All last Fall, when we were working on the photos for the book, Jennifer May was so wonderful to work with that she made me feel like I was the only book she was working on. She spent endless hours with us, played with the girls, played with the cat, and of course, she took so many beautiful photographs.
The other books that she was doing at the time came into conversation here and there. I knew that she was spending many of her days with artful cuts of sustainable meat. And I knew that on the weekends she wasn’t hanging out with us, she was living it up in Montreal with the Joe Beef cookbook.
I was quite aware that her weekends with us were the quiet ones, the rural and family friendly ones, the days where she ate homemade crackers instead of foie gras sandwiches. And I was okay with that! I knew that Jen loved her time with us, and that her other needs were satisfied by her exotic time in Montreal with the other woman, er, I mean, cookbook.
A few weeks ago, the book arrived in the mail. I did not ask for it, but it showed up, beautiful, hip, both feminine and masculine at the same time. And if this book was the other woman, she was wearing clothes I would never think to try to pull off, and man oh man did she pull them off! She knocked on the door (at least, UPS did), cigarette hanging from her mouth, and in a faint Montreal accent, she greeted me and pushed her way in. And just like that, after Jen had been seeing us both, separately, for so long, we were there in the same room. And I fell for it. I fell for that cookbook.
This book has some recipes I can’t wait to make, and some that I know I will never attempt. The photos are (of course!) stunning, and the writing is wonderful and witty. And, true to its name The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, the book conveys an entire atmosphere, a way of relating to food, yes, but also time, and love, and communication. The recipes are sexy, but in the way that Montreal is sexy. If you have been to Montreal, I’m guessing you know what I mean.
I have never known a city to be filled with more beautiful people than Montreal. But unlike some other cities where I feel outside of it all, there seems to be no standard, no model of beauty. People are all shapes and sizes. Fashion is all over the place, and always fantastic. And it is contagious. When I am in Montreal, I feel so beautiful, exactly as I am.
I’m looking forward to my next trip out there. I want to go to Joe Beef.
In the recipe for bagna cauda and aioli, we are instructed to “sit down in a garden chair with a bottle of rose or pastis, a cutting board on [our] knees, and good paring knife. Throw the peels straight into the garden.”
I know! Sighs, blushes, and an ever so slightly shaking hand.
I wanted to tell you about one of the simpler recipes in the book. It deals with jerusalem artichokes, those strange little tubers that grow beneath what you might think is a bushy sunflower. They look like ginger, but they taste like something between a potato and an artichoke. And no one quite seems to know what to do with them.
This was my first year growing jerusalem artichokes. I did it against everyone’s advice. “They’ll take over!” people said. “You’ll never get them out of your garden!” That’s okay with me. While the weeds strangled everything else, that jerusalem artichoke grew taller than me. The deer ate it every day, and every day it grew anyway. That’s my kind of plant. One that can survive anything.
And so, in the way of Joe Beef, I roasted those indestructible tubers. I flipped them over, and then I roasted them some more. And then I popped a jar of the special occasion peach tomato ketchup, and Joey and I ate them in the garden, as we were meant to.
Jerusalem Artichokes with Ketchup
adapted from The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, by Frederic Morin, David McMillan, and Meredith Erickson (with photos by Jennifer May)
8 large jerusalem artichokes
a handful of coarse salt
butter, for greasing the pan
more coarse salt (or pretzel salt, if you have it)
a few sprigs fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Smear a baking tray with a good layer of butter.
Put the jerusalem artichokes into a heavy duty freezer bag with a handful of coarse salt and a few tablespoons water. Seal the bag, and shake it several times. This will clean the jerusalem artichokes.
Rinse off each tuber, and cut in half lengthwise. Lay them cut side down on the prepared tray. Sprinkle with salt, and then with the leaves from the thyme sprigs.
Roast for 45 minutes, then flip the jerusalem artichokes over and roast for 30 minutes more. Allow to cool slightly, and then serve in the garden, with a side of ketchup.