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Bourdain's Bad-Boy Brasserie (July 23, 2007)

Anthony Bourdain, chef, author, and complete rogue came to our attention with the bestselling, page-turning and utterly gossipy trio of books Kitchen Confidential, A Cook's Tour and The Nasty Bits. The Globe and Mail describes him as "Profane and witty, irreverent and whip smart... Bourdain is a foodie Hunter S. Thompson."

Not just a smart-mouth celebrity chef, Bourdain knows and understands the food world only too well; he spent years serving some of the best French brasserie food in New York at his restaurant, Les Halles. At last we have the restaurant's eponymous cookbook, and just like the author himself, the book, cracked the Daily Mail, is "Bawdy, bolshie and bursting with energy."

Les Halles Cookbook is the source for (as the title goes on to say), "Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking." Not only are all the favourite dishes and more here, Anthony Bourdain's witty and highly irreverent style makes this cookbook solid, informative and a great fun read all at once. The photographs are gorgeous, whether of food... or the chef!

Savour this sexy tidbit from The Nasty Bits, his collected stories of the fast and furious life in the restaurant business: "Food and Sin are two words that – in the English-speaking world, anyway – have long been linked. Food is a matter of the senses, a pleasure of the flesh, and when one anticipates eating a good meal, one's body undergoes physiological changes similar to those experienced prior to... other functions! The lips engorge, saliva becomes thick, the pulse quickens. Early moralists who believe that taking too much pleasure at the table led inexorably to bad character – or worse, to sex – were (in the best-case scenario, anyway) absolutely right. Everything about a restaurant setting conspires toward that end, be it the peach-colored mood lighting that makes you look more alluring and attractive, to the floral arrangements and décor, to the vigorous upsellling of wines and spirits. Like rock and roll, the desired end result is to make you happy – and to get you in the sack!"

Oh Anthony! You fabulous cook... Still, you're such a bad boy and also rather dangerously beautiful... you can flash that spatula for me anytime...

On today's menu:

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Skate Grenobloise

Bourdain comments that "Skate, long thought of as a 'trash fish,' is one of the truly great seafood items: tender, sweet, well-textured-and cheap. Which is why many chefs are evangelical about running it as a special. As it becomes more popular, it will no doubt become more and more expensive. Cleaning it, meaning removing the delicate fillets from the cartilage (though it's perfectly fine to cook it with the cartilage intact) and the thick, rubbery skin (which must be removed), is tricky so have your fishmonger do the work. Note also that skate, like other more delicate and subtle white-fleshed fishes, is very perishable. You want to buy it and cook it on the day it came in."

Ron says, "This is one of our absolute favourite seafood meals. Skate is every bit as rich and delicious as lobster, and only ¼ the price!"

Serves 2


  • ¼ cup/56 g flour
  • Salt and fine ground white pepper
  • 2 skate wings, skinned and boned out
  • 4 Tbsp/56 g butter
  • 1 Tbsp/14 g capers
  • ½ cup/112 g croutons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 spring of flat parsley, finely chopped
  • Peeled, seeded segments of 1 lemon (optional)


  • Shallow bowl
  • Sauté pan
  • Fish turner or slotted spatula
  • Serving platter

Put the flour in the shallow bowl and season it with salt and pepper. Dredge the fish in the flour and shake off the excess. Re-season the fish with salt and pepper.

In the sauté pan, heat 1 Tbsp/14 g of the butter over medium-height heat. When the butter has foamed and subsided, add the fish and cook over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 more Tbsp/14 g of the butter and turn the fish, cooking the other side after 2 minutes. Transfer the fish to the serving platter.

Discard the butter from the pan and then add the remaining 2 Tbsp/28 g butter. Cook over high heat until it foams, and subsides, then add the capers and croutons. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the lemon juice and parsley. (You can add the lemon segments at this point as well.) Remove from the heat and spoon the sauce over the fish.

Tony's wine recommendation:
A medium-bodied, dry white wine (unoaked) – Soave, Gavi, Chablis, unoaked Chardonnay


Daube Provençale

Don't think stew... think nectar! This is the way it's supposed to be, and you'll never use another recipe! Light the candles, put on the music! About the ingredients, Anthony Bourdain says (and we quote!) "The best cut of meat for this dish is the neck, bone still in. But if you can't, for some reason, find neck, or prefer boneless meat (you poor deluded bastard), then use shoulder."

Serves 4


  • 2 Tbsp/28 mL olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp/28 g butter
  • 3 lb/1.35 kg lamb neck and shoulder, with bones, or 2 lb/900 g boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2-inch/5 cm pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ lb/225 g slab bacon cut into lardoons
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp/14 g tomato pate
  • 1 Tbsp/14 g flour
  • 1 cup/225 mL white wine
  • 1 cup/225 mL strong dark veal, chicken, or lamb stock (got some demi-glace? sneak in a spoonful!)
  • 1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and "turned," meaning cut into small football shapes, or just cube the damn things into large dice
  • 4 sprigs of flat parsley, chopped


  • Dutch oven with cover
  • Tongs
  • Wooden spoon
  • Serving bowl

Prep the Lamb
Heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven on high heat. Add the butter. Foam it. Let it subside. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Sear it on all sides in the hot pan, in batches if need be, until all of it is deep, dark brown. When browned, remove from the pan with the tongs and set aside.

Cook the Stew
Add the bacon to the still-hot pan and cook until it's crispy and has rendered out its fat. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Discard most of the fat and then add the onion, celery, and garlic to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables have caramelized, about 5 minutes. Using the wooden spoon, stir in the tomato paste and cook it for about 1 minute. Stir in the flour and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the wine and scrape up all that brown stuff. Bring the wine to a boil, reduce by half, then add the stock (and a teaspoon of demi-glace if you have any). Bring back to a boil and reduce immediately to a simmer. Add the lamb, carrot, bouquet garni, orange zest, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pot and simmer over low heat for about 90 minutes, occasionally skimming the fat from the surface of the stew.

After 90 minutes, add the potatoes to the stew and cook until they are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Skim the stew a final time, making sure there's no film of fat floating on the surface, then serve in a big, old bowl, garnished with the chipped parsley.

Anthony on "Good Strong Stock":
"Let's assume you don't have any 'good strong stock' and are unlikely to make some. Here's another reason to load up your freezer once or twice a year with demi-glace, portioned in small amounts. To make up for a ball-less stock, all you have to do is spoon in a little of that beautiful demi-glace. It'll change everything for you!"

Tony's wine recommendation:
A medium-bodied dry red – Chianti Classico, named villages of Beaujolais, Valpolicella Ripasso, Ontario meritage



And you thought you knew potatoes... Bourdain takes the appropriately named Red Bliss and transforms them into tiny temptresses that will leave you breathless. A perfect tiny course all its own. Sigh... all this over potatoes! Red Bliss awaits!

Serves 4

Prep the potatoes
Place the potatoes in the medium pot and add water to cover. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat and drain off the hot water. Let the potatoes cool under running water. When they are cool enough to handle but still warm, remove and discard their skins. Cut the potatoes into small cutes with the paring knife and place in a mixing bowl. Add the olives, thyme, ¼ cup/56 mL of the olive oil, and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Gently, OK? You're not making mashed potatoes. Set the mixture aside.

Prep the Glaze
In the small pot, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Let it reduce by half, taking care not let it scorch or boil over onto your stovetop. If it looks like this is going to happen, just reduce the heat a little. While the cream is cooking, place the egg yolk in another mixing bowl and beat lightly with the whisk. When the cream is reduced, remove from the heat and, whisking constantly, add the hot cream to the yolk. Add most of this mixture to the cooked potato mix, holding back about 4 Tbsp/64 g.

Prep the Dressing
In the third mixing bowl, combine the parsley and remaining olive oil, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Final Assembly
Preheat the boiler. Using a 3-inch/7 cm metal ring (or a cut-down section of a 3-inch/7 cm PVC pipe), shape the potato mixture into 4 cylinders in the center of the baking dish. Top each with a medallion of goat cheese. Spoon 1 Tbsp/14 g of the remaining heavy cream mixture atop each medallion. Place the baking dish under the broiler and cook until the glaze is nicely browned. With the spatula, carefully remove the finished petatous to individual plates. Spoon the parsley dressing around each plate and serve.


Blueberries with Lime Sugar

Utterly simple and simply exquisite! Fresh blueberries finish off the most elegant meal with a calorie-saving élan! Ron says "This recipe also turns oatmeal into a gourmet breakfast!" What would Anthony say?

Serves 4


  • 2 Tbsp/75g sugar
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1½ pints/840 g blueberries
  • 1 spring of mint, leaves cut into a chiffonade (ultra-thin slices)
  • Confit zest of 2 limes (recipe follows)
  • ½ cup/112 g crème fraîche (or sour cream)


  • Large bowl

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lime juice and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the blueberries and toss well, coating all the berries. Add the mint and lime zest confit and toss well again. Serve with the crème fraîche on the side.

Citrus Zest Confit

Yields appx. ½ cup/110 g

  • 1 grapefruit or 2 limes or 2 lemons or 2 oranges
  • 1 cup/225 mL water
  • 4 ounces/112 g sugar


  • Paring knife
  • Small pot with lid
  • Strainer
  • Airtight container

With the paring knife, remove the peel from the fruit. Cut away the white pith from the peel and cut the remaining zest into thin strips. (You can also use a canneleur, a tool that makes nice strips of zest.)

Combine the water and sugar in the small pot and bring to a boil. Add the strips of zest and reduce to a simmer. Loosely cover the pot and let the liquid cook until it is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and allow cooling completely. Strain the zest and store in the airtight container.

Tony's wine recommendation:
A sweet dessert wine – Sauternes, Quarts de Chaume, Special Select Late Harvest Riesling, Asti Spumante


We wish to thank Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Bloomsbury, New York and London, for permission to publish material and photographs from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain with José de Meirelles and Philippe Lajaunie. Copyright © 2004 by Anthony Bourdain.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

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