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No Guts, No Glory- Tripes Les Halles

January 26, 2011 13 comments

Tripes Les Halles

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Just look at that. Look at those guts, in all their pornographic glory. Such a fascinating conglomeration of glistening, bulging, tumescent sausages over a swirling swill of stewed stomach! Just gorgeous, right?

But man oh man, was the view worth the climb? It took three days to prepare and the first two were pretty stomach-churning. (See what I did there? HA! I slay me! This must be what it feels like to be Fozzie Bear.)

I put out the call for brave gastronomic adventurers to come eat Tripes Les Halles. There were a predictable amount of polite demurral, a fair number of flat-out no answers, and a small corps of intrepid eaters.  So with no small amount of excitement, I schlorped the conglomeration of guts that had been congealing in the fridge into a tray. I didn’t have the requisite earthenware casserole that would be big enough for the vast volume of offal, so I had to use one of those disposable party platters – a wise choice, it turned out. I layered on the boudin noir and chorizo, the latter of which is happily easy to find in L.A., the former not so much. And set ‘er in to stew.

When it was ready – as well as the back up pasta dish for those who arrived hungry and didn’t care to eat their fill of tripes – we got everyone together. I felt full of the “moral certainty that I was the baddest ass King Hell fearless fucking gourmand in the area”, just like you promised me. And so we took this picture, with ears in there, which I will send to you care of your publisher, in exchange for a letter of commendation and devotion. I’ve written enough of those to you at this point, hey, Tony, it’s about time you reciprocate, right?

Fearless Fucking Gourmands

I’m particularly proud of my cousin Drew, who was not so long ago, a very picky eater. But these days he’s up to try anything, even if he doesn’t necessarily finish it up. He made a point of fishing around in the platter to get a little taste of everything – both kinds of tripe, ear, pork belly,  hoof, chorizo and boudin noir.  I did the same, and here’s my plate:

A little bit of everything. And I do mean *everything*.

How to describe the taste? It’s organ meat, you know? It doesn’t taste much like liver (except the boudin noir) but doesn’t taste much like pork. It wasn’t dissimilar to the haggis I insisted friends and family eat on my birthday (sorry!) but really is its own special thing. Of course I enjoyed the chorizo, I have it with eggs fairly often on weekends. The pork belly was delicious, and the tripes (honeycomb and feathered) strangely tolerable. The black sausages reminded me an awful lot of the time my dog, Assistant  Chef Bourdain (AKA  Blink) got into a bag of blood meal garden fertilizer. In fact, it basically IS blood meal garden fertilizer, wrapped in intestines.

But you know, Chef, as off-putting as the smell was while it was cooking, at the end of the day it was pretty good. I wouldn’t make it again on purpose because of the difficulty (but not expense!) of gathering ingredients and the chore of three days of cooking. But if someone else made it, I would eat it “without reservations”. (HA! There I go again, wokka wokka wokka!)

There was definitely a secret to enjoying the evening though. I don’t want to spell it out, it’s best if other fearless fucking gourdmands discover the secret to King Hell bad-assery themselves. But I’ll give you a hint.

Fearlessness in a glass...

I can’t speak for all the attendees, but at the end of the night I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, as much for the novelty as anything else. I didn’t have any of the emergency pasta, and was satisfied. Quite satisfied.

That is the look of a satisfied King Hell

So okay chef, this was probably the one meal that it was going to be hardest to get people to come and enjoy – but they did, and we did. I’m sticking to some of the less-esoteric, less guts-based recipes for a little while, but this was certainly an experience.

Offal in all its various forms is the cuisine of people who have to make do with what they can get. It takes time, effort and love to make some of the hardest-to-swallow stuff palatable, but it can be done. We’re inheritors of all that tradition, but the easy access to only the simplest to prepare cuts and “best” quality meats means we’ve lost touch with a lot of that heritage. I’m happy to try anything that someone somewhere cherishes as precious. I’m happy to receive the benefit of all that tradition…even if I’m also happy to resort to a nice bone-in t-bone done medium raw with just a  little bit of salt, too.

Funny how some of the best foods are so simple – beautiful tomatoes tossed in a little olive oil with some salt; fresh steaks seared and finished with just a touch of salt and pepper, asparagus sauteed and seasoned. When the ingredients are lovely like that, all you can do is get in the way of them. But when all you’ve got to work with is a steaming pile of guts, it takes a lot of effort to make it work. It’s easy to think that means it’s just not worth it, but if that’s the attitude we always take, we’ll completely lose touch with our past, with our history. And there’s no surer connection to our ancestors than this, to eat the very same things that they ate, handed down from the past, right onto our plates. There’s no more visceral way to understand that tradition than to actually, literally taste it.

But you know, they had some nice red wine to go with it, too. Just sayin’.

Thanks for the history lesson, Chef!

Davy

P.S. As is clear from the following video, Chef – my new camera takes much better pictures, but I still don’t really know how to control it, or edit it. But here’s a video from guts-night. I’m drunk and self-satisfied, so forgive my smugness.

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Gutbucket Day Two

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Three days to make tripes les halle? Really? Sweet Bacchus’ Man-Boobs, this was a labor of love. Disgusting love, like those fat-fetish porn movies that hide in the way back of the naughty section. Shameful love, like wiping out a pint of Ben & Jerry’s by yourself while watching Syfy Original movies.

On day two, all I had to do was cook some chopped onions and garlic, then add the tripes, and the pork-bucket with some of the reserved cooking liquid. Then when the mixture was warmed up, add in the rest of the liquid. Only, over night the pot of tripes had congealed into a solid mass. I actually held it upside down and shook, and like a giant gut-cork, it didn’t even budge. I finally had to get MLF to poke it with a wooden spoon handle while I held it up. Even then it was highly resistant to emerging, like a giant disgusting breach baby.

When I finally got it into the pot, it was one solid lump of congealed guts. I turned the heat up to melt the liquids, but even that didn’t really do the trick. After about half an hour with all the cooking liquid mixed in, it got up to a boil and I was able to stir it up and break up most of the chunks. Delightful.

How to ruin a perfectly good pot of sauteed onions: add guts.

The sauteeing onions and garlic smelled delightful, like you might imagine. That lovely aroma didn’t last long though – in no time the smell of simmering offal had once again permeated the house. It wasn’t as bad as the night before, but it was still double-plus ungood. Even Assistant Chef Bourdain, normally ever-vigilant to help out by snapping up anything that hits the floor, turned his back on the hot-gut-pot.

..and this dog eats stuff we find on our walks that would make your stomach turn.

It was a great relief when the combination had simmered long enough to take it off the heat, let it cool, and then put it in the fridge to marry the flavors overnight. A relief, and yet a dreadful step closer to the moment when I’d actually have to eat it.

The things I do for cuisine.

Davy

Grandma’s Secret Recipe

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I really needed an antidote from the Tripes Les Halles. Plus MLF is down with some sort of hideous grippe for the past couple of days, leaving her groaning on the couch. I’m not going to say it’s related to ingesting the offal – but for sure she needs some kind of comfort food. So while poking around in the local supermarket I remembered the easiest, best comfort food I know – my grandma’s secret recipe for Chicken n’ Dumplings.

The truth is my grandmother, a woman of the deep South, was not a very good cook. You wouldn’t know it from hearing her talk, as she was pretty sure Julia Child could have learned a thing or two from her. But she only believed in two spices – salt and pepper, and even pepper was kind of shady. A man who liked too much pepper on his food? That’s not a man to be trusted. But salt – pour it on there like it’s slug Auschwitz.

But Grandma did have a few recipes in her wheelhouse – and those one she rocked. Chief of all of these, was her chicken n’ dumplings. It was the kind of comfort food that you could feed a crying woman who’d just watched her only baby drown, and she’d settle down, snuffle a little, and ask for seconds. In her 80’s one day, she wasn’t feeling well and went to the same family doctor she’d had for almost 50 years of her life. They rushed her off to the hospital, and discovered she had stage 3 stomach cancer. Later that night she lapsed into a coma. The family gathered, like you do when someone is down and maybe not getting back up. While reminiscing, I confessed to my Aunt that if I ever ended up on death row, I wanted Grandma’s chicken ‘n dumplings for my last meal. She didn’t have her recipe. I didn’t either. We checked the family recipe book, and nothing there, either.

My grandmother regained consciousness the next day, but it was clear she was terminal, and all we could do was make her comfortable. I went to see her. She was faint, and wispy. and very, very still – but she was entirely present, her mind unclouded, her eyes clear. And I remembered to ask – “Grandma, where is your chicken ‘n dumplings, recipe?”

She said, “Oh honey, it’s just from the back of the Bisquick box.” So that was Grandma’s secret recipe.

It’s simmering on the stove right now. MLF says it smells like her grandmother’s house. She said the same thing about the guts, but she meant it in an entirely different way.

There’s comfort and home and family simmering on the stove right now. I’ll never lose Grandma’s secret recipe. How could I? It’s on the back of the box. I’ll never lose my grandma, either. When I breathe spirit into my new family, into my home; it’s her spirit I’m breathing, and her gift that I’ll never stop receiving. Food is the soul. Food is the heart. Food is the love we share with our families.

Davy

Categories: Maundering

Offal, Aptly Named

January 16, 2011 3 comments

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Fuck you, man. Fuck you for putting “Tripes Les Halles” in your book. It wasn’t that the dish itself is nasty – which it kinda was, and kinda wasn’t. I mean, it’s a big stew of bits and bobs and cracklin’s and gurglings, so some of those …bits… aren’t half bad. But god dammit, chef, the odor of stewing tripe! That is…wow. And it just pervades the entire house.

And I thought they smelled bad on the outside...

My lovely fiancee was at first pretty enthusiastic, especially when we were shopping for the more esoteric chunks at Super King. But when I started on the first night of three nights of horror, she sort of blanched, and did her best to keep the smell out of the bedroom. It didn’t work.

It smells a lot worse than it looks.

I’ve tried to come up with the words to express the smell of simmering tripe – both kinds, feathered and honeycomb – but ..it’s tough. “Boiled ass?” “Hot fuckall?” “Stewed garbage?” I just don’t know. But it’s not good, and it’s relentless. The pig’s ears and calves’ hooves weren’t so bad – really sort of typical porky smell, which is not half  bad at all.

Porky goodness

But that tripe? Good lord. You hinted obliquely that it would smell better after the first awful step. What you didn’t mention was how it would seep into every crack and corner of the house. It wasn’t that it smelled super awful, but it did smell pretty bad, and you just couldn’t shake it. Anyway, I simmered the tripe and an unpeeled, halved onion for three hours and drained it. I also simmered the pork belly, pig’s ears and hooves for two and a half hours.

I reserved the pig juice for the rest of the recipe, and called it a night. It was pretty late  by the time I was done, because there’s pretty much no weekend day that you can cook for three days before and still not be on a work night. That was a complicated sentiment, but what I basically mean was, I got a short night’s sleep in a house redolent with the scent of boiled cow stomach. It wasn’t good chef. Not good at all.

Fortunately the rest of the ordeal wasn’t as bad as that first night. But yeah, I’m seriously glad there’s no more tripe recipes in the book.

I’ll fill you in on the feast, later.

Davy

French Fish Fries

January 14, 2011 4 comments

Friture

Dear Chef Bourdain;

You describe friture as “ethereal” which was not my experience of them at all.  Preparing them was disgusting, and when complete they were … well, sort of good but sort of fishy-in-the-bad-way. Curiously, my Asian guests were pretty crazy about them, especially when they stole some rice from some spam musubi that another friend brought to the party.

Ok, maybe I exaggerate a little. They were kind of hard to find, and despite your exhortation to get fresh and tiny smelts, I could only get previously-frozen smelts from the always wonderful Super King Market. When I brought them up to the checkout, the girls manning the register had a lot of questions, with that look in the eye that says, “You are a crazy white person.” (I get that look a lot.) Anyway, I brought them home and got to the gross part, squeezing their guts out.

I just don't love guts. Sorry Chef.

I’ve cleaned my fair share of fish. But something about squeezing the guts right out their butts is extra gross. Actually, most of these smelts were bigger than the ones you recommended, and already had a little hole in the ventral side. So even the gentlest squeeze results in all the innards boiling out of that hole, rather than the “whazoo” as you recommend, Chef. It’s pretty laborious, too, there’s no fast way to do it. So after about 45 minutes or so, I had a bowl full.

I thought they smelled bad on the outside...

That actually was the hardest part, to be honest. The rest was just getting my meez straight and then fryin’ ’em up.

The ever important meez

I minced some garlic and flat parsley, and then seasoned some flour with salt, pepper, and a bunch of other stuff. Your recipe says “to taste” so I just kept adding dashes of interesting things I found until it tasted nice and savory. After that, I heated the oil. I didn’t have a thermometer, so I got it shimmering but not smoking.

Suddenly more appetizing!

While they were frying, I threw together the garlic, parsley, and some olive oil. Once they were sort of golden brown and floating, I pulled them out with a slotted spoon, and tossed them in the garlic mix.

Honestly, everything is better with garlic.

And that’s all there is to it, really. You’re right, once you know the method, you don’t really need a recipe. You just season some flour, and fry some de-gutted tiny fish. Then roll ’em in something for flavor. I mean, other than fish flavor.

Ethereal? Nahhh.

Some people liked ’em and some people wouldn’t touch them. I gave a few of them a try, but they weren’t quite perfectly crisp – they were a little chewy. And the chewiness sort of enhanced the fishy flavor, which wasn’t really the way to go.  I’m not sure I’d make these again, Chef. Mostly because squeezing the guts out of the fishies was not only kinda gross, but really tedious. Maybe I needed hotter oil, maybe I needed to cook them a little longer, but these weren’t really like ethereal french fries.

Sorry Chef, I have to call this one a miss. But maybe I just did it wrong – so I don’t have a firm feeling about that.

Fishily Yours;

Davy

Rooty Tooty Fresh and Clafoutis

January 13, 2011 1 comment

Clafoutis

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Recently, friend and excellent author George R.R.  Martin was in town in Los Angeles for a variety of things pertaining to the new HBO show based on his books, “A Game of Thrones“. Since it’s been years since we last saw him, other fans and friends had a party so we could all catch up. I made some mushroom soup, which I’ve written about before. This time around I didn’t have any sherry though, and it really made a difference. This was somewhat compensated for, though, because I had fresh home-made stock from my second round of stock-making. What a world of difference really good stock makes!

Anyway, I also made some clafoutis for the party. I know the picture above looks pretty appetizing, but don’t let appearances deceive you, they were pretty nasty. I don’t know whether to blame you or me, Chef, I don’t have a good standard of comparison. So it was probably me, executing something incorrectly – but  basically we ended up with a big, eggy, collapsed mess. With cherries.

I started out with cherries. I know, they’re out of season, and I’m a rotten eco-villain for buying the ones that were flown in from Chile. I’ll plant a fucking tree. Anyway, the cherries were plenty delicious so they were obviously in season wherever they came from. I borrowed a cherry-pitter from my Mother-In-Law to-be, who has an incredible kitchen – it made short work of pitting the cherries. I read elsewhere that traditionally you leave the pits in, which gives a particular flavor to the end result. But since I was passing these out at a party, I didn’t imagine I could give the “Oh, hey, watch out for the pits” warning to random party-goers so I figured I’d play it safe. Also, pastries with pits is just kinda nasty. It also might explain why Napoleon lost to Wellington. So I mixed it with the kirschwasser (that’s the same as kirsch, right?) and let it macerate for an hour.

Most heard quote, "what the fuck is macerate, anyway?"

So that was exciting. Macerating. And stuff.

Next came egg-beating. It was only after using the old-fashioned egg-beater that the hostess told me she had a motorized one. Also, with these old-timey ones, for some reason I have to resist the impulse to chase MLF around with it, grinning lasciviously and twirling the blades.

These eggs beaten without any sexual assault at all.

So after that it was just pouring it into a chilled baking pan. I also used tiny cupcake tins, because I had a stupid amount of batter and not enough things to pour it in. (That sentence was especially true in my 20’s.)

I baked it. It puffed up. It didn’t stay very puffy. I think this means that I can’t make a souffle either.

This picture is a metaphor

Chef, the previous picture was not a metaphor.

I’ve noticed most of the desserts in your book aren’t very sweet, chef. These weren’t either. I dusted them with powdered sugar – indeed, I even had a sifter! But the results was something like an eggy, liquory, cherry-flavored mess. They didn’t come out of the tins very easily (sorry Sonja!) and had a sort of soggy consistency not unlike the bits of egg left in the pan when you’re trying to clean up after brunch. Not that I’ve ever been so hung over that I’d eat that. (I totally have.)

I have to call this one a miss, Chef. Maybe someone better than me could make a delicate, delicious treat out of this. But not me, man. Just a big plate of mess. Kinda embarrassing actually, Chef, since I’d told some of these folks about my whole project. On the other hand, maybe I should have tried something a little more sure-fire. Actually, the mushroom soup was pretty well received, so I’ve got that going on.

They look cute, but those tiny pans are a bitch to clean.

I  don’t know if these ever got eaten or not. I feel bad about the cleanup, though. I don’t think I’ll try and make these again. Sorry Chef, you kinda suck at desserts. Well, I do, anyway, when I follow your instructions.

Do love pouring that batter though!

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Prep

Blood and Guts Extravaganza

January 10, 2011 2 comments

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Just as your recipe in the book says, I got some funny looks while gathering the ingredients for “Tripes Les Halles”. There’s a Mexican grocery in Pasadena called “Super King” where they sell pretty much every part of the animal imaginable, and some far closer to unimaginable.  One of the butchers there actually argued with me, “No, you don’t want to eat that.” But I do!

I didn’t convince them to give me a pig’s heart – and I had to pantomime a beating heart to convince them I really meant it, even though “corazon de puerco” was, I thought,  close enough to correct to be understandable. When they realized what I wanted, they said, “No, no no, we don’t sell that. No.” So yeah, no pig’s heart for me. But when I convinced them I really did want the ears, both kinds of tripe, and some calves feet, I figured I was ready.

So this is also an invitation to any L.A. area culinary adventurers who are ready to really try something unusual – I’m starting the three day process on Thursday, and I’ll be serving up Tripes Les Halles on Saturday night. If you’ve got the stomach and the palate for it – drop me a line, and you’re welcome to join us. Take some comfort in this, bold eaters, at least there’s no snout.

More pictures to come soon;

Davy

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