The 12-Hour Bolognese


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I used to think Martha Stewart was high maintenance — but that was before I encountered Heston Blumenthal.

Yes, the man — chef/owner of the three Michelin-star Fat Duck in Bray, U.K. — is a molecular gastronomy genius responsible for tongue-boggling dishes like powdered anjou pigeon and scrambled egg and bacon ice-cream.  

But let’s take something like, say, bolognese, one of the most basic dishes in classic Italian cooking. It should be fairly easy to make … well, except that this is Blumenthal we’re talking about.

His bolognese recipe includes this instruction: “Cook for at least six hours.” And this would be taking place after a good two hours or so of cooking and prep work.

By the time my Blumenthal bolognese was done, it was 4:30 a.m. and the ragu had taken a total of 12 hours to make. I was mad at my oven, my bolognese — while also plotting a trip to Bray to give Blumenthal a piece of my mind.

But then I had my first spoonful of the ragu, a rich and muscular concoction that was beefy and hefty but also so, so, so sweet. Each morsel had just the slightest hint of licorice and the beef was so tender that I wondered if it was possible that I was actually feeling it melt on my tongue.

It was, in short, a joy to eat.

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Daniel Boulud on Beijing, Lotus Leaves & Duck A La Presse


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Daniel Boulud may like the potential of doing business in Beijing, but that doesn’t mean he likes Beijing.

Speaking via Skype to a small audience in Singapore Tuesday night from his home in New York City, where he was just getting his day started, Boulud was surprisingly candid about his thoughts on Beijing for a man who’d recently opened a restaurant in China’s capital. (Maison Boulud à Pékin opened in July, 2008.)

Boulud, who was dialling in to kick off the premiere of a reality TV-style show he’d done for the Asian Food Channel, recalled how he had flown to Singapore from Beijing during his trip last year.

“Coming from Beijing, I tell you, Singapore felt good — Singapore was a little more civilized,” he said, noting that one of the first things he did after getting off the plane was get a haircut. ”I didn’t trust anyone in Beijing to cut my hair.”

Boulud, dressed in his chef’s whites and flanked with a portrait of himself hoisting a glass, then breezed on to close with a nugget, noting that he hoped to open a restaurant in Singapore. (A public relations person for Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Resort & Casino was perched in the audience. Singapore’s first casinos, which are still under construction, have been courting high-end chefs to open in their establishments.)

Such frankness, unfortunately, was a little less apparent in the reality show, “One Night in Singapore — Daniel Boulud,” which chronicled the chef’s first trip to Singapore and his process of putting together a seven-course meal for a group of 50 diners.

The intention to showcase tension is there, of course — the show kicks off with a dramatic voiceover heavy with Discovery Channel gravitas that notes the obstacles Boulud has to overcome to make his dinner a success: “high humidity … a kitchen that is too far removed from the main dining area.” But Boulud is too skilled a chef for much of that to be believable.

Let’s face it, the man could probably toss together a seven-course meal with little problem if he were air-dropped into the middle of a desert and had one hand tied behind his back.

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