Garlic cloves, oil, salt, thyme. Roasted for 30mins.


The salty herby oil you see there tastes like ‘essence of garlic bread’, but that’s not the point. We are after the cloves, removed from their skins.

Ive had a bit of free time this week to hunt about searching for the harder to find ingredients. The only way to find out how obscure these things really are is to start looking. For example, this time round it was an order of magnitude more difficult to find Armagnac, than it was to obtain coeur des porcs.

 

Other than in the pursuit of becoming cultured gourmand, I have some reservations about veal, not least because it is freaking expensive. It has a bad rep in terms of cruelty. I ran this past my vegan buddy Colin Auckland, who was happy to walk through the laundry list on veal. Most interestingly he pointed to vegetarians for being equally responsible for its existence as carnivores as it is a by-product of the Dairy industry, since male calves aren’t much use in terms of milk.

So all that time I spent eating lentil bolognese sprinkled with cheese I was creating veal. Time to taste my own medicine.

The veal is seared in butter then roasted until medium rare. Pretty straight forward. The magic is the sauce which starts with mushrooms sauteed until golden brown then joined by sliced shallot, then Madeira. The roasting pan also gets deglazed and the sauce added to the mushrooms. Sherry vinegar, stock and heavy cream find their way in too.

Slicing through the crispy golden surface into the juicy tenderloin, all swimming in the rich, mushroomy sauce is second only to devouring it, greedily.

Vinnie was over in a flash when I told him I was cooking a whole snapper. Outfitted in his amazing Manurewa Returned Serviceman’s Fishing Club woolens, his first step was to shoot for the eye and devour it.

I dug out and delighted in the cheek flesh then followed suit on the other eye and found it hard to swallow, backing out on the experience unceremoniously.  This is something to work on.

Not surprisingly the ingredients and parts of the prep are similar to poulet basquaise. In this instance the capsicum, onion, wine, stock sauce is simmered up on the stovetop in the roasting pan itself, before the prepped fish and parboiled potatoes are added. Browning and simmering veges on the stovetop is a massive hassle and I cant see why this wouldn’t be done in a saucepan seperately.

Knowing how well the liberal dose of cayenne goes into the poulet basquaise I slipped it in here too. Vinnie – who has cooked a hell of a lot more fish than I – cautioned on this point as it can soak through and become a predominant flavour. Noted, but then there’s a quantity of chilli in Charleston Gumbo and it really makes it. Further to this argument I’m going to plug the ‘Larb Snapper’ from Mekong Nua in Kingsland. Probably the best fish Ive ever had. So hot! So hot I melted like a popsicle in summer and the staff sent out cold moist towels to relieve the suffering. Anyway the dash of cayenne was just right in this instance. It was present in the sauce, and over the surface of the fish, but didn’t take over.

Also just right was the amount of liquid, the done-ness and deliciousness of the potatoes, and the crispyness of the fish. Some of the best (cooked) fish Ive ever had.

 

I had been looking forward to a French soup that sails through  an entire bottle of good Burgundy.. which of course is the  defining characteristic here, however there is also an  astonishing quantity of leek – enough to cause some serious eye  pain when turning to a 6mm dice. There’s also a good dose of  chicken stock; and bacon.

Sauteed butter, onion, bacon and leek smells amazing, but after the stock and wine were added it prompted my flatmate to comment  that it smelled delicious but looked like soupy catfood. I tend to agree.

The taste is somewhat to the point. It improved a hell of a lot  overnight, but it just seems that the end result is less than  the sum of the parts. Its agreeable, but not magic. This is one  I would like to order from a menu some time and see if I change  my mind. Perhaps when served as a starter before something rich and meaty?

Lets start with the 10 minutes spent scratching ones head over the operation of the Breville Wizz ‘n’ Blend Deluxe. There’s no on/off switch, instead it is activated by aligning an array of componentry according to an unfathomable matrix. why?

Half a cup of red wine is boiled away to nearly nothing, with a finely chopped shallot. This, when cooled, is added to softened butter and chopped parsley and blended.
This is a sticky and time consuming affair.  The food processor just flings the stuff free of the blades, so it has to be continually scraped back into a position where it can be blended.

Bourdain instructs to dump the Beurre Rouge onto cellophane and “Gently form into a 1-inch-diameter log, shaping and squeezing and rolling it like you would roll a joint – or a nori roll”.  Yep.. that’s a pretty good analogy – lending a consistent cylindrical shape. This is then refrigerated, and used to top a flash cooked salt and pepper encrusted Faux-Filet (Sirloin with the fat cut off). The juices melt and mingle with the melting Beurre Rouge and it is extremely delicious – and hard to spend time photographing before tearing into.

Moules! 
Working with the white wine base proven in previous moules excursions, this time with onion, garlic and delicious chorizo. Probably the easiest recipe in the book. Pretty much made itself.

In his intro Bourdain unloads a diatribe about the difference between real sea scallops and various other types, variously marinaded or too small, but never mentions the roe, which I bet he discarded, as I have heard it is done on the Eastern seaboard, if not the whole of northern America.


16 scallops on their own are rich and delicious, but lets go to town, okay.. OK? We are going to need the following: 1 cup fumet(that’s the fish stock I made last week), 1 shallot, 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp clarified butter, half a cup each heavy cream and champagne, lemon juice, chives, salt and pepper.

 
First lets make clarified butter. Real easy. Just heat up butter slowly until it melts, sift the scum off the top and pour off the yellow stuff(the stuff you want), leaving behind the scum that sank.

lightly fry the sliced shallot in butter, add the fumet, simmer, reduce, add the cream, simmer, season and set aside.

“As you may have already noticed, you’re only going to need half a cup of that Champagne, and since you’ve had to crack a whole bottle, and its going to go flat anyway, you may as well start drinking”

Season with S & P and fry till crispy and golden-brown in all that clarified butter then remove from pan. Tip off remaining fat and appreciate the remaining delicious bits of stuck-on goodness (as we have learned, this is the ‘fond’), before stirring in the Champagne. When it has reduced so it sticks on the back of spoon – but in my case it is about to erupt in flames, as I had entered into an unrelated discussion on cooking almonds – add the creamy sauce that has been sitting to one side.


Whisk the two together, remove from heat, add the lemon juice and chives and pour over the scallops.

“Take a big hit of the Champagne and stagger to the table”.

As usual with projects, I lost steam and let the recipes slide.. then summer came along and I focused primarily on working hard and surfing hard.

The unrelenting heat and humidity of the heights of summer are beginning to fade, and appears the realisation that autumn is on the horizon. Getting back on the winter days-in-the-kitchen bandwagon I headed down to the fish markets on Saturday and picked the least bloodied Tarakihi head and skeleton and Snapper head I could find, cleaned it up and with with the correct ratio of mirepoix, simmered up then strained (through muslin, I might add) container-loads of clear fish stock.

On Sunday I spent the afternoon prepping veges to Sonic Youth grooves – I know, I know, I’ve given Curtis Mayfield a go, but frankly its over the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I dug the Le Crueset dutch oven out of the darkest corner of the closet (yeah – I don’t let my flatmates near it), put it on low heat on the stovetop to warm up, cranked it up to medium for a bit then unloaded a wad of chopped bacon. Sizzled, then added and sauteed until soft red onion, capscium, celery, garlic, chilli. Filled the pot with cubed young potatoes, okra, fish stock, tinned and [my proudest heirloom] garden tomatoes, a handful of turmeric, thyme, a pinch of cayenne and covered for an hour.

At the last moment raw Prawns, Scallops and Tarakihi are added and poached. My favorite dish. Charleston Gumbo. This one not a Bourdain – in fact lifted from the Le Crueset website after my mum gave me the dutch oven about 5 years ago and I was wondering how to use it..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I visited Brussels last year and had classic Moules Frites – a huge pot of mussels in the most delicious rich sauce; a big bowl of fries and a chalice of Chimay Blue. Mmmm.. *drool*!
Let me tell you a thing or two about Brussels Mussels – not to be confused with ‘The Mussels from Brussels’, a reference to Jean Claude Van Damme [again pointed out by Dan]. Brussels* is about 100km from the ocean, and the mussels they dredge out of the murky English Channel are small, dark shelled and and tasty, but they are nothing on the magnificent large green-lipped mussels that can be found basking in the beautiful waters here in New Zealand, or bought live and very cheaply in the local supermarket.

Mussels are great in a thousand ways, but prepared as Moules Mariniéres.. heavenly! Based on what Ive already learned its a no brainer really. Just cut to the chase with butter (112g), add 2 thinly sliced shallots, when almost brown add wine (2 cups), boil, add a couple of kilos of mussels, and thinly sliced parsley as the mussels are opening. Shake the pot around a bit and serve. yum yum yum.

*Yes, Brussels is in Belgium, not France. But Paris too, is not near the ocean. Assuming here that surely ‘Les Halles’ is a reference to the Parisian neighborhood.