Pulled pork takes time. The essence of great barbecue is a long, slow smoking that infuses the meat with deep flavors from both the smoke and the spice rub, and then sets it off with an unctuous swaddle of tangy, sweet, spicy sauce (whatever type you swear by; I’m not getting into a fight about it). But it can’t be hurried.
Except that it can. I’m not saying it’s every bit as good as the slow version, but it’s damn good nonetheless. And you can make it in two hours if you have to.
Keep reading More Pork, Less Work…
Speaking of essentials–like the pressure cooker mentioned previously–it’s hard to beat having a few containers of smoked chicken stock on hand in the freezer. As much as I love smoked chicken (and mine enjoys a pretty good reputation in these parts) I almost love the stock more. It’s like liquid barbecue, yet weightless and fat-free, so it has an Ali-esque butterfly/bee dichotomy going on. It’s mighty for cooking beans, stews, gravy, or anything else that enjoys a good smoky note, and in a pinch it’s superb as a noodle soup base with a little or a lot added on top.
Keep reading Smoke In The Water…
I was going to got to my 20th reunion in Providence, but it didn’t work out. So instead some dear friends from Boston (one of whom predates college) came for a couple of nights, and festivities were in order. I didn’t have time to do multi-course extravaganzas, so I concentrated instead on making single-plate meals of high quality and opening serious wine to wash them down. It’s not the worst strategy.
Keep reading I Got Your Reunion Right Here…
It cooled off after a pretty perfect Holiday weekend, and rain is coming. Good news for the basil seedlings I put in the ground today, and a welcome excuse to get all comforty with the cooking. Yesterday’s smoked sable got our smokerphilia fully engaged, so when asked about any dinner-related desires, the wife quickly pulled some duck breasts from the freezer and nodded expectantly at the porch. Luckily, on our trip to Vermont I had remembered to stock up on wood, so I was able to oblige.
The (local) moulard duck breasts come two to a pack, so I cut the smaller one off and packed it in a cure so it can become prosciutto in the near future. The bigger one, fat scored, and seasoned with lots of salt and pepper, went into a medium-vigorous smoker for about an hour. As always when smoking duck, I put a receptacle beneath the meat to catch every molecule of the sacred smoked fat. While the duck got its bacon on, I washed and sautéed a big bowl of spinach (and a few radish leaves) from the garden with a little onion, then puréed it with a dribble of heavy cream left over from yesterday’s mojito ice cream, plus a bit of Ultratex 8 to thicken it and keep it from weeping. I also made pommes écrasées with some good red potatoes, copious olive oil, salt, pepper, and chives. I so love potatoes this way, and properly made they have a profundity that . . . → Read More: Battle Of The Fats™
On Saturday Kee and Todd came for dinner. We’ve only been meaning to get together for a year, so the event was right on schedule. They’re both Southern, so I took it upon myself to violate one of their most sacred culinary traditions in that reckless and insensitive way that I have. It’s one of the reasons we have to keep inviting new people over.
The white beans from the other night, whirled with garlic and olive oil in the processor, turned into a pretty skippy Crostino Adornment Paste® which we enjoyed while chatting, looking at the floor, and surreptitiously checking our watches. Milo and I had been out earlier, and bought some littlenecks, and I defrosted a quart of fish stock. Using the 10-grain mix from Wild Hive Farm- which I love, and have written about before- after a soak, I made a paella-flavored “risotto” with the fish stock, saffron, pimentón, and the liquor from steaming the clams over the grains at the end.
Having polished off the Spanish white I asked them to bring (a Rias Baixas albariño) with the crostini, I popped a 1983 Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet to see if it was drinkable. The place where I get them has a bunch of old Burgundies that have dubious provenance, and some of them are completely cooked. But the ones that aren’t make up for all the rest; this bottle cost $20 with the case discount and was pure plummy gorgeousness- like a lipstick that . . . → Read More: Entertaining
We had some friends over for dinner who live close by but for some reason we don’t manage to see often enough- even though the kids all get along so well and we always have a great time together. I had an idea recently, spurred by the bacon, so I wrapped scallops in bacon, glued with activa, and vacuum-sealed them into tiny muffin tins to help them keep their shape. After about 8 hours I opened the bag, popped them out, and dropped them into a shrieking hot pan for about 30 seconds on a side, then cut the heat and added a glug of flat old champagne from the fridge to deglaze, and covered them. Meanwhile, more champagne reduced with kimchi juice and then finished with a pat of butter became the sauce for these luscious morsels, and I garnished them with rosemary and chioggia beet slices. Not the worst appetizer ever made.
And while all this was going on, two chickens smoked merrily on our own apple wood, and potatoes boiled for salad. Now I know that there are loyalties and traditions when it comes to potato salad. I also know that they’re reduced to mere nonsense in the glare of genius that once again my Grandmother’s version brings to the subject. Dress cut, still-hot potatoes with good vinegar(s), olive oil, pickles, scallions, garlic, salt, pepper, and copious herbs from the garden and you will bask in the reverent gratitude your guests/hosts/random sycophants . . . → Read More: Hells Yeah
This began ages ago, with a local, organic pork belly that I squared off (and used the trimmings to make salt pork) then cured with salt, sugar, maple syrup, togarashi, pink peppercorns, bay leaves, and coffee for about 6 weeks. It could have gone much less, but I could not.
Smoked- along with the duck- yesterday on a nice mix of our own maple & apple wood plus grape vines, it achieved a sublime deep smokiness along with a complex sweet-spicy-porkitude that words simply will not suffice to describe. Imagine your favorite sex act on a plate, and you’ll be close. I set some thick (1/8 inch) slices to frying on Monday morning and everyone in the house (7 people) was in the kitchen drooling expectantly within a minute or two.
Having this in the fridge makes me want to use it in everything I make, although it is so good by itself I wonder if it will last long enough to get much use as a supporting player in anything. I pretty much need to go get another belly right away. Honestly, it’s like being able to microwave your own meth. And when it’s all used up, I’ll still have the skin to play . . . → Read More: Makin’ Bacon
Jeff and Eve came to visit, and we had pulled a duck out of the freezer in anticipation. I lit the smoker, and in addition to smoking the duck (on a mixture of maple, apple, and grape vines- all from our yard) I also smoked the bacon that had been patiently curing in back of the fridge for so long (more on that later.) In addition, I made polenta, green mash, caramelized turnips (they’ve gotten really big in the last week or so) and cooked chioggia beet and turnip greens together with some of the newly-smoked bacon.
We started with some of our duck prosciutto and thin slices of the still-warm bacon as an appetizer, accompanied by a 2006 Jacky Blot Triple Zéro- a no-dosage sparkler that is super clean and elegant and works well with salty meat like this. Then we piled all the food on the table and got to work on it. Nothing remained. We drank a Pleiades XVI, and then a 2003 Jaboulet Vacqueyras which are both outstanding wines, and go famously with high-end peasant food like this.
For dessert, since I had picked TWO QUARTS of strawberries that morning from our 4 x 8 foot bed, I mashed some of them in the suribachi and stirred in whole yogurt and maple syrup, then ran it through the ice cream machine and served it on top of more strawberries. I must say that “June-bearing strawberries” is one of the great triumphs of truth in advertising; these varieties are insanely . . . → Read More: Lhude Sing Cucu
I woke up feeling like garbage; the cold had migrated to me. Fortunately, I had gotten enough done ahead of time so that I was able to go back to sleep for three hours and felt much better. I got the smoker going, and put in four chickens. After an hour, the chickens repaired to a 200˚ oven while 5 slabs of well-rubbed spare ribs took their place on the grill. I kept the fire medium low, alternating between our apple and maple wood while I took care of the rest of the preparations.
Which were: three cabbages worth of slow-cooked sauerkraut (begun the day before, finished the day of) six huge turnips cubed and caramelized with a dash of vanilla to finish, ricotta gnocchi colored with beet juice to make them a nice girly pink, and a salad of baby greens and thinnings. Then Gerard showed up, bearing an ounce of Osetra caviar, a couple of dozen Long Island oysters, a trough of wasabi tobiko, and a big bowl of already foamy blini batter. He had given me the side of King Salmon a few days earlier to cure- I used salt, brown sugar, togarashi, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and lime zest, and it sat in the cure for two days- so it was firm and delicious and ready to slice.
He made the blini, them topped them with salmon, crème fraiche, caviar, and a chive. Then he shucked the oysters and gave them each a . . . → Read More: Christine’s Birthday, Part 3: Extended Dance Party Remix
Indeed. So First off, I managed to pick a ton of green beans and kale, then blanch and freeze them while the duck smoked on our very own apple wood; its neck and giblets went in a pot with carrot, celery, shallot and parsley from the garden to make a broth for freezing until needed. The duck legs, breasts, and fat I ordered arrived, locally sourced, which means that tomorrow is confit and prosciutto day- it all gets salted and seasoned in anticipation of two very different yet equally alchemical treatments.
To accompany the luscious, smoky bird, our standard sides, since there was no time for anything fancy: mashed sweet potatoes and kale (some of the big batch I blanched.) Leftover endive mash and a gooey red wine reduction (Marquis Philips is the best for this sort of thing, including poached pears and tart glazes) with 5-spice and honey rounded out the meal. A 1997 Marchesato degli Aleramici Brunello was still kind of a big tannic bitch, but had good fruit and complexity. I’m a big fan of 1999 Brunello right now, and the 2001s are of course wonderful, but 97 is a bit of a sleeper; it needs more time but represents a good value in the face of the Wine Speculator hype surrounding more . . . → Read More: Day of the Duck