The Pink Leopard

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Yabbies with lime and spaghettini

You know me, once I get an idea in my head I just can’t shake it, probably the same reason why I have ended up with so many tattoos but this week’s obsession has been yabbies.
I have the vaguest memory sitting on the banks of a creek somewhere near Albury with my cousins, dragging up crudely made chicken-wire yabbie traps and twitching with fascination at the creatures crawling about. I don’t remember cooking them and I don’t remember peeling them but I sure do remember their sweetness. This must have been one of my first forays into the world of crustaceans and I still thank the powers that be that I wasn’t freaked out by their appearance.

I haven’t really given yabbies much thought over the years - you just don’t see them in the markets or fishmongers often. Every time you ask a monger if they have any they will guaranteed say "ah yeah, had 'em in last week" which is totally unhelpful. As for catching our own, well I have ended up with a life partner who dismisses the thought of camping before it’s even mentioned. This is highly disappointing – I’ve even begged on social media for someone to take me camping but I didn’t get any bites. Do you have any idea how much I want to recreate the Brady’s trip to the Grand Canyon and eat franks from a thermos?  
The yabbie obsessiveness this week came from a recipe I wanted to have a crack at – clambake. Sure, Elvis had something to do with it but I came across a picture on the Internet of potatoes, clams, corn and crawfish splayed out on a table and I just had to do it. Crawfish, crayfish, lobsters – I can’t justify that for one person’s lunch but I can justify yabbies.

I’m no expert but yabbies are freshwater crustaceans, living in the muddy beds of creeks and dams. Like most of us, they dig a little warmth and lay dormant in the cooler months hence their lack of showmanship at the fishmongers. Restrictions on numbers also make them a little inaccessible – 200 a day maximum for any commercial or private operation. I couldn’t eat 200 yabbies but would give it a bloody good crack.
I will be having a go at the clambake today (actually it will be a clamboil – thanks to Bayside council, enormous flaming holes filled with seaweed and yabbies is banned on St Kilda beach) but I couldn’t wait to turn some of these babies from blue to red so here is this little number I made for dinner: Yabbies with lime and spaghettini.

Yabbies with lime and spaghettini
Serves two for an entrée, easily doubled.
15 Minutes from woah to go
If you struggle to get yabbie tails, king prawns or scampi make a decent substitute.

10-12 freshwater yabbies
2 egg yolks
Enough pasta per person (I know this varies… you have your own measurement system)
Juice and zest of half a lime
Greatest salt you can find – I used black salt
Ground black pepper
½ teaspoon butter
Look, I don’t want to question your ethics but having spent the beginning of this year as a vegan, I struggle with ending the mortal coil of a creature’s life. However the most humane way to do this for crustaceans is kiss them on the forehead read them their last rites and place them in the freezer. They drift off to sleep, unlike us who would be whinging how bloody cold it was first. I did panic when defrosting, thinking if they come back to life I will FREAK out, but they didn’t… You can then throw them in a pot of boiling salted water for about 7-8 minutes until they turn a nice ochre colour. Take a large knife and where the tail meets the head, cut and discard head section. Similar to a prawn, peel the tail and remove the digestive tract (or as my dad used to say – ‘the poop shoot’. He was a fan of technical terms, my dad)
Boil your spaghettini in a separate pot as per directions, about 10 minutes.
Whisk together the egg yolks and lime juice until combined. Drain pasta retaining a small amount of water – this is simple as quickly tipping it into a colander and then straight back in the pot. Quickly tip the egg yolks into the pasta, add butter and continue to stir until they make a nice creamy coating on the strands – similar to how you would make a carbonara.
Throw in yabbie tails and serve on a plate or pasta bowl, season with salt and pepper and then with a microplane, shave over some lime zest. The sourness of the lime against t sweetness of the yabbie tails is AMAZING. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chef Jam 2014

Observations from Chef Jam 2014

  • Good crowd. Thought there'd be more beards. 
  • John Susman wants us all to eat snotty nose grunters. The topic is sustainability in fishing not children in restaurants. I tried to Google these, I just got children. 
  • Ryan Squires has a unique view on dolphins, one that won’t make him any friends in Byron Bay.
  • Hilary McNevin rocks a floaty shirt
  • Pat Nourse desperately needs a microphone.
  • Remember when Cindy Brady got camera fright when faced with a tv-off with Bobby? Don’t worry Ben Greeno, I would be the same. He does like a wine custard though.
  • Richard Hargreave is a terrible shout-skuller
  • Mike Bennie invented the shout-skull and is a master of the sport. It’s terrifying yet strangely hypnotic, a must for your next shindig. Someobody YouTube that
  • Johnny Iuzzini hates chocolate combined with stage lighting and he has a secret crush on Tony Tan. Not so secret anymore
  • Johnny Iuzzini has watched Lady and the Tramp too many times – ask the unsuspecting yet obliging audience member who asked to try the chocolate. This sets off my  personal space psychosis   
  • What’s happened to the air conditioning?
  • Matt Jennings stole Pat Nourses’ microphone
  • Whisky at break time is a bloody great idea
  • Reminiscent of 2013 MFWF, Aaron Turner yet again struggles with the convection stove
  • Aaron Turner needs to fire his chicken supplier, or lack thereof as it were.
  • Everyone loves Aaron Turners beard
  • EVERYONE GETS FREE AARON TURNER CHICKEN (just make sure you declare it when you write about it – I’m safe, I declined)
  • Did Stirling Hair travel with Myffy Rigby?
  • Per-Anders Jorgensen is the only panel member not to use the word ‘fuck’ (although he did say shit)
  • Untrue, Claire Davie didn’t swear. But she said Gonzo – that could be deemed swearing in some literary circles.
  • Chris Ying keeps telling us he is DRUNK. On the contrary he's strangely coherent which makes me think he doesn’t know the true meaning of drunk. I mean, he still has pants on...
  • We all pray that the pinnacle of Myffy’s career isn’t a Lucky Peach feature article on her personal wee consumption.
  • If Myffy does partake in personal wee drinking, please God don’t let her shout-skull it.
  • Every time Per-Anders opens his mouth, I flip a mental double-bird to my shitty Cannon 400D
  • Most blogs are dull and we all need to write more exciting and interesting things in order to pique the interest those in the position of what all bloggers want to be – national food editors (?) I flip a mental double-bird to my day job and dream of drinking wee
  • Myffy says that bloggers are lucky because we don’t have an editor telling us what to do
  • I mutter to myself that blog editors are other bloggers and the hospitality community who come down on us like a tonne of publicly-aired editorial bricks. I vow never to blog again 
  • Pat Nourse continues to ask questions that no one else can hear. They are answered by the panel. That's all I can say because I don't know what the question was.
  • Chris Ying promises that future issues of Lucky Peach will contain more penile hilarity 
  • Where did the lady in front of me get that cheese from? 
  • Myffy asks all the bloggers in the room to raise their hand. A lot of hands go up. My mind wanders to how many chef's hands go up at a blogger conference. I suddenly feel sycophantic and run up the stairs two at a time to get another whisky
  • Moomba dress code appears to be tiny frayed denim shorts and stilettos. 
  • I didn’t learn too much about the rise of the food blogger, let alone the rise and rise
  • On my return home I get a lecture about wasting money on oyster literature but I figure emotions are fleeting, books are forever.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Le Bon Ton

Like every other social media trawler, hearing of a new place piques ones interest to the point of obsession. Le Bon Ton in Collingwood, you're up.

Housed in the Glasshouse hotel on Gipps St (not much glass here, it refers to the nearby glass factory that is no more) where once factory workers in dungarees drank, and later podium dancers in dungarees drank – the hotel is now a cavernous space to get your absinth and your shimmy on. Laissez les bon temps rouler, baby.

The place is sexy. It’s dark, brooding and cosy even in the middle of the day. I was a little sad that I was there in jeans at 1pm rather than there in a slinky red dress at 1am with a half dozen mint juleps under my (garter) belt. Whilst the exterior has barely changed, the interior is copper panelled (same as the Chignon taco truck – no coincidence as it’s the same owners), emerald green plaster and exposed brick work which has been cleverly and sympathetically sign-painted by the fabulous T.J. Guzzardi. All that’s missing is an old piano and equally aged blues singer. 

I panicked a little about booking because, you know, it’s Melbourne – surely every man and his ironically named French Bulldog* would be there but on the contrary, this big venue would comfortably fit a fair few football teams and we easily got a table. Given its location - decent stumbling distance from Smith St, you should too. Check first.

We’d picked a day when biblical plagues of sticky little flies were only interested in attaching themselves to our eyeballs, so after dealing with that for 2.8 minutes we moved inside. A shame really because the astro-turfed ‘backyard’ made un-fake by the most amazing Yucca I have ever seen would be a perfect place to relax on a Saturday afternoon -  sans flies and maybe sans smoke too if that’s not your thing (I mean from the meat smoker not the punters. Frankly, I love that smell but old Hairy couldn’t hack it).

God did not put me on this earth to bear children or heal the blind. God put me on this earth to eat oysters and of course I obliged. On this particular day, Le Bon Ton had Coffin Bay beauties that you could order straight up, with mignonette or with mignonette on the side (?) I went straight up. Plump and creamy (one bite, swirl and down) they were tasty in flavour and price at $3.50 a pop. The menu states that the oysters are ‘current market selections’ meaning I can’t and Le Bon Ton can’t promise you will get Coffin Bays - no fear, if you are like me when it comes to oysters, almost any Australian mollusc will do nicely. Praise to our coastline and the abundance of excellence she produces.  

The menu is reasonably varied  – starters, salads, sandwiches (essentially burgers to you and me)  and big fruity pies but we couldn’t pass on the a good old plate of fried chicken and some chilli fries, hopefully stuffing us to the Texas ten gallon brim (heart the size of…  hunger the size of…you get my drift). 

For what is a flavoursome dish of 12 hour brine-soaked then 12 hour ‘buttermilked’ crispy fried chicken fillets, I was pretty flabbergasted at the portion size. Three pieces of boneless chicken the size of a newborns fist is appropriate for a starter if you ask me but at $14.00, a sweet roll or a chunk of corn or something would have been a welcome accompaniment. Say what you will, call me on my piggish ways, I don’t care. It was a small enough dish for us to order it twice, in total having three baby fists each (sounds creepy but you know what I mean). The chicken is served with thick, creamy white pepper gravy, the kind traditionally served with ‘biscuits’ and a perfect friend for this fried chicken. I'll be asking for a straw and/or the recipe next time. 

Our other dish was the Texas Chilli – the kitchen had run out of the meat version (at 1pm on a Saturday. Weird) so we were given the vegetarian option at $12.00, luckily I don’t mind a bit of cheese and red kidney bean action on my chips. Filling, cheesy, messy. Perfect.  

I ended up with the house white - a sauvignon blanc - as all other wines by the glass were sold out (at 1pm on a Saturday. Weird) it was as decent a house drop as you’ll get. 

Friends quizzed me on the quality and authenticity of the smoked meats and the wine list but these were passed by or rather, left until next time. There will be a next time because it appears to be a bunch of fun for any time of the day or night. I shall be dragging my niece there next weekend to ply her with absinth and all things NOLA.

I’m by no means an expert on American BBQ and have yet to hear the final verdict from resident fried chicken expert Veda Gilbert but having tried quite a few ‘joints’ that have popped up in Melbourne, Le Bon Ton won’t disappoint – except maybe portion size. 

Fatties Unite.  

Le Bon Ton
51 Gipps St
(03) 9416 4341

 I aint exactly a small gal, but my finger is there for scale.   
PS - that white pepper gravy should be served with a straw. Maximum yum.

*my dog is called Leon. Not that ironic, but named after Jean Reno, ya know...French and all that.

Le Bon Ton on Urbanspoon