WHAT? Fish en français. In his Fish & Shellfish, James Peterson wrote that he first enjoyed omble chevalier by France’s Lake Annecy, "but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that what I had eaten...was Arctic Char, available in fancy fish stores throughout the United States." This cousin of trout and salmon is one of the northernmost freshwater fishes, and is found in the wild, in the cold lakes of Europe, Asia, North America, Iceland, and Greenland, where it can grow up to 25 pounds. The color of its skin changes, chameleon-like, to blend into its natural environment, and the flesh, which can be red, pink, or white, depending on diet, has a fat content that lies between that of trout and salmon. Artic char are usually differentiated from other fish by their pattern of pink spots, however, this does not always hold true. As Peterson wrote, "The only foolproof way to identify a char is by analyzing something about its mouth that I’ve never been able to figure out." You could always ask the fish comment il s’appelle…
WHAT? Face it, you don't need us to tell you what an Oreo is. But, hey, how often do Beard House chefs serve 'em? We couldn't pass up the chance to tell you a few of the strange things we discovered about Oreos after some trenchant investigative reporting. (Alright, alright. We just plugged "Oreo" into a web search engine.) Anyhow, remember the Oreo personality test? If, for instance, you eat your Oreo one bite at a time: "You are lucky to be one of the 5.4 billion other people who eat their Oreos this very same way. Just like them, you lack imagination, but that's okay, not to worry, you're normal." etc., etc. (www.nonesuch.net). Then there was www.cockeyed.com, whose webmasters conducted and recorded an, ahem, scientific test to answer the burning question on all our minds: "How Much Is Inside?" As they wrote in formulating their inquiry, "In the United States, people eat Oreos by cracking open the two halves and scraping the white filling off with their bottom teeth. Often we are left with a garbage can full of black cookie disks. It seems like a shame to toss all these cookie shells. I wonder why the Nabisco company doesn't just sell a tube of white goo?" The website features a conceptual rendering of a tube of Oreo Goo.
WHAT? The heart of the marrow. A classic dish from the Lombardy region of Italy, osso buco is usually made by braising veal shanks with wine, tomatoes, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and chicken or veal stock. The name means literally, “bone with a hole.” Traditionally served with risotto Milanese, gremolata (a piquant mixture of minced garlic, parsley, and lemon zest), and a long, thin spoon for scooping out the rich marrow, osso buco is a perennial crowd-pleaser. In a recent column, David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times marvelled at the popularity of the dish. “What do you think the odds are,” posited Shaw, “that my wife, Lucy, and I would attend three dinner parties given by three different hosts in three different parts of the Los Angeles basin, over a period of more than four months, and every host would serve the same main course: osso buco?”
WHAT? Bivalve on bread. At one time, oyster loaf was a specialty of New Orleans, where it was known as La Médiatrice (the peacemaker). Men out late carousing in the French Quarter brought home the golden toasted loaf, hollowed out and stuffed with hot creamed oysters or perhaps buttery fried oysters, as a peace offering to their jealous wives. The loaves were sold all over the Quarter for pennies. In 19th-century oyster-crazed America, the loaf was known elsewhere too. The original Joy of Cooking (1931) includes a recipe, although by then the loaf had metamorphosed into Creamed Oysters in Bread Cases, which sounds better suited to a ladies' lunch than to making marital amends. In an essay on longing and the oyster loaf, M.F.K. Fisher wrote that as a girl at boarding school, her mother used to devour the loaves during secret midnight feasts. "I know I shall never taste one like it, except in my dreams," Fisher wrote. "But I can see it and smell it, and I even know which parts to bite and which to let melt against the roof of my mouth, exquisitely hot and comforting."