The truth about my trip to Australia is that, until I boarded the flight over here, I hadn’t really thought about what it was that I expected to get out of the trip. Of course, just coming here was going to be enriching and exciting, but what specific thing did I hope to take away? And then it dawned on me as I studied my itinerary; Australians are daring, they just get up and do things and don’t think twice about it. And so the activities planned for Wednesday (yesterday) would be the perfect opportunity for me to let go of my neurotic New York Woody-Allen-like qualities and become a Paul Hogan, a Steve Irwin, a Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It all began with a helicopter.
I don’t know if Instagram is making me seem like a good photographer or if I’m really a good photographer and I didn’t know that until I had Instagram. Either way, look at that picture I took of Craig standing on rocks the day we arrived on Eliza Island, where Craig’s parents have a cabin in the San Juans. If Annie Leibovitz saw that she’d be like, “I give up…I can’t top that!” See the purple sea stars in the foreground? That’s my favorite part. But this post isn’t about purple sea stars (though I wonder if you can eat them?); it’s about going clamming with Craig’s dad, Steve, the next day.
When you’re an old fogey food blogger like me, dinner comes in one of two categories: 1. something you’ve already blogged about and 2. something you’ve never blogged about.
The sad truth is that more often than not, lately, I feel like cooking things that I’ve already blogged about because I love making them. It’s harder and harder to come up with something that I really feel like making that’s new enough for the blog. How to overcome that? The best way is to go to the farmer’s market to find a new ingredient or to wander into a great meat and seafood store, like McCall’s in Los Feliz, to get inspired. I did the latter yesterday when I found beautiful looking clams for $8 a pound. One dish popped into my head that I’d never blogged before: Linguine with Clams. I bought a pound of clams, a box of linguine and got ready to rock n’ roll.
As I gear up to go to New York for three months, I’m starting to check things off my L.A. “first year” bucket list. Korean BBQ was pretty high up there, and in my browser where I have a folder called LaFood and subfolders like “Chinese,” “Ramen,” “Sushi,” “Thai,” there’s a folder that says “Korean” and Park’s BBQ is featured prominently in there. So this past Saturday, I gathered up a group, including our new L.A. transplant friends Jim and Jess and we headed to Park’s in Koreatown.
Certain recipes are so complicated, so expensive, and so high-stakes that they become, for adventurous home cooks, the equivalent of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or sailing a boat around the world.
Bouillabaisse is that sort of recipe. Originating from Marseille (in France), bouillabaisse–at least, the authentic kind–asks you to make your own fish stock (with fish bones that you have to collect from a fish purveyor), to use that stock to flavor bread for a rouille (an emulsion of garlic, egg yolks, the soaked bread and a roasted red pepper and tomato), to marinate fish in a mixture of white wine, Pernod and saffron, to form a soup base with chopped leeks, onions, tomatoes and white wine, and finally to cook the marinated fish (which, if you buy it fresh, will be expensive) in the soup (made with the stock) along with mussels and clams just enough so nothing overcooks. Yes: that’s a lot of work but then the results speak for themselves. When I made this last week, our dinner guests swooned over their bowls of bouillabaisse–there were actual groans of pleasure at the table–and I’d easily list it as one of my greatest culinary triumphs. Here’s how the whole odyssey began.
There are two types of people in this world: those who like to work for their food and those who don’t.
People who like to work for their food are often fond of shellfish (cracking lobster claws, picking meat out of crab legs, peeling the shells off shrimp) and these people are often the ones who, when they eat a roasted chicken, identify and devour every last edible morsel. I’m not one of those people.
My dad used to watch a cajun cooking show (yes, my dad, who’s probably never cooked a meal in his life, watched a cajun cooking show) where the host would yell out with his thick N’awlins accent: “Spiccccy cajjjun fooood!”
(Did you ever see that show? I think it was on PBS and the host had white hair and glasses.)
Surprisingly, in my six years of running this site, I’ve never cooked a cajun dish. Shocking, I know, and deeply irresponsible. Cajun food, like jazz music, is one of America’s great indigenous art forms and the fact that it’s taken me this long to finally cook something cajun should be cause for mass rebellion amongst my readers. But I’ve repented with the dinner you see above: two nights ago I made that Jambalaya and I bet even that white-haired guy from the Cajun cooking show would’ve loved it.
Protein has been the subject of much debate around our dinner table lately. “You know,” said Craig when I served him pasta for the umpeenth time the other night, “if you’re trying to get in shape” (see newsletter) “you should probably serve more protein and less carbs.”
It’s a fair point, but here’s the deal: unlike most cooks who came of age in a pre-Pollan era, I don’t feel comfortable buying that mass-market plastic-wrapped factory-farmed meat you see in the grocery store. I don’t judge those who do–I’m actually envious of those who do–but, for me, I can’t shake images from Food Inc. out of my head. So it’s easier to cook pasta and rice and vegetables and beans because it doesn’t throw me into an ethical quandary (and it’s way cheaper); only, I eat so many carbs my body is now made up of 70% flour. I think that may be a problem.