Archive for September, 2007

F-18 Hornet burgers.

30 September, 2007

Hooray! Elephant Whisperer is back. She and SweetCheeks are living at the Pearl-of-Surl’s former abode, and they had a party.

SweetCheeks manned the coals “bush style,” which meant, well, who knows what that means. “Bush style” + the usual fashionably late guests meant that the coals were not hot enough once the cooking began. So, desperate for a black and blue burger, I fired up one of those Weber charcoal chimney things and found an extra grate. When things were screaming hot (think afterburner), I slapped my burger on. About a minute +/- per side later, with an occasional lifting of the grate to prevent obscene scorching, I pulled my burger off the heat and slid it onto a bun. Great.

Things did not go so well for the brats that someone tried to cook in the same way. The casings immediately and literally exploded. The inside stayed raw. Nevermind, my back was turned while I ate my burger. Mmmm, burger.

I wish I had a video of the cooking. It was outrageous.

TimmyB’s best liver dinner:

18 September, 2007

I got a phone call from the TimmyB. “Get over here before the liver overcooks,” he said. “OK,” I said. And I was there before he hung up the phone. It was the best liver dinner ever, and he is the master.

Chicken livers soaked in milk. Dredged in white flour and fine cornmeal + spices (black pepper and cumin–needed cayenne, but that is for next time). Dusted with kosher salt after serving. By the way, I stand by the “best ever” claim, despite the lack of cayenne.

No side dishes this time; but a baguette, gherkins, cheddar, and/or pickled white onions would be fine sides.

Click the photo to view.

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Petit sale: French for pork ‘n’ beans.

18 September, 2007

Well, not literally. “Petit sale” (with an acute accent over the final e) might be translated as “little savory/salted.” It is a pork belly version of what we in America might call “salt pork” that has been blanched for up to an hour. Um… that is not quite right either…(read on).

When you make your own bacon (whether you leave it “raw” like pancetta, or slowly hot smoke/oven roast it to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F., you are often left wondering what dishes you should cook or learn to cook and add to your repetoire. Regular weekend rashers are a no-brainer, so when I say “wondering,” I mean “wondering besides cooking the usual rashers.”

Three answers that come to mind, though they are not the only ones: 1) dice the bacon into lardons and make pasta with pesto and lardons; 2) make a serious boston baked bean dish; 3) make petit sale, which is often served with puy lentils (a.k.a. “French lentils”) made to your liking (with carrots and onions, should you prefer) served with a slice of blanched , unsmoked homemade bacon atop it (or serve it over peas, or anything else that might strike your fancy). The bacon is cooked in stock (or water) that is used to cook the lentils. Note: the bacon will swell up most impresively if you are using homemade. Awesome.

Don’t substitute regular lentils for the puy variety, should you go with lentils. The former are inferior in this particular dish.

I like to add some butter to the lentils for creaminess; and I like black pepper ground over the bacon.

If you want more details, you will have to email me or leave a comment.

Salt:

18 September, 2007

Salt. Bad for blood pressure, good for flavor (and so much more)!

No salt, no bacon (but that is for another post).

What kind of salt?

  • Regular table salt: Nein! Nein! Nein! Throw it away.
  • Rock salt: Good only for the ice cream maker (if you have one).
  • Kosher salt (e.g. Morton’s): Must have. Buy the largest box.
  • Sea salt: Expensive, but must have. Use fine grind only for seasoning at the table (kosher flakes are too big, and the taste is too strong for ad hoc sprinkling).
  • Smoked salt: Have not tried it. I’ll buy some at Whole Foods one of these days, then smoke my own using the chi-chi stuff as a base line. Actually, I’ll probably just ask for a taste and get denied, then I’ll drop and break the container on the way back to the aisle, being sure to scoop up a sample before seeking out a grocery manager with a look of embarassment on my face. $18.00 for one cup of smoked salt (and no instructions on how to use it or recipes incorporating it). What has the world come to? Well, you all know what P.T. Barnum said about fools…

Once you have your salt(s)…
You should separate some out and place it in a handy container. Kosher salt by the stove; fine sea salt at the table.

Now I know you Alton Brown fans will at some point consider buying his favorite salt-a-ma-jig for about $20.00: the RSVP Endurance Salt Server (with spoon, to boot!). Fie on it! Alton himself eschews the spoon (so he (and you, potentially) will have paid for something you won’t use). And I eschew the whole contraption altogether. Instead, get a squat, wide mouth one cup mason jar + lid. I got one at my local goodwill for 25 cents. Kerr brand jar with a Ball brand lid. Works just as well, and looks decent enough by the stove as at the table (provided I have a tablecloth out). But for Pete’s sake, don’t “present” the salt at the table with a lid astride it. The lid is for storage when you are not cooking or eating.

Besides, the opportunity cost of the RSVP salt server is about the same as one cup of that gourmet smoked salt… maybe I won’t ask for that free sample after all.

This for 25 cents?

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Or this for 20 bucks?

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Pork stock

18 September, 2007

First rule of pork stock is….. (you probably know).

Second rule of pork stock is…. (you probably know, or see #1).

Well, I can violate the untimate (and penultimate) rules, but just this time.

Third rule of pork stock is: You do not freeze your bones in tin foil without wrapping them in freezer paper first. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because when you crimp the foil around the meat, it will cling to the meat’s folds. After that meat freezes, you will discover a carne-alumino bond. Guess what? You will not be able to pick all the foil off (out) of the meat when you want to make stock! So into the stock pot the foil goes. Remember to fish it out later.

Anyway, bones: Pork shoulder (left over from puerco pibil) and pork picnic bone (from ham-b-que and ham-b-sausage), plus spices (bay leaves, whole black peppercorns, crushed juniper berries, a few cloves of smashed garlic). After a few hours, remove the bones and pull off any meat (= future tacos). Return bones to pan. Keep simmering. Nasty process, but good results. We’ll freeze and use this stock for beans, or posole, or something.

Barbara Fisher has written a nice page on making French style stock (chicken), and on Chinese style stock making (mixed). I have to admit that I discovered these pages hours into my stock, but they make for good reference on method (and reason), as would any good cook book.

Baked beans with homemade bacon.

3 September, 2007

The best baked beans we have ever eaten; and my first attempt at cooking them. Motivation due to Country Coburn’s request.

You could consider this a “basic white bean” recipe + bacon & spice addition. The basic bean recipe base:

  1. 1.5 cups dried navy beans, unsoaked pressure cooked for 15 min. with 6 cloves smashed garlic (and a little olive oil).Pressure naturally dropped. Drain beans but reserve liquid. Put beans into a dutch oven or casserole, and add…
  2. One yellow onion, chopped;
  3. Three tomatoes, chopped (you could use one can of crushed tomatoes).

Now for the meat and spices. Add to the dutch oven:

  1. 1/2 cup homemade, smoked lardons (or pancetta) (smoking is optional, but recommended by us;
  2. 1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar (+ more to taste later on);
  3. 2T blackstrap molasses (+ more to taste later on);
  4. 2T horseradish mustard (+ more to taste later on);
  5. Scant pinch of cloves (or you could just quarter the onion in lieu of dicing and pin the quarters with a single clove;
  6. Fresh ground pepper to taste;
  7. NO SALT (unless desired toward the end of cooking)–the bacon takes care of that;
  8. Reserved cooking liquid to cover.

Bring to boil on stove top and pop dutch oven into a 350 degree oven.

I added too much water at the onset. Good for soup, but bad for beans. So I 1) removed a bunch of liquid (putting the pot back into the oven with the lid off to facilitate liquid loss via evaporation) 2) put the liquid into a saucier, 3) added more mustard, brown sugar, & molasses (i.e., adjusted spice to taste, to the tune of doubling the spices–but no more cloves), 4) reduced liquid by half, and 5) returned glaze to pot in oven.

After returning glaze, cook for 1/2 hour or longer to facilitate liquid loss and browning on top of beans (and of exposed bacon pieces).

The motivation to cook baked beans was due to a photo in the River Cottage Meat Book, though my ingredients, ratios, and procedure differ from the recipe included therein (Fearnley-Whittingstall takes 5 hours to cook his at 275 degrees, recommends only pancetta (not smoked bacon), does not use tomatoes or garlic, etc., and uses a lower amount of the spices). Our result was fantastic. The best baked beans ever. We have also used uncured pork belly lardons, complete with skin, in lieu of cured bacon/pancetta with no degradation of quality. Just don’t use store bought bacon of any kind–even the fancy stuff. If it has already been sliced, you will be disappointed.

Click on the thumb for a few pictures.

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