Bourdain was Big in the Noughties

By Karen

If you have Comcast cable and want a jump on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Season 6, the Panama episode is On Demand. No such luck with Verizon FIOS.

You may remember a debate we had back when No Reservations Hawaii aired. Winnipeg Bob thought Tony’s wife Ottavia was sitting in the background during Tony’s closing monologue after the tourist luau.

I have received confirmation from an unimpeachable source that Bob was right. It was Ottavia, and she was sitting with a crew member. Ottavia-watchers can also see her in the Tuscany episode, and she and her whole family were featured in Sardinia.

And the kudos keep rolling in…

Toronto-based Indigo Books & Music, Inc., compiled a list of 75 books of the past decade that had greatest impact on booklovers, and Kitchen Confidential made the cut.

A panel of leading British food writers also placed KC in the top 10 of the best 40 food books of the decade.

The Buffalo News named Bourdain 2009’s “Visitor of the Year” for filming a segment of his Rust Belt episode there. Poor Zamir didn’t even get honorable mention.

Journal Squared predicts 23 original thinkers who will shape 2010, and Bourdain makes his list at No. 12.

North Carolina Public Radio has posted audio of, I believe, the entire talk Bourdain delivered in Durham, NC, on February 19, 2009, when I drove 6 hours round-trip to hear him speak and meet him. Enjoy!

And since you’ve probably been dying to know (yeah, right) if I ever attempted béarnaise sauce from scratch, the answer is yes.

I used the dumbed-down 3-ingredient “Never Fail” recipe and was able to eat it, so it didn’t totally suck. But as Bourdain predicted 10 years ago in his cookbook, I fucked it up. In the time it took George Foreman to cook my rib-eye steak, the béarnaise assumed the consistency of lumpy custard.

But what pissed me off the most was that with only 3 freaking ingredients, I ended up with a sink full of pots, bowls and utensils, and congealed butter EVERYWHERE. Such a big mess for such a little bit of sauce!

But I will try again…

I’ve also got my eye on Bourdain’s cassoulet recipe because Hermione Gingold made it in Gigi and he says anyone who can make good chili (me, me!) can make cassoulet.


20 Responses to Bourdain was Big in the Noughties

  1. Bob says:

    I am not one to say I told you so… But Ahem. 🙂
    I knew I spotted her in the background in the hut, who else would be wearing hair like that but a fasion maven from Italy. 😛

    I totally get your fustration cooking new things, it seems no matter how simple the recipe, every pot and pan in the kitchen is used and total failure is the only result. I am glad that you did end up making an edible sauce though.

    You have been quite quiet on the Bourdain Family of late, does this mean that your officially off the Christmas Card List?? Even if they do have your personal e-mail by now.

  2. catsworking says:

    Bob, when you’re right, I’m man enough to admit it. You have much sharper eyes than I do. When I watched Hawaii again recently (which reminded me of it), even after seeing her up close in person, I still wasn’t sure it was Ottavia.

    My bearnaise wasn’t helped when the whisk took a dive to the floor. I lost precious time rinsing it off. Then when I was spreading the gunk on the steak, I dropped the whole pot because everything was slippery. I’m sure I was just like one of those spazzes Bourdain complains about on that Gordon Ramsay show. The whole scene was something out of a bad sitcom.

    But years ago I became very adept with a wok, with all its tedious chopping and prep, sauces, and quick cooking at very high heat, thanks to a Canadian wok chef named Stephen Yan (no relation to Martin that I know of) and his show, Wok with Yan. Did you ever see him? So I know I can learn.

    Since you brought it up, I’m still on the Bourdain Christmas card list, and they are on mine. We exchanged greetings again, but after the initial shock of that Fed Ex bomb from Tony last year, things are actually normal, so the details aren’t really newsworthy.

    I’ve drawn a line in the sand between the personal and professional on the Bourdains. Tony the TV host and writer are still fair game, but I consider the whole family my friends.

  3. Bob says:

    Wok with Yan, I loved that show, it was an afternoon staple in my house. I loved his crazy aprons, a new apron every day with a funny saying.

    I still use his approach to cooking, I guess looking back on it he taught me to get my mis en place together.
    A good thing to learn with Chinese food cause the cooking time is practically zero. When I started reading Bourdain later in life his system made sense because I had learned the basics cutting up veggies for stir fry with my Dad.

    Funny story, one year I actually ordered the “Wok with Yan” cookbook series for my Dad. Which he used until he could no longer cook.

    Did on a side note, did you hear that “My Winnipeg” made Eberts list of films of the decade?? I thought it was good, but a little artsy for me. I hope Tony enjoyed it if he ever got around to opening that package.

    I am guessing he didn’t because I still haven’t gotten my Christmas card yet… SNIFF
    Must have gotten lost in the mail..Yea that’s it… lost in the mail.

  4. Adele says:

    Karen, my experience is that those idiot-proof, fewer ingredient recipes rarely work out. Conversely Julia Child’s recipes, which appear long and daunting, almost never fail. Bourdain’s bernaise recipe looked complete and though a few more steps, pretty easy to follow. But I surely know about the heartbreak of the dropped whisk or the dropped pan.

    As one of the least techie people ever to own a computer,I must admit that I didn’t recognize some of the names in Journal Squared’s Top 23 list, but of the ones I did recognize, I must say the Bourdain finds himself in august company.

    And Bob, I’m not surprised that My Winnipeg is on Ebert’s best of the decade list. I really liked it, but Ebert has always tried to expose the US public to Canadian films, and if they’re black and white and sort of noir-ish, so much the better.

  5. catsworking says:

    Adele, the reason I skipped Bourdain’s recipe was that I didn’t have any shallots, but next time I try bearnaise I will follow his instructions.

    Bob, after I posted about Stephen Yan, I Googled him. He seems to have dropped out of sight after about the early ’90s. Have you heard anything about him lately? I absolutely loved that guy. I think it was in 1991-92 when I was between jobs I got hooked on his show (I remember the funny aprons), bought a hand-hammered Chinese wok, chopsticks, and really got into his cooking. I know it’s more American-style Chinese food than authentic, but he could really make a small piece of meat go a long way.

    And if you don’t do all the prep and have everything lined up and ready to go, you’re totally screwed. Talk about making a big mess, too. But I usually made enough for several meals, so it seemed worth it.

    Also, I read that Martin Yan (no relation) in his early days before fame, worked for Stephen Yan.

    I’m not surprised that My Winnipeg made Ebert’s list either. Maybe that will persuade Tony to sit down and watch it, if he hasn’t already. I do know for a fact he received it because Ottavia told me they have it.

    In fact, I may watch it again myself. But now I’ll know to leave the room at the part about the horses in the river. Too sad.

  6. Bob says:

    Reading your post the other day made me wonder also about where Stephan Yan went. I believe he had a resturant chain in Vancouver that was quite successful in the 90’s. But I haven’t heard a peep from him in years.

    Funny thing about Canadian TV back then, we only had a few channels the CBC being the clearest (antenna on the roof) so we spent a lot of time watching Can Con (Canadian Content).

    I grew up watching the Beachcombers, Canadian Music Videos, and British Comedy/Sci-Fi.

    God I am glad those days are over LOL.

    As for the frozen horses, I had done a little research on it and can’t be sure that Maddin didn’t just embelish on a folk tale? But this is Winnipeg and there always seems to be a kernel of truth in even the strangest of tales.

    Adele, I posted the latest on the Hall of Fame Concerts last night. Sorry I had been getting slack on you. Will promise to do better in the future.

  7. catsworking says:

    Bob, funny you should mentioned Vancouver, because I could swear I remembered Wok With Yan coming out of British Columbia, and I was surprised to read that he made it in Ottawa. Maybe by the time it was being syndicated in the U.S., he had moved to B.C. and was distributing from there. I wasn’t able to find any recent information on him. He seemed to just dropped out of sight. I wonder if he died?

    Of all the cooking shows I’ve ever watched over the years, I learned the most by far from his, and actually made the dishes.

  8. catsworking says:

    Stephen Yan mystery is SOLVED. I just found this article about his show. He IS from Vancouver. He himself posts in the comments in December 2008 and says he decided to retire. And his daughter Arlene posts that he has since climbed Mt. Everest (on his 3rd try) and won his age group in the Boston Marathon, among other things. Check it out…

    Also, Wendy at Room214 did check in and provided a Travel Channel press link (thank you!) to the entire Panama episode online. It made me wonder what Ottavia thinks when she doesn’t travel with him, and then sees the final cuts of these shows.

    “You went WHERE and did WHAT?? Are you CRAZY??!!!”

  9. Adele says:

    Karen, remember, in KC, when Bourdain answers the “why my food tastes better than yours” question, one of the things he says is that he always has shallots. They’re a wonderful little vegetable, and they come in handy for lots of things.

    Glad you got to see the Panama NR episode. I must say that even though I knew he survived the trip, I was nervous for him in the jungle. As I said before, we’ve seen him in several jungles, but I don’t think he ever looked so miserable — except maybe when visiting that bat and roach guano filled cave in Jamaica.

  10. catsworking says:

    They could have been pimples, but it looked to me like he got a couple of nasty bites on his face. And I think he may have been feeling his age in the humidity of the jungle. He was looking pretty beat.

    I know you’re right about the shallots. I’ve thrown away plenty of shriveled-up ones in my day. I just can never seem to use them fast enough, as it is with most fresh veggies I buy.

  11. Zappa says:

    Hi Adele!

    Tell your mom to peel and quarter the shallots ,then pan roast them in the oven with a bit of sea salt and olive oil until they get soft and caramelize(a medium oven about 25 min) They are easy,delicious and a real crowd pleaser. Mind you,I don’t eat them but I have smacked many a shallot out of the veggie dish on the counter.When will she learn to keep things off of the kitchen counter?


  12. catsworking says:

    Zappa, that sounds like a good recipe. Karen’s taking notes.

    What is it with humans not putting their things away? Yul is constantly having to throw stuff off the kitchen table so there’s enough room for him to take a nap. Adele

  13. Cindy says:

    Found this interview dated yesterday. It doesn’t have any big surprises, but he does confirm he is going to be on “Yo Gabba Gabba” later this year.

  14. MorganLF says:

    Shallots, chervil tops and Global knives! Well I got the shallots and Global knives (the best I’ve ever owned)but can’t find the chervil. As for Bearnaise keep it, I’m not a fan of eggy mayo type sauces. In fact I revile mayonnaise, but I think I’ve mentioned that before.

    Karen,I too had a wok phase but the peanut oil stank up the place and I never got a really proper wok. I do love the concept of stir-fry for veggies and really ought to pursue that. I have not yet seen his cookbook but cassoulet! Let us know how that comes out that’s right up my alley is there anything moe fabulous than beans and pork,and Gigi references?

  15. Adele says:

    Morgan, chervil isn’t so easy to find, but I think Spice Islands does one and maybe McCormick. I’m actually not an eggy sauce fan, either, although I used to love eggs benedict. I have a friend, who loves cassoulet,and he’s made it a few times for dinner parties. Beans just don’t agree with me, but it does taste good — a real festival of meats. But Karen, I meant to say before, if you can’t stand raw chicken skin, how will you deal with the caul fat that Bourdain recommends in his recipe?

  16. catsworking says:

    Cindy, thanks for that link. I think I tried to watch Yo Gabba Gabba once after Bourdain first mentioned it. If it’s the one where the host looks like someone from Lost in Space, I couldn’t stomach it for more than about 10 minutes. The cats were hurling hairballs.

    And Morgan, here’s how dumb I am. When Adele first mentioned shallots, I thought she was talking about those long green things that I believe are cut up to make chives. I just saw a picture of shallots, and was my face red!

    I can’t remember what kind of oil I used in my wok. It may have been vegetable because I don’t remember any big smell. What’s nice about the wok is that it uses so LITTLE oil, compared to a flat frying pan. And my wok is as “authentic” as you can get around here — hand-hammered steel. I’ve even got the little bamboo broom to clean it with. And I remember very well from DC your great dislike of mayo in any form.

  17. catsworking says:

    Adele, funny you should mention the duck fat. I was reading Bourdain’s cassoulet recipe the other night and decided I’ve really got to up my game (and put my gag reflex on hold) to tackle it. I should have read it before I shot my mouth off. I had no idea…

  18. MorganLF says:

    Oooops! Bye bye cassoulet.

  19. Adele says:

    Karen, don’t feel bad about being confused about shallots. In Louisiana and maybe in other parts of the South, shallots and scallions (green onions) mean the same thing. My mother told me that a shallot and a scallion were the same, and I was suprised when I actually saw a shallot. You can use scallions in place of shallots in recipes, but I find that shallots have more depth of flavor.

    BTW chives are actually a separate plant, easy to grow, very good in scrambled eggs, and they have a pretty little purple flower; I find them to be an attractive plant.

  20. catsworking says:

    Adele, thanks for the explanation. Now that you mention it, I have seen chive plants. I just thought if you let them grow they’d get big and thick and have little oniony roots, like you see in bunches in the grocery store. We do call them scallions or green onions here.

    Next time I’m shopping, I’m definitely going to look for shallots. I’m intrigued.

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