Great cooks bring their favorite dishes to Claiborne party
It was probably the most elite covered-dish buffet ever, the one to celebrate food writer Craig Claiborne's birthday, his 25 years at the New York Times, and his new book, A Feast Made For Laughter (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. $17.95).Skip to next paragraph
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Thirty-six cooks were invited to bring one of their specialties, enough for 20 or more people. Many came from the top restaurants in New York; some from California. Some came with elegant displays; others brought family-style regional dishes.
One famous guest, Chef Roger Verge, flew in from France. Danny Kaye was one of several celebrities. Cookbook writers served their own foods, representing a complete array of international cuisine.
It all took place at Craig Claiborne's home in East Hampton, N.Y., a kind of gastronomic crossroads where visiting chefs from all over the world have cooked and been interviewed by Claiborne and his colleague, chef Pierre Franey.
Claiborne was concerned that there might not be enough food. He said many guests had called at the last minute, begging invitations for extra guests - and Southern gentleman that he is, he found it difficult to say no. But there was plenty of delicious food for all.
As we walked up the drive, tantalizing aromas of Brazilian barbecued beef, Cajun redfish, spit-roasted lamb, shrimp gumbo, and freshly baked breads mingled with the breeze of the perfect late-summer day.
A yellow and white tent had been raised, and chairs and tables with colorful cloths were around the tent, inside the house, and spilling over onto the deck.
Near the kitchen door chef Guy Pascal of La Cote Basque (unless otherwise noted all restaurants mentioned are in New York) was decorating half a dozen or more bowls of English trifle with whipped cream.
Inside, the kitchen was full of cooks of all nationalities, finishing or heating their dishes. French bouillabaisse on one burner, Chinese noodles on another. Mexican and Near East chefs were chopping, assembling, and garnishing.
Some brought their dishes completely prepared and ready to serve, others came the night before, bringing all kinds of ingredients, from sides of meat to live shellfish. They stayed overnight in East Hampton homes, where they cooked their food, then brought it to the party.
Paul Prudhomme, chef-owner of K. Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans cooked his famous Creole-Cajun blackened redfish in two huge, black iron skillets outside. He also served huge kettles of shrimp jambalaya along with red beans and rice.
Huge pieces of beef cooked on a stick over a charcoal fire in a pit for Dorthea Elman's Churrasco, a Brazilian beef barbecue with onion sauce.
Michael Tong, major-domo of Shun Lee restaurants, brought Chef David Lin of Shun Lee West, who made Chinese noodles, tossing the dough in the air and twirling it until it suddenly turned into beautiful noodles.
Jati Hoon, owner of Gaylord's Restaurant brought his head chef, Gorkhu Ram, a day in advance to prepare Tandoori Chicken, boneless Chicken Tikka, and the wonderful Indian breads naan and paratha.
George Lang, owner of Cafe des Artistes, made a huge Hungarian pate with more than 100 ingredients.
Maida Heatter, author of ''The New Book of Great Desserts,'' brought her famous lemon cakes, which have the extra dividend of fresh lemon juice in the glaze, and also her equally fabulous Walnut Tart from Saint-Paul-de-Vence, which is really a very fancy cake covered with chocolate and walnut halves.