If I Was Crying… It Was For Freedom

Back from Chicago, this evening I revelled in a bunch of fat, beautiful roots from the garden. New potatoes, chioggia beets, carrots of many colors, and turnips, plus foraged black trumpet mushrooms, peas, herbs, wine, vinegar, and salt. I ate it straight out of the pan, standing over the stove, so you will get no picture. But it tasted very good, and I am happy to be home, even if I miss my family who stayed behind for another week. While there, we had some good food, so this post will recap the 4th cookout and a couple of fine bottles we enjoyed at some friends’ house. Because you all care so much about my vacation, and you’re right to.

First, the wine. Our friends have a pretty fine cellar, and Rick always lets me come down to choose what we’ll drink. This time around, given that we were to have sous-vide beef chuck ribs, we selected two nimble yet powerful reds. First off, we opened a 1991 Guigal Brune et Blonde, one of my favorite wines; for very reasonable money, it offers a serious look at one of the world’s most storied appellations, and it ages like a champ. This one was Burgundian in its transparency and sourdough tang, with twining columns of fruit, soil, and spice elegantly supporting the ethereal perfume. Northern Rhône Syrahs always keep the fruit within a larger structure; it’s never out in front. This is why I fervently hope they’ll never catch on to a wider audience, say, of new-money billionaires who have permanently moved first-growth Bordeaux and much Grand Cru Burgundy out of reach of the rest of us. Next up, we had a 1996 Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Cazetiers.” I love this vineyard (and their 1990 Chambertin is the single greatest wine I have ever drunk). Over the course of drinking it the bottle woke up. Honestly, it could have used another 5-10 years in the cellar; I fear we missed out on that magical, lingering finish that couldn’t get its feet under it in time for us. But still, a meaningful treat. I’d drink wine like this every day if I could.

Pay no attention to the Modernist Cuisine they have on their counter. Let’s never speak of it again.

On Monday, we had a total of something like 16 people over, including a bunch of kids. I figured that wings and ribs are better than burgers and dogs, and best of all can mostly be made ahead of time to make for less harried schwitzing in front of the grill once everyone has arrived. Per usual these days, I tilted everything towards Korea with the flavorings, because that fermented-spicy place is such a happy one for meat of all kinds. I had carved out a couple of hours to make a trip down to Andersonville so I could get gochujang, galangal, and a few other things from the markets I regularly visited back in school, but then the WhoFo in Evanston turned out to have it all. So, for a mere 200% markup–what I call the asshole tax–I was able to one-stop shop. It’s almost like they planned it that way.

The sides were simple, but good, and their seasonings echoed the flavors in the meat. I made a slaw out of jicama, fennel, and nappa cabbage that was actually a bit complicated. First off, I took those three vegetables–chopped, finely shredded, and julienned respectively, and kneaded the first two in salt until they gave up all their liquid. Then I rinsed and squeezed them and added them to the jicama in a big bowl. The dressing took shape over the course of a couple of flights of ingredients. First off, I added the oil from a package of cured Spanish anchovies in place of fish sauce, plus rice vinegar and lots of grated galangal, ginger, and garlic. I let that sit for an hour or so, then tasted it. The anchovy was too strong, so I added peanut butter, sesame oil and mortar-mashed seeds, soy sauce, a bit of honey, and the juice of a lemon, plus lots of minced cilantro and scallion. Then it was perfect; the fish receded to the background and the sweet glalangal lingered in the long aftertaste. It was a lot like a good green papaya salad.

The wings got their customary dredge in seasoned flour, then a good crisping and browning in batches in a large skillet. Once all brown, I put them into a roasting pan and tossed them with the AwesomeSauce: gochujang, half and half, pomegranate molasses, miso, a reduced stock made with the wing tips, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and galangal, plus lots of rice and red wine vinegar. They spent about an hour in a 250˚ oven to finish. To dip the wings in, a winning refinement of my ongoing riff on blue cheese sauce: Greek yogurt, white miso, and gorgonzola dolce mashed together with minced scallions and cilantro. Freaking awesome. Hot sauces on the side because some of the guests can’t handle so much heat.

The ribs got a rub with my usual coffee-based mixture, that included garlic, cumin, chile, cinnamon, allspice, salt, pepper, paprika (not smoked, sadly) and probably a few other things. I wrapped each slab in foil and put them all in the oven at about 200˚ for three hours, then removed them to the grill on low, where I basted them with sauce and turned them several times. The sauce was pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, wine, vinegar, gochujang, miso, liquid smoke (t was in the cupboard) and all the liquid that cooked out of the ribs in the oven. I reduced it while they grilled. There was also potato salad and spinach salad and sautéed pak choi and a bunch of rosés and local beers to drink. It was a festive cookout, and I got most of it together while everyone else was watching the parade.

Sorry for the crap phone pics. Now that I’m home, I have the good camera again. The coming days should see some good posts, so be sure to check back.

19 comments to If I Was Crying… It Was For Freedom

Yours Truly

I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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