De la Peau Dans le Jeu. Tuesday, Mar 13 2018 

Skin in the Game

In lieu of the unsolicited opinion, clumsy accusation and merit-less, par-baked verdict viciously slapped on my humble, equal opportunity galantines (see comments here, and here), by Art Institute of California Culinary Director Rudy Kloeble, I would like to reassure you, loyal reader of unwavering faith, bedrock morality and delectable charm, that the galantines and ballotines are all wrapped in the skin of the bird (or fish, or rabbit or plump captive coed), the forcemeat is a “farce fine” of ground and diced breast meat (for fish flesh) and that the cheesecloth holds the shape during the cooking process. I keep the cheesecloth on to prevent oxidation and drying out of the skin. My culinary integrity aims for platinum standards and while certain liberties may be taken, products are generally a proud representation of authenticity in either theory, practice and/or ingredient.


Skin to win

 A more reasonable inquire on behalf of a culinary instructor would have been to inquire: “are the galantines breast meat wrapped in skin?” to which I would have happily replied: “yes, of course. Suck it”. To publicly dispute my reliable adherence to the kitschy classics of French Gastronomy (on my day off, snowbound and still in my bathroom well into the afternoon) will invite a well seasoned and sturdy retort.


Caution: reading about galantines on this blog may give goosebumps.

Furthermore, as a matter of sanitary practice and cleanliness, I would suggest Mr. Kloeble use latex gloves on his non-knife holding hand in fish and chicken cutting demonstrations, to keep one’s hands a fingernails clean. Lead through example Sir. Cleanliness is the hallmark of disciplined handiwork (see Bernard L’Oiseau’s anecdote of the Troigros brothers clean aprons in “The Perfectionist”).  And unless there is reason to doubt the accuracy of my craftsmanship, effusive praise is preferred from the peanut gallery.  Make Galantines Great Again.  #MGGA

Let’s not throw shade on the ballotine; an equally refine fabrication similar to the galantine, only that it is served hot. To wit: Thanksgiving turkey leg ballotine.  Thigh muscle meat mixed with ground leg trimmings (meticulously cleaned of tendons), liver, cream, egg, confit chicken gizzards, diced heart, dried cranberries and so forth.  


A leg up in the skin game.

Not to be outdone, consider the shad ballotine from the Eat The Rich days back in the nation’s Capital.  It is worth noting that my trusted, tall, infinitely capable and indispensable sous-chef Gerald at the time has been recognized by the JBF for his work at Maydan in the capacity of chef.  His skin is delightfully decorated and a pleasure to look at.


Its a shad state of affairs when the use of skin is questioned.

But wait, there’s more.  Never before posted on this blog, the elusive and **Exclusive** Rabbit ballotine with black truffle and black trumpet mushrooms.  Rabbit wrapped and cooked in its outer layer of flesh (since the rabbits are skinned) and a bonus layer of pancetta. Close enough and good enough for government work.


Rabbit ballotine with a loin, truffle and black trumpet bull’s eye. You are welcome, internet.

Été nous consomme Tuesday, Jul 18 2017 

Summer consumes us.

Leg of lamb.  All fancy like.

The circle of farm life has left us busily but happily scrambling to dispatch the creatures in a judicious, efficient and resourceful manner. Beyond the achingly ubiquitous pork chops -which call into question our charming consumers’ knowledge of porcine anatomy, breadth of cookery skills and unlimited credit- there are hams, shanks, offal, shoulders, bellies, nipples, wings and horns to deal with.

The only cut it would seem that comes from the pig.

Tournedos. Tenderloin in the loin, wrapped in salt cured fatback with herbs.

Pork paupiettes. Pork cutlet stuffed with sausage, wrapped with pancetta and caul fat.

Pâté en croûte. Pork with almonds and cranberries soaked in brandy from down the  road.

Mini boneless hams. Breaded, pressed shanks.

The ham. Pressed.

Tubesteak. All kinds.

Boudin blanc with black olives and cappocola.

Culatello. In a fresh pig’s bladder courtesy the fine folks at Craft Butcher’s Pantry.

With the lard we’ve been making brioche and Cherokee biscuits with the bacon drippings and bacon bits. Using Farmer Ground Flour from upstate NY.

Coq au vin. Leg simmered in wine and a sauce made from onions.

Beaucoup d’agneau Tuesday, Feb 28 2017 

A whole lotta lamb


Abstract 21st Century Impressionist lamb decoupage.  ca. 2017

Hello cherished reader.  A fair amount of lamb has been coming in. They are between 9-12 months, the proper age to qualify for the “lamb” distinction.  Anything else is deemed “mutton” after the slaughterhouse dentist takes a peek at their grill.  They are broken down into primals and sub-primals by hand with nothing more than a boning knife and a cleaver in the old world “seam butchery” manner.  Muscle by muscle, tied up all nice. I do use the band saw to trim the ends of the shanks.  The band saw also makes quick work of pumpkins. And fingers when showing off for the camera.


Stubby paring knife was made at prison camp.

The shoulders become “melons”, or pumpkins.  Shank is cut off, humerus and scapula removed.  It is stuffed with a bit of merguez, bound with some strips of ventrèche (French answer to pancetta), wrapped in caul fat, then some cat’s cradle string work to cinch it all nice & tight.  A little disc of fatback covers the string intersection (and melts nicely) and a little sprig of parsley make just so faaaaaabulous.


Knot’s landing.

The saddles are painstakingly, carefully and pleasantly dispatched of bone, gristle, sinew, fat, hair, fuzz, lead, and/or buckshot then sprinkled with magic seasoning (magic juniper berries in the fall/winter, dingleberries when in season, some rosemary, sand, dried chili) then rolled up all nice & straight like they taught me in the Paris, France at Hugo Desnoyer’s premier butcher shop.


Bambi’s 7-point father picked off from 75 yds.

Then the leg is either broken down into individual muscles and kept whole (the bone is delicately, almost sexily carved and pulled out with the shank) and tied up, as in the venison (close enough) roast above.


B-cup, breast stuffed with almonds and giblets.

Nothing really interesting about the lamb rack (no pictures) and when I’m feeling more whimsical than usual, the lamb breast is stuffed with trimmings, the heart, liver, tongue, gizzards, kidney, gills and olives.  Very old world Frenchy stuff.


Lamb jam fans.

And then the trimmings get ground up and mixed with leftover bread turned into crumbs, grated Pecorino cheese, spices, some herbs, lemon zest, paprika, ground Trump flyers (for greatness) and then give a little lemon beanie and caul fat which will roast, toast and melt nicely.  “Meatballs”for the philistines, “crepinettes”for the rest who know how to use utensils and say hello/please/thank you.  Thank you.

Le Boucher/Boulanger de Cutchogue Tuesday, Oct 25 2016 

The Butcher/Baker of Cutchogue


Give us this day our almost daily bread. Sourough & whole wheat.

Not much in the way of competition in this folksy north forky hamlet of 3.5K gentle souls but any press is good press in an election year and I hope to earn your votes in my mayoral candidacy this year.  I am running on a sturdy farmhouse-chic reclaimed barn wood platform steeped in compromising flavors of “More sidewalks, Less fat chicks, Some speed bumps” for those of us within the walking,  bicycling and revoked driver’s license “Bro” community.  While my constituents and I are eager to pocket monies from up-island,  they just need to take it more easy, man, drive slowly and set an example for the locals who are vying for qualifying times on my road in a yet-to-be-sanctioned WRC Edition in the town of Southold.


Pork liver and salted anchovy bound in bacon.

Been making some decidedly effeminate, hopelessly dated  and whimsical fabrications with items from the farm or area (proteins, produce, dairy, bread) with exceptions of salt, spices, grains and flours and the yokels seems to enjoy it.  They are a friendly bunch -honest, fair, generous- and during the leaner months I might put some couches next to the display case so that we can all take a load off but I’m going to add a surcharge for having to listen to problems/stories that are not within 3 degree of separation of food history, culture or cooking.


Pasta with various fillings but singular technique.

And we have some even more well heeled civil service/policy makers as of late whose stars shine a bit more than the rest and if they see me pacing outside their weekend homes in the evening it is because the cellular reception is spotty out here (*add cellphone tower to platform) and I’m afraid I might miss an invitation or call for help.  So long as they don’t inflate the flounder sandwich price at the Sophie’s or bring their smarty-pants ringers to Trivia, the city big-shots are welcome out here (I did grow up on the Island, albeit it a smidge west of the tines).  Consider it a south-eastern spin-off of a popular transplant/relocation series.


Fancy meatloaf in pastry with a conceptual “chicken” on an clever “egg”.

Visit anytime during out operating hours (they correspond with the numbers outside ie: 10am EST- 6pm EST) and while I will listen under the guise of patience to requests/questions*, it is not a guarantee that I will consider them.

*I do know the name(s) of the people who feed the chickens.

Hapi Beurresdai Papa Thursday, Jul 14 2016 

Happy Birthday Dad (and France)


Birthday boy.

For my old man’s 75th mid-summer. In accordance with the traditions of Swedish mid-summer and a celebration of birth, salmon and eggs were summoned. Wild Alaskan king salmon and some eggs from the farm where I work and reside.



½ the salmon was cured (brine), crusted and cold smoked on the Weber whereas the other half was stuffed with a shellfish boudin (scallops, wild shrimp, egg whites, cream, enthusiasm and vegetables), wrapped up like a Tootsie roll and poached.


Slamin’ smoked salmon. Handsomely sliced.

Eggs were soft boiled, bound with a green onion belt and radish-gizzards bet buckle then encased in a smoky aspic sarcophagus.




Up yours, Fabregé

And there was a confluence of Swedish pickled fish and eggs: pickled eggs in strong 23% acidity Swedish vinegar.


Jaundiced pub food


The whole thing


Seafaring Tootsie roll


Radish shingles.


Head to tail assembly required


A little thick on the aspic, but the world needs more aspic

We drank, we sank and I honored my father in the best way I can. He’s the best one I know.

Chant du Cygne Sunday, Apr 10 2016 

Swan song en croûte.


Inscribe the date.

A final somewhat selfish fabrication to celebrate and honor the nuptials of 2 cherished, well deserving friends who are straight after all.   Tamworth pâté en croûte with heart, tongue, wedding vegetables and mini-mortadella inlay.


Both their birthdays, too.

After 13 years and a few months, there’s no more juice left to squeeze, so fuck it, we’re done.  There have been countless friends, a reunion with a sister, 5 issues of Gluttony Digest, a dozen freedom BBQ’s, suckling pigs, turkey variations, fancy pumpkin, jobs here and there, bars that have expired, bars that have been raised, 2 cats, 2 presidents, legalized pot, statehood not, some competitions, softball, a blog, pictures, trips, broken thumb, brownouts, blackout, heartache, dwindling friends, steeper rents and relentless sirens at all times of the day and night.


There’s a swell bell.

My sweetheart, the cats, bric-a-brac and I going out to pasture to become sharecroppers and manage a little slice of country living in Einstein’s getaway on the Northern tine of  Eastern Long Island  nestled between the LI sound, Peconic bay and some shitty vineyards.  We’ll be living in a 1940’s house with an original built-in murphy-bed style ironing board on an organic sheep farm with pigs, chickens and a garden; upstream and closer to the source of food. We’ll eventually help open and run a full service butchery & grocer using products grown on the 28 acres outside.  What’s more, there is a 2 acre garden where we can grow jelly beans, cotton candy and our very own dildo tree.  Hurray.


A little lopsided, as is often the case with love.

Thank you all for your readership. There are arcane liquor and zoning laws up here, cellphone service is sporadic, there are many spiteful low-watt Trump supporters and public transportation is virtually non-existent save for the occasional single-track diesel train that still runs in 2016. So we are pretty much moving back in time with the rest of you, but the barns and people are charming even if they tawlk funny.


Looking out my backdoor.

Merde, il a neigé. Sunday, Jan 24 2016 

Shit, it snowed.


Committed to helping those who are stranded get plowed.

Supermarket shelves across the nation’s capital are barren and a visitor would be correct in assuming that residents do not have 2 days worth of sustenance in their pantries or refrigerators and that the rate of hysteria is directly proportional to how many eggs all these yuppie Cool Hand Luke‘s need to cram in their food holes in 24 hours.



Public transportation in Washington, DC was shut down from Friday 11pm through Sunday 11pm. Non-tipped restaurant kitchen employees stay later than the tipped ones and generally are far more underpaid.  For a restaurant to be open during this period is greedy, selfish, reckless and shitty. Asking employees to come to work when there is no public transportation available and the streets/sidewalks are not clear is tantamount to extortion since an employee in the American food service industry is likely to feel compelled to obey for fear of retribution in some manner.  These same employees are more likely not offered benefits, a livable wage or paid vacation.  The fetishist work ethic must stop.  Take a mulligan, call off your staff, don’t order food, close for the storm and go home and smoke up the pot or drink or watch your stories, bang your spouse, draw dicks in the snow and whatever other things folks are wont to do when they get shut in.


Eat it boss. We’re taking a snowday.

Forget about the money for a day and enjoy the marvel of nature.  Make a snow man or something.

2 jours dans le 11éme Tuesday, Jan 19 2016 

2 days in the 11th

La cave de l’Insolite is a  small restaurant with a very decent list of organic free-thinking hippie wines, which can be taken off premises for 50% less, you don’t need a paper bag and there can be titties on the label. Hurah.  There was an unusual but pleasant red Arbois Pupillin Trousseau from Jura. Light, fruity, mineral and pleasant to drink with the richer cooked ham, duck and poularde du Gâtinais.  It has a farmhouse thing going on, with a cozy wood-burning stove in the corner, handsomely chiseled hutch keeping the stemware, communal tables and large zinc plated table that dominates the dining room.  The kitchen is smaller than a 1 car garage, but they are efficient and put out simple, elegant, well-seasoned food, though the chef has a bit of a light foot as some of the items (chicken, duck, pork, cabbage) would have benefited from being waved over stove for a minute or 2, though everything was exceedingly tender and nothing short of delicious.


There isn’t a wine list so much as there are 2 wine shelves to choose organic wines (no added sulfites) from and the shelves are well stocked by knowledgeable and hospitable sommelier/owner Axel.  Riding the coattails of Christmas enthusiasm and as a sign of good graces from the folks’ repeated visits which they disguise as forced solidarity for a bruised 11th neighborhood (Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan were within earshot), Axel treated us to a startlingly clean eau-de-vie de houx (holly berry) from an antique glass carboy, sucked up with an equally old glass thief, which went down exceedingly well at 120 proof.


Good memories of the fantastic immature English cheddar which had all the characteristics of similarly pressed Cantal/Salers style cheeses but less than 2 months old, sweeter, less salty, grassy and creamy.

Back-up wines are stored in the basement on the way to the boudoir, which has its own techno soundtrack piped in (they are still very into that, over there) complete with neon and disco ball.

Their sister restaurant/bar is the diminutive 20 seat L’Acolyte de L’insolite with a tinier kitchen but puts out a decent brandade de morue even if it has the superfluous potatoes and I would have discretely added chopped capers and lemon juice if I had them to the husky 130g portion of dry aged, lean Charolais beef tartar

La Bague de Kenza (3 locations I think) on Rue du Faubourg St. Antoine on the edge of the 11th is an Algerian pastry shop with a stunning collection of sweet almond-paste confections and a smattering of savory pâte feuilletée pastillas filled with either, anchovies, cheese, or leafy greens and such.

The level of craftsmanship and dedication to a single delicacy is comforting and a reminder of how such a store is like an American Sasquatch sighting.


Across the border in the 12th at 1, rue Théophile Rousseau (who stymied public drunkenness with a series of buzzkilling laws in 1873)  is Le Baron Rouge,  namesake of the pizza-peddling Tom Selleck impostor and extraordinary wine bar on the fringes of the bustling Marché D’Aligre which is kind of like outdoor market shopping if all the vendors on rue d’Aligre are fellow contestants and you’re the next one on the Price is Right.

Open since 1979, it hasn’t really changed much, or so we told by a veteran and somewhat withered waitress who must have been quite the boozy candy striper autrefois.  A little bit of everything reasonable from all over France,  satisfying plates of cheese and charcuterie, oysters on weekends and there is even a chalk-written sign to let you know what the jazz is all about (it was Sonny Simmons).  2 glasses of Sancerre, 1 Terre Grillée Roussillon, 1 petit Chablis and plate of aged sheep’s milk cheese for 20€ ($21.50) was fine by us.  Best yet, they sell table wines by the 5 and 10 liter jug from the barrel, like a growler for you to chug-a-lug shamefully at home.

The shittiest bar in the 11th, if not the upper half of France is Le Fanfaron, namesake of Dino Risi’s 1962 cult movie and slang for a bragger with swagger:  the perfect caption for the sole owner/employee/failed actor and dear friend of almost 20 years Xavier, who is not as sly as his “the fox” nom de plume would suggest.

He is functional, mostly, and on this visit he was playing mini ping-pong with 3 of his unemployable 40-ish sycophant friends in matching underwear, wearing sombreros.  Despite his crapulence (it was only Tuesday) he was able to play some records (the only form of music) save for the rare live gig, pour drinks (nothing more complicated than Pastis and a side of water) and tally tabs (cash only).  It is on a quiet cobblestones street, the bar is about 5 feet wide and don’t put your elbows on it.  You’ll know why when it happens. It is a tribute to Russ Meyer’s busty agenda, Iggy Poppish punk,  emphysemic French crooners and there is plenty of Day of the Dead bric-a-brac on the walls.  Most of the harmless drunks can say some English words and with enough pantomimes you can tell your life’s story or be left alone.

Merci-Donnant 2015 Sunday, Dec 6 2015 

Thanksgiving 2015


A well altered classic. Thank you JL David.

Hopelessly dated French food has always been the war-cry of this withering electronic diary, and the recent tragedy across the pond called for something with a more pro-populist, Tyranny stifling design and seasonally garnished quote from a revolutionary rabble-rouser.  The menu came together with only a few laps left since I’m running on flat tires and will probably abandon this bloggy thing in the New Year.  This food career never really came together and despite flaky assurances on behalf of others and 19 years or dedicated effort on mine and more than a year of fruitless odd-job plum jobs that fulfilled a need for cash, the pieces never fell into place.  So savor this penultimate post, all 7 of you readers.  I think I’ll take up hawking antique cookware and corny mugs at a bric-a-brac store somewhere in the countryside or upper 14th St and hook my wagon up to ISIL’s tech scooter which might be an edgy way to get some hardcore intraweb fans.


Birdman: or the unexpected virtue of making dated food things.

Got the 16lb pastured turkey from the Mennonites.  I’ve never been up there, so maybe they got it from the pious Safeway and repackaged it.  I’ll never know.  But a bonafide Mennonite delivered it.  Decent bird, no heritage breed or anything and all the parts & accessories were there.  Roasting it whole is more boring than life itself and the drumsticks have those irritable plastic tendon things that I would have liked to have yanked out, but the bird was amputated below the ankles.  Recent Thanksgiving misgivings have been the noticeable absence of the whole bird centerpiece, but there is always a better way and the style of a whole roasted bird suffers compared to the practical and delectable substance of a compartmentalized critter.  In the past, the legs have been deboned, rolled up and stuffed with all the holiday party favors or ground up into regional meatballs and such that generally went over the convives’ heads who wore sweatpants and scarfed down pedestrian chips.


Photogenic pickled fish.

Pickled fish is just about the next best thing and some surprisingly fresh mackerel (never seen anyone else buy any there) made for a fine product.  Brined in 10% salt brine for 3 hours facing Mecca, then in a pickling liquid with onions, vinegar, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, some bullshit spices and who cares.  Photographed very well in the natural sunlight though, and that is what counts (on the Instagrams).


B-cup chest nuts.

Got some Virginia chestnuts which was nice since the North American chestnut tree was essentially wiped out in the last century by Japanese imports.  A bit small perhaps, more or a “marron”  than a full fledged chestbump. Soaked for 20 minutes in dihydrogen monoxide, scored, roasted and easily peeled.  Tasted and peeled much better than the cheap imposters Bestworld was peddling.  Not where the later came from,  but they were starchy, crumbly, hallow and exactly what $3.75/lb gets you.  Shame on both of us.


Less filling, tastes OK.

Bestworld is still the best place around and the kooky Korean-owned, Latino-run, gringo-serving emporium came through with plenty of other misspelled sundries. They always have smoked turkey parts so I got a neck while the turkey carcass and bone scraps barely simmered for well over, like, 2,880 minutes (modernists rejoice) and once the turkey pot-au-feu juice was cooled and strained, a white knuckle consommé path was plotted with some ground turkey, egg whites, cardboard, lawn clippings and other things that go in a raft sturdy enough to brave white water rapids. You, extreme reader, know what I mean.  I picked the smoked meat, added some broccoli and carrots and called it a day.


For the pervert who is into bondage and raw poultry.

Standard practice is to take the legs and do something to them that eliminates the inedible tendons that run through the drumstick in a fashion that makes for a preparation that is consistent, flavorful and easy to serve.  Ballotines (essentially a round meatloaf)  show some culinary proficiency and some showing off, which is the purpose of documenting holiday meals anyway.  These followed similar turkey leg fabrications; ground drumstick with liver, eggnog, cream, bit of pork, booze and then mixed with confit gizzards, thigh meat, some of the busted up chestnuts, sequins and were roasted in extra consommé, root vegetables and fresh cranberries.  The cooking juices and garnish were blended smooth and made some gravy of sorts.  Hurray.


It is a very nice platter.

Browned some Brussels sprouts in duck fat, then some fresh cranberries and poured the sauce over it.  Photographed rather well, particularly in a bowl by Daniel Castel.


Gizzards and thighs, oh my.

Couple air pockets which could have been mitigated by a pastry bag and caring more, but the passion is fading and there were some re-runs to watch on the TV.


At the very least, it is colorful

Done this one a few time before and the sauce of white cauliflower, sweet onion, butter, cream and lemon was particularly flavorful and a pleasant texture compared to the roasted florets.  Taking pictures during the meal is kind of tacky nowadays, particularly with people tethered to their phones so this portrait was snapped before it got gratinéed with clarified brown butter and lemon-toasted breadcrumbs.  Could have cooked the eggs a bit less, but whatever.


Colorful, and with 10% more gluten

The girlfriend likes vegetables tremendously and I like to whittle and cook them.  Most stuffings taste like a wet sandwich that got stepped on by a crowd, so these vegetables were glazed in duck fat and finished with lemon juice, vinegar and some flabby whole grain bread left to go stale; or as I and other closeted modernists like to call it “blanched air-toasting”.  Plenty of bread, vegetables, leafy Brussels sprouts, what’s not to like?


Not an endorsement of FIFA.

Still clinging to the pâtés, for better or worse.  I was the 1st and so far only American to qualify for the World Pâté Croûte Championship 3 years ago in France.  Cost me a lot of money to get there and while I learned 2 things about the pastry, but I didn’t do that well and aside from the jet-lagged memories there wasn’t much of a payoff. Not even a T-shirt.  Should have invested in PR or had a more selfless Top Chef boss at the time. If there is any advice to give to a buddy cook, it would be to invest in hype and/or tattoos rather than substance and technique.  The former gets you the dining public’s attention and validation and by that time the later deficiencies are exposed, it doesn’t really matter because with the right type of irreverent hipster stoner food, you’ll be able to smear peanut butter on a coaster and there will be a 2hr wait at your door.


Yes, the stars are a bit much and it looks like prom night.

Pastry is the standard 50% clarified brown butter short crust and I broke out the fancy game-pie mold.  Made some black pastry with non-toxic (hopefully) shoe polish for the artsy fartsy flair.  Found a District of Columbia cookie cutter in a freebie box and stamped one out for the side, a carved a feather on the other side and some stupid stars on top for no other reason than they being a bit more interesting than fluted circles.  Pretty much the same forcemeat as the ballotine with the addition of dried cranberries, pecans, a piece of black truffle that has been soaking in port wine for about 6 years (that is not really a good thing).  Had some extra forcemeat and pastry so I made a pithivier shaped pâté pantin and planned to serve it hot as well.  But most guests’ appetites and attention were satisfied by that point so we just kept drinking.


It is the District of Columbia, or South America

Not exactly traditional for Thanksgiving, but it is something to do when you get tired of watching re-runs and drinking alone. Sure it is a bit effeminate, but such fabulousness will soon earn the respect that they, house-made vinaigrette and cake pops deserve.


Stuck a feather on the side and called in turkey dinner.

The pâtés always look sharp in the raw, but sag and droop once they’ve cooked.  Oh well, that’s life. Those guys at the fancy meatloaf championship made some fantastic decorations with sharp, crisp lines and they are true craftsmen.  Not sure how they do it, if they embed the colored dough or super-impose it.


Like a pastry urchin.  The last one of 2015

I filled the untouched one with apple cider aspic and tossed it in the fridge.  There is a post-partum sluggishness that takes over after the big day, during which I am too nervous to eat, though I am content to eat leftovers at 3am with my fingers in the twilight of the Frigidaire for a week.


Inlay sagged a bit, but you get the gist.

Some friends came over and we stabbed at the leftovers a bit and took a couple slices of the round meatloaf in pastry with the brown starfish on it.  Girlfriend took some to work but I think it was to use as a shim for a wobbly table or doorstop.  Form and function, how about that!?  But I should have made turkey ramen with uni ice cream and gold leaf on mismatched vintage plates and charged $85.

À La Pêche Sunday, Oct 25 2015 

Gone Fishin’

Catch of the day should last a week.

Catch of the day should last a week.

Snug as a bug between 2 watery rugs (the Peconic bay and Long Island sound each within a mile’s easy reach), fresh fish of pretty damn good quality, though not necessarily luxurious, was readily available, and a bit further out some dayboats brought in sizeable finer creatures fetching a higher but still areasonable price.  From the humdrum target practice bluefish to doormat fluke and even oysters, our fish-bins were well stocked, the fish in abundant supply, and the Southold Fish Market owner also acquired the venerable Sophie’s Rest, the most reliable tavern around for geriatrics with hard of hearing hard-ons for Led Zep, the Boss and the like; and pit stop on the way home for a consistently delectable $12 fried flounder sandwich with waffle fries that only a monster would dismiss.

Flounder, fried, as a sandwich.

Flounder, fried, as a sandwich.

Golden tilefish gently reeled up 100 grueling fathoms from Neptune’s quiet depths.  Essentially a large blenny, they live in burrows on the ocean floor, are abundant and require deft angling hands to catch by rod & reel given the length of line and weight needed to get the bait all the way down there and back.  The flesh is similar to grouper but firmer, lean, sweet and just less flaky than cod.

Golden Child

Golden Child

Delicious, and when ground smoothly the trimmings lend themselves well to a harlequin seafood bootylicious boudin, supplemented by diced domestic shrimp, cream, egg white, a bit of corn starch, Cheetos  and some tiny cut vegetables cooked tender.  Stuffed into hog casings, calmly poached, cooled, cut into little hockey pucks, the skin removed and then seared in, yup, clarified butter.  Resourceful and efficient use of a fish.

Fish flavored tubesteak

Fish flavored tubesteak

From time to time we’d get some exceptional harpoon caught Canadian swordfish through Charlie over at the Southold Fish Market.  It used to be that there was a healthy harpooning industry centered on Block Island between Rhode Island and Long Island.  Those days of fishing off the bowsprit were slowly but surely wiped out by the disastrous yield of longlining, which all but decimated the Atlantic swordfish population (and caught plenty of bycatch), and now it is just those progressive and environmentally conscious Canucks who continue to pursue it, barely.

Spearheading initiative

Spearheading initiative

And then one bright summer day we got a (delayed) message (very limited Southold cell phone reception)  from Eugene Burger saying he had a 120lb swordfish dangling on the line (not for long) for sale (71lbs dressed). Made some space in the cramped and worn kitchen and put that mighty creature on the slab.

Not a Jaws, but close enough.

Not a Jaws, but close enough.

Out of the water less than 24 hours it was pretty much the best swordfish I’ve experienced in terms of fresh/firm flesh, though some peach colored ones that likely gorged themselves of ruby shrimp or them red Swedish fish have come across my board.

Portion control

Portion control

Eugene also regaled us with a 160lb bigeye tuna specimen.  Big animal, so-so color quality and took some considerable effort to bisect.



But a worthwhile butchering experience nonetheless.

Like one of those bigger fish combs.

Like one of those bigger fish combs.

There was far more meat than time or demand and we were left to brine remaining 60lbs of tail/loin, sear and poach in oil the.  Just as tasty as yellowfin, much better than Bluefin (too oily), but albacore is the goldilocks of tuna for processing/canning.  Not too fatty or fishy when cooked, it’s just about right.  Kind of looks like a penguin and those little bastards presumably fly through the water like little Red Barons.

The lore of albacore

The lore of albacore

Those tuna fish are a legitimate marvel of natural nautical engineering, with fins and paddles or whatever folding in neatly into fleshy grooves and flaps.  Kind of like that 94” Pacific sailfish that had the terrible misfortune of biting a lure attached to a line leading to a reel in my hands on a Mexican fishing boat in which a friend and I were in.

I had to hide from the shame.

I had to hide from the shame.

Our portly Central American ballast-like co-captain bludgeoned the poor thing after it had swallowed the hook and attempts at releasing it would have been perilous for both parties.  The frightened yet curious eye resembled a  billiard ball sized prosthetic and the flimsy membrane sail slipped into a dorsal gasket like a window disappears into a car door.  I felt tremendous culpability for taking such a majestic creature out of the life game, more so because the red flesh wasn’t nearly the crowd pleasing taco option as marlin smoked slowly over wood.

Yeah. D-cups

Yeah. D-cups

Phil down the road in Orient cashed in 25 years’ worth of Wall St cheese to get back into the water, waist deep, to raise oysters and rake for the occasional clams.  He and his 2 man crew will spend the span of the year, from refreshing water in 98°F heat to the frigid testicle shrinking flow in below freezing winter.  For the preferred customers, Phil’s oysters get the special tumbling treatment which breaks the outer shells and encourages the oyster to grow a deeper cup rather than a wider shell.   The creek drains twice a day, the water clear as a crystal block, immaculate as a Vatican toilet and serves as storage for the bagged oysters, eliminating any need for those newfangled refrigerated boxes.  Not too briny, exceedingly crisp and clean.

School for dinner

School for dinner

The local hallmarks however rarely get top billing or fetch a fancy price.  Porgies are a thrifty perennial favorite for any weekend fisherman and in a former life they received a royal treatment worthy of a cheapskate glutton; packed plump with glazed root vegetables, cream, herbs, toasted bread and roasted whole for 2.

Properly stuffed & trussed.

Properly stuffed & trussed.

For a more enthusiastic  East Coast struggle with the funny-stick however, few bargain fish rival the frenetic frenzy  of bluefish and while the locals are in it just for sport, the occasional smoke but usually dog food. Brining and hot smoking is the generally invariable and only route. In lieu of mackerel, sardines or anchovies, we’d get those oily things still in rigor, stiff as morning wood.  If those dudes and dogs only knew how much gooder they could have it.

Stiffy fishy

Stiffy fishy

Ira & KK’s  little lettuces from down the road were best lathered with a Caesar dressing, befitting such crisp greens and hopefully well within the WASPy clientele’s hopelessly vapid flavor wheelhouse.  Sure we used some salted Italian anchovies and salted capers for the sauce, a focaccia crouton with the obligatory parm-bla-bla, but for a $75 fixed price 3-course menu it yearned for a local product worthy of the appropriate luxury treatment.

Please find out which one of those Kuntz ordered the dairy-free cheese plate.

Please find out which one of those Kuntz ordered the dairy-free cheese plate.

Bluefish has an arrowslit window of opportunity or it gapes, becomes flabby and unworkable.  At its finest, it butchers and skins well, though the skin becomes edible after an encounter with the business end of a torch.  After a brine, then week-long bath in pickling liquid of vinegar, citrus, verjus and aromatics it finds peace in the oils of grapseeds and olives: an immensely satisfying balance of firm fish, acid & fat, and a resourceful alternative to the pickled anchovies from further away.

A pickle to tickle your fancy.

A pickle to tickle your fancy.

Sadly, and almost predictably, about 1/3 of the dildos in the dining room wouldn’t even prod or taste it. The pickled scallops, not surprisingly,  fared a bit better.

Who doesn't like scallops after all?

Who doesn’t like scallops after all?

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