Tuesday, June 21, 2011

smoked sable

"Have you ever been to Russ and Daughters on the Lower East Side?!?!?!?!" Mario asked me on a Sunday morning last fall when I was in Texas working at an event he was hosting. I realize that that sentence has a lot of punctuation, but Mario talks with a lot of punctuation. It's awesome.

That was before I started this project. So when I went through the book looking for potential challenges, and I saw a dish calling for smoked sable, I knew I had a problem. We don't have stores around here that specialize in high-end smoked fish. Then I remembered Russ and Daughters, and since I was planning a trip to New York, I decided I would get it then, bring it home and make the dish.

Then I looked at the recipe and decided that once I got the fish, it was going to be easy, so why not just make it while I'm in New York? The video below documents how that went:

(If problems viewing or to get better definition, click here to go to vimeo.)

Then I went to Babbo

Up next: New York City.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

capocollo with dandelions and fiddlehead pickles

I started making this dish about two months before we had it. To do it the way I would have liked, I needed to start it about four months before we had it.

When I knew I was going to do a charcuterie plate for the recently mentioned dinner party, I decided this dish would be part of it. After all, it required dandelion greens, and I grew dandelion greens, and they were nearing the end of their potential life cycle.

That meant that I needed to find fiddleheads, which I have heard have a notoriously short season. So when I was in Whole Foods one day in April and saw them, I almost bought them. Since they were going to be pickles, I figured I could buy them, make pickles, then figure out when to have them. But the fiddleheads they had didn't look so good. Kind of dry and with black blotches on them. So I passed, despite the fact that the produce guy said they probably wouldn't get anymore.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I'm in New York at Union Square Greenmarket. And, apparently, it is fiddlehead season. Everyone had them. So I bought them, kept them in the fridge at the hotel, and smuggled them back to Florida, where I made pickles as soon as I got home.

Then it was all about the capocollo.

I wanted to make my own. I made all the other stuff on the charcuterie plate for that dinner party, why not the capocollo? Plus, throughout this project, I'm trying not to use any finished products as ingredients, even when they are called for, if it's something that I could make. I have a recipe for coppa, which is another word for capocollo, according to my research (which consisted of asking Michael Ruhlman on Twitter. He said yes. Good enough for me.).

Here's the thing: Making your own coppa, according to Ruhlman's recipe, takes about three months. And when I talked to some other people that make it, they said four to six. I'm in Florida, so any aging/curing/hanging is happening in the fridge. I wasn't sure enough in my curing ability to hang a piece of pork in the fridge for several months, then serve it to 10 friends. So I made the executive decision to buy my coppa.

My first plan was to buy it at Mazzaro's, where I get any Italian thing I might need. But then, as the date of the dinner party drew close, I realized Mario's dad has a salumeria in Seattle and sells cured meats over the Internet. I could buy coppa that Mario's dad made! That seemed highly appropriate. So I e-mailed them. There were two problems. First, I missed the last shipping day before the party, so I wouldn't get it in time. Second, even if i had been on time, shipping would cost more than the meat. I'm willing to pay almost anything for good food, but I'm willing to pay almost nothing to FedEx. So that would have created a moral dilemma for me even if i had thought of it in time.

So I bought it at Mazzaro's. And it was terrific.

I arranged the capocolla slices on the cutting board, topped with the dandelion greens and fiddlehead pickles, then shaved some parm over the top. Total win.

And, now that I think of it, I actually did start making this dish about four months ago. That's about when I planted the dandelion seeds. (In the second photo, the sprouts are on the left side of the tray.)

BONUS: For the charcuterie plate, I wanted cherry mostarda. So I looked on the Internet for cherry mostarda recipes and found this one on a totally appropriate website for this project. Warning: It is restaurant quantities. I quartered this recipe, and actually still had about twice as much as I needed. But it's good, and will hold up awhile. I think. We'll see.

Up next: I think actually seriously maybe the sable post. Because I got Pam to do it, which made it much easier for me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

swine & spirits, 6-7-11

So, on the night before Becky and Jeremy left for DC, a group of us assembled here to see them off. And by see them off, I mean eat until we got food drunk. I cooked. I will offer photos with just a little in the way of explanation. The theme was "Pork."

chicharone, with malt vinegar salt, paprika and parmigiano (I ripped the idea off Publican in Chicago, and based my interpretation off a recipe in the Momofuku cookbook.)

piquillo popper, piquillo pepper, stuffed with machego, coated with panko, fried, topped with saba (This was a late add to the menu. I felt I didn't have enough cheese. And I happened to think it while looking at jalapeno poppers on a menu.)

charcuterie, pork rillette with pickled kumquats, cured mangalitsa lardo on soft pretzels with fennel salt, duck prosciutto with cherry mostardo, capocolla with pickled fiddlehead ferns. (I started curing the lardo a month before the party, and the prosciutto about a week before hand. The capocolla was from the Babbo cookbook, and will get its own short post, which will include more info on the cherry mostardo, as well.)

dim sum, left to right, undone ramen, pork laab, lobster bisque soup dumpling. (The ramen broth was also Momofuku, and the meat in it was a wagyu hanger steak that I cooked in a sous vide set up that i concocted myself. And it sort of convinced me that I want a real one. The laab -- aka larb, laap, etc. -- was something we had in New York last month at Kin Shop. We loved it, and I found the recipe on Serious Eats' website. The soup dumpling was something I always wanted to try to make, and I don't think it came out well. So I may have to try again.)

pork belly, with apple slaw, maple mustard and miso-candied pecans. (This was a riff on a dish we had at Michael's in Miami. I used a Kurobuta belly, and the meat was great. I thought I might have been able to get it crispier.)

pop tarts, puff pastry with gorgonzola dulce and cherry pepper jelly. (Another late add, due to previous lack of cheesiness.)

popcorn, a la alinea. (I tried to get tricky, and it backfired. I wanted to make a dessert to evoke the bubble gum we had at alinea in Chicago a couple of years ago. So I made tapioca flavored with buttered popcorn, and added a shot of cajeta, then loaded it all in a tube. The plan was to make it taste like caramel corn without looking like caramel corn. And when I tested it, it worked. But I loaded the tubes and put them in the cooler. That made the tapioca set up too much, and created a scene that would have been hard to explain to the uninitiated, with a roomfull of people using all their power of suction to access dessert. What that means is that we have a whole bunch of photos of people trying to have this dish, but they are not really suitable for the Internet, and might possibly make it look like the party was way more interesting than it really was. Oh well, now I know. ps: little-known fact ... the popcorn was popped in mangalitsa lard. OMG was it good straight up.

georgia peaches/california nectarines, grit cake, chai latte gelato. (I was just going to get peaches, but when I was at Whole Foods and saw the where everything was from, I amended the plan. It was states-of-origin serendipity for the guests of honor. Plus I got to use the little cast iron skillets I brought back from Texas.)

guanciale chip cookies.
(Just because I could.)

I apologize to anyone who got hurt in the eating of this menu.

Friday, June 3, 2011

classic tortellini in brodo; capon stock

OK, let's start with the brodo.

Despite the fact that I have a freezerfull of brown chicken stock, I wanted to do the right thing and make the recipe as it is in the book, and this recipe calls for capon stock. So I set out to find a capon.

Turns out that a capon is an altered rooster, one that has lost its, um, cock-a-doodle-doo. Probably in a horrible barnyard accident. There are sharp things everywhere in those places. You'd think that would make the old bird more than a little bitter, but really just makes it tougher and more full of flavor somehow. I want to stop thinking about how and why that happens. Right now.

I went to several stores that I thought might carry capon, but didn't find it. But I felt like I had seen it in a store before. So I thought really, really hard about it, and decided that it might just be in the store I used to do most of my shopping in, a large Publix that I now have to pass two smaller Publi to get to. Went there, and sure enough, there they were in the freezer.

They were pretty expensive for what amounts to old chicken, but I got over it.

So after making the stock, I learned another thing about capon: They have a lot of gelatin in their bones. That stock set up like jello before I even put it in the fridge. Awesome.

So the next step was to make the filling, which meant spinning some chicken, pancetta and mortadella in a food processor ...

... until it was finely chopped.

Then I made pasta using the previously posted pasta process. This time, instead of using the long sheets, I cut them into little, um, trapezoids. The recipe calls for squares, but, I mean, anyone can cut a square. Right?

Each, um, let's just say "square" got a spoon of filling …

Folded over ...

sealed ...

The opposing tips were brought together ...

And we have a … wait, let's get a close up.

Is that a wonton? It looks like a wonton. It was supposed to be a tortellini. Do tortellini and wontons look the same? Has anyone investigated this?
I suspect Marco Polo is involved.

Oh well, whatever they are, they get tossed into the heated broth, and next thing you know, there's soup.

And while I hesitate to consider what the per-ounce cost of that stock was when compared to regular chicken stock, it was really good.

Up next: I really hope smoke sable. But we'll see. I suck at iMovie.