Cooking with Studs
Saturday, May 16, 1998
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(THEME)

GK: Time now for "Cooking With Studs," with Chicago chef Studs Terkel.

 

ST: Thank you, Carson. ---- today we're going to fix Oyster Omelet Jenny Lind --- a dish that Delmonico's restaurant in New York invented to honor the great Swedish Nightingale when she came to America years ago ---- now, some people think I don't know about opera because I smoke cigars, because they think of opera as something for longhairs, but who cares what they think, I can lick any one of them ---- anyway ---- here we got six fresh oysters and four eggs and a little cream and that's all we need to make Oyster Omelet Jenny Lind ---- who, by the way, was the greatest singer of her time, and when she got married, that was what set off the California Gold Rush ---- it wasn't about gold at all, it was about broken-hearted men going west to try to get over losing her, the great love of their lives. And some of them struck it rich, but they were still heartbroken. They sat in their mansions on Nob Hill and listened to the only recording Jenny Lind ever made, a recording on an Edison wax cylinder of "Shortnin Bread," which she sang in Swedish, and they ate their oyster omelets, which we're going to make today ---- so, first, we're gonna shuck these six oysters, which is not that hard ----- it's all in the wrists ----- you take the oyster in your left hand and you put the knife in there and (QUICK CRACK) you open it right up ---- or, if you prefer, you can use a power saw
(SAW BLADE WHINE, CUTTING THROUGH SHELL) ----whatever floats your boat, I say ---- so ---- now we put the oysters in this pan and poach em in their own juice ---- no butter ---- usually it takes about three minutes but I use the high-heat method (BLOWTORCH BLAST) and that curls em up nice and then you drain em (POURING OFF JUICE) and cut em up into pieces (QUICK CHOPPING).
There's your oysters. The first time I ate this dish, by the way, was in San Francisco, the day before the earthquake of 1906. Caruso was there to sing Pagliacci and I was travelling with Caruso as his personal trainer ----- Caruso was crazy about basketball, and he and I were shooting baskets at the YMCA ---- we were playing Horse and he was on S and I was on H and he shot and just then the room turned and the crazy guy, he made the basket! he shot a basket in an earthquake ---- I couldn't believe it ----- he was quite a guy ----- okay ----- next we're going to take four eggs and separate the yolks from the whites, which is not that hard -- -- you toss the egg in the air, and as it comes down you slice off the lower tip of the shell with a sharp knife, and the egg white drops into the bowl, and the egg shell lands in it and floats with the yolk inside it ---- here's how it works ---- I'll do all four at once ----- (HE TOSSES FOUR EGGS IN AIR, FOUR SWIFT KNIFE SWISHES AND FOUR SQUISHES AND FOUR LITTLE SPLASHES)---- okay ---- see how I did that? ---- I learned that trick from Buffalo Bill ----- William Cody ---- he and Sitting Bull were in San Francisco doing their Wild West show and Sitting Bull was a quiet guy but he had a sense of humor ---- you had to be careful when you sat down on a chair ---- he liked to pull it out from under you ---- he and Buffalo Bill loved to go golfing in Golden Gate Park on a day when they didn't have a matinee and ---- anyway ----- where was I? ---- Oh! right! we're gonna cook up the yolks ---- we put the yolks in a pan (FOUR BLOOPS) with a tablespoon of cream ---- no need to use a measuring spoon --- a tablespoon is about half a mouthful ---- (POURING INTO MOUTH, AND HE SPITS) ---- there ----- and we add some salt and pepper (QUICK PEPPER GRINDER), and a pinch of cigar ash (TAP) and a little cayenne pepper ----- Sitting Bull loved cayenne per --- once Buffalo Bill teed up for the fourteenth hole, which was a long par-four horseleg toward the Pacific Ocean, and he brushed his nose with his finger and went into his backswing and Sitting Bull had put some cayenne pepper on his finger and Buffalo Bill sneezed as he swung and the ball hooked off into some trees and hit somebody, I forget who ---- anyway ---- now we blend in the oysters (STIRRING LIQUID WITH FORK) and next we whip up the egg whites ------ I just stick a fork in a power drill (HIGH SPEED DRILL, FROTHING) ---- and that gets the job done ---- and now we mix that into the other stuff (HEAVY LIQUIDY POURING) and we put a fire under it (BLOWTORCH) and we fold the omelet over (BLOOP) and we cook it some more (BLOWTORCH), and now your oyster omelet is almost ready to go. An omelet as good as the one I ate years ago in San Francisco. It was fixed for me and Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull and Enrico Caruso ---- cooked up by a guy named Leland Stanford, the railroad tycoon, and he cooked it over the burning embers of his mansion on Nob Hill as we listened to "Shortnin Bread," in Swedish, sung by the great Jenny Lind ---- and the city was going up in flames ---- and suddenly I started to weep ---- not for the city, which was burning, but because suddenly I realized that a guy can't live without the woman he loves, and that same day, I told Lillian Russell it was all over between us and I sent a telegram to Ida in Ashland, Wisconsin, and it said "Marry me" and she did and every year on her birthday I fix her Oyster Omelet flambee' (POURING. CLICK OF LIGHTER. POOF OF FLAME).
And pour a shot of aquavit. (POURING) Here's to us and all we stand for and here's to true love and to hell with management.

GK: "Cooking With Studs," with world-famous Chicago chef Studs Terkel.

(c) 1998 by Garrison Keillor

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

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