Tête de serpent Monday, Jul 28 2014 

Snakehead pie.

Pie from the sky.

Pie from the sky.

Snakeheads, in mother fucking savory pastry

with mushroom catsup and some pickles.

 

Nasty creatures. They can live outside of water for up to 4 days, cross from one body of water to another and are alleged to even use public transportation.  They eat just about every and anything.  By law they have to be killed if you want to keep it.  Everything from mice to batteries have been found in them.  The flesh is similar to sturgeon in texture, but kind of tastes a but dirtier. With proper brining, curing and smoking however (and cutting with catfish), it can be quite delicious.

Ugly little bastard fish.

Ugly 10lb bastard fish.


 

if an angler wishes to keep a legally caught northern snakehead, the fish must be killed to be in possession, and the angler must call the hotline and report the angler’s last name, date of catch, location of catch and size. Kill the fish by:

  1. removing the head,

  2. separating the gill arches from the body, or

  3. removing the internal organs and put it on ice as quickly as possible.


The pasty is made by clarifying brown butter as with all afore-detailed pâtés in pastry.  A fine shortcrust with thyme or summer savory, eggs, vinegar, water, molasses, discipline and such.

Hotdog fish

Hotdog fish

Mushroom catsup is an olde timey English condiment and reads more nicely than the initial “white devil” sauce, particularly in a gentrifying, historically black neighborhood.  Mushrooms (button and chanterelle) are roasted and simmered with beer, white wine vinegar, shallots, aromatics and blended smooth.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

The snakehead is a bit drier than the other fish I have used for fish pies (most of them are frozen immediately after they are caught and thawing releases too much moisture) so forcemeat is more of a farce fine with up to 100% cream by weight of the fish trimmings.  The smoked filets are put in the middle of the forcemeat, bundled up all nicely and baked at 425F for 17 magic minutes.  Some say it smells like hotdog via the far east.

Un jeune hareng Friday, Jan 24 2014 

Matjes

Fish tales.

Fish tales.

Pickled young herring

They are immature female herring.  Matjes is Dutch for v-vvv-vv-virgin herring.  Young females that have not yet laid eggs.  Traditionally they are brined with the guts still in and the pancreas does something that makes them more better but I’m not ready to start experimenting with the benefits of pancreatic spoilage.  They were salted then packed in a vinegar based solution with sugar, allspice, carrots and onions.  Accompanied by la ratte potatoes made better with some soured cream, lemon zest and parsley; you know, for freshness.  And a nice medley of handsomely colored pickled onions.

Pickular circles.

Pickular circles.

Une année de plus Monday, Jan 6 2014 

I resolve to be more ornery and judgmental.

Crabby New Year.

Crabby New Year.

A positive review is always welcome, though cursory Mad-Lib generated validation based on the sampling of 5 dishes (not counting the oyster and caviar & potato chips -neither of which we make, all we do is order and open them) after only 2 visits is the kind of empty praise one expects to find in a greeting card written sent from a grandparent whose wits are slowly unraveling or the praise parents must lavish on their tone-deaf and hopelessly uncoordinated children.  Better than to be panned I guess, though at least Ebert watch more than 10 minutes of the film.

π's

π’s

Fish pie in savory pastry with some pickles.

Fish pie in savory pastry with some pickles.

The fish pie is still a work in progress and I am flummoxed by the salinity despite a conservative 1.2% seasoning.  Eels will be available in the spring/summer, though my concern is that the eel meat will be mushy after 24 hours -the reason eels are sold live.  The coulibiac in Daniel’s cookbook  is absolutely stunning and the next challenge in the pâté croûte realm.

Butterflied swimmers.

Butterflied swimmers.

Salt bath.

Salt bath.

Pickled herring have been a success, though some are far more difficult to butterfly than others.  The Swedish varieties are exceedingly sweet and these are tempered a bit, not without their charm. More vividly colored pickles to follow.

Tales of the pickle.

Tales of the pickle.

I do miss making the meat fabrications though.

Star gazing.

Star gazing.

Bouffe les Bourges Monday, Nov 11 2013 

Eat the Rich

Whelks.  Stinky.

Whelks. Stinky.

Its an oyster bar on 7th St NW in the nation’s capital and I am in charge of the engine room.  Chesapeake Bay inspired food.  Whelks; stuffed porgy for 2; chöwderhead, Grand Chesapeake boil (scallops, shrimp, clams, fish, garlic sausage, cauliflower, potatoes, coddled egg and aïoli); swordfish & sauerkraut; beach & beans (flageolet beans, calamari, albacore, pickled mackerel), montgomery pie and the Superoast: -15oz lamb roast barded with ventrèche, sausage, grilled oysters and shank simmered in black-eyed peas.

Stuffed porgy.  Boneless, naturally.

Stuffed porgy. Boneless, naturally.

Fish Pie with pickles.

Fish Pie with pickles.

Encornet farci de boudin Wednesday, May 15 2013 

Squid Stuffed with Boudin.

Get your squid stuffed here.

Get your squid stuffed here.

In a concerted effort to minimize the appalling waste generally (and unabashedly) generated by restaurants while expanding a culinary repertoire and practicing practical classical techniques, fish trimmings have been saved and with the addition of orphaned egg whites and lobster roe, cream, a few shrimp,  vegetables, starch (corn starch,  eventually bread crumb and possibly tapioca as a binder), busted up lobster knuckles and some effort produced a pleasantly plump, savory, harlequin (multicolored) boudin.  Essentially an emulsified silken seafaring sausage generated from scraps.  Resourceful, technical, efficient -and with a cost of $0.70 per 3oz link-  quite economical when supplemented by thrifty shellfish.

The Great Boudini.

The Great Boudini.

Many prototypes  were tested with the type and percentage of binder varying, offering different texture and firmness results though the other amounts of ingredients (fish, shrimp, egg white, cream, cooked vegetable garnish) remained consistent.  While corn starch made for a firm sausage (something our male readership might be able to relate to and what the female readers might yearn for in the morning after dreaming about this blog) bread crumbs seems like a more efficient and wholesome use of leftover bread baked in the restaurant.  Tapioca starch might relieve me of any guilt passed on to consumers by government subsidies to the corn industry which artificially devalues our nation’s food quality.

Visual approximation of squid size and purchase location.

Visual approximation of squid size and purchase location.

Rather than stuffing the boudin mixture into casing, I picked up some large squid (not pig rectum imitation calamari)  from the venerable Bestworld over in Mt. Pleasant  along with California asparagus and bulb onions; the hallmarks of spring.  Boudin was stuffed into the squid, roasted stove top in a cast iron dutch oven and basted with roasted lime.  Upon resting, the tubes were sliced and garnished with some manicured asparagus and spring onions glazed in olive oil.  The tubes were tender and the delicious boudin rendered pastel red from the cooked lobster roe.  Carrots, fennel, lemon zest, leek red pepper and dill provided additional texture, flavor and colorful contrast.  A later version found the boudin cut into thick coins, browned in olive oil and composed with the vegetal ingredients in larger forms as well as a particularly creamy Carolina Gold & spring onion soubise; the sublime, old timey French purée of butter, onions, rice, sour cream (blanched onion tops for a soothing vermillion color) which so nicely compliments the feathery light boudin.  Past and future versions include and are not limited to internal garnishes of tuna, cured salmon, striped bass belly, capers, green M&M’s, mermaid nipples and manatee peduncle.

Petits Fruits de Mer Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 

A little plate of seafood.

Flatter with fish platter.

Flatter with fish platter.

Higher than normal winter temperatures are not conducive to hearty hearth braises, roasted roots and the chocolate-like whiff that red wine & red meat seem to waft.  So something a bit lighter, well marinated, fragrant, delicate and compatible with vinegar -which, I am pleased to drink by the spoonful or get  fix through the venerable breakfast pickle sandwich.  Pickled mackerel, blue prawns gently steamed in their shells, and barely poached-in-their-shells  Chincoteague oysters.  A couple of pickled mushrooms and pickled onions from last summer’s pickles.  Some bits of lemon and a considerable drenching of the finest quality French olive oil.  Some herbaceous crunch and verdant punch from the parsley.  Mustard seeds dredged from the bottom that would make the Rice Krispies gnomes blush.  Briny, floppy oysters; succulent, meaty mackerel; delicate, plump shrimp.

Poseidon's buffet.

Poseidon’s buffet.

A re-imagined, betterized version will include octopus or squid, cured sturgeon and its caviar and grilled bread to sop up the oil slick* and fried squid tentacles for he essential crunch that I crave.

* I have proposed to environmentalists and oil industry cleaner-uppers that an efficient culinary method for transforming the oil into an easily scoopable product would be to drop a few million egg yolks and ride over the affected area with a multitude of outboard motors, whipping up the oil and egg mixture into a stiff mayonnaise.  You’re welcome Neptune.

Morue à la Catalane. Monday, Aug 13 2012 

Catalan Saltcod.

Honk if dried, salted fish makes you horny.

Saltcod. Noblest of fish in the history of western civilization whose nutritional and physical properties coronated the once revered bottom feeder as the versatile backstroking emperor to the now obsessed-upon pig papacy. Cod’s fabled abundance and remarkably slim fat content allowed it to air-dry, providing perennial sustenance for seaborne contingents on the high seas and snowbound penitents during Lenten months. Bones, skin, collar, roe, milk, liver, oil, tongue, cheeks, feet and feathers; all of the slippery beast was, in some shape or form, edible. And yet cod tattoos are not likely to be impulsively exploited by insecure chefs as much as the cute piggy ones, or other tattoos that reaffirm ones accomplishment in the craft (if only frying ears or using bacon –gasp! in an unorthodox, downright wacky composition), like inefficient utility vehicles on unnecessarily knobby tires eliminate the anxieties of their genitally deficient drivers by suppressing whatever sexual suspicions  an economy car casts on gossipy passersby.

After being delicately poached in a lemon and garlic scented court bouillon the miracle fish was introduced to a summer stew of Carmen peppers  (peeled, naturally), plum tomatoes, dried chorizo, red onions and capers. All parties involved got along swimmingly, perfume of lightly roasted peppers and the thickening properties of their juices given some help to the otherwise boring tomato juices. Salty capers and saltcod were the torch bearers at opposite ends with sweet onion and peppers in the middle ground, some chorizo coins for spicy heat and sherry vinegar for the essential acidity. If ever there were a successful dish that had used regional salted mainstays and ingredients to accentuate and extol the produce of summer, while encouraging, even, inducing fertility, this was it.

La Terrine de Saumon Sauvage et Corégone des Grand Lacs Wednesday, May 23 2012 

 Wild Salmon Terrine and Inlay of Great Lakes Whitefish. 

Gravad-laks and Vermouth Aspic.

Circle smirk.

T’is the season, for anadromous salmonidae.  Wild specimens from Alaska, pretty much the only place where the fisheries are well managed and there are abundant numbers.  Not to be confused with novelist heartthrob and Islamic human bulls-eye Salman Rushdie that was allowed access to Padma Lakshmi’s genitals for the better part of 3 years.

In laying a Salman. (Lucky bastard)

Despite the nutritive omegachron fattie acid health claims or whatever associated with wild salmon, the terrine is about 80% Trickling Springs heavy cream with even heavier cream on top.  Have to give it the glass ketchup bottle slap treatment just to get the stuffout.   Actually, it is exactly 80% cream by weight of the salmon, though half of it is whipped, therefore lighter than an angel on marshmallow.  And 10% puréed onions cooked in rich creamery butter.   Bit of bread.  Some booze as well.  A couple eggs white too, which is what bodybuilders eat.

Fishy eclipse.

Fragile Great Lakes (not sure which one) whitefish was ground twice and blended with 80% cream as well bringing the terrine’s heavy cream content to a respectable 160%.  A pie chart in 3 or maybe 4 dimensions is required to show the cream proportions.  That is just how slammin’ this salmon terrine is.  Whitefish was tricked out with some Old Bay seasoning, lemon zest and magically inserted into the terrine with the use of science and modern-day refrigeration.  What’s more, some center cut salmon was lightly cured and crusted with fennel seed, dill, mustard seeds and lemon zest.  Thinly sliced parallel to the bloodline with absolute Zen, the slices were embedded in savory vermouth-flavored aspic.  Fish & aspic, together as last.  Should I have Muppet twins, those will be their names.

Garnished with smoked steelhead trout roe as an alternative to fleur de sel, the terrine was well received.  Properly seasoned, neither gritty nor fishy, and visually quite appealing.  Bread helped to lighten the affair and a recent reincarnation will be speckled with capers, pickled red onion and shingled with cherriette radishes.

Merci-donnant 2011: Édition Spéciale “Nouvelle Frangleterre“ Thursday, Dec 1 2011 

Thanksgiving 2011:  Special “New Frangland” Edition.

Part I: Preamble

Ceci est vrai, mon Général.

Tippy top-shelf guest list was not accurately represented, though 14 friendly orphans gathered around a table instead and provided exceptional company for an enjoyable feast.  Similar to and inspired by 2009’s successful Old-World meets New-World premise, a coastal New England menu was devised using traditional autumn ingredients with traditional French techniques.  Stalwart perennials included mulled cider, charcuterie, soup, turkey breast and legs cooked separately, Jansson’s temptation,  cheese and dessert.  Due to unshakable unemployment since returning from France, certain tasks were outsourced so as to alleviate the financial burden, in this case the adroitly mulled cider, mustache-force roasted nuts, selective cheese, ethereal dessert and, as always, libations.

Coastal menu

Slightly sticky, sweet, spicy, crunchy nuts roasted in a light butter caramel arrived courtesy of a former colleague and provided a welcome start to the evening.  2 variations of properly mulled cider were spearheaded by another guests and offered the essential social lubricant.  Warm apple cider infused with allspice, clove, star anise and cinnamon and proposed with either dark rum or bourbon steeped with dried apple chips and raisins.  Fantastic.  Pickled sour Mexican gherkins and yellow wax beans from the garden supplied essential acidity to whet the appetite and balance the delectable rillettes.

Mulled cider to be pumped. (insert fist pump emoticon)

Bostonmackerel, appropriately, was pickled in my red wine vinegar with carrots and red onions, dressed with extra virgin French olive oil and eaten with the help of antique cocktail forks bought at Ruff & Ready for a song.  Firm, pleasantly sour and a crunch from the carrots.  Nice contrast to the sweet cider and stoopid good rillettes.

Diff’rent forks for diff’rent dorks.

Far and away the most luscious element of the preamble was the unctuous and resourceful smoked turkey rillettes.  Cured and smoked turkey drumsticks were acquired from the venerable and aptly named Bestworld for pocket change and simmered in Berkshire pork leaf lard, bay leaf and peppercorns for a few ticks longer than the duration of, of…of…? until thoroughly hammered. Strained from the smoky fat, the meat was cleaned of the miserable plastic-like tendons that make turkey (and pheasant)  legs so unappealing and exhaustingly paddled by modern technology with the incorporation of the fat until smooth and pasty.  Some premium octane German mustard  and sherry vinegar for balance.  Potted in a pot, covered with remaining fat and left to do its thing in the fridge for a couple days.

Turkeyday preamble Olympic podium (you’re welcome, turkey).

I’ve been unabashedly bashful about some of the culinary flops documented in gustatory diary.  The rillettes is not one of them.  Tippiest toppest shelf product and formidable in its properly proportioned complexity.  Smoky, rich, salty, smooth, creamy, mustard heat, tartness from the vinegar, appealing color and an all around intoxicating aroma.  I’d gladly be embalmed with it if Root or Van Gogh espresso is not available.

Smooth, leggy, blonde and spreads.

Hearty crackers were an essential vehicle for consuming the poultry alchemy and a spit-shone curvy antique fish knife was the proper tool for administering such a voluptuous yet austere product on said cracker.

TBC…

Édition Spéciale Marché Gris: Viandes et Provisions Vaut la Peine. Monday, Jul 18 2011 

Special Grey Market Vendor Edition:

Worthwhile Meats & Provisions

Worth mine and your while.

Under the storefront nom de plume of Worthwhile Meats & Provisions, wares within this repertoire were placed for sale at the 3rd DC Grey Market in an effort to showcase the confident breadth of basement kitchen derring-do as well as gauge public demand and tastes.  Products were smoked wild king and sockeye salmon (18 ounces of each), boudin  blanc d’Avranches (24 links), leafy greens sausage (36 links), pâté en croûte (48 ounce pâté) and cauliflower agnolotti (150 pieces).  Epicurean bric-a-brac was not for sale, though complimentary tomatoes and pickles were well received along with the products.

You should see my lemonade stand.

All were sold within 3 hours with the help of a lovely assistant’s handsome signage and personable hawking talent; an indispensable asset to any would be vendor. Sales covered all shopping costs and fees, leaving just less than $40 to compensate 2 weeks worth of late night work.  Portion sizes were respectable (3, 4, 10 and 15 ounces for salmon, pâté, boudin and sausage) and modestly priced at $3, $4, $7, $7 respectively as well as $1 an ounce for the agnolotti which helped to ensure that the items would not be prohibitively expensive.

The better kind of “sell out”.

The Grey Market provided an excellent opportunity and barometer of sorts for budding entrepreneurs to test the viability of they hobbies, passions, visions, etc…despite the somewhat remote location, awkward  placement of vendor tents and little to no advertising (contrary to the 1st and 2nd markets) –the last 2 liabilities resting squarely on the frumpy, strung-out shoulders of the untrustworthy promoter whose aggrandizing self titled culinary rank (the hallmark of kitchen insecurity) was hopelessly dubious and confirmed by the tasteless choice of chili pepper motif shorts.  Exhaustive intertron research has failed to produce any real meat & potatoes credentials relating to the alleged 2 decades of success, much less any evidence of culinary bona fides.

WorthWhile Meats & Provisions can be reached at worthwhilemeats@gmail.com

ETA:  The Washington Post food editor deemed my wares and ambitions worthy of front page ink.  Still, there remain skeptics whose pretzel logic concerning food safety illuminates the hopeless depths of their ignorance with respect to food safety and the effects of inspections/regulations.  For those, consider the FDA recall list from FDA-regulated products.  Then consider how many home kitchens are inspected and whether such cynics have ever been sickened from eating a meal prepared from an unlicensed kitchen in the form of breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, dinner party, birthday party, Thanksgiving, Christmas, bbq, picnic, etc…and whether or not they were concerned about food borne illnesses.  The paranoid fantasy is hyperbolic and unfounded.  It suggests that a price tag is enough to contaminate.

While my personal home kitchen is not officially licensed, it is sanitary, empty for 12-16 hours a day and does not have more than 2 hands or feet in it at any time.  15 years culinary experience, a formality food handler’s license, common sense and the desire to replicate a savory, worthwhile product trumps the hallow assurance that industrial facilities or restaurants are guaranteed to prevent illness by virtue of  occasional health inspections, biannual at best for latter that do not immediately require changes for 100% compliance with food safety codes.


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