Ya’ll, Mark and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary today and I can tell you without equivocation that the basis of our extremely happy marriage has to do with food. We are like the French. As we are finishing one meal we are thinking about the next. So I thought tonight that I would tell you about five food memories with Mark. I was going to give you the Top Five, but quite frankly we have eaten our way from one end of the country to the other and I couldn’t pick out the absolute best. They’ve all been good. But many of our food memories began in Reno as did our marriage. So here we go.
1. Caviar. We are living in Reno and there is a seafood purveyor called Blue Bounty. I am the features editor at the Reno Gazette-Journal and I am called on to taste caviar as part of my job at Blue Bounty. Yes! I bring some home, and prepare it in the traditional manner with diced egg, diced red onion and toast points. Mark and I sit on the floor in our den with our caviar feast on the coffee table. We drink champagne. I need go no further.
2. Chicken Diane. Paul Prudhomme was a pretty big dog back in the late 1980s in every sense of the word. The man had to cook sitting on a stool because he was so large. We almost followed in his footsteps when we found Chicken Diane. It has a stick and a half of butter in it for two people. Mark would come home from work about 7 p.m. and I would start making Chicken Diane. He would sit on the daybed in the kitchen alcove and we would discuss the day’s events while I made this outrageously fattening dish. We were newly married and I had just gotten over the fact that I would never have to date again. We ate Chicken Diane and practically expanded as we sat there. Here’s the recipe. It’s worth it.
3. Louie’s Basque Corner. The Basques in Reno are a huge influence on the food. Louie’s was the best practitioner. We went to Louie’s shortly after I moved to Reno and we were both captivated by both the food and the crowd. We sat in the bar with miners and cowboys, sipping Picon Punch. It is very refreshing and extremely potent. We needed that huge steak loaded with garlic to get us to the point where we could drive home.
4. Mustard Chicken. When I moved to Reno to marry Mark it was the first time I had been without a job in decades. I spent inordinate amounts of time cooking because I had nothing else to do. But a happy result of that is Mustard Chicken, a recipe I got out of a bed and breakfast cookbook I took out at the library. It is by far Mark’s favorite meal and the one he asks for every year on his birthday. It is ridiculously simple and like all great Southern recipes only has three ingredients not counting the chicken.
5. Crab legs with butter. Back to Blue Bounty. You would think a land-locked state like Nevada would come up short in the seafood department but you have to remember that it’s only four hours from San Francisco. Fresh seafood was trucked in daily and crab legs were a steal. When you look at them you think they are enormous and ungainly and how in the world would you cook them. Just remember, they’re already cooked! You just heat them up in the oven or on a grill. Melt some butter. Dig in. I am here to tell you that there’s nothing as sexy as extracting that crab meat, dipping it in melted butter and easing it into your mouth. It leads to things. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.