Surprise! It’s Snails!

April 12, 2012 4 comments
Escargot aux nois by aghrivaine
Escargot aux nois, a photo by aghrivaine on Flickr.

Dear Chef Bourdain;

I realize I am extraordinarily behind. I’ve actually cooked a large majority of the dishes in your book, but haven’t really written all that many of them up. I shall rectify. (Rectify? Damn near killed him!)

A while ago i was invited to a party at a friend’s – Sous Chef “Big Daddy” Poteete, in fact. I believe it was house-warming, or apartment-warming, though it might have been a birthday, it now eludes me. So I took the opportunity to prepare a “mystery dish” and bring it.

Only after warming it on site, and setting it out in the incredibly appetizing form you see above – and being sure everyone tasted it, did I spoil the “guess the secret ingredient” game and tell them it was snails.

In preparation, escargot aux nois Les Halles is fairly straightforward, and I think I managed the right flavor and consistency, though I think they could have used a bit more salt. In fact everyone who tried them enjoyed it, and went back for seconds generally, even after they found out what they were.

So there you have it, Chef Bourdain – cruel tricks for dear friends that turn out to be pretty delicious. I’d definitely make escargot again, but given the cost of the main ingredient, the truth is it probably won’t happen.

Soylent green is people!

Categories: Cooking, Eating

Failure: My cri de coeur de porc

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Cri de coeur (de porc ala Armagnac)

Cri de coeur (de porc ala Armagnac)

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Well, first, let’s be clear, I fucking failed. You specifically admonished me, that drunken night in Santa Barbara, to “really fucking do it” and I sure didn’t. I set out in Nov. of 2010 to cook every recipe in your book within one year. By Nov 1st 2011, I had done about 60-some out of your 118 recipes. So more than half, just barely – but by no means done. So listen Chef, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – I didn’t do it. I’m not going to lie about it, as you demanded that Julie/Julia chick must have. And seriously – given how much time I spent on this over 2011, I can’t imagine how someone working a full time job could make over three hundred recipes. No way.

But I am going to finish. So I’ve kept cooking, and after a few people bitched at me for not writing about it, I’m going to write about it. My triumphant (dismal failure) return, as it were! I have quite a backlog of dishes to write about, so I’d better get started. Today? Coeur de porc ala armagnac. The long story short: kinda nasty. Is anyone surprised?Also, I think I failed at other stuff too, on this one.

But here remains one fundamental lesson I’ve learned from you, Chef. Don’t fuck up the meez. Heck, just last night I made some chicken parm, and because I had my mise en place all sorted out and unfucked, it came out as well as I’ve ever made anything, better than the many times I’ve made it before. And really, it’s a lesson for life, too – think through what you’ve got to do, get what you need to do it ready and available, and you’re a long way towards succeeding. Heck, if I’d not fucked up my meta-meez for this project – which is to say sourced the harder to find ingredients ahead of time – I’d probably have succeeded.

One meez, un-fucked, as per your advice

Really, the hardest part here was getting the ingredients. But my good friend (and groomsman) Sous Chef Big Daddy Poteete had stumbled upon pig’s hearts somewhere in the wretched hive of scum and villainy of the North Valley. I’ve tried Mexican butchers for pig’s hearts before – “Por favor, corazon de puerco?” And gotten only wall-eyed stares. Like I’d just asked for a pinata full of infants or something. The butcher look at me, shook his head like maybe I was some kind of pasty illusion, and said, “Que?” “Corazon de puerco? Err, cochon?” I patted my chest in a heart-beat pattern. He looks at me deeply skeptically and says, “Pig heart? No.”

So it was a happy day when Big Daddy Poteete found the pig’s hearts. We arranged to meet for dinner that night, and I picked up a bottle of armagnac from the local BevMo. That shit’s expensive, man. Big Daddy Poteete and I felt obliged to do some quality control on this expensive concoction, so I poured a healthy slug in some pretentious tiny glass cups I have, and threw it down my neck. It tastes like…vanilla kerosene. Which sounds worse than it is, eventually I decided I like it. Can you imagine some IRA players tossing molotov cocktails full of vanilla kerosene? It would be the classiest act of terrorism ever. And so delicious!

The only segue from a terrorism joke is a picture.

I had some really delicious pork jelly left from making one of Dave Chang’s Momofoku pork bellies. The rendered fat is as smooth as vaseline, and at LEAST twice as delicious. So I  used that to fry up the onions and herbs to stuff the hearts with. Having done so, I stuffed those hearts right up. Then I got the pan good and hot, and was really looking forward to exploding the crap out of some armagnac. Another failure – captured forever in this priceless video.

So that didn’t work. I cooked the hearts per your instructions, chef, but they didn’t look done by half. In fact, I was pretty surprised we’d be pan-frying the hearts – with a muscley, tough piece of meat like a heart, I figured we’d cook it low and slow to make it tender. Even after I threw it back in the pan for a few minutes, it was still a touch pink in the middle.

Anyway, it had a not-unpleasant mineral flavor like a lot of organ meats do. But the texture had a sort of snap to it, like a Pink’s Hot Dog that wasn’t completely fantastic. And now that I think about it, I suspect I know the secret to Pink’s success…

Basically I’m glad I made it, but I’m not too anxious to make it again. Hit or miss? I call it a hit, but only because I like the ‘de armagnac’ part and will probably make another dish using the same method, preferably with more flammable results. Because really, anything that’s fun is more fun when it’s flaming!

Flame on, Chef;


P.S. I’m really sorry I failed, Chef. Of course, I don’t think you’ve actually read this, and maybe only a half-dozen people know or care…so it’s not that big a deal. But still, I’d hoped to capture a readership, do something noteworthy, and learn to cook. I did manage that last one, at least!

Anthony Bourdain’s Pommes en croutes de sel

October 18, 2011 3 comments

Pommes en croutes de sel

Dear Chef Bourdain;

So, my self-imposed deadline of Nov. 1st to cook everything in your book is basically fucked. Short of a last minute cash (and interest by readers) infusion, I’m not going to make it. I’m in hand grenade range – close enough to be dangerous but not right on target. So I’m going to adapt, improvise, and overcome – I’m giving myself as much time as I goddamn need. What am I, getting paid for this or something? (Don’t let that stop literary or screen agents from contacting me, I would love to be paid for this or something!)

So here’s the latest – I made dinner for some friends. I whipped up some chicken Basquaise, which was as good as last time, colorful, easy and delicious. I barely looked at the recipe, it’s such a good one and so easily modified to taste. Along side, I served pommes en croute de sel, or potatoes in a salt crust, for you non-Francophones. (A Francophone is a speaker of French. For you idiots.)

If I’ve learned one thing, Tony, it’s not to fuck up my meez. I feel like I’ve mentioned that here once or twice. That, and more butter means more love. (Which means my lovely wife, who’s birthday it is today, get’s ALL THE BUTTER. Tell her that anonymous internet ninnies!) So this was interesting take on potatoes – no butter.

One meez, sans fucked-upness.

So here we’ve got a dish full of potatoes, four egg whites whipped to stiff peaks (much like a gay S&M club) and a pound of rock salt.

I mixed up the rock salt and the egg whites, and slathered it over the potatoes.

Pommes en croutes de bukkake

Then I baked them. The crust firmed up and kept the potatoes moisture in while they baked. The nice thing was that once they were done, I just turned the oven off and left them in there to keep warm. This is a nice touch when you’re cooking multiple dishes.

When the chicken was ready, I pulled out the dish.

Pommes, still en croute.

Interesting that the whites turned yellow, even in the absence of butter or yolk. So I cracked open the crust, and brushed it away from the potatoes. One thing I discovered – or rather, Mary, one of my guests did – was that you have to be really careful brushing off that crust. ‘Cause rock salt is hard on the teeth,  yo. Next time I do it like this, I’ll be sure to be more diligent about rock-salt removal.

Basically this was a low-stress, delicious way to do potatoes. They were moist and fluffy and cooked all the way through. They broke up nicely and soaked up the  sauce Basquaise. The added bonus that you can do-ahead and keep them warm and fresh in the crust is another point in their favor. Whipping egg whites isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it didn’t take that long. And anyway I’ve been working out a lot lately, and am becoming thoroughly mighty – so much so that no egg white stands a chance against my mighty thews. Thews are important for a chef, right Tony?

Thanks for a definite hit, Chef. Easy utility dish, and delicious.


Categories: Cooking, Eating, Prep

Another Bourdain Dinner!

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment
Pork shoulder by aghrivaine
Pork shoulder, a photo by aghrivaine on Flickr.

Dear Chef Bourdain;

This noble beast is a lovely 6 pound pork shoulder. It’s going to become palette de porc a la biere. It will be accompanied by tomato and fennel soup, as well as pommes sauteed au lard.

If you’re in town for the Emmy’s tonight – stop on by for dinner! I’m just in Venice, and it’s a hell of a lot better than Trader Vic’s, am I right? Christ, I hope so!

Pork and beer – what could go wrong?

Categories: Cooking, Eating

Congratulations to Anthony Bourdain and the No Reservations Crew

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Emmy Award Celebration - I'm guessing drinking was involved.

Dear  Chef Bourdain;

Congratulations to you and your crew for winning the Primetime Emmy for “Outstanding Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming“! Given your propensity for mentioning the many awards you’d like to win, I’m sure this win was a happy moment for you and all the crew at Zero Point Zero. What’s next after Fellini-esque black and white and trippy shit with the Queens of the Stone  Age? Kabuki in Tokyo? (You’d look great in all that face-paint.) How about an all-pantomime episode in France?

Further congratulations on getting your own publishing imprint at HarperCollins! So you get to pick, edit and publish three to five books a year? Hey – who’s got a left arrow and likes to write?

This Guy. <—

Just sayin’, Chef.


Categories: Maundering

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.


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

Anthony Bourdain’s Chacroute Garnie at a LARP

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Chacroute Garnie Les Halles ala LARP

Dear Chef Bourdain;

Appropriately, you’re live-tweeting hanging out with your friends in the desert, making amazing meals and rock-n-roll. And here I am, live-tweeting about hanging out with my friends in a desert, making amazing meals and….live action roleplaying? Ok, your friends are way cooler than mine. It’s ok, I’m not jealous.

Last weekend I went to a live-action role-playing game. Yeah, I know it’s nerdy, but man, I get to dress up like a viking and hit other nerds with an axe. If you called it “therapy” you could charge a fortune, and it would be just as gratifying. Still, I didn’t want to get too far behind on my project again, so I figured I better keep up and cook something while camping. I picked the Chacroute Garnie because most of the stuff I could pre-cook at home, and then just heat up on a grill at the campsite. This worked out very nicely, as it happens.

I couldn’t find any smoked pork tenderloin locally, so I just made my own. I’ve got a smoker in the back yard, so I got some pork tenderloin, brined it for a couple of days in salt, sugar, thyme and juniper berries, as per the recipe I found online. Unfortunately, I had neither alder nor ash to use for the smoking, so I just stuck with my usual hickory. (Mesquite is too strong for something like this.) I also spent a good chunk of the previous week making sausages, so I had home-made sausage to take for the “glistening pile of pork”, too. These particular sausages had chicken, pork, garlic, plum, ginger and soy – making them taste something like the inside of a dumpling. After getting cooked on a mesquite fire, they had a smokey flavor that balanced the Asian-ness of them so they worked just great. I’d also pre-boiled my potatoes.

So then, during a break in the action, I put the kraut and potatoes and salted pork belly in one pot, the sausage, smoke tenderloin slices in the other, and arrayed the frankfurters on the grill between the pots. This particular campground has an interesting history. It’s currently a Boy Scout camp, nestled into the hot, arid canyons North of Los Angeles; but originally in the 50’s, it was owned by, I kid you not, Nazi 5th columnists, who used it to train their insurrection forces meant to assist the Germans when they landed their invasion forces. Obviously that didn’t work out too well for them, neither the sympathizers nor the Germans, and so our shores remained cheerily Nazi-free. But it’s a great campground and a perfect site for epic battles of good vs. evil.

Campfire cooking at its easiest!

I started the whole thing with duck fat, onions and garlic – the aroma of which brought my hungry friends, starving after a hard day of hitting each other with foam weapons, sniffing around the pot for a taste. I have to say it was really excellent, and easy to put together in the field. Most of the work was front-loaded, and the assembly was just the sort of thing to accompany an ice-cold beer (and a bit poured into the kraut) and lounging in the shade for a while.Of course, sauerkraut does have a notorious side effect, and let me tell you, nothing is quite so embarrassing as noisily breaking wind while kneeling before the Queen of the Elves… but I can’t hold you responsible for that, Chef. Anyway, it was dark and no one knew it was me.

I’d call this one a hit – in fact, a MIGHTY BLOW PLUS FIVE! That’d make sense if you were a nerd, chef. Or at least a nerd that did Dying Kingdoms, which you totally ought to try.


P.S. that’s totally my wife, dressed like an elf, eating a glistening pile of pork. I’m a lucky dork!

Categories: Cooking, Eating, Maundering
%d bloggers like this: