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Luscious Lamb Livers

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Foie d'agneau Lyonnaise

Dear Chef Bourdain;

As I’ve mentioned, some of your French ingredients are a bit hard to find. Especially since I’m not best friends with a French butcher. Not that I wouldn’t mind, I think that would be great. My imaginary French butcher-friend is named Pierre, and he and I will drink tiny glasses of red wine while I lean against his counter and he throws giant chunks of meat around. We gossip like old hens, exchange crackpot theories about what scientists are doing and not telling us about, and make appreciative remarks about women who walk by his shop-front. Appreciative but not crass; after all I’m married and Pierre…well, he loves the ladies. I mean, really loves them, in a deep and respectful way. To him, the ladies walking by are like a parade of fine art prints. Of course you would remark on their beauty, but such remarks are intended as praise, not degradation. Pierre is fundamentally more conservative than I am, though, so sometimes we argue about politics, but it’s always with affection.

Oh, but right, Pierre doesn’t actually exist. So the six thousand cuts of veal your book calls for? I can’t get them. Not without great expense, and frankly Chef, I’m goddamn unemployed, so if you think I’m going to spend a fortune flying in rare cuts of veal, you and Pierre can just go fuck yourselves. Wait, sorry. I”m not bitter, I swear – I just need a job. Not for the veal, but because health care in America isn’t like healthcare in France. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t also need a job in France…it would just be a little less life-and-death, you know? Not a free ride…just a little bit easier.

So back to veal. Couldn’t find any veal liver. But the local organic ranch has great lamb’s livers, along with other organs. Especially testicles. What’s up with that? I mean, they had a freakin’ freezer full of testicles! Pierre wouldn’t be so obsessed with testicles. So anyway, we got a fresh lamb’s liver. It was beautiful and firm and slappy. Know what I mean? That spankable, firm quality that really good meat has, that makes you just want to slap it a little? So we took this beautiful, slappy lamb’s liver home and had it for one of the best dinners of my life.

Now, liver of any sort fairly well calls out for onions, and your recipe does not disappoint.
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That there, is a slew of onions! As you might imagine, it smelled divine, which is fully half their purpose. It’s not reflected in this pictures, but as the onions were cooking, I sliced up some rashers of bacon into the closest thing to a lardon I can get around here. I threw it in with the onions, and let it cook over medium heat for a good long time.  Other members of the household became aware that something magical was evolving, and reported to the kitchen for their assistant-chefly duties.
Assistant Chef

Note the ducked head and hunched shoulder, the proverbial “hangdog” expression. It says, “No one has ever fed the dog. Ever! Do you think, just maybe, I might end up with a little bit of whatever that is up there?” Anyway, I cooked down the onions, and pre-heated a cast iron skillet for the liver. I put flour, seasoned with salt and pepper on a plate and dredged the liver through it. I improvised a little here – I feel like I’m allowed to do this now, Chef, since it’s obvious I didn’t complete the initial goal and at this point I’m just making stuff to eat for myself. Anyway, I added some truffle salt that I got for my wife last Christmas to the flour. It was a good call, though a very subtle gracenote under the powerful mineral flavor of the liver. So maybe that’s less of a good call, and more of a …pointless gesture? Story of my life.
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As per the usual method, I heated oil in the pan, added butter and waited for it to foam and subside, then browned the liver for a few minutes on both sides. My stovetop doesn’t get very hot, so I’ve been pre-heating my pans in a very hot oven. I don’t have a giant, fat hot gasline like my in-laws do, so I’ve got to make do, and getting a good sear can be challenging without a very hot stove. I have a little camp stove that gets absurdly hot, and I might actually try that with some cast iron pans next time, but this time, a 500F oven and the hob on high worked well enough.
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I set aside the liver and de-glazed the pan with vinegar. As per your suggestion, I had some demi-glace, so along with the onions, bacon and vinegar, I added that in to the cast iron pan, and let it soak and reduce for a while. I’ve noticed that the times on your official recipes are…optimistic. That or your stove is a fuckton hotter than mine. Hey, I just mixed measurements…a ton is not a way you measure heat. But then, a “fuckdegree” just doesn’t sound right either. Would “an hella” be more appropriate?
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It looks glorious, doesn’t it? And served over the liver, it really was. My lovely wife and I were fairly well enraptured by this liver – it was delicate and melt-in-your-mouth, but had a complex minerality that rewarded stopping and thinking a lot about what you were tasting. When we on our honeymoon, we had an amazing meal at a place in Glasgow callled The Butcher Shop Bar And Grill. I’ve even written about it here before, it was pretty magical. Like, flying-around-the-room magical. She had a lamb-liver steak there that was the best liver we’d ever had before; that is, until now. Lamb’s liver has the minerality of liver, but the lamby goodness of lamb. With good, fresh ingredients, it’s an experience not to be missed.

Honestly, this one goes on my short list of best Les Halles meals I’ve prepared. If I can get more fresh lamb’s liver, I will definitely, definitely make it again. This is the kind of meal you could serve to someone who says, “Yuck, I hate liver” – and like a kid in an after-school-special who becomes a raging addict after one taste of crack, they’d instantly swear liver was the greatest thing ever. This is the organ meat that seduces people into loving organ meats, even though they think they’re kind of nasty, like a heavily tattooed pornstar. You know it’s kinda dirty, but you can’t help loving it anyway.

And honestly, chef, after slugging down all the wine you recommend, I need a little extra liver, I suspect.

But fuck you and Pierre and your veal obsession.

Yours;

Davy

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Fresh, Hot Kidneys? Yes please!

December 12, 2012 Leave a comment

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Dear Chef Bourdain;

In the immortal words of Jim Anchower, it’s been a while since I rapped at ya. But now that you’re off the air, and I’m out of work, hey, we’ve got a little time to catch up, right?

So here’s the ‘Rognons de veau’ that I made on Thanksgiving weekend. With thanks to my mother-in-law, who added the garnish and pomegranate seeds to make it pretty. Pretty kidneys. Just doesn’t seem right. And yet… S’anyway, the hardest part here was finding the kidneys, frankly. We Americans have just given up on organ meats, which is a pity, because when done well these were really quite scrumptious. I know I completely failed to do everything in the book in a year, but I still have hopes that I’ll eventually get everything done. Finding ingredients (and being able to afford them…) is the big challenge these days, technically I feel I’m up to at least a creditable attempt at anything in there.

So happily when I took a walk in the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market after breakfast with friends, my lovely wife and I found a local farm that brings their butchery fresh to market, never frozen. As it happened they didn’t have veal – hardly surprising given the general lack of interest in veal around here. But they did have lamb’s liver and kidneys, so we picked up some of each. You’ll have to forgive me for making some substitutions…but look at these kidneys, Chef!
Kidney meez

Gorgeous, right? Glistening and ruddy and …organish. Mmm.

So they might just be lamb’s kidneys, but they really did the trick. I started out by browning the kidneys and setting them aside in a warming tray.  That took too much attention to take a picture, so you’ll have to imagine some nicely browned kidneys. Then I continued as you always do with yer basic Frenchie meat dish; slice yer shallots, de-glaze the pan, brown the shallots.
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One minor difference between this effort and previous efforts. I was cooking at my in-law’s house, and had the good fortune to use their big, robust Viking range as well as the beautiful copper-bottom pots my MIL brought back from Paris. It’s a poor artist who blames his tools, so I won’t say previous failures were the fault of my range or pots, but let me just say that I can tell the difference between the good-enough All-Clad pans I’ve got, and these beauties. It does make a difference, a palpable difference, and can be the subtle edge between really good and sublime.

So once the shallots looked nice and moogly (a highly technical term, “moogly” – it actually comes from the height of the British Empire when continental chefs were trading techniques with India cooks, where “Mugli” meant “Maharaja of Onions In Perfection.”) I put in the mustard, mixed it up and let it reduce a bit till it was nice and sticky.
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After that, it’s just plate the organs, hit ’em up with a bit of the sauce, and cut in. As it turned out they were perhaps a bit more rare than I’d desire; organs take longer to cook on the whole than a regular cut of meat, something I didn’t allow for. But between the warming tray and the freshness of the kidneys, it just didn’t matter. The meat was earthy and savory and delicate, with just a hint of that organ minerality that is so unique. But it was by no means overpowering, it was like a lovely fillip that perfects a portrait, rather than what I expected, was more like overdone bead-bedazzling on an Elvis portrait.

That metaphor was strained. But anyway – my father-in-law, a genuine gentleman-of-adventure who built two boats he sailed around the world on, who has been everywhere and tried it at least once – and decided he didn’t really like it, pronounced these something he would eat again on purpose. It’s sort of like the Grinch driving by your Christmas decorations and going, “Huh. Not bad, really.” High praise.

So I know kidneys can be a hard sell for modern Americans, but let me say – it’s a huge mistake. They’re really delicious, and get a completely undeserved bad reputation. Take some time to get good ingredients (they’re still really cheap) and put a little love in the pan. Not literally, you sicko. Seriously, the stuff I have to put up with from you people! But with some care, a little sense of adventure and a healthy does of what-the-fuck-why-not; you’ll get something unlike anything you’ve had before that’s genuinely delicious.
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Just look at the pink, secret inner joy of that kidney, Chef. That’s some good eating.

But I know with you I’m preaching to the choir. And also that you’re not actually reading this.

Hearts and Kidneys;

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep

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!
Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating

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.

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep

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

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
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