Hung Out To Dry — Juliet’s border melting Feast of the Seven Fishes By Joshua Lewin
Hanging from the back wall of the open kitchen, framing the stage that is the workspace at Juliet, is a collection of copper pots and pans. Katrina has collected them for me from all over; near and far. A number of them came from right down the road. There is a 6” saute pan that I often imagine using to roll myself up an omelette. There is also a 10” saute pan that I’m sure has seen a scallop or two before finding its place on our wall. Those both came from an antiques “mall” right down the road from the restaurant in a corner of town where three cities come together. Four stories plus a basement of old stuff. There is a little corner of the top floor that always yields good finds. Back to back up there are stalls selling some of my favorite things: old, heavy, cooking tools; and some of Katrina’s: antique light fixtures, and other building materials and tools.
Three cities meet there. Or nearly meet. Boston, Cambridge, and ours, Somerville. Somerville is where she hung those pots on the wall. I sometimes climb up there to parade them around the room in front of guests from one of those cities. A lot of them probably drive by that little mall on their way to see us for dinner. I’m not supposed to know they came from that mall. They were birthday presents. I don’t remember how I know, but I do.
There is a small brazier. It’s actually a traditional bain-marie —something like a double boiler— but I can’t imagine the last time it was used that way. She found it for me at one of our favorite stops in Manhattan, Bonnie Slotnick’s used bookstore. Bonnie used to be in the West Village, but now she is in my favorite part of town, the East Village. I used to visit a friend who kept long hours working at Picholine (RIP) and I was left to wander the East Village on my own. Leaving it to be the only part of any burrough of that outrageous city that I really feel comfortable navigating. I can feel at home there, for a while.
We like to be there. We like to eat and drink there. We’ve even cooked there. Jimmy’s No. 43, a little beer bar on 7th hosted Katrina and me as we produced a Persian New Year event across multiple cities. That was a real coming out night for us on the road to building our company...on our own in New York City: after hours at Veselka, or even better the sorely missed Pommes Frites (which was destroyed in an explosion almost a year to the day after we cooked in that building, but has since been reinvented in a new spot in Greenwich Village), what had once been our annual pilgrimage, to Prune.
Oh Prune. Gabrielle Hamilton is at once my favorite cook, writer, and role model for how to sustain a traditionally tenuous business amid the development and hype of the city. Look, I can’t yet square her choice to partner with Ken Friedman at the Spotted Pig though. I’ve tried, and I can’t. Some things simply need to end. Some traditions, too. That doesn’t take away from what they offered us, when we needed them. Once I leave Somerville, and move to a spot on the ocean, I hope we still find regular time to walk around in the East Village. And I’m glad Bonnie Slotnick is there now. And I love my bain-marie that she sold us for $20.
There are a few pots from France. She brought them home for me. A small saucier from Paris that I can only assume has been used to monte au beurre — painstakingly combine cold butter with simmering liquid to become an impossible sauce — many ounces of wine for finishing fancy French restaurant plates. And there is a wide, flat pan traditionally used to cook socca.
Socca is a specialty of Nice, a sort of chickpea flour crêpe cooked on a copper pan in a wood fired oven. Traditionally seasoned with only salt and pepper, I prefer mine drizzled with a bit of vinegar and plenty of good olive oil. I also prefer mine made with chicken stock, the way one farmers market vendor in the village made hers.
On another wall, I have a few copper cooking tools that Katrina didn’t buy me. One is my first copper pot; a sugar pot. A former employer kind of left it sitting unused for a very long time and I eventually brought it home. I love that pot. For years, I used it to boil water for coffee at home. I never ate at home then. Now it sits on s bookshelf under the kitchen clock. I love having it in the kitchen, but it doesn’t belong with Katrina’s gifts. Inside that pot sits a traditional square copper pan used for making tamagoyaki — or as we call it when it sees the menu at Juliet, Japanese rolled omelette.
That last one is the only of our copper that has actually been used at Juliet. We do all of our cooking on induction ranges — a type of electric range that uses a magnet to transfer heat very efficiently directly to the cooking vessel— which is a wonderful technology, but not compatible with copper. I used to insist that our pastry chef make the morning tamagoyaki in this pan, using a steel adapter, in some misguided sort of traditionalism.
That adapter eventually warped and became a momentary projectile when an air bubble forced some sort of pressure inconveniently straight through it. There is a dent in the wall, mostly out of sight. No one was hurt. Now we just use any of our other well loved, and well used, omelette pans, and through a bit of professional cooking ingenuity manage to get the same results. The square pan has happily claimed a place in our display collection. The square omelette has been immortalized as an option on our prix fixe menus (if you know to ask).
About six months after we opened Juliet we sat down after a busy Monday holiday brunch service to read our review in The Boston Globe. We covered the table in baking paper and laid out fried oysters and a few beers to share.
That review includes some of my favorite lines so far written about our little restaurant. It’s headline: “Union Square restaurant Juliet is a Jewel Box Filled With Surprises”, sent expectant chills down my spine. A lot of praise followed. Really beautiful praise. A hell of a lot of validation for what had so far seemed like impossible effort. The writing finished with lines like [he watches, she’s a gazelle] and ended with [In the film they’ll play themselves]
But right smack in the middle of all that is an anecdote about dinner. A dinner which the reviewer loved. Adored. Probably fantasizes about when eating some other dinner. It was a meal in five courses, headlined by a whole branzino roasted with olives and lemons, and potato mille-feuille — a painstaking process of a potato gratin- served on “an aluminum pizza tray.”
Oh dear god no. Aluminum. Pizza. Tray.
That “aluminum pizza tray” was the most expensive little piece of copper we own. The socca tray from Nice. We spent most of an afternoon tracking it down. Katrina insisted I have it. It’s my favorite piece in our collection. I can tell you everything about the day we procured it. I run through the details of that day each time I hoist myself up onto the precarious corner of our prep sink, and hold on to the hot side of the oven for balance to grab it down and parade it out in front of only our most valued guests. Guests like our parents, and former employees, and anybody who lets it slip it’s their birthday, and the young children of our friends and neighbors. Oh, and supposed to be incognito former editors of The Boston Globe here to decide our stars. Them too.
Well, in the film we will play ourselves, sure. And Katrina is easily reinvented as a gazelle. And I do have my eye on you. Not because I’m worried about something going wrong but because it still catches me by surprise when I look up and see the room full, of staff and guests, taking the time to pursue something, with us. What that something is, is a little different for everyone, but here we are, playing our role in it. And don’t look now but that might be a socca pan you are eating off of; and if it is, you can be sure someone accepted some risk in climbing up running it down off the wall for you, and it wasn’t an accident.
Torn from the pages of the Juliet staff cookbook. Some of these recipes may be more difficult to follow than some others. We recommend using the weighted measurements where you find them. It really is easier…
Play. Have fun.
1 cup chickpea flour 125g
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock 150g
2 Tbsp olive oil plus more for cooking
2 tsp chopped rosemary
mix flour with salt and pepper
whisk in stock, mixing to dissolve any dry lumps
stir in 2 Tbsp olive oil
Heat not stick pan with olive oil
cook like crepes
1 large octopus weighing about 2.5kg, head removed
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 lemon, washed and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, brunoise
2 thai chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
Juice of a lemon
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Place octopus whole in a pot and cover with cold water. Add onion, carrot, celery and halved lemon.
Bring to boil and then turn down heat to simmer for an hour, or more, until octopus is tender.
Remove from water and let cool to the touch. Before it cools completely gather tentacles together and wrap octopus tightly into a log using cling wrap. Refrigerate overnight so that it is bound by its natural gelatine.
To serve, mix garlic, chillies, parsley, lemon juice and olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
1lb chard or spinach, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, small dice
2 medium fennel bulbs, small dice
Salt and pepper
1/4c sliced fennel frond
2 teaspoons fennel seed, toasted and ground
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
4 garlic cloves, brunoise
1 teaspoon herbs de romance
Pinch of chili flake
¼ cup pistachio, lightly toasted 150g
1 tablespoon lemon zest 10g
¾ cup toasted breadcrumb 50g
75g grated parm
1 ½ pounds cleaned medium squid, with tentacles
Make the filling: Blanch the chard for 1 minute, then shock. Squeeze chard completely dry and finely chop. Set aside.
Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or wide saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and fennel, season with salt and pepper, sweat (cover and cook gently until soft without browning), about 10 minutes.
Add fennel fronds, fennel seed, anchovy, garlic, oregano and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes more.
Turn off heat and transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Add pistachio, lemon zest, bread crumbs, cheese and reserved cooked chard. Mix well. Taste and correct seasoning.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Using a teaspoon, put some filling in each squid body, taking care not to overstuff. Place stuffed squid in hotel pan or dutch oven, in one layer. Season squid on both sides with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season tentacles with salt and pepper and arrange them around the edge of dish (unless reserving for alternate purpose). Drizzle tentacles lightly with oil. Spoon any remaining stuffing over tentacles.
Roast uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until squid bodies are puffed, sizzling and lightly browned.
finish by searing, grilling, or broiling.(May also be served at room temperature.)