Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Sexy Cat Shrimp

April 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Ok, one last “Not Chef Bourdain’s Food” post before I dive back into catching up on all the good stuff I’ve been making. Also last one without pictures. People like pictures. Anyway, last night I used some of the overall lessons from your cookbook to invent my own dish. I came up with it in my head while walking around the market looking at ingredients, which I’d say is the first sign that I’ve internalized some key lessons. Those lessons? Use cream and butter. Lots of it.

Sexy Cat Shrimp (Named for our dinner guest, the original Sexy Cat.) Serves 4

1 lb shrimp, shelled, de-veined uncooked.

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup butter

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 cup white wine

1 tbpsp salt

juice of 1/2 lemon.

12 oz of lobster pate

4 portabella mushrooms, stemmed and cleaned

2 tbpsp garlic oil, + 1/2 tbpsp

1 tbpsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350F.

In big pot, heat the garlic oil on medium high heat and add the onion. When the onion is translucent but not caramelized, add the white wine, bring to a simmer and let reduce by half.

Meanwhile, brush the mushrooms with the left over garlic oil. Put a dollop of lobster pate evenly among the mushrooms, then drizzle with the balsamic and season to taste. Put them on a baking sheet, and set aside.

When the wine is reduced, put in the butter, bouqet garni and cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer, and put the shrimp in the cream sauce at the same time as you put the ‘shrooms in the oven.

When the shrimp are nice and succulent but still tender, strain the shrimp and onions out, reserving the cream sauce. Put the cream sauce back in the pot, put the bouqet garni back in, add lemon juice, and let it reduce over medium heat until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

When the mushrooms are nice and tender, cooked through (about ten minutes) plate them, and distribute the shrimp and onions evenly amongst them. Pour on the cream sauce, and serve – with the spare sauce in a gravy boat.


It’s kind of hard to miss with that much butter and cream, but the results were pretty good, if I say so myself. It’s really just a reworking of core techniques from your book, but hey – what is cuisine if we don’t synthesize something new out of the good stuff that other people teach us?

Thanks for the inspiration, Chef!


Categories: Uncategorized

A-Frame in Culver City

April 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I know it’s been a little while since I rapped at ya – I’ve been on a little break to square away my wedding and maybe lost a little weight. But I have to tell you, if you’re ever in L.A. – you should really check out Roy Choi’s “A-Frame”. This food can literally exorcise demons. I do mean that literally – not “my brain literally exploded” but like, in the literal sense of the word “literal”.

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Sans Reservations

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I’m excited about the new season of “No Reservations” that starts tonight. I hope other cooks and readers check it out too – there’s nothing quite like the combination of new places, new foods and new boozes to open one’s eyes.

Next up, I’m going to invent the “No Reservations” drinking game. Hmm. Wait, maybe not – all thing considered, half the recipes in the Les Halles Cookbook include strict instructions to drink. I’m not sure my liver could handle another layer of Bourdain-inspired degeneracy. Does that make it a terrible idea? Or a terribly GOOD idea?

See  you on the boob-tube, chef!


P.S. I’m still waiting for my letter of commendation from Guts Night!

Categories: Uncategorized

40 Dishes Down

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear  Chef  Bourdain;

I’ve hit a milestone! I mean, not while driving, and especially not while driving after all the wine that you’ve totally ordered me to drink and I am helpless to do anything but comply. No, I mean a milestone like something worth noting. Out of 118 recipes in the Les Halles Cookbook, I’ve made 40. That’s a third down since November (four months ago), putting me right on schedule to complete within a year.

Lessons learned so far – don’t fuck up your meez, add cream and butter, use enough salt, use your own stock, drink wine. Specific things I’ll take away already are a great roast chicken recipe, really excellent mashed potatoes, and a killer, low-fuss appetizer that is perfect for any bar-food craving occasion. I know you know about that, Chef.

Some were pretty awful though – some recipes that just don’t work, or seem to be missing something. Like the rillettes, which were weird and bad. The tart alsacienne, which sounded so good but was super bland. And sadly, the coq au vin, which was a ridiculous amount of work for not much to show. (And I realize now I need to write that up!)

I’ve eaten a giant pile of guts, congealed blood, chocolate love potion, and murdered a lemon tart that ended up great on the second go-round. I’ve also learned that it’s the second go-round (and subsequent) that’s really valuable – that’s when you perfect and elevate your dish. If I were a pro, it’s be the second thousand that mattered, I’m sure – but for a home nerd like me, any repetition means it was fucking good the first time and worth revisiting.

Thanks for everything so far, Chef. Assistant Chef Bourdain and I are grateful for all the good food, and good times with people we both love. Though, to be honest, he pretty much loves everyone except squirrels.


Categories: Uncategorized

Chocolate Mousse Les Halles, AKA Love Potion #9

February 17, 2011 1 comment

Chocolate Mousse Les Halles

Dear Chef Bourdain;

What motivation is there in life for the heterosexual male of greater import than to woo women? In this endeavor, the God of nature and the world has given us a few allies, not least of which is chocolate. (And my machismo, but that only works for me. Mostly.) So recipes that involve not just chocolate, but really good chocolate are like solid gold when it comes to wooing women – particularly when the operations order involves deploying them in the immediate proximity of Valentine’s Day. This was a carefully orchestrated hit, Chef, and …well, a gentleman would say no more. Nor shall I.

So as the opening phase of this particular operation, I gathered my meez. You’ll note that I happened to find the precise brand of chocolate you  mention in the book – and happily they carry it at the Whole Foods down the street. Vahlrona, to be precise. But I threw in a little Dagobah chocolate for the second layer, because it’s really, really good, and also named after  Yoda’s planet.

Chocolate Meez sounds like the past tense of mousse

You’ll note the exercise supplements in the background. While my sudden vast increase of butter and cream intake hasn’t actually gained me any weight, neither has it lost me any. If I’m going to remain in my current stunning pear-shaped physique, and not outright spheroid, I’d better start lifting heavy things guilty of nothing other than sizable inertia due to the interaction of mass and gravity.  So I’m on that. But in the mean time. Chocolate!

Step one is to get your chocolate nice and melty. This is pretty easy – hot water and a mixing bowl. Maybe I’d have used a proper double-boiler, but when in doubt I’m following your instructions.

Do I make you horny, baby?

Happily I’ve taken your “don’t fuck up your meez” mantra well to heart, and thus had already separated my eggs when the chocolate was melting. I whipped up the whites until they had soft peaks. When the chocolate was melted, I added gran marnier and it quickly changed color and consistency into something really sticky and really shiny. I mean, still obviously chocolate, it’s not like it turned into The Silver Surfer’s boogers or something. But a real obvious change in state.

After that I added the yolks and melted in the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon.  Unfortunately, I let this sit for a while to whip up the whites a little more. I’m afraid it might have had a negative effect. Once I mixed in the whites (blended with sugar and cream) it was still really dense.

I poured it out into the souffle cups I’d set aside for the purpose and realized it barely covered the bottom. This seemed chintzy to me. (Is that a word I can use that’s not based on some ethnic slur?) It also seemed way too dense, and not at all like the light and fluffy consistency I think of as being “mousse.” So I quickly whipped up a second batch with the left over chocolate. That’s pretty cool, it sort of tells me that this isn’t a terribly hard thing to scratch together in a hurry.

Later on I was serving truffled fries, steak au poivre and asparagus, so I had lots to do. It was nice to be able to tuck this in the fridge and pull it out as needed.  (This is true of so many things, especially when you realize I refer to my shorts as “the fridge.”) Dutiful to your imprecation, I did not even think about Reddi-Whip or Cool-Whip. Actually, that is a lie – because you mentioned it, I couldn’t help but think of it. It’s like of someone jumped out from behind your couch and said “DON’T THINK ABOUT ELEPHANTS!” you’d probably think about elephants. Also what they were doing behind your couch, and why the strange man in the clown shoes had an ocelot on his head…err, wait, no, that’s just me.

So I whipped some cream fresh, and here’s the proof.

Is it "whipped" or "hwipped"?

The result wasn’t like any kind of mousse I’ve had in the past, but it was really good. It was incredibly rich, and my double-helping was too much for everyone but the most gluttonous of eaters. (That’s pretty much just me.) In the future I’ll just use smaller serving vessels, like even something as small as a highball or shot-glass.  But intricacies of glassware aside, it had a great, rich flavor. It wasn’t too sweet (like all of your desserts) but was very complex, creamy and delicious. With the none-too-sweet freshly whipped cream on top, it balanced really nicely and made a perfect cap to the dinner.

The rest of the work, of course, was done by machismo after the guests went home.


P.S. And by “the work” I mean “eating the leftovers.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Boudin Noir Aux Pommes et Chien Bizarre

February 14, 2011 2 comments

Boudin Noir aux Pommes

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Really, you could just skip this post and take a look at that picture. I mean, we talk about food porn from time to time, but …yeah. Blood sausage cack-n-ballz. Yum!

So I have  story about the primary ingredient in boudin noir, and like a lot of good stories, it’s got a bit with a dog.

This dog, in particular.

One day, I came home from work to find that Assistant Chef Bourdain (who goes by Blink when he’s not in the kitchen) had broken into a bag of blood meal fertilizer while I was out. Blood meal fertilizer is, in fact, just congealed blood in a bag, exactly like boudin noir – only for the garden instead of the plate. So there’s congealed blood scattered all over the kitchen, and in a big pile in the dining room on the carpet, too. And the dog looked very uncomfortable, and vaguely guilty, not unlike someone slinking out of a fetish club. Clearly he’d eaten most of a three pound bag of congealed blood.

After some fevered research, I found that he would probably be okay since it was organic and whatnot. Not unlike boudin noir. He groaned a little bit, but otherwise had an average evening. Flash to the next morning, when I’m blearily going through my morning ablutions. So bleary was I, I even brushed my teeth and splashed water on my face without turning the bathroom lights on. I fed the dog, filled his water bowl, and smelled the undeniable odor of dog farts. Given that the dog wasn’t in the room, this was an impressive achievement. With a dawning sense of horror, I looked down. That was no fart, that was…all over my shoe. But the dawning horror didn’t stop there – oh no, with a sinking heart I saw that poo-ey footsteps reversed my path from the kitchen sink, through the dining room, the living room, the office, and back to the bathroom – where a pile of 90% boudin noir had been deposited by  my groaning dog.

Spending the day cleaning up the World Of Poo that I temporarily inhabited, I never really thought one day I’d cook and eat the very same stuff with some caramelized apples. And yet…


Good for dirt, good for sausage!

The actual recipe was fairly easy. I still managed to fuck it up pretty spectacularly, but fortunately it was with easily replaced ingredients. Honestly, you wouldn’t think applying heat to butter and sugar to create caramel was all that hard. And yet, I succeded in creating the below revolting mess.

Burnt sugar, not at all appetizing!

So I tried again, and this time I came up with something that could more properly be described as caramel.

This I would eat! (And did.)

All that remained was to coat the apples in the caramel, and the blacken the sausage in a pan before putting everything in the oven.

Totally the best part. Sorry Chef.

You describe boudin noir as “some of the best eating on earth,” a phrase I’ve observed you only use for stuff that would generally be considered “exotic” at best…but hey, it’s your thing. And I can sort of see the appeal – it’s as earthy as anything edible could be. Not inappropriate since it’s nearest cousin is, in fact, garden fertilizer. But it is seasoned, and with a bit of salt and cumin, and the crunchy caramelization from a nice hot pan, I’d go so far as to call it downright pleasant.  Have you ever had scrapple, chef? It’s similar stuff from my home region of Pennsylvania, but infinitely superior in every way. Oh yeah, it’s everything on the pig between the tail and the squeal, mixed with a little gelatin and corn meal, to give it that nice mushy, gelatinous gray appeal. But brown it up with a little butter and salt, and it’s delicious!

In fact, some of the best eating on earth. You know what I’m starting to think, Chef? That the secret is the butter, heat, and salt. That, and nostalgia.


Categories: Uncategorized

Coquilles Saint-Jacques with Champagne (As fancy as a French admiral!)

February 12, 2011 11 comments

Dear Chef;

Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends, right? Here’s a recipe that involves cream, butter, and champagne – it’s more or less fucking impossible to go wrong. You could just slop that in a bucket and hand it someone with a spoon, and with a hearty “Bon appetit!” they’d tuck right in.

Apparently Jacques was the patron saint of rich food.

You do recommend that this tastes best with good champagne, but it’s just not in the budget. I compromised and went with something better than your basic $10 bottle, but still not so much as to break the bank. Is that sad, though? Is that just middle-class aspirations to a kind of luxury that doesn’t fit in not just my budget, but my whole cultural world? Sometimes I feel like a poseur social climber like something from “Vanity Fair” with all this fancy food. But then I actually eat it, and feel better. I mean a little. I still feel a little bit like I’m crying inside. While eating. But then other times I just feel like I’m learning a skill, and even every night isn’t going to be coquile saint-jacques, at least I’ve learned to make a decent pan sauce, and how properly treat the entree.

And this one really is all about the scallops. The sauce is delicious, but you can sop it up with some bread and enjoy it. To really make it something special, the scallops have to be right. I shopped around for some good ones, and got my meez ready. Assistant Chef Bourdain was on hand to help, too.

The dog loves champagne. What can I say? He's fancy.

I did get proper sea scallops, and not bay scallops. We’re lucky to have easy access to pretty good fish markets around here, so they weren’t hard to find. I’m probably going to have to substitute these for the skate wings in “skate wing grenoblaise” though, because skates are on the list of fish that are in danger from over-fishing. I checked around and sea scallops are about the closest thing. I’ll try not to feel like I’ve totally failed, but fuck man, I found every kind of gut, stomach, gizzard and anus imaginable for the tripes Les Halles. I think I earned a mulligan.

They don't look like skate wings...


The sauce is pretty easy, though “fish fumet” is easier talked about than actually acquired. I didn’t have time to have another Stock Day just for fish stock, so I had to make do with what I could find. Since our dinner guest was a vegetarian (but the kind that eats fish) I had to use vegetable stock. Next time I go fishing, or end up with some heads and bones and whatnot, I’ll make proper fish stock. This is a straightforward sauce, though this one was strained. But anyway, I softened the shallots with some butter, then added veggie stock (that should have been fish stock…) and brought it to a boil. After reducing it by half, I added the cream and brought that up to a boil. It simmered for a while and I strained it and set it aside.



As per your instructions, at this point I broke into the champagne. I’ve noticed a lot of your recipes involve starting the drinking early. I’m not an able enough drinker that this is a great idea, but I’m not churl enough to suggest that it’s a bad idea, ok? Not only have my knife skills improved – but my *drunken* knife skills have improved, too!

Into a hot pan go the scallops, after they’ve been patted dry and seasoned.

Does "scallop" rhyme with "gallop", or "wallop"?

After that, it’s all down hill. Set the scallops aside, finish the pan sauce. Voila. I let the scallops sit a little too long though, I’m afraid. By the time I’d sauteed some asparagus and got them onto the table, they were sort of lukewarm. Still really delicious. But what do I know? I was god-damn hammered at this point – as drunk as a French Admiral and feelin’ about as fancy! So fancy I dressed the plate up so it looked all swellsville, too. Though my attempt to drizzle a little sauce over the scallops turned into something more like a cream-sauce splodge. I guess they teach you that stuff in chef school, but me? I am just an ape, imitating more sophisticated apes. With cream sauce.

You can see them gradually cooling.

Is anything more frightening than a drunken ape with cream sauce, chef?


The end result was pretty fancy! (Not quite as fancy as a French Admiral though.)

Categories: Uncategorized

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;


Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep, Uncategorized

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’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.


Sunday Rumble

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Do you think you could take Julia Child in a fair fight? I know you’re pretty tall, but you’re a lanky bastard – and I swear, I think she’s just as tall as you. I dunno, chef – I think I have to put my money on Mrs. Child. And we’re going to find out on Sunday.

See, one of my best friends in town, and he is no slouch when it comes to the French cooking, being a Frenchy bastard himself. So I figure I’m going with one of the Big Classics to make dinner for him – bouef bourgignon. I start doing my recon on your recipe, like I do, to get ready. This has become my habit – I pull out a clean sheet of paper, and I put the ingredients I don’t have or think I might not have at the top. I double-check that list in the kitchen, then go shopping. My next step of planning is writing down all the steps and how long they take – then backwards planning that from the time I want to serve. This works especially well when I’ve got a bunch of stuff planned.

S’anyway I’m making the list, and I realize – no bacon! No mushrooms! What the heck? I pull out my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and check. Sure enough, bacon and mushrooms are so integral to the recipe that it’s even in the description of the history of the dish. I suspect the difference here is, your book is all about bistro-style cooking, and you don’t have time when you’re moving fast to put it in the oven for four minutes, brown the flour, take it out, put it back in, etc etc. So heck with it – leave out the extra steps and strip it down to the basics, the pure heart of the bourgignon.

Or not, maybe it’s really a lot better the classic way. So I’m going to try it both ways. Both you and Julia point out that it’s even better the next day, when reheated – so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make both kinds on Sunday, and serve the winner for dinner – and freeze the loser for later consumption, probably while skiing. I mean, not actually WHILE skiing, because that would just be nuts. I mean like, after skiing.

So strap on your boxing gloves, Chef. You’re going up against the 400 pound gorilla of French cooking in America. By the by, I made poulet roti again and it didn’t turn out quite as sublime as the first time. Beginner’s luck, maybe? Or maybe I did something wrong. Don’t misunderstand, it was great – it just wasn’t life-changing great like that first time. Seriously that shit was amazing. I’m going to be chasing that dragon for the rest of my life, I think.

Today I’m making clear chicken stock of the bones – I don’t have that from stock day, and anyway I’ve used most of the dark chicken stock already anyway. I’m also making mushroom soup for tonight, but that’ll get its own entry.

Ok, it’s time for me to hit the store and do some shopping. You feel that on the back of your neck, Chef? That’s the shadow of Julia Child, looming over you like a gladiator. Get ready to rumble!


Categories: Uncategorized
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