Fin d’un ère Friday, Aug 30 2013 

End of an Era

Pork & Squab Starship.

Pork & Squab Starship.

My term as meat minister at Range is coming to an end (“master” is the journalist’s embellishment, which, while flattering, is embarrassing considering what I have seen elsewhere.  I am grateful for their faith and trust in my craftsmanship.  Now to re-align recipes to work with seafood from the Chesapeake Bay.  Cue the B-roll photo montage of things that no one really ate:

Chicken giblets.  Livers as a terrine, gizzards confit.

Chicken giblets. Livers as a terrine, gizzards confit.

Chicken galantine with pistachio-stuffed morels

Chicken galantine with pistachio-stuffed morels

Rabbit and Riesling with mustard and mint.

Rabbit and Riesling with mustard and mint.

Jambon sec Wednesday, Jul 24 2013 

Dry-cured ham. 

Ham Jam 2013

Ham Jam 2013

Pure-breed Berkshire ham.  2 of them. More of a European approach in that the aitch bone was removed before curing.  Benton’s and Col Newsom’s  keep them on.  For what it’s worth (not much), I’ve become proficient at deboning and sewing up bone in hams.

Ham in a can.

Ham in a can.

Cured with coarse sea salt, modest amount of sugar, nitrate, effort and time.  Packed in a wooden wine box on a rack on an incline to do away with the resulting brine.  Rubbed again with salt after 2 weeks.  Terrific.

Salt of the earth.

Salt of the earth.

It spent a month in the salt. I got drunk a few times in the meantime.

Dark side of the Ham.

Dark side of the Ham.

Soaked the hams in water overnight and hung them out to dry. Rubbed the exposed meat with lard and ground spices as is tradition, even though there is little chance of any insects getting into the crappy Stagionello curing cabinet (based on the cabinets confusing and awful performance, anything is possible).  They will hang at 55F with 75% humidity for 6 months or so and we’ll see what happens.  And if they are inedible, I’m not too worried.  That’s the silver lining of not getting any credit for your professional work.  It also ensures all but absolute anonymity and keeps you exiled in a lower tax bracket.

Business end of lunch.

Business end of lunch.

Artichauts en Crepinettes à la Barigoule Thursday, Jun 13 2013 

Artichoke Crepinette à la Barigoule

A fresh and dried chick pea ragout with simmered pork shank.

Savory choke orb.

Savory choke orb.

A delightful cassoulet-inspired spring fabrication using artichokes, chickpeas, pork shank and spring garlic.  The dish presents a fair amout of work, but I was told by a better cook than myself that anything worth doing is worth doing right.  While my craving for artichokes is not one that I would run 10 miles in wet jeans and fip-flops to satisfy, turning the artichokes is a an exercise in handiwork, knife skills, speed, efficiency and Zen –the pleasures generally associated with endorphins and diligently slicing cured salmon.

Artichokes in roasted formation.

Artichokes in roasted formation.

The artichokes were turned whole, the stems cut at the base of the heart and simmered in acidulated water with olive oil, aromatics, honey, spice and salt until just tender.  Meanwhile, over on the counter, a measured amount of dried chick peas were soaked (in lieu of garbanzo beans) in dihydrogen monoxide overnight.  They were then blanched with pork shanks that had been brined for a few days to remove the impurities –namely foam- from the chickpeas.  Tomato water (a byproduct of the strained canned San Marzano tomatoes), water, salt and spices were measured according to the weight of the beans, a bouquet of tarragon, 2 ½’ed lemons, bay leaf, Oreo cookies and gently cooked in an 225F oven for 6-7 hours.

Chock full 'O chokes.

Chock full ‘O chokes.

Back to the chokes.  Pork trimmings were resourcefully ground with turnip and beet greens then seasoned with a determined amount of cream, bread crumbs, salt and spice, because BMW doesn’t just slap together car parts; they measure.  The forcemeat was divided into equal parts, rolled up, placed into the artichoke bottoms, cinched with a thin slice of my ventrèche to maintain moisture and promote flavor, then wrapped in caul fat to keep it all nice and clean and bound up tight.  The artichokes were placed on an aromatic vegetable bedding with olive oil and more of the tomato water then roasted covered in a moderately hot oven until the vegetables released their juices and cooked tender, then the cover removed to caramelize the artichokes and concentrate the flavor.  The artichokes were placed in a container and the tomato water/juices strained over.  And that is some good French cookery.  Perhaps it might succeed in the nation’s capital, as it appears to in an admittedly larger city up north.

Artie Chokes.

Artie Chokes.

Barigoule has been bastardized and diluted over the last few centuries.  Not sure why or how the recipe (d)evolved, but originally, artichokes à la barigoule appeared in the 18th century and the name is attributed to the milk cap mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus) known as the “barigoult” derived from the provençal berigoulo.  The artichokes are cut as one would pick the mushroom, turned so that they resemble the mushroom in appearance and cooked in olive oil as the mushrooms would be.  Later, they were stuffed with a mixture of the mushroom and onion, wrapped in fatback or pork belly (ventrèche or petit sale) and then slowly braised.  The mushrooms began to disappear, either as a result of over-harvesting or natural cycle, and along with it the traditional preparation. “À la barigoule” is cooked in the manner of the mushroom, which is to say generally stuffed.  Therefore, a proper artichoke à la barigoule should be stuffed or at the very least treated in a manner deemed worthy of a saffron milcap or similar mushroom.  Cooking artichokes in acidulated water does not à la barigoule make.

Parsley de Lys.

Parsley de Lys.

Fortunately, the pork shanks and chick peas cook tender after the same amount of time.  The shanks were pulled from the beans and left to cool after which the meat was picked and shredded at the natural seams then mixed into the beans.  The ½’ed lemons were squeezed to release their juice and some sherry vinegar added for essential acidity in an otherwise rich dish.

Red Funion.

Red Funion.

While the shanks were cooling, spring garlic was toasted in olive oil,  sliced red onions added and cooked until wilted after which the segments and julienned zest of 2 lemons were added to bolster the red onion color and flavor.  The reserved artichoke stalks were sliced and stirred into the onion mixture along with spring garlic tops and said matignon (French soffritto) would be incorporated into the chick pea mixture once it cooled –lest it discolor the red onion.  Check for salt and vinegar, place in a container and wait to serve the next day.

A proper chick pea stew.

A proper chick pea stew.

The gelatin released from the collagen-rich shanks will thicken the bean liquid considerably and once cooled the cassoulet is firm with good body and viscosity.  The stuffed artichoke is heated in its liquid until warmed through while the beans are supplemented by fresh chick peas.  The components come together with a blessing of bread crumbs.  It is a substantial dish with well-seasoned and moist sausage, tender artichoke,

Le Grand Non-Gagnant de Cochon. Monday, Apr 22 2013 


The Grand Non-Winner

Cochon 555 Washington, DC 2013

This little piggy went straight to the bar afterwards.

This little piggy went straight to the bar afterwards.

Behind a fawned over figurehead’s formidable speech (Theodore Roosevelt notwithstanding),  is generally an obscured speechwriter worthy of a couple kudos, snap-shots, blogs, high-fives and twatters.  I am such a wordsmith with an equally subjective, savory craft who doesn’t always receive the credit they work hard to earn.

After all but begging my employer to get me to participate in the DC Cochon 555 edition since my requests to be considered as a candidate were routinely ignored, I had 5 weeks to develop a menu and after delivery of a decent Large Black hog from Leaping Water’s farm, 6 days to execute.  With the exception of a few fabrications and tasks that were delegated to colleagues, I made 96.83% of all the food; butchering the hog, brining the hams & bellu, making the aspic, the rillettes, the cheese sausage, the loin, the pâté en croûte, the pickles, the liver terrine, the pojarski, the breading, the gribiche and even cut the booties for the Pojarski.

Ham jam 2013.

Ham jam 2013.

As dictated by the contest rules, I would be judged based on usage of the entire animal, flavor, creativity, affability, star appeal and apparently marketing.  In hindsight, the menu should have mentioned the parts used, which have now been added in parentheses. The quality of the animal was not remarkable and any enthusiasm was quickly snuffed out by the presence of a few blood splashes in the shoulder caps, a symptom of careless slaughter and not being bled quickly enough.  Nonetheless, it was a decent hog.

Cochon 555, DC 2013

Range

Prosciutto Cotto (hams) & Mortadella (top sirloin, fatback)

Asparagus in blood aspic  (bones, feet, skin, blood)

and chicories in a smoked ham-hock vinaigrette. (shanks)

-∞∞∞-

Leverpostej.

Danish-style liver terrine wrapped in cured belly. (liver, trimmings, belly)

Salted and cured anchovies, a couple of marinated capers.

-∞∞∞-

Pâté en Croûte 

It’s heart, tongue, kidneys, fatback, pistachios and a few figs. (lard, trimmings, offal)

Some pickled rhubarb and mushrooms.

-∞∞∞-

Pork Belly Pojarski

Breaded and fried.  (belly, trimmings)

Ramp gribiche

-∞∞∞-

L’Astet

Loins roasted with spring garlic. (loin, tenderloin)

Warm confit potatoes and rillettes (jowl, belly)

-∞∞∞-

Saucisson en Brioche

Clothbound cheddar sausage baked in a leaf lard brioche. (trimmings, lard)

And cracklin’ whipped lard.

Hams (and shoulder caps) were given a heavy brine, tied and simmered.  Mortadella was stuffed into smaller beef middles so as to be more manageable to cut and serve.  Shanks were brined, smoked and simmered with tomato juice after which my sponsor assembled a vinaigrette with the diced meat, gelatin enriched tomato juice, pickled mustard seeds, olive oil and banyuls vinegar.  Stock was made from the feet, skin and bones then clarified with blood and egg whites.  The blood doesn’t impart so much of a flavor as it does an amber color, which didn’t necessarily produce a credible sanguine color until it was supplemented with clarified beet juice.  The asparagus was manicured and gently blanched, then tediously dipped like a candle in the aspic.

Me cook pretty one day.

Me cook pretty one day.

Danish style liver terrine was comprised of liver, belly, milk, eggs, salted anchovies, salt tears, madeira, lemon zest, picked thyme and a purée of onions cooked in lard.  The terrine was wrapped in slices of brined and poached belly.  I should have dry-cured the belly as the wet cure yielded flabby slices that were difficult to work with.  This was a very good terrine (a pressed pâté) with a proper balance of liver and meat and the lightest touch of anchovy, which could have been more pronounced.  The slice was adequately garnished with marinated salted capers and pickled white anchovies.

For the pâté en croute, lard represented the fat content of the dough, malt syrup supplemented the mixture for added strength and color and the corn starch was entirely eliminated so as not to compromise the amount of protein in the dough –so as to eliminate breakage.  Tongue, gizzard and heart were brined & cooked; premium trimmings marinated with Armagnac, lemon zest and thyme, figs plumped in booze and a delicate inlay of pistachio assembled with the addition of chlorophyll, egg whites and a nominal amount of trimmings.  The hinging properties of the mold were properly used to apply a decorative pig emblem and after learning a thing or 2 at the Pâté Croûte World Championship, the pâté was built upside down to ensure a clean top and eliminate fissures.   This was a very good pâté, and with absolute humility, better than any other there.

Good enough for government work, but not the judges.

Good enough for government work, but not the judges.

Pojarski’s were diminutive, fancy mock-cutlets fashioned from trimmings of raw shoulder, cured belly, onions cooked in lard, spices, toasted bread crumbs and cream.  Twice breaded and gussied-up with a paper bootie.  Gribiche made with barely boiled eggs became seasonal with a surplus of ramps; the bottoms sweated in olive oil, the top blanched & chopped, along with gherkins, mustards, lemon and whatnot.  They were fried to a golden George Hamilton  and down right delicious.

The loins and tenderloins were brined (without #1 curing salt) in a 5% brine flavored with rosemary and fennel seed. I do not remember any of the other contestants using the loin, surprisingly.  L’Astet is a regional pork dish from l’Aveyron that involves a trussed loin and garlic.  In this case, the tenderloin was cut in half lengthwise and threaded through the center of each quarter loin.  The loin(s) were expertly trussed, nice & tight, and left to marinate in olive oil with spring garlic.  It was later cooked to 145F internally, roasted fat-side down and sliced for the contest.  It was completed with one of the best batches of rillettes I have ever made –jowl, belly, 4 spice and meyer lemon.  Yukon gold potatoes were punched out, blanched and finished in rendered fat with mustard seeds.

A variant of saucisson à l’ail (garlic sausage) had clothbound cheddar replace the garlic and after a quick steam in the combi oven was wrapped in lard-based brioche dough and baked.  The prototype came out much better.  Inexplicably, these ones had a significant gap between the sausage and the dough which we had not experienced when using the garlic sausage.  It was a worthwhile sausage, though the binding properties of garlic make for a better, firm texture than cheese.

Complimentary smoked fat-back truffles with Bavarian pretzel crust were offered courtesy of our pastry chef and a testament to the amount of rendered lard that we used.  We had a modest amount of food left over after the liquor drenched event and with the exception of a pound or 2 of fatback, used up the entirety of the animal. 2 of the more reputable judges validated my efforts with firm handshakes and solidly honest compliments, but their votes were diluted by the great unwashed whose palates and eyes were fooled by pedestrian fare and stickers.  Congratulations and thanks to the teams from Proof, Vidalia and Birch & Barley for providing creative and satisfying fare under such considerable time constraints, particularly to those that did the work.  If there is a next time, I’ll develop a winning recipe for making T-shirts. Tremendous thanks to Richie Havens too, even if your career really took off before I was born.

Pâté en Croûte: Distraction Spéciale «Merde Sandy, Il Pleut». Monday, Oct 29 2012 

Pâté en Croûte:

Special “Crap Sandy, its Raining” Distraction.

Ivy League Edition: Beats Harvard and Yale. Both flooded.

With the absolutely crippling, thrilling, paranoid fantasy of a shotgun full of delusional diluvial rain pointed at what seems like the crotch (the good kind of crotch) of North East America, take the time to call up your local utility provider and courteously thank them for the thankless services they provide  before rabidly barking at them 72 hours from now when you have to suffer the inevitable consequences of weather and the fallibility of electricity when you are not able to sustain your sedentary lifestyle with less than 3,800 calories of raw fruit.

It might float your boat.

This silly culture of irrational fear is remarkable.   It has been suggested by the media, home improvement store magnates and toilet paper manufacturers that such coincidental weather patterns are more likely brought on by the really very real threat of Al Qaeda, gays marrying homosexual pets or iced cream, a second socialist term of a totally radical left-handed Muslim president and running out of milk.  A scholarly professor-type in the family posits that America’s atavistic pilgrimage to the milk aisle before hyperbolic warnings of fire, rain and brimstone is a terrifying emotional regression to an infant state nurtured by mother’s milk.  An erudite cynic at the local tavern professes that toilet paper consumption during fo-rizzle rapture-inducing drizzle can be attributed to giardia brought on by desperately drinking tainted river water.

The Arc that I baked.

But rather than curse your flooding basement, here’s a metaphorical lifeboat, or, if you still have electricity, a worthwhile distraction since this thing will sink like a 3rd world ferryboat.

Sturdy hull.

This “inadvertent argyle peppercorn-nipple edition” is hardly waterproof, is not sea-worthy and will not power a flashlight or lightsaber, but doesn’t need any appliances or utilities to cook.

Rivet(ed)ing.

Baking Bad.

Chunky ration.

Le Pied de Porc Farci: Édition Spéciale Grande Bottes. Tuesday, Aug 28 2012 

Stuffed Pig Trotter: Special Knee-High Boots Edition.

Stuffed, with the right stuff.

With an amplitude of skin and hooves obtained from butchering minimally processed, whole pork shoulders with the hoof, stuffed trotters are the reasonable fabrication to avoid waste, even if the hoof itself is more aesthetic than practical.  In cooler months the hooves and skin are used to fortify and thicken bean cookery water (cooking beans in stock is an absolute waste of stock and highlights an ignorance of the collagen properties of skin and hooves) and the shanks will often find themselves brined (skin-on), simmered, picked and pressed into porksicle molds like candied apples except that they are comprised of boneless cured pork, brushed with lard and rolled in bread crumbs.  Jellied pigs feet is not really a flavor that you, I or Flavor Flav crave, though there are fashionable exceptions.

Up yours, Manolo.

Stuffed trotters however, showcase some extreme sewing skillz and allow for a slice of the forcemeat to be caramelized in a pan, bound in tender skin, whose collagen will thicken the basting juices like gluey pudding.  Mmmm, gluey pudding.  In this fabrication, the skin up to picnic ham was removed and freed of all extraneous fat.  The shank was set aside for another spectacular use which does not concern you at this moment. Lean and fatty meat from the shoulder was ground with some liver in proprietary proportions along with cream, an egg, brandy, Randy tubemeat, Pez candy, apricots, pistachios and other spectacular filler that does not concern you at this moment.

Aromatic footrest.

All the ingredients were secretly mixed (more finely ground than the pâté de champagne forcemeat) and stuffed into the trotter that had been sewn up prior in a neighboring sweatshop while I was fighting crime in this nefarious, 2nd tier food city.  The stuffing was loose enough to allow for a shrinking of the skin and avoid blowouts.   The foodboot was slow roasted covered, then uncovered and glazed until the skin was tender when poked with a food poker thingy.  Admittedly, the hoof does nothing more than reassure the provenance and nature of the appendage, but it looks sharp, makes a formidable conversation centerpiece and beats the out-of-sight-out-of-mind freezer storage.

La Mortadelle Monday, Jul 23 2012 

The Mortadella.

Meat-paste grub.

A big bellied fella at the beach BBQ once told me, in passing,  with a whiney New Yorkey accent and diarrhea colored sun glasses, wedged into his sweaty face by  bloated cheeks, that the name mortadella is derived from the Latin murtatum, which flimsily translates to “a sausage seasoned with myrtle berries”.  Pervert.  A weenie professor type at another party insisted that the name was derived from the traditional mortar (moraio)  used to mash the pork into a paste, and that such mortars were alleged to have been depicted in Roman funerary stones found in Bologna blah-blah-blah.  I swiped his drink, stuck the swizzle-stick in my cap, and called his story out as baloney.  My pants caught the handle of a kitchen drawer as I turned about dramatically, ripping out the crotch.  Instant Karma they say.  It’ll getcha.  And a delectable 38 year-old Sophia Lauren starred in a crappy movie of the same name, though equally star-studded (Danny DeVito being the pistachio of Hollywood’s elite mixed nuts).

Gloat yer bloat.

There are easier things to do than turning pork and fat into a smooth paste, like napping with cats and yesteryear Sophia Lauren.  Having the right equipment helps, namely a proper grinder and proper refrigeration.  Keep the meat cold, on the cusp of frozen, grind the fat first while the grinder is cold, grind progressively through smaller dies, don’t forget about what is cooking on the stove, chill in between grinds, purée, then purée again.  Grated ice and egg whites help to keep the mixture cold, stone cold for a proper emulsion. An excessively powered food processor  or extreme blending machine  will do the trick.  A modest Cuisinart worked well before.

Mortadella constellations.

After seasoning with salt, curing salt, mace, nutmeg, paprika, maraca, black pepper and puréeing anew, diced fatback and chopped pistachios are mixed in. Oh hell,  some ebony peppercorns too. Whole pistachios were used in the initial versions, but it didn’t slice so well on the slicer.  At all.  Made a mess.  And that made me sad L.  The forcemeat is then stuffed into a bung cap, left to cure overnight and then given the tip-top hot-tub treatment.  The bloated, stuffed meattube  in a water bath could be the charcuterie allegory for just about any unabashed summer-time American patriot, but it takes a lot more concerted effort, theory, practice, technique and discipline to get that proper combination of lean, fat and garnish so sung a skin suit.

 

 

 

Pâté en Croûte Porc et Veau Rosé: Édition Spéciale Raisins Trempés au Cognac et Poivre Vert. Thursday, Jun 7 2012 

Pork and Randall-Lineback Pâté en Croûte: 

Special Brandy Drenched Golden Raisins and Green Peppercorn Edition.

Golden Grapeness.

Here’s a little ditty about Berkshire pork and Randall Lineback rose veal.  Golden raisins happily dunked  in VSOP (Vestigial Secret Obligatory Pruno).  Filled with corned tongue, breached humpback whale warts, confit heart, steamed insecurities, pistachios, Cherrios, and possibly the cap of a black Sharpie.  1/3 medium grind, 1/3 smooth like iced cream, 8/5 garnish cooked a sea level without convection.

Fruit of the Loom zoom.

Pastry and forcemeat recipes are painstakingly streamlined and deliberately consistent.  While the garnish varies based on mood, measurements have been etched on the bench and are dutifully respected.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

Cassoulet de Castelnaudary : Édition Spéciale Printanier Tuesday, May 1 2012 

Cassoulet de Castelnaudary :  Special Spring Edition

Springtime for epicures.

For cassoulet purists, there are 3 primary varieties which all fight for the distinction of having invented the dish and each comprising their particular base proteins:
Castelnaudary, “The Father”; pork products (shank, belly, butt, shoulder, sausage, etc…) and goose or duck confit.
Carcasonne, “The Son”; pork and red-legged partridge.
Toulouse, “The Holy Spirit”; pork, lamb, mutton, duck confit, Toulouse and pork skin sausage.

According to Prosper Montagé, a Carcansonne native who drafted the first edition of the Larousse Gastronomique and most rival Chauriens, a legend suggests that the cassoulet started in Castelnoudary during the Hundred Years’ War as a means of feeding the troops who, well fed by an enormous ragoût called estofat, later beat the Brits. However, common beans  weren’t introduced to Europe from South America until the 16th century, so the story is probably a comforting tale to reclaim some sort of honor after the town was mostly burned to the ground during said war. Dried favas or other broad beans were likely used back then and the dish was called estouffet up until the 18th century when it acquired the cassoulet title. Any authentic version of either from the cassoulet trinity should contain pork skin lining the cassole which thickens the cooking liquid and prevents the beans from burning.

This variant, suitable for a rainy day, incorporates fundamental elements and springtime produce, namely cherriette radishes and mini suprema onions from Steve Turnage’s Northern Neck Fruit & Vegetables.  Tarbais beans were attentively cooked with water, tomato concassée and a pork hock from Craig Hagaman’s Berkshire pork until tender, the skin from the hock giving the bean liquid viscosity and richness.  Belly from said pig was dry cured, smoked and simmered while murçon sausages (a French equivalent of cotechino) made from the shoulder, blanched pork skin and juniper were cooked in white wine.  The shank was brined, simmered and picked from the bone.  Young carrots were glazed until tender in olive oil with a splash of sherry vinegar, as were the mini onions and radishes.  An olive oil soffrito of spring garlic, dried chili and lemon zest allowed fragrance, heat and freshness.  All was simmered together and sold to happy patrons for $10/lb.  Good batch.

Pâté de Porc et Veau Rose: Édition Spéciale Amandes et Cassis au Gin Tuesday, Apr 24 2012 

Bershire Pork and Randall-Lineback Veal Pâté:

Special Marcona Almond

and Gin-Soaked Currants Edition.

Sane in the membrane.

Berkshire pork and Randall-Lineback rose veal from Joe Henderson’s Chapel Hill Farm out in Berryville, VA.  A garnish of corned veal tongue, confit heart, paper-clips, smoked pork belly, toasted Marcona almonds and blackcurrants soaked in gin.  Tucked in with caul fat, toasted almond slivers and some more currants, drizzle of olive oilizzle.  Sadly, the caul fat busted in the oven, the result of a dozen or so superfluous magic minutes, so no pictures.  Use your imagination if this revelatory food-stuffs diary hasn’t turned your brain into shit.  Tastes good though.  Probe thermometer with a 200ft range remote alarm has been purchased and will alert me to the proper doneness when I am buying cigarettes, pornography and liquor next door for the kids down the street.

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