Two meals today featured some homemade charcuterie; I recently got the eponymous book by Ruhlman & Polcyn and have many plans to make some serious stuff this summer. Normally with cookbooks I read them through like a novel and then only occasionally consult them again except for baking and other things where actual measurements are important. For lunch, joined by my cousin Marilyn and her husband Sandy, I picked a lavish salad and made rillettes of trout that Kenny brought by a few days ago and that I smoked this morning. The trout, mixed with local horseradish flavored goat cheese, olive oil, lemon, melted butter and lightly sizzled garlic, herbs, and salt, went in a big bowl and I mashed it with a fork until it was all smooth and creamy (this keeps some texture that the food processor would destroy, and makes it easy to spot any errant bones.) With a crusty baguette, a perfect lunch.
At the same time, I made a paté, but it wasn’t ready in time so we had it for dinner with another salad. The rest of the pork, plus rendered bacon fat, spices (cumin, ginger, Vietnamese 5 spice, paprika, herbs, chile) salt, pepper, and a bit of bread soaked in milk all went in the food processor with just enough water to get a good spin going. Then I folded in the chopped bacon and whacked it into a 2 cup pyrex thing with a lid that I rushed out and bought this morning at the hardware store of all places; I was prepared to go to the fancy kitchen store in town but got lucky. Baked in a bain-Marie for a bit over an hour, then cooled and secured with rubber bands, by dinner it was ready and unmolded and sliced beautifully. Garnished traditionellement with cornichons and a good mustard, and the salad on the side, it was a classic country dinner for a perfect Spring evening, enhanced by a 2004 Jadot Meursault. We’ve been digging the (more affordable) white Burgundies lately, especially with this kind of food.
This is a standby favorite, and when I went to buy tofu this afternoon there were fresh local snap peas at the store as if to underscore the wisdom of my choice (ours are only just flowering.) So half the ground pork I got on Saturday, plus the tofu, garlic, ginger, hot peppers, and a sauce made from the shrimp/miso broth, tamari, rice vinegar, a drop of agave and flour to thicken it went into the wok in roughly that order. Scallions to garnish, and the bolting tatsoi from the garden cleaned the wok out with some lemon. Served on brown rice, with a Crios Torrontes that has such a strong lychee note that it cries out to go with Chinese food. Although to be fair, if I had made this really hot like it’s supposed to be (and like we did pre-Milo) an off-dry riesling would have been the better match. Never one to sweat the wine pairings, Christine made up for the lack of spice by larding hers with sambal oelek.
Well, not really, but if we had Bento boxes it would have looked pretty close. Christine bought both salmon and shrimp today, because they were both great, so I did a multi-course meal but served them all at once. First, the salmon as sashimi, with garlic-infused sesame oil, tamari, lime juice and pink peppercorns, which was decadently creamy, rich, and elegant. Then, the shrimp, shelled- the shells became a broth with onion and carrot- rubbed with a mix of cumin, cinnamon, ginger, curry powder, and salt, and seared in a pan, which I deglazed with some of the shrimp broth. Fresh chopped and sautéed pak choi from the garden got a splash of the same broth to finish, and then I added red miso to the rest of the broth and poured it over soba for a nice soup. We finished with a mesclun salad, as fresh as can be, with a simple vinaigrette. All together it added up to a nicely varied meal, with lots of textures and flavors, many of which were well complimented by a 2002 Jadot Savigny-lès-Beaune “La Dominode” which is still young and tart but has a gorgeous nose that shows what it might be like in a few years.
As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of fridge soup, wherein all the random scraps and leftovers from a week’s worth of meals contribute their various qualities to a rich and efficient pot of goodness that can then be polished off or further transformed depending on quantity. I began dinner thinking that tonight’s would be such a dinner, and we had some good stuff to throw in: the pork-flavored tomato sauce from last night, some lentil salad, asian greens, half an onion, carrots, some bacon, and multicolored pasta. And in fact this all did become a pretty damn good soup. But Christine made it known that soup alone might not satisfy, so instead of making goat cheese-kalamata olive-garlic-herb-truffle oil crostini as an appetizer I took the puréed mixture and used it as a sauce for some butternut squash ravioli from the freezer. Now having pasta twice in a row isn’t optimal, and I had put some pasta into the soup before this adjustment, and store-bought ravioli don’t exactly compare well to homemade fettucine, but at the end of the day she was right and we were full and happy; I also sautéed some zucchini with garlic and wine (a splash of the Mas de Gourgonnier rosé we had with the meal.)
There wasn’t enough pulled pork left to make a meal from, so it became the base for a pasta sauce: herbs, onion, garlic, and a can of tomatoes cooked together for a couple of hours to integrate the deep BBQ with the fresh new flavors. Milo and I rolled out some fresh fettucine- half white, half whole wheat flour- and cut turnip greens and mesclun in the garden. There’s a fabulous chewy density to fresh pasta, and it takes me right back to the “green door,” the unnamed restaurant in Rome behind the school where I would go for artichokes and fettucine on a regular basis. Unlike the cheap red I enjoyed so much back then, this time around we had a 2003 Moreau Saint-Aubin “en Remilly.” It’s hard to believe that nearly 20 years has gone by since I first lived in Rome, but there’s no doubt that that year was the beginning of my trajectory as a self-taught cook; penne all’arrabiata and carciofi alla Romana were the first dishes I ever duplicated without a recipe at home after eating them at restaurants, and they’re still two of my go-to specialties.
I went to Fleisher’s today to stock up- haven’t had meat in quite a while- and so was moved upon return home to use the pulled pork in the freezer from last fall in order to make room for a whole lamb shoulder. I pulled up the hon tsai tai from the garden, since it had all bolted, and stripped the leaves, giving them the garlic & oil treatment with a squeeze of lime at the end. Fresh fava beans cooked long and low with oregano and tomato paste were the focus of Milo’s dinner, and added a nice counterpoint to the pork, which I served on little corn muffins with the beans spread around the plate. A mash of galia endive from the garden with garlic and oil provided a nice sharp condiment, and we drank a 2006 Marques de Cáceres Rioja rosé.
I was in the city last night (where I ordered sushi and drank a delicious, citrusy 2004 Jadot Puligny-Montrachet to celebrate my return to wine-drinking) and returned late enough to need a quick dinner plan. Thus pizza, with spinach from the garden plus olives, fresh (local) tomatoes, garlic, and local mozzarella. With salad from the garden and a 2005 Château de Roquefort Corail, it did the trick on a hot, humid evening and made me very glad to be home. This weekend I’m going shopping, and the scale arrived so tomorrow I’m going to wake up the 150 year old sourdough starter and get to work.
Snapper and bell pepper, to be exact, both of which looked good at the store this afternoon. I juiced the peppers, reserved the foam, and reduced the juice with ginger, garlic, and a bit of agave syrup. The fish got a coating of fine and coarse cornmeal, spices, and salt, and cooked in some olive oil in the iron skillet. After the fish finished, I threw in some pak choi fresh from the garden and wilted it, deglazing the pan with lemon juice (this is by far the easiest way to clean an iron pan; all it needed was a rinse and wipe when dinner was over.) Leftover brown rice became creamy & steamy in a small pot with a little water on low. The reduction and foam offered two versions of the essence of pepper- sweet, tangy, and subtle. It would have been killing with a nice rosé, but I can’t have any wine until tomorrow.
Kind of a mannerist take on the original, with the eggplant slices baked in the oven on a cookie sheet with a bit of oil and salt, and alternating layers of caramelized shiitakes between, with sauce full of garden herbs and cheddar and mozzarella on top. It’s less work and a lot healthier to do it this way, and tastes fantastic. With a perfect salad to finish, it got us through the second day of rain in fine style.
A good lunch for a rainy day, and a great reason to have a mandoline in the cupboard. With rosemary from the herb garden, a drizzle of truffle oil, and fresh mesclun, it really hit the spot. As soon as my scale arrives, I’m going to start making pizza dough from scratch.