Monthly Archives: February 2008

Hanger steak with Fries

A friend of mine asked me advices on what to cook for his friends this week-end. He mentioned he’d like to have some meat. My mind was very quick to identify the best piece of meat available in San Francisco: hanger steak from Golden Gate Meat (butcher in the ferry building).

For the meat, it’s very easy. Go to Golden Gate Meat, and ask them to put some rub on your hanger steak. Done. The only thing left you have to do is to throw the meat on the grill and let it cooked. You do not want to overcook it. Once done, remember to let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, you can either cut small pieces or serve the whole steak.

For the fries, there’s much more science behind it. And two secrets: 1/ use fat duck (also available at Golden Gate Meat) and 2/ blanch the fries in the fat before frying. Use real potatoes (not frozen crap). Cut them lengthwise and put them in ice water. Melt the fat duck in a pan and get it to 280F. Cook the fries in it until tender. They should not brown! Remove from the fat. Heat the fat again, until the temperate hits >370F. Test it by placing a fries in it. If it boils straight away, you’re good. If not, then heat it more. The purpose of this second phase is just to make the fries crispy. Once you have the right temperature, throw the fries in it, and remove as soon as gold. Dry them. Salt. Done!

Enjoy!

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Alden Vineyards

Because this blog is read by thousands of people every day (honestly, traffic is going up!), I got lot of pressure (joke!) to write about Alden Vineyards. This wine is made by my boss’ family. Tic, Toc, see the connection? Should i be biased? Let’s see…

So yesterday, as I’m cooking skirt steak with some salad, I’m going to pay a visit to my small cellar to see what’s in there for me. And just in front of me is this bottle that Chris gave us for the holiday party. I have to say, I’m usually careful with American wines. I feel they taste very artificial (even the pinot!). It’s like they put so much stuff in there to adjust the taste that there is no natural feel anymore. Note that I did drink some fantastic American wines, some that would beat in a second a great French wine, so I’m generalizing my feeling here for the sake of the story!

OK – back to the story. So I’m in my kitchen, opening the wine, already full of big question marks. Wine is now uncorked. Put the bottle in my hand, put my nose above it… Nothing bad to report at this point. I pour some wine in a glass. First surprise: i don’t have this artificial smell. It actually smells light, almost mineral in some way. That’s a good sign. I take a sip. Then a second to confirm. It’s really good. Clear & natural. Ah. That’s a surprise. And the surprise got even better with the food. Definitely a great wine for a steak.

So yes, i recommend it. A very good cabernet. At least, to my tastes.

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Leeks-potatoes soup

Every Sunday afternoon, my dad used to go and play football. When we usually got back home, late in the afternoon, he was always going to the kitchen, and started to prepare a leeks-potatoes soup. I remember it as having lot butter, and smelling very good.

A few months ago, as we were all in our house in the French country side, I asked him to do it again, and watched him do it. He’s very meticulous, so it was definitely a funny moment, but it tasted as good as I remembered!

It’s quite simple, and since yesterday was very rainy in San Francisco, I decided to give it a try. I prepped 3 leeks (note that i cut them twice lengthwise, so when you cut them, it’s like small cube, and also keep some of the green leaves). Added some butter in a heated pan (a good amount, like 40g), and get those leeks to cook at medium heat, adding salt and white pepper. If the pan gets too dry add more butter (i told you there’s lot of butter in this recipe!).

Once tender, i added some chicken stock (my dad only used water, but I’m trying to explain to him that a soup needs chicken stock!) and 6-7 potatoes, diced. A nice bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaves mainly, no parsley for me on this one), some salt, a tiny bit of ground nutmeg and then i added some water to make the right amount because I didn’t have enough hoome made stock (but if i had, no water was needed).

Let it cooked for a while, until the potatoes are tender. Then take out of the heat. From time to time, bring back some heat and stop it. Let it cool. Re-heat just before serving.

Some people like to process the soup and add some cream (as done in the US). Well, f…. that. The cream takes over the tastes of the leeks and potatoes.

Good luck, and thanks dad!

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Churchill Arms, London, UK

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I went to London for the week-end last week, and it was awesome as usual. I lived 5 years in London, and I truly enjoyed it. I have my habits when I go there, and also some very good friends which make the whole experience unique.

One of those old habit is to go for guiness and thai food at Churchill Arms, on Kensington Church Street. My first job in London was right next to Churchill Arms, and last week-end, like any other time when I went there, it was the same guy who was serving my Guiness: Gerry O’Brien, the landlord who bought the place more than 20 years ago (see him on the picture).

‘I have been here for 20 years now and in that time nothing has been changed or updated. People of all ages and nationalities like its oak beams and log fires, so I don’t want to change any of it’, he says. And that’s exactly true. Going back there is like going back home. It feels good.

So if you’re in London or planning to go there, add the Churchill Arms on your list. Go for lunch, and you may end up staying the whole day, like we did…

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Lamb chops

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One of my favorite piece of meat is the lamb chop. I usually buy the whole rack of lamb, and then cut it myself.

The best place for lamb in San Francisco is the Cal Mart on California (in Laurel Heights). Quite surprising (i never liked the place from the outside), but very real: their local lamb is just delicious.

So once i got the lamb rack, i cut it, and then marinate the chops in rosemary, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. After a few hours of marinating, i just grilled them on high fire. Crispy in the outside, and real pink in the inside. Yummy!

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Killing lobsters

Yesterday night, i cooked lobsters for a friend. I’ve grown up cooking live seafood. Throwing lobsters alive in boiling water has never been a problem for me. There are lot of opinions here and there about whether or not they suffer. Most folks say no, some say yes.

I’ve considered many techniques to kill lobster in the most humane way. But at the end of the day, i never found one that makes me feel better. So i just continue to boil them alive.

I’ve read this blog about killing lobster. It’s actually quite good. I’ve tried those techniques as well. My problem with the knife, is that i’m too scared to miss it. And with the chilling, i never know when it’s chilled enough so it gets brain dead. If still alive, imagine the shock from freeze temperature and boiling water…

Beside that, the lobsters yesterday night were really nice!

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Bone-in ribeye at the Globe

We went to see James Blunt in concert at the Warfield yesterday. I had low expectations, even though i like the guy’s music, and I got surprisingly surprised! Was actually very cool. The opening act was even more surprising. Sara Bareilles was rocking, and I’m buying her album today.

The show was planned to start at 8pm. James Blunt came on stage at 9:20pm. We were done by 11:15. And hungry. Very hungry!

I decided to go to Globe in the financial district. This place is very famous for serving food until 1am. Many folks from the late crowd are there. And they have a decent wine list, and great food! We went for the huge bone-in ribeye steak. The famous “Cote de Boeuf” as we call it in France. It’s actually quite rare to find it in a restaurant in the US the same way that it’s cooked in France (ie huge, to share, medium rare). Well, that one was spot on. It was like I was back in my Burgundy.

On top of that, we had a very nice Pinot Noir. Man it was good.

So even if some folks say heaven doesn’t exist, I can tell you that this meal was close to heaven for me!

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Chicken stock

As i usually say it, i divide my life into two parts. Before i knew how to make my own chicken stock, and after. My world changed the minute i learnt how to make stock. That day was like a revelation: a) this is sooo easy and fun to make and b) it just makes your cooking so much better.

Instead of explaining how to make stock, i’m sure you all have a recipe in one of your cooking book, i thought i would post a video from epicurious.

Note that i usually dice my onions in big pieces (on the video, they use whole onions). I’m also a big fan of bouquet garni, and don’t necessarily have a whole chicken, but use carcasses of chicken (you can easily find them in san francisco at any chinese supermarket for 50c a piece!).

Making your own stock will give a whole new dimension to your cooking. With time, you get better and better. Of course, you can always go to your butcher and buy some fresh one – those are good too! But honestly, when you eat a chicken and throw away all the bones, imagine how you would feel if you knew you could actually do something with them. Every time i eat a chicken, i usually freeze the bones (even the ones that somebody else ate! yes, we’re going to boil them for hours!). Once i have the equivalent of 2 chickens, i do some stock one evening. It doesn’t take that long and make such a big difference!

Enjoy!

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Ducasse cooking encyclopedia

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This book is magic. It’s basically the best of French cooking. So just let me say it right now: this is not easy cooking. It’s actually really hard, and some of the ingredients are just impossible to find, especially if you’re based in the US. But this will tell you what French cooking is.

Ducasse is one of the top French chef. And even if the “American” craziness has led him to create tons and tons of franchise in the US (Vegas, New York etc…), the guy has spent most of his time with a few restaurants and working really hard to win his michelin stars.

His book is a big thank you to the food. His passion for taste, great combination and simplicity is all there.

Again, if you’re just starting cooking, go away from it. But if you’re adventurous, this could be for you an eye opener! (It’s here on amazon! And no i don’t take commission).

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Easy and magnificent prawns

Prawns are probably one of the easiest and yet most fantastic seafood to cook. Easy because it’s very quick. fantastic because fresh prawns have an amazing taste.

By the way, if the prawns don’t look fresh or are frozen, don’t even bother. Cook something else.

But last friday, i went to whole foods, and they had those amazing huge fresh prawns. They had this beautiful color: light pink, transparent white. It looked so fresh. Bought 20 of them (my wife is a big prawn fan) and drove back home full of excitement.

I prepare the prawns (take the top membrane out). In a non stick pan, i heat a little bit of olive oil. Once hot, i throw some minced garlic, and the prawns. Let cook for a minute or two, then turn around. Add more garlic, the juice of half a lemon, and some red chilies (cut in small pieces). Cook for another two minutes. Cook longer if the prawns don’t seem cooked enough (but don’t cook them too much!!!). At the last minute, add some parsley, salt, pepper and cook for another 20 seconds. You can also add some more lemon juice as you do want to use the juice of the pan to complete your dish.

You can serve them like this, or even better, on a piece of toasted garlic bread (could add some tomato on it as well).

It’s easy, and delicious.

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