How to Satisfy Your Wife

The Gourmale shows you how to satisfy your wife—in a mere 3.5 minutes!! Please remember, I’m not a chef – I’m just a dude who digs food. This episode focuses primarily on braising, which is an amazing way to get food both golden brown, and incredibly moist and tender.

Recipes featured in this video include the following. I don’t really measure stuff, I kind of play it as it lays:

Quick Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Pecorino
Toast crushed walnuts in a pan over med-high heat for about 5 mins until golden brown, and let cool. Shave brussels sprouts (pref. with a mandoline), grate pecorino, add walnuts. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over, add a fair portion of extra-virgin olive oil and toss. If you’re feelin citrus’y, add some orange slices. Tasty.

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potato
Peel, and then poke some holes in a sweet potato. Then coat with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly chopped rosemary, salt (kosher or Maldon) and pepper. Roast for about 45-60 mins on 450. Turn once during cooking – about half-way through.

Braised Fennel with Fresh Oregano and White Wine
Trim fennel bulbs (removing fronds) and slice into 3/4″ thick pieces. Sauté in olive oil until golden brown – about 5 minutes. Turn them over, add salt, chopped fresh oregano (or thyme would work well too), 1/2 c white wine, 1/2 c chick or veg stock and cover. Put in the oven on 450 for about 20 mins.

Braised Chicken Legs with Sage and Lemon
Rub chicken legs (thighs would work nicely here too) with lemon. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and cayenne, then chopped fresh sage on both sides. In a heavy pan, heat olive oil on med-high heat, then add chicken legs, skin side down. Cook for about 7 minutes until golden brown, then flip them over. Squeeze the rest of the lemon and the other half, add them to the pan. Then pour in some white wine (about 1/2 c), cover, and reduce heat to low. Let them braise in the liquid for about 25 mins, depending on the size of the legs. (Small legs I’ve pulled out at 20 mins and they were perfect).

For the sauce: heat and scrape up the drippings, add a little more white wine and stir until it’s thickened a bit, then pour over the chicken.

If that doesn’t satisfy your wife…nothing will.

Putting a Pig’s Foot in Your Mouth

The Gourmale presents the first installment in his ongoing series, Guystronomy, in which he cooks a pig’s foot, or trotter, according to a terrible recipe he found online and can no longer seem to find.

The goal: simplicity. The result: gross.

I obtained the trotter from my favorite butcher, McCall’s Meat & Fish in Los Angeles. It had come from a Berkshire Pig who ate nothing but acorns his entire life. (Note – I did cook/eat other portions of this little piggy that were mind-blowing). The recipe said to boil the trotter for about 45 minutes, or until tender. I boiled mine for nearly 3 hours and it remained solid as a…well…a foot.

Then, I was to score the flesh, and lather the foot in honey and brown sugar. I added some herbs as well – fresh sage and thyme from the garden. Roast at 400 for about an hour, and voila! Vile, gummy, and almost entirely inedible.

I think next time (not that there will ever be a next time) I would try Thomas Keller’s recipe from Bouchon; but really, that seems like a LOT of work…

Address to a Haggis

Why would anyone in his or her right mind eat haggis—this seemingly fowl concoction consisting of sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours?

Tradition of course! And, as it turns out, it’s kind of tasty.

Monday, January 25, was the 251st birthday of poet Robert Burns, so naturally I hosted a Burns Supper. What’s a Burns Supper you might ask? A Burns Supper is an annual Scottish tradition—a bit like an American Thanksgiving meets a secular Passover. I’m not Scottish (though my great grandmother—aka, Supernana—was from Glasgow), but my wife Kate is from Edinburgh, so as a tribute to her and her homeland, I embarked on a massive three-day culinary undertaking, which nearly killed me.


It was such a production that it required a detailed P of A (plan of action) spearheaded by my adorable wife.


Normally, the meal follows a very structured format—opening with the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.


My kitchen, however, was full of pots of food—including a pot of mashed potatoes so large that it began to push itself up out of the pot like a rogue stick of deodorant or renegade soufflé—that people just couldn’t help but help themselves and graze.

The meal began with Cock-a-Leekie soup: a simple chicken soup made with leeks, rice, and oddly enough—prunes. I made the same soup last year at my Burns Supper and found it entirely unremarkable, but then relied on the disclaimer that the food was not supposed to taste very good, after all, it’s Scottish! This year’s soup turned out about the same. (“Needs salt,” said one guest).

The climax of the Burns supper is usually the presentation of the haggis, usually accompanied by bagpipes, and followed by the reading of the Burns poem, “Address to a Haggis” which begins:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

Translation:
Fair is your honest happy face
Great chieftain of the pudding race
Above them all you take your place
Stomach, tripe or guts
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm

And the grace does turn out to be as long as his arm—longer, in fact.  So we decided to skip it altogether.

When I last dined on haggis at new year (called Hogmanny in Scotland) 2009, it was measured out with an ice-cream scoop and lumped on to my plate along with equal hemispheric portions of mashed turnips (“neeps”) and mashed potatoes (“tatties”).

A mound of haggis can be a bit off-putting, so I decided to go for a more “subtle” approach, and serve my haggis in crisp phyllo parcels with a homemade plum sauce as I had once eaten them at Stac Polly, a restaurant in Edinburgh.

Did I make my own haggis? Ach no. I bought a frozen tube o’ haggis at the Continental Shop in Santa Monica. And it ain’t cheap.

That's one expensive haggis...

Mmm...what savory haggis balls you have....


The haggis parcels turned out to be delicious—even my dog Whisky, who I allowed to lick the bowl, enthusiastically agreed.

Whisky licks the haggis bowl...regrets? I've had a few....

Haggis tastes a bit like chopped liver or a rich pate, and was described as “earthy” by some guests. Other guests politely declined, or opted for the vegetarian haggis, or, “vaggis” which my friend Brenna so kindly prepared.

My friend Mike raved over the haggis parcels and wolfed down two or three of them, prompting this email the next day:

“The haggis was heard and smelt all the follow day. So nice to enjoy twice.”

The main course was a lamb stew with barley, adapted from Alice Waters’ cookbook, The Art of Simple Cooking. I added the barley (the grain used to make Scotch whisky) to give it a little Scottish flair. There were also mashed neeps (though we discovered too late that what the Scots refer to as “neeps” are known here is rutabagas), and roasted Brussels sprouts.

The dessert, a multi-layered, sherry and brandy infused creation known as a Tipsy Laird Trifle (“tipsy” from the alcohol and “laird” meaning layered), was the most challenging and yet delivered the most satisfying result. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The Victoria Sponge, fresh from the oven on improvised cooling rack (pot with holes in it). I'll slice it in half with a long knife to make two layers.

First layer of raspberry jam, creme anglaise, raspberries, whipped cream

Voila!

Though we didn’t really read many poems, and didn’t follow the Burns Supper format all that rigorously, I think everyone had a good time. I have no idea actually; I was too stressed to know what was going on.

We did close by singing Auld Lang Syne, which in case you didn’t know, was written by none other than Robert Burns.

The next day, Kate impressed me by whipping up some tattie scones using the leftover mashed potatoes.

Breakfast

I’ve been gorging myself on leftover Tipsy Laird ever since.

Rainy Day LA Snacktime: Roasted Sweet Potato w/ pecans and maple syrup

Third day of rain in Los Angeles. I feel like I might as well live in Scotland…

Solace was just pulled from the oven, however, in the form of two piping hot farmer’s market sweet potatoes, or “sweet tatties” as my wife calls them, doused with maple syrup and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

Preheat oven to 450

Peel sweet tatties, poke a few times w/ a fork
Coat in olive oil and balsamic
Sprinkle on some salt
If you dare walk outside to get some rosemary from the garden (I didn’t) you can sprinkle some chopped rosemary on as well.

Roast for about 45 minutes to an hour…turning once. Test done-ness by inserting fork – it should slide in and out real easy like.

Cut open, insert a pat o’ butter, maple syrup and pecans.

Get a little fatter and do not feel guilty. Sweet tatties are good for you.

Sweet Tatties. Yum.

Penis Enlargement: The Long and the Short of it…

A few months ago I was asked to test a penis enlargement product called “The Male Edge” for a blog which shall remain unnamed. I said sure, why not? Not that I NEED such a thing (or would ever to admit to needing such a thing) but figured it can’t possibly work. And I’m happy to subject myself to all sorts of ridiculousness in the name of journalism (or money).

Of course I did no research into this product before agreeing to become a guinea pig.

I assumed the Male Edge was some sort of digestible placebo, or a light cream I could apply 2x daily.

But as it turns out, The Male Edge is basically a medieval torture device. It functions like those earrings worn by tattooed guys that work at cafés – those dudes with ear lobes stretched down to their shoulders through which one could pass, say, a bowling ball, or one’s fist. (I guess it’s no wonder that the only jobs they can get is in cafés…).

Note the gauze...

In essence, the Male Edge slowly stretches your Johnson out like taffy to increase its size.

According their web site (you really should watch their videos, and their Penis-o-Meter is truly worth your attention) “on average, men using the Male Edge increase their penis size by 28% in length and 19% in girth.” Unfortunately, the process takes at least 6 weeks, and it’s suggested it go on for up to SIX MONTHS.

I wisely decided that the paltry fee that was to be paid in exchange for writing this piece was not worth subjecting my Jan Hammer to weeks of ‘penis traction:’

Traction works by applying a steady stretch to the shaft of the penis. This causes tissue cells to divide and multiply – a well-known process called cytokinesis. Over time, this results in new tissue growth throughout the penis, making you visibly longer and thicker in a matter of weeks or months.

As you’ll see from the video (SFW—and yet the blog decided not to run it..?), I decided instead to try the Male Edge out on several surrogate penises—sausages from Wurstküche in downtown LA. Wurstküche is one of those restaurants you can’t really imagine being successful in Los Angeles, since the only thing  they serve is…well, sausages…and it’s in a very remote and somewhat sketchy area of downtown. Yet, they’re always packed.

Wurstküche carries a vast variety of delicious sausages, including bratwurst, kielbasa and for the more adventurous—rattlesnake & rabbit (among my favorites). I don’t love the restaurant space, but they sell the sausages to go for slightly less than the cost of eating them in-house. Perfect for your next LA BBQ! 

As for the Male Edge…

Is it truly insane? Yes.

Is it dangerous? Probably—it comes with a roll of gauze.

Does it come from Sweden? I think so.

Did it increase the size of my penis?

Watch and find out! (video is SFW!)

Afterward, I cooked the all the sausages and I have to say…even after undergoing several minutes of penile traction, the Kielbasa still tasted delicious. I guess that bodes well for perspective users of the Male Edge—whoever they are.

A Man’s Place is in the Kitchen

In the majority of the couples I know, the guy does the cooking.

Is this a paradigm shift in domesticity roles? Why do I feel it has gotten little attention?

And hey, I’m no teary-eyed Glenn Beck doughboy waxing nostalgic for the “good ol’ days when I was a kid” and mom used to don the apron and have to cook everything. I just happen to like cooking, and, my wife doesn’t. And I know lots of other guys who are happily sailing in the same boat.

So why has it become okay, or dare I say “cool” for a man to be the primary cook in today’s home kitchen?

One reason surely must be celebrity chefs and the Food Network. When I was a kid (oops, there I go getting all Glenn Beck again), I watched a ton of cooking shows. Lots of Julia Child, but also Jacques Pepin, Justin Wilson: The Cajun cook, Jeff Smith: The Frugal Gourmet—who’s career (according to wikipedia) tragically  “came to an end when two of his male assistant chefs brought charges of sexual harassment against him.”

Yikes…

But the past ten or so years have seen the rise of numerous cool/macho/hip chefs who have become household names – Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Gordon Ramsay, and I suppose even Emeril Lagasse with his terrible cooking and inpsipid catch-noise (“Bam!”). All these guys helped take cooking out of the kitchen and into our living rooms—it made cooking something a guy could relate to, and want to emulate. No longer was the chef a skilled professional in the back of the kitchen, he was just a dude like us.

Bourdain, in fact, scribed an excellent op-ed in the NY Times (as part of an end of decade roundup) in December noting 2007 as a watershed year for food and our relationship to it:

“The brilliant, pioneering work of LA Weekly’s Jonathan Gold was honored with a Pulitzer Prize, the first time for a food writer — and this, surely, was a Very Important Moment. But 2007 was also the year that Food Network canceled “Emeril Live,” and stopped ordering episodes of “Molto Mario,” a calculated break with the idea of the celebrity chef as a seasoned professional and a move toward an entirely new definition: a personality with a sauté pan.”

I’ll be getting more into this subject as it really is the meat of The Gourmale blog…and I encourage anyone’s thoughts.

In the meantime, another cookie recipe from my mom (actually my nana):

Nana’s Crescent Cookies

1/2 lb butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 t almond extract
1t vanilla
1t cold water
1c crushed pecans or walnuts
2 c flour

Mix together. Use approx size of large marble and roll into crescent shape.

Bake 325 15-20 min on buttered cookie sheet.

Salt of the Earth

Several years ago I wrote a piece for Slate.com about Salt. A ran a battery of salt tests—a bitter battle, if you will, on two coasts, during which time, I assaulted myself and others with salt. I was obsessed, and also very thirsty.

I sought to discover if there was any real difference in taste between ordinary table salt and expensive fancy salt. I had read Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay, in which he wished to answer that same question, but I disagreed with his methods. As I recall (it’s been a while since I’ve read it) he dissolved the salts in water and then had supertasters/experts taste the solution. The differences were pretty much imperceptible.

Maldon's flaky crystals (I shot it in macro mode on a blue plate)

But so much of what we taste with salt is actually its texture. So, I designed a whole series of tests (you can read the article here) that tested for texture and for flavor. I honestly surprised myself to find a consistent winner, Maldon, which turns out to be the “chef’s choice” of salts.

When to use it? It’s really a “finishing” salt – I sprinkle it on everything that leaves my kitchen before it hits the table.

Maldon, worth its salt

Like this morning on my omelet with feta, cherry tomatoes (some of the final ones of the season from the garden—yes, in LA I am still picking cherry tomatoes in January) and my $3 basil plant from Trader Joe’s that’s been happily thriving in my kitchen for months.  Sorry, no photo, it was too tasty to not eat immediately.