Author Archive

Goodbye, Chef Bourdain

December 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

It’s been six months since you killed yourself. The weekend after, some friends of mine and I had a final “Bourdain Dinner” where I tried to finish one or two of the items that were left undone in this project, started so long ago. We made “skate” grenobloise, and despite driving all over Los Angeles we didn’t find any skate. Several places promised they had it, but it was lies. We ended up at an asian fish market that I am positive you would have loved for the wide variety of strange foods there. We were half-stewed because one of my compatriots (who was also present for the very first Bourdain dinner, “Chicken of the Gods” – appropriate that he was also there for the last..) showed up much earlier than I expected. I’d laid in a fair amount of wine and booze for the day and evening, but maybe having some “breakfast wine” wasn’t the greatest idea. But I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a Bourdain idea. “Should we drink breakfast wine?” What would Tony Bourdain do?

So there we are slightly legless at the Asian fish market, and up the hall is a Philippino fast food place that serves halo halo, just like you had in the LA episode with Dave Choe. We got ourselves a cup and as you said yourself, it makes no goddamn sense, but I love it. We ended up with …. I dunno, chef, some kind of fish that’s supposed to be a little bit like skate, maybe giant perch, I think? Eventually we ended up back at my house and we watched some of our favorite No Reservations and Parts Unknown episodes, and I made “skate” grenobloise and whipped up some kind of rice dish. It was pretty damn good, as I recall.

But that was six months ago. And I haven’t been able to write this letter, because this will be the last one. How I feel about your suicide is complicated. It’s not that I need to “process my feelings” or anything like that, they’re no less complicated now than they were when you died. But the edge is off, and while it doesn’t feel any less heart-breaking, at least today it feels like I’m bigger than the grief. Like if that heartbreak gives me any trouble, I can beat it up and take its lunch money.

The way you died is terrifying to me. Because on paper, you had it all. You had a career the rest of us can (literally) only dream of, travel anywhere you want, fame, fortune. More than that, you had the respect of your peers; you were famously welcome everywhere, and beloved by all for your ability to bring people together, to get them to see what’s good in each other. All without being saccharine-sweet or phony. You were an edgy, authentic, snarky bastard all the way. But above all that was honesty, and people love that. I love that. You had a daughter, an 11 year old daughter. You had friends. You were healthy – healthier and more fit than you’d ever been. What was missing, chef?

That scares the hell out of me, chef. I don’t have … any of that, except the daughter. I don’t have a dream career, though I’ve got a good job. I have to save for travel and don’t get to do it nearly often enough. What friends I had are scattered by either distance or my divorce and I rarely see them. I am not loved, or married, or dating a movie star. I am not fit, and my health has been spotty. (Though fine now, thank you for asking.) I have the daughter though! She’s five, not 11, but she’s a constant source of joy. I can’t imagine leaving her behind. For one thing, I wouldn’t want to scar her like that. For another, I want to see how she turns out. I think she’s going to set the world on its edge, and I want to see what she does. I can’t tell if she’ll be a villain or a hero, but I’m sure she’s going to be brilliant.

But none of that was enough for you, chef. Why not? And if that kind of success doesn’t inoculate you from the darkness, I’m pretty sure that means nothing outside the self can. The only way to be safe from your demons is to fight them yourself, because fame, and fortune, and luxury, and love, and family and friends and all your dreams come true aren’t good enough, apparently.

That is a hard truth to handle. That’s what’s taken me six months to wrap my head around. And what broke it open was an article I read today , one little quote, seemingly inconsequential. It’s this, Matt Goulding (producer): He [eventually just got] tired of eating. You could see it. Very rarely he said anything more than, “Mmm, that’s really good.” I said, “You don’t talk about food anymore.” And he was like, “What do you need me to tell you? You need me to tell you how the acidity plays off of the richness of the cream sauce? And how the crunch helps refresh your palate? Bullshit. You don’t need me.”

“He eventually just got tired of eating.” I think that’s it, right there. I mean, what do I know, I’m just some guy that met you once in a bar on Santa Barbara, and likes the stuff you made? But that could do it, it seems to me. No joy. No joy in the food anymore. What happens when you’ve got everything, and there’s no joy? What happens when you have an amazing opportunity, one after another, but there’s no joy? There’s a sense of appreciation for what an honor it is to get to do what you do, sure. And gratitude for the life you’ve lead, yeah. But … you stopped talking about the food, chef. That’s what made you famous. Or half of it, anyway – it wasn’t just the food, of course, it was the people making the food, sharing the food, eating the food. It was sharing their joy about food, and sharing it with everyone.

If there’s no joy, you’re just going through the motions. And I can see in a particularly dark moment, you might look at a future that is an endless trudge of doing things everyone is quick to tell you you’re so incredibly lucky to do, and find that unbearable. If you were just some schlub working at a pipe-fitting job in Hackensack, maybe you’d feel entitled to a little existential dread, and that would somehow be a comfort. Like, “Yeah, of course this all feels hollow, it SUCKS.” But what do you do if it really shouldn’t suck, if it ought to a non-stop carnival of fun and adventure….and you’re just done? But you can’t be done, because now you’re an industry. Now there’s all these people depending on you for their jobs, for their living – and their families too. If you were a little less famous and fortunate, you could just walk away, right, chef? But you couldn’t. Not and explain it to anyone.

And maybe five minutes more and you’d have shaken it off, just enough to get through the night. Because the news that Tony Bourdain quit his amazing job traveling the world and having a gas with friends from everywhere would be puzzling, but it wouldn’t be a punch in the gut the way Tony Bourdain killing himself was. Because you can come back from having a breakdown, or a sabbatical, or fuck – just walking away letting it all burn and living in a shack in the woods. A few years later when you’ve found your joy again, you can go on to your next gig. Or help young people new to the industry get their message out, and share the love that way. Or just retire and refuse to answer questions, like Salinger. Whatever, the thing is, fuck you, Uncle Tony, you killed yourself rather than find out if you could do any of that.

I’ve got a fraction of the blessings you had. But I’ve got a fraction of the responsibilities too – the only people that depend on me are my daughter, and Assistant-Chef-Bourdain. (Aka Blink. And my other dog, too, though she hasn’t experienced the leftovers like Blink has.) I don’t see my friends very often, and they’d barely notice if I was gone – I wouldn’t leave a huge hole in the world, the way you did. But I don’t have any addictions, either. And most importantly, I still talk about food. I still enjoy eating. I still feel the joy. I’ve got something that I think, at the end, you didn’t have, and I think it killed you.

I don’t know, chef. That’s just my intuition. But it helps me find your death a little less scary. Because I have had depression too. I’ve struggled with my own demons, too. But now I know; when I don’t find any joy in the things that mean the most to me, it’s time to reach out for help. Because I am now, and I hope I always am, hungry for more.

Goodbye, Chef Bourdain. This is my final letter. It’s been a hell of an experience, learning from you. In the last eight years, I learned to cook, I learned to write a little better, I learned to experiment and try anything anyone offers me.  I won’t forget, just like you told me in Santa Barbara – the cassoulet needs a little more oil. And most importantly, I promise, I won’t fuck up my meez. Goodbye. Thank you. Fuck you. Nah, thank you, that’s the important port. But fuck you a little. My dream of cooking for you and Chef Ripert will never come true. Goodbye.

Categories: Uncategorized

Movin’ up to CNN!

March 29, 2013 2 comments

Hey Chef Bourdain;

Congrats on moving up to CNN!

Anthony Bourdain moves to CNN with “Parts Unknown”

Hope some of your good luck rubs off on me!


Categories: Maundering

Emu Egg Frittata in Bacon Cups

January 8, 2013 1 comment

Emu egg frittata in a bacon cup

Dear Chef Bourdain;

My first conscious act after a holiday party in 2013 was to blow the guts out of an emu egg, and turn it into frittatta in bacon cups. I think that’s a pretty good start, and probably as close to becoming Danaerys Targaryan as I’ll ever get. Mother To Dragons? I’ll have to settle for “Frother Of Dinosaurs.”
Emu Egg Blow

But wait, Davy, you must be asking yourself? (If you were reading this, so if you’re actually asking yourself that, something weird has happened. Perhaps something weird and magical, but anyway… let me not digress to much. Or give away the secrets of”Phase 2″…) Where did I get an emu egg? My friend and accomplished writer, Jesse Heinig delivered it as a treat from the North, from an ostrich farm near Solvang. My research revealed that emu eggs are about the equivalent of 10-12 chicken eggs, have a very similar flavor, and will keep for a week or two in the fridge. It’s a beautiful, vibrant and multi-hued teal color, so we wanted to be sure to preserve the shell for …some decorative purpose. (Or maybe part of phase 2? Wait and see!)

Getting into the shell was itself quite an endeavor. My wife and her father took turns delicately whirring away at it with a power drill, and switched out bits at least three times before they managed to get through the shell. In the hand it feels weighty and solid, and in fact it’s even thicker and stronger than it would seem. And it seems doughty indeed. Having created a small hole at one end and a slightly larger blowing-hole at the other, it then became a test of lung power to get the contents out and into a mixing bowl. This calls for a professional blowhard. Fortunately, no shortage of those in this family!
Emu Egg Meez

Next up was not fucking up my meez. The egg-violating took quite a while, so I had plenty of time to finely slice a couple shallots, dice up half a red onion, and dice four cloves of garlic. I also kept close to hand some salt, seasoned pepper, savory, and white truffle oil.
Emu Egg Mix
Once the egg was in the bowl, its secret places invaded by blown breath; I used an immersion blender to make it nice and frothy. I found I had to use a sort of jerking-off motion to get the blades up in the air for a fraction of a second to incorporate the air and substantially increase its volume. I also folded in the salt, seasoned pepper and about 2 tsp of truffle oil. When it was about half-again in volume, I folded in the garlic and shallots.
Emu egg mix

First thing in the morning I had already created bacon cups with a half-pound of bacon. That’s dead easy – just wrap the bottoms of a cupcake tin with foil. Cut a rasher in half, lay it crosswise over the top, and then wrap another piece around it. I let it cook slow in the oven with another tray underneath (and the tin foil curved up at the edge) to catch drippings. When the fat had rendered out, it made nice crispy bacon cups. I don’t have any pictures because…well, it was first thing in the morning after a holiday party. You can guess my condition. I wasn’t focused on photography. Fuck you if you don’t empathize. But to quote the immortal George Patton, “I’ve read your book, you son of a bitch!” So I know you feel me.

After that it’s easy. I’d pre-heated the same cupcake pan (with bacon cups removed and rinsed off) in a 400F oven. Put that on the range over heat to keep it hot, and poured the frittata over a little heated olive oil in each cup. Topped it with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and red onion. Into the oven it goes, and about ten minutes later, or at any rate when you jiggle it and the center is just set, you take it out of the oven. Sit for a minute or two, and pull the frittatas out of the cups, put them in the bacon cups, and serve to your hung over, curious and hungry friends and family.
Emu egg frittata

The flavor was nice; emu eggs really are like chicken eggs in flavor, but have a more dense, creamy texture. I think frittata was a good choice, though the solid ingredients sunk right to the bottom. A more experienced cook would have known that and stirred while pouring, but as it stands we got all the chunky and delicious bits in some of the frittata and less in the others. But it all tasted grand, as delicious as any dinosaur egg could reasonably be!

I’ll include the recipe after this, for completeness sake. Something tells me you won’t be making it though, chef.


Emu Egg Frittata in Bacon Cups


  • 1 pound of bacon
  • 1 emu egg
  • 2 shallot, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp of truffle oil
  • 1/2 red onion finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 tbsp of savory
  • salt, seasoned pepper to taste


  1. pre-heat oven to 275F, invert cupcake pan and carefully wrap in foil.
  2. Cut a piece of bacon for each cup in half, and make criss-cross over top. With another piece, wrap each cup. Put it in the oven until the bacon fat renders out; about 20-30 minutes, maybe more. Can do ahead by a few hours. (Put a drip pan under to catch the fat!) Set bacon cups aside.
  3. Increase oven heat to 400F
  4. Make a large hole in one end of the emu egg with a power drill. Use a fine bit to punch through and a larger bit to widen the hole. Put a small hole in the other end, blow egg out into a mixing bowl.
  5. Put a cupcake pan (clean the first one if you re-use it) in the oven to pre-heat the pan.
  6. Add the salt, seasoned pepper, savory and truffle oil. With an immersion blender, use a jerking off motion to froth the egg until it’s substantially increased in volume, and nice and frothy.
  7. Fold in the shallot and garlic.
  8. Put the cupcake pan over high heat on the range. Pour a tsp or so of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom. Heat until it just shimmers.
  9. Pour half a cup full of egg mix in to each cupcake cup. Top with red onion and cheese.
  10. Put in oven. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the center is just set when you jiggle it.
  11. Remove, let sit for two minutes.
  12. Slide frittatas out of pan with a spoon or very small spatula. Place in bacon up – serve.

This recipe created by David Krieger. Enjoy, but credit!

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.



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!


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


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.

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.

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.

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;


Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep

A Bacon Contest? I’m in!

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Lamb shank 1

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I’ve kind of got a love-hate relationship with Whole Foods. I loathe their right wing Libertarian politics and the causes they support. But I do admit that it’s the best place local – literally a few blocks from my house – to get fresh, farm-raised meat. So when I saw they were having a bacon-recipe contest, I thought to myself – “Hey, I can cook with bacon, and relieve Whole Foods of a year’s worth of free bacon!” This is win-win. So I’m going to enter “Beer-and-bacon-braised Lamb Shanks.” Since I used a lot of the flavors and techniques I learned from your book, I thought I’d first record it here.


2 lamb shanks, trimmed of fat

1 yellow onion, chopped fine

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 cup of dark, sweet beer

4 slices of streaky bacon

1/4 lb of chicken livers

2 carrots, peeled, chopped into 2″ chunks or so

2 sprigs of rosemary

1 bay leaf

2-4 cups of lamb stock

1/2 cup of cream


Step one, make sure your assistant chef is in place to observe all safety and hygiene procedures:
New assistant chef

Pre-heat the oven to 300F. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a cold dutch oven, line the bottom with the bacon. Turn on medium-low heat and allow the bacon to cook until the fat renders out mostly.

Lamb shank 10
When the bacon is cooked, set it aside on some paper towels. Pour out all but a tablespoon or so of the bacon grease, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat up to high, when the grease shimmers and just before the it starts to smoke, put in the shanks to brown. A couple of minutes on each side, as well as the joint, to get it nice and brown all around.

Lamb shank 9
Lamb shank 8

Set the shanks aside – not with the bacon, so you can catch the juices without them being soaked up by the paper towel. Deglaze the pan with the beer. Scrape, scrape scrape up that delicious brown stuff with a wooden spoon! Let the beer come to a simmer.
Put the onions in, and cook them at medium-high heat until they soften just a bit. Then put in the carrots and garlic, cook all until it starts to caramelize – probably something like 5-7 minutes. Put in the chicken livers and let them brown up a bit, just a minute or two.

Lamb shank 7
Put in the lamb stock. I made my own, a dark lamb stock that did a lot to add flavor. Beef stock will do, if that’s what you’ve got, so long as it’s some kind of dark stock. If you’ve got some demi-glace stashed away somewhere, this would be a great time to put in a spoonful, too.

Lamb shank 6

Let the stock come to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Nestle the lamb shanks in, facing each other, like a yin-yang symbol. Experience the profound peace and harmony of lamb. Delicious, delicious lamb. Lamb is a symbol of peace, right? Crumble the bacon up and sprinkle it evenly across the top of the mix. Put in the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf.
Lamb shank 5

Cover the dutch oven,. and put it in the oven for about three hours – turning the shanks over half-way through.

Lamb shank 4

When it’s done, put the dutch oven back on the heat, and remove the shanks to a platter. Carefully – seriously, really, truly carefully – strain out the solids and put it in a food-processor, less the rosemary and bay leaf. Meanwhile, put the remaining liquid back on high heat and let it reduce until it’s sticky enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, and season to taste.

Lamb shank 3

Pour the cream in with the solids, and pulse the food processor until all the bits are a nice thick, creamy gravy. Taste it. Is it super chicken-livery? If so, pour out some of the solid. If not, pour the reduced liquid into the processor with the rest of the gravy, and pulse until incorporated.

Lamb shank 3

Let the shanks rest – probably the time its taken you to make the sauce is sufficient. Serve on a platter, drizzle the sauce over the shanks and set the rest aside for later use, which is to say, soaking up even more of it with the lamb and some nice fresh French bread.

So what do you think, Chef Bourdain? Bacony enough? I like the earthy-organ flavor of the livers with the sweetness of the ale in the simmer sauce. Next time I might try and coat the lamb with seasoned flour before browning it, for a proper fricassee method. But maybe that’s hopelessly old-fashioned? Fuck it, sometimes old-school is the best school!

Thanks for teaching me the techniques that got me here, I think it’s a pretty good dish.

Categories: Cooking

Surprise! It’s Snails!

April 12, 2012 4 comments
Escargot aux nois by aghrivaine
Escargot aux nois, a photo by aghrivaine on Flickr.

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I realize I am extraordinarily behind. I’ve actually cooked a large majority of the dishes in your book, but haven’t really written all that many of them up. I shall rectify. (Rectify? Damn near killed him!)

A while ago i was invited to a party at a friend’s – Sous Chef “Big Daddy” Poteete, in fact. I believe it was house-warming, or apartment-warming, though it might have been a birthday, it now eludes me. So I took the opportunity to prepare a “mystery dish” and bring it.

Only after warming it on site, and setting it out in the incredibly appetizing form you see above – and being sure everyone tasted it, did I spoil the “guess the secret ingredient” game and tell them it was snails.

In preparation, escargot aux nois Les Halles is fairly straightforward, and I think I managed the right flavor and consistency, though I think they could have used a bit more salt. In fact everyone who tried them enjoyed it, and went back for seconds generally, even after they found out what they were.

So there you have it, Chef Bourdain – cruel tricks for dear friends that turn out to be pretty delicious. I’d definitely make escargot again, but given the cost of the main ingredient, the truth is it probably won’t happen.

Soylent green is people!

Categories: Cooking, Eating

Failure: My cri de coeur de porc

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Cri de coeur (de porc ala Armagnac)

Cri de coeur (de porc ala Armagnac)

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.

One meez, un-fucked, as per your advice

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!

The only segue from a terrorism joke is a picture.

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!

Anthony Bourdain’s Pommes en croutes de sel

October 18, 2011 3 comments

Pommes en croutes de sel

Dear Chef Bourdain;

So, my self-imposed deadline of Nov. 1st to cook everything in your book is basically fucked. Short of a last minute cash (and interest by readers) infusion, I’m not going to make it. I’m in hand grenade range – close enough to be dangerous but not right on target. So I’m going to adapt, improvise, and overcome – I’m giving myself as much time as I goddamn need. What am I, getting paid for this or something? (Don’t let that stop literary or screen agents from contacting me, I would love to be paid for this or something!)

So here’s the latest – I made dinner for some friends. I whipped up some chicken Basquaise, which was as good as last time, colorful, easy and delicious. I barely looked at the recipe, it’s such a good one and so easily modified to taste. Along side, I served pommes en croute de sel, or potatoes in a salt crust, for you non-Francophones. (A Francophone is a speaker of French. For you idiots.)

If I’ve learned one thing, Tony, it’s not to fuck up my meez. I feel like I’ve mentioned that here once or twice. That, and more butter means more love. (Which means my lovely wife, who’s birthday it is today, get’s ALL THE BUTTER. Tell her that anonymous internet ninnies!) So this was interesting take on potatoes – no butter.

One meez, sans fucked-upness.

So here we’ve got a dish full of potatoes, four egg whites whipped to stiff peaks (much like a gay S&M club) and a pound of rock salt.

I mixed up the rock salt and the egg whites, and slathered it over the potatoes.

Pommes en croutes de bukkake

Then I baked them. The crust firmed up and kept the potatoes moisture in while they baked. The nice thing was that once they were done, I just turned the oven off and left them in there to keep warm. This is a nice touch when you’re cooking multiple dishes.

When the chicken was ready, I pulled out the dish.

Pommes, still en croute.

Interesting that the whites turned yellow, even in the absence of butter or yolk. So I cracked open the crust, and brushed it away from the potatoes. One thing I discovered – or rather, Mary, one of my guests did – was that you have to be really careful brushing off that crust. ‘Cause rock salt is hard on the teeth,  yo. Next time I do it like this, I’ll be sure to be more diligent about rock-salt removal.

Basically this was a low-stress, delicious way to do potatoes. They were moist and fluffy and cooked all the way through. They broke up nicely and soaked up the  sauce Basquaise. The added bonus that you can do-ahead and keep them warm and fresh in the crust is another point in their favor. Whipping egg whites isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it didn’t take that long. And anyway I’ve been working out a lot lately, and am becoming thoroughly mighty – so much so that no egg white stands a chance against my mighty thews. Thews are important for a chef, right Tony?

Thanks for a definite hit, Chef. Easy utility dish, and delicious.


Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep
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