It's important not be afraid of new things.
Especially when they taste like duck soup. Thanks so much to Lucia for sharing her balut with me, and Kellie for giving it a try.
Between making awesome tunes and flying all over the world, John B also spends time making delicious meals and letting us all have a look at them on Cooking With John B
, his tumblr account devoted to food.
John B took some time to answer a few of my questions about food and cooking, and even share a few hints about his Mum's potato soup.
Photo credit john-b.com
SO: Your food looks delicious! How long have you been cooking?
JB: I started really getting into it a few years ago - when I broke up with my last girlfriend. She was really into too healthy stuff and I just kinda let her take over when we lived together, roasted vegetables with a bit of paprika on them, and over the top simple salads just wasn't cutting it! Plus - I now find cooking dinner for ladyfriends is such a good date activity. It’s much more fun than going out for dinner, cheaper too, and you get to demonstrate positive qualities.
SO: Got any favorite dishes you've been making lately? Anything you've perfected?
JB: I think I've really started to nail soups. My mum makes an awesome leek and potato soup which I did a couple of times last week, it’s pretty simple to do, but really healthy and super yummy. Just sweat off a couple of leeks, an onion, carrot, seasoned etc for 15 mins-ish - then chuck in diced potatoes and some vegetable stock and simmer for a while. Then whizz it up with a hand blender and serve with cream and bacon on top. Love it. I'm getting pretty good at duck now too - pan frying it skin down to get the skin all crispy, then just brown off the rest and whack it in the oven for around 10 minutes - slice it nicely afterwards and do with a plum sauce and mash or whatever.
SO: Any particular favorite ingredients or techniques you've been using?
JB: I did a couple of slow-cooking casserole kind of dishes over the winter, Lancashire hotpots and lamb stew stuff. I bought a really nice casserole dish and lots of herbs - just following pretty standard recipes and cooking it low and slow until the lamb is super tender. It’s pretty heavy though, so I try to cook healthier, lighter stuff as well whenever possible.
There's a Gordon Ramsay recipe I always seem to go back to recently - think its on my site - the spicy chilli beef with mini gem lettuce and a nice sauce made with chilli, toasted sesame oil, fish sauce - good to share too.
A version of the Gordon Ramsey recipe mentioned above - using mushroom instead of beef. Photo credit cookingwithjohnb.tumblr.com
SO: I know you're a wine drinker - do you have any bottles you can recommend?
I'm a white burgundy man, currently really into Macon Villages, pretty cheap but just really nice. A good Chablis or Sancerre can't go wrong either. I had an amazing Pinot Gris from Alasace lately too - £11 a glass at the hinds head in bray though so can't drink too much or ill go broke!
SO: You're on the road all the time, do you have any favorite food destinations from your travels?
Whenever I'm in Miami there's a few places I always love to go - mainly light, sushi. Sushi Rock on Collins is always a favourite - but Doraku on Lincoln Rd is now my number 1 sushi in the whole world place. Followed by Sushi Samba in Vegas, I had a sushi with tuna, fois gras, caviar and gold leaf last time - amazing. Whenever I'm in Russia I love to get Blinis Ikroi - just the little blinis with the red salmon caviar - its much cheaper there than anywhere else and definitely a treat I reward myself with for flying on domestic Russian airlines.
SO: It's a particular interest of mine, but do you have any interest in nose to tail eating?
Errrrrr. Not entirely sure but I think I can grasp the idea. Not sure I'm fully into that but I’m all for trying new things. There are certain parts of an animal I don't think I'd like to eat, eyes, brain, and trotters etc. Even though apparently they're quite yummy. I do however like the idea of not wasting anything - that roe
one you did looks interesting. I always thought you were supposed to throw that stuff away but I'll give it a go next time I do my seductive scallops.
SO: You should! Scallop roe is delicious. If the world were ending is there anything in particular planned for your last meal?
My Mum’s homemade lasagna would probably be up there - plus presumably I'd be eating it with my family which you'd want to be doing if you were about to melt into a fireball.
SO: Thanks again for doing this!
No problemo Sir!
And there you have it! Lancashire hotpot, Mum's lasagna and white burgundy.
Just because it's one of my favorites, here's a link to Robot Lover from John B's latest album Light Speed.
Another great big thanks to John B, and keep checking back here for a version of Mrs B's potato soup coming soon.
Fried dab roe over salad
Looks like buffalo chicken tenders - I know. In fact, those lovely orange sacs are fresh roe that I cut out of 4 dabs moments before frying.
This week my CSF gave me 4 dab, which are a grey flat fish. Not really popular but when cooked properly the fish is soft, and sweet. When I began cutting my dab I was really excited to see the bright orange sacks of roe, even though it meant that the yield I would get as for as fish fillets go would be lower.
Once my fillets were cleaned and away, and my bones were simmering I turned to the row. After taking a look around the internet on how to prepare it I settled on simply coated with flour then fried and served over some greens.
Flour with salt and spices, then a quick fry in some vegetable oil. When I tasted my first bite of roe I was shocked - there was not a lot of flavor, and they were definitely not in the least bit fishy. Actually what they reminded me the most of was a slightly weird nugget of some sort.
I'm actually wondering if I cooked them wrong, is it possible that fish roe just isn't very fishy by nature? In either case they made a nice warm and crisp addition to a green salad, and I'm sure I could serve them to anyone who claims to not like fish without them blinking an eye.
Some people thought I was crazy, signing up to receive 4-6 pounds of whole fish every week for nine weeks. I might be, only time will tell. But my first fish was a delicious resounding success, and I'm looking forward to next week's fish already.
Whole fish means the whole kit and caboodle, except the guts. Which is nice. When I signed up I thought they came with guts too. I am by no means an expert at cutting fish, but by the end of this experience I hope to be better.
For my first attempt it wasn't too bad, two filets, two cheeks, two pieces of cod belly and a tongue. Along with a ton of bones to make stock. I have to say this Cape Anne
never disappoints, this fish was swimming that morning and smelled like the ocean. A total joy to work with.
And there it is (those two pieces actually on the newspaper still have skin) all my bits and pieces.
The first filet went into fried fish and grits with a spinach salad. the second filet was pan seared and put on quinoa 'risotto' made with fish stock. The bones went into stock, for the risotto and for a big bowl of noodle soup.
The soup is seasoned with cilantro and lime, and in it went the two pieces of fish belly and the lovely tender cheeks, a few quickly cooked maitake mushrooms and a heaping pile of yam noodles. It was during this meal I learned that cod tongues have a bone - who knew?
Possibly my favorite meal of the week.
We got three filling meals out of one fish, at 22$ per week for the CSF that's 3.66$ each per meal. Which I think is a totally reasonable amount to spend on locally caught, sustainably caught super fresh fish - don't you?
Fresh periwinkles, these babies cost 2.5$ and I have no idea how to cook them. Thankfully, the internet came to the rescue - and the answer is boil them.
But first rinse, and rinse, and rinse in cold water until the water is totally clean and there's no sand in the bottom of the bowl.
Soaking until the water is clear.
I boiled mine with a few sprigs of thyme and half a lemon, I was surprised at the aroma of the periwinkles cooking. It smelled like the ocean on a warm summer day, with a hint of thyme and lemon.
Drain after being boiled.
Drain them and discard the water, then get some garlic butter and a baguette ready and you've got a delicious - if not labor intensive meal.
Periwinkles, cooked and ready to eat.
After going through every poking device I could think of I settled on a sewing need to pry my little sea snails out of their twirly shells. But I suspect a sharp toothpick would work as well.
I ended up taking all my periwinkles out of the shells (once I'd had my fill) so I could use them in another dish.
And later that day we feasted on a quinoa 'risotto' with mushrooms, shallots and peas, topped with tender periwinkles - and it was absolutely delicious.
Boudin noir aux pommes, the best lunch I've had in a long time.
Some people love blood sausage, and some people don't. It's and either or scenario - there's no middle ground. Those enlightened souls who embrace this fantastic sausage will have surely heard of this classic French preparation.
I found these two beauties on sale at my new favorite grocery store - Market Basket. If there's one near you I suggest going in the morning, during the week. Or be prepared to throw some elbows in the produce section.
They may not be the prettiest things, but what they lack in looks they make up for in flavor.
Boudin noir aux pommes is as simple a dish as you can imagine. Gently sear the sausage in some oil, remove from the pan then add some chopped onion, followed by cubed apples and some thyme and a dash of white wine. Cook until onions and apples begin to soften then place the sausage on top of the apple/onion mixture and cover with a lid. Cook over low heat until liquid is gone and apples are soft, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
As you can see you've got to be careful when cooking blood sausage because the filling can start to bubble out if it's cooked at too high heat.
If you've never had blood sausage this might be a good preparation to try out. The sweetness of the apples is a great contrast to the meat of the sausage. This meal is made butter with a big glass of chilled white wine.
Thanksgiving may have past, but if you're like me you may still have some extra goodies lying around. To me the giblets are the best part of Thanksgiving, whether you make a giblet gravy, or use them in stock they are vital to a proper Thanksgiving meal - at least in my mind.
Having recently learned how to 'pot' things I decided to pot my turkey liver in order to give it some extra fat, and hide it from my offal loving family. Potted foods are similar to confit foods, in that they are both set in fat. Confit is generally a animal fat, whereas potted food are set in clarified butter.
I began by gently cooking my liver with onions and thyme, then adding some port and reducing.
Turkey liver, onion, thyme, butter, and port.
Then the whole batch was chopped, then run through a robot coup, and pushed through a fine mesh strainer, seasoned, and finally set in a little dish and topped with clarified butter.
Turkey liver, begging to be tasted.
After all that it was a simple matter of letting the clarified butter set and making some toast.
Potted Turkey Liver
My favorite part of potted foods is that if you get the timing right, and the clarified butter has softened just a little bit, and the toast is piping hot the butter will melt as you spread your potted loveliness over the toast adding a richness that can brighten you out of even the most sour mood.
This preparation works very well with chicken livers as well, but there's something about the more intense flavor of turkey liver that just sets me in
A few weeks ago I gave a lecture at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts
Pastry program about chocolate. The lecture is 3 hours long and held in the evening so I decided to make the students a big batch of chipotle chocolate pulled pork. When I picked up my ingredients from the school's purchasing department my pork shoulder had the skin still on. I love it when ingredients end up having bonus ingredients built in.
After getting my pork together, simmering in a pot of chili chocolate loveliness I turned to the skin. Following the directions set forth by my fellow SeriousEats
I put the skin in salt and let it sit for a week.
After the skin was removed from the salt I gently cooked it in pork fat until it was tender, about 2 hours. According to Chichi at this point my skin can stay submerged in the fat forever. And this is how it sits in my fridge surrounded by lovely white fat. When I'm ready I will turn my oven up high and roast the skin until it is deep brown and crisp. Then salt it and eat it.
A very big thank you to the CSCA purchasing department for getting fantastic ingredients with a lovely bonus attached.
Chicken liver are an ingredient that I love. They're simple to prepare, always taste a tad decadent but are cheap and gentle on the wallet. If I weren't concerned for my cholesterol I would eat chicken liver everyday.
Chicken liver toast.
This was my afternoon snack, chicken livers and onions sauteed with butter, then hit with port and reduced until the livers were just cooked but still creamy. Run through the robot coupe, then a fine mesh strainer and seasoned with salt and pepper. Spread on toast, top with parsley and more cracked pepper.
Simple, clean and delicious.
A few months ago I read that kohlrabi is the offal of vegetables. That concept seemed at bit odd to me initially, but after mulling it over I guess I can see what they're saying. When initially confronted with a bulb of kohlrabi many people are initially confused. Have no idea what to do with it. Or simply steer clear of this funny little veg all together. Not far from the reaction that many people have to most of the offal or off-cut world.
Whenever I slice up kohlrabi I always think of broccoli stems. The slightly thicken skin with a tender, vegetal center. Whether or not you peel it depends on the bulb you're working with, but generally speaking if you slice it nice a thin you can keep the skin on with good results.
Once you've gotten this far, all that's left is a few sliced scallions, some lime juice, fish sauce and a bit of salt and you've got a simple fresh summer salad.
Kohlrabi salad with scallions, lime and fish sauce.
If you think of offal and odd-bits as misunderstood yet delicious - and with a little patience and technique that misunderstanding can become enthusiasm, and dare I say, adoration, than I suppose kohlrabi might be the offal of vegetables.