I am not normally one to pay much heed to National Fettuccine Alfredo Day, National Onion Rings Day, National Chop Suey Day or any other rather bogus food holiday of the like.
Close friends of the author, chef, television host, cultural pundit, and larger-than-life icon, they wanted to honor Bourdain on what would have been his 63rd birthday. Tragically, the much-loved Bourdain too his own life last year.
“Bourdain Day” was thus ordained to honor a man who traveled the world to parts unknown, and in the process, introduced us intimately to people and places we never would have seen in quite the same fresh, nuanced way.
How to celebrate “Bourdain Day”? Share your favorite memories of him. Mine include this unforgettable Q&A that I did with him years ago when he was on a book tour in San Francisco. Reread his landmark (and recently updated) “Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.)” (Ecco, 2007). Dare to try a new cuisine that you never have tasted before. Invite friends and family over to cook up a storm. Or step into your kitchen to make one of his recipes, such as this “Iceberg Wedge with Stilton and Pancetta.”
It is from his cookbook, “Appetites: A Cookbook” (Ecco, 2016) that’s imbued with his forthright personality and sarcastic bent on page after page.
Wedge salad is old-school, all right. And it’s a calorie-buster, what with all that lavish blue cheese on everything, not to mention fatty pancetta and fried shallots strewn over the top. It’s rich and indulgent. And from the first taste of those cold, crisp, sturdy leaves covered in sharp creamy cheesiness, you realize just how much you’ve missed it.
Bourdain’s own description says it best: “Remember when everybody looked down on iceberg lettuce? When it was suddenly gone from menus everywhere? Me neither. Let’s pretend it never happened.”
It was much like Bourdain, himself — suddenly gone before we knew it. We can’t pretend that his death never happened. But on Bourdain Day, we can remember and revel in a man whose singular gifts touched us all to the core. On this day — and all others to come — live life as he did, with complete and unapologetic gusto.
Iceberg Wedge with Stilton and Pancetta
For fried shallots:
4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup peanut oil
Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
For rest of salad:
6 ounces pancetta, cut into cubes
8 ounces Stilton or other high-quality blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup mayonnaise, home-made or store-bought
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Head of iceberg lettuce, washed, cored, and cut into 6 equal wedges
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
To make fried shallots: Separate the rings of the shallots and blot dry with a paper towel.
Heat oil in a medium-sized, straight-sided, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook until brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove shallots to a plate lined with a paper towel or newspaper to drain. Season with a pinch of salt.
To make the rest of the salad: Either drain the oil from that pan or use another large saute pan to cook pancetta over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the cubes are browned and have rendered their visible fat, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels or newspaper to drain.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine half the Stilton, the mayonnaise, oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and whisk together to make a homogeneous mixture. Thin with 1 tablespoon water if necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Place a few tablespoons of the dressing in the center of each serving plate and top with an iceberg wedge. Drizzle each wedge with another tablespoon or two of dressing. Top each serving with some of the pancetta and the remaining blue cheese. Garnish with parsley and fried shallots, and serve.
Adapted From “Appetites” by Anthony Bourdain
Winner Of The Food Gal Contest
In last week’s Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me about your most memorable Fourth of July. The best response will win a free trio sampler from Red Duck (valued at $18), in their choice of either “Quite Traditional,” “So Unique,” or “Fairly Spicy.”
Thanks to everyone for sharing their wonderful experiences. It was hard to pick just one. So in addition to the grand prize winner of the Red Duck trio sampler, I am also giving out two runner-up prizes to two folks, Joan Weber and Ellen, who will each receive the paperback edition of my first cookbook, re-titled and reissued last year as “Great Food Finds San Francisco: Delicious Food from the City’s Top Eateries” (Globe Pequot Press).
Finally, a hearty congrats to the top prize-winner:
Adam Fleishman, who wrote, “My most “favorite” 4th of July memory is a study in irony. I lived in Wantagh, NY, the “Gateway to Jones Beach”. I met a girl on July 3rd and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world. We agreed to meet on July 4th at the flag pole the next day. That night I accidentally slammed my fingers in the car door. My folks took me to the doctor, who cleaned and cured the damaged fingers and said, “Whatever you do, do NOT get sand in these wounds. Needless to say, I was not allowed to go to the beach on July 4th. I am now 72 and to this day, when I think about Independence Day, I wonder about that girl.”
Another Anthony Bourdain Recipe to Enjoy: Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame