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An Evening in the Kitchen with Laurence

By Ann Brode
I bumped into my friend Laurence Hauben the other day and we decided to spontaneously get together and cook and catch up. Laurence was going to the Farmers’ and Fishermen’s Markets on Saturday so suggested that she bring the food to my house and we would cook together. What ensued could be the backdrop for a delightful dream!

Laurence arrived with her beautiful market baskets as the winter’s sun was setting. Laurence announced our menu, determined by what was fresh and appealing in the market:
Sliced avocado and cherimoya with sprinkled lime juice (appetizer)
Seafood risotto
Green salad
Apple tart

In honor of Julia Child, I poured us a glass of Andrew Murray’s handcrafted 2004 “Esperance” (70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre) , we put on our aprons and the fun began. I was gathered into Laurence’s love of food and the celebration of a shared meal as she combined amounts of flour and butter and water with her knowing hands to create the perfect texture for our dessert’s crust. With the dough chilling in the refrigerator, the mussels were put in a large pot with a cup of wine and set to steam until they opened. In the meantime we undertook the shelling of the sweet little ridgeback shrimp. As I had never tackled shrimp outside of Trader Joe’s frozen food department, Laurence showed me the gentle rhythm of twisting the heads and tails off and pulling slightly to dislodge the shells. We then put heads and shells, trimmings from fennel and celery, butter, and the cooking juices of the mussels to cover in another pot (when this had cooked for a bit, we mashed it down with a potato masher and strained the liquid for later use in the risotto). And on to the chopping of leeks, carrot, fennel, and edible pod snap peas which would accompany the seafood in the final dish. All the while we are prepping, sipping wine, and catching up on family and adventures and current philosophies.

With the Mussels, shrimp, and veggies all in separate bowls ready to go, we took a few minutes to assemble the dessert. We rolled the dough (pizza-style), slathered the dough with quince butter that Laurence had preserved last year, and arranged sliced apples artistically with a sprinkle of brown sugar…and into the oven! Now we attended to the risotto. Laurence put the veggies into an iron pot with some butter and began to let the veggies “sweat,” sprinkling in the carnaroli rice after a few minutes. We added small amounts of our shellfish broth, stirring and stirring, and finally adding a splash of cream, the fish and a smattering of finely chopped garlic chives, parsley and fennel to complete our masterpiece.

All the while I was washing delicate lettuces of red and green to set aside in a bowl to be dressed later with a delicious handmade dressing (minced shallots mixed with dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, roasted walnut oil, and a whisper of sugar to pull out the flavors) and some crumpled Roquefort cheese. We washed dishes as we went, so that the kitchen never got messy. And now to the table to savor the artistry and enjoy being together again and giving thanks for all of our blessings. Being gathered into Laurence’s way of being with food….an embrace that includes the farmer who grows the food, the people who harvest and bring the food to us in our community, the role that convivial dining has played throughout history, indeed even the interconnectedness of all life on this planet…is truly a life-changing experience.

Thank you, Laurence, for an extraordinary evening and including us in your loving embrace!

Find out more about Laurence M Hauben

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