He Would’ve Approved

There are many interesting stories surrounding the Steve McQueen beach house in Malibu. Some of the most colorful involve him and his neighbor, the notoriously rowdy British drummer for the Who, Keith Moon.

Morning at the Steve McQueen beach house

Morning at the Steve McQueen beach house

Once, for example, exasperated by Moon’s refusal to turn off a light in an upstairs bathroom that shone into McQueen’s bedroom, the actor grabbed a gun and shot the light out. Another time, he found Moon passed out in a full Nazi uniform at the bottom of his beach access stairs. The tide was rising, and would soon overtake the stairs, and McQueen had to consider for a moment whether or not to drag the despised neighbor to higher ground.

McQueen’s son, Chad, still lives in the house next door. We saw him limping along the beach with his dogs, his shoulders hunched and his skin like leather. I recalled that my father, during his brief flirtation with Hollywood moguldom, produced a crummy B-movie with a handsome young Chad McQueen. I thought I might mention it to Chad sometime, but then realized it may not have been a high point in a once promising acting career dead-ended by fast living. (“He got the McQueen gene,” friend Andrew sighed.)

The rising tide

The rising tide

Whenever we stay at the beach house, which is usually a couple times a year, I like to cook dinner for our discerning hosts, Nadine and Andrew. They love food and often seek out great restaurants during their travels, so I like to create something special for them. But I always picture Steve McQueen sitting at the table with us, and imagine his reaction to the dishes I’m serving. I see myself placing before him a beautifully composed plate of sashimi, topped with delicate fried enoki mushrooms and accented with herb flowers.

“What the hell is this!?” I imagine him saying.

This time, though, I think he would’ve approved. For this was a meaty, manly meal. The first course consisted of roasted marrow bones served with a garlic puree, fried parsley and thick cut grilled bruschetta. This was followed by a curious inspiration which, fortunately, turned out even better than I had envisioned it: hazelnut-butter and bacon sandwiches on grilled brioche with pickled, caramelized fennel and frisee.

Hazelnut butter and bacon sandwich

Hazelnut butter and bacon sandwich

Next came homemade maltagliata noodles — Italian for “badly cut,” as these were the scraps from the ravioli I’d prepared the night before at my big fundraising dinner — served with a fruits de mer of Japanese surf clams, diver scallops, Manila clams, black mussels and calamari two ways, with a guanciale-tarragon butter sauce.

Finally, I ended the meal with a dish that could’ve raised McQueen from the grave — a 3 inch-thick dry-aged cowboy ribeye, grilled to medium rare, served with cutting-board drippings, celery root-and-fontina mashed potatoes, arugula salad with spicy candied walnuts and a tempura heirloom carrot.

I know I’ve done a good dinner when afterward the guests are debating which dish was their favorite.

Maltagliata with fruits de mer

Maltagliata with fruits de mer

*    *    *

Nadine had insisted that we needed to stay for lunch the following day, because there was going to be a “special guest” coming. Last time, their special guest was Lindsay Buckingham. So we stayed.

On a morning walk along the beach, we noticed a tall, handsome man approaching us. Andrew knew him, he was a former business associate, and they began to chat. Flynn and I were a few steps behind, and Andrew introduced us. “Sean, Flynn, this is Pierce.” We shook his hand, exchanged pleasantries and continued on our walk. A minute later, Flynn — who has recently discovered James Bond and is somewhat obsessed — came sprinting back over urgently to me.

“Dad! I just met Pierce Brosnan!”

Andrew and Pierce walked along for awhile talking. And when Pierce turned to leave, I asked him if he would mind taking a pic with Flynn, which he cheerfully and graciously insisted upon. “It would be my pleasure!”

Flynn and 007

Flynn and 007

An hour or so later, back at the house, the “special” lunch guests arrived — chef Ludo Lefebvre, his wife and business partner Krissy, and their young twins, Luca and Reve. Ludo, for those not dialed into the L.A. restaurant scene, is the current “it” chef — with his wildly successful LudoBites pop-up restaurants, his LudoTruck, a new television show on Sundance Channel and a brand new restaurant. Called Trois Mec, the restaurant has only four tables and eight bar seats at the open kitchen. Tickets are sold in advance online, and you eat what they serve you. Sounds like my kind of restaurant.

While Nadine prepared a tasty lunch of grilled ribs, chicken and corn, Ludo and I chatted. I told him where the wild percebes gooseneck barnacles were growing on a large rock around the point.

“Can you eat them?” he asked. You’re the Frenchman, I said, I was hoping you would know!

I showed him my sad little bag of beautifully golden garlic chips I’d prepared for the previous night’s dinner and forgotten to use, and complained that this was a running theme to my dinners.

“You’re not alone!” he said. “I do the same thing.” And then proceeded to tell me about creating new dishes for his restaurant, and accidentally leaving out entire components when it came time to serve his customers.

Nadine & Ludo

Nadine & Ludo

Lunch was done, several of Andrew’s famous bacon Bloody Mary’s and a few beers later, and it was time to move on to the Hawaiian barbecue I was cooking at the home of our other friends, Derek and Cristina, a couple miles down the beach. We exchanged hugs with friends old and new, made the kids go to the bathroom, and packed up to go.

“You must come to the restaurant!” Ludo said, and I assured him it would be high on my priority list.

If you’re ever in a pinch, Ludo, and can’t figure out what to make for that one course you’re missing, try this sandwich on for size. They’ll all be talking about it:

*    *    *

Hazelnut-butter and bacon sandwich
serves 4 as an appetizer

4 thick slices brioche
6 slices applewood smoked bacon
4 tablespoons hazelnut butter
1 medium head fennel
2 tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
frisee lettuce leafs

When shopping, look for the laciest frisee you can find.

Make your caramelized pickled fennel: slice the fennel thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and add fennel. Cooking, stirring frequently, until fennel begins to wilt and caramelize. Add rice wine vinegar and sugar, lower heat to medium low, and cook for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has cooked away and the fennel is golden and caramelized. Remove from pan to a plate.

Cook your bacon slices in a pan over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Grill or toast the brioche until crisp and beginning to burn slightly at the edges. Remove from heat.

Compose the sandwiches: slather two slices of the brioche with hazelnut butter. Top with each with three slices of bacon, then caramelized fennel, and finally with frisee lettuce. Cut each sandwich in half, and cut each half diagonally into two. Skewer with toothpicks, and serve two quarter sandwiches to each diner.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 00:27:26

    Ah, California.


  2. pal-O
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 09:48:27

    How great is it that you can give Flynn such great memories?
    007 on the beach?!! Like Michelle says: “Ah California.”
    Something comes your way hopefully Saturday by USPS!


  3. Jessamine in PDX
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 18:15:07

    Love this all! From your chef meet-and-greet, to seeing 007, to that fabulous sandwich — it all sounds amazing!


  4. rachelocal
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 13:46:15

    I love Ludo, although I’ve only ever seen him on that horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE cooking competition show called The Taste. Anthony Bourdain was on it, too. Steve McQueen would not approve.


  5. Trackback: KING of the Food Snobs | Rachel's Table

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