fig. b: smoked cajun sausage
Oyster & Gumbo Feast
Friday, October 3, 2014
7:00 - 10:00 p.m.
Foodlab / Labo Culinaire
1201 St-Laurent Blvd. (3rd floor)
Crabapple Jelly à la Michelle
Stem, clean and sort through the crabapples, removing any that are rotten.
Place in a medium/large pot, depending on how many apples you have.
Just barely cover with water. You should be able to press down on them, getting the water to cover them when you do.
Cook for 20-25 minutes at a simmer until your crabapples are falling apart and fragrant.
Pour through a chinois and let drip.*
For every 10 parts juice, add 6-7 parts sugar, depending on the tartness of your crabapples.
Place the juice and sugar in an appropiately sized pot, bring to a simmer, and cook at a simmer until you reach the gel stage.
A drop of liquid should come off the spoon in a sheet rather than a droplet.
Place in sterilized jars and seal according to proper canning procedures. Or simply pour into any clean glass container and let set, then store in the fridge.
* You can also use a jelly bag for this step, but Michelle prefers to use a chinois because it speeds up the process.And, either way, the results are beautiful--to the eye, and to the palate.
1. Washington County, VT (and environs)
2. George Harrison, All Things Must Pass (Apple)
sample track: "Run of the Mill"
4. Lauren Collins, "The Spy Who Loved Me," The New Yorker, August 25, 2014
5. poulet grillé au gingembre
6. This American Life #534, "A Not-So-Simple Majority"
7. Cape Cod!
8. Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
9. David Crosby, If I Could Only Remember My Name...
10. Boyhood (2014), dir. Linklater
We had a feeling Minnesota was going to be nice, but we weren't quite prepared for just how lovely it all was: from the people, to the attractions, to the scenery.
fig. a: sublime
We touched down in Minneapolis and soon got ourselves acquainted with the "City of Lakes." It really wasn't all that difficult to get our bearings, what with the River and the Grid there to help us.
fig. b: Mississippi by Faribault
Minneapolis is definitely a breakfast town, all four of our party of Montrealers are breakfast people, and we were only going to be in town for a very brief period of time, so we came roaring out of the gate and immediately hit one of the legends of the local scene: Al's Breakfast.
Al's is situated in a structure that represents American diner vernacular at its finest. The counter seats about 15 people, and the queue forms right behind them--until it spills out onto the street, of course. The structure is literally a converted alleyway: a make-shift roof was assembled over an alley next to a hardware store to transform it into a shed to house additional goods; this space was then rented out and renovated; by the time Al Bergstrom took possession in 1950, it had been operating as a hamburger stand. The rest is history, but one thing's for sure: it's a setting befitting the Dinkytown address.
fig. c: Al's Breakfast*
Al's serves an impressive number of breakfast combos, alongside some remarkably tasty diner coffee (served in "bottomless" cups, of course), but one of the things they're most famous for is a dish that's a local obsession: hash browns. I say a "dish" because although hash browns in Minneapolis are often served the standard way--as an accompaniment to eggs, or a side order--they're also served in a variety of other ways: topped or mixed in all kinds of inventive ways.
Al's was friendly, and had character to spare--they also had a very unique way of getting parties of three or more to be seated together (by orchestrating an elaborate form of musical stools), and an unusual way to placing orders (they didn't call them out; the short-order cook would walk the line to eyeball the orders and commit them to memory). But it wouldn't have meant quite as much if their breakfasts hadn't been outstanding--which they were.
I had my hash browns "straight up"--as an accompaniment to their summer scramble with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella--but they were fantastic: crispy, cooked through, and actually fully flavoured. Definitely not the bland, undercooked dreck that passes for hash browns in so many breakfast joints across North America.
After breakfast, we took a stroll through the campus of the University of Minnesota to visit the University Archives with a friend of mine who's a curator there. (She's also a long-time Al's aficionado, and was kind enough to curate our visit there, too.) We visited their vaults deep underground, which contain the world's largest collection of Sherlockiana, among many other wondrous things.
fig. d: Sherlockiana
And, afterwards, we made our way over to the University's Weisman Art Museum to inspect the mysteries of their permanent collection and generally take in the scene.
fig. e: lounging
While we were at the Weisman, we also caught a fantastic exhibit of O. Winston Link's photographs of trains, train stations, and train communities along the Norfolk & Western Railway, the last of the steam-engine lines in America.
fig. e: training days
That night, after a cycle tour of Minneapolis' impressive array of lakes (it is the "City of Lakes," after all), some shopping, some noshing (Midtown Global Market!), and some downtime at our B & B, we headed back across the mighty Mississippi and settled in at Nye's Polonaise Room for dinner and drinks.
1950 appears to have been a particularly momentous year in the history of Minneapolis: not only was it the birth year of Al's Breakfast, it was also the year Nye's came into being. But whereas Al's is the humblest of restaurants, more or less squatting a Dinkytown alleyway, Nye's occupies an entire city block, and it does so proudly.
fig. f: Nye's Polonaise
Once named The Best Bar in America by no less an authority than Esquire, Nye's actually consists of three connected establishments: Nye's Bar (which features raucous musical acts nightly, including The World's Most Dangerous Polka Band), Nye's Chopin Dining Room (a banquet hall), and Nye's Polonaise, the heart and soul of the operation.
In spite of its name, the Polish fare at Nye's Polonaise isn't going to win any prizes for continental cuisine, but it is a throwback to a time when a night on the town might very well include a trip to an Eastern European "fine dining" establishment/Cocktail Lounge/Piano Bar, and when restaurants didn't have any qualms about encouraging each and every patron to "eat, drink, and loosen your belt!"
And the experience is priceless--from the old-school service and the Truman-era martinis (vodka, of course), to the gargantuan platters and the classic wedge salads, to the drunken sing-alongs at the piano bar and the portrait of Chopin (their patron saint) that proudly adorns the wall behind it, announcing to all who enter, "This place has class!"
None of us had the necessary credentials to weigh in on whether it's still the Best Bar in America (or ever was), but we loved Nye's Polonaise all the same.
When we looked back on it later that night, we were downright flattered that the songstress at the piano correctly identified us as out-of-towners within seconds of our stepping onto the premises, and promptly started heckling us. We were a little disappointed that she had us pegged for Americans--from Long Island, no less--but she was serenading five or six people at the bar at the time, so maybe we didn't have her full attention.
Then again, maybe she sensed something: the plates on our rental car did read "New Jersey."
Minnesota addresses (part one):
Al's Breakfast, 413 14th Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN, (612) 331-9991
Weisman Art Museum, 333 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN, (612) 625-9494
Midtown Global Market, 920 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN
Nye's Polonaise, 112 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, (612) 379-2021
* photograph courtesy of Mark Slutsky Photography.
While we're still on the topic of Provence and its cuisine...
So, as expected, this summer food magazines were filled with all kinds of tempting recipes for the 2014 barbecue season. The July issue of Bon Appétit alone contained a full spread on DIY Korean barbecue; an Austin, TX spread featuring an outrageous-looking citrus-brined pork loin and a grilled rib eye recipe; a Middle Eastern/North African spread featuring mint and cumin-spiced lamb chops and Moroccan chicken brochettes; an article on cold smoking; and a guide to making and grilling your own sausages. Just that single issue was enough to keep someone busy over their barbecue for months--and, trust me, it did.
Poulet grillé au gingembre
1 2.5-3-lb organic chicken, halved, backbone removed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 sprig fresh thyme (with fresh thyme in our garden right now, this has been my preference)
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Stir lemon juice, oil, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and ginger in a bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2-4 hours.
Heat a charcoal grill, making sure that your charcoals are evenly spread and of an even height. Ideally, you want a fire that's medium-hot. Be patient. Grill a bunch of vegetables first, if you have to.
Grill chicken, turning as needed, until slightly charred and cooked through, about 35 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads 165º F. Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with melted butter. Tent the chicken with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. This will complete the cooking process and allow the chicken to release its delicious juices into your platter. Serve and devour.
Serves 2 to 4 people, depending on appetite and number of side dishes.
[based very closely on a recipe that co-authored by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey for The New York Times and then adapted slightly by Betsy Andrews for Saveur]I still haven't tried Lulu's chicken, ginger, and elbow macaroni recipe yet, but I will. Believe me, I will. And I haven't fully figured out that French connection to ginger yet, but I like it--I really, really like it. In fact, there have been times recently when I've declared it the very best grilled chicken I've ever tasted.
fig. a: petit aïoli monstre
Tomorrow, Thursday, August 14, 2014, le grand aïoli is back, and this time it's even grander than before. In fact, it's going to be so huge, so extraordinary, that this time around they're billing it as un aïoli monstre (!).
Once again, this grand aïoli pools together the prodigious talents of the Foodlab, Oenopole, and the Birri Bros.
And once again, this aïoli monstre is inspired by and dedicated to our patron saints of Provençal cuisine: Lulu Peyraud and Richard Olney.
If you're not exactly clear on the concept, the good folks at Oenopole have summarized it this way: mange tes légumes et bois du rosé ("eat your vegetables and drink some rosé!"). In other words, all of Birri's most beautiful August vegetables, lovingly prepared by Michelle and Seth and served with generous amounts of Lulu's legendary aïoli, plus all of Oenopole's most delicious rosés. But I have it on good authority that there will also be Provençal-style shrimp and Atlantic lobster on offer to sweeten the deal even further.
SAT Foodlab / Labo Culinaire
1201 boulevard St-Laurent
Thursday, August 14, 2014
5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
rain or shine! (but it's always sunny when a grand aïoli is being served)
Michelle's so excited about this grand aïoli that I heard her say, "You'd be a fool to miss it." I'm not sure if she meant me personally, or whether she meant "you" more generally. Either way, I'm not taking any chances. I know where I'm going to be tomorrow night.
Yes, the Raspberry Social is coming back!
fig. a: raspberries!
Bigger and badder than ever before, and with a new sense of purpose.
As was the case with last year's blockbuster St-Jean Strawberry Social at Espace Pop, this will be a combination Fruit Social & BBQ Social, featuring the following line-up:
AJ's famous smoky Carolina-style chopped pork sandwich (with all the fixings)
Savouré's wonderful raspberry soda
Michelle's irresistible trio of raspberries, spongecake, & whipped cream*fig. b: BBQ !
Well, Arthur threatened to spoil our glorious return to Cape Cod, but, when the storm had finally passed and the winds had settled, the skies cleared up beautifully and things got back to normal.
fig. a: summer off the Cape
Our 2013 trip to Cape Cod had been such a hit that we were eager to get back and do it all over again. And because we were there for the same stretch of time, and we'd loved the way our last trip had played out, we were happy to basically replicate our 2013 itinerary.
This meant that there were a few major priorities to our trip:
1. bookstores, book sales, thrift shops & flea markets
fig. b: books al fresco
We probably should commission a custom bumper sticker for our car that reads "I brake for bookstores, book sales, thrift shops, flea markets, particularly promising-looking garage sales, farm stands, pie shops, jam stores, sustainable seafood markets, well-curated wine shops, and discount beverage stores," because we do--we make frequent stops at all these kinds of enterprises, especially when we're on Cape Cod.
We started making such stops almost immediately after we crossed the Sagamore Bridge and began following the 6A (a.k.a., the Old King's Highway) east across the northern edge of the Cape. These stops included the Parnassus Book Service in Yarmouth Port, which specializes in many things (Americana, Cape Codiana, etc.), but is especially notable for its extensive collection of the work of local legend Edward Gorey.
The most important stop on our Cape Cod Collectibles tour was without a doubt a return visit to the Wellfleet Flea Market,
fig. c: magic carpets
which takes place on the grounds of the Wellfleet Cinemas drive-in theater, on the very southern edge of town, just north of North Eastham, and a few miles from the center of town.
fig. d: virtual windows
You've got to head up closer to the screen to get to "the good stuff" (the stuff that's actually old and/or holds real value, as well as the true Cape Cod characters who are selling it). This is one of our favourite flea markets anywhere, and both times we've visited we've scored plenty of great finds, but our absolute favourite stand is the "Local Folk Art" stand (formerly known as the Cape Recycled Art Project, or C.R.A.P.)
fig. e: C.R.A.P.
where we bought the beach plums and the wild apricots last year. We had a longer conversation with Mike (a.k.a., the Man From C.R.A.P.) this time around, and we thanked for him for his foraged fruit and told him about the preserves we made with them. Turns out his fruit foraging prowess has earned him the nickname "Beach Plum Mike." Of course, he didn't have any plums or apricots when we saw him, because it wasn't quite the season, but he did have a lot of whales, mermaids, narwhals, fish, and birds, and his style ranges from American Primitive to Folk Whimsy. Either way, he's one of the best folk artists I've come across over the years, and we made a point of making some new acquisitions.
fig. f: whale
And you'll be happy to know that our Cape Cod bird instantly befriended our Kamouraska eel.
fig. g: bird & eel
2. Wellfleet Center
fig. h: we grow 'em bigger!
Speaking of whimsy: there's a fair bit of it in Wellfleet Center, both in the heart of town, and out by the town pier.
fig. i: book nerds
They also know how to put on a great book sale (see #1) in Wellfleet,
fig. j: French psychedelia
and you never know what you might find, like this bizarre collection of 52 semi-psychedelic "jumbo-size recipe playing cards" featuring the cuisine of France (?).
Sample recipe card: the 10 of spades is "Poulet aux Amandes (Chicken in White Wine with Almonds)."
Not clear on the concept? Here, let me explain: "Winning luncheons and dinners are in the cards! Deal from this complete deck of delicious hors d'oeuvres, light luncheon dishes, entrees, vegetables, salads and desserts. French Recipe Cards are a pack of fun! Use them for games... as hostess gifts... for party favors."
fig. k: window shopping
The Wellfleet Market is an anchor of the community, and their meat department has provided me with all the quality spare ribs I've required over the last couple of years. They also know how to decorate their windows.
But our very favourite place in Wellfleet Center is Hatch's, a small operation just off the Town Hall that consists of two halves: Hatch's Produce, a green grocer, which carries a lot of locally grown fruits and vegetables (in season),
fig. l: Hatch's Produce
and Hatch's Fish Market, which may very well be our favourite place for seafood.
fig. m: Hatch's Fish Market
We were just blown away by the selection, the freshness, and the affordability of Hatch's seafood last year, and this year we were just as impressed. Once again, we didn't hold back, and, once again, we treated our hosts to a seafood feast on Sunday night, featuring local littleneck clams, wild shrimp, local scallops, and local flounder.
If you don't have access to a kitchen, you can always just pay a trip to Mac's on the pier. There you'll find lobster rolls and other types of seafood sandwiches, oysters on the half-shell, and steamed littleneck clams that are worth waiting on.
fig. n: waiting for my clams
And when you visit Wellfleet, be sure to pay a trip to one of the stunning local beaches, preferably oceanside (see below).
3. Ice Cream
The motto of Sundae School, our favourite Cape Cod ice cream shop and soda fountain, is "Don't skip Sundae School," and, believe me, we wouldn't dream of it. Sundae School in Harwich Port is one of our favourite ice cream shops of all-time, and, for us, Bass River Mud is their showstopper. Rich coffee ice cream, roasted almonds, chocolate chunks, and fudge swirl--it's a flavor that lives up to its evocative name,
fig. o: Bass River estuary
and it's hard for us to imagine a better combination, or a more successful version of this combination. I meant to take a photograph of it immediately after receiving my cone, but I literally couldn't wait long enough to fire off a shot. This is what a regular serving of Bass River Mud looks like after it's half eaten.
fig. p: Bass River Mud
Monday in Harwich Port has become our barbecue day. I pick up a mess of ribs at the Wellfleet Market on Sunday. I rub them with my special blend
fig. q: special blend
and let the flavours infuse in the refrigerator overnight. And on Monday afternoon, between swims, I put the 3-2-1 method to work. Monday night we have ourselves a good old-fashioned rib-pickin', with all the trimmings, and we wash it all down with bourbon and rye.
We go swimming as often as we can. That's the rule: get it while you can.
The waters you find off the "tricep" of Cape Cod, facing Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, get pretty nice and warm and the waves tend to be smaller and choppier.
The waters you find off the "forearm" of Cape Cod, facing the ocean, are bracing, but they're also a remarkably beautiful blue-green, the waves tend to be bigger and better-formed, and the dunes that line the coast are often monumental.
fig. r: this way to paradise
This year, it was Marconi Beach, near Wellfleet, that took our breath away. But, believe me, every single swim, on both coasts of Cape Cod, was a great swim.
It's important to commemorate a summer beach vacation with souvenirs.
fig. s: s is for souvenirs
T-shirts, jam, used books, collectibles, bourbon--whatever it takes. A trip like this can be such a dream come true, such a wonderful blur, that when you get back home you might find yourself needing tangible evidence that you were actually there.
Our favourite souvenirs are edible ones, and the thing we knew we'd miss the most when we left Cape Cod was the seafood, so we made a point of scooting up to Wellfleet and popping into Hatch's again before we headed back to Montreal. Once again, we picked up a bunch of local specialties, like shrimp, scallops, and cod (natch), but the treat we were most excited about were our two dozen littleneck clams. Those Wellfleet littlenecks had been one of the highlights of our trip, and we were determined to extend the good tidings all the way back home. We weren't exactly sure what we were going to do with them, but on the drive back I had a flash of inspiration: clam pizza!
So the day after, that's exactly what I did: I made a couple of clam pies using the Roberta's method.
Once you've got your two pizza doughs ready to be baked...
24 littleneck clams
2 x 125g buffalo mozzarella or fior di latte
red pepper flakes
reserved clam juice
extra-virgin olive oil
Place a pizza stone in your oven, and preheat it as high as your oven will go. I recommend doing so at least an hour before you plan on baking.
Wash and scrub your littleneck clams, rinsing them several times.
Place them in a medium pot with 1/2" of salted water and cover the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-high, and steam the clams until all the shells have opened. Generally 6-10 minutes is how long it's going to take, but these super-fresh Wellfleet littlenecks only took about 4 minutes. The common wisdom is to discard those clams that don't open.
Scoop the clams into a bowl,
making sure to reserve the clam broth in the pot.
When your clams have cooled enough to handle, remove the clam meat from the shells and mince them on a cutting board. Divide the minced clam meat into two equal portions.
Slice both portions of mozzarella as thinly as possible and gather together your other ingredients.
Add about a tablespoon of your clam broth to about two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and stir well. This will be your drizzling oil. (Save the rest of the clam broth for another use, like making spaghetti with clam sauce, but make sure to use it while it's still fresh.)
When your oven is ready to go, stretch and form your pizza dough into a 12" round with a properly shaped lip to it. Spread half your mozzarella slices over your dough, placing the larger pieces closer toward the rim and the smaller pieces closer toward the center. (Buffalo mozzarella gives off a considerable amount of liquid. When you're baking a thin-crust, "white" pie like this, you want to try to avoid having liquid pooling in the center as much as possible.)
Scatter half your clam meat evenly over the pie. Sprinkle minced parsley, minced chives, and red pepper flakes over top. Grind some black pepper overtop and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt. Drizzle the pie with your olive oil/clam broth concoction. Place it in the oven and bake following the Roberta's method.
Remove your pie from the oven when it's baked to perfection and allow it to cool for about a minute. This will allow the molten cheese to set and make it easier for the pizza to be sliced. It will also make it easier for the pizza to be eaten, and help you to avoid law suits.fig. v: clam pie 1
Serve with lemon wedges and encourage your guests to squeeze a little lemon juice over their slices.fig. w: clam pie 2
Repeat instructions with dough #2.The AEB Clam Pizza was a tribute to the clam pie we had at Motorino back in April, but it was also a pretty tasty tribute to Wellfleet and Cape Cod. Those clams were so tender, so briny, so vibrant, it was almost like we'd never left.
le temps est un bateau, la terre est un gâteau