Thanks for coming back for more Rich Brown! Part One offered you some sweet ass videos, a Fennel Salad and Curried Duck Karaage – as well as a little on one of my favourite bassists. Part Two of my feature has another delicious duck recipe and Rich talking about his love of food. Let’s jump right in…
INTERVIEW: TORONTO BASSIST RICH BROWN
THE HARLOT: Where did you grow up?
RICH: I was born here in Toronto. My family moved to Florida when I was a kid, and I spent a lot of my formative years there. Florida was way too racially inhospitable (to put it mildly), and we moved back to Canada when I was in my teens. I’m back in Toronto now. I love this city. I’ve always felt like it’s the only place I can really call home.
We know that taste and smell are closely linked to memory, is there a particular dish or smell of a meal cooking that conjures up images of home?
-Yes. My Mom’s curry chicken with rice & peas always takes me back to when I was a kid. There’s nothing like it anywhere. I can never order it in a restaurant and as much as I’ve tried I can never cook it the way she does. The flavour is intense, she would use just the right amount of scotch bonnet pepper to make your tongue tingle long after the meal was over. I love that. It was my favourite meal as a kid. When she cooks it now, one bite and I’m 10 years old again.
Is there a snack food from your childhood that holds special nostalgia?
-Beef patties. My dad used to drive to Kensington Market and buy my brother and I spicy beef patties. I must have been about 4 or 5. My brother and I would sit in the back seat of the car and eat them very slowly. As much as we loved the taste, we couldn’t really take the heat. I can still hear my brother’s voice after pretty much every bite. “More coconut water PLEEEEEASE.”
Do you have any favourite restaurants or cuisines from the various cities you’ve toured?
-Years ago I did a residency in L.A. and I ended up eating a lot of great Mexican food. I wasn’t really into Mexican cuisine before that trip, but now every time I’m in California I have to have some of that awesome food. Another fond memory from that trip was experiencing Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles for the first time. KILLING!
Is there a favourite dish that someone close to you in your life makes?
-My girlfriend makes an amazing roasted chicken dish where she de-bones a whole chicken, stuffs it with a variety of tasty goodies, and roasts it to perfection. I love it.
Amazing! Maybe Elena can share it with us sometime? Is there a favourite dish at a restaurant you frequent?
-The chicken karaage at New Generation Sushi is (in my opinion) the best in the city.
What is your favourite dish to make for yourself and/or for guests?
-Hmm… That’s a tough one. I really love cooking about as much as I love playing music. Hard to pick one dish. I think it would either be braised beef short ribs & mashed potatoes, or roasted salmon with some kind of Asian greens.
Is there a food or food craze you absolutely can’t stand?
- Enough with the cupcakes.
- Enough with the pulled pork EVERYTHING.
I couldn’t agree more! It still blows me away that there are stores dedicated to cupcakes… really? My pet peeve is anything “de-constructed”. What is you guiltiest food pleasure?
-Nice crispy french fries. I love fries WAY too much.
What is your favourite beverage?
-I don’t drink alcohol much at all. I may have the occasional glass of wine, but that’s pretty rare. I cut out all juices and sodas a few years ago. Now I keep a water bottle filled with simple lemon water. It’s just water and fresh lemon juice. I literally drink that all day, every day. I know it’s boring, but I love it. It’s actually my favourite beverage.
What condiment can you not live without?
-Hot Sauce! Sriracha, Piri-Piri, any Caribbean pepper sauce… Bring on the heat!
Amen! If you were eating spicy patties at four years old I’m betting you have a pretty serious tolerance. I find spicy sauces to be an addiction… there’s never enough. If someone were putting together the ultimate dinner for you – no limitations – what would it be?
-Wow, that’s a tough question. I’d probably start with a nice fennel salad. I really love fennel. It might be my favourite veggie, and it’s so great raw in a salad. For my main it would either be roasted duck breast with rice & Chinese broccoli, OR Moroccan lamb with couscous & veggies. Yum! I’m not really big on desserts, but since we’re going all out I’d go for a nice velvety creme brulée. This would be one of those rare occasions where a glass of white wine would be perfect.
Tastes can change dramatically over time – is there a dish or flavour that you love/hate now that you hate/loved as a kid?
-Olives. I hated olives when I was a kid. Now I’m into them. Mustard is another one for me. Not that yellow stuff in the plastic bottle. I still hate that, but I really dig the taste of dijon. I never thought I would. When I was a kid I used to really love cheezies. Now I just find those things disgusting.
That’s funny, I hear that a lot about mustard – I couldn’t even stand the smell as a kid, now I’ll dip just about anything in it. Is there a dish or style of cooking you would like to learn how to master making?
-I think I’d love to master Japanese food. It would be so great to make sushi, or cook the perfect bowl of ramen right at home. That, or maybe I should just master my Mom’s curry chicken.
If you do, I’d love to learn her curry too!… Caribbean curry is one of my favs. As an artist, touring is a way of life. Eating on the road has its challenges whether you are driving through long and barren stretches of road, at the mercy of your promoters/clubs/theatres/billets to feed you, or trying to fit in a quick meal before/after a show. Do you have any go-to foods or tricks/habits you’ve picked up?
-The best one for me is to totally take advantage of the snacks in the green room. The venue usually provides a pretty big assortment of fruit, veggies, nuts, bottles of water, and sandwiches. I usually grab some stuff to take back to the hotel after the gig. The next day when we’ve all missed breakfast because of an early lobby call, and we’re spending the day on a train or bus, I’ve got something to keep me (and sometimes other bandmates) from getting all HANGRY on the road.
Similarly, touring takes you to lots of different countries, cities and small towns. What is the most memorable meal you’ve had – good or terrible?
-There are a lot of great memories. I played a jazz festival in Lugano, Switzerland with Rudresh Mahanthappa’s band. Lugano is such a beautiful city. We found a great little restaurant and sat outside. The food was really incredible. We shared an appetizer of octopus carpaccio, which was definitely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten. But the thing that really makes these meals memorable is realizing where you are, who you’re with, and how you got there. I get to travel around the world with some of the greatest musicians/human beings you could ever meet and hear. Breaking bread with these amazing people in the most amazing settings makes me realize how blessed I am.
Where is somewhere in the world you would love to travel to for its culinary offerings.
-Japan, or Spain… or Italy… or France… or…
If you were throwing your dream dinner party, who would be your ideal three guests and what would you serve them?
-John Coltrane, Bob Marley, and Stevie Wonder. I’d serve them whatever they wanted as long as they weren’t too full to jam after dinner.
… in a perfect world!!!
I want to thank Rich for taking time off from a very busy music schedule to thoughtfully answer some questions about food and family. Rich’s new musical project and album “Abeng” will be released within a few weeks with some very familiar and rippingly talented friends as well as special guests. He will be in India this November with Rudresh Mahanthappa and always watch for him in Toronto… Until then –
SPICY JAPANESE/CARIBBEAN DUCK CURRY
serves 2 as a main or 4 as part of a larger meal
I was so happy to read Rich’s thoughts on food – we have a LOT in common. Spicy foods and condiments (stay tuned for my next recipe later this week – a Belize inspired Three Pepper and Carrot Hot Sauce), Duck, Moroccan flavours, olives and dijon mustard, sushi, Caribbean curry… I could go on and on! Here I fused some elements from Japanese and Caribbean cooking. Japanese curries are much sweeter and milder than most others, so I bumped up the spice for Rich and added a few traditional Jamaican spices.
When I made this I used a whole duck, removing the breasts for my Karaage and chopping up the rest for this curry. If you opt to make just this you can get a couple duck legs, or use the whole duck cutting it into large chunks doubling the quantities
450g duck cut into chunks
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp each ground allspice, ground cumin, ground coriander and chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
a thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 – 2 scotch bonnet pepper(s), seeded and diced
3 cups sliced mixed mushrooms (a couple handfuls)
2 tbsp sake
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 star anise
1/2 – 1 cup water
1/3 cup cooked peas or thawed frozen peas
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
To serve: lime wedges and hot sauce
In a bowl combine the duck, spices and salt. Let sit for 1/2 hour to an hour covered in the fridge.
In a large pan over medium/high heat add the oil, ginger, garlic, onion, mushrooms and pepper. Saute until your mushrooms and onions soften, about 5 mins. If they brown too quickly, turn down the heat.
Add the duck and brown on all sides. Once it’s seared, add the sake, lime juice, tamari, vinegar, sugar and star anise. Bring to a boil stirring for a minute or 2. Add your water starting with half a cup and increasing up to a cup if needed. Cook uncovered until the duck is just cooked. Add the peas and cilantro at the very end.
Serve with lime wedges, extra hot sauce and rice.
serves 2 or 4 as part of a larger meal
Rice is a staple in most diets, but until recently I had soooo much trouble making it without ending up with a gloopy mess. I usually use basmati because it consistently gets perfect results, but I love jasmine and long grain as well. The ever glorious Bulk Barn carries some really delightful mixes with wild rice and grains that make a healthy and different option as a side – plus they come with cooking instructions.
I think the key to rice is cooking it a little under the time on the package, but most importantly to soak and rinse it well to get rid of some of that starchiness, then if time allows, spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool.
2 cups cold water
1 cup basmati rice
2 star anise
1/2 tsp salt
Soak your rice for 10 minutes, then rinse and let run under water for a minute or 2 more.
Bring your water to a boil in a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the rice, anise and salt. Return to a boil and cover, reducing to a simmer. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Shut off heat and leave on the element with the lid on for 5 minutes more. Fluff and serve or spread onto a cookie sheet in 1 layer and cool to room temperature.
A little more spicy “Downtown” Rich Brown for your enjoyment…