Jason Wright’s Ode to Fall
Wright, a 44-year-old Merrill Lynch senior VP and chairman of the Museum of African Art, began cooking as the child of a working mother in Waterbury, Connecticut. He obviously had a knack: By the time he graduated from Georgetown, he was proficient (and picky) enough to cater his own party. (Biggest hit: “Pâté Maison Frank,” a recipe he’d clipped from Better Homes and Gardens.) These days, his role models are Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and Andre Soltner, but he’s most challenged by the members of his cooking group, sixteen food-obsessed (and amicably competitive) souls who meet four times a year to collaborate on elaborate potluck feasts. Wright travels often, and when he’s in town, he loves nothing more than entertaining at home, sometimes as often as five nights a week. By now, he’s got the planning down to a science, clearing his calendar to be home by 5:30 and greeting guests with cocktails and gougères two hours later. His entertaining style is generally easy and unfussy, and so is his food. This menu starts with a strong seasonal note—Gorgonzola-enhanced pumpkin risotto—then segues into a relatively light but flavor-packed cod with an autumn-appropriate curried carrot broth. The grated-apple pie with Calvados-steeped raisins, from Soltner, completes the fall effect.
Pumpkin-and-Gorgonzola risotto with fried sage leaves
Grated-apple tart with vanilla crème fraîche
(from The Lutèce Cookbook, by Andre Soltner and Seymour Britchky)
Appetizer: The rice is perfectly cooked. Risotto is tricky—it has to go from stove to plate and be eaten immediately, while it’s hot, like a soufflé. I thought the Gorgonzola was going to be cheesy, overpowering the pumpkin, but because pumpkin is a bland vegetable, the Gorgonzola gives it a little dimension. The dish has a lot of fall flavor: sage, pumpkin, and pine nuts. I might have added a little smoked bacon, but there is bacon in the next course.
Entrée: The fish is perfectly cooked—it just breaks on the fork. I’m impressed. The bacon adds a bit of meatiness, and the saltiness is good. It would be nice to preseason the fish with a little curry to give it a boost, and I would boost the broth, adding more compound curry butter, and finish the fish in that.
Dessert: The dough could be thinner on the bottom (I would prebake it until the base starts to dry out). But I love this. It’s fantastic. Great flavor—I can taste the Calvados in the raisins. It would make Soltner proud.