Vagabond Cookbook

The best you ate on vacation? Make it at home tonight.

gulyás with coleslaw

Try the gulyás. Skip the Kool-Aid.

If the Academy Awards prove nothing else, there’s still no accounting for taste. This year, I’m overjoyed (and not just because I won my Oscar pool). Spotlight strikes a win for journalism, classic Hollywood filmmaking, and plucky do-gooders taking a corrupt system to task. It’s the best movie of the year, easy. If only we could say the same about some other Best Picture winners. C’mon, even Paul Haggis thinks Crash sucks. Crash, Forrest Gump, Ordinary People — no one today thinks these were the movies of the year (if they were any damn good at all). Still, the old, white members of the Academy nodded and lacklustre producers waddled off with their shiny, gold, Clue-inspired murder weapons. Maybe these movies suck. Maybe they just ain’t my bag. It’s hard to say when taste comes into play (and my old lit crit profs would argue that to death too). In […]

Kou shui ji, ready to eat

Kou shui ji (or, ‘are you a breast man or a leg man?’)

Call me a creepoid, but Russ Meyer never gets the love he deserves. The King of the Nudies himself. He’s dismissed, jeered, chided as a peddler of mindless smut (as if that’s such a bad thing). Say what you will, but this visionary director of ‘60s B movies made a stack of classics. Vixen! Supervixens. Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. You name the flick, he was behind it (at least if it had “vixen” in the title). Not only that, Meyer performed one especially tricky feat. He made chicken seem interesting. Be honest – you know chicken is boring. It’s up there with sitting in traffic and discussing last night’s dreams as a regular ol’ snoozefest. Fry it, grill it, turn it into nuggets – there’s not much you can do to a chicken that hasn’t been done (just ask Subservient Chicken). It’s usually fine, but it’s rarely a […]

Stock turns into Tuscan white bean soup so easily

Ain’t no stock as dope as me, I’m just so fresh, so clean

Some things are so commonplace, you don’t even notice them anymore. The Amen break in “Straight Outta Compton”. Floating rocks in Dragon Ball Z. Those tiny red spider things on rocks. Douchebags at Gold’s Gym. Jennifer Jason Leigh. They never stand out, but they’re always there, incognito but keeping everything right with the world. Oh no! He’s going Super Saiyan! Food has these stealth ingredients too. You rarely notice it, but all great cooks use a lot of lemon juice. Fish sauce can round out the flavours in almost every dish. And butter? Well, few things aren’t better with butter. (Try to name them. Let me know if you find one.) The most fundamental secret ingredient, though? It’s not butter. It’s not lemon. Hell, it may cost no money at all. It adds mountain ranges of flavour for pebbles’ worth of calories. It’s the main thing that separates a so-so […]

Fig and prosciutto salad

The Rest of Summer #3: Salad days

It’s your mother’s fault, really. Remember dinners as a kid on a hot summer night? You happily munch hot dogs. Your father bites into a big, juicy burger. And your mom seethes with envy as she nibbles a dry lettuce leaf, calling it “salad”. “I’m watching my weight,” she moans. The real message rings out loud and clear: Salad is for girls and it sucks like Drusilla. Sunnydale would have been way better off if she did salads once in a while. This Tumblr says it all. Salads are food of the desperate (or deranged). They’re for rabbits and contestants on The Biggest Loser. They’re fine if you need to drop a few pounds fast, but no one actually wants to eat one (and certainly no men do). As Homer Simpson said: “Praise Odin! Finally, D, you say something I can get behind! Now, tell me about cheesesteaks!” Sorry to […]

Rabbit cacciatore

What Bucky O’Hare can show home cooks

Bored of pork? Sick of chicken? Well, well, well, have I got the protein for you. Don your deerstalker cap, Elmer, ‘cause today we’re going after rabbits. Be vewy, vewy quiet. People are touchy about wabbits. “Dios Mio! Not Little Bunny Foo Foo! Devon, you’re a monster!” Not so fast, Dinner Police! Rabbit is a fantastic ingredient and, honestly, there are only two reasons you’d even have that reaction. One, you’re a vegetarian. Fair enough. (I have mad appreciation for vegetarians, especially for a guy with a potful of bunny in his fridge.) It’s the other reason that gets me. If you eat meat but you bristle at rabbit, there’s one thing for certain: You’re North American. Everywhere else in the world — from the mountains of Peru to the sands of Morocco — people lap up rabbit and ask for seconds. But, run a quick poll at the neighbourhood […]

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’70s soul, oven temperatures, and the sweet folly of youth

“Y’know what? Fuck ovens. They’re slow as shit and you can’t control them at all. What possible reason is there to use an oven — unless you’re Sylvia Plath?” — Devon Wells, circa 2012 Ovens didn’t work out so well for Old Syl, either. Ah, the sweet folly of youth. True, I used to hate ovens. I lived by the speed of the stovetop. Maybe cooking in China trained me to avoid them. Maybe I just watchedApt Pupil too many times. Either way, if you caught me the summer of Pitch Perfect, I’d trash talk the hot box like it slapped my sister. (Kitchen appliances get me worked up, what can I say?) To be fair, I wasn’t wrong. Ovens are slow. They need preheating. They use Fahrenheit temperatures no one understands (200℉? 500℉? Hot is hot, amirite?) Most importantly, you can’t fix flubs on the fly. With an oven, […]

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Autobots, roll out (and cook)!

Predaking was always my favourite Transformer. To an eight-year-old boy, nothing’s more badass than robots and vicious animals except robots that turn into vicious animals. Cooler still? Vicious animal robots that join together to form a GIANT ROBOT. There we have it. Predaking: The crowning achievement of late ‘80s toy engineering. I… am not your boss. I am your KING! Really, cooking and Transformers are one and the same. Take some killer stuff, twist it around, smash it together, and BAM! A dish (or robot) better than the sum of its parts. (All due respect to Mr. Lagasse.) Foods that turn into multiple forms? Even better. Look at chili. It’s great on its own, but look what it can do! Nachos, chili dogs, sloppy joes, and that weird Mexican poutine they sell at New York Fries all start with the classic cowboy stew. Everyone’s got a favourite chili recipe though. […]