Amanda Hesser Recipes

Cucumbers in Cream

This chilled cucumber salad comes from Florence Fabricant, a long-time reporter at the Times who is both feared and cherished for her dogged coverage of new products and restaurant news, and who is known around town as Flo Fab. Cucumber salad is the kind of dish that you can’t avoid, as it lurks in delis, at picnics, and on buffets. But once you taste this one, you’ll realize how often it’s poorly made and sorely lacking lemon. The sour cream and lemon electrify each other’s best traits: the floral aroma in the lemon zest and the richness in the sour cream. This salad is one of my favorite recipes in the book—thanks Flo Fab!

3 cups peeled, thinly sliced cucumbers (about 3
regular cucumbers) or thinly sliced (peeled if
desired) English (seedless) cucumbers

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 cup sour cream

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon minced chives

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Dust the cucumbers with the salt and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and drain.

2. Combine the sour cream, lemon zest, and juice in a bowl. Toss the cucumbers in the dressing and dust with the chives and a generous sprinkling of pepper.

Serves 6

Serving Suggestions

Roast Chicken Salad (p. 492), Buttermilk Roast Chicken (p. 493), New York Strip Steak with Horseradish-Mint Glaze (p. 566), Eisenhower’s Steak in the Fire (p. 512—or just a grilled steak!), Tomatoes Vinaigrette (p. 218), Saratoga Potatoes (p. 273), Lora Brody’s Bête Noire (Intense Chocolate Cake; p. 763), Salted Caramel Ice Cream (p. 733), Fresh Raspberry (or Blackberry or Blueberry) Flummery (p. 824)

August 28, 1977: “Food: When Cucumbers Are Best,” by Florence Fabricant.


Pickled Shrimp

This makes a huge amount, which you can easily halve, but the shrimp are so good you’ll want to feed twenty. They’re best with a full day to marinate, so plan ahead.

3 pounds shrimp, shelled, deveined, and boiled
or steamed just until pink

2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 lemons, preferably organic, thinly sliced

14 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

4 dried hot chile peppers

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice

1⁄4 cup white wine vinegar

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly. Transfer to a serving bowl or glass crock, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. One hour before serving, remove the shrimp from the refrigerator. Remove the bay leaves. Serve on small plates or with toothpicks.

Serves 15 to 20

Serving Suggestions

Vermouth Cup (p. 15), Sazerac (p. 17), Mint Julep (p. 24), The Cuke (p. 39), Kumquat-Clementine Cordial (p. 42), Caramelized Bacon (p. 93), Eggs Louisiana (p. 53), Onion Rings (p. 61), North Carolina–Style Pulled Pork (p. 550), Cheese Straws (p. 79), Julia Harrison Adams’s Pimento Cheese (p. 64)

November 26, 2008: “Just a Nibble Before We Gorge Ourselves,” by Julia Moskin. Recipe adapted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, by Frank Stitt.


Chilled Corn Soup with Honeydew Polka Dots

I have a love-hate relationship with Kay Rentschler, the author of this recipe. I often talk out loud to her in my kitchen: You want me to use another goddamn pan! You want me to dice the radish how small?

But when I sit down to eat with my family, all is forgiven. Her recipes (see also pages 257, 298, and 856) stand out—there are layers of thought and nuance, and there is always a surprise.

Rentschler, an occasional contributor to the Times, seems to have been raised in a restaurant kitchen at Thomas Keller’s knee. In this soup, some of the corn is cut from the cobs, some is grated, and some of the cobs are split and added to the soup. The water you add to the soup must be filtered spring water. The soup is chilled over ice, and so are the melon balls—separately. But the finished soup—cool, sweet with a hint of tang from the buttermilk and the surprise, a little prick of cayenne—is superb. It looks pretty and people praise me. And I quietly feel great respect for Rentschler, while disliking her just the same.

10 medium to large ears corn, shucked

2 cups homemade chicken broth, or one 15-ounce can chicken broth plus 1⁄4 cup filtered water

2 cups filtered water (if using canned broth, substitute milk for the water)

1 teaspoon salt (3⁄4 teaspoon if using canned broth
and milk), or more to taste

1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste

1 ripe honeydew melon

1 to 11⁄2 cups buttermilk, or more

2 teaspoons minced chervil, or 1 teaspoon minced basil

1. Grate the kernels from 4 ears corn into a large bowl, using the coarse side of a box grater (there should be 1 cup grated corn, including juices); discard the cobs. Cut the kernels from the remaining 6 ears (there should be 3 cups), reserving 4 of the cobs; set the kernels aside.

2. Break the 4 cobs in half. Combine with the grated corn, chicken broth, and water in a 6-quart stockpot. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cobs from the broth with tongs and discard.

3. Working in batches, pour the mixture into a blender and, holding the lid on tight with a dish towel, puree until completely smooth. Return to the pot. Stir in the whole kernels, bring to a simmer, and cook until the corn is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer the soup to a bowl (not plastic). Stir in the salt and cayenne. Cover and refrigerate, or stir over an ice water bath at room temperature until very cold (about 5 hours in the refrigerator, 1 hour over ice).

4. Halve and seed the melon. With a small (Parisienne) melon baller, make tiny balls (there should be about 11⁄4 cups); or cut the melon into 1⁄4-inch dice. Cover the melon balls and chill over ice until ready to use (up to 1 hour before serving).

5. To serve, stir 1 cup buttermilk (or more to taste) into the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Toss the melon balls with the chervil and sprinkle with salt (or skip this step and just add them separately to the bowls). Divide the melon balls among 6 chilled shallow bowls. Pour the cold soup around the melon.

Serves 6

Cooking Notes

Grating and cutting the corn yielded much more than the amounts Rentschler’s recipe required, so I used only the amounts she notes in parentheses in the method: 1 cup grated and 3 cups cut kernels. Also, I used canned chicken broth, 1⁄4 cup filtered water, and 2 cups milk—the milk was pleasant and I recommend using it even if you have homemade chicken broth.

If you taste the soup just before adding the buttermilk, you’ll think it’s terrific, that it doesn’t need another thing. But do add the buttermilk, and taste again: the transformation is fascinating. She calls for 1 to 11⁄2 cups buttermilk—I used just 1 cup and thought it was the perfect amount.

Serving Suggestions

Fried Mussels with Almond-Garlic Sauce (p. 439), Deep-Fried Soft-Shell Crabs (p. 398), Jonathan Waxman’s Red Pepper Pancakes (p. 228), Sweet-and-Spicy Pepper Stew (p. 247), Potato “Tostones” (Flattened Potatoes; p. 301), Fresh Blueberry Buckle (p. 815), Summer Pudding (p. 847), Strawberry Sorbet (p. 732)

August 21, 2002: “Chilled Soup That Really Tingles,” by Kay Rentschler.