rainy day beef stew

Heat apologists would argue that the endless Los Angeles summer, with its ‘dry’ heat, is infinitely preferable to the summer just about anywhere else.  However, I still wilt on 95℉ in my second floor AC-less apartment, and furthermore am not especially fond of the sun.  (Why am I living here again?  Oh yeah, cause it’s awesome).  In any case, I welcome the Long and Harsh Winter that is upon us, meaning of course fairly temperate weather that everyone still complains about.  That includes, yes, a few days of actual weather, as in clouds and rain and what not.

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For me it’s perfect, because I get to pull out one of the forlorn, forgotten sweaters from my closet and pretend I’m a peasant in the English countryside (that’s what everyone does when it’s raining, right?).  So I decided to invite some of my lovely friends over and make them a hearty beef stew.  My typical exhaustive research on the subject yielded this:

Why hello, Felicity Cloake!  This is a very helpful and clear video that you made.  And you are so cute with your accent and all your little sayings.  Yes, I saw that you have a ring on your finger.  I mean, you didn’t have to show it so many times.  It’s like a girl who keeps dropping references to her boyfriend.  I GET IT, Felicity, you’re taken.  We’re just beef stew friends.  I’m going to repost your beef stew recipe, because that’s the sort of thing beef stew friends do.  Because it’s stew, a comfort-y, friendly dish, not a date-y romantic dish at all.  Something you have with friends.  Just friends.*

*I’m in love with you, Felicity.

English Beef Stew

2lb  beef chuck (shoulder)
2 tbsp flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
oil or butter, for frying
2 onions, sliced
2 cups or so beef stock
300ml  or so beer (stout or ale)
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky slices
2 small turnips or 1 Rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks

For the dumplings:
1 cup plain flour or more as needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
Small bunch of chives and parsley, finely chopped

1. Trim the beef of its outer sinew and cut into large chunks.  Being new to this whole ‘meat’ thing, I had no idea what I was doing in this step.  I tried to cut away most of the hard, white part.  Because that’s fat, and that’s not good to cook with?  Right?  Who knows.  Cut the beef into ‘egg sized’ pieces.  Hopefully by the end they’ll be tender enough to cut with a spoon, so bigger pieces are fine.  Cut against the grain, if you can figure out what that is.  Wash your heads AT LEAST 1 million times during this process.

2. Toss with the seasoned flour to coat. Heat a dutch oven on a medium-high flame and add a knob of dripping or butter, or a couple of tablespoons of oil.  A “knob”!  Oh Felicity, I’ll cherish these moments forever.

Brown the meat in batches, making sure there is always enough butter.  Not too many at one time.  Remove to a bowl.  I did the onions and meat *at the same time* because I’m kray kray.

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3. Once all the meat is browned, add some more butter to the pan and cook the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add them to the beef and then pour in a little stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add the beef and onions, the rest of the stock and the stout, season, and add the herbs. Bring to the boil, then partially cover, turn down the heat, and simmer gently for two hours.  I used an Irish stout I found at whole foods.

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3. Add the carrots and rutabaga (I used a rutabaga  yo), and simmer for about another hour, until the meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon.  You can leave it overnight at this point if you like, or just eat it, because you have fucking guests.

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4. Those are dumplings, which you make by sifting the flour into a bowl and adding the rest of the ingredients and just enough cold water to bring it together into a dough. Roll it into 6 dumplings and add these to the stew.  I would actually push the dumplings all the way down so they boil.  They are sort of “fiddly” to quote Felicity.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a stew with dumplings before, so I didn’t quite know what they should be like.  Anyway:pPartially cover and simmer for 25 minutes, then check the seasoning of the gravy.

The stew was awesome.  Felicity doesn’t mess around with her stews.  My friends had their fill and then I sent them back into the shivering cold and rain.  The end.

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Duck of the Week: Pumpkin the Thanksgiving Duck

“happy t-day rotflol ;)” – Pumpkin, the Thanksgiving Duck



Now that the season for the LA phil is underway, I decided to get rush tickets for a performance of Ravel’s Boléro.  It was a delightful and fun performance of one of my favorite songs.  Gustavo was not conducting, unfortunately.


I’ve decided to try out a new diet that goes hand in hand with learning how to cook meat: the primal diet, also known as the paleo or caveman diet.  Basically, the diet asks that you eat like paleolithic humans ate.  This means no processed foods, no sugar and NO legumes or grains.  Instead, you eat a lot of meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some fruit, and fat (including saturated but not poly-saturated).  It also means certain types of exercising: no jogging, for example, because cave-people didn’t jog.  Instead you should walk (as if in search of food), weight train (as if carrying children or wood everywhere) and sprint/interval train (exit, pursued by a bear).  Of course this is probably historically and anthropologically inaccurate in several ways.  So let’s call it the Flintstones diet.  In any case, the idea is that by keeping carbs low, your body will burn excess fat instead.  And also it’s healthier to have a “lean body mass” or “LBM,” apparently.  This diet has been supplemented by the following workout, which I really like:



In sum, I’ve been strictly following this diet and work-out plan, and I’m super healthy and feeling great!


I lasted four days before I started making “exceptions.”  And the working out thing has been uneven as well.  And next week is thanksgiving, which will be one huge exception, minus the turkey.  However, I do notice that many diets suggest the elimination of sugar (including alcohol) and white flour/rice (and processed foods and soda, which I don’t really consume anyway).

In that vein, I’d like to introduce the following recipe: Bulgogi!  I haven’t eaten much Korean food over the years, despite living in LA, because I’ve been vegetarian, so I’m really just getting into it now.  One of the first dishes I had was a rice bowl with Bulgogi, a type of marinated beef that you often get at Korean BBQ places as well.  I don’t know how authentic the following recipe is, but it came out well.


(recipe from Saveur, presented with my editorial comments)

This is for at least four people.  I only made a third of this, and ate it over a couple days.

2 lb. beef sirloin
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ cup soy sauce
⅓ cup toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. ground black pepper
10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 scallions, sliced
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
Green leaf lettuce, for serving
Gochujang (Korean chili-bean paste), for serving

1. Wrap sirloin in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Unwrap and slice across the grain as thinly as possible, about 1⁄6″; place in a bowl along with onion.  I couldn’t really tell which way the grain was going, so I just guessed.

2. Place soy sauce, oil, sugar, pepper, garlic, and scallions in a blender, and puree until smooth.  I might even add a thai chili in there, whether or not it’s authentic.   Pour over meat, and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Heat a large cast-iron grill pan or griddle over high heat. Working in batches, spread beef and onion mixture in one layer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and cook, turning as needed, until charred and just cooked through.  It took about 8 minutes I think?

The marinade kind of cooked down into a glaze, which was nice.

Eat bulgogi atop lettuce leaves with gochujang on the side.  Now, I didn’t have any gochujang, nor do I really know what it is or where to get it, so I just used some chili garlic paste.  As you can see, I got myself a stack of lettuce leaves, some carrots, the chili paste, and some scallions in a separate bowl.  But really, I think the Bulgogi/onions and lettuce by themselves are the best combination.

And the final result was…good!  You may ask, was it as good as the bulgogi in a restaurant?  No!  Was it close?  No!  But that’s ok.  Not only was the meat edible (priority #1), but it actually tasted quite good.  I tried to make little lettuce wraps with the bulgogi, but those were kind of unwieldy, as lettuce wraps can be.  Maybe in the future they will be able to grow lettuce leaves that are very large and perfectly circular and don’t tear easily.  In fact I usually don’t like eating things with my hands at all, but then I guess doing it this way was more primal.

Harissa Chicken and Golden Beet Salsa

Until about a year and a half ago, I had been basically vegetarian, with the occasional exception of raw fish.  Being that I first became a vegetarian well before I learned how to cook, I never really learned how to cook meat (broadly defined, as in, any type of animal).  So, I’m trying to learn now.  There have been some trials, and some errors.  Let’s just say it’s difficult to successfully cook meat when you are a hypochondriac with a broken meat thermometer.  I first turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everythingwhich made sense given that the vegetarian version of that book has been quite helpful, but I have to say, that book has been a real disappointment in my meat education.  I think it just assumes more knowledge than I actually have, which is surprising because usually Bittman assumes no knowledge at all.  But there are very basic things like how long certain items will keep in the fridge, or how to defrost them, or knowing when you’ve overcooked something that are inexplicably absent.  Which is not a big deal, but then his recipes are kind of misses too.  Sometimes he’s a bit too ‘minimalist,’ as if the best way to eat anything was only with salt and lemon.  I know I’ve been trying to cook and eat white people food, as part of my life’s research and work, but sometimes I miss recipes that don’t require 8 different spices.

Surely there must be some balance.  Cue the cosmopolitan Yotam Ottolenghi, who, along with his business partner, Sami Tamimi, has a new book out called Jerusalem.  This book is really interesting, actually, because it needs to walk a fine line of acknowledging the city’s, um, problematic political situation while also being a happy sunshiny isn’t everything lovely cookbook (incidentally, Ottolenghi is Israeli while Tamimi is Palestinian; they both grew up in Jerusalem but then moved to gay friendly Tel Aviv and finally to London).  So, for example, they have a page dedicated why no one culture can claim ownership over a particular food, hummus, for example.  There is also a reference to how divided palestinians worked to “distract the soldiers and sneak some beautiful fish across the barbed wire,” without further comment.  I think it’s actually pretty impressive for a cookbook to venture into such territory and highlight the cuisines of the city’s Sephardic and Arab populations (no bagels here).

In the book, the below is a fish dish.  I did make it once with some cod, and that was good, but then made it with chicken as well, to try to atone for my aforementioned failures in this area.  The chicken was a success, largely because I got a working, digital meat thermometer and because I used to the internet to figure out how long I should keep it in the pan and oven.  The chicken was marinated in harissa, which I think might be a thing I make every couple of months and keep around, since it’s sort of the best thing ever.

Harissa Chicken and Golden Beet Salsa


1 boneless chicken breast

1/4 cup harissa (you’ll want to make your own)

1tsp ground cumin

Golden Beet Salsa

1 large golden beet

1 medium orange

1 lemon

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1/2 of a red onion, chopped

1/3 cup parsley, or more if you want

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne powder or chili flakes

1tbsp olive oil


1. Put the chicken breast in a zip-lock bag with the harissa and cumin and mix it all up.  Place in fridge to marinate.  I probably washed my hands and the counter 5-7 times during this process.

2. Quarter the beet and place in boiling water for 20-30 min, until a knife easily pierces it.

I had one very large beet that I placed in the water whole, and it took FOREVER to cook.  Cutting it up would make more sense.  You’ll have to peel it when you take it out, but after cooking the peel sort of just falls off.  Golden beets also don’t bleed their color onto everything and make a huge mess, as much.  Anyway, once you cook, drain and peel the beet cut it up into a pretty fine dice (smaller than I did).  Place in a very large bowl.

3. Peel the orange and lemon, and take out the sections.  This involves cutting in between the white membranes to release the non-bitter part of the fruit.  This is basically impossible to do without mangling the fruit and squeezing out all the juices.  Best to do this over the bowl so any juices remain part of the final salsa.

If you want to see some fancy french guy make all this look easy, watch this video

Whatevs, fancy french guy.

4. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a pan on medium heat for three minutes.  Remove to a coffee/spice grinder or mortar and pestle and crush to a powder.  If you don’t have both a dedicated spice grinder (separate from your coffee grinder) AND a mortar and pestle then, I mean, what’s the point?  Why are you even doing this?  Just give up, non-fancy person, and stop reading my fancy duck blog.

J/K!!!  You, my turtle friend, may use ground spices, but just this once.  You can find ground cumin and coriander at whole foods for $157, each.  If only they sold pre-sectioned oranges.

5. Mix all the rest of that shit together in the bowl, and voila, beet salsa.  Is it super delicious.  Yes, it is.

6. Ok – chicken.  Heat an oven to 400. Take the chicken out of the bag with tongs and place them in a very hot cast iron pan that already contains very hot – almost smoking – olive oil.  I had a 1″ thick chicken beast, and I cooked it on medium-high heat for five minutes per side.  After this, place in the oven for ten minutes.  Take out and stick your new reasonably priced meat thermometer in it.  Just stick it in there.  It should be at 165.  If not, return the pan to the oven and check every five minutes.

7. Once the chicken is done, transfer to a plate.  Don’t use the same tongs because those are contaminated.  Btw, I hope you’ve been washing your hands, the counter, your floor, and the inside of your fridge every 2-3 minutes during this whole process.

8. Return pan to medium heat.  Add 1 tbps olive oil to the pan.  Spoon the extra harissa into the pan and keep stirring to deglaze.  Remember, this paste has touched raw chicken so you want to cook it through.  Never can be too careful.  Anyway, after 3 minutes of this, you’re good, and you can pour this harissa sauce onto your chicken.  I had a yogurt sauce that I had made that I added as well, but this is not necessary.  Add beet salad.  Eat.

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Duck of the Week: Cicero the Election Duck

Cicero the election duck is feeling very blue-green today!  He says:

Six mistakes mankind keeps making century after century:

Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do,

among other things.

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