Archive for the ‘Food stuff’ Category

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Lobster Story

May 16, 2007

This will be an unusual post for this blog. This is a story about lobster. This is a story of family, good times spent together, breaking myths and quite a bit of gluttony. This is dedicated to my mother.

Back in the early stages of my parent’s marriage they went to a popular trip, back then, for Québec people to do the “tour de la Gaspésie”. Gaspésie is the most eastern peninsula of Québec’s south shore of the St-Lawrence river. At the very start of the region, they stopped in what looked like burger shack in Ste-Flavie. Ordering lobster, they would change their, and all of our lives forever. Sitting on a picnic table, the lobster was served, directly out of a meatlocker, unprepared with a bottle of mayonnaise with a drink of Coca-Cola.

The lobster was plainly the best they’ve ever eaten. As they worked messily through their lobster it became quite clear that the mayo, cold lobster and Coke is something only deities can dream of. Alright, this sounds like a lobster roll type of thing but it isn’t, it is more than that. For the foreseeable future, this shack by the side of the road would be a destination of choice, every spring. My parents would pack up the kids, travel close to 4 hours to eat lobster and then come back.

I remember being very young and going there and eat a hot dog because Lobsters looked icky. I remember,a few years later, enjoying my lobster like it was chocolate cake, having finally seen the light, and making fun of my younger brother and his ketchup-filled hot dog. I remember coming back from there, laying in the hatchback of the car belly filled the precious meat and going to sleep.

Unfortunately, at one point my father decided that it was a bit insane to travel 8 hours to eat lobster. A few unsuccessful tries of more accessible lobster had us longing for the ride. Then, one spring, while we were at my grandmother’s place came the epiphany: the lobster longed for. The lobster from a fishmonger close by. The two wonderful ladies running the place knew lobster and they cooked it just the way we wanted. From then on started a tradition that still is in place today.

My mother’s birthday is always around the Mother’s day weekend. It just so happens that Mother’s day weekend is also the second week of Lobster of les Iles de la Madelaine, a small archipelago in the gulf of the St-Lawrence river, a place particularly known for its lobster (think like Maine is to Americans.) So from then on, the person closest to that fishmonger would pick up an amazing pile of lobsters and get to my parent’s place and we would celebrate my mother’s birthday by gorging ourselves with lobster. Only lobster.

One thing that is also particular in this process is that most people will say that the best way retain the full flavour of the lobster is to cook it in only sea water. The fishmonger we buy it at, do cook it with sea water but with the important addition of a court-bouillon. This gives a subtle taste to the lobster than makes all the difference.

As I explained earlier, we eat lobster with mayonnaise and coke. To this day, nothing has changed because even though I have eaten lobster in many other ways, this is simply the best way, the closest to the product and the tastiest. We don’t eat it with fancy home made mayo either, I tried it once and it wasn’t the same, we use Hellman’s.

We don’t prepare it in anyway before it is at the table. We take it from the iced cooler and dump in an empty plate. That’s it. You take care of going through the messy process of getting the meat out of there. Juices fly. Fat flies. Everybody has a smile on his face. We all have our own process to eat it too. My father open it all up and takes out all of the meat then goes to work. I start by sucking the legs, then move to the smaller claw and arm, then the bigger claw, then tail and finally sucking on the little flaps at the end of the tail. Once I am finished I give my carcass to my father so that he can eat the insides, because I am not that fond of it. Taking a nice piece of meat, dipping into the mayo, and right at the second the lobster disappears in your throat, taking a nice sips of coke, that bubbles in your mouth… it is ecstasy.

There is a notion that is perpetuated by restaurateurs, fishmongers and even fishermen that 1 ½ pound Iles de la Madeleine and Gaspésie lobsters are the best. I call bullshit. The best lobsters, to me are the 2+ pounds. Because of that, we eat 2+ pounds lobsters, usually two of them. At the end of the meal, we are usually way beyond the point of being satiated.

More than anything, this is a way to be together and celebrate the most important woman in my life. Enjoy a messy meal, like children, with the people I love. The only thing missing for the past few years was my brother, away in the Hong Kong he chose to make his life in, hoping that he will return to share this once again in the future.

Merci Maman pour être là

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Broiled Quails and Mushroom Risotto

May 5, 2007

 

Risotto is one of those dishes that either blows you mind or leaves you cold. When well done it is pure joy: incredible soft texture, and more flavour than any other rice dish I know with so small an ingredient list. Even though rice is usually a side dish, here I think it steals the show, not that the quail was any bad, it was quite good actually, but the risotto just shines. Also, this risotto recipe gives a low cost and easy alternative to use stock to wet the rice. Without further ado:

Risotto:

  • 3 cups of hot water
  • ¼ cup of dried portobello
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 ½ cup of arborio rice
  • ¼ cup of shredded parmigiano reggiano

In a bowl, pour the hot water over the dried portobello (other dried mushrooms work fine too) to re-hydrated them. Let the mushrooms steep for anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Take out the mushrooms out of the water and reserve. Add the salt to the water. In a medium saucepan over high heat, melt the butter and once it is bubbling add the rice. Let the rice cook in the butter until it is starts to brown, then ladle a nice portion of the mushroom juice. Stir continuously, preferably with a wooden spoon, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, then add another ladle of mushroom juice. Repeat ladling the juice until the rice appears cook, test the rice from time to time. The rice should not fall apart completely, it should still retain a tiny bite to it. Once it has reached proper texture, remove from heat and add fold in the parmigiano.

The quail was mostly stolen from an Epicurious recipe. The original recipe was asking for a butter sauce I really didn’t feel like, so here is what I did:

Quails:

  • 6 partly deboned quails
  • 8 allspice
  • 2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt

Garnish:

  • Wedges of lemon

In a mortar I put the allspice, peppercorns, salt and cayenne and pounded until a coarse powder, add the thyme leaves. After removing the backbone and thoracic cage of the quails I rubbed them with the spice mixture and reserved in the fridge for half an hour. Once you have finished that risotto, place one of the grill of you oven in the upper parts, where the quail will be approximately 2-3” of the element, start your oven on broil and let it heat up for at least 5 minutes. On a grill, place the quails upside down and place in the oven. Cook for 4-8 minutes depending on your oven, when the quail starts to char in a few place, turn over the quail and return to the broil for same amount of time.

Serve on the risotto and squeeze a wedge of lemon on the quail.

 Tunes: Cerberus Shoal are one of the leading improv rock-ensemble I know. They go to so many avenues to create their music that from one album to the other everything is entirely different. Not only does that keep things interesting whenever you buy an album it also lead to massive consumption of their important discography, much to my wallet’s desperation. I recommend Chaiming the Knoblessone because it works so well with this dish, melodic and challenging much like the spice of the quail and the buttery goodness the risotto marry.

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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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The United States of Arugula

December 3, 2006

The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation

By David Kamp

The United States has come through many phases in its development towards a force in world’s gastronomy. In a very descriptive and well researched essay on the world of food in the US, David Kamp follows most of the major figures in the country’s evolution since the lat 1800s.

Kamp has a very accessible writing style and pages after pages he describes the people and the events that forged the gastronomy of the United States. Kamp sounds so wide-eyed and excited of actually writing this text that he put forth some of the most enthusiastic writing I have read. This naivety and excitement by the author is endearing but also introduces most of the problems with this book.

This book is very uncritical about any of the figures that are exposed here and even the most hypocritical actions of some of those chefs are barely touched, if ever mentioned. Never, does Kamp attempt to draw conclusions or expose any kind of opinion about events, even though if you read between the lines you can clearly see his opinion. This manipulation of the language honestly pisses me off, when you want to say something, say it, don’t beat around the bush and try to make it as such as everything is done in some sort of journalistic integrity that you cannot even accomplish. My other problem with the book is that Kamp writes as if the majority of the United States citizens are foodies, which is obviously not the case because Kraft and General Foods would not be in such good financial states. Throughout the text he hints that “we” are eating lamb shoulder, Chateaubriand and lobster every week. I understand that the audience of this book are mostly gourmets, but to generalize on the entire United States population is a bit much.

That said, Kamp’s book is extremely entertaining. From James Beard, Julia Childs and Craig Claiborne to Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter and the Food TV types, he goes through most of the important chefs, journalist and events of the 20th century. Being a journalist I think Kamp give a bit too much weight to the foood critics that apparently made or broke some of the chefs presented here. While I understand the contribution of the writer, a bad review has never stopped a good chef from succeeding at some other place. Still, the book is amazingly researched and incredibly complete in its range.

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Orange-Squash Pie

November 23, 2006

Pie!

 

In honor of the Thanksgiving of my neighbors to the south I decided to make something similar to pumpkin pie. Problem is that I didn’t have any pumpkin (pumpkin in a can is EVIL), and I am not really a fan of pumpkin. What I did have is Acorn squash and I did have some oranges, and these two flavours go very well together. But first, the tunes.

 

I was in a Coltrane mood so I went to the shelf and went for the classic: Ascension. This album was the first where Coltrane really went completely in the free jazz direction and became one of the most important figure of the avant-garde. Not only is this album one of the best of that era of free jazz, it also stars some of the most important figures of the genre for years to come like Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. The music is completely i-n-s-a-n-e, and sometimes you feel in this trance that these guys conjure with their playing. Not only do they create some of the most impressive music, on the fly no less, they do it at such a speed that it is almost unfathomable that these people be able to feel their way around this. Rising above what most consider music and getting to a level of transcendence unknown to most, I was ready to bake pies…

 

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 orange
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2 cloves ground finely
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (don’t worry you won’t taste it, but it’ll awaken your taste buds)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil

 

Now, I admit that I suck at making pie dough so I bought my pie dough for this. I am not proud of it so if you are of the many who can make that elusive dough, please do it, otherwise Tenderflake is your friend. With this recipe I made 2 small pies but it should fit in one large pie dish as well.

 

First cut the squash in quarters and remove seeds. Oil the squash on the flesh side and put on a sheet pan and roast in a 375 degree oven for 30 min. After this thirty minute, flip the squash on the flesh side for another 30 minutes. Reserve to cool. In a medium saucepan, put the orange in and cover with water and put over medium heat and simmer for one hour. Remove from heat to let cool down.

 

Scoop out the flesh of the squash in a food processor with the orange and pulse to a fine puree. In a large bowl, crack the 4 eggs and lightly beat the eggs with a fork to get them uniform. Add the sugar and spices and mix lightly, incorporate the squash and orange mixture. Pour into the pie shells and put into a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.

 

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

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BoozeNoise: Brassin d’Hiver

November 4, 2006

Brassin d'HiverThis French Brown Ale is a specific brew made for Winter, as the name implies (Brassin D’Hiver literally means: Winter Brew). Some nice bitter hints and some interesting hops, roasted malts is the most distinctive flavour. Probably not flavourful enough to carry its alcohol content (8%). Lacks a bit of Character in my view but was still fairly interesting.

Tunes: tttttttttttt Cassette, Havoc in Heaven Records. No-Wave inspired rock that kicked my behind live this week. Totally a band that can go places. See my pictures of the show right here

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October 22, 2006

Quail Egg in the Hole

In honor of the Breakfast Bloggers here is my saturday morning breakfast: Quail Egg in the Hole in Rye, Whole Wheat Polish Bread.