I have a sneaking suspicion if I was a food writer in NYC I wouldn’t be able to get an interview with the legendary, celebrity chef Jean Georges Vongerichten. But in Shanghai where we epicurean writers are a rare breed, I was invited to interview Jean Georges on one of his recent visits to Shanghai where he has a namesake restaurant on the Bund.
Thus I had a moment of astonishment when I sat down to interview this culinary legend over a cappuccino, but his warmth and openness quickly put me at ease. When I asked about his connection to Asia and what keeps him coming back, he told me about his first experience in Bangkok in 1980. He had been working in France but, “I wanted to see where all the spices came from,” says Jean Georges, “and back in those days, there was no internet, you had to travel somewhere to experience them.” He remembers when he first arrived to take his post at Mandarin Oriental, “when they opened the door of the plane, even the smell of the air was different,” he says.
His first meal, like mine actually, was the classic Thai hot, sweet, spicy and sour soup – Tom Yum Goong. “It was amazing to me, because in France we would boil a stock for 2 days and here they just made it on the street right in front of me.” His time in Asia changed his palate as he went from working with traditional European ingredients to playing with chilies, ginger and tamarind. When I ask about his favourite Chinese dish, without hesitation he says, “Xiao long bao is spectacular!”
But what we are here to talk about today is his new cookbook, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes. The master of the perfect, polished plate has done a cookbook based on the rustic home cooking he does in his country home on the weekends. “Cooking at home is a group event – every one who comes to dinner has to chop or peel,” Jean Georges says laughing, “And then it is all about putting things on the table that people share.”
I have been playing around with the cookbook and want to share with you my favourite, crowd pleasing recipe Crab Toasts with Siracha Mayonnaise:
4 slices good sourdough bread
3 tablespoons Sriracha Mayonnaise*
(*1 lg egg yolk, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 3/4 grapeseed or other neutral oil, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons sriracha. Whisk together the yolk, mustard and salt until blended. Continue whisking while adding the oil in a slow steam stream to emulsify the mixture. Whisk in the lemon juice and sriracha.)
8 ounces lump crabmeat
Crushed red chili flakes (optional)
1 lemon cut into wedges
Instructions: Toast the bread until golden brown and cut into 2-inch pieces. Gently fold the sriracha mayonnaise into the crabmeat until well mixed. Spoon the crabmeat onto the toasts (or serve separately with the crab in a bowl over ice and toasts on a tray so guests can assemble themselves). Serve with lemon wedges.