Failure: My cri de coeur de porc
Dear Chef Bourdain;
Well, first, let’s be clear, I fucking failed. You specifically admonished me, that drunken night in Santa Barbara, to “really fucking do it” and I sure didn’t. I set out in Nov. of 2010 to cook every recipe in your book within one year. By Nov 1st 2011, I had done about 60-some out of your 118 recipes. So more than half, just barely – but by no means done. So listen Chef, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – I didn’t do it. I’m not going to lie about it, as you demanded that Julie/Julia chick must have. And seriously – given how much time I spent on this over 2011, I can’t imagine how someone working a full time job could make over three hundred recipes. No way.
But I am going to finish. So I’ve kept cooking, and after a few people bitched at me for not writing about it, I’m going to write about it. My triumphant (dismal failure) return, as it were! I have quite a backlog of dishes to write about, so I’d better get started. Today? Coeur de porc ala armagnac. The long story short: kinda nasty. Is anyone surprised?Also, I think I failed at other stuff too, on this one.
But here remains one fundamental lesson I’ve learned from you, Chef. Don’t fuck up the meez. Heck, just last night I made some chicken parm, and because I had my mise en place all sorted out and unfucked, it came out as well as I’ve ever made anything, better than the many times I’ve made it before. And really, it’s a lesson for life, too – think through what you’ve got to do, get what you need to do it ready and available, and you’re a long way towards succeeding. Heck, if I’d not fucked up my meta-meez for this project – which is to say sourced the harder to find ingredients ahead of time – I’d probably have succeeded.
Really, the hardest part here was getting the ingredients. But my good friend (and groomsman) Sous Chef Big Daddy Poteete had stumbled upon pig’s hearts somewhere in the wretched hive of scum and villainy of the North Valley. I’ve tried Mexican butchers for pig’s hearts before – “Por favor, corazon de puerco?” And gotten only wall-eyed stares. Like I’d just asked for a pinata full of infants or something. The butcher look at me, shook his head like maybe I was some kind of pasty illusion, and said, “Que?” “Corazon de puerco? Err, cochon?” I patted my chest in a heart-beat pattern. He looks at me deeply skeptically and says, “Pig heart? No.”
So it was a happy day when Big Daddy Poteete found the pig’s hearts. We arranged to meet for dinner that night, and I picked up a bottle of armagnac from the local BevMo. That shit’s expensive, man. Big Daddy Poteete and I felt obliged to do some quality control on this expensive concoction, so I poured a healthy slug in some pretentious tiny glass cups I have, and threw it down my neck. It tastes like…vanilla kerosene. Which sounds worse than it is, eventually I decided I like it. Can you imagine some IRA players tossing molotov cocktails full of vanilla kerosene? It would be the classiest act of terrorism ever. And so delicious!
I had some really delicious pork jelly left from making one of Dave Chang’s Momofoku pork bellies. The rendered fat is as smooth as vaseline, and at LEAST twice as delicious. So I used that to fry up the onions and herbs to stuff the hearts with. Having done so, I stuffed those hearts right up. Then I got the pan good and hot, and was really looking forward to exploding the crap out of some armagnac. Another failure – captured forever in this priceless video.
So that didn’t work. I cooked the hearts per your instructions, chef, but they didn’t look done by half. In fact, I was pretty surprised we’d be pan-frying the hearts – with a muscley, tough piece of meat like a heart, I figured we’d cook it low and slow to make it tender. Even after I threw it back in the pan for a few minutes, it was still a touch pink in the middle.
Anyway, it had a not-unpleasant mineral flavor like a lot of organ meats do. But the texture had a sort of snap to it, like a Pink’s Hot Dog that wasn’t completely fantastic. And now that I think about it, I suspect I know the secret to Pink’s success…
Basically I’m glad I made it, but I’m not too anxious to make it again. Hit or miss? I call it a hit, but only because I like the ‘de armagnac’ part and will probably make another dish using the same method, preferably with more flammable results. Because really, anything that’s fun is more fun when it’s flaming!
Flame on, Chef;
P.S. I’m really sorry I failed, Chef. Of course, I don’t think you’ve actually read this, and maybe only a half-dozen people know or care…so it’s not that big a deal. But still, I’d hoped to capture a readership, do something noteworthy, and learn to cook. I did manage that last one, at least!