Month: March 2011

March 16

I am so much happier than I was a few days ago. Yesterday’s enthusiastic digging and planting filled me with the thrill of food season. From this point on, there’s going to be something worth eating within steps of my door every day. To start, it’s all the roots that slumbered underground in the garden all winter that I can now ravage lasciviously to serve my gustatory whims. And soon enough, ramps, nettles, and garlic mustard are going to make the mistake of sticking their necks out far enough for me to cut them off. The herb garden is already stirring.

Today I had one of those crystal clear hankerings around mid-afternoon that I have learned well not to ignore if I want my dinner to be good. To wit: red potatoes in the pantry, and still a jar of tomato purée from last summer. And guanciale, ever guanciale, in the fridge. I have to get more jowls and cure a couple more so there’s no danger whatsoever of running out.

Read the Post Gnocchin’ On Heaven’s Door

March 15

So this month’s Charcutepalooza process was brining. The day they announced it was the day I finished off a lovely pastrami, and the week before we had eaten the last of a tongue pastrami. So that was bad timing. But it did give me an excuse to make something else.

Various forms of grilled sandwiches with home-cured meat played a big part in getting me through this winter. Versions of the reuben in particular really spoke to me, and I’ve been missing them since the last pastrami ran out. (Here’s an account of my from-scratch reuben, and here’s the post about the recent tongue pastrami). I love Moroccan flavors, and in general I prefer lamb to beef, so I thought I’d make lamb pastrami. It’s logical if you think about it; both the brine and the crust can be easily tweaked towards the Maghreb, and lamb takes smoke and strong spices really well. The Reubenesque aspects of the final sandwich all got similar modifications, and the result was a hell of a sandwich.

Read the Post I Put The “Cute” In Charcuterie

March 14

Japan has been on my mind a lot lately, though unfortunately for terrible reasons. Given the many areas in which Japanese culture has influenced me–ceramics, cooking, and to a lesser degree painting–there’s not another country that has made such an impact on me, at least one I’ve never been to. Italy taught me to cook, and France taught me about wine. Japan is more of an aspirational influence, a strange attractor that shapes my cooking and serving from afar.

Read the Post Licence To Eel

March 13

This morning I went to unload a kiln, and the results were inspiring. This is why I make ceramics: apart from the pleasure of working with clay (and productivity makes me happy) the resulting pieces make me want to cook better to do them justice. In this case, these 7-sided bowls made the difference between some steaks with other stuff on a plate and a meal that really worked on every level.

Read the Post Two And A Half Steaks

March 12

I saw a friend’s post on Facebook yesterday morning about free maple sap on offer, and in a matter of hours I was there with jars and growlers to fill, ending up with 2 1/2 gallons for my very own. Now given the 40:1 reduction ratio to make syrup, that wasn’t going to yield a whole lot. So I thought of other things to make with it instead, treating the sap as an ingredient. After tasting some partly-reduced stuff from the big pot on top of his wood stove–which had a profound vanilla flavor–I figured that letting it cook down a bit before using it would make the sap more useful for what I had in mind.

Read the Post The Big Rock Candy Mountains

March 11

It’s pouring rain again–better than snow, for sure, though another flood isn’t quite what my mood needs right now–which makes this post somewhat fitting since the rivers and streams are swollen and raging right now. Yesterday a neighbor gave me a beautiful striped bass from his freezer, left from last season. I put it in the fridge to thaw out overnight. By prep time today, it was perfect.

Read the Post Half Bassed

March 7

A bowl of beans–with the notable exception of cassoulet–is not very sexy. But when every part of the dish (including the bowl) is homemade, the results can be pretty sublime for something so humble.

Read the Post From Scratch

March 4

While I work on my bread page (which is coming, really) I thought I’d put up this easy variation, which also represents the first meal I’ve cooked in a week. It felt good, and doubly so because it coincided with my amazing discovery of a new form of locomotion somewhere between hobbling and limping.

Read the Post Forward March

March 2

I’ve always been a fan of mistakes as the metaphorical equivalent of mutations in genetic code. Most of them result in failure, but once in a while they make for dramatic improvements that could not have occurred otherwise. It’s true in my studio, and it’s most definitely true in the kitchen, where a recent mistake made for a pretty wonderful discovery. This post is supposed to be about duck prosciutto–the first of the Charcutepalooza assignments, which I joined too late to get done in time–but I honestly don’t have much to say about it that I haven’t already. I’ve been making it for several years, and try to never be without it. Here’s a post about it and other goodies from a few years ago. And since it was a hard heel of cured duck that gave me the idea that turned this pwn upside dwn, it seemed like a legitimate jumping-off point for this post.

Read the Post Katsuobeefy