rip-and-michael

My dad and me, circa 1969.

 

Today is my long gone father’s birthday. I want to say Hi to him, and to honor the Grace of this day.

And I do so with food, which so often was the ultimate means of connection for us. He loved to grill, and he created what is still my favorite baste, for grilled chicken: a simple mustard-tarragon-butter sauce. I start it be squeezing lime into a pan and using the beurre monte technique, swirling cold butter into it. This keeps the butter homogenized and somewhat viscous so that it adheres to the chicken when you baste. It’s tart and piquant from the lime and mustard; the shallots give it sweetness and texture; and the tarragon adds its ineluctable ethereal grace notes.

He shared a birthday with F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the book that matters most to me. Having lived through a year during which I longed continually for his love and counsel, I conclude with the final words of that perfect novel:

Gatsby believed in that green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Rip’s Tarragon Butter Baste for Grilled Chicken

  • Juice from 1/2 one lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Three-finger pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot (half a shallot)
  • 1 stick of butter (4 ounces), cut in 3 or 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon dried mustard
  • 1/8th teaspoon cayenne
  1. Combine the lime juice and salt in a small sauté or sauce pan then set over high heat. Just as the juice begins to simmer, add the butter a chunk at a time, swirling continuously until the butter is completely melted. Add the remaining ingredients and remove from the heat.
  2. This will make enough baste for one whole chicken. My dad bought spit broilers, but you can also cut the chicken up or spatchcock it, a word he’d have loved.

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© 2016 Michael Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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11 Wonderful responses to “Rip’s Tarragon Butter Baste”

  • Tags

    Dad’s not gone, he’s closer than ever. Always keep him in your prayers, then say a few extra.

  • Allen

    Now I see why you like tarragon pickles, the only kind I make now.
    A glass of aged eggnog shall be raised, this year it is made with Oban, basically its a Major Award. It’s wrapped in foil to keep the light out til the holidays.
    Things do get better, like pickles & eggnog. Chin up.

  • Tim Abel

    What a neat picture of you two!

    How nice Michael that you still think of your dad.

    Both of my parents are gone …. my dad very long ago when I was just shy of 18 and my mother 7 years ago.

    I can honestly say that there isn’t a day that I don’t think of one or the other of them at least in some small way.

    I never want to forget either of them and to “just move on” …

    I know that even though they are gone…. that they DO, in a sense, live on because I and some others, who knew them, still remember them and still talk about them.

    Anyway, I hope memories of your dad DID comfort you during your last year.

    Glad you have had the time now to restart your blog and that you are both cooking and blogging about it again… we get to read about it!

    I hope that you find both activities to be therapeutic – I think that you will.

  • Susan

    Michael,
    What a heart warming post and what a great picture of you and your Dad! I don’t need to tell you that your father will always be with you in your heart and in your memories. Thank you so very much for sharing your memories; this post was nothing short of inspirational for me.
    Thank you for blogging and please don’t ever stop blogging. I like many others missed you during your recent hiatus.
    Best always,
    Susan

  • Christine H

    What a wonderful picture of you and your father, Michael…and wonderful memories, I’m sure. It’s amazing how food make the intangible connection tangible once again. And I can’t wait to try the recipe. God Bless.

  • Suzanne

    Raising a glass to you and the memory of your Dad tonight. Having lost my father in my late 20’s (I’m *cough50somethingcough*) I can tell you that your Dad’s wisdom, love and yes..counsel is still there for you. He’s still there for you, absolutely. You just have to learn to listen in a little bit different way. I’m happy to see you back here writing, cooking…figuring it all out. I’m making the Bouchon Quiche Lorraine again this weekend (thank you for that post way back when), and am reading your book “In Small Measures”. Didn’t know what to expect since reading some of your other non-fiction, but if my sleep deprivation is any indicator, it’s a “can’t put down”. Need more Ruhlman fiction! Take care of yourself, Michael and don’t forget to be kind to yourself too. A big, difficult stage set change, and the start of Act Two. Hang in there….we’ll all be here reading about what’s next.

    • George ST.

      Father loves his son more than anything. Closer than ever to my dad. I remember the first time I walked on my little ole clumsy legs they made me at Naval Hospital.

  • Maggie Orchard

    Wonderful photo…my dad didn’t live with us, but every second Saturday night (and I mean EVERY: Dad was the very definition of a creature of habit) he prepared a pan of black pepper, seasoned salt and dried minced onion hamburgers for dinner during our custodial time; hamburgers that my sister and I refer to now as Nostalgia Burgers and prepare on anniversaries (Dad’s birthday…the date of his death) as well as the random Saturday night when we’re missing Big Jim. The go to meal I prepared as an adult when Dad was visiting was a roast chicken- modeled upon a chicken he ate in a train station when he traveled to Italy- and when I first spatchcocked a bird in front of him you’d have thought I’d committed a crime (“MARGARET! What have you done to that chicken?!”) against poultry. I believe he had issues with the aesthetics of said chicken but he had a lot of fun with (“Dad. DAD. I’m spatchcocking it in order to-” “You’re WHAT???”) the terminology. He loved words and food (popcorn….bocconcini…Ballantine ale…panettone…animal crackers…) in about equal measure, and I miss him more and not less with every passing year and every trip to the grocery store.

  • Caren B.

    Sorry to see you’re gone from Cleveland Hts. Used to see you at Zagara’s! I should have said “Hi”! Making Rip’s Tarragon Butter Baste for dinner tonight (if it stops raining). Glad you’re back blogging! Take care and the best to you.

  • John Smithsen

    Michael,
    I know that even though they are gone…. that they DO, in a sense, live on because I and some others, who knew them, still remember them and still talk about them.
    Anyway, I hope memories of your dad DID comfort you during your last year.
    Now I see why you like tarragon pickles, the only kind I make now.
    A glass of aged eggnog shall be raised, this year it is made with Oban, basically its a Major Award. It’s wrapped in foil to keep the light out til the holidays.
    Things do get better, like pickles & eggnog.

    Best always,
    John

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