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Luscious Lamb Livers

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Foie d'agneau Lyonnaise

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.

Now, liver of any sort fairly well calls out for onions, and your recipe does not disappoint.
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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.
Assistant Chef

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.
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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.
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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?
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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.

Yours;

Davy

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And by the way…

December 12, 2012 1 comment

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!

Davy

Friday night means fancy food at the Krieger house. And fancy food means cooking' with wine!

Categories: Maundering

Fresh, Hot Kidneys? Yes please!

December 12, 2012 Leave a comment

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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!
Kidney meez

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.
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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.
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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.
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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;

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep
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