Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Books received- 2011 means cooking! And fermenting

Wild Fermetation cover 

Very excited about Sandor Ellix Katz's book WILD FERMENTATION, recently featured in The New Yorker. (Love Burkhard Bilger who always seems to get away with writing in-depth queer culture pieces.) 


Thomas Keller's THE FRENCH LAUNDRY COOKBOOK. As much a heavy and beautiful art book as a cookbook, this tome convinces me that a kickstarter drive for truffles is a must. I have/had big plans to go to Keller's famous Yountville restaurant this January for my 32nd birthday. Turns out they close for much of January for a winter holiday!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bakin' Bacon Cookies

The other evening I was sharing a piece of Nosh This bacon crack with my friend Tuck Mayo, a severe meat eater, when he shared with me his recipe for Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies! "You just replace the butter in the Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe with bacon fat." That's it? "Yep." So easy! Once a month I bake cookies for my RADAR Reading Series, so I decided that BCCC would be the December offering. This is why me and my entire home now smell like a giant greasy, smokey slab of bacon.

So firstly you have to cook up enough bacon to siphon one cup of fat from it. That's about two packages of bacon.

I ate this much bacon once. I washed it down with a bunch of homemade beignets and coffee, and I didn't have a bowel movement for so long it became painful to walk, and I had to be driven to Walgreens to purchase this little glycerin thing you put in your butt to make you poop. I now fear mass quantities of bacon, as everyone should. What am I going to do with all meat?! I'm not going to eat it. Especially since if I want to savor the taste of bacon, all I have to do it chew on a piece of my hair, or suck on my shirt sleeves or a dishtowel or something.

Here are your ingredients: 
2 + 1/4 cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup bacon grease 
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Mix the flour and the baking soda and the salt together, while making  BACON PLAYLIST on your computer.

In the awesome Kitchen Aid mixer you found on sale at an outlet mall on the side of the road somewhere in Colorado, mix bacon grease, the sugars, and the vanilla. What, you don't have a Kitchen Aid mixer? Go get one, Mary! I know they're a hunk of cash but they're worth it! At the time I purchased this I was in a relationship with a stoner who feared change, and the sight of the new appliance entering the house was so devastating no amount of bong rips could soothe the anxiety. We broke up. Can you believe that? We got back together, but any relationship that does not celebrate the addition of a glamorous new Kitchen Aid mixer is doomed. Love dies, but Kitchen Aid mixers last forever, pretty much.

Blend it together while musing on what makes music 'bacony'. The White Stripes are definitely bacony. Band of Horses, too. Bacony music seems like music that suggests you're making camp coffee on the side of a mountain, in a damp chill while wearing something plaid.

Add your eggs. Nick Cave seems sort of bacony too, like the flecks of charred grease that floated in the fat each time I dumped it from the pan. That was sort of Nick Cave-ish, maybe a bit like The Cramps. The Cramps is bacon music.

Add the flour. You know what's not bacony? Hercules and Love Affair. La Roux. The Knife. I think bacony music is basic rock n roll. X is bacony. The Kills are bacony. Bacon is like the cigarettes of meat. If you can imagine the song being sung by a person who is clutching a cigarette, it is probably good bacon music.

Add the chocolate chips. It feels good to empty a bag of chocolate chips into a dish. Like, yeah, I'm using the whole fucking bag! Of chocolate chips! Are you with me?

Look how greasy the dough is! While normal cookie dough is sort of gloppy, this dough is more gloopy. I will not be licking the bowl or otherwise sampling the raw dough. I also won't be licking the frying pan.

Oh yeah, preheat that oven to 375! Drop the dough in rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie pan. Shove the little bastards in there and let them cook for 9-11 minutes.

Burn a batch while agonizing over whether or not Joy Division is bacony. Really. Note that although the cookies are like seriously burnt, they're not hard or crispy. They're sort of sluggish and oily and they slide off the pan into the garbage with a certain heaviness.

Successfully bake a batch of Bacon Chocolate Cookies. Look at them! They look . . . different. I don't know if my lousy digital camera captures their aura. They look like they have a secret inside them. Like they're up to no good. Their lightly browned outsides remind me of the faces of women who've had plastic surgery. They're not what they seem.

Let them sit on the baking sheet for two minutes thinking about what they've done. Then put them on a wire rack to cool.

I can't eat any kind of chocolate chip cookie - or really any cookie at all without a glass of ice cold milk. Like, really cold. Sometimes I put it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Hmmmm. They taste . . . different. Do they taste bacony? I think, a little. It's more like they taste like a hot frying pan. Do they taste greasy? I mean they're not bad - I will eat another one - but it's not the bacon that makes them not bad, it's the chocolate chips. Maybe they'll taste better when they're cooled a bit more and the bacon fat solidifies or something? I think I like them with butter better.  mean, I actually believe that a basic, simple chocolate chip cookie is like the best thing ever and should not be improved upon, but I couldn't resist baking non-vegetarian cookies, just to for the adventure of it. The taste of them remains mysterious.

As for the Bacon Playlist, I realized that I really need to be making a BACON CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE PLAYLIST! Which is a vastly different undertaking. Here is what I came up with, limited by the songs I have on my computer. Some songs speak to the bacon. Some speak to the cookie, the chocolate chips. Some speak to the unholy alliance of bacon and cookie, to their hybrid nature, their mystery, to the duality alive within them. Some speak to the cookie's holistic and undeniable power. All selections were intuitive.

Cannonball / The Breeders
Aphrodisiac / Bow WowWow
Let Me Fix My Weave / Missy Elliot
Disorder / Joy Division
Dumbwaiters / The Psychedelic Furs
Nice Boys / Guns and Roses
The Wrong Way / TV on the Radio
Crimewave / Crystal Castles

Destination Unknown / Missing Persons
Good Sister / Bad Sister / Hole
I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts / X
Dirt / The Stooges
Dimestore Diamond / Gossip
Jumble, Jumble / The White Stripes
Let's Spend the Night Together / David Bowie
I Like It Rough / Lady Gaga

By Michelle Tea

On Being a Vegan Portlander in Maui

Nicole J Georges: Artist, Writer, Vegan   

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ode to a Taqueria

Ask a fellow San Franciscan their favorite taqueria in town and their response will likely be immediate, unequivocal and possibly smug. Maybe you'll detect a whiff of defensiveness.

16th btw Mission and Valencia

While shoving my face full with a guinea pig-sized spicy chicken burrito at El Toro today, I considered that I am of the smug and defensive opinion that El Toro and nearby sister store Pancho Villa are It. Either give me a burrito from one of these taquerias or don't waste my time.

Valencia @ 17th St.
For a taco, however, Haltun, also in the Mission (down the street from my apartment) specializes in food from the Yucatan -an obsession of mine- and their walk-up window is a gift from a generous and loving food god. The ingredients and tastes are so fresh and exciting, I would happily pay far more than $1.75 for a taco here. The fish tastes like it was caught that morning.  I took my brilliant writer friend, Lucy, here for a couple of tacos before last week's mussel Food Adventure and we gushed, food dribbling off our chins, about the miracle of cilantro and good fish.

21st @ Treat St. Oh what a treat!

 If I'm going on a late-night dairy bender, nachos at El Farolito (the one at Mission and 24th) are worth the sore throat, puffy face and disgruntled stomach.

24th st Bart station

Naturally you either agree with me and feel a strong carmarderie and think, 'Wow, I could really be good friends and eating champions with this blogger' or you think 'What a shyster! Anyone with taste buds knows that _____ is the best tacqueria in town!"

Go ahead, challenge me.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Food Adventurer's Goals for 2011

Nation, I am both anxious and a Capricorn. I, therefore, live my life in list-form, desperately crossing off what I've done to demonstrate - to myself I suppose - that I am alive. This is not stated to elicit pity. Rather, I hope to offer a model of living to other anxious Internet seekers who have late-night existential angst.

And so I am developing my 2011 Food Goals which I will share here in hopes that a public(?) forum will keep me on task:

In no particular order
1. Dinner with Calvin Trillin.
Mr. Trillin is my favorite food writer and I have many favorites. His obsessive quest for the best food in every American town during his journalistic travels in the 60s, 70s and beyond seems so ahead of its time, food-wise. I inhaled The Tummy Trilogy and recommend you do too. Thanks to my kinship with many writers, I have a 2-removed connection to Mr. Trillin and just mailed him a letter yesterday requesting a meal together when I'm in New York next month for a conference. Who knows? My writer friends have a vast continuum of responses to their fanbase's outreach. Plus, I offered to pay.


2. Alinea
Molecular gastronomy is not a new thing these days but it's still new to me. Ever since reading a fabulous play-by-play by one writer/eater whose essay wound up in the 2008 Best Food Writing, I've wanted to drop some a whole lot of money in this Chicago restaurant and take the culinary tour of what is chemically possible in the realm of food science. I have cause to visit Chicago this April with my bestie and my girlfriend and it's ON.

 Fruit on a Stick, Beijing, China.

3. Haw berries on sticks in Beijing
I won't bore/gross you out with what's happened to my right kidney but assume I've reprioritized my life thanks to recent health scares. Bodies break down, we die. And there is SO MUCH FOOD to eat before we finally do.  I'm going back to China, a country I love  dearly. Traveling in China is one giant culinary goal because the food is so amazing and so varied but one taste I need in 2011 is the sugar-coated Haw berry on a stick in Beijing. You see these everywhere; peddlers bike them around town in winter. 

In 2000, too depressed to leave my dorm room in Tianjin, watching endless VCDs with my equally depressed roommate, we would leave only to get food. Within 5 minutes of our sad international dorm was a holeinthe wall Korean restaurant, billions of Chinese snacks, Fei Chang cola (the future will be better was its tag line), and Haw berries on a stick. So tart and crisp, they are coated in caramelized sugar and a person just gnaws them right off. Better than an American candied apple, truly.

I'm on better meds and a decade older so I will gather 3-6 of my best adventurous friends and we will travel all over China at the end of 2011 and I'll introduce them to this delight on a stick!

 4. Make and eat a classic Beef Wellington
For some, Beef Wellington is a typical holiday meal. I've never eaten one since Christmas Eve in my family meant poker, drunken fighting over what time to leave Aunt Carol's, cold cuts on a tray, and me watching Gone with the Wind with my cousin on the rec room floor.

Beef Wellington represents more time and money than my family members typically put into food, except for the time my dad built a brick grill pit in our backyard to entertain his work buddies. 

Before I need to call my therapist for an emergency phone-session, I'll move on. My gf's dad recommended I get a subscription to Fine Cooking (linked above) which I did and -behold- there is a photo essay on BEEF WELLINGTON. Old timey and old Americana, I knew it must be mine. I'll recreate the upper middle class WASPy childhood I was denied.

5. Expand my Yucatan cuisine prowess
Because I am more fortunate than I deserve, each summer I cook for writers on an artist retreat in Akumal, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula.

A self-taught cook, I decided that if I were going to earn my keep and continue to be invited back to this paradise on the Mayan Riviera, I'd better expand my repertoire. The first year, I explored Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro and loved it so much I almost sent her a fan letter. Lourdes really breaks down a recipe into simple beauty and she gives a comprehensive shopping list and glossary of foods and spices. In year 2, I expanded with Diana Kennedy's Mexican Cooking and The Essential Cuisines of Mexico for which the writers were grateful. This year, my 3rd annual summer as a cook for a writers retreat, I want to try the dishes I've been avoiding out of fear, insecurity or plain laziness. There are a few barriers (no oven is a big one) but I now bring a suitcase of cookware and my ceramic chef's knife to use so tick tock.

African cucumber

6. Sample new fruits
Since reading Adam Gollner's The Fruit Hunters, I've suspected/feared I will have wasted my life if I do not devise a way to taste coco de mer.

I'm lucky that I've tasted some fruits that the dead and dying back in my little town would consider rare: buddha's hand, dragon fruit, lychee, mangosteen, durian, miracle fruit (as of tomorrow), the aforetomentioned haw berry and more. I even bought a Grapple one time in a Columbia, Missouri grocery store.What's horrific is how many edible fruits there are in the world that a person never even learns about let alone tastes!

Time to get on with it! How about jack fruit, cloud berries, heritage apples, ice cream beans, jaboticaba, kinbaran, fresher mangosteen and everything that is pictured above that I do not know the names for.

California has a large rare fruits growers community that is reputed to be nearly unpenetrable.  But I have endless charisma, so penetrate I shall! Read Gollner's book. It's incredibly absorbing and you get very existential wondering what you've spent your life doing in lieu of hunting rare fruits. Then come with me on a roadtrip to California rare fruit growers where we will do unseemly things to try new fruit!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Excellent gift to give or request this holiday season

Get a subscription NOW to Gastronomica. You won't regret it.

I am still haunted by reading "The Night the Good Ship Went Down: Three Fateful Dinners Aboard the Titanic" by Andrea Broomfield.

Wonder what they ate on the Titanic and how the meals served reflected the shifting social class in the New World. Well, wonder no more!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mussels in the Rain

Food Adventure #9- Harvesting Mussels
December 4, 2010

The Big 5 Sporting Goods staff did not welcome our 11-person group descending on their Daly City store to purchase one-day fishing licenses. We were sternly urged to "please stay in one line" and "leave the store once we'd finished our purchase" by a frazzled manager who was summonsed from the mysterious back by a frazzled-er cashier. Our Adventure leaders insisted on this pitstop, though, since one is from Alaska and knows the high price fishing without a license can run you, should we be ticketed.

Rain nor mud nor slippery rocks nor angry sporting goods store workers would keep us from our mussels. All told we spent nearly $150 on these licenses and one look at the bivalve-infested low tide exposed scenery made me, for one, grateful YET AGAIN that I live in the Bay Area where all food dreams can come true.

It's an understatement to tell you that I was moved - MOVED - by the gorgeous horror that is ripping the bivalve from her rocks. The twisting, the screwdriver, the prying; we were truly monsters and still I felt as if I were engaging in something ancient and inevitable. This was our human birthright, to forage and eat what we could find that does not kill us. We were connected to our ancestors, right?  I trolled around to three different huddles of Adventurers and shared my deep anthropological thoughts and was shot down by every member.

I moved on to share my insights with the sea and happened upon dozens of angelic starfish. But wait! Do you know that starfish are cold blooded KILLERS? Carnivorous beasts, their slow moves mask their endless appetite for the very mussels we were after. Never trust a thing that regenerates limbs.

Several hours and 6 buckets later, we had more pounds of mussels than we should admit. Off to Adventure Leader Sarah's beautiful Mission-district apartment to scrub, de-beard and steam these beautiful creatures!

Sarah FW had prepped two sauces: white wine/butter/garlic and a red wine/ tomato/ lemon for the gentle deaths. Also, a heaping mountain of two-color fettuccine, generous loaves of bread, and a wide wedge of brie.

The vaginal qualities of the mussel (and other shellfish, let's be honest) cannot be denied, especially with a backdrop of Sarah FW's dirty salt & pepper shakers! This one was from Grandma!

Mussels require endless scrubbing since so many baby mussels, infant anemones, fetal snails and sundry other sea life who do not deserve an early death travel on their mighty shells! Then they sit in fresh water for a good 20 minutes filtering sand before we struggled to de-beard about 3 dozen of them. By 9pm or so, hangry and slight drunk, we feasted!

Like most feasts, the prep time was a good 100x actual eating time. No matter. It was glorious and we each selected a favorite shell to make our official Food Adventure Club Adventure #9 badge for our official Food Adventure Club sashes.  The group selected E.O and Ali as co-leaders of the January Coca Cola feast adventure!

There is so much food to eat and life is so short!

* PHOTOS BY B. FOSBROOK except dinner table shot which is by E.O.S.