I am writing to honor Laurie Colwin, a woman I never met but who had a profound influence over my culinary forays.
Laurie Colwin was born on June 14, 1944 and died in her sleep on October 24, 1992 at the age of 48. She had suffered a heart attack. She grew up in various cities, but graduated from Cheltenham High School just outside Philly. She left behind her husband and a young daughter.
I was on the Chestnut Hill West train when someone with their copy of the New York Times opened up to the obituaries and I caught a glimpse of her obituary. I was shocked and upset. Ms. Colwin was like a friend to me, even though I had never met her. I purchased her book Home Cooking from the now defunct Encore Books for a mere $4.98. I did not think much of it at the time, just another food treatise to plow through and add to my ever growing collection of cookbooks. Well, I was terribly mistaken. This was not just another food treatise. Here was a woman, heart and soul, whose prose I connected with on such a deep level that I felt we had known each other forever. It wasn’t that her writing was intensely sophisticated. Her sensibilities, her approach to food and life, and her heightened sense of individualism were such appealing qualities that one couldn’t help but fall in love with her. To see her obituary glaring at me on my commute home was more than I could handle.
So, you ask, what did Ms. Colwin write about that was so compelling? She wrote about food, her own attitudes and quirks, domestic bliss, finding happiness in the simplest of things, and about life’s imperfections. She wrote about meals and dinner parties gone bad, culinary triumphs, and forging her own identity through her kitchen exploits. All of it rang true. It still does. I have read this book a zillion times, picking it up and randomly picking a chapter to enjoy. Much of her philosophy has shaped my own, and I am forever grateful that I got to meet her, even if just through her writing.
I would like to share one of her favorite recipes with you. I have modified it ever so slightly, and I have made it a zillion times. It is for curried flank steak.
CURRIED FLANK STEAK
1½ to 2 lbs. flank steak
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thin slices
Kikkoman Light Soy Sauce
curry powder (good quality, or make your own from scratch)
1. Trim any excess fat from flank steak.
2. With the tip of a knife make small vertical slits in the meat (each side) about ½-inch long against the grain.
3. Insert garlic slices into the slits.
4. Sprinkle curry powder or your own curry mixture on both sides of the meat. Pour soy sauce over meat and sprinkle again with curry powder, making sure meat is thoroughly coated.
5. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning the meat the next morning. (You may marinate this for as little as two hours, if time is an issue).
6. Remove meat from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Remove garlic slices.
7. Grill to medium rare (about 5 minutes per side). Remove to a platter, cover with foil and let sit for 5 minutes. Slice thinly and arrange on platter.
People will adore you for this dish, just as I adore Ms. Colwin. Rest in peace, Laurie.