Hey Chef Bourdain;
Congrats on moving up to CNN!
Hope some of your good luck rubs off on me!
Dear Chef Bourdain;
My first conscious act after a holiday party in 2013 was to blow the guts out of an emu egg, and turn it into frittatta in bacon cups. I think that’s a pretty good start, and probably as close to becoming Danaerys Targaryan as I’ll ever get. Mother To Dragons? I’ll have to settle for “Frother Of Dinosaurs.”
But wait, Davy, you must be asking yourself? (If you were reading this, so if you’re actually asking yourself that, something weird has happened. Perhaps something weird and magical, but anyway… let me not digress to much. Or give away the secrets of”Phase 2″…) Where did I get an emu egg? My friend and accomplished writer, Jesse Heinig delivered it as a treat from the North, from an ostrich farm near Solvang. My research revealed that emu eggs are about the equivalent of 10-12 chicken eggs, have a very similar flavor, and will keep for a week or two in the fridge. It’s a beautiful, vibrant and multi-hued teal color, so we wanted to be sure to preserve the shell for …some decorative purpose. (Or maybe part of phase 2? Wait and see!)
Getting into the shell was itself quite an endeavor. My wife and her father took turns delicately whirring away at it with a power drill, and switched out bits at least three times before they managed to get through the shell. In the hand it feels weighty and solid, and in fact it’s even thicker and stronger than it would seem. And it seems doughty indeed. Having created a small hole at one end and a slightly larger blowing-hole at the other, it then became a test of lung power to get the contents out and into a mixing bowl. This calls for a professional blowhard. Fortunately, no shortage of those in this family!
Next up was not fucking up my meez. The egg-violating took quite a while, so I had plenty of time to finely slice a couple shallots, dice up half a red onion, and dice four cloves of garlic. I also kept close to hand some salt, seasoned pepper, savory, and white truffle oil.
Once the egg was in the bowl, its secret places invaded by blown breath; I used an immersion blender to make it nice and frothy. I found I had to use a sort of jerking-off motion to get the blades up in the air for a fraction of a second to incorporate the air and substantially increase its volume. I also folded in the salt, seasoned pepper and about 2 tsp of truffle oil. When it was about half-again in volume, I folded in the garlic and shallots.
First thing in the morning I had already created bacon cups with a half-pound of bacon. That’s dead easy – just wrap the bottoms of a cupcake tin with foil. Cut a rasher in half, lay it crosswise over the top, and then wrap another piece around it. I let it cook slow in the oven with another tray underneath (and the tin foil curved up at the edge) to catch drippings. When the fat had rendered out, it made nice crispy bacon cups. I don’t have any pictures because…well, it was first thing in the morning after a holiday party. You can guess my condition. I wasn’t focused on photography. Fuck you if you don’t empathize. But to quote the immortal George Patton, “I’ve read your book, you son of a bitch!” So I know you feel me.
After that it’s easy. I’d pre-heated the same cupcake pan (with bacon cups removed and rinsed off) in a 400F oven. Put that on the range over heat to keep it hot, and poured the frittata over a little heated olive oil in each cup. Topped it with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and red onion. Into the oven it goes, and about ten minutes later, or at any rate when you jiggle it and the center is just set, you take it out of the oven. Sit for a minute or two, and pull the frittatas out of the cups, put them in the bacon cups, and serve to your hung over, curious and hungry friends and family.
The flavor was nice; emu eggs really are like chicken eggs in flavor, but have a more dense, creamy texture. I think frittata was a good choice, though the solid ingredients sunk right to the bottom. A more experienced cook would have known that and stirred while pouring, but as it stands we got all the chunky and delicious bits in some of the frittata and less in the others. But it all tasted grand, as delicious as any dinosaur egg could reasonably be!
I’ll include the recipe after this, for completeness sake. Something tells me you won’t be making it though, chef.
Emu Egg Frittata in Bacon Cups
- 1 pound of bacon
- 1 emu egg
- 2 shallot, finely sliced
- 2 tsp of truffle oil
- 1/2 red onion finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 1 cup shredded cheese
- 1 tbsp of savory
- salt, seasoned pepper to taste
- pre-heat oven to 275F, invert cupcake pan and carefully wrap in foil.
- Cut a piece of bacon for each cup in half, and make criss-cross over top. With another piece, wrap each cup. Put it in the oven until the bacon fat renders out; about 20-30 minutes, maybe more. Can do ahead by a few hours. (Put a drip pan under to catch the fat!) Set bacon cups aside.
- Increase oven heat to 400F
- Make a large hole in one end of the emu egg with a power drill. Use a fine bit to punch through and a larger bit to widen the hole. Put a small hole in the other end, blow egg out into a mixing bowl.
- Put a cupcake pan (clean the first one if you re-use it) in the oven to pre-heat the pan.
- Add the salt, seasoned pepper, savory and truffle oil. With an immersion blender, use a jerking off motion to froth the egg until it’s substantially increased in volume, and nice and frothy.
- Fold in the shallot and garlic.
- Put the cupcake pan over high heat on the range. Pour a tsp or so of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom. Heat until it just shimmers.
- Pour half a cup full of egg mix in to each cupcake cup. Top with red onion and cheese.
- Put in oven. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the center is just set when you jiggle it.
- Remove, let sit for two minutes.
- Slide frittatas out of pan with a spoon or very small spatula. Place in bacon up – serve.
This recipe created by David Krieger. Enjoy, but credit!
Dear Chef Bourdain;
As I’ve mentioned, some of your French ingredients are a bit hard to find. Especially since I’m not best friends with a French butcher. Not that I wouldn’t mind, I think that would be great. My imaginary French butcher-friend is named Pierre, and he and I will drink tiny glasses of red wine while I lean against his counter and he throws giant chunks of meat around. We gossip like old hens, exchange crackpot theories about what scientists are doing and not telling us about, and make appreciative remarks about women who walk by his shop-front. Appreciative but not crass; after all I’m married and Pierre…well, he loves the ladies. I mean, really loves them, in a deep and respectful way. To him, the ladies walking by are like a parade of fine art prints. Of course you would remark on their beauty, but such remarks are intended as praise, not degradation. Pierre is fundamentally more conservative than I am, though, so sometimes we argue about politics, but it’s always with affection.
Oh, but right, Pierre doesn’t actually exist. So the six thousand cuts of veal your book calls for? I can’t get them. Not without great expense, and frankly Chef, I’m goddamn unemployed, so if you think I’m going to spend a fortune flying in rare cuts of veal, you and Pierre can just go fuck yourselves. Wait, sorry. I”m not bitter, I swear – I just need a job. Not for the veal, but because health care in America isn’t like healthcare in France. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t also need a job in France…it would just be a little less life-and-death, you know? Not a free ride…just a little bit easier.
So back to veal. Couldn’t find any veal liver. But the local organic ranch has great lamb’s livers, along with other organs. Especially testicles. What’s up with that? I mean, they had a freakin’ freezer full of testicles! Pierre wouldn’t be so obsessed with testicles. So anyway, we got a fresh lamb’s liver. It was beautiful and firm and slappy. Know what I mean? That spankable, firm quality that really good meat has, that makes you just want to slap it a little? So we took this beautiful, slappy lamb’s liver home and had it for one of the best dinners of my life.
That there, is a slew of onions! As you might imagine, it smelled divine, which is fully half their purpose. It’s not reflected in this pictures, but as the onions were cooking, I sliced up some rashers of bacon into the closest thing to a lardon I can get around here. I threw it in with the onions, and let it cook over medium heat for a good long time. Other members of the household became aware that something magical was evolving, and reported to the kitchen for their assistant-chefly duties.
Note the ducked head and hunched shoulder, the proverbial “hangdog” expression. It says, “No one has ever fed the dog. Ever! Do you think, just maybe, I might end up with a little bit of whatever that is up there?” Anyway, I cooked down the onions, and pre-heated a cast iron skillet for the liver. I put flour, seasoned with salt and pepper on a plate and dredged the liver through it. I improvised a little here – I feel like I’m allowed to do this now, Chef, since it’s obvious I didn’t complete the initial goal and at this point I’m just making stuff to eat for myself. Anyway, I added some truffle salt that I got for my wife last Christmas to the flour. It was a good call, though a very subtle gracenote under the powerful mineral flavor of the liver. So maybe that’s less of a good call, and more of a …pointless gesture? Story of my life.
As per the usual method, I heated oil in the pan, added butter and waited for it to foam and subside, then browned the liver for a few minutes on both sides. My stovetop doesn’t get very hot, so I’ve been pre-heating my pans in a very hot oven. I don’t have a giant, fat hot gasline like my in-laws do, so I’ve got to make do, and getting a good sear can be challenging without a very hot stove. I have a little camp stove that gets absurdly hot, and I might actually try that with some cast iron pans next time, but this time, a 500F oven and the hob on high worked well enough.
I set aside the liver and de-glazed the pan with vinegar. As per your suggestion, I had some demi-glace, so along with the onions, bacon and vinegar, I added that in to the cast iron pan, and let it soak and reduce for a while. I’ve noticed that the times on your official recipes are…optimistic. That or your stove is a fuckton hotter than mine. Hey, I just mixed measurements…a ton is not a way you measure heat. But then, a “fuckdegree” just doesn’t sound right either. Would “an hella” be more appropriate?
It looks glorious, doesn’t it? And served over the liver, it really was. My lovely wife and I were fairly well enraptured by this liver – it was delicate and melt-in-your-mouth, but had a complex minerality that rewarded stopping and thinking a lot about what you were tasting. When we on our honeymoon, we had an amazing meal at a place in Glasgow callled The Butcher Shop Bar And Grill. I’ve even written about it here before, it was pretty magical. Like, flying-around-the-room magical. She had a lamb-liver steak there that was the best liver we’d ever had before; that is, until now. Lamb’s liver has the minerality of liver, but the lamby goodness of lamb. With good, fresh ingredients, it’s an experience not to be missed.
Honestly, this one goes on my short list of best Les Halles meals I’ve prepared. If I can get more fresh lamb’s liver, I will definitely, definitely make it again. This is the kind of meal you could serve to someone who says, “Yuck, I hate liver” – and like a kid in an after-school-special who becomes a raging addict after one taste of crack, they’d instantly swear liver was the greatest thing ever. This is the organ meat that seduces people into loving organ meats, even though they think they’re kind of nasty, like a heavily tattooed pornstar. You know it’s kinda dirty, but you can’t help loving it anyway.
And honestly, chef, after slugging down all the wine you recommend, I need a little extra liver, I suspect.
But fuck you and Pierre and your veal obsession.
Dear Letters To Bourdain Readers;
It’s always fascinating to see who actually reads these entries. While Chef Bourdain has told me, to my face “I’m aware of the project” to the best of my knowledge he’s never actually read any of the letters. But there is a passel of interesting cooks with similar ambitions to mine, plus various family members and friends.
So I’d like to make a standing offer – if any of you, from various far-flung corners of the world, or just down the street, are ever in LA and want to collaborate, or just enjoy, a Les Halles meal, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to play host, as long as you’ll help me with the cooking wine.
Keep adding heat to yer meat!
Dear Chef Bourdain;
In the immortal words of Jim Anchower, it’s been a while since I rapped at ya. But now that you’re off the air, and I’m out of work, hey, we’ve got a little time to catch up, right?
So here’s the ‘Rognons de veau’ that I made on Thanksgiving weekend. With thanks to my mother-in-law, who added the garnish and pomegranate seeds to make it pretty. Pretty kidneys. Just doesn’t seem right. And yet… S’anyway, the hardest part here was finding the kidneys, frankly. We Americans have just given up on organ meats, which is a pity, because when done well these were really quite scrumptious. I know I completely failed to do everything in the book in a year, but I still have hopes that I’ll eventually get everything done. Finding ingredients (and being able to afford them…) is the big challenge these days, technically I feel I’m up to at least a creditable attempt at anything in there.
So happily when I took a walk in the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market after breakfast with friends, my lovely wife and I found a local farm that brings their butchery fresh to market, never frozen. As it happened they didn’t have veal – hardly surprising given the general lack of interest in veal around here. But they did have lamb’s liver and kidneys, so we picked up some of each. You’ll have to forgive me for making some substitutions…but look at these kidneys, Chef!
Gorgeous, right? Glistening and ruddy and …organish. Mmm.
So they might just be lamb’s kidneys, but they really did the trick. I started out by browning the kidneys and setting them aside in a warming tray. That took too much attention to take a picture, so you’ll have to imagine some nicely browned kidneys. Then I continued as you always do with yer basic Frenchie meat dish; slice yer shallots, de-glaze the pan, brown the shallots.
One minor difference between this effort and previous efforts. I was cooking at my in-law’s house, and had the good fortune to use their big, robust Viking range as well as the beautiful copper-bottom pots my MIL brought back from Paris. It’s a poor artist who blames his tools, so I won’t say previous failures were the fault of my range or pots, but let me just say that I can tell the difference between the good-enough All-Clad pans I’ve got, and these beauties. It does make a difference, a palpable difference, and can be the subtle edge between really good and sublime.
So once the shallots looked nice and moogly (a highly technical term, “moogly” – it actually comes from the height of the British Empire when continental chefs were trading techniques with India cooks, where “Mugli” meant “Maharaja of Onions In Perfection.”) I put in the mustard, mixed it up and let it reduce a bit till it was nice and sticky.
After that, it’s just plate the organs, hit ’em up with a bit of the sauce, and cut in. As it turned out they were perhaps a bit more rare than I’d desire; organs take longer to cook on the whole than a regular cut of meat, something I didn’t allow for. But between the warming tray and the freshness of the kidneys, it just didn’t matter. The meat was earthy and savory and delicate, with just a hint of that organ minerality that is so unique. But it was by no means overpowering, it was like a lovely fillip that perfects a portrait, rather than what I expected, was more like overdone bead-bedazzling on an Elvis portrait.
That metaphor was strained. But anyway – my father-in-law, a genuine gentleman-of-adventure who built two boats he sailed around the world on, who has been everywhere and tried it at least once – and decided he didn’t really like it, pronounced these something he would eat again on purpose. It’s sort of like the Grinch driving by your Christmas decorations and going, “Huh. Not bad, really.” High praise.
So I know kidneys can be a hard sell for modern Americans, but let me say – it’s a huge mistake. They’re really delicious, and get a completely undeserved bad reputation. Take some time to get good ingredients (they’re still really cheap) and put a little love in the pan. Not literally, you sicko. Seriously, the stuff I have to put up with from you people! But with some care, a little sense of adventure and a healthy does of what-the-fuck-why-not; you’ll get something unlike anything you’ve had before that’s genuinely delicious.
Just look at the pink, secret inner joy of that kidney, Chef. That’s some good eating.
But I know with you I’m preaching to the choir. And also that you’re not actually reading this.
Hearts and Kidneys;
Dear Chef Bourdain;
I’ve kind of got a love-hate relationship with Whole Foods. I loathe their right wing Libertarian politics and the causes they support. But I do admit that it’s the best place local – literally a few blocks from my house – to get fresh, farm-raised meat. So when I saw they were having a bacon-recipe contest, I thought to myself – “Hey, I can cook with bacon, and relieve Whole Foods of a year’s worth of free bacon!” This is win-win. So I’m going to enter “Beer-and-bacon-braised Lamb Shanks.” Since I used a lot of the flavors and techniques I learned from your book, I thought I’d first record it here.
2 lamb shanks, trimmed of fat
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup of dark, sweet beer
4 slices of streaky bacon
1/4 lb of chicken livers
2 carrots, peeled, chopped into 2″ chunks or so
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 bay leaf
2-4 cups of lamb stock
1/2 cup of cream
Pre-heat the oven to 300F. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a cold dutch oven, line the bottom with the bacon. Turn on medium-low heat and allow the bacon to cook until the fat renders out mostly.
When the bacon is cooked, set it aside on some paper towels. Pour out all but a tablespoon or so of the bacon grease, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat up to high, when the grease shimmers and just before the it starts to smoke, put in the shanks to brown. A couple of minutes on each side, as well as the joint, to get it nice and brown all around.
Set the shanks aside – not with the bacon, so you can catch the juices without them being soaked up by the paper towel. Deglaze the pan with the beer. Scrape, scrape scrape up that delicious brown stuff with a wooden spoon! Let the beer come to a simmer.
Put the onions in, and cook them at medium-high heat until they soften just a bit. Then put in the carrots and garlic, cook all until it starts to caramelize – probably something like 5-7 minutes. Put in the chicken livers and let them brown up a bit, just a minute or two.
Put in the lamb stock. I made my own, a dark lamb stock that did a lot to add flavor. Beef stock will do, if that’s what you’ve got, so long as it’s some kind of dark stock. If you’ve got some demi-glace stashed away somewhere, this would be a great time to put in a spoonful, too.
Let the stock come to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Nestle the lamb shanks in, facing each other, like a yin-yang symbol. Experience the profound peace and harmony of lamb. Delicious, delicious lamb. Lamb is a symbol of peace, right? Crumble the bacon up and sprinkle it evenly across the top of the mix. Put in the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf.
Cover the dutch oven,. and put it in the oven for about three hours – turning the shanks over half-way through.
When it’s done, put the dutch oven back on the heat, and remove the shanks to a platter. Carefully – seriously, really, truly carefully – strain out the solids and put it in a food-processor, less the rosemary and bay leaf. Meanwhile, put the remaining liquid back on high heat and let it reduce until it’s sticky enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, and season to taste.
Pour the cream in with the solids, and pulse the food processor until all the bits are a nice thick, creamy gravy. Taste it. Is it super chicken-livery? If so, pour out some of the solid. If not, pour the reduced liquid into the processor with the rest of the gravy, and pulse until incorporated.
Let the shanks rest – probably the time its taken you to make the sauce is sufficient. Serve on a platter, drizzle the sauce over the shanks and set the rest aside for later use, which is to say, soaking up even more of it with the lamb and some nice fresh French bread.
So what do you think, Chef Bourdain? Bacony enough? I like the earthy-organ flavor of the livers with the sweetness of the ale in the simmer sauce. Next time I might try and coat the lamb with seasoned flour before browning it, for a proper fricassee method. But maybe that’s hopelessly old-fashioned? Fuck it, sometimes old-school is the best school!
Thanks for teaching me the techniques that got me here, I think it’s a pretty good dish.
Dear Chef Bourdain;
I realize I am extraordinarily behind. I’ve actually cooked a large majority of the dishes in your book, but haven’t really written all that many of them up. I shall rectify. (Rectify? Damn near killed him!)
A while ago i was invited to a party at a friend’s – Sous Chef “Big Daddy” Poteete, in fact. I believe it was house-warming, or apartment-warming, though it might have been a birthday, it now eludes me. So I took the opportunity to prepare a “mystery dish” and bring it.
Only after warming it on site, and setting it out in the incredibly appetizing form you see above – and being sure everyone tasted it, did I spoil the “guess the secret ingredient” game and tell them it was snails.
In preparation, escargot aux nois Les Halles is fairly straightforward, and I think I managed the right flavor and consistency, though I think they could have used a bit more salt. In fact everyone who tried them enjoyed it, and went back for seconds generally, even after they found out what they were.
So there you have it, Chef Bourdain – cruel tricks for dear friends that turn out to be pretty delicious. I’d definitely make escargot again, but given the cost of the main ingredient, the truth is it probably won’t happen.
Soylent green is people!