ca kho to.

Ja. Making ca kho to tomorrow (though the recipe for the caramel sauce is a bit better here), to serve with the rest of that mushroom soup that just keeps getting better.

I didn't do any of this. Mara made great fish cakes, with lots of scallions and celery in the cakes and a great tartar sauce.


east coast fish cakes.

bag o panga
celery stalks
bunch o scallions
bread crumbs
old bay


old bay seasoning.

black peppercorns
mustard seeds
dried basil
dried ginger
bay leaves


tartar sauce.

capers chopped
pickles chopped
salt and pepper



forget me not.

Circuits still overloaded here schedule-wise, barely cooking, yet eating healthier, that about sums everything up. If only neighbors would stop delivering enormous slices of awesomely dense chocolate cake at 11pm, things would almost be going according to plan.

There have been some recipes that we've experimented with this week that didn't seem like our kind of thing, and yet: they almost were. This mushroom and daikon soup was very good, just made it tonight for lunch tomorrow. The kind of obviously healthy, satisfyingly brothy thing you sometimes crave but never really know quite what to do about it. Very minimalist: sherry, garlic, and soy sauce being the only real additions.

And Mara made this salmon salad thing for dinner, minus most of the ingredients, and it was good enough to make me completely believe that adding the rest of the ingredients would be pretty super.

But what I really want? Chorizo and chickpeas, with a poached egg on top and a big glass of red zinfandel from Dad's collection on the side. Followed by a huge slice of Valentina's 11pm chocolate cake.

Instead, let's focus on the healthier options from Mark Bittman's farewell post as The Minimalist.



2011 starts now.

It's time to reign in the excesses of Holiday Season 2010, especially since it's almost February 2011. So, yeah, no more sausage for a while. We will be doing our yearly vegetarian/vegan experiment very soon I believe.

Here's something that looks educational about replacing dairy with coconut.

Maybe we'll try to make tempeh.

Maybe as a way to ease into healthiness we'll make this not-too-healthy salad: celeriac, fennel, pecans, bacon, greens, all with a caramelized apple vinaigrette.

And yesterday Mara made something actually healthy which was really good but just a tiny bit strange. Like an unhealthy ingredient was missing from the recipe that would have made it totally make sense.

But the vinaigrette is healthy and delicious, we'll definitely make it again but we need to see if we can solve the riddle of what it really wants to be paired with, other than the obvious, which is pork. My guess is cheese.


raisin vinaigrette.

3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tbsp water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste



up all night.

Oi. This hasn't happened in a while, the complete non-sleepage. Boo. I guess my lack of a schedule tomorrow would be the upside.




My worldview was irreversibly shifted this morning, by this.


Lots of hilarious laughing today. Having dinner with Andy, Terrie, Valentina, etc. This is Coq à la Bière.

Which turned out pretty great. Gave Andy his birthday present 6 months late, Momofuku cookbook, hopefully this means we get to eat some Andy Momofuku food soon. Dessert also wonderful: oranges macerated in Grand Marnier and cardamom (a la KK), plus madeleines, and a side of sugarless chocolate mousse from Valentina.

Then we went downstairs for even more hilarity, culminating in an opera whose primary performers included a man eating bag after bag of McDonalds with contact microphones taped to his cheeks; a Prince-like figure wrapping his plugged-in guitar in cellophane and then rhythmically humping it for 10 minutes or so; and a finale which involved lighting three seven-foot-tall hash bongs, filling the room with smoke and thoroughly destroying everyone present.

Everybody was seriously fucked, simultaneously. Which was great fun. And then for some reason people started buying everyone drinks and things fell apart completely. Jasper ran into the wall on his way out of the building. Good times!!!



le home run.

So, we made two awesome things this weekend that we shouldn't make very often, but, yeah...sometime soon again.

The first was a continuation of our buffalo wing infatuation, but this time I made, uhhhhhh....chicken tenders? They sure look like wings, don't they.

It's just chicken breasts cut into strips, dipped in egg wash and cornmeal and fried in peanut oil. Then tossed in the same old amazingly simple and perfect Frank's + butter sauce and then placed strategically close to some blue cheese dressing and celery, it was almost like being back in the motherland.


Then, the cobbler. This was thoroughly dreamy. The recipe's still not a recipe, but should be decipherable enough. Serve warm with an assertive ice cream. I personally wonder about like a goat cheese or buttermilk ice cream, but I'm like that.


rosemary, brown butter, and almond apple cobbler.

5 apples, peeled, chopped
8 tbsp butter
1 six-inch sprig fresh rosemary
plus stuff below

Butter a baking dish. In a food processor, combine 1/3 cup unsalted almonds, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup raw sugar; 1/2 cup flour. Then add 1/2 stick melted butter, stir to a crumble. Brown the butter with the rosemary, then remove rosemary.

Put the chopped apples in a bowl. Pour the browned butter over the apples with 1/8 cup sugar, a little salt, couple tbsp flour, sprinkle of cinnamon. Stir to coat. Add this to the buttered baking dish, cover with topping, bake at 175C for 30 minutes.

I found that a little sprinkling of salt over the whole thing seemed to make things even better. 




the rare purple shrimpopus.

These were the Shrimp and Zucchini Rolls I wrote about a few posts ago. We made them for the rescheduled Duck Evening at KK's because we were curious about how our mature palates would relate to them.

And: they need some work. As written, the sauce rocks, but the undipped rolls really don't taste like much of anything. Additions we would make: boiling the shrimp in salted water; salting the zucchini properly; and possibly letting the shrimp sit in a little sherry vinegar before rolling.

Also, the recipe told you that you should make them and chill for "1 to 6 hours". This we would not recommend: the zucchini rolls started giving off moisture (because the zucchini hadn't been salted first, b/c the recipe didn't call for it) and achieved a state I would describe as "slimy". I tried to disguise this with a couple drops of sherry vinegar and some black sesame seeds.

In the end, edible, and a good idea, just badly executed. Mara suggested we julienne the zucchini and put it along with everything else inside some rice paper rolls and use them with the dipping sauce.



midnight cowboy.

We're trying a new twist on things around here: I've turned over the kitchen to Mara for a while, and she's cooking from My Recipe Box (MRB from now on) on Epicurious.

If you're not a dork like myself, then you don't know that MRB is a place where you can save any Epicurious recipe so that you don't always have to sift through their 142 salmon recipes when you're looking for the two useful ones.

The slightly interesting thing about my own MRB (VDuck's) is that I started using it all the time pretty much the day Epicurious implemented it, which must be 12 or 13 years ago. I filled it with say 300 or 400 recipes, and then I stopped using it in around 2003 or so, probably around the time Mara recovered from her thyroid explosion thing and our cooking started to become what it is today.

So it's a snapshot of a specific window in my/our development as a food geek(s), as well as a reminder of pre-celebrity chef/foodblog food trends, which is revealing in terms of some of the wrongheaded messes produced by late 1990s fusion cooking in America.


I re-engaged with MRB over the 2010 holidays b/c it's invaluable for highlighting the promising candidates in each year's glut of Thanksgiving/Christmas/Kwanzaa/etc recipes. Frankly I couldn't believe they still had all my old recipes...who does that on the internet, keeps your personalized shit for 12 years? Hell, those fuckers at Hotmail used to delete your email account if you didn't sign in for a couple months.  Your EMAIL.

Anyway, I weeded out some shit I knew we'd never cook, and added some new things, and now Mara's using it as a source of inspiration. Tonight's score was 1-1. Above, the thoroughly repeatable Mango and Radicchio Caprese with Basil Vinaigrette from 2008.

A pretty genius winter salad, the mango is amazingly at home here, and so much better than a January tomato. Mara also threw arugula in there for some midrange bitterness, and I think it rounded everything out. Everyone should make this: a useful example of practical, understated fusion. Plus, it's pretty: you know that if a salad looks OK under our dining table lights and with my food styling/photography skills, in real life it must be gorgeous.

The unsuccessful recipe was 1995's Grilled Sirloin with Anise-Basil Butter, an example of ill-conceived fusion. I think the idea was maybe to bring in some of the flavors from Asian cooking (five spice + basil?). Although the anise-basil butter was really good, we wouldn't make the steak again as written. The butter plus the pepper-anise crust was a simply anise overload (snicker). And then they recommend you serve it with grilled fennel. Ah, the 1990s.


Looking towards the future. Peepin at the "highest-rated" recipes in my MRB, this selection could make a pretty stimulacious little winter dinner party menu itself, couldn't it. If we ignore my current dietary/budgetary requirements I mean.

Parsnip and Pear Latkes.
Ribeye Steaks with Arugula Oil w/Ricotta Whipped Potatoes (using a different recipe for the potatoes).
Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce.
Endive and Gorgonzola Salad.
Grand Marnier Souffles with Creme Anglaise.


Below: our new pets, plastic jellyfish.



what the phở.

Goddamn, I had no idea that the phrase "faux phở" had swept the internets this year. 12 million hits. Not that it matters, I'm just surprised I missed it, being the faux foodie that I am.

Why are we talking about it? Because I made some this morning and was getting ready to wittily title this post you-know-what and then Googled it, and yes. I guess basically everything you need to know about it is here at Viet World Kitchen, my go-to source for all things faux-Vietnamese.

So this is definitely not phở (daikon and carrots are present, and no beef), it's some kind of "phở-spiced vegetable soup", but I HATE recipes called things like that. This, whatever the @*&^$ (how fun! I never pretend to swear!) it was, thrown together out of things that needed to be used up and various almost-right condiments, wasn't bad at all.


faux phở.

3 liters water?
1 tbsp goose fat (only fat I had)
1/2 tsp hoisin sauce (to replace the star anise i didn't have)
1/4 tsp ground cloves (sub for the whole cloves i didn't have)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (etc)
4 tbsp fish sauce
salt to taste




steve the laser mouse.

Oh, look.


Mara is cooking tonight, and this makes me happy...it feels like a long time since we've cooked dinner specifically for each other.

I was just reading something random this weekend about the process of deciding what's for dinner, and it made me realize that many, many food bloggers linger on this step when posting a recipe.

But why? Is it just like any other creative activity that you might document, so you give a little back story on your thought process? I don't know, I'm not so sure there's not more to it, something pleasure-related in the recounting of how you decided what to eat, that whole dopamine/anticipation thing. Research this, will you?

Regardless. Tonight we had fish defrosting and we wanted something comforting. To me, fish and comfort do not necessarily belong in the same sentence unless possibly it's a sentence about something other than food, but there's this one thing Mara makes that we both seemed to be gravitating towards: she does some kind of stuffed fish a couple of times a year, and it's always good, but we never write it down, so this is tonight's attempt. It contains the controversial fish and cheese combo, a controversy that I don't totally understand because they always seem to taste pretty darn good together. Maybe more cheese = more comfort.

I filed this under Southern Cooking because it reminds me of something you'd see in a Louisiana kitchen (kidding, more like this or this), maybe even a Louisianan Italian one, except they'd probably use cream cheese somewhere, and pecans instead of pine nuts, and scallions somewhere, and of course there'd have to be shrimp or crab in the stuffing or on top...all of which sounds pretty good.


baked fish stuffed with spinach, pine nuts, and raisins. 

4 tbsp butter
4 fillets of catfish, tilapia, cod, etc.
a bag of fresh spinach, WASHED (ahem)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup or less pine nuts, toasted
3/4 cup or less raisins
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning (or substitute, say...cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and thyme)
1/4 cup or more Gouda, shredded

Melt butter in small saucepan, add raisins, let sit, possibly transferring to a smaller bowl if butter does not cover raisins. Your goal is plump raisins.

Butter a baking dish. Saute spinach and garlic in oil with salt and pepper to taste. Add the butter-soaked raisins (reserving the butter), the cheese, and the pine nuts to the spinach. Stir to combine.

Roll the spinach mixture up in the fish fillets. Pour the reserved butter over the fillets and sprinkle with cajun seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes at 200C.

blowtorch or broil.

More from COOKBOOK.DOC. This is a recipe Mara has made many times but we can never actually find the recipe when we want it.

Typing .DOC reminds me of an amusing moment from Corporate Life: I worked in a small district office of the biggest software company alive (back then) and whenever anyone from the Big Office would come visit us little people, people's brains would fly right out of their heads in a panic. The time in question, the visiting executive's name was Ballmer, and the nice woman who was organizing his visit was keeping the agenda for his visit in a file called BALLMER.DOC.

As you sometimes do when you're working on an important document, this person made a back-up copy, and quickly changed one letter of the filename so she wouldn't write over the original. After a bunch of frantic revisions, eventually she sent the final version out to her team members, her male boss, her boss's male boss, etc, in a message simply titled BALLME.DOC. Laughs were had.


ginger crème brulee.

6 large egg yolks (or 6 whole eggs if feeling lazy)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup half-and-half
1 2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tbsp. grated lime zest
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar, dried and sifted

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks (or eggs) with sugar and half-and-half until frothy. Heat cream with vanilla, ginger, and lime zest in medium saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Slowly and carefully, whisk the cream into the egg mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325. Strain the cream mixture into a bowl and stir in the lime juice. Ladle the mixture into six ½ cup ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking pan and pour in enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides. Bake until the custards are just set, 45 minutes. Do not overcook.

Cool the custards a little, cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled, 4 hours or overnight. Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the top of each custard evenly with 1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar. Blowtorch or broil until the sugar melts and bubbles. This could take anywhere from 45 seconds to 90 seconds. Serve.


I mentioned "my cookbook" of brazenly stolen recipes already, didn't I. Here are a couple of catfish stylings from it, I don't think I've tried either of these before but they look like they could work with some tweaking.This first one needs to be scaled down and tested for sure, and the second one just needs to be rewritten. 


pan-sautéed catfish with parsley-pecan sauce.

2 cups cornmeal, polenta, etc.
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
6 catfish fillets, about 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups parsley-pecan sauce

2 cups tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems only
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup broken pecan meats
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated romano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Directions: Mix cornmeal, cayenne pepper and salt. Spread on large platter and dredge each fillet, shaking off excess. Set aside on sheet of waxed paper. Heat half the oil and butter in a skillet large enough to accommodate 3 fillets. When butter is foaming but not brown, add fillets and sauté on one side for about 4 minutes, until light golden. Turn fillets and spread the browned side with sauce; continue to sauté until underside is browned, about another 4 minutes. Cover skillet for a few minutes to melt sauce. Remove fish to platter. Add remaining oil and butter and cook remaining fillets.
Sauce: Place parsley in food processor and process until coarsely chopped, turning machine off and on and scraping down sides. Add all other ingredients except salt, and process until mixture makes a smooth paste. Store, tightly covered in refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups.
6 servings.


pud ped pla duk.

a few catfish filets
1/2 cup thai eggplant (small round green eggplants)
6-10 cloves garlic, crushed, chopped or mashed
2 stalks lemon grass (about 2-3" long), bruised
1/4 cup very thinly sliced ginger
1/2 cup sweet basil, chopped
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar
sliced green chilies

Combine the sauce ingredients. In a wok get enough oil to shallow fry the fish smoking hot. Add the fish and stir until thoroughly coated with oil, then add the prepared sauce. Stir fry for about 2-3 minutes, ensuring the fish doesn't stick to the pan and the pieces are all thoroughly sauced. Remove to a serving dish and serve with steamed jasmine rice.


magic places.

 I already miss drinking hoppy American beers every day. At the Atlanta airport (Concourse E), we were sitting at a horrible-looking bar in the middle of a hideous food court, a bar whose singular saving grace is their excellent and interesting beer and wine selection.

On the list of non-saving graces, they also had a piano player, the kind you might find in a hotel lobby bar. But this was the airport food court. There are probably more depressing gigs out there, but I imagine you come home from that one and look at yourself in the mirror for an extra couple seconds before bed.

We were on our second beer (Sweetwater 420) when we noticed that the bar had no kitchen. Yet they served food. Hmm. We asked our bartender, who had a serious Wayne Brady thing going on, where the food came from. "Magic places," he said, and wiggled his eyebrows.


Continuing with nostalgia finds, I just found my first homemade cookbook. Which is really just a collection of stolen recipes, retyped, but at some point I took the time to format them fancily and use a lot of features in Word that I'd never used before, so...I called it COOKBOOK.DOC for lack of a better filename. Here is/are one or more excerpts: remember, it's possible/probable that these are directly cribbed from somewhere else on the internet, I'll check eventually.

This first one is something I remember vividly, it sounds very unlikely but as it's recorded in my mind, very refreshing and delicious. BUT: There is something wrong with this recipe that has to do with salting the zucchini, not sure what the solution is.


shrimp-zucchini rolls with rosemary-ginger vinaigrette 

3 large zucchini, trimmed
12 cooked shrimp (16/20 is a good size, if you do larger ones, halve them)
3/4 cup daikon sprouts
12 1-inch pieces thinly sliced pickled ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Place 1 zucchini on work surface. Using mandoline or similar, cut zucchini into thin ribbons about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide. Repeat with remaining zucchini, forming 12 ribbons total. Place shrimp at 1 end of each zucchini ribbon, dividing shrimp equally. Top with sprouts and pickled ginger, dividing equally. Starting at filled end, roll up each zucchini ribbon into cylinder. Place seam side down on paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

Whisk next 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil to taste. Pour vinaigrette into small bowl. Place in center of platter. Surround with shrimp rolls. Makes 4 appetizer servings.


magnetic poetry.

Something else we found in Atlanta was our old box of magnetic poetry. Expect greatness.



Back in the pod. Attempting to foil jetlag by getting up at 7am regardless of sleep slept. Made chicken soup last night b/c our souls were in need of soothing, and because apparently every person who stayed here while we were gone bought a bag of carrots and didn't eat any of them. In the end the soup became this tortilla soup that we used to make all the time when we had easy access to Herdez Ranchera sauce, because that's the easy way to make it. Last night's hard way wasn't too hard after all and pretty much worked.


As one sometimes does when they visit their parents, I ended up digging around through old pictures and assorted other memorabilia when we were stateside, and some of it will be showing up here rather than / in addition to just throwing it in the European version of the Nostalgia Box.

One of our first installments will be an edited version of an email I found from late 1999, sent from me to Mara. I had been in either Raleigh or Charlotte, North Carolina delivering a three-day "class" on some bogus technology that barely worked, and had gone up there the Friday before class started so I could prepare a classroom full of machines, which back in 1999 was a laborious and time-consuming thing to do, especially with technology that barely worked.

Anyway, I was staying at this hotel in a depressing location off the gigantic 12-lane highway, surrounded by strip malls and strip clubs. Saturday after starting some hours-long processes on my machines I went out to get some dinner and here's what happened. I was very glad to find this email b/c while much of the night was memorable, it was a bit like a dream in that I couldn't remember how it all started.


From: Mark
To: Mara
Subject: RE: Adventures In
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 1999 12:58:23 -0800

So hey, how's it going (hand wave)...

Had a very strange night last night. One of those nights where while it's happening you can't believe how it will sound...

It starts out where i'm looking for something to eat, and there's this Japanese place right next to the hotel, so i go there. I'm sitting there for awhile i guess, having some sake and watching tv at the bar, and i'm hearing this conversation next to me between someone who introduces herself as Nefertiti and someone who introduces herself as what sounds like "Onnahh", but then she says, "no, Honor". Honor and Nefertiti. Hm. And they're talking about how more white dudes know who nefertiti is than the brothers do, etc.

To make a very long story somewhat shorter. Nefertiti takes off. Honor starts talking to me. Turns out they're dancers at "The Gentlemen's Club" next door. That's actually the name of it, no lie. She's an English major finishing college and has traveled around the US a bit and knows her movies and 80s music, so we end up having a lot to talk about. When i ask how old she is she says 5 years younger than Michael Jackson...i still don't know how old that is.

I mentioned something about "my wife" early on and she said that i didn't "look married", which sounds like it's supposed to be a compliment. She mentioned maybe going to see the Holyfield fight at the place where she worked cause she could get in free. And i asked how it was over there and she said kinda lame, depending on what kind of girls you like. And she asked if you were black (ha) and i described you, etc.

So she said well the place i work is mostly plastic girls, but i was thinking about meeting some friends of mine over at a black club, do you want to go? Danger, Will Robinson. At some point we'd also talked about getting high and so we knew we had that in common. So.....i said, unbelievably, after some quick moments of faulty reasoning and rationalization: sure.

About the wisdom of it all: she was friendly, talkative, but obviously unavailable. I had the appropriate initial suspicions about this being a setup: attractive, exotic woman picks up innocuous, obviously-employed computer nerd in bar next to corporate hotel, takes him off into the night for fun and adventure, which really means that he'll be thoroughly ambushed and relieved of his possessions. But then i didn't really get any fake or creepy vibes off her, or anything overtly sexual to be suspicious about, and Raleigh is not the most exciting city of all time, so maybe she was just bored, and we really did seem to be having fun. So i went.

We arrange to meet at the convenience store across the street. I buy a six-pack. She pulls up in a fantastic old huge car, dark green, who knows what it was, something American and previously luxurious. I get in, this is like 11pm and she whips out a hash pipe before the car is even moving. We smoke, and head for the other side of town. I should really tell this story in installments to heighten the suspense.

But i won't, because there's no big Hollywood 2nd act full of increasing drama or intrigue. Turns out we go to the "black club" she'd mentioned, which of course is a strip club out in the woods somewhere, and it's definitely not my usual territory: bars on the windows, metal detector at the door, bouncers the size of industrial appliances.

But it turns out they don't allow female customers anymore..."too many dramas" the doorman said. Everyone was very nice. So then we go back to civilization and meander unsuccessfully from bar to bar, and every place is either packed with angry Latino teens or closing, and we are h-i-g-h. 12am.

We end up at this thoroughly terrible sports bar, and the jock quotient suddenly makes me keenly aware that it looks like I have a rather beautiful black date, which would normally be awesome but remember this is the white side of town in semi-rural NC, late Saturday night. Turns out I'm just paranoid: she knows the manager, and we have some uneventful post-lastcall beers. Then we head back to the hotel, where, again, I am having a difficult time believing the way this story will sound.

We smoke some more and watch some TV, she lays on the bed, I'm sitting in the token chair, we're not saying a whole bunch, due to highness I believe. I am possibly being expected to do something interesting at this juncture, but I am ignoring it. We finish the six-pack, and then she takes off. I walk her to her car. 2am.

Funny things: she talked about meeting friends three or four times that night, but we never saw any of them. One other time she said she didn't have any friends. Anyway, it was extremely unexpected and a fun adventure, kind of just as if the same thing had happened with a guy. Except that if a guy had come up to my room at 2am i know he would've asked if he could give me head*. In some ways it was less weird b/c it was a girl. I think she was lonely and i looked safe.


*(Editor's note: in college, this guy we hung out with for a bit called "the Dogman" or possibly "the Dawgman" tried to pull this on me [unsuccessfully] in my dorm room one night after a poker game. A poker game. I totally did not see it coming at all, because the guy was this tiny tough-talking faux-hoodlum from Queens or another borough who just oozed machismo or at least bravado. Imagine Tony Soprano in the body of Michael Anthony Hall, but shorter. I politely declined, and emphasized how extremely fortunate he was to have chosen me rather than anyone else at that poker table because he could easily have been sailing out the 5th story window right now, etc. Anyway, from that point on I would never ever be surprised again by a sexual advance, regardless of the initiating gender.) 


I hope you're not worried or upset, b/c there's no reason to be. I felt safe the whole time and don't think i risked bodily harm at all, she was a good slow driver. I thought about you a lot during the whole thing, and wished you were here in Adventureland with me.

So, now i'm finishing installing my machines, after which i'm going to work on rewriting my stuff and take a big nap. And then write you again. What U say?

I miss your voice.




Heading home in a couple hours, hopefully we'll catch you swingin' on the flippity-flop.

Above: me, 1971.
Below: me, last nightish, eating some perfectly fried butterflied shrimp with coleslaw and lots of Texas Pete to convince our nervous systems to stop reporting pain for a while.



good buddies.

Why does everyone absolutely hate to empty the dishwasher?


The corn pudding I made for New Year's was a little disappointing on its own, maybe a little sour cream or buttermilk or brown butter might have taken it more in the direction I was hoping for. But as a corny, buttery base for this week's collard greens and andouille stew to nuzzle up against, it was pretty super. If not-so-healthy.



hog time.

In Europe, there's no such thing as "Boston butt roast" or even "pork butt", rendering even the first steps down the road to international barbecuing vague and perilous. Heck, even the word "barbecue" itself means something totally different.

In addition to describing exactly what cut of meat "pork butt" is (not the ass of a pig), I found this page from The Virtual Weber Bullet's site to be a critical resource for the nitty-gritty of cooking this cut of meat, as well as for the adaptation of the original recipe.

Just one example: the original recipe has you cook the meat up to an internal temperature of 170F. According to TVWB (and Harold McGee), this isn't quite hot enough to break down the collagen properly for pulled pork and you might end up with a tough, unshreddable piece of meat, bad news indeed after cooking something for 3 or 4 hours (you really want an internal temperature of 195F-205F). Stuff like that.


This here's the recipe. I can't imagine we'll need to look any further for a foolproof, doable-in-Europe BBQ oven-pulled pork recipe. I'm in the process of adapting it from here. Though it says Carolina in the original, this is largely what Georgia BBQ tastes like to me, with a couple of tweaks (celery seed and black pepper). Next tweak we'll be doing is adding smoke, if not via actual grill or smoker then via pimenton or liquid smoke or some other smoked something or other. But for now, this is it.


Below, examples of our differing food styling sensibilities. The first one is Mara's preference. I liked the second one because it reminds me of how I feel about barbecue: savage and uncontrolled.


pulled pork.

4 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp or more celery seed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground chipotle chile or chipotle puree
2 cups Heinz tomato ketchup (other ketchups will not yield same result)
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water

1 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (important! this is the most essential ingredient)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
one 5.0 lbs. (2.3kg) pork butt (Boston pork butt is what they call this in America)

Cook onion and garlic in butter until soft. Add mustard, paprika, cumin and cayenne, cook 1 minute. Add ketchup, sugar, vinegar and water and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover; simmer 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 350F. Heat oil in large ovenproof Dutch oven or roasting pan; add pork; brown, 10 minutes. Bake, uncovered, in 350F oven 30 minutes. Pour 1 cup of barbecue sauce over pork. Cover pot. Lower to 250F.

Now, according to some BBQ experts, you should bake it for 1.5 to 2 hours per pound, but you're really shooting for this internal temperature of 190F.

In our case, we don't know why, but we were able to bake it for 3-1/2 hours, basting it occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in middle of roast registered 190F. Under most circumstances, this amount of meat should take at least 5 hours, more like 7.5, but as you can see, ovens are different, so it can't hurt to start using your thermometer after 4 hours or so.

When your internal temperature is where you want it, remove from oven, let rest for 30 minutes. Trim off excess fat. Pull meat apart using two forks. Mix pulled meat with rest of barbecue sauce in a large bowl. Serve on buns with coleslaw.


happy new year.

The amount of celebration in this picture is pretty much exactly proportional to our own.