I’ve been a faithful follower of the exquisite blog The Garum Factory for quite a while now. The owners of the blog, Ken and his wife Jody, are not your typical bloggers. In fact, I’m not sure why they blog, and how they find the time to take to the web with their recipes, photographs and commentaries.
Maybe Ken and Jody are no different than any other bloggers out there, in that they enjoy the interaction that comes with blogging, and the sharing of their favorite foods. But then, they really are different from most bloggers.
You see, Jody is Jody Adams, co-owner and chef of Rialto in Boston, Massachusetts. So that’s different. And if that wasn’t enough, her husband, Ken Rivard, is a journalist and photographer. So doesn’t that just make a perfect team for a perfect blog?
Even though my nickname is Chef Mimi, which hopefully everyone knows by now is just a nickname – I am not a chef and I have no desire to be a chef. Long hours in the hot kitchen, yelling at the underlings, perfection and consistency, working on holidays, I can’t cook with long sleeves, I hate wearing hats, my arches are too high to wear clogs comfortably… so many reasons why I have no interest in going to culinary school for the purpose of becoming a restaurant chef.
However, thank god some people do, because my best food experiences have been in restaurants around the world from chefs who have been slaving away in their kitchens. I honor great chefs!
So it was because I’m so enthralled with The Garum Factory blog, with both Jody the chef and Ken the photographer/writer, that I ordered their cookbook. It’s called, “In the Hands of a Chef,” and was published in 2002. It’s getting more difficult to purchase, but I was able to get one without any trouble. And, if you noticed I called it their cookbook – because it was written by Ken, who was responsible for the photographs as well! (Although not enough of them, might I add!) So how’s that for working together?!!!
So one evening I’m doing what I often do – reading my new cookbook, sticky notes in one hand, and a glass of wine nearby. Jody writes a very interesting introduction, detailing her road to becoming a chef and, subsequently, restaurateur. And then the recipes begin.
So why am I writing all of this? Jody and Ken certainly don’t need my approval of either their blog, cookbook, or the restaurant. I’ll explain.
On page 106 I come across a recipe for Skordalia, and something tripped my memory.
My husband and I have been lucky enough to visit Boston on two different occasions many years ago. I was especially lucky, in that I was the freewheeling spouse who took advantage of the beautiful weather both times, and walked miles and miles to see this beautiful city. I went to markets, bought some fresh lobsters for the people babysitting my daughters, sauntered through Little Italy, and had the best $4. lunch in Vietnam town.
One night we went out to dinner at a beautiful restaurant and were served skordalia. I had to inquire to find out what this fluffy white substance was. So I’m thinking now that it must have been a free offering before dinner got started. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have ordered it, not being familiar with the name, skordalia.
So, not that this is terribly profound or anything. In fact, the better story would be that my husband and I happened to have eaten at Rialto, but that wasn’t the case. Sorry.
But I thought it odd that I had enjoyed skordalia in Boston, and here was a skordalia recipe in Jody and Ken’s book based on recipes from Rialto. I haven’t come across the name skordalia since my Boston experience. So I began a Facebook chat with Ken. He immediately knew at what restaurant I’d had the skordalia. It was called Biba – quite famous in its time – whose chef/owner was Lydia Shire. I’ve always had good taste in restaurants, but it also helped that my husband and I were on expense account.
So then I asked if there was a significant Greek population in town, being that skordalia is Greek in origin. Turns out, it was just a coincidence, that I’ve only had skordalia in Boston. But I knew I wanted to make it myself, using the recipe from “In the Hands of a Chef” cookbook.
Ms. Adams may not appreciate that this is the first recipe I chose to make from their cookbook, because it’s certainly not representative of all of the recipes, but hopefully she’ll understand my motivation in wanting to make and taste this lovely concoction once again.
Skordalia is essentially garlicky mashed potatoes. Except it’s served like a hummus. And you can’t really tell it’s potatoes.
Jody writes, “In its homeland of Greece, skordalia blurs the distinctions between sauce and condiment, between condiment and side dish, between hot and room-temperature food.” See? It’s a little confusing.
So here is the recipe from the cookbook, In the Hands of a Chef, by Jody Adams and Ken Rivard – both of whom I know personally. (Not really, but I’d like to think I do!)
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed with 1/4 teaspoon salt to a paste
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 teaspoons champagne vinegar (or high-quality white wine vinegar)
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the potatoes in a saucepan, add cold water to cover by 1 inch, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them, or they will become waterlogged.
return the potatoes to the pan, and cook over medium heat tossing a few times until dry, about 5 minutes.
While the potatoes are still warm, push them through a ricer into a large bowl.
Jody writes, “Don’t try to take shortcuts by using a food processor instead of ricing the potatoes and then whipping in the garlic and oil by hand. The potatoes will turn gummy instead of remaining starchy.”
note: The skordalia was really good as is, served with some pita chips. It’s garlicky, fluffy potato goodness. I drizzled a little bit of olive oil over the top before serving. But then, I also served the skordalia to my husband with a filet. (This recipe makes about 4 side-dish servings similar to mashed potatoes.) Before I could take a photo, he had eaten half of it and “ruined” my photographic opportunity. Oh well. Trust me, this is good stuff.