Sometimes you can’t let a dish get away
I DISCOVERED gnafron in Lyon. I was there with my Paris-based friend Randal, wandering in an open-air market along the Rhône, when hunger scratched at our stomachs. Spotting a pleasantly plump sausage maker, I asked her where she liked to eat. “The rue des Marronniers,” she said. “All of the bouchons [homey Lyonnais bistros; see SAVEUR, December 1997} there are good.”
Our pick, Chabert et Fils, was closing when we arrived, but we were warmly greeted. Our waitress described a specialty called gnafron—a flan of andouille (that wonderful, spicy smoked French satisage made with tripe and intestines), steamed in cabbage leaves—and I knew that we’d come to the right place. Gnafron, it turned out, was custardy perfection. The flavor was assertive but softened by the warm garlic cream pœled around it. I’d come to France to research recipes for my book (.Simple Soirées: 30 Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties, to be published this year by Stewart, Tabori & Chang), so I asked to speak with the chef. She had gone for the day, though, and I left the restaurant with only a business card.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
"There is no love sincerer i i r r i,, trian the love or looc,. -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Back at home in California, I called the restaurant. No one answered. I consulted cookbooks and chefs. I Googled. All I uncovered about mysterious gnafron was that it shared its name with a hard-drinking yet philosophical character in a children’s puppet show, Guignol, written by a Lyonnais, Laurent Mourguet, in the 1800s.
A year later I ran into a friend whose fiancé lived in Lyon— blocks from Chabert et Fils, as it happened. Pierre sent me the recipe scribbled in French on a napkin. It was impossible to read! It tcxik another trip to Paris, with my cooking pals Sheila and Alex crouched over the wrinkled napkin, to crack the code.
I eventually discovered that the elusive gnafron was the creation of Thierry Rochard, a former chef at Chabert et Fils, who began preparing the dish in the late 1980s. My version of gnafron has become part of my repertoire, an all-occasion treat I serve at luncheon parties and suppers by the fire. Sometimes, I cook it just for myself. I’ve earned it.
ON THE SIDE
asketball players are not usually known for having well-developed palates, but according to a report in the Houston f ton Chronicle, Rockets the (one Housof whom is the sevenfoot six-inch center Yao Ming) recently had the chance to expand theirs when they visited Yao's hometown, Shanghai, for some promotional appearances. Yao's family hosted the team for a traditional CHINESE FEAST, including—as Yao's Slovenian teammate Bostjan Nachbar stated—a dish containing snake. Nachbar and others apparently passed up the more exotic fare, sticking to things like crab and roast pig, while a band played such lively American show tunes as "Hello, Dolly!" right there in the Yao home. • Having immersed ourselves in the surprisingly cutthroat world of this nation's grassroots cooking contests via Amy Sutherland's engaging book Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America (Viking Books, 2003), we're always curious about who's winning what, and for which recipe. The latest news from the high-stakes cooking circuit? Ashley Berman of Coral Springs, Florida, recently won the $ I 0,000 first prize (and a trip to Sonoma, California, cheese country) in a recipe contest titled The Search for the Greatest Grilled Cheese Sandwich in
America, sponsored by Teflon. Berman's SANDWICH, dubbed the Caribbean Grill, consists of swiss cheese and mango salsa on Italian bread spread with curry butter. It beat out nearly 6,000 entries, including the "South-
ern Ladies" Finger Sandwich, featuring pimento cheese and pecans in the filling. "Not only does Ashley's recipe taste great," said cheese authority and contest judge Laura Werlin, who advocates the use of grated cheese for the best results in grilled cheese sandwiches; "it's extremely creative." Sounds all right to us, mon. (For Berman's recipe, visit www .grilledcheese-contest.com.) • Not that we're in the business of cross-marketing, but we might suggest to Berman that she promote her sandwich as the ideal companion to a new BEER from Florida's Beautiful Brews company. Billed as "the first beer for women", Honey Amber Rose was created by Abby Waters, a professional inventor, and Kent Chamberlain, an electrical worker, and is brewed with rose hips and honey. It is touted as being "for women" because of its supposedly ladylike flavorings and also its lack of preservatives and its low alcohol and carbohydrate content. Honey Amber ought to leave you plenty of room for that grilled cheese. (To find the beer, see THE PANTRY, page 83.)