Saturday, October 23, 2010
Deep Fry Everything
If you make it known that you are into food in any way, shape, or form, someone will eventually ask you the question: What would you eat as your last meal?
It's a question to which I have never been able to provide a satisfactory answer. If I say my mom's green chile chicken enchilada casserole then I'd feel like I was cheating on the perfectly cooked rib eye with garlic mashed potatoes, which would make me feel bad for fois gras and soft-shelled crab from the Chesapeake Bay, not to mention my aunt's baked spaghetti. To me, this is like asking if I could wear only one pair of shoes for the rest of my life or drive only one kind of car or marry only . . . (um, never mind on that score). Suffice it to say, I've never been able to come up with just one thing.
Now, I do believe I can say with certainty that if I only had one night left on earth and some kind and intrepid soul helped me fill it with my fill of something good to eat, it would at this point have to be a big ol' plate of Jennifer James' fried oysters with basil aïoli.
Last night, S.B. and I got prettied up and went to eat at what I believe is one of the very few restaurants in Albuquerque 100 percent focused on making serious food, without being overly precious about it. Jennifer James 101 is the third restaurant owned and operated by a gal whose dedication to her craft has earned her near-rock star status as a chef. Certainly, given her accolades, she doesn't need to spend hours on end each night in front of her stove, cooking and plating almost every dish that hits the tables, but she does, which means when you eat at Jennifer James 101, you are literally eating her cooking.
I wish I'd taken a picture, those oysters were so beautiful. The waiter said they came from Washington, plucked out of some bay whose name I don't remember, but their girth made me wonder what the heck all those hippies are dumping in the water up there. Because when it comes to fried oysters, size does matter. One of the most pleasurable sensations in the world is biting through a crunchy crust of deep fried batter (tempura-style in this case, not corn mealed) to hit that distinctive, briny/sweet pillow of plump that is a perfectly cooked oyster. Add some garlic and pesto mayo for contrast and you've got heaven on a plate.
Oh, for the main course, we ordered the wild boar, cooked pot-roast style and coated with a fragrant red wine and rosemary sauce, served with polenta (cooked to resemble mashed potatoes), grilled radicchio, and dice-sized chunks of Gorgonzola. Which was equally divine. As well as amusing. Because nothing breaks the ice with an overly-earnest server like asking where, exactly, Ms. Jennifer James shot her piggy.
Still, I would have traded it all for one more plate. Of those oysters.