Anita Lo, chef and owner of Annisa in New York City, is one of the most respected chefs in the country, earning numerous accolades for her inventive Contemporary American cuisine that reflects her multicultural upbringing and classic French training.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a preview of Fun Home in its new home on Broadway. As I left the theatre, I was struck by how the layering of different perspectives on top of one another make for a more complex, more satisfying final product. We, the audience, get to see Alison Bechdel's life from three distinct, sometimes simultaneous, perspectives (child, college-age and adult) that come together to form her identity as an artist today.
Here's a recipe from my cookbook, Cooking Without Borders, that references the perspectives that form my culinary identity (see headnotes -- or "caption," if you will). The recipe is layered and it demonstrates how differently a dish can be read from different points of view -- just like a good piece of theatre.
Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Smoked Sturgeon and Caviar
This is a dish that is a prime example of the multicultural influences of urban American cuisine. I can name four cuisines from which these combinations derive. The Japanese influence is obvious with the wasabi and shiso (remember those wasabi flavored crunchy peas?). The Eastern European influence is evident in the combination of smoked fish and horseradish, even if the horseradish happens to be Japanese. The same argument can be made for the English combination of peas with (Japanese) mint. Then there's the peas with the smoky stuff, which, in the American south would be bacon. At annisa, we make the dish even more American by using local pea shoots whenever possible and Sturgeon and its roe from the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy it in the Spring when peas are at their peak of sweetness and when the tendrils are young and tender, hand-selected from your garden or local greenmarket.
-5 oz. sturgeon filet, or substitute presmoked sturgeon or any white fleshed fish and skip the curing and smoking steps
-1 Tbsp salt
-1 tsp. sugar
-several grindings of black pepper
-a few drops of lemon
-1.5 cups hardwood chips
smoked fish salad ingredients:
-2 Tbsp. whipped creme fraiche
-1 Tbsp. melted butter, not too hot
-lemon juice to taste
-1 large pinch lemon zest
-1 tsp chopped chives
-salt and pepper if necessary
-2 cups shelled sweet peas (taste them when purchasing to find sweet, non-starchy ones), or substitute frozen peas
-lobster stock to cover (see recipe)
-salt and pepper
-pea shoots, seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
-6 sugarsnap peas, halved lengthwise, blanched (cooked briefly in salted, boiling water) and shocked (then quickly cooled in ice water to retain the bright green color)
-2 tsp. American Sturgeon caviar
Cure the sturgeon: mix the salt and sugar together and divide over each side of the sturgeon filet, sprinkling to coat each side evenly. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and pepper, also both sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Smoke the cured sturgeon: Follow the directions on your smoker to hot smoke the fish about 30 minutes until smoky and just cooked through. If using a wok, place the wood chips in a small pile at the bottom of the wok. Elevate the fish a few inches above with a wire rack and cover. Place over high heat until the chips begin to smoke, then turn down the heat to medium and hot smoke, 30 minutes until the fish is smoky and just cooked through. If the fish requires extra cooking time, place in a 375 oven until a toothpick can be inserted into the thickest part of the fish easily. If using an outdoor grill, make a small fire and when embers are ashed and just glowing red, cover with the soaked wood chips. Place the fish on the grills away from the fire, cover and hot smoke 30 minutes until the fish is just cooked through and smoky. Cool.
Make the sturgeon salad: Shred the fish, discarding any bones. Add the butter, chives, lemon zest and lemon juice and stir. Fold in the whipped creme fraiche. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Make the soup: Blanch (cook briefly in boiling salted water) and shock (by placing the peas in ice water to chill and retain the bright green color) the shelled peas if using fresh. Place in a blender and cover with lobster stock. Blend until smooth, adding more stock if necessary to keep the blades running, and strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing to extract as much pulp as possible. Season to taste with pepper and salt, if necessary (the lobster stock will already be salty).
Assemble the dish: Divide the soup among four chilled soup plates. Place a small dollop (or ring mold) of the sturgeon salad in the center and top each with ¼ of the caviar. Sprinkle the soup with the wasabi and the shiso and arrange three halves of sugarsnap pea around, split side up. Season the peashoot sprig with lemon juice, salt and pepper and garnish the top of the caviar with it. Serve.
Welcome to FUN HOME, the groundbreaking new musical now on Broadway after a sold-out, critically acclaimed run at the Public Theater. Based on Alison Bechdel's best-selling graphic memoir, FUN HOME features music by 4-time Tony Award® nominee Jeanine Tesori (Violet; Caroline, or Change), book and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Lisa Kron (Well) and direction by Sam Gold (Seminar) and stars Tony winner Michael Cerveris (Sweeney Todd) and three-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn (Les Misérables).
FUN HOME introduces us to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories of her uniquely dysfunctional family -- her mother, brothers and volatile, brilliant, enigmatic father -- that connect with her in surprising new ways. This intimate and emotional theatrical experience is performed entirely in the round, bringing audiences closer to Alison's story than ever before.
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and already the winner of five awards for Best Musical, FUN HOME is a refreshingly honest, wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.