Archive for May, 2011

Wedding Hiatus

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Well I meant to catch up on all the back entries of stuff I’ve made, but best laid plans and all that. I’m getting married this weekend (speaking of best laid…) and that’s been a whole big thing to organize.

I’m cooking a whole pig! Actually I don’t have the faintest idea how to do it, and I wish I had your advice. But I figure I’ve got a whole locally raised heritage pig, and a big fire. When pig and fire get together, it’s a beautiful marriage, right?

So that’s what I’m shooting for. I hope my lack of rotisserie and/or pit doesn’t trip me up too much. After everything’s done, we’re off for a little adventure around Ireland and the U.K., so I’ll be back to writing in June.

I know you got the invite, so hopefully we see you there! We’ve got 100 guests dressed like pirates, 150 bottles of wine, gallons of rum, and a pig.

What could go wrong, Chef?

Categories: Maundering Tags: , ,

I’ve been working on my mussels.

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Moules Marinieres.

Dear Chef;

Look at those gorgeous bastards. That’s some food porn, right there. Like a lot of fond summer memories, they’re beautiful, easy and smell vaguely of the sea. I think it was you that said if someone threatens to come over and take pictures of one of your fancy dinners, mussels is the way to go.

You famously advised people not to order the mussels at any restaurant in Kitchen Confidential. That, and my mother’s deathly allergy to them has always made me leery, but now I’m converted.  I know I can take care to make sure that the mussels are nice and clean, and my local Costco has them fresh out of the ocean. We can’t eat the local mussels in the Summer due to red tide – which I was crushed to find out is not really a throw-back Soviet plot. I would have been more than happy to shake an AK-47 at the sky and holler “Wolverines!” if that would make mussels safe for all Americans.

But hey, a little care and cleaning and these ones from Northern California are fresh, safe and delicious. I let them sit in fresh water for a few hours before I even start to think about cooking them. Periodically I change out the water, so even though they’re pissing on each other’s heads, it gets flushed. If I’m ever captured for the purpose of eating, I hope my captors extend me the same courtesy.

"Privacy, please? We're peeing."

An hour before dinner or so, I put them in a plugged-up sink, run water and scrub and beard them as I toss them back into the (re-scrubbed) pot. This is basically the most tedious part. Those little suckers do not want to give up their last little snack of seaweed.

The rest is dead simple – throw some butter, shallots and white wine in the pot. Let them get nice and moogly (that’s totally a word) and then toss in the mussels. Once the mussels are all open, put on the lid and shake.

Action shot!

I put them all in a nice color bowl, poured the liquid over top, and served with a loaf of rustic bread and soft butter. They were simple, fresh and delicious. I sort of outsmarted myself though – I was serving other stuff for dinner, so while my fiancee and friends sat down to eat some mussels and chat, I was still cooking.

I will definitely make this again, so it’s totally a hit, Chef. Moules marinieres was much easier than the moules normandie, and I think even better, to tell the truth. If I have one lesson learned, it’s that I should plan to serve them with plenty of time to go before dinner – what a fine bowl of deliciousness to share on the deck with some crisp white wine and  friends on a warm Southern California day.

Next time you come over, I’ll make some for you, Chef. The wine is definitely a key part of the experience, but I don’t think I have to explain that to you!


Charlotte de Marron – I’ve dishonored Charlotte, I hope she forgives me.

May 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Charlotte de Marron. Don't tell Charlotte.

Hey Chef  Bourdain;

Look at this random picture of a charlotte I found on the internet. Then look at the fucking travesty I created. You’re probably thinking “That’s a goddamn nasty-looking mess.” You’re right. But you know, it was delicious anyway! The fault in this one was entirely my own, and my lack of experience, and not with your recipe. (This time.)

I hang my head in shame.

I know that thing looks sort of like a cross between the Horta from Star Trek and an Egg McMuffin, but it tastes creamy, light, fluffy and sweet, with a delicious note of rum and chestnut. There’s not a lot that has a delicious note of rum and chestnut that wouldn’t be awesome. Maybe like…axle grease with a delicious note of rum and chestnut? Nah, I’d still eat it.

The travesty occurred in not having enough ladyfingers, and also not being particularly adept at soaking them in the simple syrup of water, sugar and rum. The first few completely disintegrated. You specifically abjured me not to do that, so hey, this one’s on me. Once I figured out how little it takes to soak the ladyfingers, I figured out how to maneuver them into the cake mold without them falling apart like a biscuit at a frat-house on Soggy Biscuit Night.

The cream filling was a snap to make, and I’d found chestnut puree at the French Market and Cafe down the street. I love The French (as us locals call it) and enjoy any excuse to eat there. I’ll have Le Cheval on baguette, thanks!

I didn’t have a tureen pan, but it seemed like any kind of form would do the trick. Sorry if that’s less authentic, but hey – it resulted in that gorgeous mess up top, right? Lining the form with plastic wrap was an important step – after a few hours in the fridge it slid right out and unwrapped easily.

If I did this again, and I might, I’d save some ladyfingers to wrap around the outside after it came out of the pan. I’d also dust the top with some chocolate powder or something. I’d also make a point of getting bigger ladyfingers, not from a packet, in larger numbers.

But if your name is Charlotte, and you’re reading this – I apologize for the aesthetic desecration I committed to you. However ugly you were, Charlotte, I assure you that you were creamy and delicious.

Thanks Chef and sorry Charlotte!


Categories: Cooking, Eating

We Meet At Last!

May 2, 2011 3 comments

Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, and me!

Dear Chef Bourdain;

It was an honor to meet you and Chef Ripert last night! I saw your lecture in Santa Barbara. Tickets to the event were a wedding gift from my fiancee’s cousin Hannah and her boyfriend Nic, himself a chef once upon a time. Being regulars at your favorite restaurant, they had secret intelligence that you might be there later that night. I had hoped to attend the after party at Joe’s Cafe, but Jesus Harold Hopping Christ, Chef, it was $250.00 a head to get in. And for what? Cocktails and canapes? For that much, it better come with a blow job and a framed picture of the occasion. And when it comes to blow jobs, I’m afraid I’m all booked up. So dropping a grand to get the four of us in for bad food and watery drinks was just out of the question. You’re a cool dude, Chef, but you’re not a thousand dollars cool.

Happily our strategem worked. We killed some time getting a drink and wandering around, and when we came to the restaurant, voila – there you were! I’m mindful of the fact that you weren’t at the (egregiously overpriced) public reception for a reason, presumably to enjoy a quiet dinner without being hounded by fans. Still, Chef, I couldn’t let the opportunity to say hello go by. I’d brought with a folder with a printout of the picture from the infamous Guts Night to prove that we’d really done it, as well as a printout of that entry. But we put into the hands (with help from Hannah) of the organizers at UCSB, so I have no idea if you ever got it. (Also included, wedding invitation. But hey, you knew you were invited, right?)

Anyway, one way or the other, you got this URL if you’re reading this, so it worked! Thanks also for taking a minute to chat about this project with me. And In Re: Julie Powell – I had no idea about the whole “Julie/Julia” thing before I started this dealio. As a matter of fact, I was poking around for a recipe from Dave Chang‘s Momofoku cookbook and found a funny, interesting blog called “Momofoku For 2” – where the author, Steph, cooks her way through Momofoku. I had no idea this was an idea that had been done to death. So, hey, sorry to be treading well-trodden ground. But you know what? Fuck Julie Powell. I went back and read that book, and she’s smug, self-absorbed, and as neurotic as fuck. Personally, I will cop only to being smug. Maybe a little neurotic. I had the happy privilege of meeting Julia Child on the day her kitchen was opened at the Smithsonian, I just happened to be there, and I stood in line and shook her hand, and thanked her for a lot of the recipes that my family enjoyed in my youth. This was, by the way, a filthy lie – my mother and grandmother were terrible cooks who were more suited for operating a microwave than anything else, and wouldn’t know a braise from a raisin. Except gravy – my Grandma rocked the gravy. Her gravy was the shit.

Anyway Chef, here I am. Friday night I finished my 50th recipe from your book, and already I’ve accomplished some of what I set out to do. I learned how to make a proper sauce, something that’s always eluded me in the past. I’ve learned a passel of great  French recipes – and no joke – most of them in your book are absolutely excellent, and a few are goddamn life-changing.  Like poulet roti, the first. I had no idea chicken could be that good. It was the first pan sauce I made, and the first in a series of realizations about how to take great ingredients and make them shine.

So thanks for taking a bit to talk to me. Your rilletes recipe needs some work, Chef. And listen, if you don’t dig this whole project, I have “no reservations” (see what I did there?) about registering, ok?

And most of all, fuck Julie Powell!


Categories: Maundering
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