Eat These Words


"C"

Cabacou
[cab-BAY-koo]

WHAT? Mon petit cheese. The name for this group of tiny goat cheeses is derived from cabre, which means "goat" in the patois of the Languedoc, coupled with the diminutive ending cou. Cabacou are about the size of a fat silver dollar, and they can be sold either young, when they are creamy and sweet, or aged. The rounds are sometimes wrapped in chestnut leaves, according to Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer. Cabacou, he wrote, are "a joy, after Roquefort, the cheese of Southwest France."

WHEN? January 21, 2003: Jay Murray, Grill 23 & Bar

Café Brûlot
[ka-fay BROO-loh]

WHAT? Not your regular brand of coffee. You can’t deny the appeal of sitting in a restaurant and watching a waiter set something on fire beside your table. Brûlot is French for “fire branded,” and Café Brûlot is a flaming after-dinner coffee drink popular in New Orleans—think Irish Coffee or Caffe Valdostana. To make it, dark coffee is flavored with citrus, spices, and brandy, and heated in a chafing dish. The alcohol is set alight, and to increase the drama of the presentation, the flaming brew is usually ladled onto a spiral of orange rind held up with a fork. Although some references attribute Café Brûlot to the famed French gastronome Brillat-Savarin, in The Physiology of Taste he writes that he prefers his coffee made “à la Dubelloy, which consists in placing the coffee in a porcelain or silver receptacle pierced with very small holes, and pouring boiling water over it,” a technique today we called “filtered.”

WHEN? May 27, 2003: Ross Eirich, Galatoire’s

Calaminth
[Ka-la-mint]

WHAT? Mushroom-loving mint. Though rarely found in grocery stores or nurseries in the United States, this archaic-sounding member of the mint family is very closely related to nepitella or mentuccia, a popular herb that grows wild in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean and southern Europe. According to Carole Saville, who writes about calaminth (also calamint) in her book Exotic Herbs, the taste is “reminiscent of sweet spearmint with a little spice.” Saville adds that nepitella is also known as erba da fungi, or “mushroom grass,” because it is so compatible with the flavor of porcini and other mushrooms. They are often sold together in the market. Pregnant women should not indulge, however, because the herb contains the chemical pulgeone, which may cause miscarriage. The early 17th-century physician Culpeper wrote in The Complete Herbal that “Calaminth water heats and cleanses the womb, provokes the menses, and eases the pains of the head.”

WHEN? May 26, 2004: Champe Speidel, Gracie’s Bar & Grille

Candlenut

WHAT? Enlightened nuts. The Southeast Asian tree known as kukui, the Hawaiian national tree, produces large brown fruit with very little pulp and a thick rind that encloses one or two very large seeds known as candlenuts. Besides being used to treat skin ulcers, rheumatism, and bruises, candlenuts are used to prepare the Hawaiian condiment inamona, in which the nuts are chopped and flavored with salt and sometimes chile pepper. However, “inamona should be approached with some caution,” warned chef Sam Choy in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “If you use the meat from the kukui nut before it is fully cooked or you eat too much inamona, you could get the runs.” Candlenuts also have many other uses. The husks are pierced, sometimes carved, and worn as garlands or jewelry. The oil is extracted and used to preserve wood, to waterproof fishing nets and paper, and to make paint. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the oil is used to make candles—a bright idea that gives the nuts their name.

WHEN? June 8, 2004: Simpson Wong, Jefferson

Carnaroli Rice
[car-nah-ROW-lee]

WHAT? The other white rice. Say "risotto" and most American cooks automatically think Arborio, but according to Carol Field, writing in her cookbook Celebrating Italy, "risotto-crazed...Italians, always in search of the newest, the finest, the most chic and recherché, currently prefer Carnaroli because of its firm grain." Carnaroli comes from Novara and Vercelli, two towns between Milan and Turin that contribute to Italy's status as Europe's largest rice-producer. Actually, there are a number of superfino-grade Italian rices with the high starch content that gives risotto its characteristic creaminess-Vialone Nano is another favorite. All these varieties have short, plump grains.

WHEN? April 7, 1999: Mark Vetri, Vetri

Carnitas

WHAT? Mexican confit. Though the word carnitas can refer to any small bits of cooked meat—that are usually served in soft corn tacos at roadside stands throughout Mexico—the most common is pork. To make pork carnitas, large pieces of shoulder and other fatty parts of the pig are simmered in vats of lard until they are crisp on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. The meat is removed from the fat, drained, and broken up into small shreds that are then stuffed into tacos. Where there are carnitas, there are usually chicherones, or crisp, fried pork skins. The western part of central Mexico, namely Michoacán, is known for carnitas, but truth be told they are tasty just about everywhere—even Queens, New York.

WHEN? September 14, 2001: Richard Sandoval and Sean Yontz

Carolina Muddle

WHAT? Carolina bouillabaisse. A thick, satisfying fish stew, Carolina muddle can be found in eastern Virginia and North Carolina, particularly on the Outer Banks. “Muddle is the traditional feast of the region,” Bill Neal wrote in Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking. “The simple vegetables—potatoes, onions, tomatoes—in perfect proportion with the freshest fish achieve the satisfaction sought in all good peasant cooking.” The soup also contains bacon, tomatoes, and eggs, which poach on the surface of the simmering liquid; the name “muddle” refers to the fact that many ingredients are jumbled together. Cook a muddle in an iron pot over a pine-bark fire and what have you got? Pine bark stew, of course.

WHEN? July 17, 2003: Remembering Bill Neal

Cassoulet
[KA-soo-LAY]

WHAT? Languedoc’s long-simmered stew. “There are many versions of cassoulet, all of them good and all monumentally substantial,” wrote James Beard in The Armchair James Beard. It appears that chefs across the country couldn’t agree more—versions of the classic dish will be served at three Beard House dinners this month. Cassoulet comes from the southwest Languedoc and Toulousain regions of France and is rumored to have first appeared in the seventeenth century (when the key ingredient—white beans—were brought over from the New World). Although it’s one of France’s most famous dishes, there is little consensus within the country about what constitutes a classic cassoulet. The recipe varies from region to region and from cook to cook, though it always contains various meats, beans, and vegetables that are prepared separately before being arranged in layers in a cassole—the glazed earthenware pot from which the dish gets its name. The cassoulet is then topped with a heavy sprinkling of fine breadcrumbs and baked until a golden crust forms. The crust is cracked and reincorporated into the stew and the dish is returned to the oven to allow the crust to reform. This process is repeated anywhere from one to seven times over the course of seven hours to two days, depending on the recipe, resulting in a rich, hearty stew—and a lot of time logged in the kitchen.

WHEN? December 5, 2005: Mark Orfaly, French Christmas; December 16, 2005: Brian Walter, Barilla Italian Luncheon; December 29, 2005: Scott Lahey, Anthony Loos, and Konrad Meier, Benchmark Holiday Dinner

Caul Fat
[Kol fat]

WHAT? Innard net. Those of you who remember your Dickens may recall that David Copperfield was “born with a caul, which was advertised for sale in the newspapers, at the low price of fifteen guineas.” The English used to believe that cauls, a fetal membrane sometimes found on a newborn’s head, brought good luck and offered protection against drowning. If you hear caul in culinary circles, however, it’s referring to a lacy membrane that surrounds the intestines of mammals. French and Chinese cooks like to wrap meat and birds in pork caul; the fat melts away during cooking, imparting a delicious flavor and moistness, and the membrane holds everything together. Alan Davidson quotes Jane Grigson as saying that the caul is “so much a matter of everyday kitchen knowledge” in France, where it’s known as crépine, that it’s rare to even find references to its use.

WHEN? September 21, 2003: Bernie Prosperi, Shelton Grill at the East Side Marriott

Causa
[KOW-zah]

WHAT? Causa for celebration. If the thought of leftover mashed potatoes leaves you cold, consider this delicious traditional Peruvian dish that originated in the Andes, which also happens to be the birthplace of the potato. Causa is a chilled mashed-potato cake stuffed with vegetables, meat, fish, or a combination. Although any of the myriad varieties and colors of Peruvian potatoes can be used, the tender and flavorful papa amarilla (yellow potato) is preferred. To make a causa, the potatoes are boiled, mashed, and seasoned with any number of flavorings, from hot pepper purée to sautéed onions. The potato mixture is layered with the cooked filling, topped with more potato, and chilled so that it can be cut into wedges or slices, which are often served garnished with hard-boiled egg, avocado, and tomato.

WHEN? May 2, 2004: Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin

Cavatelli
[ka-va-TELL-y]

WHAT? Shapely pasta. Few Americans understand either the regional diversity of food in Italy or the pride that Italians take in their cuisine. Take these little, handmade pasta curls, for example. Made from a stiff dough of semolina and water that is traditionally shaped on a wooden work surface by curling it with the tip of a butter knife, cavatelli are claimed by the Molize, Puglia, and Abruzzo regions of Italy. The dough and the shaping technique are similar to those used for orechiette, but the shape is closer to gnocchi. Cavatelli (or cavatieddi in Apulian dialect) are traditionally served with cooked bitter greens, such as arugula, and tomato sauce.

WHEN? May 7, 2004: Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco

Chai

WHAT? Spicy sipper. Chai is the Hindi word for “tea,” which makes a coffeehouse order of a “chai tea latte” redundant. (The word passed into Chinese and Japanese as “cha.”) The fragrant, milky beverage we’re referring to goes by “masala chai” in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet, where it is an integral part of every social gathering. To make the tea, a combination of sweet and savory spices such as cloves, star anise, peppercorn, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and fennel are ground, boiled in water, steeped with black tea, strained, and mellowed with milk and honey. According to Indian cooking expert Julie Sahni, “The people in cooler parts of India have traditionally added spices to their tea, not just for flavoring, but also to induce heat in the body. Spiced teas are particularly welcome after an Indian meal, because they provide a gentle, more graceful ending to the intricately spiced Indian dishes.” She adds, “A plain cup of coffee or tea, in my opinion, tastes bland and flavorless.” Now that it has gone international, chai is being used to spice up chocolates, ice creams, and other desserts.

WHEN? February 15, 2005: Mark Graham, The Wine Bar

Champ

WHAT? A winner of an Irish dish. In his Oxford Companion to Food, food historian Alan Davidson describes "champ"—an Irish dish made from potatoes, onions and butter—as a "a simple yet hearty dish." Among its various, and very charming names are bruisy, cally, goody, and poundies. Davidson quotes a certain Florence Irwin on the making of champ in 1937: "The man of the house was summoned when all was ready, and while he pounded this enormous potful of potatoes with a sturdy wooden beetle, his wife added the potful of milk and nettles, or scallions, or chives, or parsley, and he beetled till it was as smooth as butter, not a lump anywhere. Everyone got a large plateful, made a hole in the centre, and into this put a large lump of butter. Then the champ was eaten from the outside with a spoon or fork, dipping it into the melting butter in the centre. All was washed down with new milk or freshly churned buttermilk." Yum.

WHEN? March 17, 2001: John Halligan and Jason Avery, The Regent Wall Street

Chaource

WHAT? The Champagne of cheese. This soft, ripened cow's milk cheese hails from the town of Chaource in the Champagne region of France. Prized for its rich, creamy texture (the result of a butterfat content in excess of 50 percent), chaource can be eaten at various stages of maturity, but is considered best by connoisseurs after it has ripened to a soft, oozy puddle. The outer white-bloomed rind and mild flavor is reminiscent of Brie or Camembert. It is sold in squat one-pound or eight-ounce drums. Not surprisingly, it is said to pair best with a flute of bubbly.

WHEN? December 15, 1999: Frédéric A. Lange, Lafayette at The Hay-Adams Hotel

Chateau Musar

WHAT? An oasis of wine. Up there with the great wine producing valleys of the world—like Napa, Rhône, and Pò—is Bekaa Valley. What's Bekaa Valley, you ask? It's in Lebanon, where, amid war and civil unrest, the Hochar family has been making great wine since 1930. Located in Ghazir, about 15 miles north of Beirut, Chateau Musar is known the world over for luscious, thick red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault, with some Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Merlot occasionally mixed in for good measure. The wines are aged for two years in French oak barrels and then released about three years after that. Jaime Goode of www.wineanorak.com, who's a fan, sums Chateau Musar's wines up nicely, "They're quirky, but they are always interesting, have a loyal following, the prices aren't too high and they have a remarkable capacity for aging."

WHEN? June 14, 2002: Derek Morgan, T. Cook's

Cherimoya
[chehr-uh-MOY-ah]

WHAT? Apple of their eye. In Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, Elizabeth Schneider describes this knobby, gray-green fruit as "stunning," and writes that it tastes "heavenly." Mark Twain was also a fan. Upon trying the sweet, delicately flavored fruit, he pronounced it "deliciousness itself." The cherimoya originated in the Caribbean, and was conveyed around the world by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Its leaves, roots, and seeds have long been used in traditional medicine as a cure-all for any number of ailments from diarrhea and itchy skin to fainting spells and rheumatism; it was also used to repel lice. We prefer to eat it. The flesh is white, pulpy, and slightly granular, and its taste has been likened to pineapple, banana, papaya, vanilla, and custard. In fact, cherimoya also goes by the name custard apple, as do several other closely related tropical fruits. The simplest way to enjoy it is to cut it in half, then scoop up the flesh with a spoon, navigating around the many large brown seeds. Writes Schneider, "If you do not fall in love at first bite, try again: chances are good that one of the varieties will delight."

WHEN? February 21, 2002: Ghassan Jarrouj, Neyla

Chex Mix

WHAT? People chow. Since its debut in living rooms, at parties, and in front of television sets in the mid-1950s, Chex Mix has become an American snacking icon. Originally called “TV Mix,” the munchie began life as a marketing ploy on the part of the cerealmaker Ralston-Purina of St. Louis, which published a recipe for the snack in women’s magazines in an attempt to increase sales of its products. The recipe combined cereal, mixed nuts, butter, and salty flavorings for a snack that was hard to stop eating. Ralston-Purina, (its cereal division was later acquired by General Mills) eventually began marketing Chex Mix, and it trademarked the product in 1990. Three years ago, a local radio DJ surveyed the town of Sterling, Colorado, about its favorite snack food; Chex Mix won hands-down. The town has gone on to hold an annual parade in the snack’s honor, to name an annual Mr. and Mrs. Chex Mix, and to award a college scholarship in the name of their favorite munch.

WHEN? December 20, 2004: Richard Hamilton and Richard Bies, The Spiced Pear

Chicken-Fried Steak

WHAT? Chuckwagon chuck. Despite its misleading name, chicken-fried steak contains not an ounce of poultry. The dish owes the misnomer to its preparation, which is similar to that of fried chicken: a chuck or round cut of steak is pounded, dredged in flour and egg whites (or buttermilk and breadcrumbs), fried in a heavy pan until crisp, and served with a peppery milk gravy. The king of comfort food in Texas today, chicken-fried steak is believed to be a descendent of Wiener schnitzel, which German immigrants brought to the Southwest in the early nineteenth century. According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, the breaded beef became popular during the cattle bonanza following the Civil War, when ranchers camping out on the frontier were forced to come up with creative ways to prepare tough cuts of meat.

WHEN? September 13, 2006: Tom Perini and Michael Thomson, Taste of Texas

Chiffon Cake

WHAT? Baker’s secret. Although it may be difficult to imagine a Willy Loman–type cooking up new cake recipes, the creator of the chiffon cake was an insurance salesman named Harry Baker (yes, that was his real name!). Revolutionary for its time, chiffon cake was tall and airy. Its recipe featured two modifications to the basic cake-making technique that was popular at the time—Baker replaced butter with vegetable oil, and he separated the eggs, beating the whites and folding them into the batter at the last minute. Baker, who devised this formula in 1927, kept it secret for 20 years while making cakes for Hollywood royalty at the famed Brown Derby restaurant. In 1947 he sold the recipe to General Mills. Betty Crocker released the recipe the following year with the headline, “The first really new cake in 100 years!” Named for the flowing fabric flapper girls wore in the 1920s, chiffon cake has become an American favorite. Surprisingly, it is also a Japanese favorite. In the depachikas of Tokyo (department store food halls), towering neon-colored chiffon cakes in flavors like green tea and yuzu are sold to give as gifts.

WHEN? October 1, 2005: Jeffrey Wilson, Wine Lovers’ Dinner

Chili Elizabeth Taylor

WHAT? A really big bowl of red. “Please send me ten quarts of your wonderful chili in dry ice,” wrote Elizabeth Taylor in 1962 from the set of her movie Cleopatra in Rome. She was writing to the owners of Chasen’s, the legendary Hollywood oasis that served movie stars, presidents, and dignitaries until its closing in 1995. The famed chili served up at this otherwise haute eatery became almost as famous as the restaurant’s regular customers and, thanks to her overseas request, inextricably linked to Taylor. These days, recipes for chili Elizabeth Taylor can be found everywhere from the Internet to restaurants, but most differ considerably from the chili recipe printed in Betty Goodwin’s book, Chasen’s. The Chasen’s recipe contains beans, but the McNallys, who are cooking this specialty at the House this month, are making it without beans and topping it with cornbread. We trust the authenticity of their version, however; the source of the recipe was the paramour of Taylor’s former chauffeur.

WHEN? May 24, 2005: Michael and Terry McNally, Wine Lovers’ Dinner

Cholla Buds
[cho-ya]

WHAT? This bud’s for you. In the hot, dry Southwest desert where water for farming was scarce, Native Americans relied on many types of cacti for food, among them the cholla. In early spring, the Pima, Tohono O’odham, and other native peoples collected cholla buds from the shrublike plants, which are covered in long, sharp spines. To avoid the spines, Native Americans used two long sticks to harvest the buds. The buds were cooked and eaten as vegetables, according to the Beard award-winning Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, which adds that a two-tablespoon serving contains as much calcium as a glass of milk. Alternately, the Pima people dried them for future eating. L.S.M. Curtin described the process in his book, Ethnobotany of the Pima: a pit was lined with stones and mesquite wood, filled with cholla buds and inkweed branches, and sealed with hot stones and more branches. The buds baked overnight, then were ground, boiled, or roasted.

WHEN? September 29, 2004: Janos Wilder and Sandy Garcia, Kai at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass

Chukar
[chew-CAR]

WHAT? Partridge family. This Old-World partridge offers diners-surprise-white meat, not dark, with a flavor and texture similar to pheasant. The birds were successfully introduced into the wild in the American West, but the ones you eat on the East Coast are probably farm-raised. The season for farmed chukars is in early spring or late fall. When Ouida and Robert Merrifield cook at the Beard House this month, however, they'll bring wild bird; Robert explains that chukars are hunted in Nebraska and Oklahoma. Each bird provides about 13 ounces of meat.

WHEN? April 10, 1999: Ouida and Robert Merrifield, The Polo Grill

Churros
[CHOOR-rohs]

WHAT? Spanish crullers. Long before Krispy Kreme, cafés and street vendors in Spain were dispensing pleasure in the form of churros, addictive, sugar-sprinkled rings or strips of fried dough. The Conquistadors introduced the pastries—with chewy interiors and crunchy crusts—to their American colonies, and from Mexico to Argentina, vendors with cauldrons of frying oil invaded the plazas and mercados, Today, almost every Latin American country claims credit for them. There must have been a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup moment when the first churros fell into a cup of sweetened hot chocolate, thereby creating one of the most delicious breakfasts in the Spanish-speaking world, make that the entire world.

WHEN? September 16, 2003: Scott Linquist, Dos Caminos SoHo

Ciabatta
[cha-BAHT-ah]

WHAT? Bread for wearing around the house. Italian for "slipper," the word ciabatta is more familiar to Americans as the name of a light, crusty, flat, oblong white Italian bread. According to Felice Ramella, a professional baker and author of a comprehensive bread-baking book due out from Wiley next year, ciabatta is distinguished from other crusty white breads because of the high water content of the dough. Known as "hydration," this high water content produces a characteristic open-hole structure and glossy crumb on the inside, while a very hot oven produces a thin, crisp crust on the outside. The high level of hydration also makes shaping the dough into its characteristic "slipper" shape easier.

WHEN? June 6, 2001: Paul McCabe, Enchantment Resort

Clabbered Cream

WHAT? American crème fraîche. In his memoir A Feast Made for Laughter, Craig Claiborne wrote charmingly of clabbered cream, a traditional Southern treat made from soured, curdled, unpasteurized milk. In a section about his beloved nurse Aunt Catherine, he wrote, “I have no recollection whatsoever of her ever cooking a single dish. What she did do, and what is forever engraved on my soul, is churn clabber…Sometimes it was spooned into bowls for my childish pleasure. Sugar would be sprinkled on and very cold, heavy cream or rich milk would be poured over all and it would be eaten slowly like summer manna. Generally, I ate it sitting in Aunt Catherine’s lap, rocked back and forth in her solid brown rocker…” Another famous Southern foodie, Bill Neal, wrote just as longingly of clabber—“a wonderfully nutty cultured cream curd”—and witheringly of “the thin, characterless, over-pasteurized products of the supermarket.” In his 1990 Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie, Neal compared clabber to crème fraîche, lamenting that both “are lost to us today.”

WHEN? August 23, 2007: Quintessential Southern Dinner

Clapshot

WHAT? Haggis's trusty sidekick. It may have an exotic name, but clapshot is nothing more than mashed potatoes and turnips. The vegetables are mashed with butter, milk, and chives. Some recipes call for the potatoes and turnips to be cooked separately. If you find this too taxing, go to any modern supermarket in Scotland, and you can buy ready-made, microwaveable clapshot. The dish, which often accompanies haggis, originated in the Orkney Islands off of Scotland; we're told that George Mackay Brown, "the Bard of Orkney," once wrote: "Clapshot is one of the best things to come out of Orkney." If you don't like your foods mixed together, next time you are eating haggis, ask for "tatties" (mashed potatoes) and "bashed neeps" (mashed turnips or rutabaga) instead of clapshot.

WHEN? January 25, 2003: Scott Connor, Seahouse Grill

Club Sandwich

WHAT? One of Jim's favorite sandwiches of all time. To make this venerable classic, Beard instructed the assembler to spread crisp toast (white bread only please!) with homemade mayonnaise, top it with freshly cooked, sliced chicken breast, bacon, peeled, ripe tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce. Although a triple-decker sandwich is the norm today, Beard considered the third slice of toast a "horror" and suggested in American Cookery that the responsible party be condemned "to eat three-deckers three times a day the rest of his life." Various sources say the sandwich (alternately called a Clubhouse) was created in the kitchens of private men's clubs, in the club cars of American passenger trains, or at the Saratoga Club, a turn-of-the-century casino in upstate New York. Whatever its origins, the sandwich was well established by 1941 when America's Cookbook gave a detailed recipe (and six variations) specifying that the lettuce extend beyond the toast's edge and that the sandwich be served while the toast is toasty.

WHEN? October 4, 1998: Michael Smith, 27 Standard, The Jazz Standard, NYC

Common Crackers

WHAT? The Green Mountain Ritz. Today uncommon is more like it, but for more than 150 years, they were so ubiquitous in New England that the cracker barrel--where the biscuits were kept in country stores--became part of the lexicon for informal, folksy gossip. According to some sources, common crackers were first produced in 1828 by the Cross brothers in Montpelier, Vermont. Shopkeepers gave them away to customers buying cheese; a barrel of 1,200 crackers provided a year's worth of snacks and meals for many a rural family; and generations of farmers supped on these crackers crumbled in a bowl of milk and served with a hunk of cheddar cheese. In 1948 Vermont Life magazine paid tribute to the common cracker in print: "In a changing and unstable world, these crackers are still made according to the original recipe and in the same shape. It is perhaps these little touches of memory, reinforced by the fact that one can still satisfy one's taste with precisely the same cracker that tickled the taste buds in one's youth that account for the popularity of this sound Vermont product."

WHEN? July 26, 1999: Susan Goss, Zinfandel

Conch
[conk]

WHAT? Multi-purpose mollusk. Over the centuries, Caribbean islanders have played tunes on the conch, drunk from it, made tools from it, adorned homes with it, used it as a primitive form of money, and--best of all--eaten it. "There is no doubt that since time immemorial, man has been breaking open conch shells in order to get at the succulent flesh inside," according to Culinaria, A Culinary Discovery: The Caribbean. The meat of this sea snail is tough and needs tenderizing with lime or by pounding before cooking. Its taste has been compared to clams and scallops. Conch, which propels itself along the ocean floor with its foot-like muscle, is used to make stews, chowders, and fritters. In the 17th century, the beautiful spiraled pink shell of the Queen Conch was prized in Europe. Today, entire conch orchestras make beautiful music in Key West at the island's annual Conch Blowing Contest.

WHEN? August 18, 1999: Gary Boileau, Craig Miller, Craig's, An American Bistro

Cosmopolitan

WHAT? Pink drink of mysterious origins. There are as many recipes for Cosmopolitans as there are theories about its origin. What we know for sure is the basic formula: citrus-flavored vodka is shaken with either Triple Sec or Cointreau, lime juice, and a splash of cranberry juice for color then strained into a chilled martini glass and garnished with a lemon twist. Countless variations exist, including the one served at Junno's bar in Manhattan, in which Absolut's blackberry liqueur replaces the Triple Sec. Some cocktail experts attribute its creation to the gay community in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Bartender Junno Lee of Junno's has another theory: an Absolut Vodka marketing team created the cocktail as a way to sell Absolut Citron. A spokesperson for Absolut declined to confirm or disavow that story. Lee has observed that, as with other pink drinks, women like it best.

WHEN? July 10, 2000: Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Josiah Citrin, Cecil De Loach, Andrea Immer, and Steve Peterson

Country Ham

WHAT? Mold gold. Dry-cured in salt, sugar, and other seasonings; slowly smoked over a hardwood fire; then aged up to 12 months, country ham originated as a way to preserve ham in pre-refrigeration days. The result is saltier and firmer than its more common processed, brine-injected cousin, and to the true ham connoisseur, there is no comparison. If you have a hankering for one, consider an outing along the backroads of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, or Virginia. Most famous of all is the Smithfield ham, which must be made in Smithfield, Virginia, and which must meet criteria laid out by law. According to The American Heritage Cookbook, Queen Victoria had a standing weekly order for Smithfield ham. “Formerly it was not uncommon to find them aged six and seven years,” James Beard wrote of aged, country hams in American Cookery. “They were black, covered with mold, and looked uninviting to the average person, but they gave promise of fine feasting to the ham fancier.” Before cooking, the mold must be scrubbed off with soap and water, and the ham soaked overnight. Before feasting, the ham is sliced paper-thin or a thickish hunk is fried and served with redeye gravy. “There ain’t no secret to curing a ham,” Audrey P’Pool of Trigg County, Kentucky, told Saveur magazine several years ago. “It’s just patience, nature, and God.”

WHEN? August 19, 2003: Brian Stapleton, Carolina Crossroads

Cream of Wheat

WHAT? Morning mush. Like much of America’s cereal industry, Cream of Wheat got its start about a century ago, the brainchild of Thomas Amidon, head miller at the Diamond Flour Mill in North Dakota. Amidon began boxing wheat farina, made from the middling of the flour kernel, and selling it for porridge. From its earliest days, Cream of Wheat was heavily marketed. Its shrewd ad campaigns drew on America’s most famous illustrators, including N.C. Wyeth. Many of the ads depicted the cereal’s icon—a benevolent-looking black chef, who was usually shown offering a steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat to happy white children; in recent years, the illustration has been criticized as racist, a charge the manufacturer (Kraft Foods since 2000) denies. Whatever you believe, you can’t deny the chef has gotten quicker: the cooking time for Cream of Wheat has steadily declined, from the original 15 minutes, to five minutes in 1939, to 2 1/2 minutes in 1977 to 1 minute in 1957 to 30 seconds in 1966.

WHEN? July 31, 2003: Martin Heierling, Bellagio

Crépinette
[kray-pih-NEHT]

WHAT? Porcine package. A small, sausage-like meat bundle whose name stems from the word crépine, meaning pig's caul: a pliable, thin membrane used by chefs as a casing for virtually any mixture of minced meats—duck, pork, lamb, veal, even chicken or fish. After the ground meat is flavored, often with truffles, and wrapped in the lacey caul, the patty is breaded and panfried with butter. While the crépinette sizzles in the skillet, the veins of fat in the caul melt, adding rich pork flavor to the meat. At the Beard House this April, Dustin Clark's roasted quail and duck confit crépinette will offer an Oregonian take on this classic French dish.

WHEN? April 5, 2007: Dustin Clark, Portland Indie Wine Festival Celebration

Croquembouche
[kroh-kuhm-BOOSH]

WHAT? French stack cake. A cone-shaped stack of profiteroles "glued" together with caramel and adorned with spun sugar, croquembouches serve as wedding cakes in France, and are eaten at other celebrations too. The literal meaning of the word is "crisp in the mouth," because the caramel crackles when you bite into it. Alice Wooledge-Salmon is quoted in The Oxford Companion to Food as saying that the cakes evolved from the elaborate, architectural structures displayed between courses at medieval banquets. She goes on to note that under the influence of the great 19th-century French chef Antonin Carême, croquembouches shared space with cakes shaped like Turkish mosques, Persian pavilions, and gothic towers. (Carême, by the way, famously wrote, "The fine arts are five in number, to wit: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, architecture—whose main branch is confectionery.") By the 20th century, the genre had settled down to the conical form we know today.

WHEN? August 26, 2002: Shawn Cirkiel, Jean Luc's Bistro

Croque Monsieur
[KROHK muhs-YOOR]

WHAT? A ham-'n-cheese sandwich with a French twist. The classic croque monsieur, darling of cash-poor tourists and French folk-on-the-go, is buttered bread, Gruyere cheese, and lean ham, fried in clarified butter. In the good old days before even the French began to rush their meals, it was served as an hors d'oeuvre, a tea sandwich, or the main event in a (pre-cholesterol) light lunch. The modern version of this "crunchy sir" is more often a ham-and-Swiss combo, toasted in a grill press and served hot and delicious at cafes and street stalls, so even those Francophiles most pressed for time don't have to settle for McDonald's. Apparently when it crosses the ocean, this impeccably pedigreed Gallic standard gets some new clothes: this month at the Beard House, for instance, it's served with smoked salmon.

WHEN? October 9, 2002: The Next Generation, Josie Le Balch, Jill Davie, Jonna Jensen

Croquettes

WHAT? Dinner, recycled. Croquettes, originally a French term, were introduced into English cookery in the 18th century, Alan Davidson writes in his Oxford Dictionary of Food. The name comes from the French croquant, which means crunchy or crisp. Although the contents vary widely, croquettes are consistently small rounded shapes, ranging in size from a walnut to an egg, which are coated in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried, to a golden brown. Larousse writes that the filling of croquettes is a mixture of vegetables or cooked meats, usually leftover from another use, chopped fine and mixed with béchamel or brown sauce. Some of the most popular are chicken, ham, and salmon. Although in the United States, croquettes are associated, disparagingly, with '50s ladies' luncheons, their image is better elsewhere. Croquetas are eaten as sandwich fillings in Latin America and arancini, a form of Italian crocchetta, are beloved by Italian children.

WHEN? May 23, 2002: Tom Harkins, CIrca and May 31, 2002: Jeffrey Tenner, Lindbergh's Crossing and Ciento

Crosnes
[krohn]

WHAT? Asian artichoke imposters. Also known as Chinese artichokes, knot-root, and chorogi, crosnes (or more formally Crosnes de Japon) are a pearl-colored root vegetable that is little known in the United States or Europe, with the exception of France. In looks, Crosnes have been compared to caterpillars, petrified worms, and—more appetizingly, and we think, more accurately—to misshapen pearls and jade beads. The first time we saw them, we thought an overeager Beard House chef had gone to an awful lot of trouble to intricately tourné hundreds of fingerling potatoes. In terms of taste, crosnes have been likened to apples, salsify, and to Jerusalem artichokes. That last probably explains the name “Chinese artichoke”; botanically speaking, the two plants are unrelated. Jerusalem artichokes are in the sunflower family; crosnes are the roots of an herb in the mint family that originated in China and Japan. They were introduced to France in the late 19th century, and named for Crosnes, the village where they were first cultivated. According to a recent article in a journal of England’s Royal Horticultural Society, crosnes were popular until the 1920s, after which they were largely forgotten. Today, they are enjoying a small resurgence. They can be eaten raw in salads, pickled, or cooked. Escoffier suggests sautéing crosnes in butter, enjoying them à la crème or with fines herbes.

WHEN? November 24, 2003: Nicholas Harary, Nicholas

Crumpets

WHAT? Sexy muffin. Trader Joe’s may be stocking “British-Style Crumpets,” but Americans are more likely to have run across the honeycombed griddle breads in English literature than in real life. In The Pickwick Papers, for instance, Charles Dickens has the character Sam Weller relate a story about a government clerk who kills himself after his doctor forbids them: “‘Wy’ says the patient, starting up in bed; ‘I’ve eat four crumpets ev’ry night for fifteen year, on principle.’ ‘Well then, you’d better leave ‘em off, on principle,’ says the doctor. ‘Crumpets is not wholesome, Sir,’ says the doctor, wery fierce.” In 1940, P.G. Wodehouse named a collection of his stories Eggs, Beans and Crumpets for the habit his idle young male characters had of addressing one another, “my dear old crumpet.” More recently, crumpets have shown up in the English edition of the first Harry Potter book. But American readers got “English muffins” instead. They are not the same, nor does “English muffin” conjure the same host of associations—a comfortable, middle-class British life of a certain period. The legendary English food writer Elizabeth David devoted an entire chapter of English Bread and Yeast Cookery to “Crumpets and Muffins,” but her interest seemed to flag by chapter’s end: “When all is said—perhaps too much has been said—and done, crumpets are only yeast pancakes confined to rings and so made thick and of a uniform size.” Not everybody would agree. British men find crumpets so tasty, they use the word to refer to women who whet their appetite, the usage the BBC Radio Times meant this fall when it named Nigella Lawson “Britain’s Thinking Man’s Crumpet.”

WHEN? January 12, 2004: Sanford D’Amato and David Swanson, Sanford Restaurant

Culatello
[koo-la-TEHL-oh]

WHAT? Hamming it up. Just about everyone knows that Parma is famous for its raw, cured ham called prosciutto di Parma. But real pork-product purists prefer the region’s rarer and more delectable culatello. The best, most traditional culatello is labeled with the D.O.P. “Culatello di Zibello,” and it is made according to strict regulations enforced by the Consorzio del Culatello di Zibello in and around the town of Zibello, about 20 miles outside of Parma. Only the large muscles of the pigs’s hind legs and inner thigh, off the bone, are used (culatello means “little backside”). The meat is cured with salt, seasoned with a mixture of black pepper, wine, and herbs, and aged for a minimum of 12 months before it is sold. The characteristic pear shape is enhanced by intricate tying that produces an attractive rosette pattern when the culatello is cut crosswise into paper-thin slices.

WHEN? October 13, 2003: Cathy Whims and John Taboada

Cullen Skink

WHAT? Similar to the American adage that “One bad apple can ruin a whole barrel,” there’s an Old Scots proverb that says, “A spoonfu’ o’ stink will spoil a patfu’ o’ skink.” The name skink comes from Gaelic and means “essence,” but to the Scottish, skink is stew-soup, traditionally made with beef shank and vegetables. Cullen Skink is a haddock (or Finnan-haddie) version. The recipe originated on the Shores of Moray Firth, an inlet of the North Sea in northeastern Scotland. To make it, the fish is boiled with milk and mixed with mashed potatoes to create a creamy fish stew that will warm any lad or lass on this celebratory day.

WHEN? January 25, 2005: Burns's Supper, Martin Wishart