Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baby Artichokes

They are in season now, funny enough. So if you find baby artichokes - they are best battered and fried - but here are some other ideas. In all cases pull off the outer leaves, peel the stem, cut off the top pointy end of each and the very bottom discolored end of the stem. Keep them in a bowl with lemon juice as you work to prevent discoloration. Then you can marinate them in olive oil and vinegar with oregano, and roast them on the BBQ, then submerge completely in oil. I don't know why this isn't more common in the US, it is among the most delicious things imaginable. Next to them is an experiment: they were blanched briefly and covered with 1/2 strong brine and 1/2 white wine vinegar with fennel, coriander, bay, peppercorns. Why not? They could also just be put in a good O&V dressing after blanching and served as an appy.

It was an overall pickle day in fact. From big red bartop pickled eggs to little quail eggs in rice vinegared tea. Also meat, just to see what happens. Little salametti I made last night as demos for a workshop are now in brine and some other leftover odds and ends, just to see what happens. I also made some coppa stuffed in hogs middles. Should work nicely. What I'm really awaiting is the pickled broccoli rabe. They went very dark, smell a bit funky and I'm hoping haven't gone slimy. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beef Back Ribs

Sometimes the best fun in the kitchen is to buy something you're unfamiliar with and hit it with your best shot. I spotted these ribs and am pretty sure I'd never cooked them before. They're not short ribs. Rather some weird scraggly end of what I assume was left after removing various steaks. There wasn't much meat on them, very short sections, only three bones. Cost about 4 bucks. I browned them in oil, doused with tempranillo and then for no good reason apart from the fact that I had these ingredients around, threw in 2 anchovies, a few squirts of tomato paste in a tube and a sliced shallot. Covered the casuela with tin foil and left to simmer maybe an hour and a half. They were unbelievably tender without being mushy, rich without being unctuous or too fatty, just a lovely deep rich beefy flavor. DO try them if you see them around folks.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Relearning How to Bake

By now you have figured out my oven obsession. Yesterday I decided to make Fornax more efficient by doing some interior patchwork, starting with vacuuming out all remaining sand then applying mortar to any interior nooks and crannies. Little did I realize how good a job it was. After stoking her for an hour, I raked out the coals, gave the floor a quick wet mopping with a newly made broom and threw in a standard sourdough. Not one minute later the bread was burnt to a cinder. Not just the side facing the hottest wall, but the entire bottom. I'm guessing it must have been 1000 degrees. I've never seen such immolation. Clearly I need to rethink fuel and stoking now that she retains heat so well. Not all was lost though. Nathan Crook had only to suggest the word quail and poof: it came into being. These cooked in maybe 4 or 5 minutes tops. Just marinated and set into a clay cassola. Magnificent.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An INFERNO for Food Scholars

When you do a lot of editing, you meet many wonderful people who work hard, write well and turn in assignments on time. They will be enthroned in paradise. Another sort of food scholar is cut from quite a different cloth. Irresponsible, inept, or just plain lazy. For these folks I have devised a simple schematic inferno, at the very least to give me some pleasure imagining their torments in the afterlife.

On the uppermost tier are the Grammarians. They mean well, are are often quite virtous, but never gain redemption because they are focused entirely on correct usage, spelling and ultimately meaningless details. Their punishment is to correct grammatical errors at the supermarket for eternity. Everytime they correct tomato’s, it magically changes back again. Beneath them are the insufferable Pedants. They refuse to have fun because they are always right. As punishment they will try to pronounce French words forever hereafter and every time they will be corrected by an obnoxious waiter. It’s “poo-ey fwoo-say!” The third tier is reserved for those who can’t follow simple directions whose fate is to wander aimlessly on the highway looking for the right exit while their dinner reservation expires. Dullars are next, they have to listen forever to a monotone drone on Food TV explaining recipes for excruciatingly simple dishes. The Lazy occupy the fifth tier, they might mean well but never get around to doing anything completely. They are consigned to remain on the couch while people just in the other room are having cocktails and nibbling enticing appetizers. The Silent, who never answer emails or phone calls are trying to place an order at a specialty grocery store, but no one can hear them. “A pound of truffle paté please!” but they are ignored forever. Layer 7 is for for the Late. Their food arrives hours after they order, and it is cold and moldy. They are forced to eat it anyway. The Flakes in the 8th rung of hell, do put in their order, but it never arrives. They go hungry until the end of time. The final lowest level of hell is reserved for the Plagiarists. They have bits of their own bodies plucked off and eaten by others.

Ah, now I feel better.