I’ve been horrendously busy lately with no sign of it letting up. So I’ve had to take a step back in planning what I’m going to cook. For quite a good long while, I’ve been on this kick to try ever harder recipes or techniques. I guess just to prove that I could do it. Or also that hanging out in the kitchen for hours with the dogs, cooking, drinking beer, and/or listening to music is my way to decompress from stupid reality.
I don’t have time for that now, but a man’s still got to eat. So lately I’ve transitioned back to some of the early cookbooks I bought, in particular Jacques Pépin’s The Short-Cut Cook and Fast Food My Way. You go buy your stuff, spend less than 30 minutes, and you’re done. This has certainly helped my schedule, but it’s also been a delightful return to basics. Something other than a massive list of ingredients with perhaps needless complexity.
It’s been kind of a return to roots, in the sense that if you’re only involved with a half-dozen items and a half-hour, you’d better get it right. You can’t hide anything if you screw it up. In many ways, this simplicity is better. In this hour long interview with Anthony Bourdain (you should watch the whole thing), go to the ten minute mark to hear Jacques lay this philosophy out, “…take away, take away…”
It’s also given me a chance to mess with things that have been on my mind for years, but just never got around to doing. In this week’s case, it was playing around with chicken livers and sardines, both from Short Cut Cook:
– Chicken livers persillade
Most folks hate these things because they’ve got a weird texture and look terrible when you break them out of the package. So I think I was well north of 20 years age when I first had them in Asia. Since then, I’ve never turned them away and tried them all over the place. But I haven’t ever worked with them in the kitchen. So Jacques steps in, and essentially offers you the opportunity to serve them with some toast and call it a day. Overall kitchen time is less than ten minutes.
Things did not go well at first. As I was trying to get the liver tub open and I ended up spilling liver blood/juice/whatever over a good portion of my counter and floor. My youngest was more than happy to help me clean up, so I had to scramble to contain her happy doggy tongue with one hand while I wiped it all off the floor with the other. Then you’ve got to clean the livers by trimming off all the connecting veins and all those lovely weird black parts that you’d rather pretend don’t actually exist. I’m not sure if this is typical, but I ended up discarding about half the biomass in trimming them down to the cook ready parts. After that, I was a bit demoralized, and wondering what I’d gotten myself into.
Yet all you have to do is roast some baguette slices for ten minutes and sauté the livers. The livers themselves take one minute per side, really high heat, and that’s it. Take your liver, take your bread, eat, and it’s well worth it. It’s probably not for everybody, but it worked for me all right.
finished product, they were liver-rific!
did ya get it? I did a thing there?
[cricket, cricket, cricket]
– Sardines in tomato sauce
I don’t know whether this is accurate or not, but I always had the impression that folks tend to turn away sardines or anchovies because they don’t like the little small fishy, and the overall oiliness, fish odor & taste is too much for people. So you don’t really see these two dudes make much of an appearance in typical American cuisine (whatever that is). I’ve always loved them though. So when I came upon Jacques’ instruction to buy a whole freaking 16 ounces of sardines, I was sold. So because I’m a lunatic, I went and bought four tins, just to be safe. All he has you do is throw them on some greens with vinegar, parsley, salt & pepper, and some fresh tomato. So if you don’t care for sardines, this is repulsive because you’re eating them right out of the box as is. But for me this was a win. I took five minutes to make.
I love Jacques’ mentality on food. I guess he’s technically considered a celebrity chef, but in my mind he’s one of the originals alongside Julia Child who is not really a celebrity chef. I mean, sure, Jacques has made a boatload of gold throughout the years, but he’s always carried himself with the same humble simplicity that Child also had. There’s a reason those two were friends. It’s always a breath of fresh air from the current modern machine manufactured chef crowd. Jacques still cooks for public television, folks.
So thanks Jacques, for helping me get through this crazy busy time of my life. While also still eating well. And learning something new every day.
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