When I think of Anthony Bourdain cooking in authentic Bourdain fashion, I think of him surrounded by fellow cool, pirate-esque characters that use foul language, tell dirty jokes and likely have a flask hiding somewhere in their aprons. So I asked my big brother, Jake, if he’d spend the week making Tony Bourdain recipes with me and we got planning.
Although we adore all versions of the beloved bad boy chef, rather than the Kitchen Confidential Tony, we decided to go with the more recent version—the one we all watched fondly as he traveled the world. This Anthony taught us that cuisine we’d never tried could be delicious, people we’d never met could be fascinating and that neither were anything to fear, but to welcome and seek out with enthusiasm.
Anthony Bourdain adventured to nooks and crannies all over the world—he wandered into hole in the wall dives, enjoyed fine dining prepared by Michelin-star chefs and he was a guest in the homes of local families from nearly half of the countries on Earth. Well, this week, he’s in my family’s kitchen—we’re going all out and trying to master or at the very least muster, recipes from his Appetites cookbook. From goulash to lobster rolls to Osso Bucco, here goes nothing!
Day 1: Sausage and Pepper Hero
Inspired by Tony’s many walks to the sausage and pepper vendors that were a constant at the New York street fairs, these sandwiches felt like a simple start to the intimidating week that lay ahead. One pan, extra virgin olive oil, a few peppers and onion, some sweet Italian sausage, hot Italian sausage and hero rolls—a very simple grocery list that rang in at less than 25 bucks. The whole prep time from start to finish was 25 minutes and the end result? Tasty.
This recipe was super easy—almost too easy. It made me feel like I was shortcutting the cooking. I’d recommend it as a great dinner when you’re low on time and want to throw together something that isn’t much hassle but still delivers. I’d encourage anyone who does try this one to get their hands on some decent bread, maybe from the local bakery because the store-bought French rolls were total nonsense. I also recommend having some condiments handy like mustard or my personal favorite, Mexican crema. We paired this dish with a tall glass of ale because a cold beer seemed the most appropriate complement to a messy street fair hero.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Level of Difficulty: 1 / 5
Level of Deliciousness: 3.7 / 5
Pro Tip: Buy decent bread and condiments.
Day 2: Goulash
In Season 5, Episode 6 of Parts Unknown, Bourdain travels to Budapest where he visits the home of a singing gypsy, with impressive cooking chops. This recipe is inspired by that trip. I honestly had no idea what goulash was when I first came across this recipe, but it seemed attainable calling for beef chuck and veggies that you can find easily at your local grocer (to say finding ingredients for some of these recipes has been tricky is a monumental understatement). Oil, spices, a variety of vegetables chopped and chopped—then chopped some more—and some beef chuck, throw it into a pot and voila! Well, not exactly, it took two adults who admittedly did not chop at optimal efficiency several hours to prepare all the ingredients to throw into said pot.
I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, but we began prepping our goulash at 6:15 P.M. and did not sit down to eat it until 10:30 P.M. That’s correct, it took us over four hours and four bottles of wine to master the goulash, but master it we did! I think we were pleasantly surprised because while we, of course, trusted Chef Bourdain’s master recipes, we were skeptical about the size of some of our vegetables. My fiancee was going on and on about the gigantic parsnip and I’ve heard that produce is bigger in California, i.e. giant grapefruit sized onions. And we did use nearly an entire container of paprika. We were adamant though, about sticking to the recipe exactly as we read it and goodness, I’m glad we did. Because when we finally sat down with our millionth glass of Hungarian wine and bowls filled with piping hot goulash, a dollop of sour cream and a slice of rye bread to mop up any remnants, it was heaven.
Prep time: 4 hours and 15 minutes (It should only take half this time if that.)
Level of Difficulty: 2.5 / 5
Level of Deliciousness: 4.5 / 5
Pro Tip: Chop your vegetables wisely and make your friends help you.
Day 3: New England Lobster Rolls
Lobster rolls, a Cape Cod classic with just a handful of ingredients: lobster, mayonnaise, celery, some seasonings and bread—no biggie right? Wrong.
Okay, remember how I was talking about drinking all that Hungarian wine while I made goulash? Well, while drinking said wine, I decided to place an order for lobsters. I was excited, drinking wine, multitasking prepping goulash and texting my lobster connect (yes, I have a lobster connect). Somehow, I managed to confuse $17 a pound with $17 a lobster and I ordered six lobsters. The recipe called for six lobsters. Well, these lobsters were gluttonous, radioactive ginormous alien-like monsters that weighed several pounds each. When I arrived at the pre-established meet spot, my seafood dealer showed me the goods and I nodded in approval.
“Thanks for coming through my man.”
Then he shut the box, looked up at me and in slow motion said,” That’ll be $300.”
“Hahaha, for sure, no really how much?” He stares at me blankly. “Wait, you’re serious?”
“Yes, I’m serious, they’re like three pounds each.”
“Ummm, can I only have three?”
“No, you pre-ordered them, they’re alive, you have to take them.” I nodded sadly, forked over the dough and grabbed my nearly 20-pound box of live lobsters. It was a long shameful walk back to the car. The same almost thirty-year-old who still drives to her mom’s house so she doesn’t have to spend money on food just spent $300 on lobster. I called my brother, “We’re going to need to invite some people over tonight, I have enough lobster to feed 15 people.”
So, a New England Lobster Roll party ensued. We invited friends over and drank Cape Cod cocktails through to the wee hours of the morning. Everyone stood around and watched in horror as we threw the live lobsters in the pot. (I learned later there are more humane ways to do this). When all the lobsters were done, Jake and I retrieved all the usable meat. No one talks about this part of cooking lobster by the way, because preparing lobster is atrocious: there were lobster guts, the pregnant lobsters had this blackish red goo that oozed and flung everywhere and there was lobster poop, not like the little vein that shrimp have, but really graphic lobster excrement.
Once the lobsters were cleaned, we chopped them up, threw them in the mixing bowl with the celery, spices and mayonnaise (we had to use store bought because we tried and failed twice at making Bourdain’s version) and then packed the delicious mixture into a hot dog bun. We passed the lobster rolls around to our family, friends and even the neighbor who’d wandered over to see what all the ruckus was about. They were a hit! Despite the murder, the guts and the gore, New England Lobster Roll Night was a success—one for the ages and with all things considered, worth every penny.
Prep time: 4 hours-ish (Again, doesn’t need to take so long once you know what you’re doing.)
Level of Difficulty: 3.5 / 5
Level of Deliciousness: 4.2 / 5
Pro Tip: Do not drunk dial your lobster connect.
Day 4: Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy
Meatloaf sounds like something I imagine June Cleaver preparing for Ward, Wally and Beaver for Sunday evening supper. Apparently, it originated in Germany and German immigrants brought the meat mashing recipe with them to colonial America. Since then, it’s graced the dinner tables, retro diner bar-tops and cafeteria trays of Americans from coast to coast.
I’ve never made meatloaf before and I’ve only tried it twice. The recipe wasn’t too daunting but the shopping list was more difficult to get through than one might think. Tracking down ground veal and even more scarce, veal stock, is no easy task. Jake was able to score some ground veal at a butcher shop a couple of towns over but I was searching high and low for veal stock to no avail. “Make it yourself,” they said, but that’s a ton of cash that I already spent on lobster, so, after calling 50 places within a 50-mile radius I gave up and ordered some from Amazon.
We paired the meatloaf with Bourdain’s mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes and I must say, I was sincerely taken aback by how delectable and savory this was. The mushroom gravy itself was mouth-watering kind of good—addicting even. The secret to fantastic restaurant-grade cooking, Bourdain has said, is butter and shallots, and this recipe is ample with both. As for the likeliness of Jake or I making any of these dishes again, this one tops the list, along with the goulash.
Prep time: 2 hours-ish
Level of Difficulty: 2.5 / 5
Level of Deliciousness: 4.8 / 5
Pro Tip: Pre-order your veal stock online so you’re not stuck searching for hours.
Day 5: Chicken Pot Pie
Jake and I, like our three other siblings, likely inherited our initial intrigue and inevitable adoration for Bourdain from our mom. She read Kitchen Confidential and passed it around, insisting her children read it too. She waited in line to have him sign her Les Halles Cookbook beaming and blushing while posing for a photo with him. Her eyes still well up with tears at the mere mention of him since his tragic passing last June. After decades of tirelessly preparing our family home-cooked gourmet meals, it seemed only right we invite her over and for us to do the heavy lifting this time around.
Poaching chicken was a foreign concept to me but once I got past my own skepticism and lowered my eyebrow, I just followed the recipe exactly as I read it, and chicken really does cook while sitting in a covered pot removed from heat. The chopping wasn’t nearly as demanding as the goulash and our mom arrived just in time to stop me from ruining the crust with an itchy over-blending compulsion I’m currently dealing with.
Jake repeatedly instructed me to handle the crust, “Get going with the crust… Dude, make the crust!” But, I thought I should make it just before we rolled it out and laid it over the top. This was incorrect and has taught me to read an entire recipe from start to finish before each culinary endeavor. The crust dough needs to rest in the fridge for an hour before it is rolled out and placed over the pot pie’s savory goodness. This added time and we didn’t eat until after 9 p.m. Apologies.
When we did sit down to eat the chicken pot pie, I was so excited for my mom, who can be appropriately characterized as a chicken pot pie connoisseur, to try it. I took dozens of photos of her taking bites of the dish, which was driving her nuts because who wants to be repeatedly photographed while eating, but landed us with this gem of a photo that will immortalize chicken pot pie night and serve as one of my favorite and I think most fitting photos of our fabulous and funny mom.
Prep time: 3 hours
Level of Difficulty: 3.5 / 5
Level of Deliciousness: 4.4 / 5
Pro Tip: Make the dough ahead of time so it can rest in the fridge, do not over blend your dough and invite your mom over and feed her for once!
Day 6: Mutant Quesadillas: Chorizo and Duck
We chose this recipe because we wanted a good excuse to pair something with margaritas. These are not chorizo and duck quesadillas like I initially assumed, they are duck and goat cheese quesadillas and then chorizo and Monterey Jack cheese quesadillas. Two separate types of quesadillas with some yummy homemade pico de gallo on the side. Which one was better? It’s difficult to say because they were like apples and oranges, both delicious but completely different.
The duck had to be purchased at the butcher shop a couple of towns over and salted the night before we made them. The prep on the day of wasn’t overly intensive, they were actually relatively simple to make and the duck was ridiculously tasty. Paired with the goat cheese, it felt like quite the decadent quesadilla.
If you’re looking for something simple to prepare, inexpensive yet flavorful and have a large group of people to feed, go for the chorizo quesadillas. If you’re feeling a tad pretentious, don’t mind the extra effort (and the added expense) and have a smaller group of friends to impress, go for the duck and goat cheese. If you’re feeling like Anthony Bourdain—make both! These quesadillas were easy peasy, certainly gratifying and turned out to be an excellent excuse for margaritas.
Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Level of Difficulty: 2 / 5
Level of Deliciousness: 4.2 / 5
Pro Tip: Make sure you’re prepared and buy the duck ahead of time so you can salt the night before.
Day 7: Osso Bucco with Saffron Risotto
We saved the fanciest dish for last. Osso Bucco calls for veal shanks, which we scored only one town over at a little Italian market, Claro’s. We also grabbed the carnaroli rice for the risotto there. Salt, pepper, a little flour and then we plopped the veal into some hot oil to sear both sides. Afterward, we threw it into the pot of wine and veggie brew and let it simmer for three hours. We prepared the risotto a ladle full of saffron stock at a time and for the first time in my life, I seemed to have timed it perfectly—both the risotto and the braised veal were ready to be served at the same time.
I’m not sure if by day seven we were such cooking pros that we could conquer any recipe Bourdain threw our way or if making Osso Bucco isn’t nearly as challenging as I assumed it would be, but it was pretty easy! Time-consuming, sure, but really quite simple. We paired the Osso Bucco with negronis because they were one of Bourdain’s favorite cocktails. The first few sips were bitter and made me shudder a bit, but they grow on you.
When we sat down to eat our last Bourdain recipe, after an exhausting but very special seven days of cooking, we clinked glasses with our negronis and dug into a very lavish, fall-off-the-bone, fabulous dish of Osso Bucco and saffron risotto.
Prep time: 3.5 hours
Level of Difficulty: 2.2 / 5
Level of Deliciousness: 4.6 / 5
Pro Tip: Pair this dish with negronis and pour some out for our man, Tony Bourdain.
The most valuable thing I learned throughout this cooking-like-Bourdain endeavor is that cooking doesn’t have to feel so intimidating. For regular people who usually just throw together a mediocre meal for their family, like me, it can be daunting and overwhelming to peruse a cookbook. The ingredient list may look too long or the steps too intensive, but once you do it, it’s miraculous how it all seems to come together in the end. Not to mention the pride and satisfaction that comes with your family providing a soundtrack to your dinner filled with “mmmm’s” and “aaah’s.”
A note from my big brother and crucial cooking partner-in-crime Jake:
Bourdain showed us that food has the power to bring countries and cultures together if we are brave and open-minded, but it will also bring families together. The time we’ve spent cooking and doing this adventure has been such a blessing and so much fun. Our kids play and our spouses complain while we bond and cook in the kitchen, and when it’s all said and done, we all sit together and enjoy the food. It’s not just exploring the world, because you can explore relationships and experiences in new ways as close as your own kitchen, enjoying the ones you love the most.
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