Category Archives: Gourmale

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…

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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.

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.

Murderer’s Thumb Print Cookies: Redux

Since my last batch of jelly thumb print cookies were a bit of a disaster, my mom sent me her recipe:

Jelly Filled Thumb Print Cookies
1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks (save whites)
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
chopped walnuts or pecans
Mix together. Roll into balls about the size of large marbles. Dip balls in egg whites then roll in chopped nuts, make dent with thumb. Bake 8 minutes at 375. Plase 1/2 tsp jam or jelly in center. Bake 6 minutes more

These turned out better, though I used 1c flour and 1c whole what flour and I think the wheat flour made them too dry. I still found them delicious and remeniscent of my childhood. Kate thought they were too crumbly and preferred the first batch. Next time, I’m swapping out pecan meal for a 1/2 cup of flour and using all white flour…I shall report back.

That's Kate's hand reaching for a cookie. Caution: filling is hot!

Music and the Gourmale

A few years back, I had the ill-conceived notion of cooking New Year’s Eve Lobster Thermidor for 36 people. It was one of the worst nights of my life.

The lobsters didn’t have a very good time either.

This year, I happily left most of the New Year’s cooking to Curtis. Curtis is the co-owner of Territory Barbecue and Records, and while I admit I’ve never actually been there, I have sampled much of their fare (over at Dave’s house) and thus endorse it highly.

(Note that for most of my childhood, my father owned a somewhat legendary Kansas City style barbecue restaurant called Gator Magoons in Denver, CO—so, my standards for bbq are high).

Curtis is also the lead singer of the band Bad Wizard, an extremely rocking band from NYC by way of Athens, GA. He’s also, I believe, a Gourmale.

Curtis, Bonnie, & Dave - surely amused by some canine antics in the kitchen

The food—an amazing beef roast that tasted like my mother’s Passover brisket, a perfectly seasoned roasted pork loin, creamed corn and roasted potatoes—were all great, along with a stellar asparagus/shiitake risotto by Kate’s friends from Berlin, Ben and Theresa.

Ben, me, Kate and Theresa - top of the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway, with blue moon on the rise

On the drive home, Curtis’ rock and roll roots got me thinking about music and food.

In my life as an air guitarist, I’ve definitely logged more ‘on the road’ hours than with my actual band, Nous Non Plus. In either case, for me, touring is almost just an excuse to search for interesting food I normally would not encounter.

Once, in Cleveland, the night after an air guitar show, I found an amazing Greek deli that had these 4-cheese and olive rolls. Back on the tour bus, I toasted them, and I used them as a bed for egg sandwiches sprinkled with feta. Delicious.

This leads me to a somewhat ham-fisted self-promotional segue about my show Sound Bites. It’s an idea I had a couple of years ago where I would go on tour with a different band each week, and each episode would be all about what the band ate on the road. The late-night haunts, dingy diners, greasy spoons, and crunchified vegan (every band has its vegan) joints.

The pilot episode I did featured Bret and Jemaine, aka Flight of the Conchords, getting fish tacos.

I still think it would be a rocking show, and maybe when the economy takes its head out of its ass it will happen.

Happy New Year, and here’s to 2010 being much better than the giant turd that was 2009.

Below – some random photos from the trip to/from Palm Springs.

Whisky snoozes en route to Palm Springs

Blue Moon, New Year's Eve 2010- from the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway