One thing we bought at Ikea was some frozentunnbröd. If you bake them in a hot oven for 3 or 4 minutes, they firm up, at which point you can top them with delicious things and throw them back in for a few more minutes. Every one I made was very satisfying, we'll do these again soon. This one is Västerbotten cheese, red onion, chive, and black pepper.
Holy fucking shit I went to Ikea today, for the first time ever.
It was for a good cause, I swear. There's a problem we're trying to fix:
Ikea was...not as bad as I expected. I compensated myself for enduring real-live consumerism by hypocritically purchasing a handful of my favorite Swedish food items. Hypocrisy can be delicious.
This recipe isn't ready to be used yet. I thought this was exactly what I was looking for, but then we didn't end up using most of the dressing, so maybe it still needs a tweak or two. But if you're looking for something that tastes exactly like a store-bought honey dill mustard thing, this is it.
mustard-dill sauce for salmon.
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sweetish mustard
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup-1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
Well, 100M has fallen prey to yet another 2011 head cold, so we are trading out one comfort food plan (duck confit, sauerkraut, and that horseradish/butter/parsnip mash thing) for another: phở.
Bought some chicken to go into this thing, and with some of the non-necessary bits I'm doing two things: wings; and some kind of lettuce-wraps.
But I'm wondering, why did I not document the cooking process for the superamazing wings I made for Mara's birthday last year? I also don't think I documented the cooking process for this amazing phở I made this summer that involved toasted ginger. Why??? WHAT'S WRONG WITH MEEEEEEEEE??????
UPDATE: Everything worked out fine. Turns out that you just cook the wings for like 20 minutes at 350, 20 minutes at 400, and then blast them at 450 til they're the right color. Or slower if you have time. For wings that you're coating in sauce, you can't really dry them out.
For the rest, below: chicken phở with all accompaniments; red dragon chicken/lettuce wraps, kind of a Momofuku thing, not bad; wings.
Above: low-lit butterscotch pudding. Very very good warm.
Something I've never not improvised is a pan sauce for a freshly-cooked steak. Like: you take your steaks, slap 'em up with salt and pepper, toss them in a hot skillet for 2-5 minutes per side, then take them out and let them rest for 10 minutes.
While yr meat is resting, you make a pan sauce. This can go really well or you can end up with something blackly inedible, but somehow I never really considered why my bad ones ended up bad, I just remade them and they'd be OK.
Then I just read something somewhere the other night that said "after your steaks are out of the skillet and resting, let the pan cool off for a minute and then start making your sauce." DUH. And indeed this is why my sauces sometimes fucked up: too-hot skillet vaporizing my liquid instead of reducing it usefully. And by the time I fucked up the first try and started a second one, the pan was much cooler. DUH DUH DUH.
So here what was in last night's sauce, which was great, ALTHOUGH....it's more about the technique and not obliterating your sauce with an overheated slab of cast-iron.
pan-fried steak with red wine sauce.
2 petite steaks
plenty of salt
plenty of pepper
3/4 cup to 1 cup red wine
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp butter, depending
Follow instructions hinted at above, basically after steaks are resting, turn off heat and let skillet cool for a minute or a bit less. Throw everything in the pan on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, keeping an eye on it so nobody burns up. Serves 2 or so.
You know we don't really do restaurant reviews here in the traditional sense, but if we think there's somewhere worth going, we try to mention it in a findable way. Based on last night's experience, Fraîcheis somewhere worth going.
We had a really really nice evening, so I don't want to linger too much on the less-compelling aspects of the operation, but yeah ok: bad news first. Gripe #1 and I guess really my only serious complaint is that their beer selection was severely, depressingly anemic (Brand, Amstel, and Heineken, WTF? none of those are even beer).
And because there was no beer worth drinking, I was forced to interact with the wine list, something youknow I would normally never complain about (I would just shut up and drink good beer instead), but: the red wine options were weirdly unidimensionally Italianate/Sangiovese, and our time in Italy cured me of ever purposely, excitedly ordering Sangiovese, so I didn't find much joy there either.
OK, now the good news: booze gripes aside, everything else was thoroughly cozy, efficient, and fun. For an Amsterdam restaurant, if you give me a completely charming and friendly waitstaff (check), plus good-to-great music on the stereo (check), you're halfway there. You almost don't even need to be able to cook: the food just needs to show up in a reasonable timeframe and be edible. If your music playlist includes 20 minutes' worth of Bitches Brew, you get doublequadruple one zillion extra points.
The food itself: really carefully done and tasty. Not exactly mind-expanding or anything, but definitely complex, professionally cooked, well-seasoned, and most of all: careful. As in made with care, which is something we don't see a lot of around here.
Our starters were: thin slices of wild boar with cranberry jam and finely diced red cabbage; and I had confit scallop with Israeli couscous and citrus vinaigrette. The scallop was barely cooked (or had the texture of being barely cooked, not sure how a shellfish confit comes into being), the couscous was perfectly done, the citrus-y peppers and shoots on top added a nice mix of textures, and the whole thing was delicate in a way my cooking never is...I liked it very much.
Next up I had "ricotta gnocchi with pickled pumpkin, winter mushrooms, foie gras, smoked pine nuts, cheddar sauce"; ze Mara had "herb-crusted cod with Jerusalem artichoke, parsley root, baby radish, pink grapefruit, tarragon, brown butter." Both were, again, totally enjoyable if not breathtaking...I wish that the non-gnocchi components of my dish had been more assertive (pickled pumpkin + smoked pine nuts, I'm looking at you), and Mara's dish really required every component in every bite in order to really come alive...and almost everything we were served (except my scallop) seemed to benefit from a tiny tiny pinch of the coarse salt that was provided in a little dish before the meal even began, I guess maybe they're undersalting on purpose. In any event: we pretty much licked our plates clean.
Three courses were €35 per person (dessert was a nice white chocolate/mandarin mousse and a petite cheese plate), which is a very very typical price point for three courses in Amsterdam, and this is the important part: I know we've never ever had a meal anywhere else in town with such sophisticated and pretty faultless (and, again, careful) cooking at these prices. I know we'll be back very soon. A brief chat with one of the friendly American chefs revealed a couple of things: 1) that they have all kinds of very exciting plans for new venues over the next few years, and 2) you shouldn't doubt the Duck when it comes to geek knowledge like who's playing soprano on Bitches Brew (it is Wayne).
Oh yeah: Xmas dinner. We're hibernating, as you know. Dinner and a movie for two is the plan. The dinner is: steak with some kind of port/Stilton sauce I haven't decided on; some kind of roasted beet and maybe cranberry relish I haven't decided on yet; garlic mashed taters; roasted parsnips with butter and horseradish maybe; some kind of salad with walnut oil I haven't decided on yet; etc. And something for dessert. That I haven't decided on yet.
Dutch racial insensitivity is in the news quite a bit these days, thought we'd celebrate the occasion with a pack of Negroes. Cookies, I mean.
That's it. We're done with "doing stuff" for the year, as in things that involve responsibility. And it is supernice, I must say....my heart goes out to you (metaphorically) if you're not in this kind of luxurious position.
OK I mean sure there are little things to do, like sending mailorder packages, making web pages, updating spreadsheets, and oh yeah trying to get our really expensive accountants to actually finish our taxes. Fuckers.
But mostly the plan is to sit inside and play Scrabble and catch up on unwatched movies and yes, of course, cook. But otherwise nothing. Sleep. It's been a fucking ridiculous year, you have no idea. Or, yes, some of you have some idea, but the point is: this duck needs to get in the Scimulator for a while and redetermine what everything's all about.
Tomorrow we clean the house and reward ourselves with these.
Wednesday the Mara heads off to Scotland for a few days (and will hopefully be blogging about her trip on this very page!) and that evening I think I'm cooking Japanese. I mean, I'm definitely cooking dinner, I think it will be Japanese. I'm kind of in the zone with it, and since my rehearsal for tomorrow canceled, I have a little extra time to do geeky prep things like make my own okonomiyaki sauce. Here are things I'm thinking about doing:
Just made something really pretty great that I should make a note about, because I've basically been making variations of it for three days now and they're good every time. It's kind of Momofuku-based, but meatless. Bonus: it was nice with a side of hash browns.
butter-browned tofu and mushrooms with ginger-scallion sauce and quick-pickled beets and cucumbers.
1/2 block firm tofu, cubed
1 cup some kind of mushroom, sliced
an onion of some sort, chopped
1 or 2 tbsp butter
2 tsp gochujang (or sriracha for a different heat)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 or 2 tsp raw sugar
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Saute mushrooms in dry pan until nicely browned. Remove. Add butter, tofu, and onion, saute on low heat until tofu is nicely browned. Return mushrooms and add everything else except kimchee puree and pickles. Saute for a few more minutes, adjust seasoning, serve with kimchi puree and pickles as garnish.
Tonight we got a wild hair and went to four places, count 'em FOUR PLACES for drinks. Brief notes follow.
Bridges is in the space where the old Cafe Roux used to be. When we were at In de Wildeman on Friday, we asked a chef friend of ours if he had any recent eating tips and he told us that Bridges seemed nice and that they hadn't blinked at his shabby attire when he dropped in (though in retrospect it was unclear if he'd actually eaten there or just had drinks), so we decided to check it out tonight since we were kind of in the hood.
The decor (pictured, kind of, above) seemed cold and modern at first but actually kind of grew on me as we sat there. It was not our preferred crowd really, maybe it's that wines by the glass were (by my standards) extremely expensive for Europe, up to 16/glass for reds. I did a flight of Pinot Noir (15 euro), because I am FUCKING SOPHISTICATED (and because it made me feel like my glasses of wine cost 5 each), and it was interesting but I didn't fall in love.
The gratis bar snacks were poorly chosen enough to make me not want to order any other food there: twenty roasted cashews (plus two rogue almonds); four huge green olives; and several sticks of julienned courgette, carrot, and daikon served with a curry aioli, which was just totally ill-conceived and called into question the soundness of the entire menu's Asian fusion-y leanings, especially at these prices (most of the apps were above 20 euro, including a 26 euro miso soup). So we finished our drinks and left.
We went down the street to Van Kerkwijk, which used to be a favorite back when we lived nearby a few years ago. We sat at the bar, and immediately realized that things had changed somehow. They only had Brand and Amstelbok for beer and only merlot by the glass (the horror!, i know, but still), the music was shitty, the bartender half-heartedly tried to wipe off the bar when we sat down, but there was this hardened piece of goat cheese stuck on there and she just mushed it around a little and then kind of shrugged and left the crusty part there. Some limp and boring-looking salads sat at the pass the entire time we were there. I don't know, something was wrong, nothing about it filled us with confidence, so we finished our drinks and left.
By this time we were actually getting hungry, so I suggested that we just find something comparatively cheap and greasy like Pasodoble in the Jordaan. So that's where we went. But on the way there we passed De Zagerij (strangely outdated website, no?), which I thought looked kind of promising, so we went in. The menu looked OK, almost really good, and it was a welcoming room, the music was good (old Elvis [Presley]), but yeah, the bartender was giving off this strangely disinterested vibe (imagine that, in Amsterdam). And the menu wasn't sealing the deal, although the smells from the kitchen were pretty yummy. So we finished our drinks and left.
Our high spirits were somehow undiminished by the time we got to Pasodoble (I think our expectations have been permanently lowered, yay!!!). And if you go there, your expectations should be low, something like "well-seasoned, garlicky, decently-fried food in a friendly setting", and then you won't be disappointed. I don't think you could call the food here anything better than OK, but it made us quite happy at the time, way more than any 26 euro plate of scallops and foie gras would have, IMHFO.
I mean, yes, I'm pretty sure their calamari and patatas bravas come out of a bag from the freezer. But I would SO MUCH rather do this than be disappointed by some sloppy, overcomplicated yet careless, mis-seasoned train wreck for twice the price. And there are some nice things here, one especially delicious homemade-seeming thing we had was a chef's special croqueta di jamon with goat cheese, and their gambas pil-pil were good as always. The wine was surprisingly drinkable, the service was friendly and competent as usual, and so yes overall, mission very much accomplished. And then we finished our drinks and left.
It's what we made tonight. Steak. Ginger-scallion sauce. Kimchi puree. Also a buttermilk-sriracha dressing. Also quick-pickled beets and cucumbers. Just look here.
Why did we make all this fun stuffs? We was hung over b/c the Winter of Death made us drink. For those of you not here: it's coooold. And windy. And there's like 3 hours of daylight.
OK more like 6. And it's not even really cold yet. My point is, we went to In de Wildeman (above) with Klary and Zora and Swami Peter and stayed for several hours and now we're hung over so we're inside cooking Momofuku food.
It's weather that's made for being inside. And in this apartment, being inside means not only cooking but also watching movies. We tend to accumulate DVDs in spurts, one side effect of which is that we don't always have time/inclination to watch everything when it shows up at our door. One side effect of which is that we have some pretty great movies just sitting around waiting for us to look at them.
I just went out to Metacritic and looked at their Highest Scores of All Time (which, yes, I realize is not the same as Greatest Movies of All Time, but), and from that list the things we have at home that I've yet to watch is: Fanny and Alexander; Pan's Labyrinth; 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days; Beau Travail; The Lives of Others; Eyes Without a Face; Tarnation; Songs From the Second Floor. Not a bad place to start, and that's just things that have either been released or re-released since 1995 or so.
If you know me at all, you probably know I don't like telephones.
Illustrative anecdote: It's 10am, I just came in from a long hot shower (our shower is out in the hallway). From upstairs I heard the sound of the white noise generator aka Taifun aka loud-as-hell antique-looking black metal (!) fan, so I assumed the Mara was still asleep.
Suddenly the house phone rings (vs. one of our mobiles), a semi-shocking, impolite, and unmodifiable sound. Roughly five people on earth have this phone number, and at this hour it can/should not be anyone we know unless they've just been shot or stabbed or otherwise intruded upon, but the idea of someone calling us as an emergency measure is pretty tragically misguided.
It rings again, jolting me out of my "who could this possibly be" thoughts. Instead of continuing to think, I immediately execute my default pre-noon phone-ringing behavior, which is to deftly remove the phone cable from the phone, thus returning The Pod to its preferred state in one swift antisocial motion.
A beat of silence, and then from upstairs I hear, "You dipshit, it's me."
This would be an artifact of days gone by, when our house used to be of a size/shape where the person just waking up in the upstairs bedroom would call the already-awoken person downstairs in the kitchen to request delivery of one or more breakfast items (or tiems, as I just typed).
So: pleeeeease. Don't feel bad if you call and I don't answer. It's so not personal.
For a table that consisted of four Americans and one Nederlander, we sure did spend a lot of time talking about all things Dutch last night. And yes, the tone may have been bordering on critical (bordering? critical? one of these words is not quite right), but maybe it's like that situation where, for example, a high school English teacher singles out one student in her classroom to always be Hamlet, or Macbeth, or whatever character has the most lines in whatever play the class is reading aloud, so that he'll (the student) have to stay awake and possibly even learn something about the play. Because she (the teacher) sees amazing potential in him that he is squandering away by enacting all kinds of petty, control-freak laws about where people can drink and smoke, what time of day they an do it, and whether or not they an sit or stand during the act. Etc.
Pre-coffee mixed-metaphor experiments aside, last night's meal was pretty much the best Dutch meal ever, seriously. Plus we got to complain about all kinds of things you're not supposed to be able to complain about, like children and immigrants. Good times.
Above: Hollandse garnalen (tiny Dutch shrimp) with cream and chives in Belgian endive. Below: Goudse kaasbolletjes (Gouda cheese puffs), ambachtelijk osseworst (artisanally smoked beef sausage?), cornichons, and mustard; smoked eel on grilled toast (possibly my favorite bite of the evening); superlatively pork-y split pea soup; a delicious dessert pile-up of stoofperen, boterkoek with ginger, homemade advocaat, and whipped cream. Plus lots of beer and jenever. And wine? Jesus. But I really do feel totally fine today.
P.S: If you've ever wondered what the opposite of sympathy is, it's "fuck you".
Discovering my Prael/Wildeman/BurgerBar pics on my phone made me realize that I never made an original post about the night itself.
Mid-October, the moop and I grabbed the bull by his proverbial horns and had a night out together. A brief but diverting evening of beer ended with burgers at Burger Bar.
I had a vague recollection of having eaten there a year or so ago, but beer was probably also involved then and the details had become extra fuzzy. If pressed, I would say that it wasn't good enough to go out of my way for, and the primary disappointers were the the bun and the condiments.
Having found ourselves at In De Wildeman, and hungry, this seemed an opportune moment to try again. Here's the previously-published picture of us planning our Burgers:
At Burger Bar, you get a choice of four different kinds of beef, and there's possibly one vegetarian option these days, can't 'member. You can also choose four different burger sizes. Here's an old menu, b/c their website is currently unusable.
We went for one Black Angus with blue cheese and bacon and one Irish beef with cheddar and bacon. Here's what they looked like when we got them home:
Note the array of condiments. This is b/c mustard is not on the list of default condiments (WTF). Instead you get something along the lines of a "special sauce" which is kind of like Thousand Island but not really. If you are not doing carefully-composed burgers like Burgermeester, and you are serving nothing but beef burgers and located in the tourist center of a city, I can imagine that you have now had people request ketchup and mustard on their burgers roughly 300,000 times. You should learn something from this: everyone will be happier if you just put it on the menu.
The burgers themselves. Beef fine, cooked nicely medium. Bun? Not quite right, too big, a bit plush and tasteless. Overall, a fine late-night post-beer burger for a city that has very few real burger options, but frankly Burgermeester kicks this burger in the ass, hard, in terms of inspired combinations and general deliciousness. Also? these fries were a waste of time and calories, not crisp enough.
One of the best things about having a blog that no one reads is that you can start a post with a picture of a chocolate mousse swastika.
Turns out you can't, our in-house censors nixed that shit. The presentation in question was the most conventionally tasteless moment (initialize segue!) of Tuesday's dinner at Johnny and Mila's: the food itself was extremely and surprisingly (sorry Johnny) tasty: habanero-y steak burritos with excellent guac, a roasted tomato/chipotle salsa made by us, and prefect black beans. Really good.
And then came dessert, tasteless presentations, and a Final Tastelessness so gruesome that I can neither say what happened nor show you the one picture I took of it. Way worse than the swastika. It probably suffices to say that if you know Johnny D. then you can imagine how/where things went.