calamari

This last week was real hell.  After my last post, I spent another 3 days flat on my back on pain meds.  Unreal. I finally began to emerge on sunday, and yesterday, just in time for my top up appointment, I was feeling pretty well.  Well enough that I decided to shoot a little video last night while I cooked.

When I walked into the office yesterday my doc said “I have news for you,” ominously as he passed to go see another patient.  When it was my turn he announced that over the weekend he had done some research on the pain.  That it was NOT the oxaliplatin on its own.  BUT that oxaliplatin in conjunction with 5FU and luekovorin DID cause pain in a certain percentage of patients.  What sort of pain was not made clear in the study.  I feel I should point out to you here that this particular drug cocktail is very common.  Common enough to have a name.  It’s called Folfox, and almost all colon cancer cases are treated with it.   The notion that you have to look for some obscure study to find a list of the synergistic side effects of the cocktail as a whole seems crazy.  Anyway.  The pain is there.  It’s been getting worse each round for the last 4.  We’re going to try to treat it with extra strength Motrin instead of oxycodone (I have my doubts).  We’re also going cross our fingers/pray/wish/hope etc.. that it just goes away.

Last night I made a little calamari as an appetizer for dinner and thought I should throw up a video and some instructions.

Calamari is cheap and easy.  Usually there won’t be any leftover.

It’s an ultimate salt and pepper don’t fuck it up type dish.

Rinse and strain the calamari.

Cut up the tubes into 3/8″ or so rings.  I prefer the tentacles, myself, and so I often send Hillary to the fish counter, since she’s far better looking than me and twice as charming.  She usually manages to come away with about 80% tentacle.  Nice. The tentacles, you can leave whole.  Press them to the bottom of the colander to get as much moisture out of them as possible.

Dredge all the bits in a mix of all purpose flour, salt, pepper, and some dried parsley..  I don’t typically keep dried herbs around.  They all taste the same to me (maybe with the exception of dried mexican oregano, which I usually do have on hand).  Fresh parsley will work fine..  Just dice it up fine and dry it out in the oven for a while so that it doesn’t gum up the dredging mix.

Toss the dredged bits into some nice hot oil, stir occaisionally, and remove when they’re a satisfying brown.  Drain on brown paper.

I like to serve them with a little aioli, or I guess to be accurate, flavored mayonnaise.  In this case I did one with mashed garlic and pepper (oh oh..   learn to mash garlic.  It’s in the video.  First slice it as thin as you are able.  Then put some salt on it.  The salt acts as an abrasive.  Using the side of the knife edge, mash it into the counter top.  This takes just a little practice, but once you’ve got it down, you can reduce a clove of garlic into super nice oily garlic paste in about 30 seconds flat).  The other was mixed with a little Patak’s garlic pickle.  Outstanding stuff.  Great on sandwiches.

That’s it.  You’re done.  Serve it on a bed of salad to make it look cute.  And maybe have it with some soup that you made for lunch the day before. This is the sort of thing that people often get at restaurants.. don’t bother.  It’s easy to do at home, and is almost free (I believe this was about $4 of squid, maybe less).

ATTENTION!!  My brother is playing at poisson rouge tonight.  It’s a new series he’s doing where he invites friends who happen to be in town to join him on stage and play some of his music, some of theirs.  The first one, last month, was great.  This one promises to be as well.  The official guests are Justin Bond (who if you don’t know, is the grande damme of NYC cabaret, and a beautiful soul), and the Poison Tree (Steve Salett’s new band..  formerly head man of King of France, and one of the truly great song writers out there).  Though it’s not published, I happen to know that our pals Glen Hansard and Samamidon will also be playing.  So if you’re not busy tonight, come join us! Get tickets. It will sell out.

Ok. Thank you all for your words of encouragement this last bunch of days. I was stuck in a pretty bleak place, but am really feeling much better now. Can’t promise I won’t spend a little time horizontal this afternoon in order to make it to the show tonight.

calamari

This last week was real hell.  After my last post, I spent another 3 days flat on my back on pain meds.  Unreal. I finally began to emerge on sunday, and yesterday, just in time for my top up appointment, I was feeling pretty well.  Well enough that I decided to shoot a little video last night while I cooked.

When I walked into the office yesterday my doc said “I have news for you,” ominously as he passed to go see another patient.  When it was my turn he announced that over the weekend he had done some research on the pain.  That it was NOT the oxaliplatin on its own.  BUT that oxaliplatin in conjunction with 5FU and luekovorin DID cause pain in a certain percentage of patients.  What sort of pain was not made clear in the study.  I feel I should point out to you here that this particular drug cocktail is very common.  Common enough to have a name.  It’s called Folfox, and almost all colon cancer cases are treated with it.   The notion that you have to look for some obscure study to find a list of the synergistic side effects of the cocktail as a whole seems crazy.  Anyway.  The pain is there.  It’s been getting worse each round for the last 4.  We’re going to try to treat it with extra strength Motrin instead of oxycodone (I have my doubts).  We’re also going cross our fingers/pray/wish/hope etc.. that it just goes away.

Last night I made a little calamari as an appetizer for dinner and thought I should throw up a video and some instructions.

Calamari is cheap and easy.  Usually there won’t be any leftover.

It’s an ultimate salt and pepper don’t fuck it up type dish.

Rinse and strain the calamari.

Cut up the tubes into 3/8″ or so rings.  I prefer the tentacles, myself, and so I often send Hillary to the fish counter, since she’s far better looking than me and twice as charming.  She usually manages to come away with about 80% tentacle.  Nice. The tentacles, you can leave whole.  Press them to the bottom of the colander to get as much moisture out of them as possible.

Dredge all the bits in a mix of all purpose flour, salt, pepper, and some dried parsley..  I don’t typically keep dried herbs around.  They all taste the same to me (maybe with the exception of dried mexican oregano, which I usually do have on hand).  Fresh parsley will work fine..  Just dice it up fine and dry it out in the oven for a while so that it doesn’t gum up the dredging mix.

Toss the dredged bits into some nice hot oil, stir occaisionally, and remove when they’re a satisfying brown.  Drain on brown paper.

I like to serve them with a little aioli, or I guess to be accurate, flavored mayonnaise.  In this case I did one with mashed garlic and pepper (oh oh..   learn to mash garlic.  It’s in the video.  First slice it as thin as you are able.  Then put some salt on it.  The salt acts as an abrasive.  Using the side of the knife edge, mash it into the counter top.  This takes just a little practice, but once you’ve got it down, you can reduce a clove of garlic into super nice oily garlic paste in about 30 seconds flat).  The other was mixed with a little Patak’s garlic pickle.  Outstanding stuff.  Great on sandwiches.

That’s it.  You’re done.  Serve it on a bed of salad to make it look cute.  And maybe have it with some soup that you made for lunch the day before. This is the sort of thing that people often get at restaurants.. don’t bother.  It’s easy to do at home, and is almost free (I believe this was about $4 of squid, maybe less).

ATTENTION!!  My brother is playing at poisson rouge tonight.  It’s a new series he’s doing where he invites friends who happen to be in town to join him on stage and play some of his music, some of theirs.  The first one, last month, was great.  This one promises to be as well.  The official guests are Justin Bond (who if you don’t know, is the grande damme of NYC cabaret, and a beautiful soul), and the Poison Tree (Steve Salett’s new band..  formerly head man of King of France, and one of the truly great song writers out there).  Though it’s not published, I happen to know that our pals Glen Hansard and Samamidon will also be playing.  So if you’re not busy tonight, come join us! Get tickets. It will sell out.

Ok. Thank you all for your words of encouragement this last bunch of days. I was stuck in a pretty bleak place, but am really feeling much better now. Can’t promise I won’t spend a little time horizontal this afternoon in order to make it to the show tonight.

SHANKS!

Ok.  Here it is.  I’ve been promising this one for a long time, and have finally gotten around to it.

Braising is a great thing to know how to do, and once you get a feel for the general technique you can apply it to all sorts of meats and even veg.  There are lots of different attitudes about braising.  Michael Psilakis has a recipe for braising goat that involves LOTS of liquid.  To me, braising is a pretty dry affair though.  Quite distinct from stewing, which is another way to slowly slowly make tougher meats fall apart and be delicious!

That is the crux of the thing.  Braising allows you to render otherwise tough meats completely tender.  Lamb shanks are the perfect first thing to try, because there’s really very little else you can do with them!!  They are simply some of the nicest meat on the lamb, and yet are super cheap here in the U.S., because no one seems to know how to cook them!  We WIN!

So here’s how it goes.  Don’t blink, it’s pretty simple.

Liberally salt and pepper the lamb.  In a nice heavy pan, brown the meat in some oil.  Pull it out and reserve.  Immediately, toss garlic and mirepoix (that’s french for celery, carrots, and onion) into the oil.  Saute the veg until it gets a little tender.  You’ll notice that JUST the liquid from the veg goes a long way to deglazing much of the meaty bits that are browned onto the pan.  Deglaze the pan properly by adding some red wine.  Arrange the meat in the pan.  Salt and pepper.  Add herbs (in this case I used thyme and rosemary).  Cover it up and put it in a nice slow oven.  275 or so.  300 maybe.  I don’t know, my oven dial isn’t accurate.

That’s it.  You’re done.  Now you just wait.  I suggest napping with your dog..  or perhaps taking a nice bath with a glass of bourbon.  Doesn’t matter.  You’ll find something good to do.  One of the great things about braising is that it really does the work on its own.  You can get it going, and then have plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, and do prep work for whatever else you’re eating, without having to worry too much about the last minute timing of the meat.

How long it takes will depend on the size of the piece of meat, and the actual temperature that you landed on!  But count on three hours or so.  Nice and slow.

Once you’ve got a handle on this technique, you can start inventing..  Sometimes for a nice mexican braised pork, I’ll brown a shoulder rubbed with cumin, and braise it over celery and onions, using Lime and Tequila as the liquid.  Same technique, totally different outcome.

Short ribs love to be braised.  Brisket! DUCK LEGS!!!

So, the fundamentals are..  browned meat, some sort of veg content (usually some variation on mirepoix), and a little liquid (it helps if the liquid has some acid content), heavy dutch oven type pot with a tight fitting lid.  Low low temperature, for a long time.  That’s it.

I won’t go into the potatoes and chard here.  Pretty self explanatory.  But I will just mention the mint pesto.  Last night was the first time I did it this way, and it was really pretty wonderful.  Mint, fresh lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, some sherry vinegar, and *gasp* a little sugar.  Zizz it up in a food processor and eat.  Do this right before you serve so that the pesto doesn’t go all dark and unappealing.

OK.  Enjoy.

Let me know if I left anything out.

OH, as a side note:  Sam Amidon stopped by while I was editing this, to talk about some music videos that I’m going to make for him.  We decided to throw “Way go Lily” on the top to see how it felt.  He loved it..  thought it had the vibe of a Kanye remix.  Sam is a tremendous artist, and you can listen to that track and others on his website.  (Once you’re there, if you follow the videos link, you’ll find a video that I made for him YEARS ago).

UPDATE! Holly asked if there was anything worthwhile to do with the leftover mirepoix/brazing liquid. There is, for SURE. If you skim off some of the fat (no all), and then toss the whole mess into a food processor, you can zizz it into a really tasty sauce. Return it to the pan after processing, pour in a bit of cream, put a little heat under it, and let it reduce just a little. Refresh it with a little fresh thyme. It’s not the prettiest stuff in the world.. Sort of an orange brown gook. But SUPER tasty.

Aztec Soup

Ok so. I waffled a little about posting this video, because I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but decided in the end that it was perfectly suitable as an instructional and that it needn’t be much more than that!*** The soup, at any rate, is delicious.

Of all the things that I’ve made repeatedly over the years, this may go the farthest back and is the one that the most people have asked me to show them how to make. I’ve been making this soup since I was in high school, 20 years ago. It has changed little over the years. It may have as little to do with the Aztecs as I do, but that’s what I’ve always called it anyway.

There’s a quick way and a protracted way to go about it. I’ll describe the longer version first.

  • A whole chicken
  • Onions
  • Poblano peppers
  • Ancho chiles
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Limes
  • Fresh tortillas
  • Cilantro
  • Mix of Cheddar and Jack cheese

Make chicken stock. I’ve discussed this in another post, so I won’t go on about it here (except maybe to remind you again to put a bowl under the colander when you strain it so you don’t pour what you’re trying to keep down the drain!!). For this particular soup, you can rehydrate some ancho chiles in the stock as it simmers. This allows you to capture all that nice chile tea!  Anchos are great, and with the lime are really the core flavor of this soup.  “Ancho” means wide, and is the name they give the dried version of poblano chiles.  AHA!  Usually in the supermarket poblanos are dark green, but as they mature, they turn red (like bell peppers) and get sweeter.  The dried version is not a particularly spicy chile, but is super fruity and flavorful.  It sort of tastes like apricots.

Roast poblano peppers over open flame, turning them now and then.  The goal is to char/blister the skin.  Do this HOT.  The cooler you do it, the more you cook the chile pepper before blistering the skin, and I happen to like my roasted chiles to still have a little resistance to them, especially if they’re going into a soup.  Once they’re charred, place them in a plastic bag and let them rest.  They’ll sweat in there like a little chile sauna, and by the time they’ve cooled, the skins will come off easily.  Peel them, core them, remove the seeds, cut them into ribbons and reserve.

Juice some limes.  Lots!

Make some tortilla chips.  Hot oil.  A wok works well to give you a little depth without having to use TOO much oil.  Work in batches, and if you have a weak stove, allow the oil to get back up to temp between those batches.  Making your own is SO much better than buying the bagged kind.  Homemade ones are thicker and have a completely different texture.  They hold up MUCH better in soup, too.  When you pull them out of the oil, let them drain on some brown paper, and immediately salt them!!

Slice onions.  Slice the hydrated ancho chiles.  Dice some garlic.

Put a nice big heavy soup pot on the stove, and warm it up over medium heat.  Coat the bottom with oil.  Drop in the garlic and the chiles.  Let these simmer and infuse the oil for a moment, then add a good amount of ground cumin.  The cumin is super absorbent, and may gum up the works if you haven’t got enough oil in the pot..  no problem!  Add a little more.  Eventually add the onions, and saute the whole mix.  Once the onions are starting to go a little translucent and have taken on the red of the chiles, add the chicken, and stir to coat.  Add chicken stock to cover.  Allow this to sit over very low heat for half an hour or so.  Just let it steep.  When you’re ready to eat, add the roasted poblanos and lime juice.

Serve it however you like!  I like to fill a bowl with torilla chips and cheese, and just ladle the soup over the top.  A little cilantro and, TA DA!

  • If they’re in season, it is delicious to add slices of avocado at the last moment.  Use one on the slightly firm side of ripe and it’ll hold up in there beautifully.
  • As described here, this isn’t a super spicy soup!  Anchos and poblanos are both very mild.  Feel free to spice it up with the addition of some hotter chiles, fresh or dried.
  • The quick version mentioned above is to skip the process of making stock.  If you use decent store bought stock, and the meat from a rotisserie chicken, you can make this soup in about 20 minutes flat, and it’s still awfully good!

***Those of you still reading are total champs.  I’m experimenting with this whole directions for cooking thing.  Soon I will be writing a proper diatribe against the “recipe.”  I hate the word, and I’ll try to convince you to hate it too.  In the mean time, I’m liking this idea of a visual aid..  Not a proper instructional video with spoken directions and etc, but instead something that captures the spirit of the thing a little.  I feel that a supa fast video (could also be a bunch of stills, but they’d take up too much room!), along with some written instructions could be a working combination.  Please let me know if it works for you..  or, at the very least is entertaining!

sardine pasta

Here’s my take on a Sicilian classic. Made it last night.
Using fresh sardines is a serious bonus, but not strictly necessary. Canned sardines are GREAT, and a really easy thing to have around.

You’ll need:
Sardines
Onion
Garlic
Red pepper flakes
Pine nuts*
Golden raisins*
parsley
bread crumbs
grape tomatoes*

*really all quite optional! This CAN be a very simple pasta, made from things that are easy to keep in the pantry, and still taste great.

Get a big pot of pasta water going. Lots of salt.

If using fresh sardines, liberally salt them and coat with olive oil. In a grill pan or cast iron or whatever you’ve got around, grill them up! A grill pan with a panini press works beautifully. Pretty high heat.. first side for a couple of minutes.. second side a little less. You’ll be able to tell.
Once they’ve cooled a little, flake the meat of the bones and reserve.. Don’t worry too much about the really fine bones.. you won’t choke on them. If you’re using canned sardines, just pull them out of the can and chop them coarsely.

Dice onions. Dice garlic. Pan roast grape tomatoes. Soak golden raisins in warm water. Toast pine nuts.

You’re ready to go!

Start the pasta. Everything remaining will take about the same amount of time as the past will to cook.

Saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and onions in a nice flashy pan.
Once the onions are looking translucent, add the pine nuts and raisins and sardines.
Keep the mixture moving, but delicately. Sardines are pretty delicate little fishies, and it’s easy to make them totally disintegrate at this stage (which some people like in this pasta.. I prefer a chunkier more rustic feeling version).

Once the past is finished and drained, add the parsley to the pan, followed by the pasta.. Make sure that there’s plenty of olive oil in the pan to keep the pasta from sticking. Toss delicately but well. Add the tomatoes and incorporate.

Divide onto plates, and top with pan toasted bread crumbs and good Parmesan. (now before you purists jump down my throat about mixing cheese and fish, I’m happy to say that while I know it’s sacrilege, I happen to like it in this case! um. so there.)

Enjoy.

One of the really nice things about this little pasta dish is that sardines are one of the fishies we’re really supposed to be eating. They reproduce fast, reach maturity fast, are at the bottom of the food chain, so they don’t accumulate tons of heavy metals, and they are NOT over fished. They are also chock full of all those amazingly good for you fish oils. And on top of it all, they’re CHEAP! The six you saw in the video cost us just over $5 (a NICE can of them can cost as much and only yield about a third the meat. Mind you, fresh ones aren’t easy to find. We’re lucky to have two supermarkets nearby that have them a couple of days a week).

This week has been ok. Night 1 was brutal. Aches and pains, nausea, etc. Didn’t eat much dinner.
Morning of day two I was still feeling pretty crappy, but put on full rain gear and strolled across the park in the sleet/rain. It was simply beautiful. Hardly a soul in the park. beautiful white and grey day. I felt better leaving chemo than I had felt when I walked in. The oxaliplatin from the day before seemed to have worked it’s way out of my system. I came home, napped, and cooked some dinner.

Feeling fine today. I’ll head in at around 11 to get this bloody pump unplugged and then go down town to play a little pool with Jeremiah. It’s a rough life!

EDIT: obviously this post didn’t go up quite when I expected it to. Video still needed a little work. It’s evening now. Feeling a little beat up from this round, but DID manage to play pool all afternoon with my good friend J. Came home. Finished up the video. For those of you who actually try some of these directions for cooking, let me know if the video helps.. It seems to me that with my stubborn unwillingness to give amounts, or even terribly clear directions, that seeing it unfold, even at warp speed, might elucidate things a little. If so, I will endeavor to keep them coming.

Big love.

last night’s dinner

Seth and Eunice recently sent me some really nice polenta after Eunice posted some particularly nice looking cornbread on flickr and I said “nom nom.”  It inspired this meal last night.  We’ve been buying some beautiful duck from the farmer’s market recently.  Really hard to beat.  There is SO much amazing fat on the breasts, that if you render it out you can use it for all sorts of things..  In this case, for frying up the parsnips!  wow.

I cooked up the polenta with some chicken stock, then poured it out onto the counter, and spread it nice and thin.  Once it cooled, I cut it into fingers, lightly coated it with oil, and put it in a hot oven (450 or so) until the fingers were nicely browned.  So good.  This polenta they sent was just amazing.  Dried corn that still tastes like CORN!

But here’s the thing I want to talk about:  Escarole.  When I eat escarole, I’m with the one I love.

For a while now I’ve been wandering around in the produce section just knowing that there’s some vegetable that’s been missing.  It’s escarole!  It’s not that I hadn’t had the stuff before..  but I have recently fallen in love.  We have it about every other night lately, and I’ve come up with a great simple way to make it.

Thinly slice some garlic and slowly brown it in plenty of olive oil.  Empty out the pan through a strainer into a bowl or something and set aside the garlic.  Now you’ve got beautiful garlic oil AND nice garlic chips to garnish.

Get a flashy pan nice and hot, add the garlic oil, and just before it starts smoking like mad, throw in the escarole (washed and chopped with the wash water still clinging to it..).  Keep the escarole moving until the pan cools down a little, then cover it for 30 seconds or so to steam.  Check on it.  Don’t over cook it.  Salt and pepper..  don’t fuck it up.  Turn the pan out into a bowl and top with the garlic chips.  Too many beautiful.  (oh oh!!  and lately it’s been $0.49 per lb at our local super market!!).

Ok.