Saturday, June 29, 2013

Smoked Chickums

When it gets really hot, and we're pushing about 106 here today, most people forgo cooking altogether, which I understand. But I still think cooking outside is a viable option. Not the last minute BBQ, but something close. If you spatch a chicken and just set it to smoke for a couple of hours, do it way ahead, it takes on a lovely hue. The seasoning is just salt, pepper and thyme. This is over oak. Then just chill it, and when dinner comes around you have something ready to go. Shred it, with a little lime and chili on a tortilla or good sturdy roll. Or a dribble of soy and sesame on top of cold noodles. This is good stuff.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kurobuta, Berkshire Lomo?

I don't know why I found something labeled kurobuta in my local Italian grocery. Nor do I mind that it's actually a Berkshire pig, isn't it? I didn't ask who raised it, what its name was, whether it was massaged, fed beer, given daily trips to the park to play fetch or was lovingly kissed my a young girl named Missy. But I think he must have been. It is a loin but with some other part there, beyond the white stripe. All the better. The loin part as you can see is pink and soft and the other dark and chewy. Quite sweet with a pronounced bacterial sourness.  Here's how to do it: Take a thick 5 or 6 inch piece of loin and parts proximate. Spinkle happily with salt, distress with instacure #2, the slightest pinch. Then pepper, mustard seed, juniper crushed, whatever you like. Bay too. Put in a ziplock and seal and refrigerate for a week, turning every day. Then tie up and hang naked somewhere cool, breezy and 55 degrees for a month. Next to bastirma seems to have been fortuitious, because there is a faint aroma of fenugreek. Slicing proved tricky. The first cut is the deepest. So these pictured here were a bit thick. I put it on the manual slicer and they shredded a bit but are thin, light and aethereal. So glad I had my pal Kristine here by chance to eat it with me!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pickled Black Walnut

If you live in Stockfish CA, you probably know the levee along the Calaveras River that runs through the University. I was riding my bike for an eye exam a few weeks ago and passed the stand of walnuts before you get to the I-5 underpass. Did you realize that one set is English, a.k.a. Persian Walnuts and the other Black Walnuts? I know you can pickle the former, but the latter? Well, here's a shot.

First I have to confess, if you look at my recipe for pickled walnuts in the Lost Arts, I think I left out something that might be important. I just poked them with holes and went right into the pickle. They were good, but I think the proper way to do it is to brine for a week, change the water and brine for another, then leave them out until they turn black (which is what you see here) and then go into the pickle. This one was half brine, half vinegar with extraneous spices and some sugar. It should be good. The only thing I'm wondering is if the shells inside will be edible. I passed a knife through, as you can see here, but certainly not as soft as regular walnuts. I also did a batch of those, and poked with pins. THIS time with rubber gloves on! I'll share the after photos in a couple of months, when the weather gets cooler.

UPDATE: The regular walnuts I did are perfect. In the black walnuts, the shells are a bit hard, but the rest is edible. Well, look at the English walnuts. They smell a bit like Coca Cola!  But very pleasantly salty, sour and savory. These would go perfectly with a hunk of cheddar and a pint of bitter.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pasta Making Workshop

On Tuesday I'm conducting a pasta making workshop among the Tracians (that's the Tracy Public Library). DO come along if you're free. As a teaser, here are some hand-made tortelloni with chard from the market, ricotta, parmigiano, and a healthy dose of nutmeg.

Basically you just roll out a dough of all purpose flour, one egg and water. Put a dollop filling inside. That's made with two bunches of chard cooked down with a little olive oil until dry, mixed with half a container of ricotta and gratings of good parmigiano and nutmeg. Boil these a few minutes and just lace with butter. There's enough flavor inside to make your mouth very happy. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Flanken with String Beans

I have been channeling my ancestors lately. Well, my grandmother, whose cooking genes I inherited, ultimately from Smyrna. I was writing an entry on Sephardic cooking for an encylopedia this past week and pulled a community cookbook from the 70s off my own shelf, never realizing that there was a handwritten recipe tucked in there, written by my grandmother. It was not for this dish, but my cousin mentioned this one and so I had to do it. I have no idea how it was done. I took 6 cross cut nubbins of short rib with bones, browned in a lot of olive oil, 5 or 6 chopped tomatoes, and string beans. Just cooked gently for 2 or 3 hours. Some white wine. I STILL haven't eaten it. Long story, but it's better the second day right? How about the third? Well I tasted it, and it is magnificent.