Things To Eat In Cairo When It’s Cold


TBE loves nothing more than royal coats of arms emblazoned with stylized dolphins.

Real talk: Back in the late 1990s, a TBE correspondent used to work at the now-defunct location of Blockbuster Video in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, DC. One evening a number of men wearing wool greatcoats swept into the building. DC not yet having been overrun by czars, TBE was unsure what to make of their uniform attire, other than to remember his training, which called for increased vigilance when people in baggy coats stepped into the building, lest they be thieves.

They were not, as it turns out, thieves. Rather they were members of the secret service escorting Tipper Gore as she picked up a couple movies. One of the movies she rented was Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead.

So that’s where we got the title of this post.

Fittingly, considering that Al Gore was once a Democratic dauphin of sorts, the first recipe we’re featuring is Gratin Dauphinois, which is really simple and delicious aside from the tedious slicing of potatoes.

But first, one final aside: In order to forestall what would surely be a torrent of comments from correspondents angry at the fact that we misidentified the origin of the name of the dish called Gratin Dauphinois, let us now declare now that we are aware that the dish is in fact named after the dearly departed French province of Dauphiné, and not, as we’ve implied, the dauphin himself. If you’re interested in learning more about the distinction, you could do worse than to read this passage from Wikipedia, about which we’d like to learn more: “A major condition [of the 1349 treaty incorporating Dauphiné into France] was that the heir to the throne of France would be known as le Dauphin, which was the case from that time until the revolution.”

Recipes and more after the jump.

Gratin Dauphinois

Recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini, italically annotated by TBE.

– 1 kg (2.2 pounds) potatoes (The recipe says to use a mix of waxy and baking potatoes, but we don’t know the difference so we just use the ones our vegetable seller sells. It might be wise to ask for large potatoes when making this recipe, because cutting two giant potatoes is less taxing than cutting a bunch of small potatoes.)

– 500 ml (2 cups) milk (whole or part-skim, not skim) (We use whole milk.)

– 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (No need to be overly precise here, in case you were tempted.)

– freshly grated nutmeg (Nutmeg is جوزة الطيب in Arabic. Any decent or even lackluster spice shop will have fresh nutmeg. We use the gratings from one whole clove? Nut? Meg? What does one call a nutmeg?)

– 1 clove garlic, sliced lengthwise
(We find the garlic step (see below) super cute and we feel sophisticated doing it, but we’re dubious about its flavor-enhancing power. Do it to feel like a chef.)

– 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives (optional)
(We haven’t exercised this option yet.)

– 60 ml (1/4 cup) heavy cream (Here’s a little tidbit TBE chefs have learned after long months perusing the backs of heavy cream packages in supermarket dairy aisles: Even though one of the Juhayna brand cream products is labeled Cooking Creme (and packaged in a savory-signifying green box) and the other one is labeled Whipping Cream (and packaged in a box whose blue hue brings dessert to mind), the latter does not in fact have any sugar added, it is just heavier cream (at least 35% fat) than the Cooking Cream. In the interest of deriving the most possible flavor from fat, we always go blue. Also TBE Coptic Art and Lemon Tart correspondent HB says Juhayna is better than the expensive imported Euro brands, which are over-pasteurized, in her estimation.)

Serves 6 as a side dish. (More like 2)

Peel the potatoes, rinse them briefly, and slice them thinly (about 3mm or 1/10th of an inch) and evenly. (A food processor or a mandoline come in handy at this point.) Do not rinse after slicing, or you will lose all that precious starch. (We wash them before slicing but don’t peel them, because we’re into the rustic look.)

Combine the sliced potatoes, milk, salt and a good grating of nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, and keep simmering for 8 minutes, stirring the potatoes and scraping the bottom of the pan regularly to prevent sticking/scorching. (Don’t neglect this step, it sticks with alacrity.) The milk will gradually thicken to a creamy consistency.

While the potatoes are simmering, preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) and rub the bottom and sides of a medium earthenware or glass baking dish (I use an oval dish that’s 26 cm/10 inches at its widest, and 2 liters/2 quarts in capacity) with the cut sides of the garlic clove. (We use a glass Pyrex number, we have no idea of the measurements.)

Transfer half of the potatoes into the baking dish, sprinkle with the chives if using, and drizzle with half of the cream. Add the rest of the potatoes, pour the cooking milk over them, and drizzle with the remaining cream.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbly on the edges and nicely browned at the top. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. (The nutmeg gives the sauce a pink tint, reminiscent of Lobster Newburg.)

*          *          *

When TBE has some leftover enthusiasm for things other than stylized dolphins, we like to extend it to things that are glazed. Whether doughnuts, ceramics, carrots or eyes, it matters very little.

Knowing our love for glazed matter, and TBE HQ’s reputation as a den of two-bedroom apartment intrigue, in which our correspondents are forever trying to curry favor with the editors while simultaneously launching vicious campaigns against one another, it should surprise no one to learn that when one of our contributors returned from a recent trip to Yemen, she was carrying not just daggers to fend off her enemies in the court of St. TBE, but also a gift of honey, which is astoundingly good. According to the tasting notes provided to us by an emissary from the Court of St. James, it “tastes like treacle,” which is a compliment in his strange and far-off land.

Needless to say, this dish will most assuredly feature on the menu of the Yemeni-homestyle New England fusion restaurant TBE plans to open with President Saleh, if he ever takes us up on our offer and pulls a reverse Karzai.

Also it’s so easy even ahl al-kahf could do it. Don’t sleep.

Honey-Glazed Carrots

Recipe from TBE.

– some carrots

– a couple spoonfuls of honey, preferably from Yemen

butter (optional)

parsley, chopped (optional)

chili powder (We’ve been tempted to add it, but haven’t yet done so.)

Wash, peel and slice the carrots into bite-sized nuggets.

Cook the carrots in a small amount of water, until they reach a consistency at which applying moderate pressure on a fork will cause it to penetrate through them, but are still sufficiently hard that the fork will lift them up if you raise your hand.

Drain the water and add the desired amount of honey (and butter and/or chili powder, if you’re so inclined) to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about one minute or until the honey becomes a glaze.

Transfer to a warm bowl and toss with parsley, if using. Serve immediately.

*          *          *

Although we briefly considered including a main dish in this post, most likely roast chicken, we decided to take a principled stand against doing so. As staunch opponents of imperialism in all its guises, we thought it wrong to endorse the hegemony of one dish over others. We hope you will join us in calling for a more multipolar dining order.



Filed under Food, Home Maintenance, Politics, Restaurants

3 responses to “Things To Eat In Cairo When It’s Cold

  1. Thanks for this, and for clearing up the Juhayna cream mystery.

  2. Lady HaSha

    Dayum _ treacle, eh? We would say maple syrup or something, I guess.

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