Yesterday, I had the good fortune to meet with one of the contributors to "Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for their Families," my anthology that's coming out May 17. I was in Philadelphia, talking with Wesley Stace, the author of three novels, the latest of which is "Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer."
In addition to being a writer, Stace is also a musician. Under the name John Wesley Harding he has released more than a dozen albums of highly literate, slighty dark folk rock. These days, he organizes what he calls a "Cabinet of Wonder," a fantastic variety show. He brings singers, comedians, poets, and writers to the stage, to great effect. His next Cabinet is at City Winery on April 22, and it features Allison Moorer, Mike Doughty, Tanya Donelly, Craig Wedren, Eugene Mirman, Rick Moody, and Mary Gaitskill. I highly recommend checking it out.
I was interviewing Stace for a forthcoming video about "Man with a Pan." In the book, Stace writes about how he started to cook. It all began for him with a curry in San Francisco (it's a long story, and he tells it with great elan in the book). For the cameras, he whipped up the same dish. The kitchen smelled delicious, and we had a good time trying to get all the action on camera.
The thing about shooting a video, though, is that it takes forever. We left New York at 8 in the morning, and we weren't back until after 9 at night. This, of course, leaves very little time for cooking—aside from the lovely chicken curry that Stace whipped up for the cameras, and a batch of sweet cupcakes he and his wife and children made.
I wish I could say that I had the cupcake recipe to share, but I don't. Shooting the video sapped much of my energy, and despite a nap on the road home, I wasn't in any shape to cook dinner, never mind make a dessert. Here, though, I'm happy to revisit Santa Maria's meringue recipe. You can't lose with this one.
Meringues with Berries and Ice Cream
- 4 egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- 1 pint fresh raspberries, strawberries, or other fruit
- vanilla ice cream
Beat eggwhites til frothy. Add vanilla. Add sugar a few spoonfuls at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form. Scoop onto parchment paper and bake (really, oven-dry) at 225 degrees for a long time (about a hour) -- depending on whether you like them chewy inside or crunchy.
Proper recipes will tell you to make sure the egg whites are at 70 degrees, and to sift the sugar. I'm lazy and don't do either. It is important to preheat the oven or you may burn the bottoms. Also, Joy of Cooking says that if you like chewy, 275 degrees; if you like crunchy 225 degrees. And leave them in the oven, with the heat turned off, and the door cracked open, to cool, for 30 minutes or so. Yum yum yum!
Serve with berries and ice cream on top.