A Platter of Figs
From the Foreword by Alice Waters
There are two or three things I love about David Tanis that
are not in this book. His hands, for one thing. There is a still picture...[in the book}, but when his hands are working, which is often, they are beautiful to watch: the fingers move with a practiced and graceful rhythm that reminds me of a great dancer at the bar. And I love David's habit of galvanizing himself by bursting into song in his big baritone. He has an impressive memory for words and music from a startlingly eclectic sampling of the twentieth-century songbook; and his delivery is... compelling.
What you will learn about David in this book is why he is one of the most important reasons our restaurant Chez Panisse remains a relevant enterprise well into the twenty-first century: He understands that creating a meal means creating your own reality, and he embodies that principle, week after week. We have always operated Chez Panisse on a rather archaic table d'hote model: Every day we prepare and serve one menu, and one menu only, of three or four or five courses. The composition of a menu requires both tactical mastery and a well-tuned sense of taste; and its execution has to reconcile imagination with practicality. In these regards, David's menus are incomparable. Whatever the occasion, they all share a certain quality of harmonious simplicity uniquely his. And this book contains twenty-four of them, each a little masterpiece, and not least because not one of them requires heroic effort on the part of the partygiver...
Now he has given us a very happy book, gloriously illustrated by Christopher Hirsheimer, who is just about the only food photographer I know who fully sees the beauty in simple food. And I can attest that David's food does, indeed, look--and taste--exactly as you would imagine from a close inspection of these images.
David's food reminds me so much of my ideal of what Chez Panisse should be, but this book is not a tribute to any restaurant or to any particular place and time—this book is really a love letter to you the reader, to whom David addresses himself with understanding, candor, and real wit. May you read it with pleasure!
Excerpted fromA Platter of Figs by David Tanis, copyright © 2008. Published by Artisan/Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Six months a year, David Tanis holds the prestigious post of head chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, where he’s been working since the 1980s. During his long collaboration with Alice Waters, he has helped to define the restaurant’s wildly influential style. He spends the other half of the year in Paris, where he hosts a private dining club, preparing meals in a six-by-ten-foot gallery kitchen in his seventeenth-century apartment, with a less-than-adequate stove, a small sink, little counter space, and a half-dozen well-used pots and pans. When he’s not cooking in restaurants, he’s cooking for friends at home or ogling vegetables at far-flung open-air markets. Tanis has been featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, and Saveur.
Bistecca with Fried Artichokes and Potatoes
A platter of grilled flank steak with fried artichokes and potatoes makes a savory autumn Italian-style feast. Baby artichokes are the size of an egg, with no choke. After you remove a few outer leaves, the entire artichoke is edible. Serve, if you like, with a plate of satisfying, earthy cooked greens, like rapini, with its mysterious, almost-almond bittersweetness.
4 pounds flank steak
Salt and pepper
4 pounds medium potatoes, such as Yellow Finn
2 pounds baby artichokes
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
½ pound arugula, washed and dried
Season the flank steak generously with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and massage in the seasoning.
Cover and refrigerate for at least several hours, or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into small chunks or wedges. Boil the potatoes in salted water until just done (soft when pierced with the tip of a knife). Drain the potatoes and spread them on a baking sheet to cool.
To prepare the baby artichokes, cut off the tops and remove a few outer leaves from each to reveal the pale green centers. Trim the stem ends with a paring knife. Slice the artichokes lengthwise ¼ inch thick. Put the slices in a bowl of cool water. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon.
Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. While you wait for the grill to heat, panfry the artichokes and potatoes: Drain the artichoke slices and blot with a kitchen towel. Put a large skillet over a high flame. Add ½ inch of olive oil and let it heat. Add the artichokes and stir them around in the oil for a minute or so. Add the potatoes and let them sizzle with the artichokes.
Turn flame to medium, shaking the pan and stirring the vegetables, until they brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and let it sizzle without browning. Stir in the parsley and turn off the heat.
Grill the flank steak over hot coals. For a rare steak, cook about 4 minutes per side, just until the juices begin to appear on the surface. Transfer to a platter and let the steak rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
Carve the flank steak in thin slices against the grain. Arrange the meat on a large warmed platter. Reheat the fried artichokes and potatoes if necessary and spoon around the steak. Garnish the platter with arugula leaves and lemon wedges.
Reprinted with permission from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, copyright © 2008. Published by Artisan/Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
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This is the book for anyone who wants to gather and feed friends around a table and nurture their conversation. It’s not about showing off with complicated techniques and obscure ingredients. Worlds away from the showy Food Network personalities, Tanis believes that the most satisfying meals--for both the cook and the guest--are invariably the simplest.
Home cooks can easily re-create any of his 24 seasonal, market-driven menus, more...