Friday, October 2, 2009
Middle school gourmet cooks up a book
Many of Maxwell Krims’ earliest memories feature food. When he was three years old, his father would ask him and his elder sister, Elise, what they wanted for breakfast. Elise would ask for a frozen waffle; Maxwell would request “an omelet with spicy sausage and very sharp, aged English cheddar.” For his fifth birthday, his mother asked what kind of cake he would like. His answer? No cake, thanks, just lobster.
The Carlisle seventh grader has always had a gourmet palate. Shortly after these early cravings, he began learning to cook the foods he loved. His passion for cooking has continued to grow, culminating in the recent production of his first cookbook, Great Tastes of Annisquam. The book’s title refers to the seaside section of Gloucester where the Krims have a summer home.
In Annisquam, he and his father, Peter, often go fishing and catch striped bass and flounder. His grandmother has a method for preparing flounder that he likes, but he found a way to improve upon it, replacing the matzo meal with panko (Japanese bread crumbs).
This is typical of the 12-year-old’s approach to cooking. Generally, Krims said, he starts with an idea in mind for what he wants to make and tries to replicate it; or else he starts with an existing recipe and looks for ways to vary it. For example, he’s a big fan of the soup at Pho 88. “I decided to try to make a soup like theirs, but with chicken broth instead of beef. I thought about what I wanted it to look like and taste like.” The result was one of his favorite recipes, Unbelievable Asian Chicken Noodle Soup.
Cooking is a family sport in the Krims household, and like any sport, sometimes it gets competitive. When he was very young – he’s not sure how old but he wasn’t yet able to write – he convinced his sister to jot down ingredients as he worked to make guacamole better than his father’s. He mixed some of this and some of that but ended up, he now admits, with essentially the same, very tasty product. In doing so, he learned that there’s only so much you can do to improve upon the simple and savory flavors of avocado, lemon juice, salt and jalapeño peppers.
Often, though, it’s the complicated fare that interests him. Recently, he had a craving for steak, one of his favorite foods, and decided to see what he could whip up with his father’s help. “I put the steak in a pan with some wine, and we sautéed garlic and shallots. It didn’t seem tender, so we cooked it down more, and the wine cooked off. It had a light wine-and-garlic flavor, kind of sweet and sour. And then at the end, I put peppercorns over it. I felt like I’d made the perfect steak dish.” Another time, after catching striped bass in Annisquam, he created a signature recipe called Father and Son’s Favorite Garlic and Herb Striper.
Last spring, Krims got his first taste of the business side of food preparation. His parents had submitted the winning bid at the CEF Auction for the perennially popular “Helper at Ferns” opportunity, so one afternoon after school he headed over to Ferns Country Store to pitch in.
The auction item included the chance to make and serve a signature sandwich from the Ferns deli, a responsibility Krims took very seriously. He started the creative process at home, long before his afternoon at Ferns, scrutinizing the store’s take-out menu to glean what ingredients were available. “I wanted to make a sub, and I wanted it to have layers, not be all mixed together. I decided to use capicola ham, which I thought was really spicy but it’s actually not, and Havarti cheese. Then red onions, oregano, red wine vinegar, hot peppers.” His sister passed through the kitchen while he was working on it and Krims urged her to have a taste, even though he knew it wasn’t the kind of thing she generally liked. The next time he turned around, his sandwich was gone; his sister had eaten the whole thing. “It was definitely the best sandwich I’ve ever made,” he said.
And Ferns’ clientele agrees. Although sandwiches designed by auction winners are usually served for just a month, the “Krimswich,” remains on the Ferns menu, sells like hotcakes and is featured in the cookbook.
Krims hopes that a career as a chef, ideally one who owns a restaurant, lies in his future. For now, he’s working on ways to cook mussels better, learning to operate his parents’ outdoor grill (which he is not allowed to do without supervision) and contemplating a Volume 2 of Great Tastes of Annisquam, if all goes well.
The book is available for $12 at Ferns Country Store and at the Willow Rest in Annisquam. It can also be ordered by e-mail at email@example.com. ∆
© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito