Time to make a fresh batch of stock and demi-glace. Since first doing this a couple of years ago I’ve mulled over the various techniques and types of stock, such as brown stock, white stock, sauce espagnole, the ‘Mother Sauces’, demi-glace, semi-demi. The list goes on. I now see what Anthony means when he describes his directions as ‘workman like’.

On a side note I have recently taken an interest in Marco Pierre White. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that Anthony Bourdain looks up to him as a chef. Anyway I’ve watched every video of his I can find and as a result of his later work have been brain-washed to think of Knorr brand when it comes to stock. I’ve never tried the stuff but would be interested to see how it holds up. Check out this video where he uses it to make a gravy. It tickles me how he spills liquid when pouring from his Pyrex jug. No disrespect intended to Marco; more to Pyrex. Those jugs are great in the kitchen but whenever I pour, the liquid clings to the side then sails off onto the bench and floor..

This time round I followed the same method as before, smearing tomato paste and sprinkling flour on the bones before roasting. Caramelising a mirepoix in the oven as well, combining with thyme, peppercorns and bayleaf then stewing for 8+ hours. I was very liberal with the tomato paste, given that some brown stock recipes have it as a main ingredient, and others include fresh chopped tomatoes. I used bones from the rib and shin, meaning there was a lot of exposed marrow. Consequently the stock is rich and dark, and very gelatinous.

Some of the stock was strained through cheese-cloth then put aside as is, the rest added to boiled down red wine and shallots and further reduced until dark and almost sticky then further strained. Again I froze this Demi Glace in ice cube trays for convenience. Interestingly, the stuff is so gelatinous that when the tray is twisted, the cubes just bend with it, instead of popping out like ice does.
demi cubes

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I had been looking forward to Cassoulet since day one. A classic of elaborate preparation. I can say I’ve done it, and I’ve learnt a technique or two, but I have no intention of coming back. I was so over it by the end. You are just going to have to excuse my French when I describe this ordeal as an epic clusterfuck. Just reliving it through pictures and my scrawled notes makes me feel ill. Uurghh.. *shiver*

First, the duck confit as previously described. This part of it was a success. I am astonished I cooked duck, kept it in fat in the fridge for several weeks, before submitting it to multiple recookings ..and lived.

Given that after much judiciary I have whittled down to 10 or 11 photos, and with the duck confit already complete, the following statement is given a little lightly:

“This is a great, not very difficult dish to make, and it doesn’t take much time-if you spread the work over three days: a few easy, fairly uninvolved small tasks per day.”

The difficulty and time would be greatly reduced with access to an industrial standard oven, fridge and working area.

After duck confit the second task was soaking 1.1kg of beans. That is a big old bowl of beans. Too much beans! Next came cooking the beans, pork rind, belly, and some other stuff. A pretty good way to get the beans tender and tasty and create some hearty bean-juice.

Then melting, followed by browning the duck. I had a nibble and it was amazing. Note that sizzling the duck isn’t specified in this recipe, but appears to be a fairly common divergence amongst others who have documented this nightmare – giving the duck a good colour and texture. My food-safety concerns were already grave but I pushed forward.

Can you think of anything more nasty and evil than the following:
Sizzle pork sausages in duck fat then set aside. Now sauté the previously boiled pork rind plus fresh onions and garlic in the duck/sausage fat and blend. *shudder*

Line the dish with pork rind – pretty much as rotten as it looks and sounds, however does prove effective at stopping anything sticking or burning. Layer the soss, onion-pork puree, belly, duck, beans and bean-juice in there, and presto! A big mucky pot of slop.

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Cook it. Cool it. Refrigerate. spend 2 days unable to face it. Cook again, eat.

By this stage I was four days and elbow deep in pork and duck fat and didnt want to have anything to do with it any more. I had stepped waaay past my own perceptions of food safety boundaries. I fully informed Rosabel of this but she got amongst it and came back for seconds. I enjoyed the duck, but couldn’t really relish the rest. How this panned out had diverged wildly from my expectations. This one goes into the list of ‘if presented with the choice at a restaurant I will take it and reassess then’, but for now just happy to say I’ve done it.

To add insult to injury, WordPress gave me one of those horrible headaches you can only get from literally hours spent battling a WYSIWYG vs HTML content management system that does whatever it wants when you are trying to lay out photos in a meaningful fashion. I know the previous statement means little to most of you, but suffice to say the web can be a real pain sometimes, and that is why I’ve gone for the slideshow in this post.


When I first flicked through Les Halles Cookbook, one of the surprising tidbits was to find that tinned snails are considered the norm in the restaurant business. I’ve eaten snails at a restaurant – years ago. I remember the sauce being wonderfully delicious, rich, garlicky.. but the snails themselves extremely rubbery and a massive effort to eat. Perhaps those snails weren’t tinned? I imagine the effect on texture could be analogous to tinned vs fresh asparagus. Whatever the case, I definitely wont feel I’ve given the little critters a proper going over until I have sourced and cooked em from scratch.

The sauce calls for a head of garlic, each clove peeled. Time to try out a trick my buddy James Rob recently told me about – probably during between-turn-banter over a game of Puerto Rico. Take the head of garlic and put it in a pan with lid held down and shake the crap out of it for a minute, after which over half the cloves are perfectly peeled and the rest most of the way there. This slightly bruises the cloves, but way less so than popping them open under the flat side of a knife.

Think of a reasonable quantity of butter then double, maybe quadruple it, blend up with garlic and parsley, follow some other instructions, add to the snails that have been sauteed with sliced shallot and wine, and presto! Actually super tasty.. and sticky and messy.

Okay, first a nerd-moment:
Whenever I go to write confit, I write config, just out of habit, being that I make love to computers for a living.. So I looked up ‘duck /config’ hoping it would yield something LOL, but only came up with ways to modify an obscure gaming script. meh.
Alright, </nerd-moment>.

Duck Confit:

The instructions here seem more like notes for someone who has done this a thousand times, rather than for the the clueless beginner.. For example it is not stated to rinse the salt off and pat dry, yet other recipes appear quite specific about this. I spent a bit of time online trying to figure this out. Ignoring the orange zest and other flair, the basic instruction in the following video is fairly thorough: http://youtu.be/HyQCJu5TcJ0

Generally I use the term ‘butcher’ to mean ‘making a real mess of..’, so what do you call it when you mess up a perfectly well butchered piece of meat? The legs seemed a bit big – incorporating parts of the duck up to and including parts on the back bone, so I skill-lessly hacked them down to an appropriate looking size, before covering in salt for 36 hours [way longer than instructed] then rinsing and patting dry. They were noticeably dry and kindof tense.

I heated up the duck fat and perhaps left it heating a little long. When I poured it over the meat it immediately started sizzling and popping and changing the colour of the exposed meat. Next it all went into the oven. I’d thrown in the leftovers from my re-butchering then removed and ate them before letting it all cool. Super salty on the exposed bits. Undeniably unhealthy and delicious tasting.

The rest was left to cool then into the fridge.

Once again Anthony, you have me forking out 65 bucks for a bottle of liquor I am going to use an eggcup-full of in your recipe. ..and then lament this fact while guzzling the rest at my leisure.. Like the delicious Armagnac.. Man that stuff was good.

Starting out by sautéing mushrooms and bits of apple seemed an unlikely way to set out on a dish of mussels, but meh.. I had begun to put a dent in the Calvados by this stage and began to wonder about how the recipe calls for 3lb of mussels and I had roughly half that, and how halving the quantity of other ingredients doesn’t really work, for example if the liquid amount is halved it doesn’t fill up the pot to the correct ratio – it is not as if the mussels can be halved in size. I started thinking about how this is analogous to the Goldilocks effect in relation to life on earth, or how water might seem sticky to an ant, due to surface tension that we don’t notice.. I realised this was a digression I wouldn’t really have the space to explore fully when writing up this recipe..

It was around this time that I noticed that the recipe says to sauté the bacon until the fat has rendered, and set the bacon aside, but at no point does it come back to what next to do with the bacon. I ran the recipe past my flatmates who can vouch for this. Presumably this is a zen mechanism, or just to round out the smells in the kitchen. I figured this is all and well but I was going to just hurl the bacon in along with the cream and Calvados anyway. It turned out a pretty good addition.

In conclusion, this was unusual and delicious. But moules are great on their own, or kept as simple as possible. I much prefer moules marinières and moules à la portugaise.

Its been almost 2 months, so the lemons are well preserved. The smell – especially of the Cook the Books method – was very rich and lemony. These ones were submerged in liquid, whereas the Les Halles ones were liquid toward the bottom of the jar, fading into dirty snow at the top.

The Les Halles method resulted in a pronounced Coriander and Bay leaf taste in the lemons. Also with the drier conditions the lemon rinds are slightly firmer – the texture of a rind you would find in a chunky marmalade, or a lime pickle.

I guess depending on the purpose both styles would have their place but the plainer ones could be more versatile. Both ways were a success.

I thought a slice would go down well in a Dry Gin Martini, and it worked extremely well. I threw a piece in while mixing the drink, then ran a fresh slither around the rim of the glass before adding as a garnish.

There’s something very romantic about this one and I’ve been looking forward to it since.. Since pears were last in season. One of the magic ingredients is juniper berries and it wasn’t until I put it to the good folk on the foodlovers.co.nz forum – who were very helpful – that I was able to pin down a source.

Again I was excited about upholding my notion of the essence of French cooking by casually tipping a good bottle of red into a pot, but couldn’t help shuddering at the thought of my bad experience with the leeky, winey, soupe au vin.

As each of my flatmates came home I heard them exclaim “Who’s making mulled wine?”. I served up a half pear with a wee bit of the sauce to all in attendance and the reception was very positive mmmmm’s from all.

The flavour combinations are perfect. The cinnamon and star anise work well, but it is a little harder to pinpoint the exact flavour of the juniper berries or pepper corns in this sweet context.

If I’m going to properly apprentice myself to Mr Bourdain I had better start working on my ego, use more filthy language, and become a celebrity. As a step in the getting famous direction I was interviewed by Jo on the ‘Does This Make My Arts Look Big’ radio show on Planet FM.

I like that I’m introduced on the back of a song called Computer Camp Love, and a bed of what sounds like the Amelie soundtrack.

It is hard listening to oneself without cringing and thinking “Oh my, oh my.. So awkward  ..hearing myself read my own writing.. with really terribly pronounced French in my New Zealand accent.”

Pretty cool though.

[EDIT: Click here for a direct link to the audio]

Finally a big handful of the tomatoes were ripe enough to throw this together.

Tomatoes, shallots and basil tossed in a vinaigrette and sprinkled with parsley. The take-away technique from today is setting the tomatoes and the shallots in separate colanders, sprinkling with salt, and leaving them for 30 minutes, before squeezing off excess juice.

For the shallots this really mellowed them out. I am yet to come to terms with discarding the tomato seeds and all that pulpy juice, but the end result is delicious nonetheless.

A couple of weeks ago I attended and enjoyed a coastal Moroccan workshop at Cook The Books, where amongst all sorts of other mouth watering dishes we learned a similar lemon preserving method – I’m sure there is a variation for each kitchen in each tiny village in Morocco and elsewhere.

In terms of Les Halles Cookbook I’m confused as to which main dish this complements. Ive flicked back and forth through the book looking for a recipe where this is suggested as an accompaniment.. Has anyone out there read the book thoroughly enough to point me in the right direction on this? Davy I’m thinking of you here..

The Bourdain approach (without repeating the already short recipe verbatim) is to halve then segment – without separating – the lemons, mix loads of salt with peppercorns, bay leaf and the juice of several lemons then lay down salt mixture, then lemons, salt mixture.. until Mason Jars are full and seal.

The workshop method is to cut the lemons in a more immediately attractive fashion(above), fill with salt, then pack along with dry salt, into jars, coming back 3-4 days later to pour lemon juice over the softened mixture, fill to the top and reseal.
Since I don’t have any mason jars, both have been subject to glass jars. They’ve all been stewing away in a dark cupboard for 2 weeks. The Bourdain lemons are sitting in what resembles dirty snow, while the others are suspended in a yellowey brine. They will sit for a couple more weeks before I can comment on how tasty they may be.