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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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No time for anything

March 12, 2007

Sorry people (the two of you), haven’t had a minute to cook anything interesting in a little while. I will have something up this week and I am planning a pretty challenging dinner party in a little bit so please come back soon.

 I also went to a great restaurant but haven’t taken any pictures due to lack of light. Maybe I’ll review it anyway.

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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.