Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 09

Pre-brined Turkey (16.75 lbs)
French Bread Stuffing
Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Cream
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow Sauce
Steamed Green Beans
Honey Carrots
Crescent Rolls
Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Orange Compote
Ice Water with Fresh Lemon
Cook's Champagne

Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie

Trivial Pursuit

along with the handful of phonecalls from full and happy extended family members.

I'll expound upon my tactics soon. I have to admit up front that I took some tips from Martha Stewart, via her Twitter account.

Gobble Gobble,
Fee Doyle

Monday, November 2, 2009

Roscoe's Halloween Cure

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

830 N. Lake Ave.

Pasadena, CA

Because of daylight savings and a fluke in my puppeteer career, necessitating me waking up early on a Sunday, we were up before noon and hungry kiddies. C and I went to Roscoe's for the morning-after-Halloween-breakfast. Which, at 12:00 PM on a Sunday, is the after-church crowd.

The sun is beating down and we wait 20 minutes before being seated. The air is cracking with laughter and conversation as we sit down to the booth closest to the pick-up window and beverage station of the kitchen. At first I wondered if it would distract me, but realized it was going to be fun to watch, as C-man sitting on the other side of the booth had the Roscoe's TV channel to watch, which featured a right-hand column of rotating health tips.

Brought over from Harlem in the 1970's, Roscoe's was started because there was no place in Los Angeles outside of a family kitchen that served chicken with waffles. Now it is a five-restaurant chain, and actively participates in its community by donating time and food to programs for at-risk youth.

Reputed for it's soul food, Roscoe's is one of the several regional specialties I have now tasted. we both ordered the quintessential order, the Carol C Special, one tender chicken breast and one waffle. The skin of the chicken as crispy and rich as bacon strips, the waffle soft and light. The meat tender, juicy, salty and hot. the syrup dispensed hot from a coffee pot. the OJ was fresh squeezed. tear off a piece of chicken, dip it in the syrup, add a piece of waffle, and you're in business. If you're me, drink your coffee, too.

Perfect for Sunday morning hustle bustles and all-day contemplation. Perfect if you want something sweet, savory, soft, and crunchy all in your mouth at once, dancing around and making your stomach smile.

Looking forward to the next batch!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Butter and Cream in the Kitsch

Friday Evening's Menu:
Cheese Plate
Roasted Pork Tenderloin in a Mustard-Spice Rub
Grilled Asparagus
Mashed Potatoes
Chimay Red Ale
Banana Pudding

The 1992 Paramount Classic
Captain Ron, starring Kurt Russell

C and I went to Ralphs. The biggest hangup was over the pudding mix. C was most comfortable with the JELL-O brand, but only the Kroger brand had the Banana Creme flavor. We stood, debating. "Kroger has 2 for 1," I offered. C winced again. We futiley tried to compare the ingredients, as if they'd be different. "You could get vanilla," I offered. "No, it's not the same." So we bought the Kroger Banana Creme pudding mix, and made a double batch.

There were about 4 brands of Pork Tenderloin, one of which was unseasoned, which became our friend. 1 1/4 lbs of pork tenderloin for a little more than $5.00. When the idea for tenderloin was proposed, I immediately threw a parade around my house. Since fall is slowly approaching, rainstorm by rainstorm, it's time for warmer, heartier foods, and roasted dishes.
Back in the kitsch, I began the Banana Pudding as C boiled water for the Mashed Potatoes and preheated the oven.
Banana Pudding
(double recipe)
4 cups heavy cream (Heavy Cream, you gasp? Yes! Milk is for sissies!)
2 pkg Banana Creme pudding mix
2 bananas, sliced thin crosswise
2 cups Nilla Wafers, whole
Pour the cream into the mix, and whisk together for 2-3 minutes, until thickened to palatable pudding consistency. Slice two bananas into the pudding and fold. Dump in the Nilla Wafers, fold in, trying not to break any cookies. Scrape down the sides, smooth out the top, or if you've got a second container, transfer the entire mixture then do the same. With the extra Nilla Wafers, make a design on top. That's let to each one's own creative Nilla whims.
Mashed Potatoes
6 small yellow potatoes
1 stick butter
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper

Put a medium pot of water on the stove set on high to boil. Cut the potatoes into eighths, and plop em into the boiling water. After 20 minutes, check a potato for tenderness, and drain accordingly. Throw them back into the pot, add the butter and begin to mash. Add the cream. Taste it, add your salt and pepper, and other fancy spices that you wish. We didn't do garlic. We didn't do saffron. We just did 'em straight up mashed potatoes (with the skin!)

Roasted Pork Tenderloin in a Mustard-Spice Rub
1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 cup mustard mix
(we used a mix of 70% stone ground and 30% sweet-hot)
2 to 3 tsp each dried thyme, rosemary, and oregano
Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line your baking sheet/pan with tinfoil, unwrap the tenderloin and lay onto your pan. Commence the rubbing of the mustard! Using your hands, cover the meat with the mustard, making sure that the bottom has a small amount, and leaving the bulk on top. Sprinkle thyme, rosemary, oregano and salt on top and press into the meat. Add on more mustard if desired. If the tenderloin is too long for your pan, you can fold either end under, or form the cut into a circle if using a cake pan, or making room for roasting vegetables, etc. Put into the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, and then check for doneness with a meat thermometer. Depending on the oven and the slice of meat, you may need more time. The wrapper for the tenderloin should also include sanitary/food safety guidelines. At doneness, the pork should be about 190 degrees at the center of the thickest section. If you don't have a meat thermometer, use the tried and true method of cutting into the meat and using your best judgment. The skin turns golden brown, and a rich mustard smell fills your apartment. That's also a good sign to check it.

While the pork was in the oven, I began to prepare the asparagus. Sadly, this is not the season for this glorious vegtable. They were the size of a French green bean, very slender and tender. Asparagus season is generally from Mid-April to Mid-June or early July.

If you haven't read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, there is a great section on the wonders of fresh greens and gigantic, plump asparagus, and the true, simple pleasures they bring.
Grilled Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
salt and pepper
Begin by rinsing the asparagus. To find out where to cut the asparagus, take one stalk, grab each end, and bend it from the bottom end until it snaps. Where it snaps is a good guideline for where to cut for the rest of the bunch. If you have time or interest, like I did, you can snap the whole bunch. In a medium frying pan, set the heat to medium-low, add the butter to melt, and then add the aspargus. Toss the aspargus to coat. Then increase the heat to medium-high. Turn the asparagus regularly, and after a few minutes, add the salt and pepper. After about 15 minutes, check for doneness.
The result was a little overdone, but roasted and slightly blackened. Very delicious. I wanted to add lemon juice, but alas, there was none. We had some oven issues, so the asparagus and potatoes were done a full 10 minutes before the pork, so we had time to munch on some Swiss and Stilton, and crack open our Chimay.

It was so fine. Decadent was my word.
So much creammmmm...
and Kurt Russell is still hilarious after all these years. My other favorite Kurt Russell film is Overboard, featuring wife Goldie Hawn, in which he takes advantage of newly-struck amnesia patient Goldie Hawn, convincing her to be wife to him and mother of his children. The 80's. Come back. Bring your cooking tips!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Felicious Dish of the Week: Potsticker Stir-Fry

On Sunday, I was driving home, and remembered what was in the vegetable drawer: Portabello Mushroom Caps! Three of Them!

"Ohh, yes," I thought, "This is going to be damn good." Mushrooms are one food item I've grown to love since 'becoming an adult,' which just means, some specific dish I ate some specific time in college. I dig porcini and portabello, but as of yet have not branched out to some of the more spindly and exotic kinds, like the kinds you could pick on a walk through the woods. When I worked at Wildflour as the sandwich lady, I had to grill Portabello Mushrooms, Zucchini, Red Onion, and Red Pepper. The mushrooms take the longest, just like cooking a piece of meat, I'd stand and flip them long after all else had been grilled. I was a very happy camper on those days. The red pepper skins would be scorched black, so you have to rub them off, and sometimes I didn't wear gloves, so I'd have red pepper hands.

1. started 1 1/2 cups brown rice.

2.I spent some time grilling the three mushroom caps in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. While they were cooling before chopping,

3.I spied an onion and decided i may as well hang out and make a little bit of caramelized onions. So it was.

4.When the rice was done, I chopped up some ginger and garlic and threw it in a little pan of soy sauce to heat up.

5. Then chopped up the mushrooms finally.

6. put the mushrooms back in the pan, along with the small pile of onions, added the rice, and put it on a low burn. Then I added the ginger, garlic, and soy sauce mix.

7.ENTER POTSTICKERS: Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Gyoza Potstickers. I really like the Chicken Potstickers as well, but these veggie ones come in such a beautiful green package. I RECOMMEND THEM WITH MY LIFE! Usually you cook them in hot oil and leave them in the pan to steam for a few minutes, which I attempted, but just decided to throw them in the warming rice.

8. After a stir or two, I grabbed a few stalks of kale, chopped em up, and threw them into the mix as well. Don't be afraid of the green. It's your friend. Kale and Chard and Collard Greens are a hell of a lot firmer than, let's say, lettuce, so it takes some time for them to wilt. Good time for the Potstickers to fully cook through.

9. Finish. Admire. Eat.

Sorry I don't have a time frame for this adventure, as it was quite leisurely. Brown Rice takes 30-45 minutes, depending on whether or not you cheat and raise the heat, giving you slightly underdone rice, which would be fine if you're making a stir-fry like this.

And that is my Felicious Dish of the Week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
from The Silver Spoon, published by Phaidon.

A.K.A. "The bible of authentic Italian Cooking" and "Italy's best-selling cookbook for over fifty years."

First published in 1950, Il cucchiaio d'argento was conceived by Editorale Domus, publisher of Domus, the Italian design and architectural magazine. Editorale commisssioned experts to compile hundreds of recipes to showcase every regional specialty.

A bible it is. Over 1200 pages, including the index. Up to this point I have used it as a reference for flavor profiles and dishes I've never heard of. I sit there while watching TV, thumb through the vegetable and veal sections, and I dream away.

Spaghetti Carbonara is a dish I have heard of all my life, but never had the pleasure to make. It's listed on page 300, next to Spaghetti Amatriciana, which is a variation on the pancetta base, but uses fresh tomato and fresh chile to give it a clean kick. There's another variation I saw online in which you use cream and shallots along with the pancetta, butter and cheese. My mind drools every time I think about eating it. D'accordo, here's the recipe:


2 tbsp butter
generous 1/2 c pancetta, diced
1 garlic clove
12 oz spaghetti
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 c Romano cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper


Melt the butter in a pan, add the pancetta and garlic and cook until the garlic turns brown. Remove and discard the garlic. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain and add to the pancetta. Remove the pan from the heat, pour in the eggs, add half the Parmesan and half the romano and season with pepper. Mix well so that the egg coats the pasta. Add the remaining cheese, mix again and serve.

ACTs-anecdotes, comments, thoughts
C and I went to Vicente Foods, a fresher market store than most. It also has a pharmacy attached, which features natural and homeopathic remedies. (Didn't smell like pills as we walked past!) We went to the meat counter to get some sliced pancetta. We got a 1/2 lb sliced medium. The meat and fish selection was thorough, also accomodating to Jewish cuisine as well.

By adding the garlic and then removing it, the result is a warmer flavor, and a tasty fried garlic clove. We sliced it in half and ate it up! I was afraid of adding too much of the egg too quickly, because then it would curdle, but by the time we got to it the pasta had cooled down enough, so in the end I gave my portion a quick zap to eat it hot. The result? Rich, buttery, cheesy, and even better with some red pepper flakes and a couple Rosso beers. Assolutamente delizioso!

Perhaps the difficulty in the book is that the directions do not include the prep work. We read the recipe a few times, and relied on our inner cooks to know when to grate the cheese, chop the pancetta, beat the eggs, etc. While technically for this recipe all of it could be done prior to cooking because the recipe is so simple, I predict that for more complicated dishes it could be an issue. There are literally thousands of recipes in The Silver Spoon, so I look forward to the multitude of ways for me to hone in on my inner Italian mother.

Next...Grilled Veggie and Potsticker Stir Fry!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Pure Luck Restaurant
Neighborhood: Wilshire Center
707 N Heliotrope Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 660-5993

Known to locals as Uck, Pure Luck is a vegan restaurant in the heart of LA's Bike District. What used to be a sushi restaurant, the owners kept the name and the old sign, hence the name Uck since the Pure and the L don't light up.

It's down the street from Orange 20 and the Bicycle Kitchen, two well-known/excellent bike shops. Chason spoke nostalgically about the time he spent here a few years ago when he would hang out at Orange 20, learn about bikes, and sometimes sell merchandise while it was still a tiny store, before it moved to its corner location.

Vegan? Maybe something I'll voluntarily eat if I were still in Boston. There were so many experimental veggie and vegan restaurants in Cambridge, MA, that it was hard not to taste something animal-free and delicious every now and again. Two notables are Grasshopper Restaurant (serving Chinese-style made with tempeh that's supposed to look like meat) and TJ Scallywaggle's Vegan Pizza & Subs, which unfortunately is now closed. I went to the pizza place once for an open mic I read about. I ordered a calzone and borrowed a guitar from the employee working, and played 'Blister in the Sun' and a Hanson song.

At Pure Luck they offer patio/entrance seating, which I'm glad we didn't take. Sitting next to the door is always a drag. It's a bonus if you need to smoke, or want the atmosphere of the street to leak in to your dinner. The corner booth is a good place for a photo op, with a wallpaper of a bamboo forest behind you. I loved the Buddha on the mantle and the pig statues on the floor.

The staff is small and friendly, and bearded gentleman with glasses and a pink-haired girl in striped shorts took our order and brought our drinks. The perk of this place is a small beer selection, and bottles of Mexicoke. I had green tea.

At one point I saw a female cook come out wearing a race hat, and I felt right at home. C-man told me that when it first opened, it was filled with grungy, dirty cyclists, and now the clientele appears cleaner, a little more yuppy, and spilling off from the nearby LA City College. People that looked like they had homework to do after their date.

I had the Tofu Pesto Sandwich--Grilled Tofu and fresh basil-spinach pesto on a rustic roll, with romaine and onions and vegan mayo. Four strips of pan-fried tofu sliced lengthwise, and I think I've never had better tofu. I don't go for the slimy texture too often, and it's hard to get a lot of flavor into it. It was a great texture between the crusty roll and unutterably delicious pesto. I couldn't believe it. No cheese! It also came with a side spinach salad with red onions and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

C-man ordered the Pure Luck Spring Rolls--Spinach, basil, sprouts, lime and tofu rolled up in a flour tortilla. Served fresh or fried, spicy or mild. He ordered them fresh, and with a side of sweet potato fries.

Overall I was satisfied. I wish I hadn't been in the first day of having the flu, or else I would have gotten a nice Porter or Pilsner along with my sandwich. I would return also to try some of the meat stand-ins, namely the 'jackfruit tacos.' Jackfruit looks a lot like cactus, grows in South East Asia and Mexico, and tastes like pineapple and cantaloupe, although less juicy. I bought one for six dollars from a Whole Foods in Brookline last year, and it was a taste to be acquired, much like jicama, which is mainly praised for its texture. I'd be interested to see it combined with other flavors to make it palatable. You gotta get creative when you don't eat meat and dairy! I know I would drink a lot of beer, too.

I'm pondering coming up with a rating system. "I give it three chews. I give it three bananas. Three turns of the pan. Three pinches of salt. Three cups of tea." We'll see...

Next...Spaghetti Carbonara!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recipes for the Cure

Chez Chason, Brentwood

On Thursday night I brought the fury of a serious head cold into Chason's apartment, inflicting it upon both Chason and his roommate. My head and nasal cavity were throbbing, and I tried to fend it off with OJ, ginger ale, and Nyquil. The next day I wasn't about to move, so I sat in the car while Chason went into Ralphs to buy ingredients to make his first Chicken Noodle Soup.

---à acheter---

1 Ralphs Lemon-Herb Rotisserie Chicken
3/4 lb pasta noodles of your choice
3 carrots
2 stalks celery
4 cloves garlic
1/2 yellow onion
4 tbsp Better Than Bouillon chicken base
OR 4 bouillon cubes, or granulated equivalent
2 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Start 4 quarts water to boil. Add bouillon and dissolve. Chop and add carrots. Let boil. While water is boiling, mince garlic and chop the half onion, add. Reduce heat to low. Add noodles. Begin tearing pieces from the rotisserie chicken, and add to soup. Chop 2 stalks celery and add. Test noodle for doneness and serve when ready! Best served with a couple slices of a sourdough loaf.

---à noter---

When I referenced chicken noodle soup recipes online, the directions were to add 12 oz of pasta. We added the full 16 oz, which turned out to be too much, soaking up most of the broth.

Easy variations:
Bake your own chicken, to make a whole day of it, just in case you aren't sick.
use lemon and rosemary for a more mediterranean flavor. Change the starch: use rice!
The rice can sometimes make the soup a super-starchy, comforting bowl of cold-curing love.

Next...Vegan bites at Pure Luck, a former Korean resto turned cyclist hangout! (sketch below)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brunch in Brentwood

Amandine Cafe
12225 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 979-3211

Weekend Brunch--the envy of baristas everywhere. Since I'm no longer a coffee-slinger, I had the good fortune of going out for brunch on Saturday.

Amandine Cafe, one of the shiny Wilshire breakfast joints I've seen from the car. The term amandine refers to a dish served with a garnish of almonds. The almond is my favorite nut, so I can't wait to try the almond croissant the next time I go.

We parked on the street, and entered through the rear patio. This place is small, but packed, and running speedily and efficiently. Runners and waiters and cooks whizzing by in their sleek white uniforms and caps, as we passed by the chatty diners. What a spread! Fresh baked artisan loaves and baguettes, huge danish, and delicate, buttery croissants glowing behind glass partitions, begging me to eat them. "Hey Fee. Just give me a try. You won't regret this chocolately filling," said the croissant. "No!" I shouted. "What would my boyfriend say?"

The breakfast menu is simple. French Toast served five ways and a variety of omelettes served with fruit and toast. At first Chason ordered it with the berries confiture, which is a berry reduction, essentially hot preserves, which I was excited about, but he went with the fresh strawberries intead. In addition, there are daily soup and quiche specials. Mon Dieu, I swear to you that French Toast is my favorite food in the world, but at the sight of a slice of Ham, Potato and Onion Quiche, I had to turn my head and go savory for once. I ordered my iced americano, and we found a table with a stack of plates on it. The seating was continually full. It was busy time--12:00 noon--so itd be common to see a few tables uncleared.

We waited for the food with our numbered placecards, in lieu of a paper ticket, while we looked at the humdrum photography for sale on the wall. "Third Year Photography Student," is a direct quote. Lots of out of focus bucolesque pictures of children and clouds, all for sale for more than 50 dollars.

The quiche came with a side salad of mixed greens in a mustard vinaigrette and a few cornichons. I tried one (the little French pickle). Not my thing. The quiche was chock full of cubed pieces of ham and potato, a little too much filling, I thought, and not enough egg. Once you put a fork in it, the bite fell apart. It was supposed to hang together by the layer of melted cheddar on top, but alas.

Chason's French Toast was scrumptious, better even than the donut-like French Toast they served at the Webb Schools dining hall. The strawberries were so tasty, and the texture wonderful. Slightly gooey inside, with a sugary crust. Mmm!

It was a good outing for people watching, I must confess. We sat in the vicinity of two solo diners, both hard at work with their heads buried in a book or a laptop, and next to another couple, who clearly had spent the morning cultivating other carnal pleasures.
There was a mother and her teenage son, who avoided her presence in vain, but finally talked to her over their sandwiches. There was an elderly man who unknowingly took the seat of two younger women, who I hope didn't make him move.

Most satisfying and delicious. A good amount of food. Perhaps slightly pricey, but the taste is worth the penny. I want to go back for more croissants and coffee.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Attack of the Mac

Mac and Cheese with a Texan Twist
and Blackberry Spinach Salad

The suggestion was made, and it was instantly accepted: Homemade Baked Mac and Cheese. We’re fans of Alton Brown and his scientific approach to cooking, so we followed his recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese, with some adjustments.

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf. Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
For the topping: Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

The Adapting and Twisting
We used Rigatoni, a medium-sized tube pasta. While I was chopping onions and shredding the cheese, Chason was cooking BACON. That’s his mac and cheese philosophy—about ten pieces of bacon we would chop up and throw into the mix.While making the roux, a happy little roommate elf came by and suggested I use a roux whisk. It’s sort of a 2-D flattened out version of a whisk that allows you to get to all of the sides of the pan. A revelation for gravy making! The most exciting part was adding the cheddar to the simmering milk-onion-melange. When you think this light, wimpy sauce isn’t going to amount to anything, a few minutes involved with the cheese and it turns a hard right onto Delicious St. We added some chili powder and a smidge of paprika to spice it up. The powdered mustard made a huge difference, too. I would never have thought of it. Lastly, we used Italian bread crumbs instead of panko. Changes it a bit, but still delicious!

It was about 10:30 when we pulled it from the oven. I made a spinach salad with blackberries, and tried to make a fresh orange vinaigrette, but unfortunately it was too salty. Just an experiment.
The end result: Spicy, delicious, and nice chunks of bacon. Fantastic. I gave myself a huge portion, ate it too fast, and quickly slipped into a coma as we watched The Seven Year Itch, and I had a gin and tonic.

next...Mucho Mas Mexican!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Julie & Julia or perhaps just Julia

Film: Julie & Julia
written and directed by Nora Ephron

I wasn’t exactly sure who Nora Ephron was. I thought she was the author of saucy novels. In actuality she is the director of such Rom-Com classics as Sleepless in Seattle and by proxy, You’ve Got Mail.
I was already excited for the prospect to see Julia Child in action, played by the always spot-on Meryl Streep. Unfortunately I never saw much of her show when it was still on air during the early days of the Food Network. My mom was fond of Two Fat Ladies*, and the Galloping Gourmet*.
Many reviews come to a consensus that a movie about Julia Child would have been better, instead of interlacing it with the story of Julie Powell’s blog. But the success of the blog was the inspiration to make the whole movie. The unfortunate part is that the real life Julie Powell had nothing to do with the making of the film. Her rights were sold, and that was that. I assume that the majority of the audience for Julie & Julia is a dedicated crop of Julia Child fans like me who felt disappointment that they couldn’t see more of her life dramatized by Meryl Streep. If I had been a fan of the blog at the time, I’m sure it would have been great for me to see. Alas, that’s not the case.
The 1940’s French kitchen sets were exquisite, decked with copper pans, millions of whisks, and wooden islands. The scenes in cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu were fantastic. It’s clear Julia Child was a very determined woman, to fight against gender stereotypes and a language barrier to be accepted as a professional chef. Her father was a Pasadena Republican (ha!), and she settled in Cambridge, MA by the time Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published by Knopf. I was buzzing in my seat with the familiarities of home, Boston, and Paris. When Julia moved back to California in 2001, her Cambridge Kitchen was moved in its entirety to Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Behring Center. It’s now on my list of things to see before I die.
Another reason I saw this film was because there was a full feature of Amy Adams in the L.A. Times Calendar section a few weeks ago. I felt so proud for her.
One unseen joy of the film is the sex! What better complements food than sex? There were a few bedroom scenes throughout the film where both Julie and Julia get it on with their husbands respectively. Thanks, Nora.
In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed watching biopic films, re: Ray, Capote, and The Soloist (two incidentally featuring Jaime Foxx.) Meryl Streep was the right choice. You can trust her with anyone. She recreated the quality of Julia’s voice and swagger, and made them her own. Bravo.

To read up on Julia Child:
Read Julie Powell’s blog:

Next…mac and cheese with a Texan twist!

For FUNnotes:

*Two Fat Ladies was on BBC2 initially, and ran from 1996-1999. It featured Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson, travelling the United Kingdom on a Triumph Thunderbird driven by Paterson. Wright rode in the sidecar as they travelled to various destinations. They enjoyed strong flavors and lots of fat. The opening credits to the show were animated, featuring a song the ladies had written themselves. –wiki-

*Galloping Gourmet was a TV show during the 1960’s and 70’s featuring a gregarious British-Scottish chef Graham Kerr, who would prepare many of his foods with wine, and would often be drunk by the end of the episode. “The series was known for its lighthearted humor, tomfoolery, and the copious use of clarified butter, cream, and fat.”-wiki

Sunday, August 23, 2009

French Birthday Brunching

La Frite Café, Sherman Oaks.
15013 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, Ca 91403'

The street is crowded by restaurants and shops, lined up in the traditional California way, like in the Arts Colony in Pomona, or up in San Francisco. A very grand display, with a Buffalo Exchange clothing store a few blocks down the street from the older, and the more established restaurants and shops near La Frite Café. What should I expect going to a place called ‘the fry’? Some classic, basic and essential French food in the part of Sherman Oaks I had never seen.

To celebrate my brother’s 29th birthday the criteria was a restaurant that served Sunday brunch and La Frite has a $21.95 prix fixe menu all ready for us. I started with coffee and water, and by the time the basket of assorted fresh croissants came to our table, I was ready for some fresh orange juice. Between the four of us, we ate three of the four appetizers. I had the Soupe du Jour--fresh asparagus, cream and chicken stock with chives and crème fraîche. My brother ate a Chilled Half Cantaloupe Filled with Strawberries in Port Wine and Fresh Mint. I tried a sliver of cantaloupe. I had never heard of the dish, but it immediately registered as something very simple and unadulterated, four flavors working together, simply. My father and my brother’s girlfriend each had the Brunch Antipasto, which was a sprawl of smoked salmon, decorative spoon-lumps of cream cheese, hard-boiled eggs with double yolks, some sliced red onion, a pile of crème fraîche topped with some black caviar, and served with white toast points.

By the time my Eggs Benedict came to the table, I was near full. Two extra large eggs, very artfully poached, placed on top of two halves of an English muffin with a slice of Canadian Bacon, and covered in a rich Hollandaise sauce. (I have made Hollandaise sauce once, and unfortunately i did just so I could make it. It sat around in my fridge until it went bad. Oh well!) It came with moist baked breakfast potatoes (with tomatoes and onions in the mix—great!) and a side of creamed spinach. Poor spinach. I should have said no, and yes to some fresh fruit instead. Seemed too rich. I was bursting. My brother’s girlfriend got the Sauteed Fresh Rainbow Trout ‘Grenobloise.’ (Which also came with sides of potatoes and creamed spinach!) A grenobloise sauce, for the city in southeastern France, is made of browned butter, capers, parsley, lemon, and is also served with sole.

(Grenoble is right next to a very beautiful strip of the Alps, close to the German and Italian borders, making for some delicious cross-cultural culinary dishes landing on restaurant dinner plates. During my visit to France in 2002, we passed through Grenoble on our way back north to Paris from Avignon. We ate at an awfully bland Tex-Mex restaurant, run by a Frenchman who had studied at Cal Tech here in Pasadena, CA. The world shrank so small that day!)

My brother had the French Toast with Mixed Berries and Maple Syrup. How could it not even be called Pain Perdu? This bothered me. While having the menu in English is clearly a marketing choice, the menu was very clearly suffering from the American syndrome, because the portions were huge! La Frite Café has been cooking away for the past 25+ years, and the modest portions that characterize French cuisine was thrown out the window a long time ago. The size of the portions is supposed to counterbalance all of the butter! So our bellies may have suffered in being stretched to their limits, but our tears were tears made of sweet cream and champagne. The men were lauding their recent exercise and diet feats, and that today was their day off from counting calories.
Our waiter Terry caught wind that it was my brother’s birthday. Along with the Chocolate Banana Caramel Crepe with La Frite homemade Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramelized Walnuts, the waiter brought a sliced of Warm Chocolate-Raisin Bread Pudding with Caramel Cream Sauce, and small custard cup of whipped cream with a lit candle in it. Everyone couldn’t get enough of the Banana Crepe, which arrived in an oven-hot casserole dish, but I took a bite, and that was it. Sometimes eating a few too many walnuts doesn’t bode well. I’m realizing I don’t much like the taste. We all couldn’t believe we piled away everything, and I was still sipping coffee as the check came. I took the potatoes and creamed spinach home, which will hopefully make for an exciting egg breakfast tomorrow.

I’d be interested to return to La Frite again to try some of the dessert crepes, the Onion Soup, Ratatouille, Baked Brie with Marinara, Chicken Cordon Bleu, or the various “Chopped Steak and Frites” selections, which may deceive, but you can’t hide the fact that you’re going to be served a hamburger.

Just think twice about getting the brunch. Make sure you’re very, very hungry, and that your stomach is in the mood for a digest-a-thon.

The best part of French Cuisine is the manner of its consumption, the time between courses longer than the American custom, leaving air for discussion and enjoyment. On that note, the service was excellent. It seemed every other minute I was getting a refill of the one-inch vacancy in my coffee and water glass. The delivery of the dishes was well-timed for digestion’s sake, and for conversation to flourish. The clientele at La Frite was various, and the outdoor patio seating seemed very inviting, the manager popping about asking us about our food. While the entire menu isn’t strictly French, it's an ideal match for me. It's got paper placemats, and you can listen to Contemporary Alt Rock while you eat. Délicieux!

next post...le film Julie and Julia!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mexican Beer and French Bread

I was a counter person for my first real job. I would wake up at 6:oo A.M. and walk a half-mile to get to Wildflour Baking Co. on Sierra Madre Blvd here in Sierra Madre. I'd put the hot danish and croissants onto the trays, and make the coffee. The French artisanal baguettes and loaves going into the giant ovens at around 9 o clock. Every other afternoon, I'd have to help form the loaves of bread for the next two days. One person weighs them out on a scale, the other shapes the loaf, places it in a basket where it's going to sit overnight in the fridge. I never got to be a baker there, but I got to handle my fair share of bread, and so I started baking it from scratch.

On Monday night, I went to a birthday party potluck in Altadena and brought some French rolls that I made late in the afternoon. The invitation said it was a BYOB. I only had enough money for gas, and so I made a poor man's offering, while Chason bought a 12-pack of Negra Modelo. We both brought the same thing, just in different forms.

The rolls turned out delicious. I minced a few springs of rosemary and threw it into the flour mixture along with the coarse sea salt, to make for a tastier, more subtle flavor.

Yesterday I took on the bread again! This time I added a little cardamom. I use Julia Child's recipe as a springboard, from her book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol II."

Cardamom Loaves

1 cake of yeast
(what I have)
2 1/4 tsp Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast
1/4 warm water (about 100 degrees F)
1 tsp sugar for proofing

Dissolve yeast into warm water. Add sugar to mixture. If it doubles in volume and becomes foamy in ten minutes, the yeast is active and ready to go.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, taking care to loosely scoop, and level off with a knife
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 1/4 cups tepid water

Mix yeast and water into flour mixture, and begin to cut the liquids into the flour with a bench knife. If you don't have a bench knife, use a rubber spatula.

Many others have tried to do what I tried to do. Check out their story.

After the first kneading process, which takes about 15 minutes by hand, when the gluten molecules are bonded at the dough is 'springy,' the bread is left to rise in a bowl for 3 1/2 to 5 hours. Covering the dough in plastic wrap, and the bowl covered with a folded towel. Make sure it's at around 70 degrees, nowhere that's too drafty. Wait until it has tripled in volume. Dough can be left to rise overnight in the fridge, which takes about 9 hours. Perfect for making Friday or Saturday night before you go to bed for the next day's dinner.

In my case, I started the dough at 10:45 a.m., and punched it down at 3:30 p.m., so I did Julia justice. This time you knead the dough for about five minutes, pinching out any gas bubbles in the dough.

I let it rise for another 1 1/2 to 3 hours, at which point it had doubled in volume. I was supposed to wait until triple volume, again, but I was running out of time. I cut the dough into three, and formed them into demi-baguettes.

From the formed stage, they're supposed to rise another 1 1/2 hours and double in volume, but I let them settle for 30 minutes before going in the oven. Can you guess which one I formed first?

In the end I was happy. I cracked one open and slapped some SmartBalance spread on it. The resulting bread was slightly dense and a little yeasty, but that was the price to pay for using the proportions of yeast+flour. Come to think of it, when I do it again, I'll either decrease the yeast amount or make sure I have the time and equipment (canvas, cornmeal, razor for slashing the loaves) to make the bread the way Madame Julia intended it.

By the way, I haven't seen Julie and Julia yet, but I'm very excited. I imagine I will cry bouillabaisse tears of joy.

Cheers for beers,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Inaugural Eggs

Welcome to my new blog--Felicious Food!
To the left is a picture of me eating on the Champs de Mars in Paris in the summer of 2007.

I decided that I should put my love for food somewhere. I fell in love with the Food Network when I was 16, and then went to France to have culinary palate explosions, one after the other. From there, I started teaching myself more. Lately my interests are branching out to Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Thai cuisines.

Happy August Noshing. It's fresh out there. Hope you can afford the Farmer's Market Produce, or a few minutes to make something for yourself in the kitchen.

Egg and Avocado Sandwich
breakfast 8.13.09

On Tuesday, I spent part of my afternoon making a small batch of caramelized onions. I stood within ten feet of the pan, patiently stirring every few minutes while I watched "Paris is Burning", a documentary about the underground 'vogue' dance movement in NYC in the 80s and 90s, popularized by Madonna. The onions are a deep brown, savory and sweet. I was thinking of serving them over some roasted zucchini, but this morning I needed some eggs. I have some avocados, so I knew I was heading in a delicious direction. I was reminded of the breakfast sandwiches you could order at Darwin's in Cambridge.

2 pc. wheat toast (preferably multigrain with seeds)
2 eggs
2 oz sliced medium cheddar cheese
1/2 avocado
2 tbsp caramelized onion
2 tsp mayonnaise
sprinkle Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Preheat the pan to medium. Toast the two slices of bread at a low to medium setting. Turn on the broiler/oven to high. Slice the cheese as thin as you can, or if not, grated would work just fine, possibly messier. Cut up half the avocado into lengthwise slices. Crack the eggs into the pan, season with a little salt and pepper, and put a lid over the top to let the yolk steam. They should take about a minute. While waiting for the eggs, Spread the mayo on one slice of the bread, and sprinkle it with the Italian seasoning. (both slices optional.) Lay the avocado on one mayo'd side, and then spread the onions on top. Flip the eggs. Wait 30 seconds, and then put them on the bread. cover both sides with cheese. Put the slices side by side on a sheet pan, (or if your frying pan is large enough and has a safe handle, just use that!) and place them under the broiler. Wait one minute. The cheese should just be gooey. Remove the pan and stack the sandwich together on a plate. Wait about 20 seconds to let the cheese settle, then slice in half and eat! Yum and Satisfaction.

Serve with coffee and the Calendar Section.