All Your Bouillabaisse Are Belong To Us

On Martin Luther King Jr. day we went to a splendid dinner party with the crew. The main dish was Leanne’s fish stew, which I helped prep for, and which then evolved into a collaborative effort. The base was fish broth, to which she had added shrimp (shell on) monkfish, and scallops, plus lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, garlic, and a bunch of other things, but she still wasn’t happy. John and I stood there with Jackie, tasting and adding (hot sauce, pickled stuff, mirin, salt, nam pla, shoyu, strange dried things in packages) until it reached a certain level of ooh-ness. It’s hard to quantify, but you know it when it gets there. The whole process reminded me of our time together in Hawaii, when John and I did all the cooking for the group for two weeks; it’s the closest I’ll ever get to playing with him as an equal, and the food was fucking amazing.

We finished the soup with the customary accompaniments of Thai basil, cilantro, and jalapeños, but with snow peas in place of bean prouts and a jar of our kimchi we brought over. There were many other dishes that I won’t bother to list here; it was really all about the soup. And the magic elixir, but that’s another story.

The other night when I was sick and phoned in the curry I neglected to mention a dream I had previously, served up hot and steaming from the warped place where low-grade fever and melatonin overlap: there was a black-tie event of some kind, and I decided that I didn’t want to be a waiter, so I stole a tux and bolted. The performer, a hybrid of Bob Dylan and Patton Oswalt, pointed the spot at me and made comments as I dashed through the assembled hoi-polloi to find a refuge in which to change my clothes. I ended up in the swank hotel room of some English countess and her Russian wife, who dug my subterfuge and wanted to help. I explained to their gigantic French butler that I needed some shoes, and he obliged me by bringing me two wine bottles for my feet. Before I could figure out how to break them cleanly enough to wear without lacerating myself to death, and while the countess tried to make a scarf into a bow tie, Milo came in and woke me up.

True story.

Tonight, Chris and Sirkka came over; he’s on a break from touring so we’ve gotten to see a bunch of them lately and it’s been a treat. They brought ribeyes and I took care of the rest. Using the steak as a jumping-off point, I decided to recreate the signature dish from The Good Fork which we had enjoyed so much in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago. I made brown rice, then tossed it with chopped kimchi and kimchi juice, sliced seared steak over it, and topped it with a fried egg and a sprinkle of shichimi. I made a pan sauce with drippings, our own BBQ sauce, agave, and kimchi juice and dribbled that around it all. On the side we had daikon and black radish pressure-cooked with dashi; I tok the dashi and blended it with olive oil, cilantro, and lecithin to make an emulsion. I also cooked shredded kale slowly in more dashi with lots of garlic and ginger. The kids had the last of the blood orange-grapefruit sorbet I made a few days ago (stolen partially from Brittany.) It was a pretty damn good dinner.

We had some good wine, too: for an aperitif a 2007 Caves de Lugny Mâcon-Lugny “Les Charmes” that- gratifyingly, and impressively for a $10 end-cap wine- offered some interesting minerality and citrusy character, followed by a bottle of 2006 Cereghino/Smith syrah; I went to interview them on Monday for an article (he’s the bass player from Television, and he and his wife have been making wine from Cali grapes near here for 4 years) and they gave me this bottle from our tasting to take home. It sat, open, on the counter since then because I was sick, and showed handsomely after all that time- a sure sign of something well made. They call it “San Giuseppe” after her Grandfather; it’s a play on St. Joseph, from the Northern Rhône, and one of the greatest expressions of syrah in the world, falling just short of Hermitage to the North.

By way of comparison, I opened a 2003 St. Joseph by Cave de Tain to follow it, and it was instructive. There’s nothing like the real thing, which I wrote about in the last post- the unity of fruit and architecture in the Northern Rhône is unlike any other syrah in the world- even for a simple version like this (which is not as exciting as the Cheze from the last post) but theirs is a serious effort, and offers rich pleasure wedded to substantial structure, without some of the bosomy excesses common to Cali syrah. The fact that it’s locally made- and with an immaculate punk rock pedigree- makes it even better.

5 comments to All Your Bouillabaisse Are Belong To Us

  • Heather

    Your fever dreams are very interesting. I wonder what Freud would say about the Countess and her wife?

    It’s nice when your friends make good wine, innit? Norm’s Cab was delish too. It sure beats smiling through a chokeful of vinegar.

  • cook eat FRET

    the fish stew sounds amazing… never to replicated

  • The Spiteful Chef

    I bet your house constantly smells like a kimchi factory…

    That aside, aren’t emulsions cool? I’m trying to muster the courage to bust out another attempt at “caviar,” but I’m a-feared that I’ll fail.

  • peter

    Blanche: Sometimes a countess is just a countess.

    Claudia: I know- that’s part of the magic of crazy make-em-ups.

    Kristie: My first attempt was fail also. Damn pH. I thought your carrot ones worked?

  • Brittany

    The soup makes me wish I had a cold and it sitting in front of me.

    I need to take melatonin more often. It just makes you feel sort of awesome in a friendly herbal kinda way.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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