rare like sushi.

Right. I'm running out of post titles, obviously.

I'm excited about two things at the moment. One is the grill-seared rare tuna I just made (super-thick tuna filets, rubbed with oil and generous amounts of salt and pepper, then cooked 3 minutes per side), accompanied by two delectable sauces of my own devising, a ginger mayo and a cucumber guacamole.

The other thing is the 30 Rock Halloween episode. I shall elaborate on both soon.


Before I forget, the ginger mayo pictured above is 3/4 cup mayo, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1-2 tsp ginger juice (made by grating ginger), and a bunch of chives. Really just about perfect.


Make that three things. I know bacon is overexposed, but come on.


30 Rock Halloween episode not really funny, but 300% funnier than the episode of The Office that preceded it. I really do not understand how The Office is funny in a non-lazy or obvious way.


duck eat duck.

I'm not sanctioning duck-on-duck violence, but....

Well, let's come back to that. One of my favorite non-familial aspects of visiting Phoenix is the Super Queen (that's not its real name, it's really this). I don't know anything about grills, but you know how sometimes something just does everything you want it to? That's the Super Queen.

Tonight I'm cooking a whole duck for the first time. Poppy and I are the only two real duck fans in the house, so he and I had a brief meeting of the minds about how to cook this thing, and ended up deciding to try the beer-can chicken method, but you know, for duck.

This is a Steven Raichlen recipe, filtered through laziness and my languid approach to vacation cooking. Well, I'll get to the recipe in a bit, but first this picture. It bothers me, OK, but it's what's really going on in the backyard and I can't deny it. I gots to keep it rill. IYKWIS. Allow me to present the Beer-Can Duck.

And then, two hours later:

Yes. Winona was supergood. It could not be easier: I stuck a tallboy beer can full of 50% beer and 50% orange San Pellegrino up a salted-and-peppered duck's ass and put it on a 350F grill for two hours. There may have been some orange zest, cinnamon, and thyme in the cavity as well.

Upon receiving our duck halves, Dad and I each entered our own individual caveman states for the first 5 minutes of eating this and looked up from our plates at the same time realizing we hadn't spoken or had a single thought other than "om nom nom nom nom" for the past 5 minutes.

Also worth repeating were my jerk shrimp cakes with carrot-cucumber-apple-onion slaw (basically equal amounts of cuke, apple, and onion, and a little more carrot. And as much mayo and cider vinegar as it takes):



Ladies and Gentlemen...may I present the lovely and talented Han Bennink, in our old apartment, wearing my favorite rabbit mask I've ever owned.


Tonight: Shrimp Fail. And Yam Education. Hold on. Let me get my bearings.

If you're like me (I LOVE sentences that start like this, I don't know why I don't use them more often), you've probably asked yourself at one time or another, "Hey. Just what is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?"

On the left: real yams. On the right: sweet potatoes. Hold on.


OK. This side-by-side comparison has allowed me to reach some important conclusions. For starters, the biggest difference as far as I can tell is that sweet potatoes taste wonderful and yams taste like fluffy paper. And yams are bigger. And surprisingly white inside, while the sweet potatoes were unsurprisingly orange.

That was just one of the educational moments we had last night. The other educational moment came when we tasted the jerk shrimp that Dad had been marinating all day.

They were....inedibly salty. Seems that Dad tried a new jerk mix without really tasting it. Bad Dad.

So, what do you do with 50 or 60 oversalted shrimp? You certainly don't throw them away. And that's why we're going to try a little something called Jerk Shrimp Cakes tonight. Yes, I hear you. I too am normally a purist when it comes to shellfish cakes. Crab cakes for example: I'm with all those who say it should be mostly crab, plus a little egg, mustard, Old Bay, and bread crumbs.

But this is a Shrimp Fail Emergency: the boundaries need to be trampled. Plus I think these could be OK. Last night before bed I chopped the shrimp quite finely in a food processor and added enough milk to achieve a "seafood salad" (really an unattractive phrase) consistency. Tonight I will probably strain the shrimp, add an egg or two and a couple tablespoons of panko. Make cakes out of it and then fry them in butter. This sounds reasonable, no? Any better ideas?



oh hey.

I quit smoking. It's been a little more than a week now.


Made something really delicious last night that I've never done before: grilled asparagus. They were amazing, and so easy there's no recipe. Take your asparagus, unpeeled, maybe trim the less-pleasant end off if you want (I didn't, as you can see), slather them a couple of glugs of olive oil and toss liberally with coarse sea salt. Put them on a hot charcoal or gas grill for 2 to 4 minutes per side (let's say they have two sides, so turn them once) until they've got good grill marks but they're still far from limp. That's it. I don't have any pictures of the cooked version, sorry, but they were really really good.

Something else that was quite tasty was this tiny piece of pumpkin pie with a scooplet of Häagen-Dazs Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan ice cream.

We don't normally talk about this sort of thing here at VDuck, but it must be mentioned that the Robert Biale wines we had last night with our steak and asparagus were stupendous.

Dad has been a fan for a while now, and I have always liked the Biales but thought they were a bit overpriced. I'm not so sure anymore: last night he opened two Zinfandels that were just spectacular: a 2005 Stagecoach Vineyard and a 2006 Monte Rosso. We've been drinking a lot of Zin since I've been here and these were head and shoulders above the rest, especially the 2005. Could it have been the asparagus we wonder? Or the ridiculously high alcohol content (15.8%)?

You know what? We just can't answer that, because we know absolutely fucking nothing about wine. And with that, we bring this episode of Oenology Corner to a close here at VDuck. Enjoy!



sunday my shrimps will come.

Let's see. Maybe you're realizing, as am I, that this particular road trip is not going to be about food. Or like, "just chilling out". Frankly, it's mostly been about jetlag and malware (Cole and Dylan are now almost as obsessed as I am with "the hackers" and what they're doing to my computer). And now it's starting to be the tiniest bit about Travis picking, out of dire necessity.

Here's half a recipe for a soup I made today, which I did because we bought an assload of poblano peppers a couple of days ago. I wanted to make a "healthy" corn chowder, and....I don't know if that's even a reasonable concept. This one definitely needs a little more something bad. Could be cheese, or cream. Or, less bad, possibly shrimp. Or scallops.


roasted poblano and corn chowder with bacon and chives.


1 large sweet onion
115 grams butter
a few sprigs of thyme or like a tsp dried
4 poblano chiles, less if they're really hot
1 potato, peeled
8 slices bacon, cooked (4 for eating while cooking)
2 cups corn
4 cups chicken broth

2 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper
dash of chipotle adobo

big handful of shredded sharp cheddar
as many chopped chives as it takes to achieve chiveheid, in my case it was maybe half a cup, basically lots



revenge fantasy #7b.

In my idle time between iterations of completely re-doing all of the malware fixes I did yesterday, I came up with a number of hare-brained vengeance scenarios. In one, I finagle a job in the catering kitchen of a cracker con, if they even exist (I need to look into it) and spike the goods in a variety of apocalyptically stom4ch-turning yet wholly non-lethal w4yz. See 7ha7? 1'm pr3pp1n9 4lr34dy.



that was one time!

Google is spreading nasty rumors about me, saying that VDuck has the equivalent of VD, a nasty malware problem. And I really don't. I had it checked out! It's sad how rumors can spread.

UPDATE: Um...I did have a bad, bad case of the malware. Not on this page, so you're safe, but several other websites I'm involved with. And I'm not saying I'd rather have VD, but...fixing this is going to be the opposite of fun.


If anyone's still able to read this blog, I'll soon be posting a bunch of old family pictures that we're digging through. It should be traumatic (in a good way! Hey wait maybe I can turn that into a hip catchphrase..."dude, that party was traumatic"...I'll try to think of an actually funny usage example when I get a sec).


Tonight: a simplified version of that Thai/Indonesian turmeric + ginger + coconut milk + ketjap manis (my addition) sauce over grilled halibut, plus choy sum stir-fried with a little soy/wine/black bean sauce. We ate it on garish pink-and-purple paper plates, so although the food itself was gorgeous, once plated it looked like a Peter Max nightmare. Thus, no pictures.


BTW, this is the amount of EXTRA Cock Sauce my dad has in the cupboard, not including the open bottle in the fridge (hand included for scale). I'm sure there's a potential hip catchphrase in that sentence as well. My point is, he's out of control.


in a silent way.

I'm thinking about installing a decibel meter in the living room here. As some points in the action, once the boyz have entered the Enemy Phase (where they takes turns hitting each other and then lying about who did what), and the seventeen automated Halloween decorations start moaning and screaming, and the three dogs start barking...I'm just curious about what kinds of levels we're hitting, and whether or not we should be wearing protection.

By the way, if I end up in the slammer on some molestation charges, it's because I offhandedly and unthinkingly told Cole that I was "going to take my pants off too" (he already had his off, I think as the result of a bathroom stop), and he thought it was the funniest thing ever, and immediately started saying it way too often ("Uncle Markie's going to take off his pants too"), so I'm reeeeely hoping he forgets about the hilariousness of this sentence before school tomorrow.


orange crushed.

Bought a pile of fresh turmeric at Lee Lee yesterday, and as always the question is then, "mmm, yes, wonderful, but what do I do with it again?" The answer tends to be something Thai or Indonesian, and in this case I think it might be this.


Still struggling to get on a sleep schedule that actually involves sleep. Last night's obstacles were the relentless stifling temperature and the looming 9am wake-up call from Nephew Cole. Tomorrow I have a day to myself, and it is my sincere hope that the lack of commitments will result in a dreamless, peaceful, or at least somehow otherwise refreshing reality break during the darktime hours.


The Mysteries of Pittsburgh continues to occupy my thoughts. I finally watched the first ten minutes of it, and it's just, eh....sad, in the 21st century version of the word: sad that this abject failure was a labor of love for the filmmaker, sad that someone in a supposedly creative field could so insensitively patch together choice verbiage from the book with pedestrian, uninspired filler designed solely to transition us into the fatally misdesigned character expansions/reductions of Jane and Phlox. I'm sure it gets worse, but I'm probably going to have to finish it anyway, just in case they got anything at all right.


after midnight.

Must be the moon or something, Moop and I both had problems sleeping tonight, 7,000 miles apart (mutual foot or finger squeezes would've been a boon). Wouldn't be such a big deal, but I'd really like to put this jet lag thing solidly behind me so's I can go on and get jiggy with it, if you know what I'm saying. I kind of hope you do, cause...I've got no idea.


I'll just sort of blather on here for a bit to clear my p-nutty hed: at the moment, I'm annoyed by what seems to be (by all accounts) a miserable adaptation of one of my favorite novels from my college years, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

From what I've read, it sounds incredible, as in not believeable. Just all sorts of terrible plot and character alterations, for example: Art has sex with Cleveland (not the city, a person). This means that one of the main likeable characters from the book (Arthur) has been completely eliminated from the movie, and another one of the central (and strongly-drawn) characters (Cleveland) has suddenly been made bisexual...what? You can do that?

It goes on: Phlox is no longer a mutual friend of Art and Arthur, because Arthur is gone, instead she's Art's boss. Wha? There's a heavy emphasis on Art's fascination with Jane, something that in the book was mentioned in maybe four scattered sentences.

I don't understand!


I need recipes for leftover pork. Actually for leftovers period. This kitchen generates a lot of food, and doesn't do an awesome job of eating it all, so I'd like to try and improve on that while I'm here. I've got a pork roast to deal with (chili? pâté?) and looks like I may have a pot roast to clean up after as well.

Pictured above is some of what we bought at Lee Lee yesterday. It is such an overwhelmingly well-stocked store that I've never simultaneously been there and had any idea what I was looking for.

just desert.

It is HOT here, 102°F today, not even close to being enjoyable. We spent the day shopping and eating and driving, and now we're home to cook and watch movies, which sounds pretty good to me.

We had lunch at Elmer's Tacos in Chandler, because it was on the way to where we were going. The reviews I'd read were kind of above-average, but once we were there I failed to remember what was supposed to be the standout item.

Once our food arrived, it became obvious what the standout item was: the beans. The carne asada taco (below) was OK, the tamales were pretty good, but the beans were dynamite. Lardy and creamy, but not a totally formless homogeneous goo: there were still a good many recognizably bean-shaped beans in the mix. Too bad I didn't order the famous bean burrito.


drag me to hell.

This is a picture of a car smashing into my camera. I am still in the weird inbetweenland of jetlag. Surreally, I am also engaging in a debate with an author I enjoy, Rick Moody, over Edward Van Halen (and winning!). Please expect something more coherent soon.

BTW, this whole EvH/Moody thing made me realize that there are very few subjects about which I can speak with absolute authority. One of them is pre-Sammy Hagar Van Halen. Depressing or unsurprising, or both?



make it stop.

My butt hurts. My legs need stretching. I have been awake for 19 hours on my way to a total of 24. Where am I?

Yes that's right, high above ze Earth, specifically 38,000 feet over ze Dallas at this moment, on my way to ze Phoenix. But! I am also on ze Internet, which is new for me. Wifi makes flying just a little bit better. Also tiny_a's four-hour battery helps a lot.

The worst part of this whole travel day is that I actually ate some of my "risotto" that was served with my "chicken" for lunch. I'm embarrassed, but I was just really very hungry. When I get to Phoenix I Will Eat Right, Goddamnit.


i know a dirty word.

We received an unexpected financial donation today, and so like any responsible adults, we spent a tiny bit of it on Morale, which meant that we went to De Oranjerie for a shared steak and frites.

I'd somehow never been there before, but Mara's been a fan for a while. And what's not to like? Good steak, decent frites, superfriendly service, interesting peoplewatching, fantastic not-even-ironically-bad 80s pop on the stereo, and a neon sign that says "pijpen", which, yes, means "pipes", but is also the infinitive of "blowjob". I know, sometimes I'm ten years old.



I'm heading off to America in a day or so, and while I'll be blogging a bit I'm sure, I'm also in prep for another round of Louvinizing, so things could go silent here and there. In the meantime, check out some rare footage of Jimmy Capps on guitar above, and the great aw shucks look on his face after he finishes his solo.



someone's in the kitchen.

And it ain't me. It's been a weird few days. I'd already been having trouble sleeping on Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday Mara and I (and J-Kim) had a fun but slightly-too-much-so late night out downstairs and so by Thursday I was approaching that kind of sleep dep state where "nothing is real...everything is a copy of a copy of a copy" (yeah, I just quoted it...what? When I saw it for the first time, I was an American male, age 30, working in an increasingly intolerable corporate marketing environment...I was the target audience).

Then Friday's sleep wasn't any better, and since MT hasn't been feeling that great either, we've kind of just been shuffling around the apartment alternating between consecutive rabbit holes, bad TV movies, half-napping, and experimental baking, none of which is really a recipe for feeling more awake and alive, but the baking helped more than anything else.

One of the more interesting test cases involved mini pecan pies made with hazelnuts (instead of pecans, because we had some sitting around). The taste was fantastic, but the filling was too firm, presumably because we eliminated the traditional corn syrup in the interest of being more "natural". My question is, is it possible to achieve anything approaching the correct gooey and jiggly texture using only eggs and sugar? Anyone?


Over the past few days (or more) of overinternetting I've added lots of hopefully more inspiring information sources to my life (many of them over at my top secret other blog). Here's one: The Rumpus offers up a pretty interesting conversation about blogging vs. journalism. Maybe this is well-covered ground for fellow bloggers; I myself have studiously avoided reading much punditry or even informed research about blogging in general, almost definitely because the corporate job mentioned up-post revolved around punditry and informed research. And thinking hard about the future of computing. Which I mostly love not doing any more.

My MC handle should probably be Almos Def.


the celiac kid.

A recent comment just reminded me that for the majority of my pre-teen life, I was a celiac kid. It's something I don't think about much these days, because I grew out of it, but I have quite a few crystal-clear recollections of those days.

My quintessential celiac memory is of a hamburger. Or many hamburgers, served on a bread that must have been made with rice flour (care to comment, Pitts?). The bread could probably be described as ethereal, but not at all in a good way. You could take two, maybe three bites of these burgers before the Styrofoam-like bread started to develop serious fault lines, and then seconds later the whole sandwich would come crashing down onto the plate in a rain of squeaky crumbs.

You'd then take the biggest sections of bread and try to make mini-burgers out of them, reapplying your ketchup and mustard for better adhesion, but those pieces would break too, and in the end you'd be forcefully pressing pieces of hamburger patty into piles of crumbs, trying to get them to stick to the meat so as to end up with a bite that had that burger-y taste...


Oh, how times have changed. I also used to be stick-thin, quite possibly b/c I could never quite get my sandwiches into my mouth before the bread disintegrated. But I do wonder sometimes what my celiac diet would look like these days.

Mara's lemon meringue tartlettes from last night could almost be on the menu. The lemon filling is gluten-free (and the highlight of the whole dessert for me), made from sugar, corn starch, water, egg yolks, butter, and lemon zest/juice; the meringue is just egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar; that leaves only the pastry to deal with.

We used standard frozen puff pastry, but I saw a gluten-free pastry here that looked good: corn starch, coconut, butter, and milk powder. But really? The pastry was the least important part of these things, you (or at least I) could totally skip it.

Oh, by the way, there's a new Gluten-Free category on this blog, I'll be re-tagging things slowly.


lemon meringue tartlettes.

1 cup raw cane sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 cups boiling water
4 average-sized eggs, separated
2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp finely finely minced lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice

pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

(and here's the cop-out, which also makes it non gluten-free, unless you use a gluten-free pie crust like this one)

1 recipe flaky pie crust or 1 package frozen puff pastry
these two options will give you very different results...the puff pastry we used was pleasantly light and crunchy after baking:

But I can also see how the relative denseness of a flaky pie crust would be nice too. We also did two ramekins with the lemon filling and the meringue and no crust at all, and I liked these just as much.

Anyway, once you've figured out what you're doing for a crust, preheat the oven to 175C and make the filling: combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, and boiling water in a small saucepan and cook until smooth and thick, 10 or 15 minutes, stirring often. When you're not stirring, beat the egg yolks until smooth.

When the cornstarch mixture is thick, turn off the heat. Take half a cup of the hot cornstarch mixture and mix it into the beaten yolks, then immediately stir that whole mixture back into the hot cornstarch mixture until thick and nicely blended. Got it?

Put the whole shebang back on low heat, add the butter and cook, stirring, until smooth and quite hot, 5 minutes or so. Add lemon zest and juice, stir well, and remove from heat.

For the meringue: beat egg whites with a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy. Add confectioner's sugar gradually and keep beating until stiff peaks form.

Ja. Then assemble: you've got your muffin tin cups filled with a bit of crust or puff pastry, right? Now put something like a tablespoon of filling on top of each tartlette base, then something like a tablespoon of meringue on top...but your measurements will depend on the size of your cups (ladies?). Remember that the only part you're cooking by now is the meringue, and it will pretty much hold whatever shape you form it into, so...yeah. Once you're all assembled, bake for 7 or 8 minutes, until meringue is lightly browned.


life give u lemon, u make lemon curd.

These are tiny lemon meringue pielettes, a word which I've never heard before but am sure already exists, and yet I'm so sick of the Internet being such a know-it-all that I'm not even going to check.

Mara wanted to bake last night, but it had to be something cheap and something that we could easily give away. But did it have to be so awesome ("awesome" is to be sung in a quivering non-professional falsetto a la Missy's "nigga" in Get UR Freak On)?

I have a hard time remembering that I love homemade lemon desserts. I would never in a million years order something lemony off a restaurant menu, but it's a whole 'nother story when Timmy puts on her oven mitts and starts a-whippin' them egg yolks or however that whole baking thing works (actually I'm pretty sure she doesn't have the mitts on while she's a-whippin').

I guess what I'm saying is...we need you all to live closer. Andy and Valentina had to eat like 15 of these things straight out of the oven. I had a couple too. And then again this morning.



gold nuss woman.

Lupini beans in de huis again. Casa Bocage is the only place in Amsterdam to get them (they're called tremoços in Portugese), and obtaining the precious golden beans involves a ritual which typically goes like this:


Me/Mara: Hi! Do you have tremoços?
Casa Bocage Employee: (shaking head sadly) No, not today.
M/M: Boo. Do you know when you might have some more?
CBE: (thoughtfully) What day is it today?
M/M: Thursday?
CBE: (hopefully) They should be here on........Friday?
M/M: So...tomorrow?
CBE: (with conviction) No, the next Friday. Or the one after.
M/M: Ah. So, in two weeks for sure.
CBE: (smiling) Probably.
M/M: OK! Thanks! See you then.


It's all extremely good-natured. Of course we never remember to go back in two weeks, and the whole conversation happens again six to twelve weeks later.

Today, I popped in to Casa Bocage randomly b/c baby bird's chomping beak is in overdrive at the moment, and lupinis are one of her favorite things, and...they had some!

I think I remember the first time I tasted them, or at least I'm inventing it with extreme clarity: it was in her parents' kitchen maybe 15 years ago, and at the time I found them a bit hard to love at first, aside from the addictive bit where you bite a hole in the skin and pop the bean into your mouth. But now I'm a fan of their weird uncooked texture and slightly cheesy taste as well.


Unrelated to lupini beans, I was just reminded of this, and it's worth reading if you haven't. This eight-part travelogue is one of the primary pieces of writing that introduced me to eGullet a few years ago. It's basically the story of one woman's semi-impulsive trip to Mongolia and the absolute misalignment of her expectations and the reality of "sightseeing" in Mongolia.

For technical reasons, the links within eG don't work anymore, so here are most of the eight parts:



and it shows.

Above: Baby Bird's First Show.

Bottom left: homemade rye + cream cheese + lemon cucumber + sweetnsour beet + smoked salmon + creme fraiche + chives.

Bottom right: Marcella's Goudified onion frittata + bacon jam + more creme fraiche and chives, cause it just makes everything look so durn fancy.


maple bacon jam.

I felt like a total trendwhore, but nonetheless I made Kevin Gillespie's bacon jam recipe last night, because I thought maybe I wanted to put a dot of it on these onion frittata bites I'm making tomorrow for Baby Bird's First Show (!!!). Two observations: 1) as written on the Bravo site, it's not an especially helpful recipe, but 2) nothing can stop bacon jam. It basically made itself. And it's good, very good. Here's my rewrite of the original recipe:


bacon and maple jam.

125 grams bacon
1 yellow onion, julienned
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Basically: cook bacon until crisp and set aside, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Add onion to pan and cook until golden brown. Add sugar and stir to coat. Add one cup of broth and reduce until thick. Add another cup of broth and do the same. Add the third cup of broth then transfer contents of pan to a food processor, along with the reserved bacon. Process until fairly smooth but not totally boring. Return the mixture to the pan and add maple syrup, black pepper, and butter. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes or so, stirring every once in a while, to further reduce the jam and darken the color. Makes about 3/4 cup.


My next attempt at this will involve chiles and a fruit, maybe cherries or peaches. Here's the caramelized onion frittata bite with a little bacon jam, crème fraîche, and chive. The frittata also has a little medium-aged Gouda in it. Basically Marcella's onion frittata recipe with Gouda instead of Parmesan.