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January 25, 2011

In The Kitchen: Broiled Whole Branzino

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In pursuit of my goal of eating and cooking more fish, I decided to order some in a recent FreshDirect order. Part of my difficulty with fish is that I have a hard time keeping track of what fish have which textures. Some are firm, some or soft and mushy, some are oily and strongly flavored. I still don't have a lot in the way of a point of reference. So, I decided to go with the less imaginative option and just try to recreate the dish I had at Eataly the other day.

I ordered a whole branzino, just like I had there, butterflied and deboned. See how it went after the jump...

Continue reading "In The Kitchen: Broiled Whole Branzino" »

May 11, 2010

Bed-Stuy's Blowin' up

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I moved to Bed-Stuy in 1986. Over the nearly 25 years since then, my relationship with the neighborhood has had its ups and downs. As a kid commuting to Brookln Heights every day, It bugged me that we didn't have bookstore and ice cream shops like on Montague Street. When I was a teenager, I was deeply embarrassed when hosting a visiting exchange student to have to walk him through a bloody crime scene on his first morning with us.

After college, my perspective changed, I still wished for amenities found elsewhere in New York, but I certainly appreciated living in Brownstone and paying the same price as friends in Fort Greene for twice the space - with a backyard, no less. Bars, restaurants, ice cream shops were all things I'd have to commute for, but the alternative was gentrification.

That subject, especially in Brooklyn can lead to some heated debates. While I'm certainly enjoying many of the perks gentrification provides in other neighborhoods, i understand that it can also leave an area unrecognizable and worse, unaffordable. That said, everything changes over time and there's no predicting how things will go.

New places are popping up all over the neighborhood and a few concerns aside, I'm very much enjoying it. There are restaurants, a book store, a wine bar and an art gallery. There are places for community to come together besides churches and places to imbibe besides the street corner. I'm pretty excited about it, truth be told.

This is all my wordy way of introducing a series I'll be doing over the next couple weeks highlighting places, new and old around Bed-Stuy that I haven't given a lot of attention to on the blog.

April 16, 2010

Gratuitous Bacon Shot

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April 7, 2010

Cooking: Easter Bunny

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This weekend, I took my own twisted turn at Easter dinner. Heathen that I am, I wouldn't have known when Easter even was if not for the Lenten lunch I had a couple weeks ago.

A recent article in The Times about rabbit as an upcoming food trend inspired me to finally seek out a rabbit to play with in the kitchen.

I've only cooked rabbit once, years ago, on a trip to Paris with Tammi. I found a whole rabbit shrink-wrapped in a market near our apartment in the Marais. I've wanted to do it again ever since, but prices and availability make rabbit more difficult to cook often.

I'm fond of rabbit, but the price point isn't really a good one for experimentation. This D'artagnan rabbit, purchased at The Meat Hook, cost about $30 at $10 a pound. Not cheap for something about the size of a chicken.

Follow the jump for the before pic and a blow by blow on how I cooked it.

Continue reading "Cooking: Easter Bunny" »

January 11, 2010

Cooking: Hearts Afire

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We got one last beautiful day for the year the Sunday after Christmas. Just before the current deep freeze, the temperature reach up into the 50s and I took the opportunity to fire up the grill.

Eric came over and we grilled the lamb and beef hearts that I got from Fleisher's at the WinterMarket.

I was attracted to heart initially for the spectacle of the thing. It just seems to odd and primal, how could I not try it after all my 'whole beast' talk? But after trying it, it's the flavor an texture that will have me going back for more.

The preparation was limited to cutting off the fatty and tough bits and seasoning it with salt and pepper.

We grilled them to about medium rare and cut them into strips with kitchen shears.

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The meat was dense and a bit chewy without being tough. The flavors were intense. They tasted like beef and lamb, just more so. The beef did have a slightly 'liver-y' flavor, but not overpoweringly so.

At this point it is far too cold for going back out to grill again, but expect hearts to be a staple come grilling season.

December 7, 2009

The Tree Starts the Season

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The end of the year is sort of a whirlwind. Starting with the build-up to Thanksgiving, the meme-storm of holidays and music and events is enough to sweep you up or knock you down.

I find it a bit disorienting this year. I love the season, but I haven't -felt- it yet. The weather has certainly cooled down appropriately and the holiday music is being blared in more places than I'd like. But the season doesn't quite feel there yet for me.

I think tomorrow is when it'll happen. Tammi and I are getting our Christmas Tree after work tomorrow night. We'll follow the long time holiday tradition and decorate it while listening to the sounds of Nat, Ella and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

November 26, 2009

Homeward Bound

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By the time this goes up, Tammi and I will be in the air again, heading for a quick stopover at O'Hare, then on back to the Better Borough. We're giving ourselves a little more time at home this time around to relax and re-acclimate to being at home, catch up on things and maybe to get some cooking done after a couple of weeks out of the kitchen.

Expect some posts in the next week or so about Hawai'i, followed up by various catch up posts from the last few months.

Happy Thanksgiving!

August 3, 2009

Butchery At Home: The Fourth of July

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That's right, I cut up another pig. It's late for me to post this, but, hey, I actually have a little time for once.

All my talk of butchery got me interested in doing a bit of my own. For our July 4th shindig, I bought a 37 pound pig and cut it up myself. This was the biggest pig I've tackled to date, but after a 16 and a 20 pounder, I had the anatomy down.

Like my first porchetta attempt last year, I deboned the mid-section and seasoned it with fennel pollen, rosemary, garlic and this time, lemon juice instead of full slices.

I rubbed the ribs with a cajun seasoning, which would have been great if there had been any meat to speak of there.

The shoulders and front legs were marinated in a Cuban citrus mixture, what's been a fixture of mine for years. Orange, Lime and Grapefruit juice mixed with vinegar, cumin, onions and garlic.

One back leg was rubbed in an achiote paste and slow roasted on the grill. The other, I have frozen and plan to cure as a ham. I may wait until the humidity goes down so I can avoid the trouble I ran into last time...

And of course, there's the head. Appleman made the wonderful suggestion of braising and then roasting it. It sounded like a great idea, but then I was perplexed by what to braise it in.

I found inspiration looking in the freezer. There were a number of containers full of porchetta stock from the bones of the Christmas party porchetta that I had no idea what I was going to do with. This was the answer.

I slow cooked the head half-covered in the stock and a mixture of the leftover seasonings from the new batch of porchetta, then I put the head on a cast iron and threw it on the grill for a bit to get some smoke and to crisp up.

It worked out really well. I shredded the meat from the cheeks and the ears and snout and chopped it up. it became an unctuous, mass of pulled pork that everyone who tasted it loved. The flavors of fennel and rosemary permeated every bite without dominating and the texture was transcendental in its tenderness.

The pig was definitely a win all around (except for the ribs, which had no meat on them). I don't know the next time I'll be able to do something like this again, but I've certainly eager to braise/roast another head and make wonderful things out of it.

Continue reading "Butchery At Home: The Fourth of July" »

July 28, 2009

An Updated Update: MXB Farmers Market in Danger

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No sooner had I posted about some of the goodies at the market last weekend than I get word that it might not be there when I get back from LA. The short version is that the farmer who has been bringing the majority of the great quality produce to the market plans to pull out because they aren't getting enough business.

Below is the message from Tara, who has been involved with the organizing for the market. It includes some solid steps that each of us can take to help save the market. Please read through, but the key thing to do would be to come out to support the market and to tell as many people as you can about it.

Here's Tara's message:

I know at this point some of you are probably sick of my Farmer's Market emails, but I ask that you please bear with me yet again because this is really important.

On Saturday while I was at the market, we got word that Migliorelli Farms, the sole farmer's vendor at the market at this time, will not be back after this coming Saturday, as the sales at the market have not been enough to cover their expenses (labor and gas) in coming out to the market. While the number of people visiting and purchasing at the market has been increasing (we do customer counts), it has not yet been sufficient. The market has only been open three weeks this season so this is definitely not good for momentum.

While the Brooklyn Rescue Mission will not be deterred and there will always be a market on Saturday, this is definitely a setback, as it took many calls and emails on their behalf to get a farm such as Migliorelli to sell at the market and will take even more effort to find a replacement vendor. The BRM is only interested in bringing quality food to the neighborhood so to have a farm like Migliorelli, that also sells in Union Square, was definitely a big step towards having more food equity in the area.  Unfortunately, there just hasn't been enough of a presence by local residents. Bedford Stuyvesant is a large neighborhood and despite the ads in the local papers, blog postings, emails, the several thousand flyers distributed throughout the area, there are definitely still some people we haven't yet reached, but there are also a lot of people who do know about the market and have chosen to not visit it, for whatever reason. This is unfortunate as those who have visited have been very pleased with the selection, quality, and price of the produce. We've also added a fresh bread vendor and the Brooklyn Rescue Mission is still working on bringing more vendors on, such as a honey vendor.

This email isn't to shame Migliorelli as it is understandable that they need to meet their margin and cannot operate at a loss. This is more of a "community call", as it seems we are proving the case many have been saying about Bed Stuy: that we cannot maintan and sustain a farmer's market in this community. I don't believe this, the Brooklyn Rescue Mission doesn't believe this, and they are working hard to prove these people wrong. You can help by coming out this Saturday, August 1st and visiting the market and doing your produce shopping for the week at the market. I also ask that you keep coming as often as you can after this Saturday but I truly believe that after you come on Saturday and see what the market has to offer, you'll come regularly on your own because it truly is growing into something the community can be proud to support. I know we all have our likes and dislikes about the community and access to quality food is definitely one of them. It isn't enough knowing that there's a market in the area-we have to support it as well to make it sustainable!

Malcolm X Community Farmer's Market
Malcolm X Blvd between Marion and Chauncey Streets-in front of Jackie Robinson Park
8am-1pm (Migliorelli often stays past 1pm)
A/C train to Utica Avenue (the market is right around the corner!)
B46 or B25  to Malcolm X and Fulton (market is right across the street!)

If you want to "see" what the market has to offer, check some of the photos taken by some bloggers who have come by the market:

Off To Market (DigitalTammi)

A Farmers Market Grows in Brooklyn(UltraClay)

Saturday is Farmers Market Day
(Bed-Stuy Blog)

Please tell everyone you know! If they live in or near Bed Stuy or love local produce or is just down to support something that helps build community-tell them to come out this Saturday. I hope to see you there. If you cannot make it out on Saturday, you can help us this week by picking up some flyers at the Brooklyn Rescue Mission to distribute-contact me for more information. I have to plug yet again that there are other volunteer opportunities relating to the market so you can contact me about that as well.

Thanks,
Tara

July 17, 2009

Reminder: MXB Farmers Market Week 2

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Just a reminder here for all those in the neighborhood that tomorrow is week 2 of the Malcolm X Blvd Farmers Market, brought to us by Brooklyn Rescue Mission.

Yesterday, Brownstoner featured my post about last week's market.

Tammi also posted about it on her blog and Erica, a neighbor we met last weekend put together a slideshow on her blog, Erica Eats.

We're all trying to publicize this as much as we can. Hopefully when I'm next in town for the market, that it will have quite the following.

---
Malcolm X Blvd Farmers Market
Jackie Robinson Park
Malcolm X Blvd and Marion Street, 1 block from Fulton Street

For more information about the market or Brooklyn Rescue Mission go to:

http://brooklynrescuemission.org/farmstand.aspx

To volunteer, call 718 363-3085

June 4, 2009

Amherst: 10th Reunion

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Somehow, ten years have passed since I graduated from college. Last weekend I returned to Amherst College for my class reunion. It was my first time on campus since the last reunion, five years ago.

For all my travels, I've only ever lived in two areas in my thirty-odd years. As such, I find myself very tightly bonded to this small town that is so contrary to everywhere else I'm ever drawn to. Returning was comforting, yet jarring.

As a New Yorker, I should be more than a little familiar with the change and progress that transforms the world around us all the time. But seeing it in Amherst fwas slightly traumatic. Dorms were gutted and renovated and the old, decaying bits we thought of as character were replaced with more practical features.

Regardless of the other differences around campus, it was reassuring to take in the same view from the top of Memorial Hill that blew me away as a prospective student 15 years ago.

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May 15, 2009

Finally! Provisions' Lamb Bacon

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After many failed attempts, I finally got my hands on this slab of lamb bacon from Provisions. Even better, they are now curing more on a regular basis so getting another batch won't take nearly so long.

First observation: As you can see here, it's very fatty. There's more meat in there that the sliver visible in this picture, but the fat is prominent.

My first experiment was to cut strips and wrap them in dates. I love bacon wrapped dates and I figured the combination of North African/Middle Eastern ingredients would go together well.

This wasn't as successful as I'd have liked. As my first try cooking the bacon, I realized afterward that I had no idea how crispy the bacon cooked on its own. When I cooked it more lightly, it was a little too gummy and was difficult to cut through with your teeth. When I left it to cook longer, it crisped up too much and had a burnt, gamy flavor that wasn't so great.

There is probably a perfect medium in there somewhere, but I didn't want to waste my entire slab trying this out, so I shelved that idea.


My second, more successful idea after the jump...

Continue reading "Finally! Provisions' Lamb Bacon" »

May 12, 2009

Gardening Time

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With the spring weather finally becoming bearable, Tammi and I have finally taken on taming our backyard. She's got various flowers that she wants to plant and I've been eying veggies and herbs, like this basil plant I caught at the farmers market last weekend. So far, I've planted oregano, lemon thyme, rosemary and a selection of various hot peppers.

In years past, I gardened heavily. My old apartment had full sun and my was garden full of tomatoes, peppers, squash, and herbs galore. I've got some feeling around to do to figure out what will work out in this yard, which is much more heavily shaded.

March 25, 2009

Curing: Pancetta

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Two weeks ago, I picked up a pack of Pork Belly from HMart without knowing what I was going to do with it. I had planned on cooking it, but then realized that my schedule was suddenly packed. Instead of throwing it in the freezer and forgetting about it, I decided it was time for another cure. After the success of the guanciale, I wanted something sort of similar. Like the guanciale, pancetta has some of the same seasonings, cures for about a week and hangs and ages for another week.

To see how I turned that into this:
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follow the jump...

Continue reading "Curing: Pancetta" »

March 15, 2009

Guanciale

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I read a blog post the other day claiming that Cheek may be the new Belly. I could see that. It's fatty and streaked with lovely, tender meat. And it cures wonderfully.

This lovely piece of porky goodness is pork cheek I picked up at Marlowe & Daughters. Following Ruhlman's recipe, I cured it for a few days and then let it hang in the basement wrapped in cheese cloth for a few weeks. When it came out, it looked like this:

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Sliced thin and sauteed like bacon, it's a little fattier than I want. So I thought about using it as a bacon substitute for recipes that call for slab bacon or pancetta.

While chatting with Eric the other day he suggested using it in a pasta sauce. After the jump, my notes on putting it together.

Continue reading "Guanciale" »

March 12, 2009

Finding the Cure

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This is a pork jowl, cured and aged to become guanciale. It's one of the many meats I've cured in the last several months. I keep mentioning all the curing and aging of meat I've been up to lately in passing without going into nearly enough detail. My apologies.

A little over a year ago, Eric bought me what may be my most interesting cookbook ever: Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. I have to admit that at first I was a little put off by the necessity of special ingredients to avoid botulism, but ultimately the arcana required appeals to my particular strain of geek. Even before I was willing or able to make anything in the book, the theory of the concepts behind it had me reading it like a novel.

Once I finally got past my initial uneasiness, I made the following:

Guanciale
Pork Belly Confit
Pork Rillettes
Lardo
Bacon
Fatback
Pancetta

...and I've got a ham hanging until summer. We'll have to see how that one works out.

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This is a piece of cured belly just before I smoked it. Bacon and variations thereof have been the most common items I've made from Charcuterie. Of the bacons I've made, some were home smoked over hickory sawdust and lump charcoal, while others were soaked in a molasses mixture resulting in a sweet meat to accompany breakfast.

Others, like pancetta, salt pork and guanciale follow more of less the same directions, with adjustments in the cut of meat or the salts and spices used. They also tend to age longer, whether in the cure or not.

As I'm writing up more about the meat markets I've been going to, I've been neglecting where all that meat is going. I'll be putting a bit more effort into documenting this further, including an upcoming post on what I did with the guanciale that should be up in a couple days.

March 3, 2009

Meatball Madness: Batali's Neopolitan

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I've put these meatballs off for last because it was my least favorite. I totally flubbed these.

In this recipe, from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano he calls for a filler of bread chunks soaked in water. The chunks I used were apparently too big and/or soaked for too little time, because they became much too prominent a part of each meatball.

In contrast to the breadcrumbs and semolina, which disintegrated under the meat juices, the pieces of bread never really came apart.

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These soggy bits of bread did not shred apart as much as I would have hoped, which meant that I ended up with giant chunks of bread in each meatball.

Eric tells me that a traditional recipe for veal meatballs similarly calls for chunks of bread, but has them soaked in milk and uses ricotta cheese to keep it all together. That sounds remarkably creamy and unctuous given the high collagen found in veal. I just wonder about it being flavorful enough. I suppose this is where you are sure to use the best quality ingredients and proper seasoning.

Another reason I think these meatballs weren't successful was that I stuck to beef and veal and left out pork due to the dietary restrictions of my diners that night. I suspect that the right amount of fatty pork would have improved this greatly. But then I think that about a lot of things...

February 25, 2009

Meatball Madness: Lamb Meatballs

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I decided to do this version of lamb meatballs at the last minute. The morning of the meatball gathering, I saw Nigella cook it and it intrigued me.

The recipe is more notable for what it doesn't have than what it does. Lamb in general and ground lamb in particular is almost always matched with garlic, mint, rosemary or some combination there of. That's certainly what was going to be in the kefta I initially planned on making.

Instead, Nigella uses semolina flour and scallions. There were some familiar flavors, with the additions of cumin, and interestingly cinnamon and allspice for a touch of North African flavor.

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The only thing I can say about the semolina is that I didn't really notice it in eating the meatballs. That's good because while making them, I was concerned that the gritty texture of the flour might carry over into the finished product.

These were only pan fried meatballs, which I think helped out a lot. It made the exterior wonderfully crisp in a way none of the oven-cooked ones quite managed.

In the end, these were very successful. Given the intense flavor of this batch of lamb, the more subtle flavors of the spices here were an aside to the main attraction.

That said, the strong flavor makes my think it could probably have stood up well to the garlic and herbs of a traditional style as well.

February 24, 2009

Cabrito, Jalisco Style

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When I heard that Provisions was going to be getting an entire baby goat, I knew I had to have some. Goat has been on my list of meats I would like to learn how to cook for a little while now. I first tried this recipe last year with an adult goat, but found it way too gamy. Using kid, it was perfect.

The meat was moist and flavorful, but with no gaminess. Tammi, who was entirely apprehensive about eating goat, loved it.

No step-by step this time around, but here's the broad strokes of the recipe, which is adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday after the jump...

Continue reading "Cabrito, Jalisco Style" »

February 23, 2009

Meatball Madness: Chipotle Pork

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The chipotle pork meatballs were the one familiar recipe of the Meatball Madness batch. I made these over and over again after coming home from Mexico City in 2007. I love this dish. The sauce and the meat are flavored with bacon and chipotles. Wood smoke of one sort or another is integrated into every single bite, some time doubly or triply.

The bacon I used was home-cured and smoked with hickory sawdust over the last warm weekend. I experimented with one thing that I wouldn't do again here. I cut the rind into slivers and mixed it in with the meat. I felt it in every meatball I ate. That skin is just a little too chewy for something like that. Next time I'll toss it in a stew.

Otherwise, this was my great success of the evening. It was a little too spicy for some folks, but I thought it was perfect.

The recipe is from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday. The other variation I made was adding dried, ground chipotle pepper to the seasoning of the meat. This built up the heat and smoke from within instead of it just coming from the sauce. Again, I like spicy foods, so your mileage may vary.

After the jump, the step by step:

Continue reading "Meatball Madness: Chipotle Pork" »

February 19, 2009

Meatball Madness: Tsukune

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Full disclosure: the idea of ground chicken, whether in a sausage, a patty or a meatball is not one I'm completely behind. I've had good chicken sausage once or twice and the Japanese meatballs I've had at izakaya in the past have been very good. But the fact is that I have a strong bias against the idea of ground chicken. So maybe my heart just wasn't in this one.

That said, I have other issues with the way these grilled chicken meatballs turned out. First, this was meat I had planned to grind myself. I already had it on hand and had to improvise with the food processor. As mentioned, I just don't feel a food processor does this particular job well. The meat mixture, below, was far more pasty than I think good ground meat ought to be.

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Besides that, I discovered at the last minute that I had recently finished my Mirin, essential to both the tare sauce suggested for the Tsukune and the teriyaki sauce I hoped to use in its stead. I substituted Chinese rice wine, which just isn't the same thing. I had to add a lot more sugar to compensate for the flavor and consequently ended up charring in the broiler more than it would otherwise have.

The final product was ok, and I used the leftovers in a noodle soup that turned out pretty well, but I'm pretty sure I won't be making this again, more out of my own tastes than anything intrinsically wrong with the dish. I'll leave this one to the grillmasters at the Izakaya.

Meatball Madness: Leftovers

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So, after you've already made 4 different types of meatballs, but you still have ground meat on hand, what do you do? Clearly, making more meatballs was not a part of the plan. For the next week Tammi and I will be eating them in soups, on pastas and just on their own.

Much of the raw meat went in the freezer where I'll go back to get it once I'm ready for more meatballs or burgers or some other such thing. But the lamb, I knew what to do with right away: Shepherd's Pie!

I love Shepherd's Pie. I mean how can you not? It's sauteed ground meat, in this case the traditional lamb, topped with veggies (including the baby carrots we had for a snack before the meatballs were ready), which soften in the meat's fat, then topped with rich, creamy mashed potatoes and then baked until an awesome crust forms over the top. So good.

The lamb I used here was some of the pricier meat I picked up at Provisions in Fort Greene. The lamb flavor is forward and unapologetic. It's not excessively gamy, but it'll never be mistaken for beef. It was perfect here and I'm glad I decided to hold on to some of it for this.

The specks on top are bits of potato skin. I have never been one to peel potatoes, I just don't see the point. The skin is always so yummy, why would I toss it??

For those looking to see below the surface, here's a close up of the profile shot:

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February 17, 2009

Meatball Madness

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After a month and a half of thinking about it, I finally had the time (and the mouths to feed) to actually have my meatball fest. On Sunday, I tried my hand at 4 different meatball recipes and had a few people over to sample them.

My first major challenge was that my Kitchenaid, which supplies the motor for my meat grinder is on the fritz, so grinding the meat myself didn't work out. This really bummed me out, because I think fresh ground meat is vastly superior, particularly when I get to season the meat while grinding. I almost always mix salt, pepper and minced garlic (when called for) in with the meat as it goes through. That way there's less handling necessary when prepping the meat. In my experience, whether it's meatballs or burgers or meatloaf, I find that minimal handling makes for a juicier, firmer final product.

This led to two compromises (1) I had to just buy pre-ground meat in cases where I hadn't already purchased pieces to grind already and (2) I had to use the food processor for the rest. In the end, neither of these compromises ruined the final product. In fact, the veal and lamb I bought was ground fresh by request not an hour before at Greene Grape Provisions. The compromise there is more the cost, where ground meat tends to cost $9/lb. Given that the genius of the meatball is to make something good out of cheap and leftover meat, this does go against the spirit of the dish, but sometimes you just have to have an expensive meatball.

Given all of that, I found a lot of areas I would improve on what came out. Some were really good, some weren't quite what I'd hoped for. Over the next few days, I'll go over them critically and take a look at what I can do to make them better next time. In the meantime, here's what was on the menu:

*Mario Batali's Polpette Napolitano

*Rick Bayless' Chipotle Pork Meatballs

*Nigella Lawson's Lamb Meatballs

*Japanese Tskune Chicken Meatball skewers

More to come...

February 8, 2009

Porchetta at Home, Take 2

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With my January travels complete, I finally have some time to spend in the kitchen. In the last week, I've cooked 4-5 meals and begun aging a ham and curing bacon, lardo and guanciale. More on that later.

The point is, that I've finally gotten a chance to take another whack and porchetta, that fragrantly herby rolled pork I tried out with a suckling pig back in December.

Back then, I was happy with the final product, but not entirely satisfied. In particular, the two trouble spots were the lemons, which mostly got in the way and the herbs, which I was too light-handed with.

My initial thoughts were to use a pork belly, which would tie most easily and provide the crispy skin as well as a remarkably tender layer of meat automatically basted by the outer layer of fat, all the while soaking in the spice rub.

Eric had also been considering ways to improve the porchetta since my first attempt. He thought that a belly on it's own would not yield enough meat for all the trouble and advised using a pork loin in the middle to balance that out. The idea being that the inherent dryness of the loin would be be countered by the salty rub of fennel pollen and minced rosemary. He also suggested continuing to use lemons, but limiting it to the zest and the juice. Finally, he mentioned that Porchetta the shop in the East Village scores their porchetta in a diamond pattern to maximize the crispy skin.

After the jump, the blow by blow...

Continue reading "Porchetta at Home, Take 2" »

January 28, 2009

Photo of the Day: Brownstone Blizzard

Brownstone Blizzard
Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. 2003

I've returned to the Better Borough from Aspen just to find snow, sleet and freezing rain in the forecast, just hours away.

I'm so sick of Winter.

January 14, 2009

Porchetta at Home

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Just after Christmas, Tammi and I hosted our annual holiday party and here you see the guest of honor. This was my attempt at the Porchetta I watched Nate Appleman prepare at the Astor Center early last month.

While it was generally a success, I feel there was some room for improvement and I hope to try to do better in some future (smaller) attempts.

Regarding the finished product, it was very tasty. Honestly, I barely had any of the actual porchetta, which is the abdominal section of the pig. Once it cooled, I cut that part up and served it for our guests. Nothing came back, so it definitely went over well.

That said, I'm writing this as a critique so I know what I want to do differently in the future, so most of the rest of this post is going to be the challenges I had or the things I want to fix the next time around.

First thing, the lemons. this was ann idea I picked up from Appleman's class. He mentioned that he learned this some time ago and found that the citrus added another layer that he enjoyed. I didn't like it at all. Immediately after cutting into the pig, the strongest scent was hot citrus, which wasn't what I wanted. I scraped out the lemons before serving the pork because I thought it was just too strong. I wouldn't use them again in the future.

All of that also points to an issue that was entirely my fault: not enough seasoning. I sought out fennel pollen, which I manage to get a friend to source for me from his wholesaler. It's an unusual ingredient and on the pricey side, but when used well, as they do at Porchetta in the East Village, it's transcendental. I guessed at the amount, using a gentler hand with it because I had heard it described as being as strong as saffron. Between its strength and the 3 day seasoning time, I thought it best to be cautious with the amount I used. I should have used more. Again, it was very good, but the fennel flavor, which I wanted to be primary was more subtle than I would have liked. I think I could have used more rosemary as well, but generally I was ok with the way that flavor turned out.

Finally, the skin is always awesome, and it was great here, but it wasn't as crisp s I would have liked, even though I finished it off at 500 for an hour. I think it would have benefitted from a rubdown with fat of some sort when I turned the heat up. I had confit on hand, so I could have used some of the fat from that, or even olive oil, I suppose.

After the jump, some photos from the prep and my notes on my first major attempt at butchery.

Continue reading "Porchetta at Home" »

January 11, 2009

No Warm Welcome

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This isn't exactly what I found when I got home this morning, but it might as well be. While I was enjoying my great San Francisco day, walking around without a coat and sitting outside drinking wine, the Northeast got a dumping of snow and ice.

I guess it's just as well that I get used to winter weather now. In a week I'll be off to Aspen, where I'll be padding up in my thermals every day.

December 31, 2008

Ornaments: Taxi!

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Since most of our ornaments are from the various places we've been, Tammi and I decided to show some love to the hometown. Next year, I want to find a Brooklyn ornament...

July 22, 2008

Bed-Stuy Block Party


IMG_7203, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last weekend, Tammi and I participated in our annual block party. It was a first for both of us. Every year, I've discovered the festivities the day of the party, as I'm leaving the house to do one thing or another.

This time we had a little advanced warning and I fired up the grill. Tammi and I took the grill and a couple of chairs out onto the street in front of the house and sat with our neighbors for hours, talking and getting to know each other.

It was a great time.

Update: Photos now posted on Flickr.

July 8, 2008

Bed-Stuy: The Petition

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Last weekend, I sacrificed one political belief for another. Out of the blue one Saturday morning, the door rang. It was a petitioner collecting signatures to get some democratic candidates on the ballot. I was tempted to just tell him to buzz off. Door to door anything tends to get on my nerves. Worse, the petition was for a couple politicians I'm not so fond of.

Ed Towns and Velmanette Montgomery have been 'representing' me for the entirety of my 22 years in Brooklyn. They have managed to stay in office, as far as I can tell without ever sticking their necks out or taking a stand on anything. It's been a point of annoyance of mine for a long time. People have fought for ages to get Black folks into positions of influence. Yet these people have broken no ground. They've done nothing but continue the long tradition of ethnic patronage politics. Those politicians of the 'movement' generation took positions in groundswells of support and have done nothing appreciable but grown roots. Worse, those like Major Owens and Una Clarke have tried to pass their positions down to their children like a family heirloom. And we've continued to put them in office, in part because we've got no better options, but also in part because we can't be bothered to demand better.

I could have gone on and on about why these two candidates do not have my support. But the petitioner caught my attention. He was in his teens or early, early twenties, dressed 'as the kids do these days' with a T-shirt that went down to his knees and a baseball cap turned just so over his Do-rag.

I couldn't reject someone like that who was actually playing some appreciable part in the process. Hell, he's playing more of a part than I am. I've never volunteered. Not once have I gone out and done anything besides vote for my candidate of choice. So, given the fact that this kid was here at my door on a Saturday morning, I couldn't bring myself to turn him away. I signed it.

December 18, 2007

Ornaments: Argentinian Nativity


IMG_1781.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Purchased in Buenos Aires, November 2006.
::c::

December 17, 2007

Ornaments: Maui Sea Turtle


IMG_1399.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Purchased in Maui, Hawaii. November 2005.

December 16, 2007

Trimming the Tree

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IMG_1485.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Yesterday afternoon Tammi and I bought our first tree for our home together. Instead of trudging out to Fort Greene and going to Gardel's, we discovered that Bread Stuy is selling trees just down the block.

This afternoon, we decorated in our traditional way, to the sounds of Ella, The Jackson 5 and Charlie Brown among others. We dug up the ornaments we've collected from our various travels and a new set of lights and got to it.

I think I'll post a few of these souvenir ornaments, to remember along the line. Every year at least one shatters, and I would love to have a record of them before they go.
::c::

October 23, 2007

Pork Confit

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I've always been intrigued by duck confit. It hits the slow cooking impulse and is made even more appealing just based on the somewhat unusual method of cooking in it's own fat.

When it came down to actually making duck confit myself, I've always found it to be terribly impractical. The price of duck legs is never quite economical when compared to a whole duck and the cost of duck fat is not cheap for a relatively small portion that will probably not have another use. Part of what appealed to me about making confit is that it seems like the sort of thing that should be easily done with parts on hand. And I'm sure it was 200 years ago. These days, not so much.

On Eric's recommendation, I bought "The Whole Beast" by Fergus Henderson a few weeks ago. I pretty much read it cover to cover. His writing style is so unlike any I've ever read in a cookbook.

When I got to the section on confit and discovered that he doesn't limit the method to ducks, it was a revelation. Immediately I wanted to give it a try. The recipe is ridiculously simple, especially if you pathologically keep home-rendered lard in the house, which I do.

The Foodtown in Bed-Stuy sells pork shoulders cut into slices with a band saw and packaged back together. It was great for pork steaks. Or would have been if the meat wasn't so tender that many of the steaks broke into yummy bite sized chunks before hitting the table.

Continue reading "Pork Confit" »

Nuts!


IMG_8687 - Version 2, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

According to SlashFood this morning, today is "National Nut Day." I usually don't give any of that stuff a second thought, but the fact is I had these on hand since I made them as a snack for Saturday night. Also, I'm exactly juvenile enough to be highly amused by talking about my roasted nuts, so there's that too...

I got the recipe months ago from an episode of Nigella. She adapted the recipe from Union Square Cafe. The recipe is posted on The Food Network's site. I adjusted it by adding more pepper and using a lot more butter.

::c:

October 22, 2007

Open For Business

This weekend Tammi and I hosted our first guests at the Apartment. After nearly 7 months, we finally have the place presentable, albeit with some boxes and laundry bags hidden away in corners and crevices.

Saturday night, Robert and Mary allowed us to repay all the wonderful hospitality they've shown us over the years. I came up with a remarkably stress-free meal, which was the biggest surprise. Typically my menus have me sweating away in the kitchen for days before and then throughout the evening.

This time is was mostly a matter of chopping, tossing and sauteing. The most exotic part of the meal was the centerpiece, pork confit that I prepared a week before (more on that later), and all that took was reheating them sticking in the broiler.

The laidback pace was perfect. It left me time to spend relaxing in great company.

Of course there was plenty of food left, so the next day Eric, Marni and Anna came through and hung out over the last of the pork - I saved a batch just for the occasion. Eric picked up some charcuterie from a place in Chelsea I'm definitely going to have to check out.

It was so much fun to spend the weekend at home with friends. I missed that a lot and I'm glad to have the opportunity again.

October 16, 2007

Cooking Chili


IMG_8500, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

It's braising time again! With the cooling weather, we can actually have the stove of the oven on for 8+ hours at a time without passing out from heat exhaustion. I had been considering how to usher in the season when Dorla emailed last week asking for a chili recipe. Chili is much more Tammi's area than mine, so I deferred to her and then took her recipe and tweaked it a bit. The base recipe is after the jump.

Since I happened to make a trip to Fette Sau the night before so I made a few yummy adjustments with what I had on hand:

I tossed in the bone from a smoked pork shank. It still had some chunks of meat on it, which took very well to the braise.

For liquid, I used what was left of a growler of beer from the night before (about a pint) and some pork stock I made a while back. You don't hear about pork stock too often, but it has come in handy.

Continue reading "Cooking Chili" »

September 5, 2007

Nesting Season

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Where did the summer go?

It's only been a couple days since Labor Day, yet summer already seems to be long gone. This August was one of the coolest on record, but I'd swear I already feel a chill in the air that wasn't there last week.

Tammi and I spent much of the weekend feathering our nest. We mostly stayed in, finally decorating the apartment and stocking up on groceries. I think that from Friday to Monday I may have spent the most time at home since moving in. It was good to settle in a bit after being out of town so much, but I was a little stir crazy by Monday.


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