Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

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Steak and Kidney Pie

July 9, 2007

Steak and Kidney Pie

Sorry for the long absense, I was getting used to my CSA basket which let me eat salad everyday for a month and that’s just not right for a single guy that wants to talk about music and food. Next thing you know I would written about the virtues of Sarah McLachlan and Celine Dion. AIN’T HAPPENIN’!

To keep within arm length of the macho posturing here is something that should please the meat eater amongst you. Yet I have a little something for the chicks too (this is getting out of hand, please excuse any chauvinistic remarks until the end of this post, gotta keep character. Plus, let’s pretend Writer, or Jennifer, pissed me off with her feminism nonsense.) Steak and kidney pie is one of those super easy things anyone can do with a few minutes, and almost a couple of hours of looking into. Ladies, this is perfect to hang around the house and cleaning up shit, for the boys just watch some footie until this thing gets done (this is a British recipe after all, I had to slip something like “footie” in there. Spot the next Englishmanism and win a pat in the back.)

Alright, before everybody freaks out, yes I didn’t make my puff pastry. I tried 3-4 times and I suck at it. Sue me. Go plead for some at you’re local pastry shop or buy the frozen stuff. There are a few organic frozen pastries out there, so please try to find those. To accompany the kidney pie, I have already pickled a few beets, old school style in vinegar, sugar and salt. And to please my mother I sautéed some zucchini with some green onions and some garlic scapes pesto (all recipes coming up after the kidney pie.) Here we go:

 

Steak and Kidney Pie

  • 1 pound of Beef Chuck or any other stewing beef will do. Cut in 1” cubes or so (no fuss necessary)
  • 1 pound of Beef kidneys, Pork kidneys work. Membranes removed and cut in 1” cubes (NO FUSS I SAID!)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cups of beef stock, or 2 cups of Stout beer if you like, or combination of
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 juniper berry
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & pepper
  • Oil to fry

In a large pot, over high heat, throw some oil in the pot and the oinions. Let the onions start to caramelize and all the beef and the kidneys. Brown on all sides and add the liquid to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pan for the good stuff and lower the heat to a simmer. Add the bay leaf and juniper berries and cover. Cook for a good hour and 15 minutes. Check sometimes to make sure you have enough liquid (should not be a problem.) Mix the butter with the flour in a bowl to make a paste. Add this paste in bits around the pot after the hour and some of cooking, let the sauce get thicker and take off the heat.

Pre-heat the oven at 400 F. In a deep pie dish or a few smaller container (like I have used above) fill the containers with the sauce and meat. Roll out the puff pastry and cut the pastry into manageable pieces for you container, or let intact if in a pie dish. Dispose over you container and pierce a hole to let the steam go hot. Beat the egg and brush the egg on the pastry. Put the pie in the oven for a half hour.

Eat!

Pickled beets

Pickled Beet!

This is not really a recipe but a serie of rule of thumbs. Depending on the veggies, you will get different mileage. I poach my beets, you could do them raw but it will be a bit different in texture, but I also do them al dente, I hate mushy beets. So I peeled the beets and cooked them in salt water for 15 minutes for the sizes you see above, basically you have to gage how you like them and do accordingly. I then put enough vinegar to cover my beets and added ¼ of the volume of the vinegar in salt and 1/8 of that in sugar. Heat until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Let cool and pour over the beets in a sterilized jar.

Pesto

Garlic Scapes Pesto

  • 3/4 cup of pine nuts
  • 1 ½ cup of grossly chopped Garlic Scapes, with the flower removed
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ½ cup of grossly chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper

Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan for a few minutes over medium heat. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse into oblivion, or rather a paste. Put the in the fridge and use everywhere as in pasta and as condiment for fish or in vegetables like in the little recipe below.

 

Zucchini Sauté

  • 1 green zucchini, cut in julienne or something relatively small
  • 1 yellow zucchini cut in julienne or something relatively small
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic scape pesto
  • some olive oil
  • salt and pepper.

In a frying pan, over medium heat, put the oil in and wait for it to get hot. Add the onions and once they start sweating, add the zucchini. Once the zucchini start sweating add the pesto and let the flavour marry for a few minutes and serve.

Tunes : Has to be Five Roses from Miracle Fortress. The good press it has been given is totally deserved. Graham has written this little gem of a pop album that really brings his quirks together while keeping melodic and interesting throughout. He managed to create this really deep production with complex arrangements and kept everything light and fun. Really nice album. Plus, it’ll please your lust interest and you might get her in in the sack for it (remember I said to excuse me until the end of the post?)

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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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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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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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Poutine au Foie de Veau

February 19, 2007

Poutine au Foie de Veau

This time I show where I am from. Poutine is a strange, to some, concoction made of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. This thing was introduced to the world in the town of Warwick, Québec, Canada, apparently in the 60s and has since become an essential part of any grease spoon diner in Québec. There has been a few attempts to reinvent the Poutine, probably none so successful as the Foie Gras Poutine at le Pied de Cochon, that I visited recently.

 

 

 

Before going all the way and trying to reproduce that one, I thought I’d try it with something a little less on the expensive side, still amazingly good, veal liver. I have tried all sorts of Poutine in my days, from sausage to steak and all sorts in between but I’ll be honest, this one ranks high, very high. On to the recipe:

  • 2-3 medium sized russet potatoes cut in fries shape per person (ideally not too long, 1”-1 ½” long is good.
  • ¼ cup of old cheddar (I had a five year old) crumbled into small pieces per person
  • 1 nicely sized cutlet of veal liver per person (a quarter inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon of oil
  • 1 table spoon of butter
  • Frying oil
  • Salt and pepper

Gravy (for 1 Poutine):

  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 1 cup of brown beef or veal stock
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • Salt and pepper

I don’t have a fryer so I fried in a stock pot so I put my frying oil in the pot and put it over medium heat to warm up first. If you have a fryer, start it up for frying. In a sauce pan over high heat, brown the onion for a few minutes, add the garlic, fry for 30 seconds and add the stock and the wine. Lower the heat so that it just bubbles away. This will have to reduce by half, in the meantime start your fries.

 

I do my fries the French way, cook them first in medium heat oil, for a few minutes, then brown them over high heat just before service. When doing the first pass, just dump a whole lot in at a time and don’t worry about the oil descending in temperature, it just will take a tiny bit more time but will save you time in the end. Reserve them on paper towels when the fries seem cooked through, you’ll see they will be all limp. Don’t let them brown! If they brown your oil is too hot.

 

 

Now this becomes a little tricky, everything should be done at the same time but if you are quick you will be able to pull it off. First, bring your frying oil to a piping hot temperature. In another sauce pan, cook a brown roux with the butter and the flour (in short melt the butter, when it is melted just add the flour and cook the mixture until it is nice a nice brown-caramel colour). Once the roux is coloured, add the reduced sauce and see it become all thick and wonderful. Remove from heat and reserve. Start browning your fries in the oil in small batches and then reserve on paper towels. Then put on a frying pan on high heat, melt the butter in the oil and add your previously seasoned liver. Brown it well on each side, for a minute or two on each side (depending on how rare you like it). Slice the veal liver into bite size pieces. Adjust seasoning on the gravy if necessary.

 

 

Plate it this way: Fries at the bottom, sprinkle the cheese on top, add your liver and pour the gravy on top. Awesome stuff.

 

 

Tunes: Shalabi Effect – Unfortunately. This is an awesome improv record from one of the most experienced experimental artists in the Montréal scene. This was recorded over a three day stay at an art gallery a few years ago and shows everything the band can do. From Middle Eastern grooves to face melting noise experiments. Incredible record.

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Octopus Stew Provençale with Soft Polenta and Roasted Pepper Squash Purée

January 29, 2007

First things first, there is not much that is “Provençale” in this recipe past the fact that it is inspired by the cuisine of this region and includes some of its staple ingredients (thyme, capers, olives etc..) Even though Polenta is said to be Italian, the recipe has traveled to France a long time ago and is commonly found in the cuisine of some of the regions of the country (perhaps notably in Corsica where polenta is done with chestnut instead of corn.)

 

According to some sites and chefs, Polenta is a complicated process and takes quite a bit elbow grease. I just think these people are out of their mind. There is a few principles that need to be known: Throw that instant polenta to the garbage, the longer polenta cooks, the better it gets and you need to stir every 5 minutes, not exactly what I think is a difficult operation. To make polenta I simply boil as much water as a big pot can contain, with a bit of salt. Once the water is boiling whisk in as much polenta as you think you need (1-2-3 cups, whatever), lower the eat to low, stir for about 3-4 minutes with a wooden spoon to make sure the polenta doesn’t stick while the pot goes down in temperature. Stir every 5 minutes from now on and cook until you have the consistency you need, more or less if you need soft or hard polenta. Voilà.

 

The Roasted Pepper Squash purée is just as simple. Half and remove the seeds of a pepper squash and generously put olive oil on the meat. Put skin side up on a baking sheet and put in a 400 degrees oven for one hour or an hour and a half. Remove from the oven, let cool for a little bit and scoop out the meat in a bowl. Smash the meat with the spoon you scooped the meat out and add a teaspoon of butter per portion, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Encore une fois: Voilà!

 

Now for another distinction with this recipe: Beer. As you might have noticed in the past, I am much more a beer drinker than a wine drinker, mostly for ignorance reasons. That said, this recipe would work perfectly well if cooked with a nice white wine, preferably with not a lot of acidity. That said I decided to go with a nice Belgian-inspired beer from local Unibroue brewerie. La Blanche de Chambly was meant to be a copy of the Belgian Blanche de Bruges and ended up as a very nice distinctive beer with a terrific citrus character and a very smooth hop flavour.

 

The stew:

 

  • 1 lbs of Octopus, in bit size chunks

  • 1 big onion

  • 1 big parsnip (any root vegetable you have works, combinations work too)

  • ½ head of garlic

  • ¼ cup of minced smoked herring

  • 1 handful of capers

  • 1 handful of chopped olives

  • 2 hot chilies finely chopped (optional)

  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme

  • 1 750ml of Blanche de Chambly
  • olive oil

 

For the stew, brown the parsnip and the onion with a branch of thyme well in a dutch oven over high heat. Once nicely browned, add the octopus and the garlic for about 2 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the 750 ml bottle of the beer with the capers, the smoked herring and chilies. Let simmer over low heat for one hour or more until the octopus is tender. Adjust seasoning, the capers and smoked herring will salt the dish a bit so go easy on the salt. Garnish with some fresh thyme and a few chopped olives and serve over the soft polenta.

 

Tunes: Kristofer Ǻström, Loupita. Honestly one of the best folk records I have heard in the past 5 years. Great songwriting, great music and a lot of killer melodies.