Monthly Archives: March 2009


Foie Gras Extortion

Serendipity.

At few meals this week, the subject of foie gras came up. Some folks recoiled and said that they would never eat it because it was cruel to force-feed geese (ducks in the US) and that they wouldn’t mind if it were banned.

Others argued that operations such as Hudson Valley Farms have proven that they raise their animals in a compassionate and humane way and that foie gras was no more cruel than slaughter of other animals, and maybe even more humane than larger operations.

And then this morning, while surveying my usual wad of food sites and Twitter posts, I came across this Eater NY article written by Momofuku‘s Chef David Chang about his experience with anti-foie gras activists and his resultant, and extremely well-reasoned, response.

I think that this is a very important piece to read for anyone who questions (positively or negatively) the production and consumption of foie gras. Read the Eater NY post here.

I suspect that anyone who cannot see reason of any sort, such as those who would be gladly militant about “cruel-and-unusual” treatment of animals but then in the same breath have no problem wearing leather garments or eating a fat steak, won’t be reading this as it might (possibly) enlighten them…


 

Comments to this post:

Here’s an article on how foie gras is made. It certainly doesn’t look like the animal cruelty that it’s described as to me.

Start here:
http://www.villagevoice.com/slideshow/view/245963/1

Posted by: Howard C. Kveck | March 28, 2009


Freakin’ Excellent Leek Tricks

(photo by © Mirrormere | Dreamstime.com)

(photo by © Mirrormere | Dreamstime.com)

I am completely nuts for leeks. I think I always have been, even when I thought I hated anything that had to do with onions. As a kid, I always thought that green onions were the epitome of oniony-evil, so I thought that over sized, green-onion-on-steroids leeks must be positively satanic.

But I know better now and have for many years. And whenever I see leeks, I have the same reaction as when I see a super cute Boston Terrier puppy just begging for a home. ‘Natch, I always turn over the ducats. And although puppies, especially Bostons, can emit odors that come close to leeks, leeks are so much more…um, edible and delicious.

Leeks are flexible enough to throw the leek tops, the sometimes super-fiberous (some say inedible) green parts, into a cast iron pot filled with seared short ribs and red wine to braise for an hour or four to add extra onion flavor…but it’s the white parts of the leek that get me off – sweet and savory and subtle. Sliced thinly and sauteed, they’re one of the most flexible preps you can have, as they go with beef, pork, chicken. They are especially good with one of my other favorites, mashed potatoes. Tossing a handful of meltingly soft leek bits along with butter and cream to a bowl of mash really kicks ass over roasted garlic ‘tatos any day in my book. (Don’t fret, roasted garlic potatoes are myclose second favorite…).

But the thing I like to do the best with leeks is to make a savory tart using leeks and creme fraiche on top of puff pastry. And the whole thing is so dead simple, that you’re already kicking yourself for not getting out to the store pronto to score the ingredients to make yourself one.

My friend Tom Dowdy originally taught me how to make this and the recipe could have come from his days at the CIA or from one of his many cookbooks, but he always said that as long as you had the three basic ingredients, leeks, creme fraiche and puff pastry, you’re good to go. Sound easy? Read on…

leek and roasted red pepper tart (photo by wm. christman)

leek and roasted red pepper tart (photo by wm. christman)

First the puff pastry. I use store-bought because I suck at making it fresh and when I want leek tart it’s usually on the quick-and-dirty (like I want leek tart in my mouth NOW) so I feel that short-cutting it with frozen is ok here. Of course, fresh puff pastry is better but…frozen-store-bought will do. Really. The only trick is to let it thaw completely (if you buy it frozen) and resist any urge to roll it out AT ALL.

Then there’s the leeks. There is a vendor at the Mountain View Farmer’s Market that sells the best leeks in the Bay Area. I’m sure that there is a farm name associated with them but I always forget to ask because I go into a trance when I see their leeks. They are HUGE, inexpensive and best of all, full of white leek flesh – 2/3 of the leek is white which is amazing if you compare them to the ones they sell at Whole Foods. In season, they are two for a two bucks (two DOLLARS!) and you’ll pay slightly more toward the end of the season. Since they are the diameter of a small, chubby child’s arm, one will give you enough leek tart filling for one tart. Use the second one for another tart, or saute some for the aforementioned mashed potatoes. (If you can’t get to the Farmer’s Market, your local mega-mart will probably have some small-to-moderate sized leeks…just look for leeks that have as much white leek flesh as possible. Two or three of this size will make enough filling for one leek tart…)

– Start by setting the dough out to thaw. Then heat your oven to 400°. Cut the leek just where the green part starts (you’ll use all of the white parts), strip off the first layer of leek flesh to prep it for washing. (You can save the green tops for making stock, and other things…use the power of Google for suggestions.)

Cleaning leeks is a bit of a pain, so leave the root end on for a moment while you split them lengthwise. Run cold water through the layers to rinse out any dirt or sand that has collected there. Shake then pat them dry. The root ends will keep the leek layers together and will make it easy to slice them thinly into half rounds. Discard the root ends when you’re finished.

– Set a saute pan over medium heat and melt a small spoon of butter in it until it barely sizzles. Toss in the sliced leeks and saute them until they become soft. You don’t want to brown them AT ALL so keep them moving and watch the heat. They’ll lose close to half their volume when they’re done – take a small pinch of them and eat them to judge their softness.

If the cooked leeks are tender, set the pan off the heat for about 5-10 minutes. Then, stir in a few tablespoonfuls of the creme fraiche. Now don’t panic…this resulting mixture will look like something has gone seriously, train-wreck wrong. Just keep stirring and the whole thing will start to set up as the pan cools. You’re looking for a creamy texture so carefully add more creme fraiche to get it there. Season and taste until you have a sweet-ish, pleasantly savory-oniony flavor. Then scrape the leeks into a bowl and put them into the fridge.

leek, cheshire cheese and thyme tart (photo by wm. christman)

leek, cheshire cheese and thyme tart (photo by wm. christman)

Most of the difficult part is done. And chances are pretty good that your puff pasty is not quite thawed yet. Check it, unfold it some more (if you need to), and let it get back to it’s natural state. While you’re waiting, pour yourself a glass of wine or other frosty beverage and consider crisping some lardon (julienned bacon) or foraging through your fridge for other stuff to put on top of your leek tart. Good candidates are roasted peppers, stray cheeses, fresh thyme, leftover bits ‘n pieces of vegetable and other delicious fridge detritus. I have even used little dabs of fig preserve for that savory-sweet goodness.

– When you’re ready get your tart on, cut the puff pastry into an attractive shape (circular for the purists, something jagged for the modern set or edges crimped/pulled for that “rustic” look…). Slap the dough onto a baking sheet lubed up with a small amount of butter so it won’t stick (even fully thawed, frozen dough retains just enough water for sticking to be problematic). Then spoon your chilled leek mixture onto the top of the dough. Puff pastry will puff up where ingredients aren’t so leave a rim of untouched dough of about an inch from the edge. Scatter whichever other topping you chose (I like lardon and/or red pepper) over the top of the leek mixture. Pinch a bit of salt and/or black pepper over the top if you desire. However, the leek creme by itself is delicious so don’t feel pressured to add anything else.

Bake until “done”. Depending on your oven, this is 30-40 minutes but do check it occasionally. Looking at the doneness of the pastry rim will be your clear clue…if it’s puffed up, crisp and GBD (golden brown and delicious), then it’s done. Let it cool on it’s pan for 10-15 minutes before you (carefully) move it onto a cooling rack. Slice and devour, still warm or at room temperature.

Leek season is now…from now to late-summer, and there will be leeks on my kitchen counter. They’re truly one of my kitchen essentials.


We’re In Our New Home!

In an effort to make …but the devil sends the cooks. a bit more findable, we now have the domain devilsfood.net for our very own. The URL now is simply www.devilsfood.net. Change your bookmarks to reflect or just let our handy redirector do the work.

There are also some new email addresses associated with the blog: “wm at devilsfood dot net” and “blog at devilsfood dot net”. (The address obfuscation is to defeat auto spam trollers and bots from deluging us with spam…sorry). Feel free to write to comment, rant and/or rave about anything blog or food related…


So Many Food Blogs

(collage by wm. christman, images © respective website creators)

(collage by wm. christman, images © respective website creators)

So…um, I have been rolling the idea of reviewing some truly amazing food blogs around in my head for a few weeks (see the Food Blog Awards mini-post from January). Just when I thought I had it all sorted out and was ready to put fingers to keys, I innocently Googled “top food blogs” and my mind melted into a pile of goop.

It wasn’t like I didn’t already know this but there are a hell of a lot of food blogs out there, all competing for your eyeball space. And you don’t even really have to try hard to find them. So rather than have a think-piece about the cutting edge of the food blogosphere, I’m just going to rant on for a few minutes about the roadside shiny objects that I glimpsed on my 30-minute, high-speed racer run detour through the Interwebs™…

Although these are in no particular order, these are the ones that had either beyond-beautiful photography, a unique take on food or were just plain intriguing. This is by no means a ranked list – believe me, there are PUH-LENTY top 10-20-50-100 lists along with exhortations to “VOTE FOR ME!” to increase an imagined popularity – it seems that the ones that stand out don’t have to shill for votes, they just do what they do and let it rest at that.

nordljusartisansweetsbecksandposh

Nordljus

Photographer Keiko Oikawa fuels her blog with some of the most beautiful food photography on the web. The posts are filled with compact stories and delicious-sounding recipes to enhance her photos. Oikawa also has a Japanese version of her blog with altogether different posts, so if you can read both languages, you get a 2-for-1. Either way, Nordljus is a visual treat.

Artisan Sweets
At first glance, Artisan Sweets comes across as very understated. But scroll down a bit and you see a dynamic little playland of unique photography and food writing. While it breaks just about every rule of journalistic layout theory, Artisan uses font sizes to its advantage. The size variety is like finding those little notes to yourself about a recipe that you tucked away in a specific section of a cookbook that remind you of cooking for someone special. Plus Artisan had a feature on my favorite thing to do with bits of leftover cheese, Fromage Fort. The cheese keeper calls…

Becks And Posh
Two things about Becks And Posh caught my eye: a wicked sense of humor and a recipe for clotted cream. “The Most Disgusting Tasting Cake” post along with a photograph of the recipe for said cake with notation (“this is the shittiest crapest most disgusting tasting cake I have ever made in my WHOLE LIFE”) had me rolling around on the floor in a fit of laughter. As for the clotted cream…that’s this weekend’s project.

chezpimdeliciousdays

Chez Pim
Chez Pim is classy and playful. The Bangkok-born Pim is a celebrity of sorts, parlaying (fancy word for “quitting”) a Silicon Valley career to concentrate on food writing and now has a list of kudos and awards to show for it. She even was a judge on Iron Chef America. But what about the blog? It’s a fantastic melange of clever, witty writing (check out the I Don’t Want To Be Your Valentine post) and cool/crisp layout with equally cool photography.

Delicious:Days
Delicious:Days has that languid look of a summer vacation packed with little tidbits of ace photography and clear, well-thought out writing. There’s even a Food Blogging Do’s And Don’ts post that is useful for the production side of blogging. Delicious:Days is kind of like that small but well-stocked rest stop on the side of the road where you wouldn’t mind spending a few more minutes lingering in the mid-day sun.

And of course, this whole post would not be complete without mentioning the links to your right. These are some of my personal favorites with some even inspiring the tone, tenor and design of …but the devil.. Of course, this list has been expanded to include some of the blogs that are in this post…so have at it. Spend a moment or four hours perusing. You may want to cook yourself something mid-way though…


Korean Beef Stylee

(photo by wm. christman)

(photo by wm. christman)

There are plenty of Korean restaurants in the Bay Area. They fall into three camps: barbecue smorgasbords with at-table grills and chill-tables full of different raw meats for your hunter-gatherer inclinations, down-home joints with Korean soups, hotpots, grilled meats and rice standards, and finally outfits that combine the best of both worlds with at-table grills plus all of the comforts of Korean home food.

Although the all-you-can-eat model allows you to eat until you collapse into a heap of chili’ied-out garlic goodness, these places often suffer from quantity over quality, just as it is at a regular smorgasbord, like say, Hometown Buffet. Nothing wrong with that per se, but if you’re going to spend your hard earned ducats on some K-vittles (which are somewhat universally, at least in the Bay Area, on the spendy side) opting for mediocre is just silly.

(photo by wm. christman)

(photo by wm. christman)

Oakland’s Ohgane is anything but mediocre. It is one of those best-of-both-worlds Korean restaurants with table grills, large platters of great quality meats, and enough feed-an-army sized entrees to feed, well, an army.

I was first attracted to Ohgane by a dish described to me as a “Korean steak tartare with crunchy Asian pear”. I was a bit concerned about the fusion-ish sound of of this…enough to nearly write it off. (I don’t dislike “fusion” Asian places, I just think that there aren’t many that do this type of thing well…) Then someone mentioned that they served forcemeat dumplings in soup, and my comfort food Spidey-sense went nuts and it was on. I couldn’t not go.

the ubiquitous and plentiful panchan (photo by wm. christman)

the ubiquitous and plentiful panchan (photo by wm. christman)

Ohgane is a decently large place and you get hit with a nice waft of grilled meat smell (a great smell, by the way) on entering. The layout is strictly old-school and the place may well have been a family style, booth-laden eatery in former life. There are in-table grills laid out semi-strategically underneath large exhaust fans. The circulation is not quite optimal which means that you may be tempted to burn your clothing after eating here but arranging a date with your laundry will be easier. You’ll live.

Foregoing the barbecue (for another time), the soup and tartare were the choices of the day. It didn’t really sound like enough food for two so we added a dol sot bi bim bap to the list. Food ordering frenzy trumped actual stomach volume considerations and we knew from the first dish that we were only an army of two, about to eat for an army of four or five.

yep, forcemeat dumplings inside... (photo by wm. christman)

yep, forcemeat dumplings inside… (photo by wm. christman)

The soup with forcemeat dumplings (man du kal guk su) was a large bowl of soup with scads of thinnly julienned vegetables, still slightly crisp floating in an almost gelatinous,thick broth. If you’re thinking hot-and-sour soup consistency, you’re on the right track. The dumplings (four of them) were large triangular affairs with a smooth mixture of slow-cooked beef and chives wrapped in thick dough skins. They had the hand-made taste and texture of Mom’s home cookin’ and they matched with the soup’s subtle beef taste.

beware the sides of the smokin' stone bowl (photo by wm. christman)

beware the sides of the smokin’ stone bowl (photo by wm. christman)

The dol sot bi bim bap was up next. “Dol sot” means stone bowl and typically, these are heated over a high flame for 20-30 minutes (maybe longer). The rice is really the main attraction in a bi bim bap and it crisps nicely on the bottom of the blazingly hot stone bowl. The vegetables, meat and egg, along with a nice squirt of thick sweet-hot chili sauce, all get tossed together as the bowl hisses angrily with all of the new surfaces to sear. The effect is a mixed rice that is reminiscent of fried rice without the oily sheen. The chili sauce adds a thick, head-clearing kick, especially if you opt for more directly on your portion. As you dig down for more, the crispy bits of rice are the added treat.

(photo by wm. christman)

(photo by wm. christman)

The steak tartare (yuke hwe) was really the sleeper of the meal. (Ohgane had some pacing problems here with the tartare listed as an appetizer but it came last…) A large pile of thinly sliced, and nicely marbled and marinated beef sat atop a pile of slat-like Asian pear pieces. An egg yolk (for mixing) nestled into a divot pressed into the top of the beef.

Like with most tartares, you push and prod the egg yolk into the meat to gently mix it up. The marinade and yolk (and some of the raw beef juice) combines to make a orange-ish dressing that coats every strand of beef. Instead of the smooth texture of a classic tartare, the steak offered a more of a chewing challenge which in turn brought out its flavor. The slightly bitter taste of the uncooked egg yolk, the tang of the marinade, and the sweet note of the crunchy pear made this a rich, decadent treat.

Ohgane’s draw isn’t innovation or flash – it is their straight ahead renditions of classic Korean food. It’s not fancy or perfect but if you need some Korean style beef lovin’ (!), it’s a good bet.


Ohgane, 3915 Broadway (at 40th), Oakland, 510.594.8300