Friday, December 21, 2007

A Baby's Arm Holding an Apple...

At the greenmarket the other day, I spied some organic King Trumpet mushrooms. These are built for quick sauteeing, as they are big (some over six inches long), thick, meaty, and tasty. I fixed up a soup with some chicken thighs and about two pounds of beef neck bones. Added some chopped up carrots, onions, and green peppers, and boiled the whole thing for a couple of hours, carefully removing the chicken after an hour for another use (chicken salad, what else?). While I was cooking the soup down, I cut the trumpets into 1/4" slices the long way, and sauteed very briefly over high heat in olive oil and butter. Then I sauteed about 1/2 pound of creminis in oil and butter, finishing them off with some good British malt vinegar, and dumped them in soup bowls. I poured the soup over them, then topped with the trumpets, and some melty cheese, for a rich, beefy, mushroom soup that was like a French onion soup, but topped with mushrooms. On the side I quick-pickled some organic breakfast radishes (equal amounts of salt and sugar, combine, let radishes sit in it for ten minutes), and toasted some bread. It was rich...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mollejas en Coco...Gizzards in Coconut Milk...

As I'm still convalescing, I haven't been able to wander the dark streets (the streets I wander are dark both day and night) for my usual fixes. So in honor of the historic vote by Venezuelans, I present a classic dish from Maracaibo, as lovingly prepared by my longtime companion, a Maracucha. This town gets so hot it makes Miami look like Chicago. I'm talking 120 degrees, with about 99% humidity. You begin to crave shade, and coconut juice.
The gizzards must be soaked overnight in lime juice, to soften, and the little membranes are then removed. After that it's a quick saute of onions and garlic, then the innards, stewing with water until soft, then stewing with enough coconut milk to keep it going for a while, adding more and stirring as necessary. You'll know when it's done by the aroma. Takes a while. Serve over rice.
For your cocktail party chatter, did you know that coconut milk contains no milk? Well, there's a thick milk and a thin milk. Thick coconut milk is prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. The squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. Fascinating. Sometimes it's just too hot to think...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Love in the Time of Mondongo

Tripe stew, friends... longtime
companion got me
some takeout from a little
joint on 36th St,
(only available weekends)
while I'm convalescing....

She even took the photos... and
if helping to update your blog
when you're high on narcotics isn't love,
then damnit, I don't know what is...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Give Me a Day or Two, Will Ya?

Tore my ACL...Long story...Having surgery, and will be on (legal, more or less) painkillers for a couple of days...Have to shut this one-person operation down until I'm relatively coherent again. I leave you with this...Almighty Albondigas in a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Jasmine Rice and Sauteed Chive Flowers. Recipe from my longtime companion when I return.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lazy Sunday A La Folie

So busy, completely full, in fact, yet somehow quiet-even the six-year-old buzzing around is barely noticed-the music alternately loud and soft, customers' heads bopping in time, some singing along. I mention to the waiter this remarkable oddity, and he replies, “Well, we are French.” By 'we', he means 'A La Folie', a cozy French creperie on Espanola Way in South Beach, that indeed has the air of a laissez-faire little bistro on a side street in a small town in Brittany. The service is several notches above the usual South Beach nightmare-the waiters here are friendly, unobtrusive, young and hip-but not hipster/model-types you want to strangle-they have the cute t-shirts and the ripped jeans, but the smiles don't seem tight and forced and they actually respond politely to your requests. The mustard colored walls, covered with large French script and a giant Folies Bergere poster, appear to have absorbed the smoke from millions of Gitanes cigarettes (my tribute to GG), but the only smoke in the air today is coming from steaming bowls of soup and large French-style cups of hot tea. There is some seating on the sidewalk, and a super-cool garden on the side, where a large group laughs about their weekend's frolics (follies?). I prefer to sit inside, to smell the aromas coming from the grill. The place, in fact, smells like a giant grilled cheese sandwich, which is one of the most comforting smells in the world, and the aroma keeps you company as you read the Sunday paper. The crepes are made with buckwheat flour, and the one I order is filled with bacon, Cantal cheese, and potatoes, topped with a fried egg. Add a glass or two of Cotes du Rhone, and you have the perfect early afternoon meal. It comes with a perfectly-sized salad, and is so tasty, that I clean the plate like a hungry dog. It was worth the wait-everything is made to order, and arrives at your table hot and fresh, so be patient. Don't worry, there is plenty to keep you occupied, including watching the sunglass-wearing couples trying to shrug off last night's rolls, and humming along to Johnny Hallyday on the sound system. The bill was $9.50 for the crepe, and $7/glass for the wine. They also include the tip, so don't forget to examine your bill, and add a dollar or two if you like. As I get up to leave, I notice that there seem to be an inordinate amount of people arriving by motorcycle or scooter. Tres hip.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hog Wild....



Why did Mrs. Snapper, my own mother, name me 'Hog'? Wouldn't Tulip have sounded better? I bet people would say nice things about Tulip Snapper. Or Daisy? Daisy Snapper, sounds exotic yet lovable. I have lovely pink skin, maybe Pinky? Or maybe something biblical like Abraham-Abraham Snapper, Attorney-At-Law-I could have had a great reputation not just as a delicious piece of meat, but as a fine litigator and delightful cocktail-party bon vivant. I would quote Wilde when people spoke badly of me-'Well', I would say, 'there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about!' And we would all laugh and drink our classic Manhattans-rye, sweet vermouth, and an orange peel, twisted to release the essence of orange oil. Oh, the fun we'd have. But no, I am not Abraham Snapper, nor Tulip Snapper, I am Hog Snapper, the tastiest of all the Snappers. And sadly, even if I am more delicious than my more popular siblings Yellow Tail and Mangrove, no one ever talks about me. Ever.


...and cooked.

Beautiful on the Inside...(A pig is a lovely creature, but it is also...)


My existence is not defined by my consumption of tripe. But if it were, the pig tripe in tomato sauce at Laurenzo's would have a picture of my face next to its steam table pan. I'm sure there's a beautiful name for this dish in Italian, that makes it sound worldly and luscious, but I'll leave that to the Googlers. Add some bread and some inexpensive Chianti. (The counter person told me that there were also intestines in there, but I think she was mistaken. If anyone finds any, please let me know.) Oh, and a cannoli or two for dessert. Laurenzo's 16385 W. Dixie Hwy N. Miami Beach, FL



Tuesday, November 06, 2007

To Kiss a Taco...

Rosemary Chicken Taquitos

Rock Shrimp Etouffee Taquitos

After a long journey which kept us apart for many months, my longtime companion and I were finally reunited in the warm sunshine of Miami in Autumn. It rained for the first week, and there was a lot of drinking and delicious broiled giant prawn this, and crispy duck confit that, followed by long, dark nights of public intoxication and hangovers from hell. So this week we decided to try and save some money and maybe also spend less time eating and drinking in expensive and sometimes less than appreciative surroundings (those bastards). You know what I mean- sometimes it feels as though every tab, no matter how small it starts out, ends up costing way over $100. and/or the bartender/server/busboy/mens room attendant has a personal vendetta against you, the chef wants to poison you (accidentally, of course), the hostess rolls her eyes at your witty comments, and even the dude who gets your car is simply shocked by your tragic footwear choices. And you know you're an angel, a hip kid with a can-do attitude, so why are they acting that way (I paid $80 for those Cons)? Plus, there are three things I hate about going out and drinking and then (possibly) eating: overtipping, overtipping, and overtipping. Why did I tip that guy $50? I hate that motherfucker. Damn it! So my longtime companion and I decided to cook at home, from scratch, and, without recipes or cookbooks, feed each other some home-cooked meals that we were both really craving (along with several bottles of rose, which, again, remarkably, we were both really craving). All I can say is, I am lucky, and I am fulfilled. Everyone who knows me knows I am a taco glutton, and I already got the smoked duck tacos-well here come the leftover rosemary chicken taquitos, and the leftover rock shrimp taquitos. Seems simple to make? Not so fast. The Asian Cilantro sauce: the cilantro was steamed over water containing fried garlic and some other aromatics (I was drinking in the other room at the time, so I can't say for sure what was in it), and then the whole thing pureed in the food processor. Some caramelized onions, some queso blanco, and then wrapped in a flour tortilla and fried. Children, please try this at home. These are the taco's superior cousins, the taquitos, which take the humble, yet incredibly fulfilling taco, to a whole...'nother...level.

You read it right, Bubba....Shrimp Etouffee Taquitos, muchachos.

Stones Rocks Tails

Stone crab season is in full swing, so I'd like to throw out some info for those unfamiliar with them. They are harvested between October 15th and May 15th, and, interestingly, only one claw is removed from the captured crab. The (now one-armed) crab is tossed back in the water, to regrow his delicious claw just in time for next season. The claws must be boiled, and then chilled, which prevents the meat from sticking to the shell (this all happens before the claws are shipped). The claws are normally sold by the pound in markets and restaurants, and the size designations are as follows:
Medium/.19 lbs and under
Large/ .20-.29 lbs.
Jumbo/ .30-.39 lbs.
Colossal/ .40 and up
Some places do 'Selects', which are between Medium and Large, or 'Junior Jumbos', which are between Large and Jumbo.
At my local fish market, which happens to be the incredible Capt. Jim's (which is also a restaurant), the prices as of today were as follows:
Size Retail/Restaurant
Medium $19/21
Large $25/27
Jumbo $33/35
Colossal $37/39
But I wasn't actually there for claws, in fact, I was at Capt. Jim's buying rock shrimp, which they get from up Port Canaveral way, peeled, deveined, and previously frozen, and sell for about $8/lb, and another local delicacy-fresh, delivered that morning, whole yellow tail for $7/lb. (they also had Hog and Mangrove snapper, and fresh mahi-mahi). I bought a 1 ½ lb. fish, and they clean it for you, or will butterfly, etc. They have a sign that explains the different ways they will clean it for you-take a quick look or ask-they're very friendly. If you ask for the J/C (just clean), they leave on the head and tail, and it makes for a nice presentation. I simply baked it at 400 degrees in a pan that I had lined with tomato, onion and lime slices, placed the fish over them (then you don't have to worry about the fish sticking to the bottom of the pan, and the flesh also gets nicely steamed), and poured a half-cup of white wine over the whole thing. Don't forget to slit the skin vertically every couple of inches on both sides for even cooking. Should take about 20-25 minutes. You'll know when it's done because you will see the white flesh glistening.
I made a bechamel sauce while the fish was cooking, and added the rock shrimp for about a minute after I put the fish on its platter. The yellow tail was sweet and meaty, and the rock shrimp rich and crunchy. I served some citrus-scented couscous alongside. We ate some fresh pineapple for dessert. Next week-CLAWS. Tropical in the house...
Capt. Jim's
12950 W.Dixie Hwy
North Miami, FL 33161
(305) 892-2812
For more info on claws and to watch a video of a claw being removed, go to

Monday, November 05, 2007

Smoked Duck Tacos

There is something reassuring about making your own tacos. So easy, cheap, and probably better than most anything you'll find here in Miami. Whenever I'm at an Asian market, I look for vacuum-packed smoked duck leg, usually found in the freezer. If you shred and warm this stuff (usually about $9 for the package), add some avocado/tomato/onion /cilantro salsa, top with some melting cheese (I happened to have some Halloumi on hand, but any white grating cheese will do), and pile onto warm corn tortillas, you'll have an unusual but familiar and hearty light evening meal. Very important-Make sure you saute the duck skin in strips for cracklings, and top the tacos with them when they become nice and crunchy. Delicious, fast, and just filling enough to leave room for a little dulce de leche ice cream for dessert.

(While you're at the Asian market, pick up some long-leaf cilantro-it's fragrant and tasty like the kind you're used to, but the long leaves give it a different texture and look-important for your food porn photos.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Copycat Killer...Critiquing The Critics, Part III...

Who knew that five minutes after I became a professional writer, my work would be appropriated? I'm talking about Lee Klein, the lamentable creature who toils at the Miami New Times day in and day out trying to convince readers, unsuccessfully, that he is not a tool, that he has some food knowledge or experience, that he isn't a fogey with nary a clue as to what constitutes a decent review, and who does so much 'research' on the internet, that he lifted whole sentences, practically word for word, from my June 29th post on Mango&Lime, a popular Miami food blog, where I contributed a rather notorious post on the now legendary taco truck named Orale!. Of course this distended liver of a man doesn't even understand what Orale! means, as in “Orale! I'm gonna come to your house and shove a tightly wound taco al pastor up where the sun don't shine, with the freakin' habanero sauce for lubrication, you ethically challenged pilferer!”
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the Orale! people getting all the business and publicity they so righteously deserve, and I hope that his lame copycat reading of my ode to the transcendent truck brings them mucha buena fortuna. They are the sweetest people, and they work hard for their reward, bringing enjoyment to many people through their original, and tasty creations. The same can not be said for Mr. Klein, who copies, cribs, and steals, and ends up with warmed-up leftovers of my lovingly crafted four-month-old material. (Not surprisingly, Klein means small, petty, trifling, in German.)
Me-”While Francisco heats the fillings on the grill, Moises grills the tortillas, fills them with the meats, and puts them on a plate which Francisco hands to the waiting customers with lightning efficiency.”
Klein-”Once Moises is finished assembling the tacos-which he does at warp speed-Francisco neatly wraps them in sandwich paper and aluminum foil and then passes the silver the customers.”
Me-”They are from Oaxaca, a town called La Reforma, about ten hours from the city...”
Klein- “...hail from the town of La Reforma (about ten hours from Oaxaca).”
Me-”If you've eaten at any...hip restaurant lately, you've seen some kind of cheek on the menu...The humble cheek used to be a peasant staple, now elevated in haute temples like Mario Batali's Babbo, in New York, to star status.”
Klein- “...cheek meat, currently a cut with cachet in fine-dining places...”
Me-”There is the Roja Suave (mild red), Verde Mediana Picante (medium green), which is actually pretty hot, and Extra Picante Chile Habanero (needs no translation).”
Klein- “...try one of the three salsas in squeeze bottles-hot, hotter, and ay Chihuahua!
Me- “...whole jalapeno peppers (do not try this at home-although to a Mexican, it's kind of like a New Yorker putting a pickle spear on a hot dog, no big deal!)”
Klein- “Plus there's a jar of whole jalapenos for patrons without tear ducts.”
(Okay-maybe those last two can be chalked up to lame writing on Klein's part, I'll give you that.)
On another note, why is it that he feels compelled to somehow shoehorn the phrase 'Ay Chihuahua' into his review; does he not see the stereotyping of Mexicans in this idiotic turn of phrase? I know it's typical in this town to engage in casual racism, but if every time one reviews a Mexican place, does one have to slip in at least one ole? Would one do that every time one reviews an Italian place, somehow throwing in a 'Mama Mia?' Or for a Jewish place, 'Oy?' Or a soul-food place, well, you get the picture. Reviewer, please! You'd get your ass beat, and you'd get laughed out of town. And I have news for the racially-challenged person at the New Times who published the caricature above the 'review'-not all Mexicans have eight-inch long mustaches, and wear sombreros, ponchos, and sandals. Some of them even look and dress just like you and me.
In any event, I can't wait for Mr. Klein's next review; although I'm sure we've all probably read it already somewhere else.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Smokes for Tikes!

The cute little trick-or-treaters loved these.
The smiles on their faces were priceless.
Thank god you can still get these in some foreign countries.
And remember, chocolate cigarettes keep them off the hard stuff.

Wong's ***

While having a friendly discussion about the worth of Zagat's guidebooks, I mentioned the oft-seen 'Zagat Rated' decal restaurants proudly stick on their front doors. It always reminds me of McDonald's boast that their meat is 'USDA Inspected'. But the framed, blown-up, newspaper review is one of my all-time favorites. Usually located in the vestibule outside the bathrooms or behind the cash register for easy viewing, they capture a reviewer's praise for all the restaurant's customers to appreciate. Or do they? Of course it's best if the headline is positive, although it can often be neutral ('New Spanish Restaurant Has Fresh Ideas', etc.).
According to the Hallandale Digest, *** (Three Stars) 'Wong's Long Time Excellence Creates a South Florida Legacy.' I know that Wong's has been around for a while; long enough, in fact, to be listed in the 'Directory of Fine Dining', an adjunct to Sandy Lesberg's 'One Hundred Great Restaurants of America', copyright 1981. The other Miami eateries listed are Cafe Chauveron, The Depot, Food Among the Flowers, Prince Hamlet, Raimundo, and the Tiger Teahouse. Pretty impressive company, and a hell of a legacy.
I guess it's a pretty good takeout with delivery, and it's convenient and open seven days a week.
And the review? It's dated January 16th, 1992, and that's a little scary. I pray something good has happened to Wong's in the intervening fifteen years.
12420 Biscayne Blvd.
N. Miami (305) 891-4313

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Breeder's Cup Classic

Nothing to do with food-this lucky man (Mr. Dan Brody, Douchesquire), standing in front of the Gulfstream Racetrack toteboard, is holding a winning ticket for the Breeder's Cup Classic. (Although luck had very little to do with it...)
Thank you Curlin, and thank you, suckas!

Monday, October 29, 2007

NOT Cooking For One.....

Sometimes you just have to cook for yourself. No money, no friends, the overwhelming urge to veg in front of the computer and watch random videos on YouTube. The only problem in Miami is sometimes you don't want to stand in front of a hot stove after a long day of helping rich ladies try on Mahnolos; or have to use your brain to figure out some recipe after spending all day sweeping up all the dirty follicley things from the salon floor. Here's a gift-scallop ceviche. Get the big ones, the Sea Scallops, about half a pound. Buy a lime and a tangerine and squirt half the juice on the scallops after you wash and dry them. Refrigerate. Avocado, tomato, cilantro, choppity chop. Refrigerate separately. Small bag of corn nuts. Open and smell. Reserve. After about an hour, and a glass or two of some inexpensive sparkling wine, remove the two bowls of food and combine. Taste for flavor, and add more lime or tangerine as desired, salt and pepper. If you want to make it look real nice, you can slice the scallops and fan them out, real pretty-like. If you're all alone, just dump in a bowl and throw on some corn nuts. More wine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Best Mexican in Miami...

Mexicans Cook
While thumbing through my newly purchased copy of 'Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico', a seminal work from 1978 by Diana Kennedy, it almost brought tears to my eyes when I realized that here was this magnificent lady, who was (and is) a champion of Mexican cuisine, (much as Julia Child was a promoter and interpreter of French cuisine for American cooks), who was so, not just ahead of her time, but who took a cuisine that was never thought to be on the level of anything European, and elevated it through her love and dedication to the status that it so richly deserves.
It is sad, that in 2007, people who consider themselves gourmets, or knowledgeable eaters, know very little about this cuisine, especially here in Hispanic Miami. It is an indifferent ignorance that states that somehow Mexicans could not have a varied and complex cuisine, in spite of the fact that their civilizations go back thousands of years, and their country's cuisine is as regionally diverse as our own. The title says it all-Regional Cooks. Not 'cuisines', because these great recipes are actually being cooked, right at this moment, all over Mexico. And if you are lucky, maybe even in your hometown, here in the States.
I like to do my own regional Mexican cooking, and while preparing my huitlacoche tacos the other night, I tried to recall where I had first eaten this delicious corn fungus. Most recently it had been in a quesadilla I ate at a little Mexican take-out place in Washington, DC, called Pepito's (not his real name), run by an actual Mexican guy who brought his recipes with him when he came to the US as a teenager from Mexico City.
But the first time was a little more elusive. I know it was during the early or mid-nineties. I was able to narrow it down to Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, Topolobampo in Chicago, or, most likely, Cafe Atlantico in DC. I was startled when I realized that these three places were all run by top chefs (Mark Miller, Rick Bayliss, and Jose Andres, respectively), all of whom are nationally and internationally recognized for their excellence and creativity. A humble ingredient, elevated to haute cuisine, by a talented cook-none of whom (like Diana Kennedy as well), are Mexican.
A tribute from some of the most acclaimed chefs of our time to a cuisine that is, perhaps, one of the most interesting and undiscovered treasures out there.

That being said, I direct you to Mi Rinconcito Mexicano...1961 SW 8th St. (Calle Ocho). The menu proclaims “Autentica Comida Mexicana”. And that, my friends, ain't no lie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red Red Kroovy

Yes, I've seen 'Vampire' wine from 'Transylvania'-it's High-larious. 'Cause it's Halloween, and wine is red like blood. Get it? For you grownups, however, and to avoid excess hangover from lame red wine, please do not bring 'Vampire' wine to your Halloween party-don't worry, everyone else will. Here are two great inexpensive wines that will impress your friends, and still get you a buzz. They're so cheap, in fact, buy both. One is a Rhone wine, that's French, Zippy, and it's $9-oh, now I have your attention. Chateau De Nage. It's got that Syrah grape in it that all the kids love, and some other shit to fuck you up, namely 14.5% alcohol. For the Spano-philes, try the $11 ERCAVIO-it's 100% Tempranillo from Toledo, Spain, which, hey, do the people living in Toledo know that their name hasn't travelled very well? And does anybody in Ohio think of that Spanish Citadel? Scary. A kiss on the lips for the asking to anyone who knows that one. Boo.
(Purchase at Total Wines on Biscayne Blvd, Miami)

Strip Club Shrimp...

What is the affinity that strip clubs and fried shrimp have for each other? These are fresh-fried in a big outdoor contraption by a guy working out of the back of a hatchback. He would not tell me what they had been marinated in, nor what spices he added, nor where they came from, nor why they were almost as sweet and mouth-watering as a sweaty young half-naked hoochie shaking her rump. But they were. And we're all entitled to our secrets.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fruits and Roots-Asian Dessert Week Ends on a High Note

Mango soup with jellied fruits and roots

Mini jello shots (eat the whole thing)

Cupcakes-icing, fillings, cake
...pure sugar high...
...details Monday...
+++All Desserts purchased from the good people at Vinh An (except the cupcakes)
372 NE 167th St in Miami-and don't forget-October is
Improvement Hearing Month...

Agar Agar, Agar Agar

Sometimes you gotta do it yourself-although this instant 'agar' dessert comes right out of the package. Boil it up and cool it down-in an hour you have a real Asian-style dessert. Contains no dairy products and is vegan as well. (Agar-agar comes from seaweed, and is a great vegetarian substitute for animal-based gelatins.) You can throw a can of fruit cocktail or some maraschino cherries on this for the retro '60's look, or use fruit chips, like I do, for more of a textural treat. By the way, the fruit chips include both taro and sweet potato. Use your imagination.