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Another Bourdain Dinner!

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment
Pork shoulder by aghrivaine
Pork shoulder, a photo by aghrivaine on Flickr.

Dear Chef Bourdain;

This noble beast is a lovely 6 pound pork shoulder. It’s going to become palette de porc a la biere. It will be accompanied by tomato and fennel soup, as well as pommes sauteed au lard.

If you’re in town for the Emmy’s tonight – stop on by for dinner! I’m just in Venice, and it’s a hell of a lot better than Trader Vic’s, am I right? Christ, I hope so!

Pork and beer – what could go wrong?
Davy

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Categories: Cooking, Eating

Anthony Bourdain’s Chacroute Garnie at a LARP

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Chacroute Garnie Les Halles ala LARP

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Appropriately, you’re live-tweeting hanging out with your friends in the desert, making amazing meals and rock-n-roll. And here I am, live-tweeting about hanging out with my friends in a desert, making amazing meals and….live action roleplaying? Ok, your friends are way cooler than mine. It’s ok, I’m not jealous.

Last weekend I went to a live-action role-playing game. Yeah, I know it’s nerdy, but man, I get to dress up like a viking and hit other nerds with an axe. If you called it “therapy” you could charge a fortune, and it would be just as gratifying. Still, I didn’t want to get too far behind on my project again, so I figured I better keep up and cook something while camping. I picked the Chacroute Garnie because most of the stuff I could pre-cook at home, and then just heat up on a grill at the campsite. This worked out very nicely, as it happens.

I couldn’t find any smoked pork tenderloin locally, so I just made my own. I’ve got a smoker in the back yard, so I got some pork tenderloin, brined it for a couple of days in salt, sugar, thyme and juniper berries, as per the recipe I found online. Unfortunately, I had neither alder nor ash to use for the smoking, so I just stuck with my usual hickory. (Mesquite is too strong for something like this.) I also spent a good chunk of the previous week making sausages, so I had home-made sausage to take for the “glistening pile of pork”, too. These particular sausages had chicken, pork, garlic, plum, ginger and soy – making them taste something like the inside of a dumpling. After getting cooked on a mesquite fire, they had a smokey flavor that balanced the Asian-ness of them so they worked just great. I’d also pre-boiled my potatoes.

So then, during a break in the action, I put the kraut and potatoes and salted pork belly in one pot, the sausage, smoke tenderloin slices in the other, and arrayed the frankfurters on the grill between the pots. This particular campground has an interesting history. It’s currently a Boy Scout camp, nestled into the hot, arid canyons North of Los Angeles; but originally in the 50’s, it was owned by, I kid you not, Nazi 5th columnists, who used it to train their insurrection forces meant to assist the Germans when they landed their invasion forces. Obviously that didn’t work out too well for them, neither the sympathizers nor the Germans, and so our shores remained cheerily Nazi-free. But it’s a great campground and a perfect site for epic battles of good vs. evil.

Campfire cooking at its easiest!

I started the whole thing with duck fat, onions and garlic – the aroma of which brought my hungry friends, starving after a hard day of hitting each other with foam weapons, sniffing around the pot for a taste. I have to say it was really excellent, and easy to put together in the field. Most of the work was front-loaded, and the assembly was just the sort of thing to accompany an ice-cold beer (and a bit poured into the kraut) and lounging in the shade for a while.Of course, sauerkraut does have a notorious side effect, and let me tell you, nothing is quite so embarrassing as noisily breaking wind while kneeling before the Queen of the Elves… but I can’t hold you responsible for that, Chef. Anyway, it was dark and no one knew it was me.

I’d call this one a hit – in fact, a MIGHTY BLOW PLUS FIVE! That’d make sense if you were a nerd, chef. Or at least a nerd that did Dying Kingdoms, which you totally ought to try.

Davy

P.S. that’s totally my wife, dressed like an elf, eating a glistening pile of pork. I’m a lucky dork!

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Maundering

Bourdain-a-thon: Carmageddon, The Aftermath

July 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Everyone looks clean and sober to start, at least...

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Carmageddon was greatly exaggerated, and turned out to be Y2K-like in its underwhelmingness. Bourdain-A-Thon, on the other hand, was better than expected, and featured drinking, cooking, vikings, dogs and lots of good food. We tried to kick things off with a nice responsible picture on the couch with Assistant Chef Bourdain.

The black blur is actually a dog.

It didn’t work, he was way too anxious to get cooking. We put on a marathon of No Reservations on Netflix and started off. With drinking. That seemed like a good place to get started. We cracked a beer, and warmed up the warhammer for making Veau Viennese.

Tenderizers are for pussies.

I had set a goal of completing 14 dishes during the weekend, and I actually got 13 of them knocked out. That puts me closer to actually completing everything in time, but given the difficulty in locating some ingredients, I am ever less confident of really finishing. But I won’t bullshit about it, if I don’t make it, I don’t make it.

Since the traffic for Carmageddon was so underwhelming, and the various tribes of barbarians roaming the wastelands remained in their traditional blasted, ruined hellscapes;  (the valley) people actually did drop by. Some of them were totally down to commit murder – Nathan from Ikillit.com adding to his repertoire;

"I KEEL you, mussels! I KEEL you FILTHY!"

…and since hand Cody were pre-gaming before they came over for even more drinking, dressing up like a viking and roaming the streets of Venice, challenging other lawyers to duels seemed like a good idea.

Bring it. And by "it" I mean another drink.

But aside from shenanigans, I did get a lot of cooking done – and consequently a lot of eating, too. By Sunday night, I really didn’t want to look at another pot, and my lovely wife sure as hell didn’t want to clean ’em. Proving to myself once again – I’m a hobbyist, and will never be a pro.

Here’s the list of what I actually made:

  • Whole Fish Basquaise
  • Soup au vin
  • Veau Viennese
  • Lapin Aux Olives
  • Moules Basquaise, Moules a la Portugaise, Moules a la Grecque
  • Pate de Foie Gras aux Pruneaux
  • Petatou
  • Daube Provencale
  • Cote de Porc
  • Celery Remoulade
  • Salad Nicoise

I had planned to make pommes fondant as well, but that one will wait for another day. Don’t worry Chef, I know you’re waiting on bated breath for each and every write-up, and I’ll deliver!

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Maundering

Not-So-Whole-Fish Basquaise

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Whole Fish Basquaise (but not so whole fish)

Dear Chef Bourdain;

My lovely wife headed out to the hallowed halls of Super King, way up in Pasadena-ish territory. They are a purveyor of many fine and strange meats at very reasonable prices, so it was worth the trip to lay in the supplies for the Carmageddon Bourdain-A-Thon. This was the same place I got the offal for Tripes Les Halles on Guts Night. She had a big list, because it’s a pretty big menu, and I didn’t do the greatest job of being especially specific. So when I said “red snapper” in my head was this big ol’ gorgeous fish. But she got fillets instead, because she is not telepathic, no matter how often I expect her to be.

But ya know, fish is only going to keep so long, so I figured I’d just do it anyway – I know that your exhortations about fish being better on the bone are sincere. In fact I’ve cooked whole red snapper before anyway – just not in the Basquaise style. So I’mna say this counts, anyway, even though it’s not a real whole fish. If you disagree, let me know and I’ll do it over again. After telling you to go fuck yourself, ‘cuz what were you thinking with so many goddamn veal recipes?

Step one - don't fuck up the meez.

Bearing in the mind the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far – don’t fuck  up the meez – I proceeded to not fuck up the meez. An onion, a red pepper, a green pepper, four garlic cloves and thyme leaves, all set to go. I heated up roasting pan and olive oil, and browned the onions and pepper. This fills the house with an amazing smell, and so I bet the Basque people are both colorful and perpetually hungry. Judging by the recipes named after them. By that same logic, though, I am covered with cilantro and have avocado on my head.

After the veg was browned, I added the garlic and thyme. When that got hot, I poured in the white wine and scraped up the good stuff. I added some home-made stock (it really does make a difference) and brought it to a boil. On goes the fish fillets, and into the 400F oven. Your recipe is for a whole fish, which obviously would take longer to cook than just some fillets, so I kept a close eye on it. I also omitted the potatoes since we’re doing the low-carb thing most of the week. I managed to pull the fish out at just the right moment, so it was delicate, flavorful and very tender. Assistant Chef Bourdain also went nuts for it, and circled the table like a well-chummed shark.

Assistant Chef Bourdain Approves

I missed out on crisping the skin and the added flavor of the more delicate bits, but it was still really delicious. It’s also easy, and as you say, simple to improvise on, too.  I’m crossing this one off the list. I’m way behind, and the fundamental technique was still the same – and, I might add, something I’ll be using  a lot in the future.

Next time, the whole fish!

Davy

Carmageddon Bourdain-a-thon

July 8, 2011 3 comments

Los Angeles Carmageddon, July 16-17

Hey Chef Bourdain;

I don’t know if you spend much time in Los Angeles, but we’ve got this little thing going on the locals are calling ‘carmageddon’. It might be a little dramatic, but only by a skosh.  they’re shutting down the 405 on the weekend of July 16th, which basically means that all of Los Angeles is going to descend into a sort of cross between the Old Testament and Mad Max.  You know, where wandering tribes of scavengers evade the wrath of angry God? It’s like that, plus with smog.

So my plan is to stay the fuck off the roads. Since I’m pretty far behind on my schedule to finish every recipe in your book inside a year, I’m going to take this opportunity to make ALL  THE THINGS.

COOK ALL THE THINGS!

COOK ALL THE THINGS!

Well, all the things I can find ingredients for, anyway. So my plan is this – I’ll work from home on Friday and start cooking.  There might be some drinking, too.  We’re going to watch as many old episodes of No Reserevations as I can stream. Which is nearly all of them. For the entire weekend, I’m going to cook, cook, cook. I don’t know if I can catch up or not, but I’m going to give it the old college try. No, fuck that, Chef – my college tries were pretty half-assed. Well, except after the Army. But anyway – I’mna cook the shit out of ALL THE THINGS.

Anyone who is stranded by Carmageddon and doesn’t want to take their chances evading the wrath of an angry god and wasteland scavengers is welcome to come over for all or some of it – There will definitely be something to eat. Whatever we don’t eat, we’ll freeze or give away. This is probably a  make-it-or-break-it proposition, if I don’t get caught up, or at least mostly caught up, it’s going to be progressively harder to do so  before the deadline. (November 1st, 2011, for the record.)

So Chef – or any other neighborinos, stop on by for the Carmageddon Bourdain-A-Thon. Though, if for some strange reason you actually show up, we’ll just play loud punk music instead of making you watch your own show, ok?

Davy

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!

Davy

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!

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating
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