Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stuff I Thought I Would NOT Like

You know I like to make everything myself. But sometimes you just end up buying stuff, or even having it sent to you. None of this did I expect to like. In fact the pickles, NOT lactofermented I thought I would hate. But they are unbelievably tasty. Sweet, sour, spicy and really crunchy. Addictive. The wasabi tempura nori crackers are like crack. I've never tasted anything like it. Forget any snack food you ever thought you couldn't resist. They should sell this stuff in big bags. And this weird funky fish sauce, smells like pussy with an oak finish. What the hell? It was 27 bucks on amazon, and a drizzle into a cooked dish is insane. Aged in bourbon barrels. It's magic. I'm going to make chili crabs in a few minutes, with shallot, cilantro, chili and a glug of this stuff. I think I will probably faint. And YES, I have nibbling on all three today!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

┼čalgam suyu

I will readily admit, when I become obsessed with something, I can think of little else. This enchanting drink (yes) I had never heard of until I was told to ask for it at a Turkish Restaurant in NY last week. Imagine something sort of like pickle juice: salty, sour, spicy, deeply vegetal, the lactobomb! Criswell predicts it will replace kombucha for hipsters. There are no directions online in English, but I figured out pretty much how to do it from a Turkish video. It is also a yeast ferment, so I'm thinking it contains a little alcohol too. The key is to tie up in a little muslin bag some stale sourdough bread, some dried chickpeas and some bulghur wheat. Then add black carrots, if you can find them, or orange. Some beets gave these batches color. Also turnip. And salt. A touch of raw sugar. Then some green chilies, I used serranos. In one jar I put fennel and ginger for kicks. It's actually not done, it should take 2 weeks, but I opened the jar on the left, which sent up violent bubbles and tasted it, and WOW, it is already magnificent. A fermented cold borscht in a way. I have read that it is traditional to drink with some raki on the side. So THAT is what I'm doing right now. Well pastis, but close enough. Now I think the experiments will commence. Why not parsnip, the finest root on earth?

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Fun Radio Interview in Melbourne

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


This curious flying saucer shaped pie has been familiar to me all my life, but by the name Jaffle, it is entirely new. This is but one of many diverting things I learned in Australia last week. Moreover, they are not filled with ham and cheese, but rather baked beans or spaghetti from a can. The idea is so vile I love it. There are also pies everywhere, meat pies, sold in the 7-11, which are also everywhere. And to make sure it's completely ruined, they dump it into pea soup, for a pie floater. Sounds like something that belongs in the toilet bowl. That's where vegemite belongs too if you ask me.

Tim Tam was also entirely new to me. Vaguely akin to Kit Kat, but better. I was instructed to bite off both ends and sip port through it. Now this really worked. But of everything I tasted, and there really was a lot of fabulous food down under, the anzac biscuit is just gorgeous. Oats, coconut, golden syrup. It's a cookie, but so crisp and lovely. We need them here, trust me.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Home Made Spam

Do you have to ask why anyone would want to make spam at home from scratch? It was the sheer challenge, and the opportunity to make it as laborious as possible. And of course better than the original. This was pork shoulder finely chopped with about 20% fat, salt, instacure #1, herbs, a little sugar. Put into this jar early November last year. Then left in the fridge until today. You ask why? I wanted to see if it would slowly ferment at such low temperatures. I think it did. Smelled lovely when I opened it. Then resealed, cooked in a big stockpot of simmering water and left to cool. I think once cool the gelatinous broth you see here will solidify. Then I'll let it slurp out, slice it into rounds and fry them. Maybe serve on a bun. Though I am thinking onagiri would be really nice filled with a lump of homemade spam inside and furikake flakes. I have leftover rice. Yes, definitely.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why a Capon?

If you look at old recipes, especially those from the Renaissance, the preferred domestic fowl above all others is capon. I've always wondered, why not just a nice young chicken? The sort that we seem to like today? Well I think I finally figured it out this weekend. I suspected it was a flavor thing, sure. But it's actually even more a texture thing. Look at how wonderfully stringy that is. It shreds into a light kind of floss. I removed the breast and legs for roasting and put the rest in a pot for about 9 hours to gently simmer with vegetables for a brodo. The meat left on the bones was pure white, delicate, almost aethereal. Exactly the sort of whiteness you'd want in a blancmanger or the like. Even this dark meat is really light in texture, and I'm guessing this is why it was considered easier to digest than a chicken. It's also really moist and flavorful. Just a little pan drippings is all it needed. So is it worth it to find a capon? Absolutely.  

Here's an easy recipe to try from the Liber de coquina:

Capones et gallinas elixa et, positis speciebus et herbis odoriferis in mortario tere et etiam vitella ovorim et cum brodio distempera. Postea, insimul bulliantur quosque brodium sit gravatum.

Capons or chickens poach, and add spices and aromatic herbs, pound in a mortar and then egg yolks and temper with some broth. Next, boil briefly until the broth is thick.

The spices to use here would be cinnamon, sugar, maybe some nutmeg and herbs, parsley and maybe thyme. In the end you'll have a very interesting thick sauce. And remember to eat with your fingers.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sweete Pies of Veale

For the IACP Conference in Chicago I'll be talking about coffins, as described in cookbooks and Shakespeare. Funeral Baked Meates, served as leftovers in Hamlet. We will be tasting too. The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen (1588) has a lovely recipe. The crust is hand raised. The proportions of filling seemed so perverse to me, that I had to test it. The crust is perfect:

To Make Paste, and to raise Coffins:  Take fine flower, and lay it on a boord, and take a certaine of yolkes of Egges as your quantities of flower is, then take a certaine of Butter and water, and boil them together, but ye must take heed ye put not too many yolks of Egges, for if you doe, it will make it drie and not pleasant in eating: and you must take heed ye put not in too much Butter for if you do, it will make it so fine and so short that you cannot raise. And this paste is good to raise all manner of Coffins.

To Make sweete pies of Veale:  Take Veale and perboyle it verie tender, then chop it small, then take twise as much beef suet and chop it small, then minse both them together, then put Corrans and minced Dates to them, then season your flesh after this manner. Take Pepper, salt, and Saffron, Cloves Mace, Synamon, Ginger, and Sugar, and season your flesh with each of these a quantitie, and mingle them together.

What does this mean? For a small pie that will serve 4, take 1/4 lb of veal shoulder. Braise it until tender and chop finely. Then take 1/2 pound of suet, chop finely by hand, add 1/4 lb of mixed dates chopped and currants. Throw in about a half cup sugar, a lot of cinnamon, other spices. Chill. Then take 2 cups of flour on a board, add an egg yolk, stir about. Boil 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 cup water, and mix it in. This will make a perfect malleable dough to raise your coffin by hand. I didn't use a rolling pin. Well, you can see that. Let it cool and no, you don't slice it. You break it and spoon out, with a 16th c. spoon like this. Set your table like this too.