Mack's Corner

This Week

12 inches from greatness

P.K. (wife) and I had dinner at the French Laundry several years ago. My favorite thing ever is the Third Course called "Oysters and Pearls". Everybody gets it every time. It's got to be one of the top 3 greatest dishes ever served in any restaurant ever. It's described as: "Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Malpeque Oysters and Osetra Caviar".. When we were on our 4th course a Lady at the next table was getting the Oysters and pearls course. The waiter put it down and left and she looked at it and sat there. When the waiter came back she had not touched it. He asked if anything was wrong and she said without ever tasting it "I don't care for it!". The waiter was very gracious and asked if he could get her something else, but she said no and he took the dish away. My first thought was to wave my hands and see if he would let me have it but after all I did have a tie on, can't be taking food off other people's table with a tie on.. Then after I thought about it I got kinda mad. I wanted to go over to her and explain what she had done: maybe the best dish ever created and served at the best restaurant in America and maybe the world and you turned it down without ever tasting it..   That's like Bob Dylan offering to write a song just for you and you saying you don't like folk music, or Annie Leibovitz offering to photograph you and you saying you don't like black & white pictures, or Einstein offering to explain relativity and you say you don't like math, Fury Lewis offering a guitar lesson but you say you only play electric, Michael Jordan wants to play horse and you say I never really liked NBA basketball.  You were 12 inches from tasting greatness and all you can say is you don't care for it… Of course I didn't tell her any of that, I was very polite. But if she had been at my table, she would have had to go sit in the car...

God's like that: He's right there, He's so close, waiting for us and all we can say is "Not today, I don't care for you!" Do you even know what you're missing? Did you even take a taste?

I wrote Thomas Keller, the chef at the French Laundry, and told him that he needed to give everybody a test before they can eat there, 5 questions. If you don't pass, you wait in the car. You have to appreciate where you are and what's about to happen..

Luke 2 (KJ) And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas …


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

I got asked for Christmas Recipes last week, so here's 2 fun, great, show-off recipes that you and your kids can make for Christmas .. I actually had this one at ABC Kitchen.. it is great!!

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Squash on Toast


1   2 1/2- to 3-pound yellow-fleshed squash, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes, more to taste

3 teaspoons salt

1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick

1/2 cup ricotta, goat cheese, feta or mascarpone, or cottage cheese run through a food processor till smooth

Coarse salt

4 tablespoons chopped mint or basil


1.Heat the oven to 450.
Combine the squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, chile flakes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring every few minutes, until tender and slightly colored, about 15 minutes or a little longer. Remove from the oven.

2.Meanwhile, heat another 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well softened and darkening, at least 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and maple syrup, stir and reduce until syrupy and broken down, again at least 15 minutes or so; the mixture should be jammy.

3.Combine squash and onions in a bowl and smash with a fork until combined. Taste for seasoning.

4.Add the remaining oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add bread and cook until just golden on both sides, less than 10 minutes total; drain on paper towels .

STOP … from here you are 10 min away from serving..

Spread cheese on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint/basil.


This is something you cannot stop eating.. I can eat 100 of these... This is the first course at The French Laundry..

Pâte à Choux for Cheese Puffs


1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons, or 1/4 pound), in 1-inch chunks

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour (135 grams)

4 whole eggs, and 1 egg lightly beaten for glaze

Pinch cayenne

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Black pepper, to taste

4 ounces grated cheese, like Comté or Gruyère


1.Put butter and salt in medium saucepan with 1 cup water, and bring to a boil. Add flour all at once, and stir, stir, stir with wooden spoon or sturdy whisk until mixture comes together, about 1 minute. Lower heat and cook for 1 minute more.

2.Transfer dough to bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed to cool mixture slightly. Increase speed and begin to add eggs, one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. After fourth egg has been added, beat for a minute more, until dough is smooth and glossy. Stop machine, add cayenne, nutmeg, pepper and grated cheese, then mix briefly to combine. (If you don't have a mixer, you can also beat the dough vigorously by hand.) Scrape down sides of bowl and remix, then put mixture in pastry bag or you can do this with a spoon.

3.Heat oven to 425 degrees
. Line two 12-by-18-inch baking sheets with parchment. On each sheet, pipe six rows of 1 1/2-inch-round mounds of dough, five to a row, with at least 1 inch of space between them. (If you prefer, use two soup spoons to put the dough on the sheet.) Brush each mound with beaten egg, smoothing the tops with a finger if not quite round… 

From here you are 40 min away from being finished.. STOP.. 40 min before you want to serve them, go to step 4.. have your oven ready..

4.Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Continue baking for about 25 minutes, turning baking sheets as necessary, until mounds are puffed, golden and crisp. Serve immediately or cool on a rack and reheat later.

YIELD About 60 bite-size puffs


How about saving a kid's life!!

When you give Platelets it's like giving St Jude $700 - $1000. If we don't give them, they have to buy them.

Giving Platelets is like giving blood, it just takes longer (1 1/2 hours) and you get all of your blood back (so you can do it every week if you want) . I know it's a long trip to go all the way down to St Jude, but you may be saving a kid's life . plus you get to watch a movie while you're there. Call Kim at 901.595.2024 and she'll setup an appointment and treat you like family. Just tell her you're from Hope.

Directions: From Poplar, turn north on Third Street, then right on Lauderdale/Jackson Ave (first right after you go under the expressway). Enter through the north guard gate (you'll see the Danny Thomas Pavilion. Gold top).

Tell the guard at the gate that you are here to donate blood. The guard will instruct you where to park. You will then enter the hospital by the red side door closest to the blood donor parking lot. The Blood Donor Center is in the southwest corner of the hospital on the ground floor.

Appointment times are generally available Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Except on Tuesdays they start at 9:15am.

See you this weekend. Bring a friend. It's going to be great!!!


Posted by Mack Oates at 8:52 AM