Archive for November, 2010

Low Hanging Fruit

November 2, 2010 1 comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Quite a lot of your recipes call for ingredients that are hard to come by. My brother-in-law-to-be is having his birthday this weekend, and I’ve been invited to contribute a dish or two to the celebration. He’s a good guy, so I figure I ought to do something pretty good, rather than just phoning in an apple pie or something. So instead, I’m going to work on a couple of recipes from Les Halles, to keep on schedule.

But Tony – can I call you Tony when I haven’t been drinking all the cooking wine? Tony, seriously, there are no vegetable recipes in this book. Does no one in bistros eat veggies? Or is it just that they’re such a given, a little olive oil, sauteed, a bit of sea-salt, that the recipe isn’t called for?

So, I wanted to try for one of the more ambitious dishes, since I have the weekend to prepare. But I still haven’t found a proper butcher here in LA, and when I ask the guys over at Whole Foods or Gelsons for stuff like caul fat, they look at me like I’ve just asked for a cake with baby in it. Funny story, that happened once – I was trying to get King Cake for Mardi Gras a few years ago, and I asked the woman at the bakery counter at a supermarket if they had it. Her English wasn’t very good, so she wasn’t sure what I meant. So I clarified; “King Cake – you know, the cake with the baby in it?” She looked utterly horrified and said “With BABY in it?”

I left it at that, it was clear they didn’t really have it there, so far more amusing to let her explain to her coworkers some mad cannibal was looking for cake. Anyway, trying to get the more esoteric cuts around here is about like asking for cake with baby in it.

So I’m going with low-hanging fruit – apple tart with custard and potatoes au gratin. But I have to stop with the easy stuff, and get working on tracking down the harder stuff locally. If anyone else who’s reading this – both of you! – knows a good butcher or meatmonger of any sort in LA, let me know.

Happily, some of the harder recipes involve cooking with wine. I like that. Let’s do more of it!



Categories: Uncategorized

Spiced Pears in Red Wine

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Well, best laid plans and all that. I had planned to start with a proper meal with all the various courses today, Nov. 1st, and keep going throughout the year until I’m done. And then I got wickedly sick and was flogged up and down the length and breadth of Los Angeles by my cruel, cruel (but lovely! and kind! and wonderful! [shhh, she’s reading this]) fiancee.  As a result I’m still sick today and still a little overhung from yesterday’s Halloween celebrations.  Someone should have told me that Calvados is  Bretonnian embalming fluid.

As previously discussed, the poulet roti was a fantastic success. I still hunger for it. In an effort not to start out completely behind the proverbial power-curve (curiously, the proverbial power-curves were in sharp display by my fiancee in her Batgirl costume) I decided to make something that would be easily done in an afternoon, and serve well as something at the party – preferably with some thematic element to go with our zombie theme.  So, zombies, naturally, made me think of spiced pears.  Eh, not really but I figured we could put ’em in a tube and call ’em embryos or something.

Your recipe for spiced pears in red wine seemed just the ticket – only a few ingredients, none of them terribly hard to find, and a prep time that doesn’t measure in days.  I gathered the ingredients, and after being whipped back and forth across the house to do the cleaning, re-tar the roof, build a brick shed out back and all the other stuff Herself demands of the deathly ill, I got my “meez” together.

There’s the pears, peeled and sliced, the spices in a prep bowl, and a bottle of two buck chuck boiling with a cup of sugar. Actually I doubled the yield so it’s two bottles of two buck chuck (four whole dollars – American! – in wine!) and two cups of sugar.

It was nice having everything together when I was putting it together, even for something as dead simple as this.  Once the wine had been boiling for five minutes, I put in the spices and lowered the pears in. I had the presence of mind not to just drop the pears in, because I didn’t relish the thought of boiling hot wine splashing all over me. Though come to think of it, it would have been pretty authentically zombie looking. Maybe next year.

Here’s the pears, boiling in the pot. I let them simmer, covered, and took them from the heat when they were nice and tender. I removed the pears with a slotted spoon, but I felt like the wine wasn’t really properly “syrup” since it was still quite liquid and didn’t really stick to the side of the pot or the spoon at all.  So, I deviated from your recipe just a bit, and brought the liquid back to a boil for a while, until it was nicely thickened.

I then put pears, spices (except for the bay leaves) and the syrup into a canister that looked sort of mad-sciency, but this was just because it was a Halloween party. When we served them up, they were very well received.  They were tender, with just a hint of the grittiness that pears have, but all of the nice autumnal flavor.  The star anise and juniper berries contributed a nice, smooth warmth to the whole flavor – it was delicate and complex, and really quite delicious.  A friend and I agreed that if served hot with a dollop of nice ice cream on them, they’d be even better, but then I suppose we’re filthy Yankee barbarians, and pretty much anything sweet seems like it ought to be better with ice cream on it.

I’ll add this to the “success” list, which is so far everything I’ve made. There won’t be a big fancy dinner tonight, but if I’m going to stay on schedule I need to do at least two items a week, and with the pears and the chicken, I’m on schedule. Three, if you include the herb butter that went into the chicken. I finished veal stock, chicken stock and demi-glace, too.

I’ve been picking the low-hanging fruit so far – next I have to try for something with some more obscure ingredients.  My friends have so far been fixated on escargot as the weird stuff, but heck, snails are easy to find, just go outside after it rains. Or is that slugs? Same difference, right?

Have some Calvados, Tony;


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