Smoked sockeye salmon with stone ground mustard seeds and eggs “Mireille” Monday, Feb 15 2010 

Saumon fumé à la graine de moutarde et ses œufs Mireille.

Smoked my own salmon, if you know what I mean.

With the 2010 Alaskan salmon season and Easter in sight, a classical manipulation of sockeye salmon.  Cured, rubbed with stone ground mustard seeds and smoked.  Eggs, symbolic of rebirth, stuffed with their yolks and scraps of the salmon.

A well chosen side of ruby red sockeye salmon was chosen; fresh, firm, no gaping in the flesh from either improper handling or brutish butchering.  Pin bones were carefully removed and the side was pared to eliminate edges that would cure too fast and dry out.  The salmon was cured in a modest 6%/3% sea salt/honey mixture and left to cure for 48 hours in a flat pan so that it could rest in its brine, like many of you have done after getting twisted for 2 days straight.

Sockeyed…with mullet.

The side was rinsed clean, patted dry, covered with 2% ground yellow mustard seeds and left to dry in the refrigerator so that the pellicule could form, essential for allowing the smoke flavor to “stick”.  The ad hoc smoking  device was dusted off and fired up with a new heat source.  The  crappy device in question is the venerable file cabinet smoker, a 2 drawer metal file cabinet that is as porous as any GOP social/environmental policy and unfortunately smokes the apartment more than anything.  The mustard seeds were ground in a stone mill, seen the foreground of the top picture, a diminutive version of that used to mill rice flour and pixie dust.

Uncle Yücel, not really cutting the mustard.

The bottoms of both drawers were removed and a rack placed at the bottom of the top drawer.  A variable electric hotplate rests at the front of the cabinet’s base and smokes whatever rests on the rack towards the rear so that it is not directly over the heat source.  Wood chips sit in a metal bowl over the hot plate and are heated to the point of smoking.  Smoke fills the cabinet, escapes through seam sand when the back door of the apartment is opened, the draft fills the apartment with smoke.  Doesn’t really function like a Swiss watch; more like a knock off Polex.  Ideally a chimney would lead the smoke away from the alcove but that is more work than is necessary and the charm of a mesquite flavored couch is a good conversation piece; though a longer extension cord for alley smoking might work.

The thing was smoked for 12 magic minutes, left to relax on the counter for a bit then wrapped and refrigerated.  24 hours later the salmon was sliced: thinly, evenly, consistently…zenly.  Room temperature raw eggs were brought to a simmer in a an appropriately fitting pot with just enough water to cover, then removed from the fire and left to slowly cook resulting in a creamy, coagulated yolk that will emulsify rather than a dry, crumbly, chalky center –all without the use of bullshit aquarium heater gadgetry.

61 degree goldfish.

Oeufs Mireille are essentially Mediterranean deviled eggs, generally augmented by cooked tuna and/or cured anchovies.  In this case circles were punched out of the tail end slices and the scraps were processed by the robotic blade machine along with the yolks, capers, whole grain mustard, tarragon, thumbtacks, sour cream, olive oil, white wine vinegar and a pinch of espelette.  The eggs were filled with the mixture and covered with the disc of salmon.

Swimming upstream without a smoker? Hardly.  Overall, a successful dish.  No qualms other than the smoky apartment.  The salmon almost had a pastrami thing going.  Properly seasoned, pleasantly salty and the hint of mustard seed along the edge of the slices provided a spicy and textural contrast.  The deviled eggs would have gotten me a photocopy of the receptionist’s pressed ham breasts if I had brought them to a holiday office party, ie: they were that good.

Suckling Porchetta Richelieu. Tuesday, Feb 2 2010 

A continuing epicurean series of  porcine  highdives, the first being the porcine pedaler.  While not the crappiest bicycle powered spit mechanism ever devised, it is close, though in a different class from collegiate electric and pneumatic Yahoo-Serious down under pig spits.

Bring it Lance.

Porcine Pedaler (beta version). $5 Home Despot amalgamation of cycling, BBQ, Free Market economic theory, Protestant work ethic and the ballad of John Henry.

Meat: 16# suckling pig. Deboned, stuffed with starfruit, cashews and tropical spices (nutmeg, mace, allspice and clove). Basted with fresh coconut water. Served with cashew and tamarind satay sauce.

Metal: 52cm hand-polished aluminum Raleigh fixed-gear conversion BBQ spit. 41 x 200± gearing for a 0.4 ratio. 8′ chain catching the spoke nipples of a road wheel fixed to a threaded 5/16″ spit rod placed on 700c forks. Chrome BMX chainring counter-weight and floating road chainring to give the drunks something to marvel at and a piece of gate to help straiten spit which bent under weight of the creature. A very rustic soup-to-nuts Sunday afternoon build and not OSHA sanctioned. PP 2.0 will have a welded frame to contain the torque and weight of drive-train as well as an integrated container for the heat source.

Wheels of Porkin’.

Pedantic porcine: Lots of structural and mechanical problems. Massive spit fail. The pig was too heavy for the forks and the cement-filled flowerpots were not nearly as sturdy as imagined. Heat source was too far away. Chain slipped. It was too hot out to pedal anyway. The thing eventually cooked, albeit achingly slow, and the flavor was exceptional. Many questioned the pinkish color but were somewhat reassured by the nitrite explanation and consumed heartily. A sturdier PP2.0 rig will tentatively be made from square sign post tubing and a spit rod which would hold the pig in smaller rods run through chainring bolt holes like staves on a barrel then turned by chains. On a cocktail napkin it works like a Swiss watch however the leap from 2 to 3 dimensions and the fundamentals of natural physics may prove to be a formidable challenge.

A star is born, and eaten.

“Anything worth consuming is worth sweating for; bourgeois electric spits be damned.” Max Weber, 1907

Suckling Porchetta Richelieu 2.0, special Turnip Greens edition: Accompanied by pears, pearl onions, turnips and an inlayed sausage made from their greens.  Main course for an inaugural snow bound supper club dinner.  15lb Amish suckling pig deboned and stuffed with it’s own 3 thirds puréed, ground, diced forcemeat and an inlay of turnip greens sausage.

Get your chlorophyll fill.

Forcemeat was comprised of the removed meat, diced heart & kidneys, puréed liver, pistachios, fatback and inlayed with the cleaned loins, tenderloins and a sausage made from pork, blanched turnip greens and chlorophyll extracted from spinach.  The slices were bathed with a spoonful of the strained cooking juices and served with red pearl onions as well as crescents of both turnips and Asian pears, glazed in olive oil and roasted in butter with cinnamon & clove, respectively.

Skink torpedo.

Rich pig In Lieu of Pro Bowl. Well within the margins of a successfully stuffed porchetta.  The extracted chlorophyll helped to keep the greens closer to green than brown, even upon resting 3 hours after the initial 2 hour roast.  The meat & sausage were well seasoned, properly cooked, colored and moist, particularly the cheeks which literally fell out like chicken oysters upon removing them.   Skin was delightfully crisp.

Cheeky little fellow.

A refined version would have a finer puréed element (requiring a blender), more forceful wintry spices and the sausage would be either rolled and frozen or preferably blanched in a beef middle to ensure a perfectly round center that would not shift during the cooking process.

DC Metro Swine Station.

Pedantic Pedaling: An intoxicating amount of  structural and mechanical problems. Massive (s)pit fail. The pig was too heavy for the forks and the cement-filled flowerpots were not nearly as sturdy as imagined. Heat source was too far away. Chain slipped. It was too hot out to pedal anyway. The thing eventually cooked, albeit achingly slow, and the flavor was exceptional. Many questioned the pinkish color but were somewhat reassured by the nitrite explanation and consumed heartily. A sturdier PP2.0 rig will tentatively be made from square sign post tubing and a spit rod which would hold the pig in smaller rods run through chainring bolt holes like staves on a barrel then turned by chains. On a cocktail napkin it works like a Swiss watch however the leap from 2 to 3 dimensions and the fundamentals of natural physics may prove to be a formidable challenge.

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