For our Artist's Palate back page in the April issue of Wallpaper (W*121), Willem de Kooning cooked us a Dutch beans and pork salad.
One should be wary of seeing an artist’s salad recipe as an extended metaphor for his work, as the lettuce leaves are likely to wilt under the dressing of intellectual pretension. But then how else are we to analyse this dish from Willem de Kooning, other than as an action painting? One that merges impulsive and energetic abstract expressionism (the grated onion, carrot and beet side salad) with the figurative impulses of the Woman series of paintings (or, in this case, the pork chops), which so shocked the purist critic Clement Greenberg that he called de Kooning a traitor.
Perhaps it is better simply to suppose that the reserved and used bacon fat is reflective not just of his Rotterdam childhood, but also of his years as a house painter in Hoboken during the Great Depression and on the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. There is a once-poor man’s love of calories in those three tablespoons of oil, half pound of bacon and three tablespoons of butter. A dish for our freshly straitened times.
1 small onion, grated
2 large carrots, grated
2 large red beets, grated
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
5 tbsp vinegar
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
lettuce leaves, to serve
dill pickles, to serve
small white pickled onions, to serve
mixed pickles, to serve
Beans and pork
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp butter
6 thin pork chops (about 900g), trimmed
6 potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes
450g cooked kidney beans
Mix all the salad ingredients, except lettuce. Season with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate. Stir every half hour for 4 hours.
Arrange lettuce leaves on a plate and top with the salad. Place pickles in separate dishes.
Fry bacon in a saucepan until crisp. Drain, reserving fat. Crumble and set aside.
Fry onions in 2 tablespoons butter. When onions are glazed, add the remaining butter and pork chops to the pan.
Cover and simmer until pork is tender.
Meanwhile, boil the potato and heat kidney beans.
Arrange pork chops, onion, beans and potato on a platter and sprinkle with reserved
bacon fat. Top with crumbled bacon. Serve with the pickles and Dutch salad.
Note: This is a substantial Dutch meal. The use of bacon fat is optional. It is a Dutch custom to pour pan juices and fat over the meat.
Recipe by Willem de Kooning, from The Museum of Modern Art classic, Artists’ Cookbook (Abrams)