Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Steaming Grey Meat Sludge Breakfast

Listen, I'm really really broke right now, like "steal twenty bucks from your girlfriend to get to work" broke. The good news is that I am employed, and I've got a job with great perks. That's right, I work at the Union Square Greenmarket. Market freebies make being broke tolerable, a little more "French peasant" and a little less "crushing urban privation." Anyways, yesterday, down to my last few dollars for the third time in a week, I was chatting with the duck folks. They mentioned they had a ton of duck liver that wasn't selling. I saw that the regular price was a half pound for 4 bucks, and guessing they would give me like half off I asked for a half pound. They gave me a whole POUND for FREE! I blew the last of my cash on a discounted artisinal baguette and finished out the day. The plan; Duck Liver Pate!

I did a couple quick smartphone recipe searches (I know, I know, broke with smartphone, it's terrible I know) to get an idea of whether I needed anything. The basic recipes called for liver, herbs, duck fat, shallots and garlic. A couple recipes called for adding cognac or armagnac, which, hah, no fucking way I'm buying cognac right now. Everything else I had at home, including a couple ounces of duck fat I had rendered off of some discounted duck legs a few months ago.

The livers were kind of gross to clean; there's weird connective tissue you have to pull off and occasionally a blood vessel will burst and suddenly things get surprisingly bloody, but the stuff that comes off is a real treat for the dog. Once the prep is done it's a pretty easy process, melt the fat (you could also use butter or lard, of course), soften the shallots, then throw in the garlic and herbs and the livers and cook for a couple minutes on each side, deglaze the pan with a little booze (I used a couple teaspoons of Dolin sweet vermouth, but you could use cognac [you rich piece of shit] or sherry, port or brandy), pour it all in the blender, buzz it, let cool and refrigerate for a couple hours. Easy.

A couple gross things that happened: When the livers were in the pan the heat got too high for a minute and I'm guessing blood vessels deep inside the liver started to burst. The lobes, which were turning grayish, would make this little popping sound and quiver a little bit. One lobe popped so hard that it jumped about three inches and a spurt of maroon/gray something hit me in the face and sort of slid down my glasses lense. Later, after the first couple seconds in the blender I opened up the lid and looked down into a steaming mass of gray sludge. When I stirred it with the wooden spoon it made slurpy/sucking noises.

I let it cool and put it in a shallow tupperware thing in the fridge for the night. This morning I melted a little butter in the skillet and threw in a couple of slices of baguette and two eggs. I cooked the eggs over very very easy, and just sprinkled a little salt and pepper and rosemary on top. I spread the liver on the toast and ate the shit out of all of it, dipping the toasts in the rich yolk as it ran out onto the plate. I felt like a fat king. You should also know that I've had about three more pate toasts while I've been sitting here typing this up. If you're reading this today, get in touch with me NOW and maybe you can come over and have some, I doubt it will survive in this house more than a day or two.

In summary, this was a rare poor man's treat, the whole thing costing me less than 5 dollars for what will be several meals. But even without the freebies, you could make this for under 20. Here's where everything came from. Incedentally, these purveyors are the ones I consider to be the best in each category.

Duck Liver: Hudson Valley Duck at Union Square Mondays
Garlic: Anthony Road Winery at Union Square Saturdays
Shallots: Don't Remember
Sage, Thyme and Rosemary: Keith's Farm at Union Square Wednesdays
Baguette: Buon Pane at Union Square Mondays
Eggs: Knoll Krest at Union Square Wednesday and Saturday

other ingredients
Vermouth: Dolin Sweet
Salt and Pepper

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More French Second Breakfast

After a few weeks in Brest, my traveling companion and I had a few days to explore Brittany. Due to a stroke of good luck, we were able to base our operations out of the same hotel we had been staying in. On a shoe string budget as we were, every day I packed myself the same ham and emmental on mini-baguette from the hotel breakfast. Here are a few photos of some of the places this sandwich was enjoyed!

Nature Conservatory in Brest

Le Conquet

Ile d'Ouessant

Mont St. Michel

Foret de Paimpont

Back to Brest

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Part 1. French Hotel Breakfast

Oh man, it was so good! D. mentioned later that he felt like he had finally had the "complete breakfast" that cereal commercials used to taunt us with. So right! I had a little bowl of muesli with mixed fruit and yogurt, a tall glass of "jus de pamplemousse" (one of the best words in any language), some scrambled eggs (not wet!) some delicious smoky bacon, and a piece of whole wheat toast. I dined not alone, but with myself. The only interruption of my pleasures at table came when I tried to work out the coffee situation. There was no coffee in the room, just an automatic espresso machine, and a, well, not waitress exactly, but breakfast attendant zipping in and out of the kitchen and rearranging tables. I missed a chance to flag her down for a coffee before she disappeared, and after a few minutes I just decided to make myself one. I think I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I did it anyway. As I groggily tried to tamp down the espresso in the filter which I had clearly overfilled, the breakfast attendant suddenly appeared behind me and shooed me aside. I thought about arguing with her (I am a professional after all), but thought better of it. Banging out the handle, she completely started over. She was nice about it, I'm pretty sure that a good 85% of the judgment I felt pouring off of her was projected. Anyways, the coffee was pretty good, and gave me enough alertness to savor my meal. Before I left I took advantage of one of her lengthy absences from her post to make myself a little sandwich for later, and to grab a pear from a very rustic looking bowl of fruit.

Part 2. The Last Man on Earth

After buying some really stereotypical French groceries at a fantastic market (more on that soon), I wandered across the estuary to a street I had read about in the guidebook, Rue de Saint Malo, the only 17th century street that survived the Allied bombing of Brest during the Second World War. The Germans were using Brest as a base for their U Boat operations, you see. Here's the street.

The whole thing is only about 2 or 300 feet long, its derelict buildings adorned here and there with traces of hippyishness. Only one building has been largely restored, the elements kept out of the 400 year old foundations with a roof made of large sheets of ridged plastic sheeting.

When I got to the street, there was no one there. In fact, as I wound my way through the maze-like suburban neighborhood trying to find it, I barely saw a soul. Feeling somewhat adventurous (and partly driven by the need to find somewhere, stat, to take a terrible, terrible shit), I poked around inside the ruins. Within the walls some wooden party related structures had been built, painted garish shades of fuscia, and scrawled with anti-fascist slogans. A few impossible looking outhouses, a stage of sorts, even a bar with a smattering of found chairs arranged haphazardly around it. Down at the end of the street, at last, I found a reasonable seeming outhouse that even had about a half a roll of toilet paper in it. I thought to myself, "I will return yearly to the streets of St. Malo and stock all the outhouses with TP, in gratitude for the respite I feel this day." The system in place was that you were meant to cover your tracks with sawdust, a great idea, except it requires you to turn back towards the abominable thing you have just done. I muscled through the horror and got back out into the sunlight and brisk Atlantic wind.

I climbed the stairs at the end of the street, which led to a small car park from which you could look down on the street, and over it to the estuary and the bay, the skyline dotted with massive shipping cranes towering over the ancient embankments. I decided to go back down into the ruins to have my Second Breakfast. Heading down the stairs and back into the ruins, I found this little spot.

Thanks, hippies! It was a great little spot, up a small set of stairs high enough to overlook the main level and collect a little sunshine, but nestled underneath some larger walls. And quiet, except for the seagulls and the occasional distant sputtering of a Peugot. I unwrapped my meal, a simple ham and swiss on mini-baguette, and one of the rustic looking pears.

The sandwich was good, and the pear reaffirmed my belief in pears. The cold rush of juice in my mouth made me think about the American grocery store and its need to have shelves full of identical fruits, and how the modifications needed to make this happen have given us a hard, bland pear. The bowl I had picked this one out of looked motley, with a splotchy, misshapen collection that I instinctively knew were going to be delightful. As the juice ran onto my jacket I took another bite of my sandwich and watched the cats come and go. Washing up in the fountain, I felt the satisfaction of someone who has sated their needs alone in the wilderness, and the happiness of the last man on earth.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

WIHFB in France!

Breakfast was a plastic tray with a syrupy Dole fruit cup and two packages of crackers with margarine. Come on, Air France. Thanks to W. for the cryovaced muffin!

Second Breakfast.

We arrived in Charles de Gaul with a 4 hour layover on a sunny Saturday, coming out of a two day blizzard in New York. Midway through the hour-long process of navigating the glistening white curves of the terminal buildings, we stopped at a little sandwich shop to fuel up. I ordered a Camembert sandwich on sesame bread and a black coffee, having forgotten how harsh and oily French coffee can be. We went outside and enjoyed our sandwiches and coffees on the curb next to the shuttle bus stop. As the sunlight warmed my puffy and sleep deprived face, I thought of all the things I wished I had packed, the letters I wanted to remember to write, and some details of the trafficking I had enlisted N. to participate in. But my eyes were too raw, and I was too far from any possible solution, so I turned my attention back to my first breakfast on French soil. The lettuce in the sandwich was surprisingly fresh and crispy, its’ tender bitterness offsetting the rich creamy Camembert. Really quite good for an airport sandwich. The aggressive coffee produced a BM almost instantly, which I had to run inside to take care of real quick. I came back outside for a moment, showed O. some of the Aichido techniques that I had been learning until some cops drifted over our way. After our brief break in the sun, we gathered ourselves up to head back through security to catch our connecting flight to Brest. Forecast; 9 days of rain.

Tomorrow, French hotel breakfast!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Such Lovely Dinners

I wish I could tell you of the wonderful dinners I've been making the past couple of nights, but I just can't bring myself to do it. It's not in this blogs mandate, you see. I'd love to discuss at length the reasoning and economics, and flavor profiles behind Slow-Roasted Salmon with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette, or Acorn Squash Risotto with Mascarpone and Marjoram, but this humble blog is about a much simpler meal; the most important meal. Breakfast.

Today I had peanut butter and jelly, and a protein bar.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Last weekend I was fortunate enough to have some very distinguished guests to breakfast with, my sister and her boyfriend (thanks to A. O. for the lovely pictures). The day after their arrival I was up first, so I got a little head start on breakfast.
I had been thinking about what to do with the leftover pickling liquid from a jar of pickled fennel carrots I had made a few days before, (they were delicious, thanks!) and realised that they would make a perfect seasoning for a potato salad. I had some leftover red potatoes, a red onion that needed to get used up, some parsley, mustard, etc. In short, I had all the necessary ingredients. By the time my guests were up the potatoes were happily boiling, the onions and parsley were chopped, and the vinaigrette was marinating.
We made a little tea (Earl gray, if I remember correctly, or possibly jasmine green). To go with the potatoes I made some simple egg sandwiches. Two fried eggs (over easy), tarragon, and a couple thin slices of raclette melted briefly on the eggs, and the last few little dabs of the moutard aux fines herbes I had brought back with me on my last trip to France. Here is the final plate.

Was it delicious? Let's see if the most discerning gourmand I know wanted any.

WIHFB is back in the kitchen!

Yours truly in unemployed, back in the kitchen and cooking up more anonymous breakfast fun! Sorry for the radio silence these past few months, but I think the coming ones will be a bountiful season for breakfast blogging. I'm trying out some new techniques, reading up on some breakfast theory, and checking out some new ingredient supply lines. Plus I've got some breakfasts of the past that I'd like to lay before you. Thanks for sticking around, and welcome back!

Good morning. What do you want for breakfast?