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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

Tartiflette – The Triumph of Bacon

February 24, 2011 1 comment

Tartiflette, aka The Triumph of Bacon, aka Oh Shit That's Good!

Dear  Chef Bourdain;

For a long time I was an adherent of the notion that everything is better with bacon. This was a mistake – like telling a friend you like monkeys, and then getting monkey shit for every gift-giving occasion for the rest of your life, I was inundated with bacon-related gifts. Lest I sound like a cad, let me say, bacon-related gift items are pretty much as awesome as they sound. But it did teach me that not in fact quite everything goes better with bacon.

Happily, French cuisine is not one of those things that doesn’t go better with bacon. Let me unpack that unwieldy sentence for you – the recipes in your book often contain bacon, and are always better for it. I hadn’t realized bistro style cooking was quite so bacon-positive. (Must be third-wave baconists, I guess.)

Almost everything is better with bacon.

Tartiflette is an obscure name for an amazing dish. I’m pretty sure if we gave it a more appealing name, it would rapidly become a much-beloved bar food like potato skins or buffalo wings. “Tartiflette” doesn’t really convey what a beautiful mashup of potato, bacon and cheese this is. I will henceforward refer to it as “The Triumph of Bacon.” Hmm, maybe that still needs some work.

Tartiflette, aka The Triumph of Bacon, aka Oh Shit That's Good!

This one was really easy, too. Boil some potatoes, a skill mastered by everybody who can get potatoes. Skillet up some bacon.

Be prepared to fend off Assistant Chef Bourdain and other interlopers.

Drain off most of the grease and set aside the bacon. Fry up some onion in the pan until it’s nice and moogly. And that’s it. Remain vigilant, interlopers will have smelled the bacon and the onion and become interested.

Eyes in the back of my head, when bacon is at hand.

Scumbling up the potato, bacon and onions in the pan is easy. Then put in a layer in a casserole, and cover it with rebolochon cheese. Another layer of the mix, and another layer of cheese on top. Melt in oven. Bask in the glory that is one of the most comforting of comfort foods imaginable.

Melting, bubbly, bacony comfort.

I served this with some crostini to dab it on or scoop it up. I think something like fritos scoops would be white trash…but white-trash-delicious. This also reheated beautifully, in some ways even better than it was fresh out of the oven. In the future in cold weather, I might make this well ahead and reheat as a starter. I’m definitely making while skiing next month – putting this firmly in the “Hit” category.

What’s seeming to be the heart of bistro style cooking is recipes that are relatively easy, keep well and reheat nicely, and are very delicious.  The challenge has been finding some of the ingredients that would be very common at the actual Les Halles, but are esoteric here in Los Angeles. But the methods I’m learning, and the heart of the style are really valuable.  It’s kind of like practicing kata or forms in martial arts – first you learn the individual moves, then you see how they go together and flow from one to another – but the work of making the cognitive leap from understanding parts to the whole that is greater than the sum of those parts takes time, repetition and some stroke of inspiration.

So far those strokes of inspiration have, happily, involved a lot of bacon. What a wonderful discovery!

Yours with bacon;

Davy

 

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep

Those Adorable, Delicious Little Lamb Bastards

February 22, 2011 1 comment

Carre D'Agneau au Moutarde

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Doesn’t “Carre D’agneau” sound like a character from a chick-flick like “Sex In the  City” or something? I’m going to name a character in my next story “Carrie Lamb”. She (or he) should somehow exhibit the characteristics of being delicious, covered in mustard and crumbs, and easy to prepare.

Since the crust is really mustard, herbs, and crumb, I feel like there ought to be an “en croute” in there somewhere. I am neither an expert in the French language nor cuisine taxonomy though, so I’ll stick to telling you how fucking awesome this recipe is. It is. (Fucking awesome that is.)

MLF (Acronym for My Lovely Fiancee if you’re just joining in) is a huge fan of eating any sort of baby animal she can, and in particular, lambs. Those adorable little bastards just look incredibly tantalizing to her – like in a cartoon when the wolf and the rabbit are trapped on a life-raft and the wolf just sees a big drumstick instead of the rabbit’s face? That’s how she sees adorable little lambykins bounding around in the Spring meadows. So for Valentine’s Day, it was a given I’d be making lamb for her.  Originally it was going to be a lamb shank, but your only recipe for shanks is “Agneau au sept heurs” which, true to its name, takes seven hours, not really practical on a week night for a working stiff.

I picked up a couple of frenched lamb racks. When I got home on Valentine’s Day night, I heated up a pan nice and hot, and seasoned the lamb on both sides. I seared it so it was nice and brown and let it stand. It was a simple matter to slather it with herbs, dijon and bread crumbs, and put in a roasting pan for the hot oven.

Can you see how adorable that lamb must have been?

Whipping up the sauce from the searing pan was easy while they cooked. I’ve noticed in general that your recipes in the book take about 1/3 again as long as you say they ought. I theorize that my oven just isn’t as hot as a professional oven. (That is also not a euphemism.) Anyway they came out more than just a little raw, but having seen this before throughout this project, I knew to leave the oven hot just in case. A few extra minutes did the trick, and they were perfect.

Innocent Creatures For Two!

The fat side was nicely seasoned with the dijon crust. The fat that ran along the edge of the bone had melted into the meat, and that particular bite was especially delectable. It’s like I could taste that little lamby-wamby’s innocence. And it was delicious! Mmmm, innocence. And now that I’ve eaten that innocence, I’m more innocent, right? Or does that just work with fat?

We also reheated some of the tartiflette to go with it, and if it’s possible, it was even better the next day when everything had melted together and mixed. The same was true of the lamb – I took the leftovers in to work the next day and they were even more complex, nuanced, and superb.

This one was a definite hit, Chef. It doesn’t take too long, there’s next to no prep, the ingredients aren’t too obscure, and the results were truly excellent. This is another recipe that goes in my back pocket of things to whip up if I have short notice and unexpected guests.

So delicious, and so adorable! Thanks Chef!

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating

Steak Warhammer – Steak Au Poivre

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I have a tiny mortar and pestle. That’s not a euphemism. I mean the kitchen implement, and the one I have is a great size for say, crushing herbs or making almond dust. (Internet commenters, I have provided you with some excellent straight-lines here, I expect top-notch work!) But it’s too small to crack enough peppercorns for steak au poivre for six people. Sterner measures were called for.


So there were my peppercorns, crushed with the best tool I had for the job – a warhammer. Hey, it’s not just my weapon-of-choice for the zombie apocalypse, it’s also a handy tenderizer and whatnot!

I’m pretty handy with a steak, if truth be told. Knowing how to nicely pan-roast a good cut of meat was one of the skills I came into this project having if not mastered, at least journeymaned. But I was looking forward to this dinner – I found some really beautiful filets mignon at the local Costco. They were really thick, and a deep, dark red color. Like theater curtains. Of meat. Like you, I don’t think filet deserves the reputation it gets, it’s kind of bland. But it certainly has a buttery, toothsome texture, so kicking up its flavor with some pepper for spice, butter, cognac and to add some fat and flavor? Yeah, I’m in. And the prospect that the pan would flame up made it even more enticing!

I had two pans large enough to use, and six steaks to do. Because everyone was sitting down together, I couldn’t do them in batches,  per se, they all had to finish resting at the same time. So I got both pans ripping hot. Not as hot as I normally would, because your instructions call for a a little less heat, presumably because of the butter rather than oil – lower smoke point and all. I seared ’em up nice and brown, then transferred all six into the cast-iron pan in the pre-heated oven.

It was then that it was time to make the flame happen!

Action Shot! Only...without the action!

No flame.  I was excited about this, too – giant gouts of flame are ALWAYS fun, and when they’re combined with delicious meat and booze? That’s a fiesta, Chef.  A goddamn fiesta! But there was no flame here, just the steam and smoke. I realized why, after the fact – because this pan hadn’t roasted in the oven (the other one was doing that) it wasn’t as hot as it otherwise might have been.

So, the cognac didn’t flare up, but the resulting sauce was still pretty amazing. Hard to go wrong with butter, fat, cognac and seasoning though, right? I de-glazed the second pan with the sauce when it came out of the oven too, not wanting to waste any of that delicious frond.

I served up the resulting symphony of beast, flame, booze and warhammer-crushings with truffled pommes frites, sauteed asparagus, and love. That’s the secret ingredient.

The Secret Ingredient is...

HAHA. No, just kidding, the secret ingredient is definitely the booze.

Have some booze for me, Chef.

Davy

P.S. The leftovers the next day might have actually been even better, chef!

Anthony Bourdain’s Salad Danglers

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Salade d’onglet was a brilliant recipe; but it totally sounds like salad danglers. I think that’s a euphemism for something sweaty Greek men do in steam-baths.  First, it gave me a good excuse to eat steak. If you’ve ever spent time around women – and rumor has it you have – you know that they tend to prefer organically raised cracked Bulgarian spelt salads made out of lettuce that was harvested on the night when its sun-sign was bio-rhythmic with other leafy greens and sprouts-of-other-things-you-don’t-want-to-eat-when-fully-grown. So combining that with a nicely marinated steak is kind of genius. I mean, it’s healthy, right?

Look at all the organic leafy greens! (Never mind the steak..)

I actually waited too long to make this, I blanked on the fact that the steak has to marinate for at least three hours, but preferably over night. So I really only had half an hour to marinate it. Even so, it came out very flavorful. One winning takeaway from this dish – a fantastic marinate that packs a ton of flavor. The ginger, the soy sauce and the vinegar all combine to something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. I will keep this in my back pocket for all my meat-marinating needs. And chef – I have needs. Meat needs. Thank you for helping me with my meat needs.

Other than that, I know how to make a steak and toss a salad, it’s pretty straightforward. When I go to the market and ask for “onglet” I get a wall-eyed look. (From a man wearing chainmail and carrying a scimitar, so you know, I’m inclined to keep it not-too-surprising with these guys.) But flank steak is very popular around these parts, and I had no problem scoring a pallet-sized side of it at Costco. I used half for this recipe, and the other half is vaccuum-packed and waiting for me now in the freezer, like something wonderful that lurks in a deep, frozen slumber. Like Walt Disney’s head!

Walt Disney’s head, on the other hand, wouldn’t be nearly as good with some greens and a nice red wine vinaigrette. And that’s the other takeaway from this recipe – a really nice, simple dressing that packs a lot of flavor into a small volume. Like Kristin Chenoweth. If she were salad dressing, this would be her – sassy, bold and highly concentrated. You can tell her I said that, Chef. You know, if it ever comes up.

So thanks for another hit, Chef – this one was easy, was really excellent, and has lots of great ways to be re-purposed for other dishes.

Plus, it’s a great excuse to eat MEAT! totally healthy green leafy vegetables!

Davy

Blueberries in lime sugar

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear chef Bourdain;

Simmer some lime zest in sugarwater, throw it on top of blueberries mixed with lime juice and sugar. A little mint, and the result: a light, sweet and tangy dessert.

Thanks for another easy, yummy one!
Davy

Categories: Eating, Prep

Anthony Bourdain’s Lemon Tart and Other Disasters

February 2, 2011 3 comments

Dear Chef  Bourdain;

This was my first recipe that I’d call a dismal failure. I blame my own lack of experience with baking in general, but also your frustrating lack of instructions in “The Les Halles Cookbook”. I just scrapped it and started all over again, and ended up with a perfectly edible and delightful lemon tart that served as a pretty nice counterpoint to the horrors of Guts Night.

The (eventual) finished product.

I’ve made your tart shell before, and it turned out fine but puffy. Maddeningly, and as I’ve discussed previously, your recipe for the shell tells me how to make it, but not what to do with it after. There’s this whole “pre-baking” step that you completely omit. Bastard.

Because I’d mentioned it before, my future sister-in-law read about it here, and thoughtfully gave me a really gorgeous tart pan and pie-weights to use. See, once you’ve got your pastry crust, you have to firm it up in the oven by pre-baking. If you don’t it’s just a big soggy mess, which is especially bad for a tart. I was pretty excited to give the new equipment a whirl, so I diligently got two tart crusts ready, as per your recipe. It actually went better this time, I managed to roll out the crust without it fragmenting much, and smoothly deposit it in the pan. Then I pour in the pie-weights, and get ready to pre-bake.

There's something missing from this picture. Can you guess what it is?

You’re looking at this picture right now, Chef, and saying, “What an idiot!” What seems obvious to any accomplished chef is opaque to a relative tyro like myself. But yeah, there’s no parchment paper under those little ceramic beads. Turns out, that’s a really important element. I guess if I were making a tart crust that was studded with M&Ms this would be brilliant. (Wait a minute. Wait JUST a minute! That might be brilliant! Oh shit, I have to try that!) But this?  This was not brilliant. No, it was in fact a kitchen disaster. An ugly kitchen disaster, kind of like the PETA Celebrity Cookbook. (That actually exist, man. I find the damnedest things when I’m googling around for a punchline.)

This is messier than Charlie Sheen's personal life.

Look that, Chef! Look at it! Yeah, I baked those ceramic weights right into the crusts. Why? Because I was winging it without clear instructions. Ok, yeah, if I can google up the Peta Celebrity Cookbook, I can probably google up pre-baking a tart shell.  But that’s haaaaaaard, chef! Using your book is easier!

Immediately after pulling them out of the oven, I became sensible to my error. At first I thought, “Crap, I’m going to have to scrape these weights off the top of the shell!” But I realized soon even that was impossible; the little balls had – doing their job – weighted right down to the bottom. It was impossibly studded with balls, like a Pride Parade, and there was no saving it. I at least got to taste the shell while I attempted to salvage the balls. (There’s a joke there, but I think more than one ball joke in a paragraph is worse than crass, it’s just lazy.)

After about ten minutes of shell-eating and trying not to bite down on ceramic weights, I realized fishing them out of the mess was going to be fucking impossible. I wrote ’em off as a loss, and figured they were cheap enough I could just replace them. My lovely fiancee is, arguably, even more stubborn than me, and insisted she’d try and save them anyway. (Historical note: two days later, she gave up, too.)

Defeated, I went out and bought a couple of graham-cracker pie crusts, which while terribly declasse, worked just fine. I got my meez together, which for this one is dead simple – eggs, lemon juice, cream, sugar.

It's way too late for this meez not to be fucked up.

Pay no attention to the can of coke, it has no relevance to this recipe. I whipped it all together, and poured it into the pie crusts. And I put them in for the recommended time at the recommended temperature.

Now maybe it was because these were pie shells and not tart shells, but they were nowhere near done. I think your temperature and times are consistently lower and shorter than is actually true in my kitchen, so I’m going to try and take that into account.

After all was said and done, the tarts (though I think at this point they’re really pies, right?) didn’t quite firm up to something I could slice and serve – but the jumble that we did actually get onto the plates was really nice. Creamy, just a little bit sweet and nicely tangy – it was a great palate-cleanser and light dessert. And dead simple too – I will definitely keep this one in my back pocket. Just not the tart shells, maybe. Or rather, I’ll follow someone else’s procedure for tart shells, and the pre-baking and whatnot. But these “lemon tarts” were delicious and easy to make.

Maybe next time, less disaster, more pie;

Davy

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep, Uncategorized

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
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