Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pig Crazy

There is something about this holiday season that has made me go pig crazy. Not that I don't ordinarily revel in every imaginable piggy part, but I seem to be eating pig in some form at every meal lately. There was the beautiful shoulder ham I smoked for Christmas, which was sliced, fried and deglazed with rootbeer as leftovers. Not to mention the salamis for breakfast. Or the can of boudin noir I brought back from Paris. Oh, or the great pork chop I had for dinner last night.
Well, the other day Vanessa Barrington, author of DIY Delicious (a cookbook that is in most respects very much like my own; a truly kindred spirit), came over to play in the kitchen. We tried some smoked and pickled vegetables, which I'm still letting mature, but it was mostly a pig day. She brought this pickled Portuguese pork for me to taste, which was unbelievable. And we just wacked up a ton of pig for some pates, guianciale, bacon. And FINALLY, some liverwurst, which you see here. The liver was huge and very frightening, to tell the truth. But the technique could not have been simpler. It is just pork butt, lightly poached liver, onions and spices, pounded to a paste, put in a beef middle, and smoked for about two hours over oak. I'm letting it mellow for a couple of days in the fridge. Maybe it will make it all the way to New Years, that is if I do! Have an Oinky New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


After a recent discussion about the pleasures and perils of eels, I decided to share some of my friends. Ceci ne'st pas un eel. Not even eels, nor even elvers. Isn't that the cutest name? No, they're basically noodles in oil, vaguely garlic and fish flavored, sold to Spanish people as baby eel surimi. Replete with a little silvery stripe down one side. Who are they kidding? Don't buy it.

And alas, we are told not to buy the endangered Anguilla anguilla, close relative of Magilla gorilla, which some people, like our friend Janet, live in mortal fear of. Along with dangling prepositions. Is it anything dangling perhaps, asks Dr. Freud? Sometimes a pipe is just an... eel.
Well, this beauty is my friend Harold. Part pet since I've had him so long and say hi every morning. Yes, there was a Maude. I ate her. Harold, is now old dried up, smoked too much. So I haven't the heart to let him go. But I do take him for walks every now and then. See the leash? In case he wants to snap at friends.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pottage of Fat Goose with Pureed Peas

If you perchance peruse historic goose recipes, going much further back than Dickens’ roast goose served on the Cratchit’s Christmas table, you will find a panoply of intriguing techniques. There is goose baked whole in a pastry crust in 16th century Italy, goose stuffed with oats and boiled, geese semi-roasted, slashed and finished on the grill in what was known as a carbonado in Restoration England, goose ragouts and others served in a staggering variety of sauces. But one in particular caught my attention. It hails from Le Cuisiner of Pierre de Lune, published in 1656, and involves salted cured goose, served in a “pottage” of puréed peas. Here is the recipe, translated from the original:

Potage d’oie grasse aux pois passés

If the goose is salted, do not lard it; if it is not, then lard it with bacon; then cook it in a pan with lard, and then cook through with bouillon, and a bundle (of herbs). Cook your peas separately and pass through a seive with the goose bouillon, parsley, a bit of pepper, and a morsel of green citron. Garnish with fried bread and little bits of crumbled bacon.

To help recreate this dish, here is a full description of the technique: Carefully remove each half of the breast from the goose with a sharp boning knife. Keep the skin attached. Remove the legs and thighs intact for another use, such as confit. Use the bones and giblets for a light stock, which you can freeze for use later in the recipe. (Reserve the liver for yourself, seared and served on crackers.)

Mix 2 tablespoons of fine sea salt with 1.5 tablespoons of unrefined sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of instacure #1 (or “pink salt” which can be bought on line or at specialty grocers, or celery powder cure which works fine), 1 tablespoon ground pepper and a tablespoon of crushed juniper berries. Liberally coat the breasts, put into a large gallon-size ziplock bag and store in the refrigerator for a week to ten days. Turn the bag over every day.

Remove the breasts from the fridge, rinse off and pat dry. Brown them gently in a pan with a 2 tablespoons of melted lard (or goose fat). Toss in a bouquet garnis tied with string. Pour over goose stock to cover half way and cook breasts through very gently, with the pan covered, about 15-20 minutes. The final texture and taste will be remarkably like cooked ham.

Meanwhile boil a pound of green or yellow split peas in the bouillon with some parsley, pepper and candied green citron. Pass through a seive or purée in a blender or food processor. To serve, put the peas, which should be fairly thick, in a large deep platter and lay the goose breasts, thinly sliced, on top. Scatter croutons and bits of crumbled bacon on top for garnish. Serves 4-6 people.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Goose for Christmas

One Christmas break about 30 years ago my best friend Andrew and I decided we should eat a goose. We were in high school, and typically did odd things like this - throwing formal tea parties, making wonder wine. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing - just roasted it, drained off all the pan drippings, fat and all, and made a raspberry tinged sauce. It was good, surprisingly enough.
In the intervening years, I've come to realize that goose is one of the most perfect foods on earth, but there's so much more to do with it than roast and serve. So I've been curing goose breast, smoking odds and ends, rendering fat, chopping liver, making stock - everything you can imagine.
Recently the nice people at D'Artgnan sent me a goose (and the recipe, 17th century salted goose breast on a puree of peas from Pierre de Lune, should appear on their site imminently). But I also had other bits. This is the legs and thighs, cured for 10 days then simmered slowly in the fat for about 5 hours. Stuffed into a jar and put on the shelf. It has since gone opaque. Should definitely wait for Christmas. But AH, the anticipation!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Surprise of Cheese

One of the nicest things about going away is, of course, coming back. And among the most intriguing are those things you forget about, refuse to throw away, however uninteresting, and toss in a corner. I DO have my own corner for experiments now.
Well, after a week of eating unfathomably good food in the Loire Valley this past week, I started cooking goose a dozen ways for D'Artagnan (to be posted anon) and I spotted a little cheese I forgot about a couple of months ago, that just didn't taste that great.
Lo and behold, it matured beautifully. Nutty, with a nice tart bite. Not unlike Parmigiano at all. Fabulous in slivers, grated I'm sure will be great. It's a local milk, raw. And disproves my theory that you can't make decent cheese in very small batches. This was just two gallons. About 3/4 of which you see in my hand. Probably cost me more than $20 a pound, but it is really fine, and utterly local. Natural bacteria, no starters, conditioners or other crap. Voila. C'est le terroir.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Smoking Bishop

Here is my contribution to the above mentioned blog-roll (like a swiss roll, without the cream filling - well, who knows, maybe).
My task was to make the "smoking bishop." Which Scrooge offers Cratchit, I think the day after Christmas, to discuss his future at the firm. So I thought, let's find a real recipe, from the 1840s and make it. No problem.
Problem is, the phrase does not seem to appear in print anywhere before 1843 when the story first appeared. And if you go on line or check the authorities on such things, every single recipe seems to copy some other prototype, that was written after 1843, because it substitutes oranges and a grapefruit for Seville oranges. Well, who actually knows what Dickens had in mind, if nothing was ever printed? (Please correct me if I'm wrong, dear friends - this is not my period!)
So, with my newly adopted casual aplomb, I thought, AH, free to make it up totally. First of all, baking oranges is a bad idea. They get acrid. Steeping them gently, so the oils permeate the liquid is the preferred, and indeed I think historically more accurate way to mull. Here I've used what I had, which are cassia buds, long pepper and slivers of nutmeg, plunged into the orange.
Most recipes say use cheap red wine and a lot of sugar. What?? And ruin good port by adding it to swill? I chose to just pour this whole bottle of port over the orange (a gorgeous "cara cara") heat and let steep for a few hours. Then muddle a bit to release some juice and more volatile oils. Reheat gently and sip.
And you know what? IT IS FABULOUS! I don't think I'll ever drink port again unless it's hot. A little spicy, aromatic, dare I even say unctuous? Perfect for a cold day. And exactly the right thing to make your mind expansive about the future. Well done DICKENS!
And let me say, the next day it is even better, especially following the exhaustion of 13.1 miles at a plodding pace. 2 hours and 24 minutes later. Enough to pick up any lagged spirits!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Kristine showed up yesterday with a cooler full of deer. I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun it was taking him apart. Here are some salami made from the front leg. All chopped by hand. The hind quarter became jerky from the round, a stunningly gorgeous and succulent roast from the eye of the round, some stew with pomegranate syrup, bones for stock. Even rendered down the fat, though I'm not sure anyone has the guts to taste it.

I can't wait until these are cured!
Ah, and here's the roast. YUM.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Drop of Blood?

I hate to say, but no, it's not really blood. It's pomegranate molasses. Fra Luigi popped over the other night with a big bag of pomegranates from his tree and it got me thinking. Time To Make a SERIOUS mess.
So I broke them open by hand, squeezed big hunks into a stockpot. And yes, I got splashes of what looked like blood everywhere. Then just cooked it down with a few tablespoons of unrefined sugar and a vanilla pod. Very low simmer for about 3 hours.
And in the morning, this lovely, tart, nutty sweet, blood-like super-thick syrup was in the pot. I need not tell you how difficult this was to get into the jar! Nor that about a dozen or more pomegranates cooked down to this. But it is essential in Middle Eastern stews, and let me tell you, a little in tomato sauce is heavenly. Best of all, it never goes bad, completely shelf-stable forever. (Incidentally this can be done with grapes, for sapa.)
And just in case you don't have a costume for Halloween, go as your favorite saint, dripping blood from some missing body part. This would be great for Lucy. Though I'm thinking now of Oedipus. Anyone have a crown I can borrow?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Caliban Really Had for Dinner

The Sunday Times in Britain ran this neat review of Joan Fitzpatrick's Renaissance Food book, which covers my chapter and first experiments in historic cooking. It's funny how so many years can pass. These were only a prelude to The Lost Art.

And Check out Very nice review of the cookbook.

And yet another in teh Chicago Tribune,0,3746979.story

Friday, October 8, 2010

National Fluffernutter Day

In honor of National Fluffernutter Day, and after reading several posts relevant to the topic, I resolved that I could no longer resist. Abandoned the pile of midterms being graded and rushed home to make this paean to pure kitsch.

NOT a fluffernutter, as you know I cannot abide rules. So this is a thin Finn crisp rye cracker with caraway. A layer of Skippy, creamy of course. A layer of Fluff. A layer of nutella. Absolute gorgeosity of deliciousness. Another cracker on top was an improvement. But next time I think some bacon. Seriously. But what to call it? Fluffonutellina con speck. Actually a thin slice of lardo would be great too. Got TO RUN. AND DO IT NOW!!!

So what you see first now is the reposte. A slice of homemade sourdough bread toasted. A layer of the best Lebanese Helwa. Chunks of Mo's Bacon Bar made by one of the most exquisite creatures on earth, Katrina M. Then REAL fluff. Crushed pistachios and a drizzle of local wildflower honey. (Perfect dessert after a halibut vindaloo.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Holy Smoke

Saturday I spent the whole damned day in front of the smoker. Which would have been nothing terribly out of the ordinary, but I had a strange feeling that I was channeling a past life. Seriously. Not a New Age Mystical intuition, but an odd ability to live in the bodies and minds of people who lived many years ago. I was a Baptist preacher, I'm guessing in the 17th century. Trust me, I can rant. Hence the name of this blog. But sometimes I wonder how a Brooklyn born Jewish boy came to be sitting in front of a smoking kettle, sipping his own moonshine, chewing on a plug of baccy. Listening to bluegrass.

Smoking everything I could get my hands on. So I am actually myself smoked. Unpictured are the pork shoulder which was simply roasted in wet smoke after all this was done. 6 hours maybe. Ate last night at Lisa's. OH, and a little eel. He's hard as a rock now and hanging in the wine fridge. No idea what to do with him. But see the beef jerky. Top sirloin. Round does not work as well. Then a pancetta. Cured and smoked. It's really just a rolled pork belly though. Went into a broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and chili peppers. Swear I nearly fainted.

And best of all a little tongue. It's got to be a calf, much smaller than any I've seen before. Bought at the Asian grocery for a few bucks. Fresh. Cured for a week, then smoked over oak. Next steamed for several hours and peeled and sliced thin. I'm guessing.

You are coming over aren't you?

The sink is now unclogged after I made a rash decision to chuck some wayward brussels sprouts into the garbage disposal. We shall not do anything of the kind again. But now we are ready to go.

There are pickles in the cabinet going, fresh salame in the wine fridge. I am gearing up for a party of some kind folks. Let me know you'll be around.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Splendid Table

HEY Folks, Starting Tomorrow Night you can download an interview with me on NPR's The Splendid Table with Lynne Rosetto Kasper. I think it's the best food show out there.

ALSO, just in today, a very nice review on culinate (that really sounds like a dirty verb to me) nonetheless:

and another on

BTW, the effect of these was immediate. Sunday afternoon the book is #496 on amazon. Only behind Pollan in this category. THANKS LYNNE! And Kind Reviewers.

nope make that #398 as of 5:30

Friday, September 24, 2010

Serendipitous Fall

My larders had been largely cleared out midsummer for tastings, talks and parties. So I started a lot of projects, all of which appear to have come to fruition at exactly the same moment, on a single plate for breakfast, on an ordinary weekday.
Clockwise from 6, there's my first bread made from hand milled flour. Dense, a little gritty, and lightly sour, it is actually phenomenally tasty. Then there's the last batch of pickles, which did indeed make it through the summer heat on the counter. Still crunchy. Then the coppa, actually not sure what it should be called. Cured pig parts, stuffed into casings. Chewy but sweet and a little smokey from something else in the wine fridge. And taste a little like the GoG's fingers. Then my last cheese, rather hard, a little like kashkaval I think. Piquant and crumbly too. Incidentally oiling the rind (after Vincenzo Tanaza's 17th c. directions) does work. And lastly an experiment. Kimmy and Brett's mission figs, a whole shopping bag, boiled down with a little sugar, spread on parchment paper and left outside to dry to a solid paste. Rolled up and sliced. Serious fig mojo.
Is it serendipity or planning? A little of both. Be sure to stop by for a nibble before it's all gone, that's all I can say.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Melon Mojito

Do you remember about 20 years ago there was a popular drink called a melon ball? Horrid. Midori Liqueur, Vodka, I think even pineapple juice. Let's banish that thought. But the idea of a melon drink is still singularly appealing. And refresing, especially after a run in serious heat. Another story.

This happened mostly because I went to visit the operation of a friend who breeds melons. Yes, I mean breeds. DID you know that each individual flower must be hand pollinated - you must manually faciliatate sex with melons? It was dizzying.

Out in the field she cut a big box full of melons for me last Wednesday and I have been eating melon, a LOT, ever since. Then today it occured to me. AH, a melong drink. Bought some rum, and someone broke my blender. Will be no mango daquairis today.

So here's the recipe. YES, I will do it. In the standard recipe format, lest someone accuse me of never writing recipes. OK?

1 large lemon, juiced
1 small lime, juiced
1 tablespoon sugar, preferably white, but organic raw fair trade sustainable demerara mayy be subsititued
1 knob ginger*
1 green fleshed melon, the best you can possibly imagine. These were netted skinned cataloupes and kind of honeydew that makes you faint with pleasure. Firm but sweet. Oh, sorry. Back to stilted recipe format.
Yo ho ho. (i.e. a bottle of rum) If you can afford no better, use Bacardi, unless you're snob.

Mix the first 3 ingredients. Stir well, in a counter-clockwise motion, twelve times. Grate the fourth ingredient into the palm of your meticulously sanitized hand and squeeze the juice into the citrus mixture. That's ginger juice. Cut the best part of the melon into chunks. Without the seeds. Preferably the interior, the outer rind is relatively flavorless. But do save the rinds and squeeze them into your citrus-ginger juice. You will be amazed at how much melon juice somes out. A cup at least.

Mix all the previous ingredients with the final ingredient. Exactly 3.4 ounces. Any deviation will result in poisoning an immediate asphyxiation and painful death.

Actually add a shot, or two. I may have added three. Put some melon chunks, a handful of ice cubes (which as always was not mentioned in the original list of ingredients because anything to do with water is not an ingredient) and all the rest in a nice big wine glass. Makes two drinks.


* ginger is a root that can be bought in most Asian groceries and some other stores.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shall We Play Barley Break?

Fa la la, la la, Say dainty nymphs? No, none of those. But I did have some lovely red barley I've been playing with lately. Whole grains. Partly inspired by picking tender grains of barley, rye, oats, wheat, etc. in Finland last week. And discussing these very same in class today.
So why do people say you need wheat to make bread? This is about 80 percent barley, and the rest sourdough wheat starter. Rose nicely, though dense, and quite pungently sour. But this is SUCH luscious bread. Exactly what I was looking for.
And here's the weirdest part. I have no grain mill. Someday I want a rotary hand quern. Anyone know where to get one, has to be stone, please let me know. I never really wanted an electric flour mill - that's the only reason I still don't own one.
So I soaked the barley for a few days and hand ground the grains in my big stone mortar. No big deal. Not gritty in the least. I wonder why people in the past without mills didn't do this. Much easier than dry grains. And of course with corn in MesoAmerica, this is exactly what they did. Why is there no wet milling for bread in the West??? I am perplexed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Makes the heart grow fonder. Or was that Absinthe? Well, I hope you will excuse my recent sojourn. I was in Finland. Feasting on unfathomably rich rye bread, smoked eels that can only have descended vertically from the heavens, and reindeer tongue and liver. The food was marvellous. Koskenkorva is what we need to start importing, soon. Yxi, Kaxi, Kolme.

But what strange delight upon my return to find oddments left behind. What was I thinking?? What is this anyway? There were pickles agog. Bubbling tubs of unidenifyable vegetation. Why didn't I write anything down?

Well, as it turns out, here were two bizarre experiments that I suppose I didn't expect to work, but did. The first is a sausage not in a casing but in parchment. Lamb, spices, hunks of fat. It dried out quite a bit, but thinly sliced is quite fetching. I expect not that different from the same mixture in a sausage casing.

Then this mess. Would you believe a short cut hash? One pound of stew meat chopped finely and thrown into a ziplock with the cure, in the fridge of course. Two weeks. I honestly forgot about it entirely. It emerged sweet smelling. So I tossed it in a pan. See how it stayed red? Added herbs and a little mustard powder. And a really lovely hash. I'd throw it in eggs, or with some potatoes and onions. Maybe even a steamed bun. Very lean and crumbly, but definitely the taste of corned beast without the hassle. Try it, you'll like it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

German Salami

Folks, If you happen to be in the Bay Area tonight around 7:00, there's a signing/tasting at A Great Good Place for Books in Montclair, just above Oakland and Berkeley. And yes, I shall be serving this gorgeousness. I had to taste it first right? Along with some nice sour caraway rye. And pickles. Thinking Germany I guess.
Here's how I made it: Take one pound of beef round. I suppose you could start with ground beef too. Then beat the living daylights out of your meat - in a capacious mortar. The only way to get this fine texture. Add a clove of garlic, salt, pepper, the tiniest smidgen of instacure #1 and a little fine sugar. Keep pounding. Put in a medium width beef bung. Hang in a cool place. Wait three days. Then smoke gently over applewood for about an hour. Hang for another 2 weeks, or until desired stiffness. This is one of the tastiest salamis I have ever made, and I think maybe the second I have ever made of beef. Give it a shot.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nostalgia: Chicken Pot Pie RECIPE

I recall fondly eating Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot Pie . Swanson's I imagine, the same company that brought us wonders like Chicken a la King (read 2010, proto sous vide) And chicken noodle soup for lunch in my Snoopy thermos. I don't think there were nuggets, fingers or any other like part then. But it was good, even if utterly false.
But for some reason, I think I blame a recent trip to Hampton Court, I needed a savory pie. Here's the beast. And unlike my usual custom, I shall offer you a recipe, if you can deal without a list of ingredients (which I think is only made for dumb people who cant read through a recipe before cooking.) Nore measurements. Use what you have, right? Does it REALLY matter?
Start with cooked chicken. Any old kind. I had smoked chicken I made the other day, two breasts removed from the bones and skin and chopped into dice sized bits. Set aside.
Then sautee in butter a mix of vegs: first shallots, then add one rib celery, one carrot, one parsnip. You know what to do with them. Then one ear of corn, cut off the cob. Add the chicken, a tablespoon flour, cook, a cup of chicken stock, a cup of white wine. Reduce until slightly thickened. Add chicken. Peas. Put all this into a bowl.
Make a dough, a stick of butter, flour, cold water, roll out, etc. You know how to do this. Put on the pie, bake for about 45 minutes to one hour until crust is lovely. Eat it up. Sing the song.
Ask me a question and I'll tell you why. Cottleston Pie?
You can see I already started eating this before I grabbed the camera!

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I pass no comment on the throngs of barbarous unwashed Stocktonian masses who descended upon the mess I set forth. But I must share some images with you.

S. Margot tells me I should shut off the flash and strive for subtlety and I think she may be right. Please do give me feedback. I'm still new at the food photography thing.

The first is a bacterially fermented assemblage of tiny cukes (cut up afterward), peppers and cibollata onions. It worked because we had a serious cold spell for several weeks,

and these guys did their thing on the counter. Woo! Pucker sour and spicy with Thai chilies.
Then this morning I baked a bread. Actually started it last night. Left it for 8 hours to rise, and just look at the poufy even crumb! A little sour, good crust. When it works it does work. I'm glad I have all this for myself this week.

And here's that bungy salami. Toscano Piccante, right? Spiked with chili pepper, otherwise not much different form the smaller one, but bigger, dried less, with a pronounced sourness that somehow is really fetching. I have a feeling I am seriously getting the knack of this.
I wish you could taste it. Drop by. In lieu of that, let me know if this new flashless mode works.
I do always like a good flash though.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I have been told about this rare malady, but I never suspected it would afflict me. Who ever does? Apparently I am unable to eat anything without taking a picture and posting it first.
In my defense, I've got the house to myself for a few weeks, and can cook whatever I please whenever however I like. It's quite liberating.
So let me explain. The first night I had to answer a friend - localkitchen who tried the swazi sauce in the cookbook and was not overwhelmed. I realized I haven't cooked it according to the basic recipe in years. Beer, ketchup, lemon, pepper, honey, tabasco. None of these flavors are actually discernable in the end, but it was so moist and flavorful. I'll stand by it, as long as I get to play with the recipe. Add raspberry jelly, or cinnamon and za'atar. Gorgeous.
Here it's served with basmati rice studded with currants and pine nuts. And Lisa's eggplants and squash, and a lovely salad of cukes also from her garden. It was a lovely cool night, perfect for sharing a simple meal.

Then yesterday I hit the fridge, determined not to shop. I found some collared greens, leeks and bok choy. Why not? Chuck em in a pot, finely ground and boil em. Note, my cue is from Leah Chase herself who told me how to do a gumbo z'herbes. Of course I forgot much of what she said. So I threw in a cured smoked goose leg and neck. Cooked the hell out of it. Can I testify now? This is one of the few things I really utterly crave in life. Greens. Broccoli rabe is best, but any bitter stewed green will do.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Corn Skivers

At the peak of corn season when you have some extra ears, hang them up to dry. I was thinking of something like Cope's Dried Sweet Corn, a childhood favorite from the Amish Country. If you can find it, absoltuely beautiful stewed or baked in a creamy casserole. But no reason not to DIY.
They come off the cob very easily. After hanging in the sun a few weeks. Just rub vigorously with both hands.

Then grind into a coarse meal. If you use a blender it will be much quicker. But I like the labor.

Then mix one cup of meal with 1 tablespoon fat. Butter would be great, but I'm out, so I used goose fat. Add a pinch or two of salt, a dab of baking powder, and a teaspoon of sugar.
Then but a spoonful into the well greased depressions of a munk pan (for abelskivers) and turn over when brown on one side. Cook them very well.
At the end they're very fragile - because there's no wheat flour, a little crunch and toothsome, but taste very much of sweet corn - not ground field corn, which is what you buy as cornmeal. I saved a cup or so and will try using it for breading fish or chicken, who knows? But this one is a keeper. Very unusual and delightful sublimation of corn. I bet it would go wonderfully in a casserole too. Add egg, cream, butter, and bake in a hot oven an hour or so. A rich corn pudding. But these are much quicker and very tasty.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Your Goose Cooked

Sorry for my absence, I've been in England this past week, great symposium in Oxford. And side trip to Cotswolds and Cornwall.

My blog on goose is on the Penguin Website this week as a guest. If you're turned on, come to the book launch in San Francisco at 18 Reasons this Thursday, when these geese among other things will be there to taste.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Lost Art Of Real Cooking

IT IS official RELEASE DAY!! The Lost Art is for sale. Click on the red book to the right. And on day one out of gate, not bad for an amazon rating at # 6, 712 as of right now, number 9 in food books and gastronomy I think. It's cute, cheap, informative. Buy a copy and I'll make about six cents per sale. Honestly, my intention is to get people into the kitchen, that's all. So please let me know here if you've seen it, and hopefully tried something out. Mangia!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beef Bungs

Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious, I couldn't resist when I saw it in a sausage making catalogue. I was frankly taken aback when I noticed one end is closed. How does the ordure go through then? I need a little bovine anatomy lesson, I think.

In the meantime, we have serious massive salame. One weighs 3 1/2 pounds the other 5. Luckily I have gotten quite proficient at cutting up pork shoulder with a Chinese cleaver. The key is being semi-frozen (the meat, not you!) and a really sharp blade. The thinnest cuts are a breeze. It took me maybe 20 minutes to cut then chop all this into fine pulp. And no funnel is needed, you just put it in by the handful. Takes 30 seconds. Into the smaller is a combination of salt, maple sugar (which works very nicely for the ferment, easier to break down than regular sugar I think) with sage and thyme. The bigger is picante. Here's the proportions: 3 tbs maple sugar, 3 tbs sea salt, 1 tsp instacure #2, a tablespoon each of chipotle powder and smoked pimenton de la Vera. And on a whim a good handful of tarragon. I was thinking Spain I guess. The best part was tying them up! Seriously.

The cost is really pretty reasonable. The pork was $2.99 a pound, times 8 1/2 lbs of pork, about $25. The bung was $10. So $35 for what will be about 7 pounds of salame after drying is about $5 a pound. Not bad at all, considering real cured salame is around $20 or more. And if I had a bigger "cave" I bet I could have used the whole bung and fit at least 10 lbs of meat in it. Someday. Actually I'm thinking a huge mortadella.

The first image was non-descript and white, so I replaced it with this one. After 24 hours, it is a stunning deep red. Not only did I find the lovely word cul-de-sac, which is what the caecum means, indeed an opening on one end only. But even better, I learned from Joan Alcock's paper for Oxford on sausages that the ancients had a word FUNDOLUS, in Varro especially, which means blind end, dead end, only one opening, The Very Same Bung Sausage Indeed.
The most amazing thing I've noticed after a day: you can clearly see the string support system that I tied. But the beeves have their own internal suports too, beaneath the casing, if you look closely. and nothing to do with mine. Beautiful I think.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fresh Chickpeas

Have you experienced this strange phenomenon? Someone mentions something to you and then you see it absolutely everywhere. A couple of weeks ago John T. Edge asked me a question about chickpeas. Basically does hummus originate in the Fertile Crescent? Chickpeas of course do. But then I got thinking. Sesame seeds are African. Lemons are East Asian and don't get to the Mediterranean until classical times. So sure, it may come from the Middle East, but probably no easlier than medieval times. (Incidentally I think his article is in the Times now). So it is, here:
Anyway, suddenly I'm seeing chickpeas everywhere. In magazines, in the article on Palestine for my monster encyclopedia. On TV. On the shopping list. "Now get a hold of yourself Brody, you ain't a chickpea." "What's all this talk about chickpeas Doc?"
So there they were in the market. In a neat pile. Fresh green chickpeas in the pod. They look like little green elf shoes with one or two peas "in the pod" as we swamees say. So I gets an idea to make the ur hummus. Blanched briefly and then pounded in a mortar with just parsley and salt. Really quite fetching. Real fresh beany flavor, without the noise of tahini, lemon and garlic.
But the apotheosis is different, shown above. Just rolled the stuff up in little balls and gently pan fried until crisp on the outside, soft inside. Proto-felafel. A little delicate and probably would have worked better as a pancake. But that's another story.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tonno Sott'Olio

I have so many intriguing pictures of projects in process. I am waiting for the goose parts until they've fully cured. The goose cracklings and rendered fat pictures are seriously sexy. And alas I missed taking a shot of bastirma brought camping this weekend. Fresh sourdough flat breads cooked (ok, slightly burned) on a hot griddle, yoghurt and tahini with cukes, sour pickles. It was nice.
But I came home to this. Trust me, it is worth doing. Go to a good Japanese grocery store and buy a cut of sushi grade albacore tuna. I've never seen it before at our local Sakura. It was labeled ahi, yellow fin, and albacore, though I'm not sure it's really the same species that goes into a can as solid white tuna. We're talking a huge fish, not something you pick up on a fishing trip. Well, maybe you do, and if so, please bring me along.
Take this and salt it well. Nothing more. Leave it for a week. No, I take that back. Look at the picture! Peppered well. And put under weight in the fridge for a week, turned every day.
Then smoke gently over a smouldering oak log for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Place under oil in little glass jars. I know you scientist geeks will tell me to pressure cook at 8,000 pounds pressure in an industrial strength canner. I'm only keeping this for another week, in the fridge, not on the shelf.
It reminded me of two things. Tuna in a can, really incredibly solid and mild flavored. Nothing like good European tuna in a can like Flotta or A's do Mar which is decidedly fishy. And it also reminded me of smoked whitefish, which my mother tells me was my favorite food as a baby. She would break it up, put it on my high chair and leave me for hours to savor it slowly. Apparently kept me quiet! It still would today if I could find anything like it here in the wasteland of the Central Valley. Seriously I've never seen it for sale anywhere in California.
Anyway, this tasted just like it, but not quite as oily. I am about to have it again for dinner right now. I'd give me at least an hour. Preferably in the high chair.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I just returned from the IACP conference in Portland. Pretty much one continuous party, the highlight of which was a butchery workshop: one half of a pig broken down in the French manner, the other half US. So, upon my return home I thought I'd check out some ongoing projects. Kraut worked nicely but the mandoline sliced the cabbage too thinly, so it lost some crunch. Note to self: stick with the knife. My new starter was actually fed in my absence and was potent enough to raise a big sourdough boule on the first try. I'm eating it right now for breakfast. Scrumptious. But do you remember that nice bright white cheese I made a few months ago? Eccolo! And I just happened to be talking about Alexander Fleming in class! It's actually the first thing I have ever made that I'm a little scared to taste. It smells ok, moldy of course and a little rank. I'm fairly certain this is what happens if you don't use raw milk. There was no lactobacillus in the milk, and so the mold in the "cave" just attacked it. The cheese right above it, now 9 months old, remains unscathed. Is the world not endlessly fascinating?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stockton, CA

It must be because we have been demoted from the country's "Most Miserable City" to number two. I'm sure by some criteria, it may be true, but my Stockfish was in lovely form today. A sunny 80 degrees. A delightful little olive oil festival with local producers - I must have tasted a good pint and bought a little olive tree. Then Earth Day in the park across from my house. The Bad Goods rocked, great food songs too. And the market was small but right on. Fava beans already! And WHO has ever seen green almonds in a farmer's market?? Crunchy, slightly lemony and sweet. Is there something else one can do with them? A buck a pound!

Monday, March 22, 2010


Ok, I just couldn't wait to post this. I think an edited down version will eventually go on You Tube and be used for book publicity, but right now here's me making sausages by hand in my kitchen with no equipment. About 20 minutes long. Shot by our own Chris Martin. Take a look at the clips on his site too, they're fabulous.

Notice in the back Sadie playing dead, and the jingling noise which is Buster at my feet.

Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Going Medieval

There are so many exciting things afoot! Mostly thanks to the wonderful leads I have had from fellow food bloggers recently. Kathleen, I think, told me about a site that sells distillation equipment for rosewater and the like. So arriving imminently is a copper still, so I can begin my second career as an alchemist. Dr. Steeven's Water awaits.

Then Deana tells me of a place to buy ambergris in New Zealand. I am on it! 80 bucks for a couple of ounces??? All in the name of research. Bartolomeo Stefani calls.

Someone else - oh it was Hugh Plat!! 17th century, tells me about gum tragacanth. It was partly seeing Ivan Day's lovely sugar sculpture at the MET, but I had to have it. And I will try to throw it on the wheel. Why not?? Real edible sugar plates. Or molded if the wheel doesn't work.

But most importantly, is a movie, shot last week by Don Christobal, featuring me making sausages all by hand with no equipment. I'll give you a link here when it's edited, right now an hour's work boiled down to 20 minutes of documentary, but I think it needs to be more like 15 or 12.

In the meantime, here is today's diversion, as Eddie would say, my going all medieval. Meaning rampant excess with spicerei. Eminemently fitting as I happened to be talking about it in history of medicine class on Friday and in Tudor and Stuart England. Both now in the mid 16th century by chance. So here you see coriander, cardamom (green and brown), long pepper, star anise (which I don't think is authentic but I'm out of aniseed) mustard seed, grains of paradise, nutmeg (still in the shell with the mace) juniper and cinnamon. I had a very hard time resisting the chili peppers - but definitely not appropriate.

Spices were toasted, coarsely crushed and then set aside. Then a mix of salt I smoked over oak (this is a completely random experiment) (3 tbs) with pink curing salt (1 tsp) some muscovado sugar (2tbs) all rubbed on a 4 pound piece of really fatty brisket. Then the riot of spices. All in a big plastic bag, which would can see here. Weighted and thrown in the fridge. Though really I should put it in a barrel in the basement. Well, in about a month, I'll take a look at it. YES, preserved, not just flavored. I'll take it out and steam it for several hours. Maybe it will be a really agressively spiced pastrami with the smoking step skipped, but not using liquid smoke or anything like that. We'll see.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reuben Pizza!

About a month ago I saw some pork shoulder for sale. Country ribs, for about 5 bucks I got maybe 5 pounds. And on a whim wondered what would happen if I cured them the way one does corned beef. Lots of pepper, coriander, bay, juniper, pink salt, maple sugar. Sounding good huh? Into a ziplock and into the fridge. Then I forgot about it. I mean, the whole point of curing is not to use it after a week, but preserve it, right?

The first shot was a few nubbins poached for about 2 hours with shallots and celery. Gorgeously juicy and spicy. With my sauerkraut, scorched asparagus and a baked potato.

Then things went a little over the top. Why not shreds of meat, sauerkraut, gruyere mustard seeds on a pizza crust? Much the same as a Reuben. Absolutely delicious.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Romp through the Gastropolis

I've been in the city the past 5 days. Yes, THE city, NYC. Primarily for a symposium at NYU on food collections in libraries, but otherwise for food itself. Not necessarily fine dining, mostly ingredients, a few proper meals, mostly grazing.

Chinatown, which is nothing like San Francisco's, seems to have been expanding since I lived in NY. Still very little to offer tourists. But the shops teeming with live fish, bizarre vegetables, bins of dried mushrooms, scallops and other unidentified medicinals, remain unchanged. Thankfully! The highlight is Ten Ren's Tea Shop. The King's Tea is among the most wondrous and weird things I have ever consumed. It enhances all other flavors, intensely so. I can still taste the potful I had this morning. I have no idea what's in it and I'm surprised the foodies haven't identified it as a miracle tea, 7th flavor, or something like that. (I just figured out, it's flavored with ginseng!)

Then there was The Pilgrimage. Despite what I have written on this very blog, Langers in L.A. does not even come vaguely close to Katz's. I can not even imagine what made me suspect so. 15 years without the real thing, no doubt. The place was packed, but service excellent. The pastrami literally made me swoon. The owner and I kfetched about David Sax's book Save the Deli. I liked the book a lot. But written by a guy from Toronto?

Dinner at Otto was as expected fabulous. Mario does do a mean pizza. And though the place was crammed to the gills, it was exquisite. My genes notwithstanding, my soul is, I admit, Italian. SO, does anyone remember Stuff Yer Face on Rt. 18 near New Brunswick? Where Mario started.

There were other forays, to the Upper West Side and Zabar's. Kaluystan's in the 20's for spices (all available on line now, but still) even a mad dash across the Brooklyn Bridge to Atlantic Avenue for the Lebanese shops.

The irony of the whole trip is the last night I thought I'd treat myself to a proper meal, at the uber-hip hotel at which I was put up. And I got what must have been food poisoning. If you don't mind such things, Faustina was very tasty. The aftermath I do not recommend.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kraut Pot

This was an idea I had some time ago fiddling around with clay. The idea is a pot big enough to fit a whole big head of cabbage with a wide mouth for easy access. Then the invention is a lid smaller than the upper rim, perforated with holes so it sinks below the level of the liquid. So we have access to good bacteria without any cabbage floating up. The best batches of sauerkraut I've ever made come from this pot.

This batch is just 4 days old. After a week or more I put it in a big covered jar in the wine fridge or the regular fridge if I want to keep it around for a while. Why don't they sell contraptions like this?
Next up some pastrami to go under it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cheese Old and New

Is this not a heart-warming shot? Cheese 7 months old and cheese 7 hours old. There is another significant difference. I was telling someone recently that it's really hard to make cheese using traditional methods if you're using pasteurized milk. Apart from the ultimate flavor, and need for bacterial funk, there's something wrong with the texture and the process sometimes doesn't work right. Yesterday I set out to prove myself wrong. There was another reason too: using raw milk at 9 dollars a half gallon, the cheese on the top was 36 dollars plus labor. Regular supermarket whole milk and a little butter milk as starter, with the bottom one, about 8 bucks. I also did it on the stove top rather than the very gentle water bath. And you know what? I have never had the process go smoother.

I did have to follow my own directions, and aghast, I found an infelicitous turn of phrase that I think I missed in the proofreading. But this was easier and nothing scorched or overheated as I feared it might. Now I have no idea what this will be like flavor-wise, the proof of this cheese will be in the eating.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

No Recipes

I was reading the current Art of Eating this morning. A magazine I have always loved deeply. This winter issue was especially heartening - to see friends in there, Nancy Jenkins with mushrooms and Hank Shaw with ducks. But what really caught my attention was the bread article by James MacGuire. I was literally shaking with excitement, wondering why this has been under my "to read" pile so long.
And as I read of Polaine and flour grades and finally the recipe with exacting measurements, my eyes began to glaze over. Wait, I love baking bread, everything about it! I am on the verge of building an oven, making the damned bricks myself, by hand. Where and why did I lose interest?
It then occured to me that I am constitutionally unable to follow a recipe. Or even precise directions. Making bread, I do not want to measure anything. I want to feel the dough, let it go where it wants, knowing full well it will always be different depending on the weather and the whim of the Gods.
SO this morning at about 8 I just whipped out some of my darling starter, more than I would usually use, being inspired by the article honestly, though I have a gloppy starter not a solid levain. I am not baking every day. Nor can I imagine anyone would or could unless you were running a bakery - which is exactly the problem with most of the bread books. They measure everything meticulously for consistency. If my bread flops, so what?
This one way fun. Maybe two cups of starter I'd fed the night before so it was bubbly and violent. Then a pour of whole wheat, a pour of rye, a glug of honey. Some bread flour. Nothing measured. No recipes. It was stiffer than I expected. Let it rise two hours then knocked it down and shaped into a football. Three more hours sitting on a piece of parchment under a big bowl while I pulled out a tree from the side yard. A BIG one. Had to cut it all up, and I am aching.
Baked it at 550, lots of steam with Buster carefully following every move. He is an apprentice. And take a look. Who needs recipes? Seriously.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bergamot Marmalade

I have never been an avid maker of jam. Or I should say my habit of winging it has resulted in a lot of runny flops. Or worse, so many jars that I couldn't give them away - the year I made concord grape jelly from a huge stockpot full of fruit. And then there's the whole canning jar business, pain in the neck.

But this time it was as if the fruit and I were meant for each other. I have to admit I have never set eyes on a Bergamot orange. I was in San Francisco and went to visit Rachel and her new husband and we all made a brief foray to Bi-Rite and there they were, like little round unassuming lemons. But the aroma, indeed Earl Grey. Heady.

So armed with nothing but a knife, a peeler and a pot, I peeled two specimens and julienned the strips finely. Then removed all the white pith and chopped the flesh, tiny pits and all. (The source of pectin, I think.) Then added about 4 or 5 tablespoons of sugar. This is to taste, and I like it bitter. Some water. Cooked it for about half an hour or a bit longer on high heat. When it was thick, poured it into a glass. Simple enough. On toasted ciabbata, a bit of butter from Isigny, a sprinkle of Spanish sea salt, and a good dollop of this marmalade, utterly magnificent.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chupe de Pescado

Moving rapidly from Uganda to Ecuador, as you can imagine, boggles the mind. At least they're both on the equator. In any case, I ended up writing the encyclopedia article for an author who flaked on me. A lot of fun, but of course it's postponed editing the monster (Food Cultures of the World). But look at what happens. This is a chupe de pescado, and I don't know honestly if the etymology is related to cioppino, but they are similar.

This one starts with a mixture of onions, celery, green bell pepper. So far sounds like a soffrito. Annato for color. Some tomatoes, water. Bay leaves and oregano. Hominy stood in for proper Ecuadorean choclo, then carrots, parsnip (yuca would have been better) a cut up potato, yellow squash, cabbage, and I guess any fish will do. I had crab meat and some shrimp. A raw egg could go in, and even crumbled white cheese. But I went for simplicity and a squeeze of lime. Touch of chili. I am about to eat the leftovers now for dinner. Can not wait!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


The fates decreed, not I, that the article on Uganda for my monster Encylopedia would be written by me. Not the first time I have written something about which I know nothing. Luckily I had a friend of a friend, Roger Serunyigo, tell me all he could from the inside, as someone in the Baganda culture, and whose mom is apparently a fantastic cook.

So today I decided to make matooke. Plantains are not as good as little green bananas from S.E. Asia, which came out nice. Wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Then mashed. And I was told cooked over a real fire makes everything taste better. I am now cerain of that. So, the main dish is Luwombo. For the book I wrote the recipe with chicken, but trust me, beef was unfathomably delicious. You need a really tough fatty cut. I used back ribs, cut off the bone. Use an expensive cut and this will probably be awful.

You first brown some onions, throw in some grated ginger, some salt and pepper, a few chopped tomatoes, and then a lot of real finely pounded peanuts. It's not peanut butter, just ground peanuts. Then quickly grill the beef, which has been cut into small pieces, over a fire. Real fire. After barely browned, throw it into the sauce. Then wrap this whole mixture in banana leaves and tie on top with several strands of banana leaves. Any S.E. Asian shop sells them frozen.

Then put them in a big pot, over an upturned plate, with some water on the bottom, with the matooke too, cover and put on a charcoal fire, and let it steam for a couple of hours. Must be eaten with fingers. Well, actually not, but I prefer my fingers!

Can I say, I have never tasted anything like this in my life. The leaves so intensely flavor everything, no other seasoning is necessary. The beef is soft and pliable, but still chewy, not a stew, but a steamed meat with peanut sauce dish. I could have eaten it all but didn't. No one else in my house would touch it. Anyone like Ugandan food, come over any time.
Any if anyone can explain the sexual politics of luwombo to me, please do! I think if a woman cooks it for a man, it means she wants him. And a man should never marry a woman who can't cook it. Where does that put me??