Ambitious cooking outdoors a must for Pierre Franey
Springs, N.Y. — Pierre Franey's enthusiasm for his environment is reminiscent of the title song in the Broadway play ''Most Happy Fellow.'' Franey is supremely happy living in a rich agricultural area on the ocean where there are plenty of native vegetables, herbs, and fresh fish, plus friends and family who enjoy having him do the cooking.
''When the days grow hot, I move to my summer place on Gardiners Bay at the eastern end of Long Island, not far away,'' he says. ''It's my seasonal trade-off.''
This is his modest beach house, where he spends as much time as he can, even when the weather isn't very hot.
It's a very small place. There's hardly room in the tiny kitchen to wash dishes, let alone cook the wonderful French, American, and other dishes that have made him a famous chef and well-read food writer for the New York Times.
The house is right on the beach, with lots of sun, sand, and sea breezes, as well as a kitchen garden full of ripe, red tomatoes; bushy basil; tarragon; and thyme. ''It's well worth the kitchen inconveniences,'' he says.
''Next to fishing, the thing I like most about summer is cooking outdoors,'' he commented in an interview at the beach which also included a visit to the much-photographed Franey kitchen in his year-round house, a kitchen he designed himself.
On the little beach he sautes, poaches, and barbecues all kinds of delicious foods, including fish and many of the other good things he writes about.
In summer, he says, he never tires of cooking, serving, and eating bluefish. But he also likes to cook mussels, clams, lobsters, trout, and salmon, as well as porgies, mackerel, flounder, fluke, and weakfish.
This is the place where the family has spent summers, weekends, and holidays for the past 25 years or so - where the children learned to swim, sail, and fish and where Betty, Mrs. Franey, became involved in conservation and the Springs Improvement Society.
The day I was there, the beach was beautiful and son Jacques, who would like to have a restaurant some day, was home for the weekend from Cornell University, where he studies hotel management.
Jacques collected driftwood on the beach as his father told me about the grill he had had made-to-order, because he found camping stoves were not sturdy enough and hibachis too limiting.
''I wanted to be able to do some really ambitious cooking outdoors, like poaching fish,'' he said. ''But I needed equipment I could easily carry in and out of the house and fit in the trunk of the car.''
So he designed his own device, which is sturdy and large enough for one cut-up chicken and a couple of pounds of sliced potatoes and sliced onions. It is excellent for sauteing trout, several at a time, he said.
There are directions for making the grill, and for making an inexpensive smokehouse, in ''Pierre Franey's Kitchen,'' which he wrote with Richard Flaste, (Times Books, $14.95).
This book draws on the wealth of information that has appeared in the Pierre Franey column ''Kitchen Equipment'' and on his 40 years of cooking experience.
In the book, he selects 101 kitchen implements and tells how to choose them and how to use them, sharing recipes for each one.
There are commonplace and unusual dishes and pans, from woks to sabayon pots, including skillets and casseroles.
With clear, helpful illustrations for each piece of equipment, the book is a catalog, cooking course, and cookbook all in one.
In the article about stockpots and soup kettles, he explains that the soup pot is shallower and wider, so it allows you to reach into the pot to stir onions or leeks before the liquid is added.
This is necessary for a clam chowder, because it has many solids that can burn if not stirred now and then - and for any creamed soup that needs to be stirred to avoid burning.
The pot isn't limited to soup, of course; it's fine for boiling beef or ham, as well. The one he uses has an 8-quart capacity.
Here is his recipe for chowder. Manhattan Clam Chowder 24 chowder clams 4 cups water 4 strips bacon 2 cups finely diced carrots 1 1/2 cups celery, cut into small cubes 2 cups chopped onion 1 cup chopped green peppers 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1 teaspoon thyme 1 bay leaf 2 cups tomatoes 4 cups potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch cubes Salt and pepper to taste
Wash clams well and drain. Place in a large saucepan and add water. Simmer until shells open, then drain, saving both liquid and clams.
Meanwhile, chop bacon and put it in soup kettle. Cook until fat is rendered. Add carrots, celery, onion, and green pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring.
Add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Measure clam liquid and add enough water to make 10 cups, then add all to bacon mixture. Add tomatoes and cook 15 minutes.
Remove clams from shells and discard shells. Chop clams finely, or put through a grinder, using small blade. Add to the kettle and add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook about 1 hour. Broiled Swordfish in Butter Sauce 1 2-pound swordfish steak Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 10 leaves fresh basil, if available Butter sauce or Beurre Blanc (see following recipes)
Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper, then rub with oil. Let marinate for 10 or 15 minutes, turning fish a couple of times.
Place grill about 1 inch from coals. Brush with some oil from marinade. Place fish on grill and cook 3 or 4 minutes on each side so that it has a seared appearance, but don't overcook fish.
Transfer to serving platter. If fresh basil is available, place about 10 leaves on top of fish and spoon some butter sauce over it, or serve with Beurre Blanc spooned over it and alongside. Yield: 4 servings. Butter Sauce 1/2 cup melted butter Juice of 1/2 lemon 2 tablespoons chopped parsley Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Beurre Blanc 3 shallots, finely chopped 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger 1/3 cup red wine vinegar 1/2 bay leaf 12 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 12 pieces Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Just before fish is cooked, place shallots, ginger, vinegar, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce by two-thirds, stirring occasionally.
Add the butter a tablespoon at a time while mixture is boiling, whisking rapidly. When all the butter is incorporated, the sauce should be very thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm until fish is cooked.