This week a handful of bloggers are gathering together to give their thoughts on Jenna Blum's latest novel The Lost Family and to share recipes inspired by the book. I've had the pleasure of spending the past few weeks immersed in the fictional life of Peter Rashkin, owner and head chef of Masha's, a restaurant that caters to New York's elite.
The book starts off with a bit of dark humor as Peter meets the second love of his life, where else, but at his Manhattan restaurant. The restaurant is named after his late wife, whose life was lost in a concentration camp during the Nazi regime. By the time 1965 rolls around Peter is considered one of the most eligible bachelors in Manhattan, but despite his notoriety, we soon find out that all that glitters in his life is not gold.
This novel takes the reader on a winding journey that covers the death of Peter's first wife and twin daughters during World War II, his harrowing journey to America to start his life over, and his struggles not only with figuring out what comes next after the loss of his family, but with how to make peace with the mistakes that have haunted him over his lifetime. Over 40 years pass in the span of roughly 400 pages and the story within those pages held me captivated right up to the very end.
Where to Purchase
Amazon - The Lost Family by Jenna Blum
As part of The Lost Family Virtual Supper Club I was tasked with developing a recipe based on the novel. For my inspiration I had to look no further than Masha's Fall Menu from 1965, which is printed at the beginning of the book. The dishes listed are mouthwatering! Warm Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Pecans, Blue Cheese, Lardons & Black Truffle Mustard Vinaigrette and Breast of Duck with Kirsch-Flambéed Cherries and Oranges top my list of favorites. There is even something for the vegetable haters out there—Hamburger Walter: Ground Chuck au Poivre & Flambéed in Brandy, Accompanied by Pommes Frites & No Vegetables of All.
Since I am incapable of eating a meal without vegetables I decided to settle on recreating one of the tasty side dishes from the menu—Green Beans Amandine. My version comes from a little passage in the first chapter where the prep chef sets out Peter's mise en place with bowls of shallots, parsley, garlic confit, lemon zest, and kosher salt. I used those ingredients as a jumping off point for the development of the recipe you see below. Enjoy!
Green Beans Amandine
makes 4 - 6 servings
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
⅓ cup almond slices, unsalted
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Blanch the green beans in a pot of salted, boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes. When finished transfer the cooked green beans to a mixing bowl full of ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve the brilliant green color.
- In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add unsalted butter and almond slices. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the almonds are dark brown, taking care to stir frequently so the mixture doesn't burn.
- Add the shallot and garlic, then continue to cook for another minute or two, until the shallot is slightly transparent. Turn off the heat, then season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste.
- Remove the cooked green beans from the bowl of ice water and transfer to the skillet. Do not dry them off, you want a little bit of water to help form the sauce. Heat over medium and continue to cook until the green beans are warm. Stir well while they are cooking to help incorporate the almond butter sauce.
- Once the green beans have throughly heated sprinkle with lemon zest and serve immediately.
The key to this recipe is making sure that you don't over cook the butter. You want it brown and speckled looking, but not smoking or burnt. If you're unsure, it's better to under cook the butter rather than over cook it.
While the book mentions garlic confit, I decided to take the much quicker approach and add my garlic to the butter along with the shallots. It saves about 2 hours of prep time to make garlic confit! If you happen to keep some on hand it does make a tasty addition.
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This book was sent to me for review purposes by HarperCollins, as part of the The Lost Family Virtual Supper Club hosted by The Book Club Cookbook. As always, all opinions are my own.