Seared Salmon Benedicts


Almost nobody hates eggs benedicts. I was going to say “nobody” period, but Google search turns up 27 results for “I hate eggs benedict”, which means there are at least 27 people out there who suck and don’t count. The rest of the population of the world is then split into two categories: people who love eggs benedict, and people who haven’t had it but want to try. Up until yesterday I was in the latter category of people. But no more! It is definitely a dish everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

Eggs benedict are a sort of super project for people who love to cook and are still learning how. It teaches you how to clarify butter, how to make hollandaise sauce, and how poach eggs; all very useful tools for many other dishes.

Ingredients

Serving someone eggs benedict - useful for when you're trying to give someone heart disease and still have them think they like you the entire time.

Serving someone eggs benedict – useful for when you’re trying to give someone heart disease and still have them think they like you the entire time.

Cooking + Prep time: 1 hour
Serves Two*

6 eggs**
2 1/2 sticks butter + 2 tablespoons, OR 1 cup clarified butter + 2 tablespoon unclarified butter
1 English muffin
1 tbsp water
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 four-ounce (120g) portions of salmon
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley (garnish, optional)

*There is enough hollandaise in this recipe for 20 benedicts. Take this into consideration when scaling the recipe for a large crowd.
**You will need four yolks plus two whole eggs. Use the freshest eggs possible for best results in terms of both taste and cooking.

Cooking

Clarified butter is (probably, I never actually checked) available for purchase at your local grocery store. However, if you, like me, don’t have any, you will have to make some yourself. Take a small pot and place it over the stove at the lowest heat you can manage. Place your sticks of butter into the pan and let them melt.

They're melt their way into your heart, then clog it up and kill you.

They’re melt their way into your heart, then clog it up and kill you.

After 20-30 minutes, you will have a layer of white scum floating atop a pool of piss-colored oil (poetry was never my strength). Use a spoon to scoop the stuff off the top. Then, if you have a cheese cloth, pour the melted butter into a container covered by the cheese cloth. Otherwise, do your best to siphon out as much of the white solids as you can.

A Chinese man will tell you this represents Yin and Yang in perfect balance. A Frenchman will tell you the Chinese man is lying, you should scoop out that white shit because it's ruining your ability to make a good hollandaise.

A Chinese man will tell you this represents Yin and Yang in perfect balance. A Frenchman will tell you the Chinese man is lying, you should scoop out that white shit because it’s ruining your ability to make a good hollandaise.

Now, crack four eggs and separate the yolks out into a glass or metal bowl. Bring a pot of water to a bare simmer. Whisk the yolks until they are slightly paler in color and a bit foamy. Meanwhile, prepare your lemon juice and have your clarified butter in a pourable container within easy reach. You will need these ingredients in short order soon.

Start by whisking the egg yolks by themselves over the pot of barely simmering water. The bowl of egg yolks should benefit from the heat of the water, but the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Then, add a small amount of butter into the egg yolks and whisk to incorporate. Each time the butter is incorporated, add another bit of butter, in slowly increasing amounts, until all the butter has been whisked into the egg yolk. The sauce should start to thicken slightly. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (optional). Whisk to combine, then take it off heat.

You could probably make this sauce look really nice by having good lighting and some fancy shaped porcelain container as its receptacle, set on a table with a clean patterned tablecloth overlooking an open window that shows the house is situated near a cliff with a view of the blue ocean. And maybe a pretty girl with lovely breasts is standing next to the table wearing a summer dress. If a picture is worth a thousand words this caption would really have to be really really long in order to be its equal.

You could probably make this sauce look really nice by having good lighting and some fancy shaped porcelain container as its receptacle, set on a table with a clean patterned tablecloth overlooking an open window that shows the house is situated near a cliff with a view of the blue ocean. And maybe a pretty girl with lovely breasts is standing next to the table wearing a summer dress. If a picture is worth a thousand words this caption would really have to be really really long in order to be its equal.

Now, either using the same pot of water or a separate pot, keep (or bring) the water to/at a bare simmer and add a splash of vinegar. Slice your English muffin in half lengthwise and begin toasting it. Heat up two tablespoons of butter in a non-stick pan over high heat. When the butter in the pan stops bubbling, add the salmon. You want to sear it quickly on both sides to give it a bit of brown without overcooking the fish, about a minute or two on both sides depending on the power of your stove.

One smells like fish, is soft to the touch, and is pink and moist, the other is a fillet of salmon.

One smells like fish, is soft to the touch, and is pink and moist, the other is a fillet of salmon.

Have two eggs on hand. When the pot of water comes to a bare simmer, crack the eggs and gently release them into the water as close to the water as you can. Do not disturb the water while cooking. Let the eggs cook for about 4 minutes, or until the whites are cooked and the yolk is still runny. Gently lift the eggs out of the water and trim off the excess ribbons of white from the main mass.

The asparagus in this meal is like the diet coke in a Big Mac combo meal, it keeps things healthy.

The asparagus in this meal is like the diet coke in a Big Mac combo meal, it keeps things healthy.

Assemble your benedicts: place half an English muffin as the base, a piece of salmon, then the poached egg on top. Generously spoon (but do not drench) hollandaise onto each benedict. Serve immediately.

The general rule about hollandaise is that it should be used (or frozen, according to some sources) within two hours of creation, before the raw egg yolks become a health concern. Plan accordingly if you are serving to many guests for an occasion.

The Result

Might as well spread the love.

Might as well spread the love.

I had a mouth orgasm on the first bite. That is all.

Conclusion

Sorry about the photos, they did not come out as well as I thought they would. Maybe I can try cooking at an earlier time when the lighting is better. But it was certainly one of the best dishes I’ve had in recent memory. Try it sometime, you or whoever you make it for won’t be disappointed.

Sauteed Gnocchi with Basil Pesto


Imagine that you are a bird. You are flying in the air, free as can be, when you spot a delicious morsel of bread sitting on a table inside a building, just waiting for you to snatch it up. You veer to the left and begin your smooth descent towards that bread. And just when it is two feet away, WHAM! You smash into an invisible wall and die a horrible death.

Anyways, that was an accurate metaphor for my first experience trying to learning Italian cuisine. I keep hearing Italian chefs talk about focusing on “simplicity” and “keeping things simple”. But as soon as you try out that “simple” recipe with the 5 ingredients it kicks you right in the balls and your own creation turns out nothing like it’s supposed to be. Both gnocchi and pesto are simple recipes with a short list of ingredients, yet if you wish to make them well, the procedures are thoroughly nuanced and difficult to master.

Ingredients

Most people try to spend as little time as possible cooking as much as possible. I spend as much time as possible cooking as little as possible, then microwave up a frozen pizza later to make up for the deficit. Something is wrong here.

Most people try to spend as little time as possible cooking as much as possible. I spend as much time as possible cooking as little as possible, then microwave up a frozen pizza later to make up for the deficit. Something is wrong here.

Prep + Wait time: 2-3 hours

Gnocchi recipe by Thomas Keller. Basil recipe from here.

Basil Pesto:

1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, loosely packed
~1 cup olive oil

Gnocchi:

2 lb russet potatoes (roughly 3.5 medium potatoes)*
1 tbsp salt
1 + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks

*Russets are recommended by most recipes. They are the cheapest brown potatoes in American supermarkets. Yukon gold is an acceptable substitute.

A dough scraper is highly recommended for making gnocchi.

Cooking

Pre-heat your oven to 350F (175C). Pop your potatoes in for 1-2 hours, depending on size (2 hours for large, 1 hour for medium). Flip them every half-hour until thoroughly cooked. Crack 3 eggs and separate out the yolks. Leave the yolks outside to warm at room temperature. Meanwhile, make basil pesto.

We're in for some chop.

We’re in for some chop.

We are going to hand chop the basil pesto. Apparently it’s supposed to turn out with a better texture or whatever, but here is my personal reasoning about the process. Ideally, a sharp knife is sharper than a food processor’s blade, and will bruise the herb leaves less as it slices through the basil. Italians have a special moon-shaped knife called the [url=http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20121231130904/wowwiki/images/d/d9/Illidan.png]mezzaluna[/url] that allows you to easily slice through herbs with minimal bruisage. While you can replicate this process with a regular knife by rocking the knife through the herbs instead of chopping straight down, the process becomes extremely time consuming. Ultimately, bruising will occur and the basil itself will not be hugely improved from what comes out of a food processor.

This is, coincidentally, also how the Amish make pesto.

This is, coincidentally, also how the Amish make pesto.

In any case, ri0nse and pat dry your basil, and pick the leaves from the stems. Pile your ingredients into neat piles where you can access them easily. Start by chopping a third of your basil along with your garlic. When this is a fine mince, add a third of your pine nuts and continue chopping. Then, at approximate three minute intervals, add a third of your shaved parmesan, a third of the basil, another third of the pine nuts, then cheese, then basil, then the last of your pine nuts, and the last of the parmesan. Chop until you have a very fine mince on the last batch of pine nuts and parmesan cheese.

If you add urine it becomes pissto, a unique beverage favored by Bear Grylls.

If you add urine it becomes pissto, a unique beverage favored by Bear Grylls.

Add olive oil and mix. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Go play outside until the potatoes are done. When the potatoes are cooked, take them out of the oven. While hot, cut them in half and scoop out the insides onto a clean work surface. Ideally you want at least 4 square feet of work surface, or about 0.66 square meters. Mash the potatoes until they are lumpless, using a potato ricer if available. Make a ring with the hot potatoes and a well in the middle. Sprinkle half a cup of flour into the well. Dump onto the flour (NOT onto the hot potatoes! they will cook the yolks instantly) the three yolks, then the second half cup of flour on top of the yolks. Now, working as fast as possible, mix everything together into a homogenous mass. If you do it fast enough the dough will not be too sticky to work with, If it is very sticky, sprinkle flour around.

If you balk at the idea of using so many yolks, some recipes recommend using whole eggs. Try one and a half eggs as a substitute. Some people just can't take a yolk.

If you balk at the idea of using so many yolks, some recipes recommend using whole eggs. Try one and a half eggs as a substitute. Some people just can’t take a yolk.

Divide your dough into fourths. Sprinkle flour onto your work surface and prepare a sheet pan, either dusted with flour or lined with parchment paper. Roll a fourth of dough out into a long roll close to an inch thick, or about 2 cm. Use your dough scraper to divide the roll into sections of dough about 3/4 of an inch or 2 cm in length.

I'll show you a real tunnel snake.

I’ll show you a real tunnel snake.

Now to shape the gnocchi. I didn’t quite understand how to shape them while I made these gnocchi, but here is the proper way to shape them with a fork: Press the section of dough gently into the fork to flatten the gnocchi while creating an indentation on the reverse side, then roll the gnocchi into a roll shape with the indentation on the outside. They should look like tiny rolls with ridges on the outside.

Yeah thanks Youtube you were a real fucking help. I've been doing it wrong all this time. I AM A FAILURE!!! *Runs off a cliff*

Yeah thanks Youtube you were a real fucking help. I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. I AM A FAILURE!!! *Runs off a cliff*

Anyways, you are ready to cook! Bring a big pot of water to a boil, generously adding a large amount of salt and oil (1/3 of a cup of each per gallon of water or so). Place 2 tablespoons of butter into a non-stick pan, but do not turn on the heat yet. When the water comes to a boil, add the gnocchi to the water and turn on the heat to your pan at the same time. The gnocchi will take about 2 minutes to cook. When they float to the surface, wait 20 seconds and they are done. The butter in your pan should be nice and hot by then. Scoop the gnocchi out of the pot of water and into your pan. Saute, letting the gnocchi get nice and brown.

You can just serve after boiling, but this is just because Italians really aren't getting enough grease in their diet.

You can just serve after boiling, but this is just because Italians really aren’t getting enough grease in their diet.

When the gnocchi is nicely browned spoon some pesto onto them and mix together. Serve immediately.

The Result

Yeah motherfucker. Someone eating this might think you spent a summer vacationing in Italy or learning from an Italian grandmother, but only YOU know the truth. You sat on your ass and read this blog, like an unsung hero would.

Yeah motherfucker. Someone eating this might think you spent a summer vacationing in Italy or learning from an Italian grandmother, but only YOU know the truth. You sat on your ass and read this blog, like an unsung hero would.

People have described gnocchi as “light, fluffy pillows”, but that’s really too flattering. They’re kind of like… potato-y dumplings. Still, when fried up they are quite nice. Crispy on the outside, with a fluffy potato texture on the inside. The pesto adds a nice touch of aromatic flavor that brings it all together. Not the best dish ever, but certainly something nice to have tried and said that you have tried. Veni, vidi, vici.

Borscht


Borscht! What an interesting dish, right? Whenever some TV cook pulls an exotic dish out of his or her ass, it usually comes off the tail of a trip to some foreign land where they acquired the taste for such dish, or maybe a recipe was handed down to them by a grandma of a friend who lived in said land for 87 years. Not me. I was sitting on my ass, as usual, browsing Wikipedia, and came across this.

Anyways, it’s not the journey that matters, it’s the result that makes you sit here and read this blog, right? Borscht is a healthy, hearty, easy soup made with red beets. Due to its diverse origins in about a dozen Eastern European countries, the ways to make borscht are near infinite. This is just one such variation that I’ve cobbled together from several recipes.

Ingredients

This is just most of the ingredients. Read the list for all of them. Or if you're feeling plucky, proceed blindly off of this picture alone. What's the matter, chicken?

This is just most of the ingredients. Read the list for all of them. Or if you’re feeling plucky, proceed blindly off of this picture alone. What’s the matter, chicken?

Total time: 1 1/2-4 hours
Serves 4-8

Beef Stock*:
~1 lb raw beef bones, tendons, etc.
1 yellow onion
1 carrot
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh or dried parsley
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Borscht:
4 cups beef stock
5 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 medium head of green cabbage
1 yellow onion
1 large carrot
3 medium beets**
3 medium or 4 small potatoes
salt
pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
sour cream or fresh yogurt for garnish

*You notice that salt and pepper are not listed. Do not season your stocks so that they may remain a neutral ingredient when it comes to seasoning the actual dish. If you use store bought stock, you will have to take sodium into account. Use vegetable stock for a vegetarian and vegan version.
**With their leaves, if possible.

Cooking

We start with the beef stock. You can either buy the stock, or make it ahead of time. Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a pot and deposit your beef bones. Brown them for about 1-2 minutes on all sides.

The Necromancer from Diablo 2 would make a great soup cook.

The Necromancer from Diablo 2 would make a great soup cook.

Meanwhile, peel your carrot and onion and chop them into chunks. Deposit the chunks into the browned beef and cook until soft. Pour about 5-6 cups of water into the pot. Add thyme, rosemary, garlic, and parsley. Simmer for about two hours, then strain into a container. Either use immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for long-term storage.

Some of you might be wondering sarcastically if this is a vegetable stock with a bit of beef or a beef stock. Well if you are wondering that, just remember that I'm way Soup Nazier than you are.

Some of you might be wondering sarcastically if this is a vegetable stock with a bit of beef or a beef stock. Well if you are wondering that, just remember that I’m way Soup Nazier than you are.

Now, when you are ready for the borscht, the borscht is ready for you! Chop your onions and carrots into similar sized slices. Saute them in oil until soft in your soup pot.

You can also add meat to your borscht, but I'm only using vegetables here. Beet your meat on your own time.

You can also add meat to your borscht, but I’m only using vegetables here. Beet your meat on your own time.

As the onions and carrots soften, peel and dice your potatoes. When the vegetables in the pot are soft, add your tomato paste. Stir to mix, then add your beef stock, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes. Simmer for five minutes.

If you make the soup with chicken instead you can call the soup

If you make the soup with chicken instead you can call the soup “the birds and the beets”.

While you were cooking your vegetables and waiting for the potatoes to cook, you should peel and shred your beets. You can shred by knife like I did, but it takes a longer period of time. Also chop your beet leaves into pieces and shred your cabbage.

If you put your beets into a box that's called beet boxing.

If you put your beets into a box that’s called beet boxing.

Dump all of your vegetables into the soup and simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and add your vinegar. When the vegetables are as tender as you desire, turn the heat off. Roughly chop 3 tablespoons of parsley and stir them into the soup.

If you eat enough beets it'll turn your piss orange. Romantically speaking, it's like pissing a sunset.

If you eat enough beets it’ll turn your piss orange. Romantically speaking, it’s like pissing a sunset.

Serve the soup hot with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt. Garnish with parsley (or more authentically, dill).

Finished borsch. It looks almost like an aborschion in a pot. Probably how the name came to be.

Finished borsch. It looks almost like an aborschion in a pot. Probably how the name came to be.

 

The Result

Too many beet puns. At this point I'm really beeting a dead borsch.

Too many beet puns. At this point I’m really beeting a dead borsch.

Wow, this soup isn’t bad at all, even without meat. It is slightly sweet, with a rich meaty flavor from the beef stock. Some recipes ask you to add a bit of sugar or honey, but I think that sweetners will definitely push the soup over the edge. Be careful not to spill the soup on your shirt while eating though. That shit’ll never come off. Or, if you do live in an Eastern bloc country, it might feel like you’re being drenched in the blood of revolutionary patriots or something. Wear it outside proudly.

Mushroom Risotto


There aren’t many things in the world that can be brought back from the dead. If you have a plant but neglect to water it for a few months, it’ll most likely be dead. All the water in the world will not bring it back. Luckily, blogs are a far hardier breed of creatures. I’ve never meant to let it die, but here it is, it’s back with just a few swypes at the keyboard! The moral of the story is, if you are an irresponsible human being like me, keep a blog, not a plant (or even worse, a baby).

Anyways, let us start out with something that is both simple and tastes fucking amazing: mushroom risotto. If you ever want to really impress someone who has no idea how to cook without too much effort or money, this is what you will want to make.

Ingredients

Boobies.
A picture of the ingredients you need, and a lot of inedible stuff you don’t need. For example, that door knob in the back? It will never be used in this dish. At all.

1 cup arborio rice
1 can (or more) of chicken stock*
1/2 pounds mushrooms**
1 medium yellow onion
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp butter
2/3 cup dry white wine
water (optional)
salt
pepper
3 tbsp parmesan cheese

*You can use water on top of the 1 can of chicken stock, or all chicken stock to make this dish extra flavorful.
**Button or brown mushrooms are the common choice. If you are well off you can get fancy with wild mushrooms.

Cooking

Start by doing a medium (1 cm, 1/3 inch) dice on your onions, mincing your garlic, and slicing your mushrooms. You will be spending a lot of time at the stove later on, so do your prep ahead of time.

Titties.
This type of dish is known in the US as jenyoo-wahhn eye-talian. Which means real Italians might jump off a cliff upon seeing it.

Heat a pot to medium high heat with a tablespoon and a half of olive oil. When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the onion. Cook it for 2-3 minutes until it is translucent but not brown (stir the onion every once in a while to prevent browning). Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring to avoid browning.

Knockers.
The first Italian style dish I blog about just happens to have rice in it. ASIAN 4 LYFE.

Pour your white wine into the pot. Stir constantly and make sure that the heat is high enough (high heat for electric ranges, medium to medium high on gas stoves) that the liquid is always simmering. Cook until the liquid has almost all evaporated, and add your chicken stock 1/3 of a can at a time, each time stirring until the liquid has almost all evaporated.

Tatas.
Some more Pulitzer quality photos of the action for you.

You will want to repeat the process, using water if you run out of stock, until the rice is cooked through tender and the sauce is creamy. A professional chef can do this in 20 minutes. It took me about 30 minutes, but what matters is that you achieve the right consistency. When the rice is close to finishing (or finished if you don’t feel like multitasking, since the rice can’t be easily overcooked), start sauteing your mushrooms. The mushrooms will take about 5 minutes.

Hooters.
This may look like a lot of mushrooms, but there’s no shroom for error here, so don’t squander them.

Heat a pan with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter on medium-high to high heat. When the butter foams and the foam subsides, add your mushrooms. Toss the mushrooms for about 5 minutes until it is cooked through (make sure that there is no water in the bottom of the pan; if you see water accumulating, turn the heat up). Salt and pepper to taste.

Now that your mushrooms and the risotto are both almost done, dump your mushrooms into your risotto. The reason why you do not cook the mushrooms with the risotto is because mushrooms taste far better when they are sauteed instead of boiled along with the rice. Salt and pepper to taste, taking into consideration the salt content of the chicken stock and the cheese you are about to add. Turn off the heat and stir the parmesan cheese into the risotto. Serve hot.

Assets.
Don’t worry if your cheese is not luminescent like mine is. We can’t all have shitty cameras be angels from the fifth dimension.

Result

Bazookas.
I could tell you about how delicious it is, but you’re probably thinking it looks like it could have come from a bukkake convention. Or maybe only I was thinking of that. But now you’re also thinking of that (if you don’t know what it is, don’t google it).

This is actually a dish I’ve made once before, so I knew it would taste good before I made it for the blog. And it is amazing for how easy it is to make. There is a burst of flavor in every bite, yet the dish isn’t so powerful that you are overwhelmed after only a few bites. It makes for a fantastic main course or a starch component of a bigger course. Oftentimes, simplicity done right is better than complexity done mediocrely.

Until next time, remember that risotto, like pasta, is just shit the Italians took from the Chinese and made better. They were the original bootleggers.

Lettuce Leaf Tacos


One time a coworker at the restaurant I work at told me to stop looking for healthy shit to eat because as a cook, you’ll always end up working with things that are fried or cooked with a lot of butter and cream, and that there’s no point in trying to delay the inevitable. I was too polite to tell him to go fuck himself, but it was the reply that shone most brightly in my mind’s eye.

The point of the story is, here’s one of these things that you can make to delay the inevitable. It’s basically like a taco, with the same ingredients of a taco, but with all the proportions switched around a bit.
Ingredients

If you can’t afford real beef, shoot an email to Taco Bell to try to get their beef substitute recipe. 35% beef but tastes like 100%.

Serves 3-4
Prep Time: ~1.5 hours

Taco: 1-2 heads of green leaf/romaine lettuce*

Fresh Salsa:
4 medium tomatoes
1/2 large red onion
1/2 jalapeno or serrano pepper
1 lime
3 tbsp cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Steak:

1 lb pan-searable steaks**
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter

Tortilla:
4 corn tortillas
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt

1/2 cup mozzarella, for sprinkling

*I went for green leaf because I like the look and width of the leaves. Romaine will give you a better holding vessel though. You will need to disassemble each head of lettuce and remove the leaves that look like they can be used as taco shells. The rest of the lettuce can be used as a salad for something else. You can get maybe 5-8 good leaves per head of lettuce.
**There are several cuts you can use, make sure to use a tender cut of beef that can be eaten after cooking a short amount of time.

Cooking

The shortest distance between two points is multitasking. Start by pulling out your lettuce heads and your steaks. Leave your steaks out at room temperature for now. Take your lettuce heads apart leaf by leaf and set aside the leaves that are ideal for holding handfuls of diced food. Wash these leaves, gently shake them of excess water, and spread them out somewhere to dry. They will need at least an hour (depending on the humidity where you live) to rid themselves of the moisture.

Leave these leaves resting for now. You don’t want to dilute the flavors of your food by placing them on wet leaves. Lettuce not get a head of ourselves here.

Second task up is the salsa, or pico de gallo. Do a medium dice (about 3/4 cm or 1/3 inch square) on the onions and sit them in some cold water for about five minutes. This will rinse the sting out of the onions (the sulfuric acid) and make the pieces crisp and refreshing. Do the same dice for your tomatoes and hot pepper. Finely chop your cilantro. Drain your onions and mix everything together. Slice your lime in half and squeeze the halves over the salsa. Add salt and pepper, mix again. Cover your salsa and leave it at room temperature to marinate for an hour. Do not refrigerate!

I hope all this herbivore shit isn’t giving you vegetarians false hope. Or maybe it is. I can just imagine your looks of disappointment a few paragraphs down.

Right! Now what is taco without a tortilla component? Preheat your oven to 325F (160C) Take out a stack of about four corn tortillas. Keeping them in a stack, cut them into strips of about 1/2 cm by 3 cm (1/4 inch by 1 inch). Toss them together with oil and sprinkle with salt.

Tortilla Strips, a good name for a latina hooker. If someone reads this and implements this please credit me as “Newbistic from Team Liquid”.

Prepare a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil. Spread the strips out in roughly single layer. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, but peek frequently starting at 10 minutes or so. The chips can burn very quickly. Remove from heat as soon as the chips are starting to turn golden.

Now comes the interesting part. The steaks take about ten minutes in total to prepare, and you want them as warm as possible when you serve. So, wait to prepare them until about 10-15 minutes before you wish to serve.

When you are ready, salt and pepper both sides of your steaks. Pour out oil and butter into your pan on high heat. The butter is for flavor, the oil prevents the butter from burning. When the butter foams up then subsides, place the steaks into the pan. They should start sizzling immediately. If they do not, take your steaks out and wait until the oil is hot enough. Add rosemary into the oil. Cook the steaks on one side until it is browned and about half-way cooked, then flip them over (this takes some experience. At least cook until one side has some brown on it before flipping, try to flip only once). Test the steaks for done-ness by pressing them with your fingertips. If both sides are browned and the steak feels a bit flaccid to your fingertips, it is rare. If it gives a bit of bouncy resistance, it is medium rare. If it gives a lot of resistance, it is well done.

I apologize to any Hindus that might be reading this for the sacrilege. This delicious, succulent, tender, flavorful sacrilege for which I will gladly see a million cows slaugh- err, “slouched” over in peaceful repose in a green meadow. That’s it.

Now, leave your steaks somewhere warm where they can rest for about five minutes before slicing. This step is important because the steaks will be the only warm component to an otherwise cold dish. After five minutes, slice your steaks into cubes.

When you are ready to serve: layer salsa on the bottom of each lettuce leaf, add beef on top, then sprinkle with cheese and tortilla chips. Serve immediately, with rice and beans.

The Result

There are two types of bean consumers: samurai and ninjas. Ninjas are silent but deadly, samurais let their existence known but are just as deadly.

The lettuce leaf is not as structurally sound as a tortilla (especially if you are using a green leaf as opposed to romaine), but it does suffice. It looks (and is) healthier than the standard taco. The tortilla strips on top are instrumental to adding the sufficient amount of crunch to the taco to make the textures interesting. And honestly, it’s not that much more work than a standard taco anyways. Good stuff all round.

Conclusion

The moral of this story is that healthy doesn’t have to mean “tastes like shit”. The next time you are hungrily eying that stick of butter, individually wrapped and ready to consume in the refrigerator, consider expending an hour and a half to make some lettuce leaf tacos instead. Your friends will be impressed. Your mother, doubly so. Your grandmother, well, if her diet included sticks of butter, she’s probably not around anymore. You’ll just have to settle for her rolling over in her grave (if she doesn’t get stuck attempting the roll (“I’m just big boned!”)).

Until next time, don’t show this recipe to your Mexican friends or they might get offended and come after me.

Confit Byaldi


Have you ever looked on Google images for pictures of confit byaldi? They all look somewhat sloppy and lopsided… except for Thomas Keller’s. His is beautiful, neat, and clean, like he chiseled it out of a fucking rainbow. When I started making this dish, I aimed to create something that is also beautiful, neat, and clean. But it turned out sloppy and lopsided like everyone else’s were. I simply wasn’t able to find vegetables of the same width to make the slices layer identically.

The lesson here is that as insane as I might be to try this shit and do it all by hand, master chefs are just slightly more insane in their drive for perfection, and their ability to be damned near perfect.

Confit Byaldi is the version of ratatouille that Thomas Keller invented for the movie “Ratatouille”. It is aesthetically the best looking ratatouille I’ve ever seen, and after having tasted it, it is also the best tasting version too.

Ingredients

Cheap immigrant labor? I’m an immigrant and I did it all for free.

Prep Time: ~4.5 hours

Serves 3-4

Piperade:

1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 red pepper
1/2 orange pepper
~3 medium sized tomatoes (12 oz, or 325g worth)
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig parsley
1/2 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Vegetables:

1 medium zuchini
1 medium yellow squash*
1 thin Japanese eggplant**
4-5 roma tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil

*I’ve seen fuckers try to sound bourgeois and call them “courgettes”. Don’t be a wanker. Until you’re a chef standing in the kitchen of own restaurant they’re yellow squash.
**You want the long, thin Japanese eggplant, which may be difficult to find depending on where you live. Try to find an eggplant that is as similar in diameter to the squash and zuchini as you can.

Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon of piperade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper

You will also need: A good knife or a mandolin. Mandolin is highly recommended for those who aren’t insane.

Assembly

Preparation starts with the piperade. Cut your peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and ribs from one half of each pepper. Lay them skins side up onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 450F (232C) for fifteen minutes.

Making this dish was like running my own sweat shop, except I’m the only worker.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil. Make small x-shaped incisions on the bottom of your tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for 15 seconds. This will allow you to easily peel your tomatoes. Now remove the tomatoes from the water and peel them. Cut the tomatoes in half width-wise. Use a spoon, remove the seeds from each tomato over a plastic container. You want to keep the seeds, pulp, and juice that drips out. Finely chop your peeled and deseeded tomatoes.

Show those vegetables no mercy.

Peel your clove of garlic and mince that. Cut your onion in half and finely chop that also. Group the onions and garlic together and keep your tomatoes separate. At this point, your peppers may be done. Take them out of the oven and let them cool.

On the stove, pour two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan over medium heat. Dump your onions and garlic into the pan and cook for about 8 minutes. Let the onions and garlic soften but do not brown them (this means stirring the vegetables every 30 seconds or so). After 8 minutes, dump in your tomatoes and herbs. Pour in the juice from de-seeding the tomatoes but do not let any seeds get into the piperade. Keep the herbs in sprig form. You will be removing them later.

Ratatouille is French, but confit byaldi was invented by an American. USA! USA! USA!

Cook the tomatoes for about 10 minutes to soften, but do not brown. At this point in time the peppers should be cool enough to touch. Peel the peppers and finely dice them as well. Dump the peppers into the piperade after 10 minutes is up. Simmer for about another 5-10 minutes, until there is no excess moisture. Remove the herbs and add salt to taste.

Hundreds of years in a French kitchen one cook said to the other “What the fuck is this mush?” Then the other cook said “Mush? No. We will give it a fancy name… say “piperade” or something, and everyone will love it.”

Now you can start on the vegetables! You want to slice all the vegetables into 1/16th inch (or 1.5 millimeter) slices. You will need approximately 2/3 of a zuchini, eggplant, and yellow squash, and 4-5 tomatoes. Do try to slice them as thinly as possible, it gives a nice texture and appearance. Place your eggplant slices in a small container with lightly salted water to prevent them from browning.

Recipe invented by white people, vegetables picked by brown people, dish processed by yellow people. It’s an international collaboration.

Now, spread your piperade (reserve a few tablespoons for the vinaigrette) all over the bottom of a baking dish. Down the center, lay down 8 alternating slices of vegetables, approximately 1/4 inch apart.

The beginning of tedium. An activity so dull even my camera couldn’t maintain focus.

Continue laying down rounds of vegetables until your entire pan is covered in vegetables. Pre-heat your oven to 275F (135C). In a separate container, whisk together a clove of minced garlic, two tablespoons of olive oil, the thyme, and salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each for me). Spread this mixture over the vegetables.

You could try first placing the vegetables vertically, then pushing over the last slice so they fall like dominoes. I’ve never tried it.

Cover the baking pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 2 hours, or until the vegetables are tender (poke them with a knife. If the knife runs through easily, the vegetables are tender). At the end of 2 hours, uncover the pan and bake for half an hour more. Remove from oven.

But in the movie it took them only 3 seconds to make! Pixar you bastard!

As the dish cools, whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Equal portions of olive oil to piperade, and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar for every tablespoon of oil. You want about 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette per portion of ratatouille. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

The Result

The vegetarian version of escargot.

Why would you ever spend so much time making this? I dunno. It is pretty good though. The vegetables are very soft, in a melt-in-your-mouth kind of way. There is a ton of compressed flavor within the thin slices of vegetables. I would even venture to say that this is probably as good as it will ever get for vegetarians. But for the rest of us, there is MEAT. Yes, I could go for a nice steak right about now.

Conclusion

The making of this dish was inspired by immaculate beauty. The result was… not quite the same? In the similar way in which God made man and man tried to make man but ended up with Frankenstein. How many Frankensteins will I have to make until I can make man? I don’t know, but keep your eyes peeled for a flood of monsters, each slightly better looking than the last.

Coq au Vin


You wouldn’t visit Egypt for the first time without visiting the Pyramids. Likewise, you wouldn’t learn French cuisine without making coq au vin at least once.

Coq au vin translates to “rooster with wine” in English (or cock with wine, but in this day and age that phrase is easily misconstrued). It’s basically a chicken stew made with a ton of wine. There are many ways to make coq au vin. For my inaugural attempt(s), I decided to go with Julia Child’s version, which is designed for the American supermarket. It certainly requires more work than some of the other versions, but all of its ingredients are readily acquirable in a supermarket.

This is going to be a long blog for a long recipe. I will be showing you how to make everything in the recipe from scratch, which takes anywhere from 3.5-5 hours depending on your hardware and multitasking skills. I strongly encourage you to read through the recipe before attempting the dish in the event that there is some hardware or ingredient requirement you do not meet. Of course, if you do not feel like spending much time/effort, feel free to take any store-bought shortcuts you deem necessary.

Last but not least, a ton of thanks to www.teamliquid.net member endy for answering my newbie questions and lending his vast culinary knowledge.

Ingredients

If you consider yourself a mature individual, you’ll probably want to skip the captions ahead. Coq talk incoming (aren’t you glad I tipped you off?).

Prep Time: 3.5-5 hours
Note: I know this looks like a lot of ingredients, but there’s a lot of repeats. And yes, you need all parts.

I: Brown Chicken Stock

Chicken giblets & bones
1 medium carrot
1 yellow onion
3 cups water
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
few sprigs of parsley
cooking oil

II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions [Oignons Glacés à Brun]

~ 2 dozen mini (or pearl) onions*
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp oil
1/3 cups brown chicken stock**
2 sprigs parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
salt
pepper

III: Sauteed Mushrooms [Champignons Sautés au Beurre]

1/2 pounds (~225g) mushrooms (button or brown is fine)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
2-3 tbsp minced shallots OR chopped scallions
salt
pepper

IV: Coq au Vin

A 4-5 pound chicken, cut into pieces***
3-4 oz salt pork OR bacon****
1/2 cups cognac
3 cups wine*****
2 cubs brown chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
3 tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
2-3 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp flour

*Do not use large onions. You should be able to find some small or pearl onions that are roughly 1 inch in diameter or smaller. They do cost about 10x the price of regular yellow onions though.
**The original recipe says 1/2 cups of stock, but if you “simmer slowly” as the instructions direct you’ll never be able to simmer away all the liquid by the end of 50 minutes. 1/3 cups should be more than enough especially since the pearl onions I (and probably you) use are smaller and should cook faster than those in the recipe.
***Try to procure a good chicken, like a free-ranged type. Since you will be shelling out a lot of money for all the other ingredients, it doesn’t make sense for the star of the show to be of low quality.
****What you really need is a lump of high-fat salt pork that hasn’t been smoked. If you cannot find these, use bacon. Full instructions will be included below.
*****You want a full-bodied red wine. White wines also work, but my personal experience is with red. Merlots are a good choice for a cheap wine that is still full-bodied. If you have money to spare, a Burgundy, a wine from the Vallee du Rhone region made from Pinot Noir grapes, or a Chianti should also work.

Cooking I: Brown Chicken Stock

The cooking process for coq au vin begins and ends with the chicken. If you purchased a whole chicken, it should come with some giblets and a neck. Set these aside and de-bone your chicken. You should end up with two breasts, two thighs, two wings, two drumsticks, the spine, a few extra pieces of skin and fat, and the ribcage. Cut the spine in half to produce two additional pieces of dark meat chicken.

I’m not exactly an expert deboner. But your grandmother is, when she’s naked.

Bag the breasts and stick them in the refrigerator. They will not be used for this dish. Set aside the giblets, skin, and bones, and refrigerate the other pieces for now. These random pieces of chicken will be the base for the brown chicken stock.

Taking chicken stock to brown town. Coqs are involved.

Chop one onion and one carrot. Pour a tablespoon of two of oil into a pot and brown the chicken, onion, and carrot. After browning, add three cups of water, bay leaf, thyme, and a few sprigs of parsley. Salt and pepper isn’t necessary at this point. Bring the water to a boil then turn the heat down. Simmer the stock for about 90 minutes. Strain the solids out and keep the stock for later.

I dub it the coq stock

Cooking II: Brown-braised Mini-Onions

Wash and peel your mini-onions (you can do this while your stock is simmering). Place your butter and oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-high heat. The butter will melt, then begin to form foam bubbles on the surface of the oil. Wait until the foam has subsided; this indicates that the oil is ready to receive your food. Dump your onions into the hot oil and brown them on all sides to the best of your ability, rolling them around to brown all surfaces.

Pearl onions, because you can’t have coq au vin without the family jewels.

Once the onions are suitably browned, pour 1/3 cup of your brown chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste, thyme, bay leaf, and sprigs of parsley (you may notice a pattern in the herbs involved). Turn the heat down to low and cover the onions. Slowly simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated. If you are using a dark (teflon) pan, it may be difficult to discern if there is still any liquid left or if there is only oil. You can always tip the pan a bit to find out, or taste an onion. It should hold its shape, but be soft enough to melt in your mouth.

Cooking III: Sauteed Mushrooms

This step can be done ahead of time, or later while your chicken is simmering in part IV. Wash and thinly slice your mushrooms. Meanwhile, melt your butter and oil in a pan (medium on gas stove, high on electric). Again, the way to tell that the butter is ready is when the foam rises then subsides in the pan.

Bubble pop, bubble pop.

Toss the mushrooms for about five minutes. The mushrooms will first absorb all of the oil, then gradually release it to coat all the mushrooms with a nice slick sheen. There should never be any water or juice in the bottom of the pan while you are sauteeing. If you do see water collecting, turn your heat up.

Chop some shallots or scallions while you are tossing the mushrooms. Add them to your sauteed mushrooms and toss for another two minutes. Salt and pepper to season. Remove from heat and set aside for now.

Up until now neither coq nor vin have made their appearances yet. But hold your fucking horses, it’s coming. By which I mean the coq.

Cooking IV: Coq au Vin

We are now ready to assemble the dish! Bring about 5-6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Cut your bacon into pieces and boil them for 10 minutes to remove the smoky taste. If you are using salt pork, you can skip this step. Once your bacon is boiled, drain the water.

To do this step completely from scratch, first smoke your pork to make bacon, then boil the bacon to remove the smoky flavor.

Fry the bacon in a pan with two tablespoons of butter until the fat has been rendered from the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan.

Take your dark meat chicken pieces out of the refrigerator. Use 6-8 pieces of paper towels to pat them dry. This step is very important! It may seem wasteful, but it is essential to dry the surface of the chicken so that you can brown them without steaming them.

Heat the bacon-infused butter oil until it is smoking, then brown your chicken on all sides. Salt and pepper them at this time. Make sure to cook your chicken on a single layer, and do not crowd your pan. If you have a small pan like I do, brown your chicken in batches.

Cutting it up and frying it in butter, the French sure have a way with coqs.

Once your chicken is browned, collect them in a pot. Add the bacon back to the chicken and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, turning the pieces once.

Pour it on your coq and set it on fire.

Now, take the lid off the pot. Pour 1/4 cup of cognac all over the chicken and light that shit on fire, using either a match or a lighter.

It’s like that scene in the park in that movie Baby’s Day Out. You know what I’m talking about?

Carefully shake the pot from side to side while it is on fire, making sure not to catch on fire yourself. Now, add to the chicken two cups of brown chicken stock, three cups of wine, one mashed garlic clove, a tablespoon of tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and some pepper. Cover the lid, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Coq and vin, finally united.

At the end of 30 minutes remove the chicken from the pot. Yes, the pieces will be a dark purple. And that’s fine. There should also be a brownish film over the soup in the pot. Use a ladle to skim all of this off- this is most of the fat that have been used so far in the dish. Then, turn the heat as high as it can go. Boil the liquid down until you have about 2 cups left skimming off any scum that rises to the surface, then turn the heat down until the sauce is at a bare simmer.

That coq residue right there ain’t good for eatin’

Mash together 2-3 tablespoons of room temperature butter with equal parts flour. Dump this mixture into your reduced sauce, and whisk (use a plastic spatula if you are using a non-stick pot like I am!) the butter into the sauce to incorporate. Simmer for a few minutes more. Return the chicken to the pot, and add the mushrooms and onions. Fold into the sauce. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve hot with potatoes, pasta, or rice.

You know a dish isn’t half-coqed when you’ve been cooking it for the past 5 hours.

The Result

Les filles, elles adorent mon coq.

A lot can go wrong when someone as immature as I am has to talk about tasting a dish called coq au vin. I’ll say that it is pretty good. Cooking all the ingredients separately means that they all have a unique identity in the dish. The chicken is nice, tender, and chickeny. The onions, sweet from caramelization, melt in your mouth. The mushrooms are nice and mushroomy, and when you chew them the rich flavor of butter come bursting forth. The rich wine sauce ties everything together nicely.

Conclusion

Man, this writeup was really long. It’s probably really long for you to read too, so I’ll keep this short. French cuisine is fucking fun to cook, I enjoyed every minute of the five hours or so it took to make the dish. Sure, if you’re not so into cooking you can buy stock from the store and significantly cut down on the cooking time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the near future I have some baked goods projects planned, so stay tuned!

Chicken, Green Pepper, and Mushroom Stir Fry


One of my greatest self-professed weaknesses as a cook is that I have a hard time tasting any big difference between the allegedly “flavorless” fryer chickens in American grocery stores and their vastly more expensive, free-ranged counterparts. I mean, god damned everybody runs around talking about how flavorless your overfed, hormone pumped fryers are compared to the free rangers, but I can’t taste it. To me, even regular chicken breasts, which are the most flavorless parts of any chicken, can be flavorful enough if you season it with enough salt and pepper, marinate it in wine for a while, and avoid overcooking it.

This time around we are making a simple home style stir fry using the “flavorless” chicken breasts. This is a fast dish that takes mere minutes to assemble and is great for a summer lunch. The three main ingredients are chicken breasts, green bell peppers, and mushrooms. It is a light yet flavorful combination that draws influences from both traditional Chinese cuisine and Western style Chinese cuisine.

Ingredients

More ingredients than you can shake a stick at? I don’t think so. You can shake a stick at all of them if you wanted to.

Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes, plus ~2 hours hydration/marination time
Serves 2-3

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 green bell peppers
7-8 button, brown, or shiitake mushrooms*
Chinese cooking wine**
salt
pepper***
1 garlic clove (optional)
cooking oil
1 tbsp corn starch or 1 1/2 tbsp flour

*In the picture I had some hydrated shiitakes and a few leftover button mushrooms. You can use all of one type, a mixture, or however you like. Of course, shiitakes and mushrooms aren’t exactly cheap. If you’re on a shoestring budget you can omit mushrooms altogether.
**The brown kind. If you buy Chinese cooking wine from an Asian goods store it should be far cheaper than the cheapest grape wine you can find. Otherwise, substitute the cheapest white wine you can find.
***White or black pepper can work. White pepper is quite expensive in Western supermarkets for whatever reason, you can probably find it cheaper in the same Asian goods store you buy the Chinese cooking wine.

Cooking

This time we’ll start with the cooking first and move on to the prep later! Just kidding. We always prep first.

At least two hours before you make the dish, cut your chicken breasts into about 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces. Season them with about half a teaspoon of salt and douse with 5-6 tablespoons of wine. Set the breasts in the refrigerator until cooking time. If you are using dried shiitakes, use this time to submerge them in some water as well (cold water if soaking overnight, warm if on the same day). Both marination and soaking can be done up to a day ahead of time.

These days chicken farmers are obsessed with large breasts.

Just before you are ready to cook, chop your mushrooms and green peppers into bite-sized pieces, also roughly 3/4 inch (2 cm). Mash your clove of garlic. If you plan to serve this dish with rice, you should start on it roughly 10 minutes after the rice has started cooking to ensure that both items finish at the same time.

NOTE: If you are using rehydrated shiitakes, squeeze the excess juice out of them after removing from the soaking liquid. This is a very mild dish and the strong flavor of shiitake can easily overpower everything else.

If you know karate, feel free to chop the vegetables by hand.

Now we are ready to cook. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil into a pan and turn heat to high (if on an electric range) or medium/medium high (if on a gas stove). Dump your chicken minus the marinating fluid into the pan. Season with pepper and cook until just before done, about two minutes. Stir the chicken often to keep it going and cook all sides evenly. Do not worry about browning; it is not required for this dish.

The French will tell you this is poulet and the Chinese will tell you it’s ji, but they’re all lying. It’s actually just chicken.

Dump all of your vegetables into the same pan. Season with salt and cook until almost done, which should take about three minutes. The non-shiitake mushrooms should soften but the green peppers should stay firm and crisp. While you are stir frying, prepare about 6 tablespoons of cold water mixed with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (or 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour).

What if it’s possible to become fungitarian and not eat meat or vegetables?

When the vegetables are almost done, add both the chicken and flour/water mixture into the pan. Taste for seasoning. Cook for about a minute or two until the the sauce thickens and coats all the pieces of meat and vegetables.

To Westernize the dish further, add six cups of heavy cream and beat in four sticks of butter.

Serve hot with steamed short-grained rice. Although the dish is mild, it pairs well with other, strong-flavored dishes such as chilled kimchi for contrast.

The Result

Kimchi is like Wheaties for Starcraft.

4.5 / 5 Pretty good for a quick, fast meal. The crisp green bell peppers provide a contrast in texture from the juicy mushrooms and chicken. The chicken breasts are tender and juicy, not tough or overcooked. As you can see, I have a small side bowl with some kimchi topped with a bit of chopped scallions to balance out the flavors for the meal.

Conclusion

Unlike Western cooking philosophy, which considers a wide variety of flavors in terms of gauging a dish, Chinese cuisine prioritizes two main factors when determining how tasty a dish is: aroma and umame (or savoriness). For this reason, you will often find many dishes in true Chinese cuisine which are rather one-dimensional in flavor, but presents the flavor in an extremely assertive way. This is a dish that follows such a philosophy: both chicken and mushrooms are heavily umame-flavored and serve to enhance each others’ flavor in this dish. The overall taste is simple and direct. That is why it is good to have a small side of kimchi for palate cleansing if this is the only dish you plan to serve with rice.

Cabillaud à la Provençale


Welcome ladies and gentlemen! Were you surprised by the unintelligible gibberish in the title? It’s written in a language called French, and it says something like “codfish cooked in the Provence style”. In Mark Twain’s book “Huckleberry Finn”, the character Jim had the sense to ask why these Frenchies can’t speak Americanese like the rest of us sensible folk, and well, I don’t know. Anyhow, these French people are allegedly world renowned for their cuisine, topping even McDonald’s and Taco Bell in the techniques and flavors of their food.

I have once again been called to do some mercenary cooking for my room mate, who managed to bargain for a rather nice looking piece of cod in exchange for some mere pieces of green-colored paper. This Provence way of cooking codfish is what I decided upon, after reading through a couple dozen recipes involving frying, searing, poaching, and baking this fish. The recipe comes directly from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. It is unadulterated, since I am still new to the French way of cooking. If you plan to follow this recipe, please read through the entire recipe (or at least the recipe as it appears on page 219 of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”) so that you are not caught off-guard by any equipment required.

Ingredients

The Lona Misa

Yes, all these things just to pamper that small piece of fish on the left. Its 15 minutes of fame before disappearing forever into someone's gut.

Prep and cook time: ~1 hour
Serves Two

1 lbs cod fish fillet, cut into 3-4 pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 lb tomatoes, peeled and seeded*
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 cups white wine
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt
pepper
1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 tbsp softened butter**

*instructions will be provided on how to go about this below.
**must be at least room temperature! Plan ahead for this if you keep your butter in the refrigerator.

Author’s Note: normally I will say something like “feel free to leave out whatever you do not have or are not willing to shell out money for”, but if you are really interested in learning French cuisine, you should try to obtain as many of these ingredients as possible to really understand the full gamut of what each ingredient is trying to accomplish in the dish. Also, the cooking process is rather long and complex compared to some of the other dishes I have written about. Please follow the instructions as closely as possible because each step has a very specific reason. Omitting any step can result in a significantly different result.

Cooking

We will start by bringing a pot of water to boil. While the water is heating up, start on your prep work by mashing your clove of garlic, dividing and salt and peppering your cod, washing your tomatoes, and chopping your onions. Salt the cod more lightly than you would pork or beef. It is very easy to over-salt your fish.

Fresh herbs?!? This guy really sold out from his roots as a dirt-cheap cook. You bet your ass I did.

Once the water is boiling, dump (or dip individually with a ladle) your tomatoes into the water and submerge for 10 seconds. Remove them from heat immediately afterwards. This will allow you to easily peel your tomatoes.

Look how red those tomatoes are. You could wave this jpeg in front of a bull and he would charge.

Peel the tomatoes and remove that brown dot where the stem of the vine connects to the tomato. Cut each tomato in half across the width (the latitude). Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and soft juicy parts of the tomato. Either use these in another dish or discard them. Meanwhile, dice and collect the rest of the tomato. These will be used as the bulk of the sauce for this fish dish.

They're so juicy and plump and smooth. Then you GOUGE OUT THEIR INSIDES AND CHOP THEM ALL INTO TINY BITS.

It’s time to move on to the fish! Pour two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan over medium-high heat until the olive oil begins to smoke. Saute your fish pieces for 1-2 minutes per side to lightly brown each side. Remember, the fish should sizzle when you drop it into the oil. If you do not audibly hear the sizzle, take the fish out and wait for the oil to heat up further.

It's poissonous.

Remove fish from the heat and set aside for now.  In the same pan, gently cook your onions for about 5 minutes to soften but not brown. You will need to turn the heat down for the onions. Preheat your oven to 325F (160C) After five minutes add the tomatoes, garlic clove, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for five more minutes.

If it wasn't for human fixation on meat this could easily be a tomato dish with cod playing a supporting role.

Prepare a baking pan. Place your fish on the bottom and pour your tomato sauce on top. Cover the pan (use aluminum foil if you lack a lid). Bake at the bottom third rack for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Add 1/2 cup of white wine and return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes. In retrospect, my cook’s instinct tells me that this step is critical. The addition of wine half-way through the cooking process lowers the heat of the dish and prevents the fish from overcooking.

I wonder if some 10 year old will ever stumble onto this blog and go "What? They call this fish cod? Those fuckers totally stole that name from Call of Duty."

As your fish is baking, finely chop a tablespoon or two of parsley and mix together your flour and butter into a paste.

According to CSI if you zoom in closely enough onto the reflection in the spoon you could see my face.

After 20 cumulative minutes in the oven take the fish out. Separate the sauce from the fish fillets. Keep the fillets warm somewhere. Dump your sauce back into the pan and boil on high heat until you have less than a cup of it left. Don’t worry about the chunky tomatoes, the heat will reduce them into near oblivion by the time your sauce is done. At this point, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and your butter/flour paste and cook for another minute.

What if the reason why god isn't real is because there was a typo a long time ago, and we were supposed to be praying to cod all along?

You are almost done! Take the sauce off heat and dump in your chopped parsley. Mix. Prepare a number of plates. Arrange your cod piece(s) onto the plate and pour sauce onto the cod. Serve warm.

The Result

All that work for such a small portion. Oliver Twist would look at this and ask you for more.

 ??? / 5  Another mercenary effort so I am not entirely sure exactly how good it tastes. The sauce is pretty good at any rate. It is a bit tart, since I still can’t be arsed to grow my own tomatoes and supermarket tomatoes in the United States are typically rather poor in flavor compared to homegrown. If you have access to homegrown, ripe tomatoes, I highly recommend you try this dish with it. You will see a huge difference.

Conclusion

An interesting anecdote is that while I was growing up, raised in a traditional Chinese family, we always looked down on “Western” cuisine as rough and simplistic. My only contact with Western “cuisine” at the time being cafeteria food from school, I was inclined to agree. Steamed peas? Green beans boiled until they were turning yellow? Raw vegetable salads? These foods seemed so basic and flavorless compared to the stir fries of Chinese cooking which involved much washing, slicing, cooking, and saucing. And so I relayed these observations to my parents, who used these findings to reinforce their prejudices against western cuisine. To this day, many first-generation Chinese immigrants hold onto these same prejudices even after having lived in the United States for decades.

But you know, and I know, that these people, as proud as they are of their own cuisine, are missing an entire world of food. To me, right now, French cooking is still a bit of a novelty. It is exotic, complex, and a lot of fun. I, for one, do not want to miss out on what my fellow (ex-) countrymen are too disdained to try.

The moral of the story is to not be be afraid to try out new foods, even if you do not like it the first time you try it. At the very least you’ll leave the meal with an interesting story about that time you tried wild boar’s sphincter poached in the tears of seven year old children, or whatever that dish may be!

Saute Rabbit


Recently my room mate (who likes to buy a lot of organic/super healthy stuff) has commissioned me to help her cook her rabbit meat. I’ve never eaten or cooked rabbit before, so of course I immediately thought it would be a really cool thing to cook and then blog about. The thing is, these furry lagomorphs clock in at roughly $8 per pound. The prospect of being allowed to cook something like this just sends chills up my spine, but the possibility of fucking up is also quite real.

So, saute rabbit. This is the cooking method I decided upon after much research on the subject of lagomorph cookery. It is a method suited for cooking a young, tender rabbit (or fryer rabbits). The recipe is lifted directly from Larousse Gastronomique (the bible for French cooking; 2004 First American Edition, page 375 of the Meat, Poultry and Game volume). Here is the exact text of the recipe:

Jesus fuck that's one tiny paragraph.

It’s the simplest recipe in the book for rabbit with the least amount of ingredients. From what I have read on rabbits from the internet, the flavor of the meat is somewhere between chicken and turkey. It certainly seems possible to re-create a cheaper version of this dish using chicken.

A NOTE BEFORE I BEGIN: I’M A TOTAL FUCKING NEWBIE AT FRENCH COOKING. I FOLLOW THE RECIPE TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY USING WHAT I KNOW ABOUT COOKING MEAT. IF YOU’RE LOOKING AT MY PHOTOS AND THINK THAT IT LOOKS LIKE SHIT, PLEASE JUST FOLLOW THE RECIPE DIRECTLY WITHOUT GOING ALONG WITH WHAT I’M DOING.

Ingredients

Looks like dis wabbit is vewy vewy dead.

Total prep/cooking time: 25-30 minutes.

1.25 to 1.5 pounds (~600g) of rabbit
1/2 cup white wine
~2 tbsp lemon juice
2.5 tbsp butter, divided into 1.5 tbsp and 1 tbsp
4-5 tablespoons of stock*
1 small shallot
salt
pepper
parsley**

*The recipe did not specify what type of stock, so I assume any type is fine. I actually did not have any stock on hand, so I used the trimmings from the rabbit to create a tiny batch of makeshift stock.
**Italian parsley pictured, since it looked significantly fresher than the other parsley at the supermarket. You need only about 1/4 of what is pictured here.

Also worth noting is that this is a recipe for young rabbit. Do not use it for old rabbits or hare, which have a different type of meat.

Cooking

We start with the prep work as always. Give your parsley some gentle chopping and thinly slice your shallot. Roll your lemon around to loosen its juices for easy squeezing.

Bugs Bunny, rest in pieces. MUHAHAHA

Complement your dead animal matter with some dead plant matter. It'll taste better.

On the rabbit side of things, wash and rinse off your rabbit pieces. Trim off any excess fatty bits. Rabbits are quite lean so you shouldn’t have to cut off too much fat. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel. This is important so that your pieces will brown while they saute instead of steam. Salt and pepper the pieces after you have pat them dry.

Meanwhile, prepare a lightly oiled, oven-safe vessel and pre-heat your oven to 200F. This step isn’t directly in the recipe, but the recipe did say to keep the rabbit warm once they are pulled off the saute pan, and the oven is my chosen receptacle for when the rabbit is finished sauteing.

Elmer Fudd can learn a thing or two from whoever killed this rabbit. No need to go digging for buckshot here.

Over medium-high heat in a non-stick saute pan, melt 1.5 tablespoons of butter. The butter should be smoking before you put the rabbit pieces into the pan. If you place your rabbit into the pan and do not immediately hear sizzling, take the rabbit out and let the pan heat up more.

Saute your rabbit pieces on one side until it is brown, then saute it on the other side. From hindsight, I think I did not completely brown the pieces thoroughly enough (it’s difficult to judge because the recipe did not provide pictures, but from the text it seems as if you are supposed to completely cook the rabbit through simply by sauteing. I had to finish cooking the rabbit in the oven at 300F for about 6 minutes). Cover your pan with a lid while sauteing to keep the heat from dissipating.

If you think about it, before a dish passes into the annals of history, it also had to pass through the anals of history.

When the rabbit is done, transfer the pieces into your oven-safe vessel and stick them into the oven for warm safe-keeping. Pour 1/2 cup of wine into your pan and dump in your chopped shallot. The wine should help loosen up all the stuck bits of meat, which will form the flavor base for the sauce.

Peering through the mists of time.

Keep the pan uncovered and boil away the wine until it is at almost nothing. Then, add your stock, and reduce again to a few tablespoons. At this point add your last tablespoon of butter along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Melt the butter until you get a congruous looking sauce.

When I die, I'll ask to have a sauce prepared like this one poured all over my dead body too.

Plate your rabbit. Pour the sauce over it and sprinkle on some parsley. Serve warm with potatoes or rice or salad or whatever constitutes a meal.

The Result

Don't think about Bugs Bunny. Don't think about Bugs Bunny. God dammit. Looks like he took the wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up done like dinnah.

?? / 5 Well I didn’t eat it, I cooked it for someone else. This is what French cooking is about, right? Right? Oh, well. I should probably eat out more at restaurants that serve this type of thing so I know what I’m dealing with. There certainly is some appeal about this type of cooking: it is simple in principle and uses few ingredients, but the amount of depth, skill, and possibilities to master the dish is tremendous to behold. Here’s hoping it turns out good enough for me to have another chance at cooking something like this.

Conclusion

Learning to cook is both exciting and daunting. You can be putting your best foot forward at all times, yet never be satisfied with each dish you make, because you know the next time you make that dish, it will turn out even better. All you can do is continue trudging forward, and one day, sometime far in the future, you just might become a bad-ass cook.

Until next time, feel free to shoot the next furry bastard that crosses your path (unless it’s Robin Williams or something like that), because it’ll certainly be delicious. Happy cooking.