kiss me, kate.

Hm. I really know absolutely zero about Hollywood musicals. Gun to my head, I would never have had any idea what Kiss Me, Kate was about. And it's about something I knew or used to know quite a bit about (not shrewishness, although that's totally true, but The Taming of the Shrew, Billy Shakes, etc, you know..."literary things").

That Is Super Fucking Interesting, Mark. Here's Hilly's version of Dorie Greenspan's version of Katharine Hepburn's brownie recipe as triumphantly executed by the VDuck Kitchen and Training Facility last week. These are the best brownies ever conceived, but they are not terribly sweet brownies, that's what the salted caramel is for. Well and also for making the nuts stick if you don't want to put them in the brownies themselves. Adding them afterwards was a technical consideration b/c I don't trust our oven and, well, nobody wants burned nuts if you know what I'm sayn.

Also, remember that your nuts are probably salty (how would I know that yo? and how many more times can I say nuts), so don't overdo the salt in the caramel.


firestone/greenspan/hepburn brownies with salted caramel.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
pinch ground cardamom

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp finely ground instant coffee (I used decaf without incident)
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

1 cup raw sugar, ground fine
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

120g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used a 50/50 mix of 70% and 85% cacao b/c neither bar I had was perfect)

1 cup toasted, salted nuts of your choice, the choice this time was 1/2 macadamia and 1/2 pistachio


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 150C/325 degrees F (I realize those aren't the same thing).

Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Put the butter in a medium saucepan and place the pan over low heat. When the butter starts to melt, sift the cocoa over it and add the instant coffee. Continue to cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the cocoa and coffee are blended into it. Remove from the heat and cool for about 3 minutes.

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, beat the eggs into the saucepan one at a time. Next, stir in the sugar and vanilla (don't beat anything too vigorously — you don't want to add air to the batter), followed by the dry ingredients, nuts and chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, at which point the brownies will still be gooey but the top will have a dry papery crust. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the brownies cool for at least 30 minutes. Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the paper and invert onto a cutting board. At this point caramel was drizzled and nuts were attached.

Cool completely before cutting into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side.

Serve with salted caramel for drizzling and nut adhesion/cohesion/etc. Uncaramelized, they can be wrapped in plastic and kept for 3 days or so, but they'll never last. 


salted caramel. 

1 cup light-brown sugar (or dark-brown sugar, depends on what color you're going for)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup evaporated milk or koffiemelk, some sort of unsweetened, reduced milk product
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt, to taste

Combine in a saucepan over low heat and reduce, stirring pretty constantly, until you gets to the desired consistency.



timing is everything.

Had I been able to recognize that the surest way to pretty randomly attract violent spiritual resuscitation would be to christen 2014 The Year I Got Old just so the Fucking Universe could rear up and attempt to Prove Me Wrong, well...I would've done it Way Fucking Sooner. Either way: thanks, Fucking Universe, you win, pleeeeeeease just keep on doing what you're doing.

All of which puts VDuck in a bit of a Transitional Phase, content-wise...issues of jurisdiction. I go to America in ten days for a month, I'm sure I'll have things we can document and discuss in the traditional VDuck stylee.



sausage rub.

I said it. This is a rub designed to emulate Italian-American pepperoni, it's good on just about everything so far.


pepperoni rub.

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp sweet (non-hot) paprika
1 tbsp raw sugar
1 or 2 tsp smoked salt, to taste
1 or 2 tsp smoked paprika, to taste
1 or 2 tsp garlic powder, to taste
1 or 2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste

Grind. Rub.




Above: De Ceuvel. Below: America, O'Neill's basement last night.

The recipe: good the first night, wayyyy better the second day, this would fit right in with any kind of Caribbean menu. Super good if one is a fan of the habanero and the mustard being together what language is this.


yassa (senegalese chicken in lemon, mustard, and scotch bonnet). 

3 boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into strips
2 red scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and veined
juice of a lemon
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp smoked salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper or black peppercorns
2 tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup coarse-grained mustard
1/4 olive oil
juice of a lemon
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
handful of cilantro, chopped


you for my mom.

If you don't like smoked fish, you're going to say eww gross, but two things: 1) grow up and 2) you might like smoked herring. I probably need to make a distinction between canned smoked herring, which I've never tried, and what I'm using, which I just spent an awful lot of time describing and then just realized that I should take a picture tomorrow when it's light out. Basically it's not canned, it's dry and sealed in plastic.

Anyway, it's less fishy than smoked mackerel, and just kind of "different" than smoked salmon, milder. I was happy to see it at the Dirk the other day since they haven't had it in forever (is it seasonal maybe? that would make sense), and it's cheap, I think I paid €2.50 for 3 fillets. But then you get it home and if the weather outside is frightful, like winter tornado weather, and you're not in the mood for a cold preparation, well what's a brother to do. 

So I set to Googlin, and turned up this from the NY Times. I was not super enthusiastic about the idea, but I did have most of the ingredients, and then I imagined a runny egg on top and that sounded good, so I did it, and really thought it was great. I would never have guessed what the slight difference in the dressing was, sorry this is such shitty writing, my blood sugar is still low, but I'm jotting this down before I forget the details.


smoked herring caesar salad.

3 tablespoons smoked herring, finely chopped
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated (plus more for finishing)
1 tsp good Dijon mustard
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
some amount of extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup of toasted almonds, possibly halved
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 or 2 eggs, ready to be prepared in a way of your choosing, I chose over easy.

1 head romaine lettuce, roughly cut, well rinsed and dried.

This is really the only important instruction: in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine smoked herring with just enough red-wine vinegar to cover it barely; heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat immediately, scrape into a small bowl and allow to cool.

In a food processor, combine the herring and vinegar, the garlic, cheese, mustard, mayo, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Process. Once it's fine-ish, add olive oil and process til you git to yr desired consistency.  

Melt the butter in a little saucepan, add the almonds and thyme, toss to coat, and set aside. 

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce and the almonds with enough dressing to cover the romaine as a sauce would pasta. Quickly cook your egg and throw on top. Place salad in serving bowl, top with an egg, and (according to the original recipe) "grate so much Parmesan over the top that the salad looks like a heavily snowcapped mountain." Serves 2 or more. Adapted from Hugue Dufour, M. Wells, Queens.



first obpressions.

So, still trying to read the three "morbid self-attention" books I got from the library a couple weeks ago: Didion, Barnes, and the DFW biography. Didion's "Blue Lights" and the DFW bio are....maybe "light" isn't the right word, but they're easy to both start and stop reading. Didion: although she's said a few things that have really resonated so far, page 16 for example:

Time passes.
Yes, agreed, a banality, of course time passes.
Then why do I say it, why have I already said it more than once?
Have I been saying it the same way I say I have lived most of my life in California?
Have I been saying it without hearing what I say?
Could it be that I heard it more this way: Time passes, but not so aggressively that anyone notices? Or even: Time passes, but not for me? Could it be that I did not figure in either the general nature or the permanence of the slowing, the irreversible changes in mind and body, the way in which you wake one summer morning less resilient than you were and by Christmas find your ability to mobilize gone, atrophied, no longer extant?
Could it be that I never believed it?
Did I believe that the blue nights could last forever?


The "blue nights", they're not what you think they are, they're this.

Anyway, though I'm mostly "with her", there's a little something about her tone (and all these one-sentence paragraphs) that's rubbing me really wrong. I know it seems churlish and insubordinate to complain about someone's technique when they're writing a book about their prematurely dead daughter and that death's effect on one's own view of mortality....but this is why I don't finish many books. I can't just "read past" someone's delivery or vocabulary or any of the things that go into writing. This is also why I don't seriously "write": I'd have to get past myself as a reader first.

The DFW bio is, well, something that I imagine would have driven him to suicide were he not already dead, and I say this knowing him just as well as his biographer knew him, that is to say not at all. I would love to see Mr. Wallace's annotations/footnotes on this book. It's, yes, stuff that rings 7,000 bells for me (auto)biographically: problems being comfortable socially; a brain whose unstoppableness becomes more and more of a liability whenever it's not channeled towards creating something; etc etc etc. I'll quote some of that here as well when I have it in front of me....

The Barnes book is a horse of a different etc: very dense and descriptive, and very British, not that there's anything wrong with that; it's just not something I'm able to dabble in yet. REMIND ME TO RENEW THESE. I'm leaving that sentence there until I do it.

to be continued....