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Goodbye, Chef Bourdain

December 11, 2018 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Uncategorized

Petatou ala Han Solo

August 26, 2011 1 comment

Petatou Les Halles. Yes, those are Tie-Fighters and the Millenium Falcon

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Have you ever dreamt of re-enacting the trench run scene in Star Wars in edible, delicious, cheese-encrusted potato snacks? Yeah, me neither, but what the fuck, I did it anyway.

It’s pretty easy to do, too. As in your recipe, I mixed up a vinaigrette and smooshed it into the boiled potatoes with herbs and whatnot. I only had two metal rings for shaping the mix, so I also used the Star Wars Sandwich Cutters that my wife and I got as part of a wedding present. I wasn’t sure this would work – how firm are these things, after all, and how well would they keep their shape? I had to work the potato into the smaller crevices of the non-circular molds with a little bit of vigor, then coat it with goat cheese. I tried to make sure the goat cheese didn’t overhang the edge of the mold.

A bit of a baking, and then out they come to be covered in a reduced heavy cream mix, and then into the broiler they go to brown up. When they were nice and caramelized on the top, I pulled them out and eased the metal molds off, very gently. It all stuck together nicely, and they took the shapes of the molds pretty well, as you can see.

I put them on little plates and set them aside to nibble on while I continued with the Bourdain-a-thon recipes, and I’ve got more to write about all that.

In other news, I’m having a hard time sourcing some of the ingredients that the more esoteric dishes called for in the last passel of recipes on the list. So I’m hoping at the Epicurean Festival this weekend to score some of the rarer stuff. And if not – well, surely just some of the good stuff!

Whatever the case, I’ll be making more good stuff soon. Probably not with the Star Wars cross-over though.

Davy

P.S. My wife saw you and your wife just a few blocks from our house at Venice Beach recently. Why didn’t she say “Hello!” and recommend the blog to you? I couldn’t say. Hope you stopped at Jodie Maroni’s while you were down there!

Categories: Uncategorized

Celery remoulade Les Halles

August 4, 2011 1 comment
Celery remoulade by aghrivaine
Celery remoulade, a photo by aghrivaine on Flickr.

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Here’s a classic French side, basically a pretentious version of coleslaw. I brought it to a family dinner one night, and it went qutie well with the barbecued chicken and carne asada – just like coleslaw might have.

I tired using a mandoline slicer as you suggested, and it made a hideous mess, and as always, left me in mortal fucking fear of slicing my fingers or a good portion thereof, right off. So I just julienned it by hand. This resulted in uneven, malformed slices as you can see above. Still, when dressed with the vinegar, mayo, white wine, salt, pepper and mustard, it tastes quite nice, doesn’t it?

I had covered the celeriac slices with lemon juice to keep them from oxidizing. Isn’t it odd to call it that? It’s like vegetables rust or something. Anyway, that was a lot of lemon juice, and maybe a little too much, in fact.

But the dinner guests who had been to France were nostalgic about it, and it was a nice, refreshing, and unassuming side that wasn’t too hard to throw together. I call that nearer a hit than a miss.

But seriously, I need better knife skills.
Davy

Categories: Uncategorized

Salad Nice Ooze

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment
Salad nicoise by aghrivaine
Salad nicoise, a photo by aghrivaine on Flickr.

Dear Chef Bourdain;

This one is really easy. Boil some potatoes, some eggs, some green beans. Put ’em in an ice-bath. Throw in some oil, red wine vinegar in a bowl you’ve rubbed with garlic. Toss in green peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, plus the quartered potatoes and green beans. Top with tuna, olives and anchovies.

It was kinda nasty, to tell you the truth. But you know, that’s anchovies for you. Super salty. I brought it to a family dinner, and while it looked gorgeous, it clashed with the BBQ chicken and steak. And fish-on-fish is a little much one of the fish is super salty, like a mouthful of…

Seawater. Yeah. That’s what I was going to say, and I’m stickin’ to my story.

Thanks for an easy recipe though, Chef!
Davy

Categories: Uncategorized

Frickin’ Veal

June 23, 2011 3 comments

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I’m down to the last half of the recipes in the book. Of course I took a lot of the low-hanging fruit for the first half, guts night notwithstanding. Now I’m trying to find the stuff for some of the harder-to-find ingredients.

Fuck you and your veal, Chef. Seriously, there’s no single ingredient that you use more than veal. You know, people don’t eat a lot of veal these days, have you noticed? Trying to find the more exotic cuts, most butchers are happy to oblige – if I buy a half a metric ton of it. And the dirty looks I get from other people when I ask for veal – you’d think it was THEIR baby I wanted to serve up on a platter. (Which would probably be fine with my wife.)

Frickin’ veal, chef! Why couldn’t you have gone nuts with like..chicken or pork chops or something?

Davy

Categories: Uncategorized

Vicious Saws Les Halles for Father’s Day

June 21, 2011 1 comment
Vichyssoise Les Halles

Vichyssoise Les Halles

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I’ve never had much reason to celebrate Father’s Day in the past. Without getting bogged down in therapeutic self-revelation, let’s just say my actual father is a shitbird who was far better gone than present, and the nearest analogue I had (my grandfather) was really careful to remind me in many ways that he was not my father and I shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking of him that way. So what a strange feeling it was to have a father-figure (my now father-in-law) who is not only worthy of respect and admiration, but also almost universally well-liked. This is the kind of guy you really don’t mind going an extra mile for on Father’s  Day. Or, for fuck’s sake, any day, but certainly this one in particular.

So what do you make for Father’s  Day, chef? Sorry, but the fussier French dishes in Les Halles Cookbook don’t really cut it. I wanted the kind of food that guys typically crave, but infrequently get unless they make it for themselves. Knowing also that my father-in-law has a perhaps strange obsession with coleslaw and corn-on-the-cob, I found more recipes in Ad Hoc At Home than in your book. But I didn’t want to bail on the project entirely, especially since I’m falling a little behind my goal of getting the whole thing done in a year.

So I settled on vichyssoise as a starter. It’s been quite warm lately, so a cold soup seems like a good idea. I decided to smoke some beef ribs (beef being his particular but not-oft-indulged favorite) and make coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob with lime salt and butter emulsion, and asparagus with poached eggs and smoked garlic-sausage. I spent the day before rubbing the ribs and letting them marinate, making the vichyssoise, and for the first time making my own sausage.

Nathan from Ikillit.com helped me with the sausage-making as well as the beer-drinking. He wouldn’t have any of the pork sausage, but we also made chicken and apple sausage, and since he’s murdered and dressed a chicken, that he could have. You know that expression “you don’t want to see the sausage being made”? Well, it’s not quite true. Really, you don’t want to see the cleanup. It’s fucking gruesome. There were literally gobbets of raw ground meat hanging from the wall, the cabinets, the counters…yikes, man.

Anyway, after the effort of making and packing the sausage (not a euphemism) knocking out the vichyssoise was no big deal. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m already planning my next batch of sausage, because it was really, really good. Good and fresh and lively in the way that lets you know what you’ve been missing with store-bought stuff. Next up, I think? Duck, plum and ginger sausages. (I’m not working off of recipes, I’m just improvising. It’s sausage, you can do that.)

So I chopped and sweated the leeks, then added the potatoes. Simmer in chicken stock – and then carefully – CAREFULLY – pureed, and combined with cream and seasoning. I brought it to a simmer without letting the cream burn. Then it just goes into an ice-bath and put in the fridge overnight when it’s thoroughly cool. In the middle of all the smoking, cabbage-chopping, corn boiling and so forth – it was a relief to be able to just portion the vichysoisse into mini-cocottes and serve when everyone arrived.

One mistake I made though, when seasoning I misjudged how much salt was in my salt cellar and just dumped it in. That horrible “Oh shiiiiiii…..” moment didn’t stop my other hand from stirring, thus keeping me from actually sifting the salt out. The result, it was a bit too salty. But that’s my fault, definitely not the recipe.

Dinner was a hit, I think – and the low-fuss starter course is part of what let me get it all out together. I’ll keep this in mind for future events, or just if I end up with a crap-ton of leeks for some reason.

I hope you had a great Father’s Day too, chef – though if your daughter isn’t making you man-feasts yet, clearly it’s your fault for failing to properly motivate her.

Happy Father’s Day;

Davy

Categories: Uncategorized

Butchershop Bar & Grill in Glasgow

June 7, 2011 1 comment

UK headquarters for the New Old School - Butchershop Bar & Grill

Dear Chef Bourdain;

What do you call this sort of new movement in cuisine, that takes the tradition and heritage of classic dishes, and updates them with a healthy dose of attitude; all with a lot of love and respect? Badass Gourmet? I think of it is as “New Old School” when I try to describe it to friends and other foodies. And I found the Mecca for the New Old School in the UK – Butchershop Bar & Grill, in Glasgow, Scotland.

I’m back from honeymoon and already cooking, but I had to take a second to tell you about this joint. My (now) wife and I were headed for the Kelvingrove Museum and half-starved from driving across a significant chunk of Scotland. Without anything to go on other than the exterior, we randomly pulled over and checked it out – but as soon as the owner, James, sat us down and gave us a menu, I was in love. The menu is all about the good stuff – classic cuts of steaks, you name it. We started with a parfait of chicken liver and pate de fois gras that was out of this world – like butter made from animals. I mean, butter is made from animals, but I mean – shit man, you know what I mean.

It must be in space, because it was out of this world!

For mains, I had a cote de beouf. I know you have it at Les Halles all the time, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it anywhere. James was happy to chat about his menu, and confessed that they nearly always have it, but took it off the menu because it didn’t move, but if it’s a special – everyone orders it. My wife ordered lamb’s liver, and it was succulent, earthy and decidedly lamby – perfectly prepared, beautiful ingredients. Weird – we saw lamb everywhere we went, but it was almost never on the menu; an affront to my wife who loves to eat anything innocent. I guess if the Scots were eating their lamb, though, they wouldn’t all have been gamboling around the meadows like they were.

Later in our trip we ate at some famous and highly regarded restaurants, like The Witchery in Edinburgh, but none of them held a candle to the Butchershop. If you’re ever in Glasgow again, Chef – drop in on James; he’s larger than life and his restaurant is a beautiful homage to classic steak houses with a bit of a rock-and-roll attitude. Something tells me you’d like that!

Davy

Categories: Uncategorized

Cassoulet – improvisations in the key of bacon

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Cassoulet Les Halles

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Let me just say, this cassoulet was one of those dishes that made me appreciate the time and trouble really good food can take. And be completely worth it. Your method of cassoulet takes three days, and each of them requires a bit of work, especially day two. Since I was going on a skiing vacation with a group of friends, and would be snow-bound in Lake Tahoe, I’d have the time and the appetite. Perfect.

Day One

The night we arrived I put the legs in a dish to sit overnight with salt. Easy. I also soaked the beans overnight in a bowl of cold, clear mountain water. Easy. Drinking ensued. It’s not strictly in this particular recipe, but so many of your recipes do include compulsory drinking, I figured it was ok.

Naked Duck Legs

Day Two

I hadn’t been able to find the duck fat in which to confit the duck legs. I had to make do with some substitutions. Since I was make Tartiflette, aka “The Triumph of  Bacon” in the afternoon one day, I got a lot of extra bacon and skimmed off rendered bacon fat. In this, I confited the duck legs, with the garlic and herbs required. The smell was absolutely unbelievable. Especially after I sauteed the sausages.

Like jell-o, there's always room for sausage.

There’s a lot happening here in day two – all this confiting, sausaging, and also some bean-cooking with pork rinds. I couldn’t find that, so I used what essentially boils down to a giant hunk of bacon instead. It was some sort of cured pork belly I found at Whole Foods. I hate Whole Foods’ politics, but they do have good food, so I end up shopping there even though it means lining the pockets of a Right-Wing Libertarian extremist. But bacon? Yeah, well, that’s my kryptonite, and it knows no politics or national boundaries.

There are beans down there somewhere. Under all the pork.

After all this was done, the final triumph of smells occurs. Magic happens here.

This is magic. Can you smell it?

There’s thyme, and beans, and duck legs, and sausages, all swimming in fats of various sorts. It cooks slow and simmers. Your recipe doesn’t call for it, but traditionally cassoulet has crumbs on top, so I rolled with that. You mention a crust that needs breaking – I figured a little bit of bread crumbs would soak up some of that delicious fat and set up nicely. So I called an audible and threw it in there.

Cassoulet by Bourdain. Crumbs by Krieger.

Day Three

Everyone came back from skiing and was heartbroken at the amazing smell of day two, and were fairly well raring to get at the finished product. I’d been tasting and nipping here and there, too, so I was pretty excited. But it was that overnight soak with the beans that made the sorcery go down.

When it came out, my friends were hovering like vultures. Cold mountain air, steady snow, and a day of sledding and skiing, and everyone was starving for some good comfort food. And this is kind of the granddaddy of comfort foods – the meats melt right into the beans and make a soft, chewy fatty blend that is beautifully flavored with the garlic and thyme.

Literally hovering like vultures, in this case.

With much anticipation, we divvied it up – everyone got a sausage and a duck leg, with plenty of beans for all. That duck was superb – soft and silky and very tender. The sausages had soaked up a lot of the bacon fat, and were  EVEN fattier. I mean seriously – this is sausage crossed with bacon, essentially, creating a sort of super-pork.

But to me, the best part was the beans. They were so incredibly rich, so smooth, and bursting with the fatty flavor. I had a fairly small bowl just to get a taste of everything, and was basically full afterwards. I can’t imagine a more perfect apres-ski food. Though actually I didn’t go skiing, but HAD I, I would have wanted this. I mean, even more than I did. My fiancee, who hates cassoulet, liked this. Apparently her experience of it was tins of franks-and-beans in France. I’m sayin’ – this was a lot more than just that.

It was fantastic. A friend paid me a compliment and said, “Davy, you can cook.” Given that she grew up in a house full of Southern women who express love by feeding, it was high praise. And in this case, at least a little bit deserved, since I hadn’t slavishly followed the recipe. I mean, MOSTLY I did, but not completely.

When I depart from the plan, it usually involves bacon.

What could go wrong with that, Chef?

Davy

Categories: Uncategorized

You’re invited to an upcoming feast!

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

This is totally just to make people hungry.

I’ll be seeing you next weekend. I’m pretty excited – my fiancee’s cousin and her chef boyfriend got tickets to see you and Chef Ripert next weekend, May 1st, in Santa Barbara. They’re bringing Pascale and I as their wedding gift to us. So hey, I’ll bring you a printout of the infamous guts-night to sign, and maybe one to keep for you, too! I know you’re excited to meet me at last, Chef. So the night before I’m going to make a dinner from your book. You’re totally invited – drop  me a line, ok?

For my other friends and readers, you’re invited too! But here’s the deal – I’m getting married in a few weeks. (Seriously. A few weeks. Ok ok, deep breaths…) and I need to save up for the wedding and honeymoon, especially since things have gone more than a bit sideways at work recently, and I’m not guaranteed to have the time off and pay I was expecting. So if you’d like to come, will you help me cover the cost of ingredients? That’s all I’m asking – and in return, you’ll get a really excellent meal. Here’s the menu:

Starter:  Moules a la marinieres (mussels in tomato broth)

Veg: Leeks vinaigratte

Mains: Filet of beef, sauce porto with roasted shallots

Side: pommes sautee au lard. (Potatoes sauteed in duck fat.)

Dessert: Charlottes de marrons. (A bit like tiramisu, it’s that beautiful bastard I enticed you in with up top.)

I figure I don’t really want to cook for more than six with this many courses, so that’s four open spots at the table. I have the luxury of not cooking for more than six, because this is a hobby, not a job, thank the gods. I figure most of that stuff isn’t terribly expensive, except for the filet, so about $20 a head will cover it. Now come on, that’s a five course meal for the price of what the sides would cost in a good restaurant! So please let me know if you’re into it, and how many. First come, first serve – it’s all going down Saturday evening, April 30th, probably around 6pm.

And Chef Bourdain, if you show up, I promise there will be plenty of good wine and a solid Venice freakshow on top of it all!

I’m hungry just thinking about it. The food that is, not the freakshow. Though that’s awesome too.

Davy

Grilled Lamb Steaks

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Sadly you can't smell the onions...or the innocence. But they're both delicious.

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Maybe my lovely fiancee is on to something, with loving to devour any animal, and the more innocent the better. I think if I could find her a lamb that was voted “most innocent”  by the other lambs in its little lamby-school, she would think that was the most delicious lamb that ever lived. The thing is, she might be right.

Spring has sprung here in L.A., and surely this is one of the most beautiful places on earth at this time of year. The air is thick with blooming flowers and cool sea breezes. At night the jasmine opens up and perfumes every breeze. Particularly in my neighborhood of Venice, where there are so many quirky little cottages and houses, all of them with gardens where flowers grow with little effort – it’s a fine time to be alive.  And just now is when so many of these delightful little critters are born, gamboling innocently about the fields until such time as they’re konked on the heads and eaten. Sorry lamby-kins, but please believe, we really loved you.

All the hard work is done by those delightful little bastards, being delicious. Me, I just followed your instructions and marinated them overnight with some garlic, thyme and olive oil. Your instructions say to put the herbs and garlic on top, (after salt and pepper all over) and cover it with olive oil. I think, Chef, in the future, I’d rub the olive oil on and then add the herbs and garlic. Further, I’d like, triple the amount of garlic and double the herbs, because they were a little sparse on the meat.

Chopping up some onions and letting them sit with olive oil and seasoning to make a sort of crude relish was pretty nice. Other than that, you scrape off the herbs and put those steaks on a ripping hot grill. I was worried that the fairly thick steaks I got wouldn’t cook all the way through on the grill – usually I pan-fry and then roast in the oven. But it was plenty hot, and as you can see those steaks took some nice grill marks and finished quite perfectly. It was a little longer than two minutes on a side, but they were pretty thick. I can eyeball this stuff, I’ve grilled plenty.

The result was a fantastic, delicate lamb steak done medium-raw. And I could taste the innocence! Every happy, springing step in the meadow, every delightful frolic, right there in the steak. Here’s an odd thing though – each time I’ve made lamb for friends, there’s been someone at the table that has never had lamb before. How the…? What the…? I mean..? How do you go through an entire life without once having had lamb? I get that the tripe, boudin noir, even mussels, are a little out of the norm for Americans. But lamb? This blows my mind.

One thing though – I think the onion relish would have been better if it had been grilled alongside the lamb, and then served a little caramelized – but I’d want to use some oil other than olive. With a grill that hot, the olive oil could taste kind of weird if burnt – canola would do, though. Maybe the point is that the relish is warm but raw – but it was kind of rough around the edges to me. My lovely fiancee, on the other hand, was crazy about it, and took it from the plates of our other guests who didn’t eat theirs.

I have to confess Chef, I came into this not much caring for onions. They don’t really agree with my stomach, so unless they’re well cooked I tend to avoid them. But I’m a believer now – onions do magical things when you use them right, and see why they’re at the heart of a lot of your dishes. The savory smell while they’re cooking, the mix of sweet channelization and acidic crunch…what a vegetable!

This was a dead easy dish that was really delicious. Definitely a hit – especially with my innocence-consuming soon-to-be-wife. And speaking of soon-to-be-wife – I’m planning on roasting a whole pig at the wedding in May. (You’re totally invited, Chef – May 14th in Two Harbors in Catalina – be there!) I wish I had your help on that one, I’ve never roasted a whole pig before, and since I’m feeding 99 people (100 if you come, Chef…) if I fuck it up, it’s going to be an epic disaster. An island, with no other supply of food in easy reach – if the pig is fucked, the wedding is fucked, basically.

But hey – take a pig, add some flame, how can it not end up delicious somehow, Chef? I know you feel me.

Yours;

Davy

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