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Food critic, chef saw life as a feast

Sons of Gossiping Gourmet columnist Elle Harrow remember the dishes she cooked to perfection — and the one she didn't.

April 16, 2013|By Alexander and Anthony Kaufman
  • Terry Markowitz, left, and Elle Harrow, make matzo ball chicken soup. Harrow, who co-wrote The Gossiping Gourmet column, died April 4.
Terry Markowitz, left, and Elle Harrow, make matzo ball… (DON LEACH )

Corn dogs.

It was the only type of cuisine that our mother, former Gossiping Gourmet columnist Elle Harrow, could not cook. We were about 7 and 14 years old, respectively, and every morning, she would ask us what we'd want for dinner that evening. "Corn dogs," we said.

Always game for a culinary challenge, she took on the task of making corn dogs from scratch with the same amount of relish that she devoted to her own "adult" meals, whether stir fries inspired by her visits to New York's Chinatown, green tomatillo enchiladas gleaned from trips south of the border, or dishes from Julia Child's French cookbooks.

But when dinner was served that night, the corn dogs were a bust. The brown batter did not conform to the shape of the wieners (as they did at Hot Dog on a Stick). They bulged here and there and, most disappointingly, crumbled away from the dogs as soon as we bit into them, falling onto our plates in a mess of fried dough.

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We never let her forget this cooking mishap — not even after she opened A La Carte, the successful "takeaway gourmet" restaurant, with her writing partner, Terry Markowitz. She may have crafted hundreds of adventurous recipes and overseen thousands of culinary tours de force over the years until her recent death at the age of 73, but the corn dog affair was a perennial joke, and a reminder that even master chefs have a weakness.

When our mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was the cruelest of ironies: Here was a woman who spent her life devoted to a harmonious mind and body. She did yoga, ran a marathon in her 40s, climbed Machu Picchu in her 60s, lifted weights into her 70s, and above all, ate healthy and organic food. And yet, she fell prey to a disease that started in her digestive system.

It may not be appetizing to discuss death and dinner in the same story, so let's turn to Elle's legacy, her food, and the recipes that friends, family and followers continue to circulate and cook in her memory.

Here are some of our favorites. And if you remember A La Carte, they're probably your favorites, too.

If cheese bread doesn't sound like a breakfast dish, you never tasted our mother's recipe, which we would eat morning, noon and night. It had a perfect cornmeal-crusted outside and a soft doughy inside, filled with melted cheddar cheese and a healthy dose of honey mustard.

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