Jacques Pepin is forever putting mint on desserts, sprigs of sage on platters of duck, lemon wedges on god knows what, and it always makes the dish look so much nicer. Martha does this, as does that menace to society, Lidia Bastianich, tucking wads of basil into piles of chicken, and so do many of the other celebrity chefs (hate the idea) that I watch in my spare time instead of, say, cleaning the house. But on Cook’s Complicated, er, Country and America’s Test Kitchen this seems to rarely happen. And as I am more of a Cook’s Complicated kind of guy I don’t do this all that much. Not that I don’t think about it. It’s just that usually when I am about to serve a meal my mind is on other things, not the chopped almonds I have in my mis en place. Only to find it as I am cleaning up and toss it.
The other night my friends Judy and Susan came over for dinner and I made that berry pie, yet again, and I had leftover strawberries and extra time on my my hands (not to mention fresh mint on my balcony). I sliced up a strawberry and put it and a fruity sprig of mint on top.
The thing is that the strawberry is lovely. But the cooked berries look pretty lifeless. It tasted good so that’s all I care about and it more or less relieves me of the burden of garnishing food in the future. Not that I won’t still find a small bowl of chopped chives or a chiffonade of shiso leaves as I am cleaning after dinner from time to time.