Natalie's Chef Lawrence Klang is 'a Major Talent'
Late Thursday night we lost power. Living in Maine means going without electricity every now and then. But on my road, in a small town in York County, that concept has special meaning. I call it “the street that time forgot.” It’s now Tuesday and we still have no power. That means no, light, water (our well pump runs on electricity), or heat from the furnace for 5 days, or 120 hours. We have watched almost every other part of our town turn bright. We have watched as disgruntled, dirty neighbors turn lovely again. Nicely washed hair. Warm coffee in the morning. Sheets at night that aren’t 45 degrees.
It seems that there are two types of people in an ice storm. The ones who get angry and mean and the ones who turn kind. I wish I could tell you that I fall into the kindness category, but I’m trying to be honest about this experience and I have to admit I have not been at my best. In fact, if I met myself for the first time during the past five days, I am quite sure I would say “That Kathy Gunst person is a real b….” I’m sorry. I truly apologize to my husband and my family. I like hot water. I like heat. I love my home, but it has become a cold, alien place in the last five days. Even the telephone, something that still works, is almost too cold to use without putting on thick wool gloves.
One of the things that has me most angry is that our little street, the one that time forgot, looks pretty much the same way it did when we woke up Friday morning. Except there’s no more ice. There are huge trees down and electric lines draped over trees, rooftops, driveways, and the street like dancers in a limp pose. If I were in a better mood I might find it poetic. Yesterday, for the first time, we saw a CMP truck moving down the street. We were driving in the opposite direction and did a sharp 360 degree turn. The CMP worker said he was “only there to assess the situation.” Assess the situation? I could give him an assessment.
They are telling us we “should” have power by late Wednesday night. We are lucky: we have woodstoves and a gas stove. We are not elderly or sick. This is a temporary glitch in an otherwise blessed life. I know that. Even the “mean” me knows that. But without water (everywhere for miles around they are sold out of big jugs so we are pouring little sports size bottles of Poland Spring on our freezing cold hands in an attempt to make ourselves feel “clean”) life feels hard. I know this is the way the world used to be. I know that computers and VCRs and cable television are luxuries. But I miss them.
After the third night we bailed and went to a hotel in a nearby town. The lobby was filled with families exchanging stories of power outages in their area. Within the first hour of arriving at the hotel, I took a bath and a shower and felt so grateful.
And then we hit gold. We were invited to Camden, Maine, to the Camden Harbor Inn to sample the Christmas dinner that Chef Lawrence Klang recently cooked at the Beard House in NYC. Highlights from the meal included a spiced leg of wild boar and roasted breast of wild partridge with chestnut angel hair pasta and a black truffle sauce. Our room had a huge bed with puffy down comforters and a bathroom with a deep, claw-footed tub and a very hot shower. The five course meal was festive and delicious. Klang, who coincidentally turned 37 last night, is a major talent. He is someone to watch in years to come. I am sure he will be one of Maine’s most talked about chefs.
Hard to judge a place when you’re cold and hungry, but the Camden Harbor was the most elegant refuge one could possibly imagine.
Being in Camden, away from the cold and inconvenience of the power outages, I’ve had some time to reflect on some of the less obvious things that have created my foul mood. I have not been able to cook for five days. Cooking is my life and my center. When I’m upset or feel unbalanced, I cook. When I’m joyous and want to celebrate, I cook. So you can be sure that as soon as the lights come back on I will be in my kitchen baking and chopping and simmering and sautéing until I again feel a sense of balance. One of the first things I plan on making is a huge pot of warming soup. And because it is the holiday season I’ll also bake some toasted pistachio and orange biscotti dipped in chocolate.
Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio-Orange Biscotti
These twice-baked cookies are laced with toasted pistachio nuts, orange rind and orange juice, and then dipped into semi-sweet chocolate to create a crunchy, satisfying biscotti. Serve with hot chocolate, tiny cups of strong espresso, or a pot of tea.
2 cups raw shelled pistachios, toasted
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cold, cut into 4 pieces
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 packed teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, about 55 percent, or 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Finely chop half the pistachios and combine in a small bowl with the remaining whole nuts; set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until blended. Add the butter and blend into dry ingredients using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Mix the eggs, vanilla, zest, and juice in a separate bowl until well blended. Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just blended. Fold in the pistachios.
Generously flour a clean working area. Using floured hands, divide the dough into two equal portions. Form each piece into a flat log roughly 12-inches long by 2-inches wide by 1-inch high, adding additional flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Carefully place the logs 2 to 3 inches apart on the parchment-covered baking sheet.
Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch and just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F, and let the biscotti cool for about 10 minutes.
Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut logs on a slight diagonal into 1/2-inch wide pieces. Place the biscotti cut side up on 1 or 2 cookie sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the biscotti once halfway through baking. The biscotti should be firm to the touch and golden brown on both sides. Remove from the baking sheet and cool completely on wire racks.
While the biscotti are cooling, melt the chocolate in the microwave, in a double boiler, or over very low heat. When almost all of chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Dip one flat side of each biscotti into the chocolate and hold vertically to let excess chocolate drip off. Place the biscotti chocolate-side up on wax paper to cool until the chocolate hardens, 3 to 4 hours. The biscotti will keep, in a cool, dark, well-sealed tin or plastic bag, for several days.
Makes about 3 dozen biscotti.
Kathy Gunst lives — and cooks when electricity allows — in South Berwick. She has also cooked at the famed Beard House; Maine chefs who've shared the honor of cooking at Beard were invited to taste the menu Klang prepared for the New York City venue in Maine on Dec. 15.