We’ll Always Have Geneva: A Tale of Two Sauces – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Picture it: Geneva, Switzerland, 1979. Me on bent knees, with a ring that I had emptied from my bank account to buy.

“Will you marry me?” I ask Val

She can’t answer because her mouth is full. We’re at McDonald’s and she’s eating a Big Mac. I had planned to propose at Les Ambassadeurs in Paris, where we had eaten a few days earlier. I was enjoying my Sole Meunier and preparing to make my move when Val sent her lobster back claiming it was over salted and there was a scene and I held back my fire. “Yeah,” Val says as she swallows her food.

God knows Val loves Big Macs. I sometimes think that instead of the meals I make her, she’d be happier if I just gave her a Big Mac. In fact, she’s said that more than once.

“What’s so special about a Big Mac?” I asked once.

Related: The Key to Better Burgers: Make Your Own Special Sauce at Home

She got a dreamy look in her eyes.

“The special sauce.”

“It’s nothing but ketchup and mayo with pepper and garlic.”

“I very much doubt that,” Val said. “And anyway, it’s the whole thing I like.” “The meat is frozen! If you absolutely have to eat McDonald’s burgers, at least get the quarter-pounder with cheese. It’s fresh beef.”

“I like the Big Mac.”

As for my kids, I wish I could feed them Big Macs, but no — they insist I cook freshly made meals and then complain.

“Is that from the bone?” my daughter Mona says when I cook a whole chicken and serve her slices.

“Yes, I say. “That’s the best way to keep the meat juicy.”

“It’s a little too real.”

“Why don’t you ever make vegan dishes?” my son Jimmy says when I serve him bouillabaisse.

Honestly, Val has praised more than a few of my dishes. She’s a fan of my beef bourguignon. She approves of my sea bream in wine sauce. And she gave my Wiener Schnitzel a thumbs up. My fried chicken is a different story. I once tried to make a batch from a reliable cooking website.

“The coating is like glue,” Val said as she spat it out. “It falls off the chicken.” “I followed the recipe exactly.”

“You can’t make fried chicken.”

“Give me another chance.”

“You are banished.”

“You’re just trying to get back at me for banning you.”

Years ago, after she burned one dish too many, I asked Val to turn in her plaque — literally, she had a plaque that said “Val’s Kitchen” hung over the stove.

In truth, I should have banned Val after the first meal she cooked for me. It was on our second date in my one-bedroom apartment on West 87th Street. Val walked in with a bag of king prawns and a bottle of olive oil. Well, shrimp have a special meaning for me. Growing up on Long Island, my parents would occasionally take family to the local Chinese restaurant for a treat. We didn’t have a lot of money and I knew I shouldn’t ask for the more expensive dishes to save my parents from saying no. I gave people at other tables wistful looks and ate shrimp. The only fish I ever had was the flounder my father caught off his Bayliner in the Great South Bay, which my poor mother – who hated fish – had to clean and fillet. When asked what I wanted, I’d say chicken chow mein — and secretly swore to myself that if I ever had the money, I’d buy shrimp. And I did. But I rarely bought jumbo shrimp – it seemed extravagant. When Val stopped by with jumbo shrimp that night, I was doubly excited: first at the sight of Val and second at the sight of jumbo shrimp. I sat on my Murphy bed and watched with anticipation as Val prepared the meal.


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She served it to me and I took a bite.

“Do not you like it?” asked Val.

“It’s good.”

It wasn’t right; it was so oily. Turns out Val didn’t heat the oil and never had. As for the seasoning, she claimed to have salted it, but I couldn’t taste any salt, let alone spices. To be polite, I forced four or five shrimp before a defeated Val threw the rest in the trash.

After Val’s ban, a certain cynicism towards serious cooking has sometimes surfaced. For example, a while ago she served my boss and his wife Celeste Lasagna, passed it off as her own and claimed to be rehabilitated because our guests declared they liked her.

When all is said and done, I think Val will be glad I’m cooking. She knows how much joy it brings me to prepare a dish that she likes. I only wish I could have made her happy last Valentine’s Day when I made Crispy Orange Meat. I had never made it before and the night before I lost sleep worrying about how best to prepare it. I started first thing in the morning with recipes from America’s Test Kitchen and The Sun Lee Cookbook. To make the meat more tender (I used flank steak which can be a bit tough) I followed Shun Lees Direction of first brushing the pieces in baking soda, then letting them sit in the fridge for four hours, and finally dredging them in flour. For the sauce, I used freshly squeezed orange juice, according to America’s Test Kitchen; and Grand Marnier, per Avoid Lee.

The children had come over for the occasion and while they watched TV in the family room I prepared the meal. We have an open floor plan so I could see the others while I cooked. Mona had brought her Chihuahua, Harry, and he was stationed nearby to better get a taste when he could. I threw him a bite and he ate it with relish. Now that I had Harry’s approval, I served Val, presenting the dish on a china plate and naming it Orange Beef Royale. I watched from the kitchen as Val took her first bite. She glanced at the children furtively, rolled her eyes and seemed to spit out the food.

“What’s happening?” I asked.

I could see her contemplating ways to go easy on my feelings.

“It’s a little tough,” she said.

I went over and tasted a piece of meat. It definitely was Not tough.

“It’s crispy,” I said, “just the way it’s supposed to be.”

Val shrugged.

“What about the sauce?” I asked.

“It’s good.

In fact it was delicious. I was devastated. It was unfair. But if Jean-Georges Vals could take criticism without complaint, so could I.

“I’m sorry you don’t like it.” I said and took the plate back to the kitchen.

“It’s not bad,” Val said.

“I’ll pass,” said Jimmy.

“I’m in,” Mona said.

I prepared a plate for Mona.

“Mmm,” she said. “The meat tastes like candied.”

She gave Harry a few pieces and he devoured them.

Jimmy, who was hungry by this point, tried the dish as well.

“It’s like Chicharrónes,” he said.

I tried a piece of Jimmy’s beef. It was too crispy: I had cooked it too long. I wanted to make him something else, but he had already cleaned his plate.

“I think I’m going for a walk with Harry,” I said.

“You’ve been working all morning,” Val said, now in full apology mode. “Take the rest.” “I could use some fresh air.

I went in no particular direction and discussed things with Harry.

This meat wasn’t tough I said him. you tasted it Was it tough?

I thought it was good, but Val thought it was toughI imagined Harry answering. what does she know

She knows what she likes.

She likes Big Macs I scoffed.

She ate one when you proposed to her. she loves them

That makes me stop.

That’s right.

It’s Valentine’s Day and your wife is hungry. What are you going to do?

I had to do things right. I walked towards Broadway. When I returned home, I slipped into the kitchen and hid the bag I had brought with me. I quickly took the item out of my pocket, unwrapped it, placed it on a plate, and served it to Val.

“Oh my goodness,” she said. “Is that a –?”

“Eat it while it’s still warm.”

Then she ate her burger with relish – or rather with a special sauce.

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