own colon, he is mindful that out-of-town guests are stuck eating whatever the Henrys prepare. Therefore, menus must err towards the safe and the familiar.

feasting.jpgSince over Thanksgiving the Henry household entertained eight (yes, eight) of Mrs. Henry’s relatives for eight days, the feasting never ceased. Mrs. Henry never left the kitchen and Mr. Henry never stopped ferrying food in and ferrying garbage out.

Eight different palettes with eight different dietary regimens did not intimidate the fearless Mrs. Henry. Undaunted by the closeness of respected elders and rivalrous siblings, she brazenly posted the entire week’s menu on the cabinet, declaring that whoever wanted dinner had better show up on time, devil take the hindmost. She is a courageous woman. Martin Luther was not more bold in list-posting.

Everyone came, everyone feasted, and everyone thanked Mr. Henry, though he had done no cooking apart from the cranberries and some prep work. (A moment, please……Were they happy he had NOT cooked?) Whatever the intention, they complimented him as well on his choices of wine, for which he takes full and deserved credit. Given the size of the party and Mr. Henry’s shrinking holiday budget, none of the wines cost more than $18 per bottle. But given the global wine glut, good table wine is among the cheapest of treats today.

For those less organized than Mrs. Henry, and Mr. Henry suspects such a list does not exclude the U.S. Army quartermaster general, here is the week’s complete menu:

Dinner 1:
Cuban stew: an aromatic slow-cooked concoction of Mrs. Henry’s device made with pork or chicken which includes onions, green olives, raisins, garbanzos, plum tomatoes (seeded), and a splash of liquid (either white wine or stock will do). Sprinkled with fresh cilantro, it is served over brown rice (basmati is tastiest) seasoned with turmeric for color.
Green salad.
Wine: Rioja

Dinner 2: guests all dining at differing times.
Pizza made by each guest upon arrival using Bruno’s bottled marinara sauce (made smoother by a few moments in the blender) and for toppings a choice of mozzarella, sliced Kalamata olives, sweet sausage sautéed and crumbled, sautéed mushrooms, anchovies, and fresh basil.
Green salad.
Wine: Barbera

Dinner 3: pre-Thanksgiving low-fat meal
Broiled farmed salmon (wild was unavailable), broccoli, baked whole fingerling potatoes, Israeli pickles in rice wine vinegar.
Dessert: mixed berries
Wine: Riesling

Dinner 3: Thanksgiving.
Free range turkey, 8 lbs., cooked in convection oven for two hours at 400 degrees, mashed potatoes, sliced baked yams (NOT candied), green beans, Mr. Henry’s signature orange cranberry sauce, fresh applesauce.
Stuffing: sausage, chestnut, apple, fresh sage, and sourdough bread baked in two whole winter squashes.
Dessert: Pumpkin chiffon pie, apple pie, vanilla ice cream
Wine: Pinot Noir

Dinner 4: Post-Thanksgiving, pre-theater
Turkey soup, squash soup.
Ceasar salad.
Dessert: Tia’s dulce de leche soggy cake with peaches and whipped cream. (Hmmm. Thank you, Tia.)
Wine: whatever was open

Dinner 5:
Leg of lamb, lentils with garlic and cumin, broiled asparagus (just toss with olive oil and salt, broil for 6-8 minutes), brown and wild rice, sliced drained cucumber & dill in yogurt, and iced mint tea.
Dessert: leftover pumpkin pie
Wine: Pinot Noir

Dinner 6:
Winter squash soup (made from the Thanksgiving leftovers), filet mignon, potatoes roasted en papillote, peas.
Dessert: mixed berry tart
Wine: Bordeaux

Dinner 7:
Broiled black cod in white miso, white rice, tsukemono (assorted Japanese pickles), umeboshi (salt plum), green beans
Dessert: mochi ice cream from Beard Papa’s
Wine: Riesling

September 5, 2006

Mr. Henry takes a trip

A Mr. Henry Dictum:

When compelled to leave New York, Mr. Henry strongly cautions you to employ the Powell Doctrine now sadly languishing in a Foggy Bottom dustbin:

“Clear goals, an exit strategy, and overwhelming force.”


Proper planning may help calm feelings of dread that overcome you as you ponder upcoming dietary and leisure options. Don’t be caught short of food or reading material. Mr. Henry took a sackful of homemade goodies and Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, an ideal travel book for the 21st century. (Hint: there is a lot of waiting and very little food. There are no paragraph breaks, however.)

In the Denver airport the chef at Wolfgang Puck Express gamely retrieved a cooked pizza that had fallen on the dirty counter and tossed it in our general direction without so much as a perfunctory nod. Although hygienically compromised, it was the only edible item served to the Henrys that fateful afternoon.

Out of concern for the sensibilities of his readers, Mr. Henry resists describing the salad dressing that remained on his stomach for another 10 hours and 1000 air miles. A Wolfgang Puck frittata with an inane faux-Latin name closely resembled in color and texture Mr.Puck.jpg Henry’s new natural, extra-firm, foam rubber mattress. After one bite he cast a wistful eye across the breezeway to McDonalds and other fast food purveyors of death. At least there you know what you are getting – a treacly, salty, highly caloric shock to the liver. Mr. Henry prefers the devil he knows.

The War on Tourism continues.

Amid a national Homeland Security Orange Alert, sunscreen in a stick caught the vigilant eye of a Denver Airport uniformed officer who escorted the offending young suspect aside and thoroughly patted her down with special attention paid to a middle school backpack. Remarkably, ham and avocado sandwiches made it past security check, as did corn chips, olives, grapes, pineapple and brownies. Water, however, did not. Mr. Henry was forced to drink Starbuck’s coffee which gratefully came for free.

Flying is no picnic, though you’ll have to pack your lunch all the same.

United Airlines now sells four distinct pre-packaged meals for six dollars each, one more ghastly than the next. When next preparing for flight, picture in your imagination Tom Joad and family in a flatbed Okie truck crossing the Arizona desert at night. Pack accordingly. Don’t buy the United in-flight meal. Whatever happens, keep the family together and know that a better life awaits.


July 11, 2006

Mr. Henry falls in love

Filed under: Bread,Cookware,Japanese Food,Mr. Henry,What Mr. Henry is eating — Mr. Henry @ 1:43 pm

When Mary came in from the country carrying a diapered basket of fresh-laid hens eggs, Mr. Henry stared at their beautiful light blue and speckled brown shells wondering, “How can he do justice to these most perfect of nature’s industrial designs?”

eggs.jpegFor the preparation of perfect scrambled eggs unsullied by even the slightest fatty aroma from his trusty cast iron pan, a pan that did such yeoman service these many years, he decided that the time was finally ripe to spend an astonishing $99 on the ultimate professional stove-top tool – a pan that would not waste even one morsel of Mary’s eggs stuck to its sides, a pan that would not force Mr. Henry to further inflame his mouse-flicking right forearm tendon in a heavy-duty clean-up.

Mr. Henry is in love with his new 8-inch All-Clad copper core fry pan with stainless steel face.

For the ultimate three-minute breakfast or lunch, place your copper core pan on a low flame for a good two minutes until its magical golden center is ready to radiate. (A dollop of crème fraîche in the eggs lends a marvelous creamy tanginess.) You may use a metal spatula here – none of this mamby-pamby plastic – because the stainless steel is not harmed by tiny scratches. Toast two slices of Amy’s organic peasant wheat sourdough bread on which to place your velvety confection. Throw in butter. Almost as soon as your eggs hit the pan they are done.

If you soak your pan while you dine, the clean-up is effortless. The gently flared lip, the long metal oven-ready handle, and most of all the superior browning capabilities of the stainless face with copper core have left Mr. Henry in a swoon not matched since he first drove Mrs. Henry’s BMW. Car owners speak of the interface between man and machine. Mr. Henry is fully satisfied by All-Clad’s high-speed performance.

July 8, 2006

Summer avocations

In the inimitable manner of The Manolo, Mr. Henry feels obliged, almost compelled to share the following with all his gentle readers:

Mr. Henry is reading

Mr. Henry is listening to

Mr. Henry is watching

Mr. Henry is eating

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