5 Scented Ham in Aspic with Ink Truffle Découpage Monday, Mar 29 2010 

Petit jambon aux 5 sents en aspic et son découpage de truffes a l’encre.

If I had a nickel for every ham,
I’d still be a poor, sham of a man.

Singularly considered to be a subjectively smashing success, a cooked then jelly covered tribute to the District of Columbia’s premier bag tax (which has reduced bag consumption by 87%) and delectably absurd salty reminder to the avoidable 5¢ tax’s cheap opponents.  An edible monument to the achingly inane whines against it that are being ranked on watercoolers in any progressive office where tolerance, paychecks and science fundamentals have evolved since the 1860’s.

The first of its kind in the nation, the tax on bags from grocers and such was an effort to challenge wasteful “out of sight, out of mind” consumption, the revenue from which would be spent on cleaning up the filthy Anacostia river and Chesapeake  Bay watershed. 6 out of 10 Residents of NW (North White) Washington support the tax where as the rest of the city is evenly split.  Some of the tax’s opponents call the tax regressive on the poor or inconvenient and post their gripes on intrawebs.  The poor for their part do not have intertron connections but are resourceful enough to circumvent the burdensome tax by bringing bags to stores if they deem the $0.05 fee to be so crippling, or they can go to the Anacostia River and pick up gently used ones for free.  What is most ridiculously duplicitous and largely an indication of regressive political identity and intolerance is the white gentry that uses alleged plights of the poor as a shield & war cry while lamenting the 5¢ fee on bags for uppity sundries such as white wine & premium liquor (though they are happy to pay the 6% sales tax)  and consciously deny impoverished residents a marginal fee destined to clean up their waterfront, a slummy waterfront that anyone with good enough sense, taste and money to enjoy Chateau Grincheux will avoid at all cost (to their BMW).

Almost looks like Victoria Jackson’s head, only smarter.

Òste e còc enthusiastically supports the bag tax as it has reduced monthly bag use to 3 million from 22.5 million last year.  However, an unexpected result of diminishing usage –either from environmental consciousness or thrift- is that far less revenue ($149,432 as of January 2010) may be generated than expected ($10 million over 4 years).

Most remarkable is what a benign fee on a wasteful commodity can do to the human psyche and whatever loose change has accumulated in couches and car consoles.  If only American food manufacturers were savvy enough to emulate Raymond Sachot, head of the French condiment company Amora, who in 1932 had the fabulous idea to package and sell mustard in reusable glasses ranging from Smurfs and Asterix to Minervois or Glenfiddich.

Pickle, then a tipple.

The meat of the matter.  The ham in question was originally attached to a 25 lb shoat from Pennsylvania.  Having removed the femur bone, the thing was injected and cured in a 5% brine with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, Old Spice,  gorging spice, coriander and clove) for a fortnight.  Once rinsed it was gently simmered in a smiling boil seasoned with salt, garlic, bay leaf and chili for 3 or so hours until the skin was tender and could be easily removed.  The ham was pressed in the fridge under a weight that was not being used in rigorous workouts at the time after which the skin was removed to expose the meat.

Meanwhile, the trotter and a few beef knuckle bones were blanched then simmered overnight as with the previous aspic preparation.  After cooling and de-greasing, the resulting jelly was clarified with egg whites loosened up with salt and vinegar then strained through a coffee filter.  No truffles –neither winter, summer domestic nor imported- were available at the neighborhood Latino grocer so a facsimile had to be fabricated.  For the impostor truffle découpage A portion of the aspic was colored with squid ink diluted in a scant spoonful of water and strained into a dish lined with plastic wrap.  Typesets were researched until an appropriate Mr. Burn’s era Victorian theme to goof on the frugal curmudgeons was found, drawn freehand, cut and used as a stencil.  The clear aspic was pleasant to the taste.  The ink one was certainly not.  Charcoal tablets will be stolen  from the hospital after the next post-binge visit as an alternative.

The darker the Jell-O, the grosser the juice.

The segments of the second smallest denomination of United States currency were applied and after a couple spoonfuls of barely seized clear aspic to hold the fee in shape, the entirety was turned over into an oval dish into which clear aspic was poured.  A butane torch was used to evenly melt away any excess aspic as use of the hair-dryer had been given up for Lent.

Nickel & swine.

Ad Haminem: Aesthetically, the ham and its cheeky flavored homonym were delightfully austere, the typeset properly amplifying the antiquated value of a nickel tax which that can be avoided through Pavlovian conditioning and which decreases as a percentage of what is efficiently packed into the bag to begin with.  The ham was well seasoned without being too salty, fragrant, moist, nicely colored, tender and practical to slice in its boneless preparation.  It could have benefited from a trip to the smoker which would have had the twofold effect of smoking the apartment, hopefully covering up the noxious poached-cod like odors of sister’s geriatric cat’s urine.

Colonel Mustard ate it, in the dining room, with condiments.

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.

Hure de cochonnet à la Parisienne Monday, Nov 16 2009 

Head cheese. (may not intentionally contain actual cheese)

Hure, from Middle Latin which signified a cap, and later a man’s spiky hair or the mane of a pursed-lipped wild beast. In Old French, hure came to signify the head of a boar, wolf or bear in heraldry.  Early documented recipes for a boar, either before the popular husbandry of pigs or when wild boar presented a regal alternative to the plebian porcine are found in Guillaume “Taillevent” Tirel’s iconic Viandier:

Bourblier of fresh boar. Put it into boiling water, remove it very soon, roast it, and baste it with a sauce made of spices (to wit, ginger, cassia, cloves, grains of paradise and some grilled bread soaked with wine, verjuice and vinegar). When it is cooked, [cut it into bits and boil] everything together. It should be clearish and black.

Boar, hog, lamb, mutton, veal, horse, pike, salmon and such animal heads gilded with golden yolks graced the banquets and cookbooks of France throughout the 14th and 18th centuries.

Heads of State.

 

 

The head in question was taken from the business end of a 40lb Pennsylvania shoat.  It was rinsed clean in cold water,  injected with a 5% salt brine flavored with warm spices and rosemary, then left to sit in said brine for 10 days.  The noggin was rinsed clean of the brine and the tongue & ears was poached until respectively tender.  The sides of the head were cut away and pared to an equal thickness throughout; scraps from the sides and skull were reserved for the forcemeat.

The  Mt. Pleasant paring knife massacre.

The diced portion of the forcemeat was made up from tongue, ears, fatback and larger scraps.  Remaining trimmings were ground, half of that ground twice and mixed with the diced components, roughly chopped pistachios, ground black pepper, rosemary and distributed along the inside cheeks of both sides.   The sides were rolled around the forcemeat, a challenge due to holes from the eyes and mouth, then wrapped in foil and chilled in the freezer to firm the shape for easier wrapping in cheesecloth and tying.

The Porcine Patient

Both pieces were gently poached with aromatics in barely simmering water overnight until tender, though that was kind of hard to determine.  They were left to cool in the liquid.  A cast-iron Dutch oven was the only pot that accommodated the halves of head and aromatics and accordingly, though regrettably, tinted the cooking liquid an authentic medieval “clear and black”.  Such cookware may have been the medieval standard.

Bric-a-Brackish

Heady times! Not really.  Anyone who trumpets the gustatory merits of a pig’s head must have just gotten theirs out of one’s ass.  Overall the taste wasn’t as unpleasant as the texture.  If the almost crunchy ear cartilage elements were peanuts and the rest of the meat were chocolate, peanut butter, nougat and rainbow fucking sprinkles, then I nailed it.  The ears could have benefited from much longer cooking time, like a week.  Or perhaps they should have been prepared as one cooks a carp North Carolina style:  Put carp on a wooden board and cover with salt.  Let sit 30 minutes.  Throw away carp and eat wooden board.

The forcemeat, with the exception of the auditory appendages was well seasoned and when sliced thin was quite enjoyable, particularly with mustard.  The skin was certainly not, as is invariably the case with cold skin, especially when it has little stubbly hairs coming out of it.  Seasoning the forcemeat was a challenge since the meat was brined and any extra salt could have made the final product unbearably salty.  Whatever the case, the hure should have been cooked much longer.  It may have made the skin more edible (yuck), or at least easier to peel off.  In the unlikely event of being stranded on a deserted island populated with feral pigs, such an attempt might be considered again.  Until then, it will not.

Suckling Ham in Aspic Friday, Jul 17 2009 

Jambon de Porcelet en Aspic, Carrots “WASA”

Suckling Ham in Aspic, Carrots “WASA”

Ham from a 16lb Pennsylvania raised suckling pig. Brined in a salt/sugar/#1 solution for 5 days and poached in water of the same salinity with aromatics. Once cooled, the skin and fat below the hock is removed to reveal the meat. Leek tops were blanched and cut into even strips which were woven over the ham. The remaining space is decorated with orange circles cut from strips of blanched carrots and smaller black circles cut from a port-preserved truffle. The entirety is coated with clear aspic made from lightly seasoned water and gelatin.

The carrots

“WASA” garnish are carrots and leeks cooked in the traditional “Carottes Vichy” manner but with Washington DC Water And Sewer Authority water rather than that of the famed French hot mineral sping.

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