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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.

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

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

French Chef Smackdown

January 3, 2011 2 comments

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Bad news, chef. Julia Child took you out by a hair.  It was a good fight, you hung in there until the very last round, and for a while you even had her up on the ropes. But in the end, she has some secret weapons on her side that were the telling edge. It should come as little surprise that one of those secret weapons was bacon. (The other was mushrooms.)

Actually, Chef, the whole start of this exercise was my astonishment that your boeuf bourgignon recipe didn’t involve any mushrooms or bacon. It was my understanding that these were fundamental elements to the recipe – that otherwise it was just a beef fricasee in red wine. I conferred with “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” after reading your recipe, and sho’ nuff, Julia says mushrooms and bacon.  So I thought – heck, let’s try them both and see how it turns out.

Given that I was setting out to make two fairly lengthy dishes, I took special care to get my meez straight. Remember kids – don’t fuck up your meez.

Master Yoda says, "Fuck up your meez not, young chefi."

I decided to start with yours first, since the stew reheats well, I figured it really didn’t matter if I was done early and had to let them sit for a while and wait for my guest judges to assemble. Actually, I tell a lie – I got up early and started on the rassa frassa simmered pearl onions for Chef Child’s recipe. But once those were done and set aside, I set to on the Les Halles recipe.

First, brown the meat. In batches, like you say. I worried that maybe my impatience meant I wasn’t really browning the meat enough, and not giving it enough of a nice crisp texture when finished. But looking at this picture? Nah, that was some gorgeous meat right there. (I hear that a lot, Chef, by the by.)

Why don't we just eat it like this?

I had a gajillion onions sliced already, so I just finished it up as you instruct – brown the onions, add the meat, add the burgundy, water, and two large spoonfuls of demi-glace. Bring to boil, then simmer.

Resist eating it for three hours while it simmers.

Your instructions say to let it summer for two-three hours until it’s fork-tender. It actually took me closer to four hours to get that tender. Also, I did some research and found that paleron is the same thing as chuck roast.  So that’s the meat I used. I couldn’t find a decent burgundy that wasn’t incredibly expensive, so I used a bourdeaux instead. In retrospect, I’d probably use dark stock instead of water the next time I make this, too.

Now, while this was happily simmering on the stove top, I had to do the competition’s bourgignon. This was considerably more effort – I had to boil bacon, then brown bacon, then remove it, then brown the beef in batches, then brown the onions, then pour off excess fat and add the beef, then mix in some flour – then in the oven at high heat for four minutes, then toss it, then in the oven for four minutes again, then add stock and wine on the stove top, boil, back in the oven at a simmer. In the mean time, sautee mushrooms. When it’s finally done, you separate the sauce and the beef, add the mushrooms and onions to the beef, skim the fat off the sauce, then put it all together and simmer it on the stovetop again. Sheesh. And while all this is going on, fend off Assistant Chef Bourdain, who is ever-ready to sneaky-snake something off the counter top if I don’t watch him.

Assistant chef he may be, but he is sneaky-snake-in-cheif.

You might find this shocking, Chef, but it wasn’t hard to find some judges to help us decide which was better. We had guest judges from as far away as Boston, from as far North as Simi Valley, as far out as Rancho Cucamunga, and as far South as Costa Mesa. It wasn’t hard to find people more than willing to sit down to some hot beef stew on a cold and rainy night. We get one or two of those a year, and this was one of them. We also lubricated them with the wine we didn’t cook, plus a couple of more bottles contributed to the cause by the guests. Suffice to say, they were feeling pretty hungry, pretty cheerful, and pretty cozy when they sat down to the serious business of our blind taste-test.

I gave them a spoonful of each, one in a bowl and one on the plate so we could tell the difference. The results were 5-3 in favor of Julia Child – but everyone admitted it was a pretty close call no matter what. Julia’s recipe just uses “stew meat” and a cheap, dry, young red – chianti, for instance. So if we’d used better beef she might have done even better. On the other hand, quite a few people said “This is what I expect bourgignon to taste like, but this one is better” – meaning yours had that classic taste. Personally, I had to give it to Julia Child, because of the bacon and the mushrooms. I do notice that you use a lot of onions in your bourgignon, whereas she uses only one, and keeps the pearl onions separate until the end. I think the acid of the onions in yours makes the beef more tender, in addition to smelling amazing while it cooks.

But the truth is, yours was a lot easier to make, and I think that’s the heart of bistro-style cooking –  make it simple, make it fast, and make it good. Strip your dishes down to their bare essentials. So when I make boeuf bourgignon again, I think I’ll use the Les Halles method, and just add in a bit of bacon and mushrooms. I’d bet my pancreas that if I made yours that way, it would have won decisively.

Take some consolation, Chef. You might have lost the smackdown – and honestly, Julia Child was an OSS operative and no retiring lily, I’d expect her to work you like side of beef if you’d actually faced her in the ring – she had years of clean living, CIA training and exercise while you were scoring smack and snorting coke. She’d push you around like a G8 protestor, man. But there was one clear winner in this contest, and that was us, the folks that got to sit down and judge it.

I learned a lot about cooking yesterday, and I got to share a good meal with good friends. The space around the table was satisfied and companionable, and even the dog replete with the scraps that were his righteous due once they hit the floor. That’s the thing about learning to cook – the better I get, the happier the people in my  life end up. And for that, I thank both you, and Julia Child.

We’re all winners in that contest, Tony!

Yours;

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating

Magic Mushrooms

January 1, 2011 3 comments

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Mushrooms. Clearly one of the most glorious things to come from poop. Unless, I suppose, you have certain unspeakable predilections, but even in that case I’m guessing you’d still prefer this amazing mushroom soup. This is what The Good Book is best at – simple recipes with a few ingredients that end up just amazing.

I regret only that this soup doesn't have a fancy French name.

Mushrooms are like a secret weapon; they seem kind of humble and uninteresting, but they combine with other stuff to become pretty magical. The earthy, rich flavor, that beautiful savory toothsomeness. I know this whole umami thing is really trendy, but there’s some truth to it, some of the most gorgeous things to eat involve a lot of this flavor. And mushrooms bring it, and then some.

Per your directions, I sauteed onions in butter until the onions were translucent, and threw in the mushrooms. If these pictures look better than the ones I used previously, it’s because now I’ve got a really professional camera, instead of just relying on my iPhone, by the way.

Stuff in a pot. Thrilling!

Next they simmered with chicken stock and flat parsley for about an hour. I had to cheat on the chicken stock – I’m all out of the stock I made back on Stock Day, so I had to use the boxed kind. I’m sure it would have been better with real stock- your forward is quite correct about that – good stock makes for good soup. Or you know, whatever you’re putting your stock into. If I’d had some chicken demi-glace, this would have been a perfect place to use it, too. But I don’t. I’m remedying this even as I write this letter – there’s a pot of stock going on the hob, and when it’s done I’m going to save off half of it to make demi-glace with. Anyway, even with the store bought stock, it was lovely. Maybe it’s best I didn’t have the good stuff, I’m not sure I deserve soup that good.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

It reduced more than I expected while simmering, so in the future I’ll probably increase the batch size. But after an hour, I took it off and did it in batches in the blender, making sure not to shoot boiling hot mushroom goop all over my kitchen and self. As amusing and “my life as a comedy” appropriate that would surely have been to everyone but me, I’m happy with not ending the year with my skin melted off in an umami volcano.

Seen here: all the ingredients for slapstick genius

I put the results back on to simmer with some sherry. Your stern imprecations not to use cheap sherry aside, that’s all I had. And even that has lasted about a gajillion years. I know, I know, in an ideal world I’d send the butler out to go fetch me a bottle of the 1897 Chateau de ste domaine le pretense (I hear that was a very good year for pretension), but this is the real world. Cheap sherry it was. I don’t think it mattered. Even with store bought stock and cheap sherry, this was a gorgeous bowl of soup. It was creamy and toothsome and delicious – but without any cream. This was mildly amazing, so few of these recipes don’t have heavy cream. In fact, MLF didn’t believe it didn’t have cream in it, it has that silky, hearty flavor to it. But nope, cream-free. (There’s more than enough butter to compensate though, this is hardly health-food.) I had it with a little white truffle oil drizzled on top, and a couple of slices of fresh-baked bread. Just the thing to fortify me for a night’s New Year celebration!

I hope your 2011 is great Chef, I don’t doubt mine is going to be delicious!

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating

The Bitch is Back – and she brought a friend!

December 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

For Christmas I served a crown roast of pork. I used a recipe I found from Gourmet Magazine. It was made with a marjoram and sage stuffing – but I modified that to go along better with sauce bearnaise by using thyme and tarragon instead. I also repeated your gratin dauphinoise.

Why does this pork have a crown? Hail to the king, baby.

But the real triumph was the bearnaise. I corrected my previous mistakes; for Christmas I got a metal mixing bowl, and I used that in a properly simmering double-boiler. Also, I chopped the shallots much finer, though maybe using the food processor was a bit of a cheat. Actually, I can chop an onion or a shallot pretty quickly now, so I feel like I’ve learned something there, too.

I was ably assisted by Dummy The Cat, who reminded me over and over again what’s become my catch-phrase in this project – “Don’t fuck up the meez.” I mean, when you’ve got a cat poking her nose in your prep, you make extra sure that it’s all measured out and safely stowed. As a result, I was able to pull off dinner for 12, never lose my cool, and keep the kitchen basically neat while working. So much so that Dummy’s predations were minimized, and when MLF got home from visiting family, she said, “Wow. Everything actually looks pretty clean.” Chef – I did not fuck up my meez.

Assistant to assitant-chef Bourdain.

Anyway, the bearnaise came out just perfectly. The egg yolks never got close to curdling, and the sauce thickened up as beautifully as could be with the butter. It was a gorgeous emulsion, and it kept in a thermos for an hour and than another few hours on the table without breaking. This morning we had a little leftovers, and the sauce was still firm and delicious. It was well received at the table, too. I don’t have the greatest experience with bearnaise in the world, but it was easily the best I’ve had, anyway.

People seemed quite taken with the dolphinnoise, too, which I jazzed up with a little bit of white truffle oil.  Unlike last time, I put the herbs in a sachet – which you don’t call for in your recipe, but makes fishing them out after boiling the potatoes in cream quite a bit easier.

So in short, the stuff I made that came from elsewhere was good but not fantastic, whereas everything out of the good book was really excellent. I didn’t make anything I hadn’t tried before, but like you said, I’m going to fuck up the bearnaise the first time, so just try it again. And lo – it worked! Somehow we squeezed 12 people into our little house for Christmas dinner – but the crowd wasn’t a burden, but a pleasure. Somehow this big family is all really close. No one fights, they all sit down to share genuine affection, love and…dare I say it? Joy. Yes, joy. What goes better with joy than pork, cream, butter, and cheese, I ask you?

Nothing chef. Nothing at all. I hope your Christmas was just as merry – I’m sure your dinner was!

Merry Christmas;

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating

Bearnaise Is My Bitch

December 23, 2010 1 comment

Cote de Boeuf with sauce bearnaise, truffled pommes puree

Dear Chef Bourdain;

With the Christmas just around the corner, all the cuts and roasts that are normally hard to get are on display at the local supermarkets. For my Christmas beast feast, I settled on a crown roast of pork. No recipe for that in The Book, but I’ll make do. Anyway, a bone-in rib steak, which is what we’d call Cote de Boeuf, was easily available, so I seized the opportunity. This means making sauce bearnaise, though, which is one of the things I was both dreading and looking forward to. One of my chief motivations in this project was my utter inability to make any sauce that requires an emulsion. Sauce bearnaise is like the granddaddy of all emulsions, so it was going to be a challenge. Never the less, your assertion that this sauce senses fear was well taken, and I proceeded with the courage of my convictions.

First I paid very careful attention to my mise-en-place. The tarragon reduction was pretty easy, and the process of clarifying the butter worked exactly as I’ve heard it described, but never done before. Imagine that!

Can't fuck up the meez!

I didn’t want to be in the middle of trying to keep the sauce from breaking and scrabble for something. So I got all the ingredients together, and sort of mentally rehearsed how it would go. With that in mind, I could proceed without feeling like I had no idea what I was doing, and also without having to stop to check the recipe. Here is the result.

This video goes on too long. Also my fiancee argues with me too much. Anyway the result was a really delicious sauce, and the steak was exquisite. The sauce had a tendency to separate a bit when it was left alone, but this could be rectified with just a little stirring. And the flavor! It was so intense and smooth and tangy! It was nothing like bearnaise sauce I’ve had in the past, in a very good way. This is one of my favorite recipes I’ve done so far, and MLF says it’s her favorite, hands down.

I got a cast iron pan ripping hot. Today was the largest rainfall in Los Angeles history, so the grill was kind of out of the question. I seasoned the steak, put olive oil in the pan, and browned it on all side for about three minutes a side.

Do you want to eat this right now? I do.

I literally had to stop MLF from molesting the steak -she picked up a fork and was about to poke it. “STOP! What are you doing?” I said. “I want to poke it,” she said. To what end? This is the sort of mystery that plagues inter-gender relations throughout the ages. I convinced her not to molest the steak, and put it in a 400F oven for 12 minutes – this was a really thick steak, it needed the extra time.

Shhh! It's resting.

I let it rest. Between Assistant Chef Bourdain and a poke-mad girlfriend, I had to guard this steak pretty carefully so it could get some rest. I felt like Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, keeping watch over his campaign tent so L’Empreur could sleep in peace. When it was done, voila – amazing steak.

Of course, I did serve a shockingly expensive burgundy in cheap glasses. I did serve that steak in bleeding, fat-rippled hunks, just as you instructed.  And yet, despite my attempts to show them who’s their daddy – which your book promises I will accomplish, when I asked MLF who her daddy is, she said, “My daddy is my father.” So yeah, that just didn’t work at all.

I guess if I want to be someone’s “daddy” I’m just going to have to have kids. But they can’t have any of the wine!

Not your daddy;

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep

Porc Mignons a l’ail

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

For the most part, my job is better than yours used to be. Definitely not better than it is, because clearly you have about the best job in the world right now. But I’m talking the 14 hours a day on your feet in a kitchen part. Mostly I sit on my butt doing computer stuff – it’s almost always low stress, pays well, and I like the people I work with. Also, they never threaten to “stand on either side of me, drill a hole in my neck and make their dicks touch in the middle”. Well, almost never, anyway.

But tonight I’m stuck watching a database restore which is as thrilling as it sounds. So that’s why I have time for a second letter in the same day. That’s okay though, since I have quite a backlog of things I’ve made and have yet to report on. It’s just that writing these letters after work, I only have so many hours in the day, you know?

This was the beauty of porc mignons a l’ail, part of the same dinner as the rillettes, steak tartare, and onion soup les halles.

I want to eat this right now.

Read more…

Categories: Cooking, Deep Prep, Eating, Prep
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