Archive for April, 2007

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Pseudo Mole Beef (served Taco-style)

April 28, 2007

Mole Beef

Mole paste

  • ½ cup of almonds
  • 3 allspices
  • 2 cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon of peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of whole cumin
  • 1 2” stick of cinnamon
  • 2 dried bird chilies
  • 1 fresh bird chili
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ cup of 70% cocoa chocolate

Stew

  • 2 pounds of beef chuck, in 1 to 1 ½” cubes
  • 1 onion minced
  • 1 large tomato, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • Mole paste

Garnish

  • Old cheddar

As I was getting used to making those awesome tortillas that Robert Rodriguez showed me how to do (full lard tortillas are maybe a little more neutral in taste but they are easier to work with and somehow seem to have a fluffier texture), I was also looking for ways to use them. One of my favorite things to eat in Mexican restaurants is anything drenched in mole, the wonderful chocolate and nut sauce that is made in different regions of Mexico. Now, proper mole has dozens of ingredients and everybody and their mother has its own way to do it. After some research on the net there was no way in hell I was going to run all over town to get spices and the other stuff needed, so I made with what I had, which is still quite a bit of stuff.

 

I learned that making mole paste was first. Roast the almonds, either in a 450 degrees oven or in a frying pan, making sure to keep an eye on them so as to not burn them. Roast them on both sides. Dump the almonds, the garlic, all the spices (break up the cinnamon prior to that or pound it in a mortar), the chilies, salt and peppers in a food processor and pulse into oblivion. Once into a fine, or fine cornmeal, texture, add the chocolate and make a paste. Reserve.

 

In a dutch oven or a stockpot, over hight heat, add the oil and brown the beef cubes. Once browned on all sides, add the onions and garlic and cook for about a minute to brown a bit. Add the stock, the tomato, stock and mole paste. Bring to simmer, cover and cook for at least 1 hour, preferably 2. Check up on the pot every half an hour, every 15 minutes near the end because the sauce could dry up, add some stock or water to bring it back. Ideal texture after cooking should be very thick, something even thicker than Béchamel. If it is not, up the heat a bit and reduce a bit and keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick.

 

I served taco style by putting them in a hot tortilla and garnished with a few slices of old cheddar.

 

Tunes: I know absolutely nothing about Mexican music and since what I have done is not nearly as authentic to warrant some authentic Mexican music I decided to forgo any attempt to remain close to the subject matter. So, I decided to go something that makes me happy and one of the most criminally underrated Montreal band in the past few years: the Unireverse. This trio of synth enthusiast create incredibly fun and interesting originals and covers with one drum machine, a few other electronics and three vintage analog synths. On Plays the Music, the Unireverse just create eight songs that make your head bob up and down for an hour uncontrollably. Awesome.

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World’s Best Restaurants…

April 24, 2007

Well there you have it. Restaurant Magazine released their top 50 restaurants in the world. And check this out: NONE are found in Québec, not even one in Canada. I mean, I am not that surprised but you would think at least one would find its way in there. I would argue that Toqué! is at least close to what Charlie Trotter’s is doing in Chicago, not on par but close. They are of the same school of thought after all. And despite me not knowing them, I can’t imagine that Toronto and Vancouver is only filled with mediocre restaurants. Hell, even Québec city has a few very interesting restaurants. This sucks quite a bit. Maybe not in the top 50, but at least one in the top 100….

 Tunes: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Abattoir Blues…

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Robert Rodriguez Breakfast Tacos

April 10, 2007

“Not knowing how to cook is like not knowing how to f*ck” -Robert Rodriguez

Gotta love that man…

Via Serious Eats

 Edit: I just tried to make those tortillas, pretty damn good if you ask me. Probably would have been better if I had a tortilla press. Instead, I made these nice, fluffy and thick Texas-style tortilla that are very tasty. I will try to make the filling tomorrow, but I would say that those tortillas are a success and about 20 minutes worth of work. Hint: keep that rolling pin well floured.

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Oxtail

April 10, 2007

Seeing some beautiful oxtail in the counter of the butcher, about the first time I was seeing decent tail forever (please…), just got me excited to make some. I had read Becks & Posh’s account with Heston Blumenthal’s oxtail recipe that completely convinced me not to make his, but the results being that good leaned me towards his ingredients at least. Blumenthal doesn’t go easy on the expenditures, his recipe cost B&P’s a 100$, something I was not willing to spend. So I decided to go easy on the wine, using my usual cooking wine: wine in a box. It ain’t the greatest wine but once reduced to hell, what difference will it make really (a big one would say Blumenthal, none would say my wallet). Also, the time factor of the recipe is a bit much, not cooking time.

  • 1 oxtail, jointed
  • 1 bottle of red
  • 2/3 cup of port
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 3 carrots, minced
  • ½ pound of bacon, minced
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 allspice whole
  • 1 star anis
  • the zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

With that said, I decided to take normal braising technique, similar ingredients and long cooking time to achieve the results. Heat up on high a dutch oven on the stove. Pre-heat the oven to 250 °C. Season well your oxtail, throw in a tablespoon of neutral oil (grapeseed or canola) and a tablespoon of butter. Add the oxtail and brown well on all sides. Reserve on a plate for a little while. Add the bacon to the dutch oven and brown well. Reserve. Throw in the onions and the carrots (I did not have leaks and celery but the recipe called for it and it would probably be beneficial to add it right here) and brown. Once the vegetables browned, add the bacon and oxtail back to the dutch oven and cover with the bottle of wine. Add the bay leaves, thyme, cloves, anis, zest of the lime to the oven and bring the liquid to a low simmer. Throw in the oven and wait for a 3 hours. After 3 hours, add the port to the dutch oven. From that point on, verify the amount of liquid every hour or so and add a bit, ¼ -1/2 cup or so, of water if you level goes lower than the mid height of your oxtail pieces. Cook for at least 4 more hours.

After the cooking is done, remove the oxtail pieces from the liquid and strain the liquid. Put the liquid in a sauce pan and bring to heavy boil. There should be enough fat in there for the liquid to emulsion, reduce by a third or a half depending on how much you have left, but have enough sauce for your oxtail (I know this is a bit approximative but you have to “feel” this one out.) Adjust seasoning (it should need a significant amount of salt.) Plate the oxtail, pour the sauce over it and mince some basil and throw it over it with a sprinkle of sea salt (or sel the Guérande). Enjoy! I served with some quick and dirty steamed vegetables, bok chois in this case, with a bit of butter on them.

Tunes: This meal is so sweet and tasty, I would think something similar would be appropriate. For the the cooking, I would go with something a little funky like Prince’s 1999, one of his great album that combine, funk, rock and dance seamlessly while keeping things catchy throughout. For the enjoyment of the oxtail, I would recommend something a little more bittersweet like Michael Gira’s Angels of Light, with Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home. This album is what won me to Angels of Light, after a few years of denying that the leader of Swans could be so different, but it all made sense with this one. Further along the way I came around on the other Angels of Light material but this one breached the gap.

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Black Listed: Champs Sports Bar

April 7, 2007

The other night, I went to one of the biggest sports bar in town to watch a hockey game, the Canadiens are in a close battle to make the playoffs. The place was packed because of the circumstances and everybody was there to watch the game, drink and have a bite. I am not usually found in these kind of places but the prospect of watching the game with friends and a bunch of enthusiastic people was not as bad as it might sounds. I cared little about the game but more about the setting and the people I was with.

In any case, we arrived, got seated and called for a pitcher and some nachos. Beer comes in, the nachos come in. Everything is up to the standard I was expecting, not high but decent. Comes the end of the first period, I try to catch the waitress’ attention. Difficult task as she was obviously in the weeds, the place was definitely understaffed and the poor girl was running around like crazy. It took about 15 minutes to finally get her attention and we are able to order food, two subs and a chicken burger.

Second period finishes. Third period starts. No sign of the food, its been more than an hour now and we are starving, she is still in the weeds so I try to get her attention again to see what’s going on. I am finally able to talk to her and she is saying that the kitchen is overloaded and everybody is the same, it shouldn’t be too long. Fifteen minute passes and still no food, I mean its been nearly an hour and a half, I discuss with my buddies and decide to cancel the order and go elsewhere, f*** this s***. I call for her again, and tell her to cancel the order and to bring the bill.

The plates suddenly, magically appear about a minute later. We are famished and decide to take them anyway, might as well, they are ready after all. I start to dig in. The fries are borderline cold, all soggy and the first bites of the sub finds it cold to the core. My tablemates have similar problems and the chicken burger looks like it was taken out of the sole of a shoe. This is unacceptable, I call for the girl and ask to see the manager. I explain the situation, fairly succinctly and diplomatically (no screaming or anything). Now this dude is a big guy, he looks like a bouncer (probably is one), and basically tells me, to my face, that it can’t possibly be cold because they just made it, clearly trying to intimidate me. This dude is saying that I am a liar! When he sees that the intimidation will not work he tells me that he’d replace it, I politely decline and demand my money back, which he agrees to as long as I have not eaten too much of it (can you believe this guy? I mean what difference does it make? It is going to be thrown in the garbage anyway, or maybe not considering the events.) I bring him my plate and examines it (I had in fact taken two bites of the said sub), and tells the waitress not to charge me.

My tablemates, way too nice, and famished, decide not to complain, and decide to pay for that crap anyway. After we ask for our bill, the waitress stops at our table and starts to explain that we should have come early and order early when there is a big game like that. She tells us that things like that always happen when the night is busy. What kind of pathetic excuse is that? Any service establishment is there to answer the call, and provide the service. That it takes longer to get your meal is fine, although an hour and a half is stretching it, but bringing cold food, food that has been under the heating light for the past half hour, is unacceptable. I know they were in the weeds. I know it was a difficult night. I understand all that, but you still have to crank out the meals that are in an acceptable state. The management of that place is clearly not seeing that they have a problem and are clearly happy with customers not ever setting foot again in their establishment. Customers talking about it online for the world to see.

Now on the black list is:

Bar Champs
3956 St-Laurent
Montréal, QC,  H2W 1Y3
(514) 987-6444

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The Nasty Bits

April 6, 2007

Nasty Bits
The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones

Anthony Bourdain

Full disclosure: I got the book for free (Thanks Eric!)

I love Anthony Bourdain. I think he is a very lucid observer of the food and restaurant world, although he does have many biases (none that he hides really.) Kitchen Confidential was a funny, informative and incredibly entertaining book. The same can be said about A Cook’s Tour. Even though you can, and probably will, call bullshit on him on more than one occasion, in any of his books, the reality is that I always finish his books with a huge smile on my face.

The Nasty Bits, just like Kitchen Confidential, is a somewhat disjointed collection of writings that makes use of most of Bourdain’s talents. From commentaries about the state of fine dining to an acerbic critique of the James Beard Foundation through the joys of world travel and the love of his fellow cooks, Bourdain covers a lot of ground. The whole thing is a bit of a mess but each of those articles make for an entertaining read, once again.

Bourdain has the gift of being himself, of enticing curiosity and of spectacular description all at the same time, something that you rarely see in food writing. When Bourdain loves, he loves with passion. When he loathes, he loathes with passion. Like the ex-junkie that he is, there are no half-measures both in his writing and with his persona. That brings two different results: he goes way overboard and is funny as all hell or he goes way overboard and you just call bullshit on his shenanigans, both results are equally fun for me to read. Much like Hunter Thompson, that he rips off lovingly in this book, Bourdain brings the whole food world to a new level of consciousness that you never thought he had at first. Nasty Bits is like Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, the Food version.

Tunes: With Bourdain’s fondness for old school punk I have no other choice but to recommend The Germs’ (MIA): The Complete Anthology for the finest in L.A. Punk with Darby Crash at the helm and Pat Smear anchoring the rhythm section, great stuff. Since I am a little younger than Mr Bourdain, I would personally would have gone with Black Flag, Damaged. Damaged is quite possibly my favorite hardcore record of all time and makes you forget what became of Henry Rollins afterwards (see: Johnny Mnemonic.)

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CSA & Half a Lamb

April 4, 2007

Despite the lack of recipes posted on this blog in the past few weeks, there is no shortage of planning that has been done to ensure that the most exquisite meals will come your way soon (oh the humility of the amateur cook!) First I subscribed to a CSA, so I will be receiving boatloads of organics fruits and vegetables throughout summer and fall. So I will have to do something with that, hopefully a few things to please the readers. Second, I commited to buying half an organically fed, humanely raised lamb. Expect lamb recipes in the fall and all through winter as I’ll go through that beast (now I gotta convince the guy that I need those nasty bits like liver, tripes, brains  and all.)

Anywho, I’ll try to cook something interesting soon. Expect tasty things in the future. Now I am trying to secure foie gras directly from local farms… We’ll see how that goes!

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