Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baked Beans Natto

natto in the style of baked beans

Friday, January 27, 2012

Midnight Goat

A mix of goat leg & shoulder braised in:
Guinness Draught
beef stock
brown sugar
Vietnamese cinnamon
star anise
Angostura bitters
homemade garam masala

I decided to split up the goat into two vessels for comparative braising.
One half in a traditional stovetop braise, no lid on lowest heat possible.
The other half in a Crock-Pot, with lid.
Yes, a Crock-Pot.
A friend of mine, Joanna, gave me one that she wasn't using recently and though they have always reminded me of the clichéd housewife with a deranged Stepford smile simmering beef and starches for her chauvinistic and complacent husband, I've realized that I too was fooled by an initial demographic.

In the end, a Crock-Pot is a stoneware pot in a controlled temperature environment. Not quite sous-vide, but if you apply similar practices why wouldn't the result be close? The key here is to not simply throw all your ingredients together and plug it in. There's some important prep work involved (browning of meat, caramelization of onions + sugar and deglazing). After these steps, you combine everything else. I started prepping around midnight, had everything simmering by 12:30am, leaving me to go to bed and wake up at 8am to some successful goat.

The stovetop braise ended up losing all of it's liquid and a drier result of meat, thought It had more intense flavor.
The Crock-Pot braise yielded a much more tender cut still swimming in delicious goat broth, though the flavor was not as pronounced as the stovetop braise.

What's more important? Texture or flavor? In this scenario I favor texture. Flavor can always be added and improved upon (i'll probably reduce remaining liquid and adjust seasonings from there), but once meat has dried out, it's a lot harder to come back from that.

Though there are many kitchen gadgets that are cringeworthy and seemingly useless, we should also be as open minded as possible to try everything and see if it can actually be useful for you, whether or not it was advertised or intended that way. Rice cookers, egg separators, microwaves; these all have their place in a home or a fine dining kitchen. Certain methods by hand and labor are linked to tradition and stubbornness, set your machismo aside and make it easy on yourself.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Smoked Tuna Melt

Very often time and money collectively become almost impossible to obtain. In these cases, you may make unhealthy decisions out of desperation. However, there is usually a way to turn your decisions into something worthy of your limited time and money. Case in point: canned tuna. As a child, I hated canned tuna. I didn't understand why cat food was so appealing to everyone. Tuna melts and salad sandwiches adorned the lunch boxes of my peers. But lately I find myself craving the canned stuff, so in a fit of reverse nostalgia and frugality, I bought some. I used a Smoking Gun to make that fish meat more worthy, mixed with Colman's mustard aioli and served on whole wheat with charred muenster, tomato, pickled fennel and cilantro. I no longer think I can have canned tuna without smoking it first.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Accidental Ham

I was cutting away at a picnic shoulder to make cubes for pork stew leaving behind a healthy amount of meat on the bone, almost purposely. I say almost, because I knew I wanted to do something with the bone meat, but was unsure though I wanted it to be in the realm of bo ssam or pulled pork. I coated the rest of the meat in salt and brown sugar (didn't even weigh it out) and set it aside hoping to just roast it or something the next day. The next day turned out to be the next 2.5 days and after I brushed and drained off the excess salt/sugar cure I popped it in the oven first thing in the morning at 225ºF. Almost a couple hours later, when I remembered the hunk of pig flesh roasting away, I raised the temp to 300ºF and then finished it to broil at 450ºF. Let it cool a lil', then knifed a sliver to make sure it was decent enough to add to something. After the first bite, I thought to myself "This is fucking ham!". After the feeling of foolishness settled in I said to myself "Of course this is fucking ham..." and my usual process of conception worked its way backwards.

Though chefs are often meticulous and methodical, they are just the same spontaneous and advocates of the willy-nilly. The latter is one way that chefs themselves continue to be excited by food, even if it's an obvious moment or a moment of unexpected discovery. Many a happy accident has gone on to be essential and often iconic in the world of food and the way we perceive it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Shape of Things to Come

Julienne. Oblique. Chiffonnade. Fine Dice.
These are some examples of predetermined shapes applied to mostly vegetables in the world of fine dining. Usually for the sake of presentation, they are designed to be visually striking by way of uniform precision. Sort of like....military art. Ok, that's a bit harsh. I do love the squares, stems, isosceles, spheres and rotundas immaculately displayed on white plates of similar shapes; but as the world of cuisine moves forward, we're always looking for game changers. What is plating like nowadays? How will it change? There are those like Grant Achatz, Heston Blumenthal & Massimo Bottura who have always taken a closer look at the vessel as presentation and how it effects the way we dine. But I am most in admiration of those who are experimenting with the way the food itself is displayed like John Shields & Karen Urie, Magnus Nilsson & Andoni Aduriz. They create the largest sense of wonderment as you probably don't know what you're about to eat from just looking.

As I was peeling some newly roasted beets, I was thinking of the best way to cut and display these purple bulbs. I randomly went to them with my knife creating whatever shapes were being allowed with swiftness and a carefree nature. In the end, I was just making a salad, but the erratic knife work made for a more interesting plate than perfect slices or cubes. Almost as if nature intended it.

This is why I prefer this over this