Popcorn for Breakfast and Other Minor Revelations

Leftover popcorn, I’ve discovered, makes a good breakfast. My wife often makes popcorn for the kids in the evening, and there it is in the morning, half a pot — the butter soaked in and coagulated. Like many things, it is better the next day.

I especially like the crunchy, half-popped ones that congregate at the bottom of the pan. My wife worries: “You’re going to break a tooth on one of those one day.” But I like to live dangerously, I guess.

I made another delightful breakfast discovery this morning. It’s soft-shell crab season — one of my most favorite of all foods. Last night, I made seven soft-shell crab sandwiches for our dinner party. I had miscounted, and there were only six of us. So my second course of breakfast was a reheated soft-shell crab sandwich. What a start to the day!

I haven’t been blogging so much lately. I’m not completely sure why — some combination of busy-ness and apathy. Sometimes I think I’ve run out of things to say about food. And then I consider: “How is that possible?” I’ve also noticed some of my other blogger friends suffering from a similar inertia (I’m looking at you, Gourmandistan!). Maybe it’s a seasonal thing.

I do periodically just tire of my own writing. “Oh my god, not that metaphor again!!” And need a break from myself.

I used to publish a post every Tuesday and Thursday. I was very consistent for several years. I don’t know how I did it. Now, I’m like, “Whatever!”

I was saddened by the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, although as a parent of young children, I also thought it was a selfish and cowardly act given that he has an 11-year-old daughter. That’s a hole in her life that can never be filled.

Leftover soft-shell crab sandwich

Like many people, my first introduction to Bourdain was through his book, “Kitchen Confidential,” which lifted the veil on the many horrors of restaurant kitchens. I worked in several restaurant kitchens and never experienced — nor perpetrated — anything too terrible.

The worst crime I ever committed against a customer was when I was a teenager working in an Italian deli. Every Saturday, around 5 p.m., the old Italian owner, Ron, would say, “Okay, let’s clean up and get out of here.” The deli closed at 5:30. And I inevitably had someplace fun to get to and was eager to split. So I would wrap up all the remaining cold cuts and cheese, put away the lettuce and tomatoes, cover the condiment tins, wipe down the counters and wash all the knives and utensils. And every Saturday, just as I finished, a skinny little plumber dude with greasy black hair would come in and order a pastrami sandwich with extra mayonnaise. Old Italian owner Ron was not one to turn down $5. So I would grudgingly get everything out again and make the skinny plumber dude his sandwich, cursing under my breath and casting daggers with my eyes.

One particular Saturday when I had something REALLY fun to get to and already practically had one foot out the door, skinny plumber dude came in and asked for his pastrami with extra mayo. “I’ll give him extra mayo,” I mumbled to myself. I was sure to hand the wrapped sandwich to the customer myself, as had it passed through Ron’s hands, he would’ve surely noticed that it weighed a good pound more than it should’ve. I must’ve used half a jar’s worth of mayonnaise.

The next Saturday when skinny plumber dude came in, he ordered a pastrami sandwich with regular mayo. Once again, I loaded his sandwich with a cup of mayonnaise, and again made sure to hand it to him myself. The following Saturday, he came in and ordered a pastrami sandwich with light mayo. This time, I barely brushed the bread with the faintest trace of mayo.

He never came in again.

Those are my thoughts and stories for a Sunday morning.

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Into the Maguey Mountains

I’m partial to Del Maguey single village mezcal. And not simply because my pal, Michael, is a partner in the company. (Though he has winced on the rare occasion he has discovered one of his competitor’s products in my liquor cabinet.) The mezcals are complex and delicious, I like the backstory, the commitment to preserving tradition, and the Ken Price labels. But I would become an even greater advocate upon traveling deep into Oaxaca with Mike, visiting two of Del Maguey’s palenques (where the mezcals are made), and meeting the men who make them.

Wild tobala agave at the Del Maguey bodega

It was a bright southern Mexico morning when the car picked up Mike and me, freshly filled up on breakfast mole and huevos, to head south out of the city and into the agave countryside. The day breaks open like an egg, the light harsh and silver as the swords of the espadin, elevation halfway to the sun and soon you are shielding your eyes. The landscape is dusty and weedy and cactusy, not the way I pictured Oaxaca, punctuated with the bursting spikes of the agave that will define our day. More

Go Away, Gastropub

I ran into a chef friend of mine at my son’s baseball game the other Sunday. I asked him what he was up to, and after a harrowing tale about his time as private cook for an online poker billionaire, he confessed he was putting wheels in motion to open a restaurant.

I asked him when, where and what. He wasn’t sure, but said he was scanning food trends for inspiration.

“Don’t do a pork belly bahn mi,” I said.

Gastropub burger with truffle fries

As serendipity would have it, I had also been discussing the possibility of opening a restaurant with a friend. A unique opportunity had arisen, and we were exploring it. Which got me to thinking about what kind of food I would serve. I would not serve a pork belly bahn mi. More

I Burned the Rice

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I often burn the rice.

Burned rice

It’s an unfortunate habit I have. Here’s how it usually goes down:

I’m making sushi rice. My sushi rice preparation technique, adapted from a recipe by Nobu Matsuhisa, involves bringing the rice to a boil, cooking it for five minutes at a regular temperature, then blasting it even more briefly with high heat, and then turning it off and letting it steam for 15 minutes. Where I go astray is usually in the last step, where I turn the heat on high, and instead of waiting the minute it’s supposed to take, wander off to do something else. (For example, the idea for this post came as I was working on another post when I suddenly smelled the rice burning.) More

Simplicity

A wet and drizzly morning of the sort we’ve been having lately, the usually dry stream that crosses our property burbling happily, the canyon veiled in gray and exploding in every shade of green, brought me back to a memory:

A child, a younger me, dripping in the rain — no umbrella, no boots, socks and shoes wet — setting leaves into the gutter and chasing them down the street. Joy: unrestrained, unmannered, untethered.

Simplicity.

rscz2194

In the kitchen, after a previous evening’s West/East mashup of spaghetti ai ricci di mare, Venetian carpaccio, spicy fried tofu and three different kinds of sushi, I craved simplicity on the plate, too. More

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