markets, product review, recipe

“And I Feel Like I’m Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Slipping Under.”

have i already written about you, preserved lemon? i’ve certainly thought about it. i even took pictures of you, i remember. it was going to be part of that three-parter, that mighty triumvirate i was plotting in honour of the little ol’ lemon and my then surprising, new, and now abiding love for it. the lil’ guy (or gal?).

it was going to go like this:

I. PRESERVED LEMONS, and how i love ’em.

II. SEARED LEMONS, as a topping for pasta or salad, mostly. so summery!

III. LEMON JUICE, 1 or 2 lemons worth, neat, for breakfast, its vitalizing properties.

i first picked up some preserved lemons at L’Olivier in the Jean-Talon (where i have just been informed of the distinction between moroccan and tunisian harissa, more on this soonish), and was immediately taken, because they are all salty and sour and bitter in spades and so how couldn’t i be? and then i read all over the place how easy they are to make at home, but pickling/preserving being one of those things i have an emotional/culinary block about (i just can’t seem to commit to it. if anyone versed in these arts feels like dating and/or marrying me, i’m sure that would be sufficient motivation for overcoming this hurdle), i never go around to it.

just last week i bought a jar of them from Akhavan, and while they are good, maybe a little pithier tasting, or merely pithy tasting in a less pleasant way? (it is mostly the rind that one is supposed to use, btw, a popular ingredient in tagines, chutneys, the like, and once you’ve had it, you’ll realize you’ve tasted it in all manner of places before) so i somewhat cowedly pictured this jar sitting half-full in my fridge for you know the rest of my life, until this weekend at the market (at a totally different shop, one of the food stands, on the opposite side of the market, i wish i could remember his name…) i chanced to try a pickled lemon confit this dude makes himself with an assortment of spices that a) was delicious, and b) reminded me i can do whatever i want (ie: that) with my preserved lemons. so i’m gonna. gonna have cardamom and chilis and uh, fennel. i’ll get back to you. (note to self: you are, however improbably, out of cardamom again. weird. sleepwalking? investigate)

this guy also makes his own hot sauce all with homegrown(farmed?) peppers, which was pretty good except it was Thai Sweet Chili style, which is unfortunately probably my least favourite species of hot sauce, besides perhaps Bland El Salvadorean Sauce or Stupid Boring Chipotle Sauce.

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so. expect to hear more on lemons.

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seared lemons. it can be a gamble, because you wanna cook them at high enough heat to actually sear ’em and get the sugars cookin’, but not so hot that the outside blackens before the inner pith cooks, ‘cos otherwise they’ll be too shocking.

similarly, you gotta cut ’em thin, so this’ll have a devil’s chance of happening , but not so thin that by the time they’re done they’re just a brown heat-chewed old rind with no juice in ’em.

worth the effort though. good with any lively or bitter green pesto pasta dish, some cream sauce affairs, and most salads that don’t have too much else going on. i’d say nothing more obtrusive than white wine vinegar or lemon and oil to dress, a slightly bitter green like spinach or frisée or escarole, and some kinda nice toasted seed (almonds man. almonds). milder cheeses like fior di latte or ricotta work well, although i’ve also had success with crazy salty stuff like armenian string cheese (which goes with all lemon) or even some blues.

who am i kidding, do whatever you want.

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oh, and fresh squeezed lemon juice for breakfast – it’s like a less soul-corrupting shot of espresso.

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product review, resto oh oh

A Surprising Turn in an Otherwise Bleak Workday…

it appears Al Taib has a new hot sauce, and It Is Delicious. picture a large, ridged, semi-translucent plastic ketchup bottle (those like a tube, not those which taper toward the top) with the nozzle sawed off so as to allow an unobstructed flow – the sauce in the interior is clumpy and roughly chopped, with an almost masticated aspect, and appears to consist entirely of smashed chilis!

Continue reading

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markets, product review

The Plot Chippens…

so i guess Blair’s – creator of the dangerous and much beloved SUDDEN DEATH sauce, also has a snack food line, adorably entitled DEATH RAIN. this i discovered at, of all places, Real Bagels on ste Catherines (4160 Ouest). i went in because i noticed they had a big sign advertising empanadas (accompanied, interestingly enough, by text dismissing the distinctions between patties, pizza pockets, empanadas and calzones, on the grounds that they are all basically the same and delicious and you should buy some right now. also, world peace, i assume), and i was surprised to find that the place appears to be a legitimate bagelry, as well as bakery, selling a wide variety of empanadas, knishes, patties and other (usually stuffed) savoury bready things, and are a purveyor of hot sauces and illy espresso. not bad, since i had heretofore dismissed them as a shitty businessperson/alexis-nihonian snack cafe.

the empanadas are around $2.50, i had the 3 cheese, which was okay, and a broccoli and cheese, which was pretty decent, and had onion slivers baked onto the top. no free sauce though, which was unfortunate.

blair_s_death_rain_habanero_chipsreturning to the point though, i picked up a bag of Blair’s Death Rain Habanero chips, and they’re pretty damn good. the hottest flavour of the chip line (which includes bbq, cheddar, chipotle, buffalo wings, and cajun), they weren’t problematically so, but i guess where chips are concerned you sort of want something that you can actually eat and touch without protective clothing. that said, they were good and salty, sort of like a not-sweet bbq flavour, and undoubtedly the hottest potato chips i’ve ever had. Real sells them for $1.75 for a small (2 oz?) bag, which is a little pricey, but honestly i don’t think i’d want to eat much more than that amount. i had to be a little careful too not to inhale while the chip was in my mouth but before i started chewing or a choking and coughing fit was almost unavoidably. i tried the cajun ones too, which are the next less spicy, but wasn’t really taken with them. a little bland.

enflavourment redefined, dudes.

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miscellany/etymology, resto oh oh

Upon Wings of Black

PT. ONE: JUST TO CLEAR THINGS UP.

Croque-monsieur: some manner of toasted or grilled sandwich featuring cheese and ham, although more popularly (and thusly distinguished from a mere ham and cheese sandwich) topped with mornay sauce, which I understand to be similar to a béchamel but with cheese, such as gruyere.

Croque-madame: see above, but with an egg on it.

Eggs benedict: supposed to be made with an English muffin, but commonly encountered (in Montreal at least) supplanted by a bagel, this is ham or occasionally bacon with a poached or fried egg (depending on how classy the joint) and hollandaise sauce. I remember reading Anthony Bourdain say he prefers not to gamble his life (or the life of his internal organs) by eating such a thing from any kitchen where he does not already know and trust the chef, as most short order cooks are not wont to make up a fresh batch of hollandaise for every order, and a sauce made more or less of tarted up raw eggs does not a safe bet make in the raging Petri dish that is the average commercial kitchen. Sage advice from a man who goes around eating POISONOUS SPIDERS for our amusement. (admittedly not fair. i have total faith in Bourdain’s assertion that his gastronomic hijinks are undertaken out of his devotion to tasting the intimidating and unknown in its native context, not some Fear-Factor-esque pandering to our own shocklust, despite surface similarities)

Eggs Florentine: basically like the above, but vegetarian – spinach substituted for the meat.

PT. TWO: ON THE TOPIC OF BECHAMEL. Continue reading

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product review

I Shall Leave That Basement Burning, And Never Look Back.

piri-pirithis stuff (Macarico Piri Piri Molho) is a godsend, honestly. not too vinegary, very salty, and pleasantly hot. i don’t recall how exactly i stumbled upon it, but it is precisely what i’d been looking for in the vein of an Everyday Sauce – multipurpose, not too distinct a flavour as to limit its wide application, something like a Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot, but less watery and mediocre (no offense to the many lovers of the forementioned sauces, but they just don’t do it for me). it’s also very satisfyingly opaque and bright and bold, i guess in terms of flavour and colour, to the extent that taste and opacity can be intelligibly related. which i have just now decided they can, and intend to think in such terms as often as i can justify in the future.

piri piri is i guess the name used in Portugal and the ex-Portuguese colonies (Angola and Mozambique) for African bird’s eye chilis (to be distinguished from thai or Asian bird’s eye), which register in the 100, 000-350, 000 Scoville range. this is approximately the same as a scotch bonnet, but don’t expect scorching heat from this sauce, as it packs less of a punch than the average scotch bonnet sauce.

i’ve seen this one a couple of places, but first discovered it at the little condiment shop in the Jean Talon market, you know, the one on the…..east side, that sells the prepackaged pakora? no? anyway, it’s there, i can’t remember the name. if you’re in the dirty south, however, you can get a bottle for under 3 bucks at the little African market on Notre Dame just a little west of Greene street, the name of which i also can’t remember, but they’re tiny tiny and reasonably new. south side of the street, easy to miss, next to an equally tiny sushi shop.

in other news, i just started reading Eat, Memory, attracted by the double whammyeat-memory2 of food and Nabokov allusion, and so far it’s a lot of fun. it’s inspired me to look into Julia Child’s memoir and Dan Barber’s piece has very indirectly gotten me interested in the potential (for disaster or delight) of pureed sweet potato and white chocolate. indirectly by way of his being about carrots and blanched almonds and that sparking some orange-and-white speculative slip in my brain. appropriately mildly synesthetic (synaesthetic?) for something from a nabokov-referencing book, no? anyway. sweet potato and white chocolate. orange and white. we shall see, we shall see.

also, how fucking good is Public Enemy’s “Yo, Bum Rush the Show”? totally fucking good, that’s how.

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markets, product review

Porcupines Shouldn’t eat Pad Thai Anyway.

i may just stop listening to those guys at the fancy condiment store, because this is the second time they’ve led me astray, re: hot sauce (i will grant that their balsamic vinegar and truffle oil counsel has been sound, but now they’ve offended in equal measure to their previous aid). the first was with this Montreal Road Kill Sauce, which i was assured was goodly spicy, but not to the point of eclipsing its distinct flavour. what i discovered upon taking this flagrant pretender of a hot sauce home was that i had paid 7 bucks for a bottle of weak ass sweet chili sauce. this prompted, discernible amidst a steady stream of epithet and contempt, three questions:

1. what exactly would one expect a “Montreal” hot sauce to taste like? particularly one with a roadkill theme? the label graphic (forthcoming, sorry for the lack of immediate visual aid) suggested that it was perhaps a sauce the boldness of flavour of which could be relied upon to mask the presumably unfortunate taste of roadkill (as opposed to a sauce tasting like roadkill, or a sauce which in its fiery onslaught one would be reduced to a state of grotesque brokenness and splayed entrails comparable to roadkill, either of which would have been preferable to the tepid and uninspired treacle offered), but unless the roadkill in question was some pad thai that a porcupine was in the process of stealing when it was run down, it hardly lives up to its premise/promise.blog-road-kill-flipped

so yeah, Montreal hot sauce? pepper? rendered pork fat? maybe something that combines pork fat and maple syrup, in a spicy reinvisioning? that would’ve been nice, unanticipated, even unprecedented. (but no).

2. why are there vultures on it? (there are vultures on it.) do we have vultures?
(in a desert. the vultures are standing in a desert)

3. why is it bottled in Florida or wherever the hell? (actually, i can’t remember where it’s bottled, because i don’t have it right in front of me, but i can vouch for it not being Montreal) in fact, what if anything does this sauce have to do with Montreal other than the name? why is Montreal hot sauce just ersatz thai sweet chili sauce for babies? who did this? why did i pay seven dollars for it?

fie on you.

what was i even talking about?

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