Damn Good Food: 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen
by Mitch Omer and Ann Bauer
Borealis Books 2009
No, not Bronx home-cooking. This Hell's Kitchen is in Minneapolis, MN. But it's still tough and fun. Hey, anyplace that has brunch in a black and red room and the servers in pajamas is ok with me. And anyplace that puts sausage right in the bread is a must try. I've only been once but it was everything I was promised: delicious, fatty, and funky.
Most restaurant books are little more than fun souvenirs, with a little aspirational denial thrown in: "If I own this book, I, too, can cook like Thomas Keller." Some are still worth it for the occasional tip or recipe that is reasonable for home cooks or for the joy of remembering a trip or a special night, but many are unrealistic objects.
Damn Good Food is a compelling mix of recipes and memoir--but don't expect the usual, boy works hard, play hard and becomes a success model. Omer is an exuberant and troubled soul and that leaps out on the page. This is one of the most readable restaurant books I have seen and it will make you grateful for your (presumed) mental health and have you believing in the redemptive powers of cooking.
That said, I don't think I ever want to be stuck in an elevator with Omer. But I will happily eat his food. I am in love with his Mahnomin porridge, which makes me feel like a character from a children's book who must forage for food in the Big Woods.
Here’s a link to the original Mahnomin porridge.
Mahnomin Porridge for Those Who Live Alone
Adapted from Damn Good Food: 157 Recipes from Hell's Kitchen by Mitch Omer and Ann Bauer
I have made some changes. 1) I prefer fresh or frozen blueberries than the dried. Their juiciness and tartness are more refreshing. 2) I usually use toasted slivered almonds rather than hazelnuts. I like hazelnuts, but it's hard to get ones that haven't started to turn rancid, sigh. 3) There's NO WAY that the porridge I had at Hell's Kitchen had only ¼ cup of cream--that baby was swimming in cream and it was glorious. But for an everyday breakfast, I stick to these proportions.
1 cup wild rice
blueberries, fresh or frozen
The night before (or if you like getting up early and not eating do this in the morning): cook the wild rice in boiling water, which takes between 30 and 45 minutes. The grains should be mostly open and starting to fluff. Salt it when it is done, or it will taste flat. Put in the fridge.
In the morning, toast 2 Tbs. slivered almonds in a dry skillet. Scoop some rice in a microwaveable bowl (about a cup, maybe less). Stir in the nuts, 2 Tbs. blueberries, 1 Tbs. dried cranberries, 1-2 tsp. of maple syrup, and 2 Tbs. heavy cream. Zap it for 30 seconds to a minute depending on your microwave. Eat up and then go chop wood or break a trail or something. Don’t get in the easy chair with a book and an afghan.
Note: Wild rice doesn’t get hard in the fridge like real rice, yay! But it doesn't last as long as real rice, boo! You want to use this up in 3-4 days, tops, otherwise it takes on a fermented flavor.