The only difference between (people) all the world over is one of degree, and not of kind, even as there is between trees of the same species. Wherein is the cause for anger, envy or discrimination?
~Mahatma Gandhi

Pot-au-feu translates as “pot on the fire,” which is hearty French peasant fare. Granted, there is no raw beef, ginger, cardomom, cinnamon, mint, Thai chilies, basil, fish sauce, noodles (banh pho) or differing condiments and sauces as are found in phở (See February 3, 2009). Also, those seductive noodle sucking sounds are sadly lacking in pot-au-feu. But, given their culinary roots, cultural links, and France’s occupancy, colonization and even decimation of the Vietnamese peoples (preceded by China, followed by Japan and then the US) — it would not be surprising if feu slowly morphed into phở. Both words seem suspiciously harmonious to the ear. However, some etymologists dipute this assertion, especially given the stark culinary dissimilarities between the two dishes and due to some vague historical references.

POT AU FEU

1 lb beef shoulder or brisket
6 pieces of oxtail, cut 1 1/2″ thick
6 beef short ribs
1 veal shank, bone-in

6 whole cloves
2 onions, cut in halves
6 leeks, white part only
2 small celery roots, cut into quarters
2 medium turnips, cut into quarters
1 head garlic, cut transversely
4 medium carrots, cut into 4″ lengths
1 bouquet garni (2 sprig of flat parsley, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 2 bay leaves, stringed together)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

4 new red and white potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 cabbage head, cored and cut into 7 wedges

1 baguette, sliced
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

1/2 lb cornichons
1 C coarse sea salt
1 C hot Dijon mustard

In a large pot, combine the beef, oxtail, short ribs, and veal shank, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and as soon as the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat. Set the meat aside and throw out the water. Clean the pot and then put the meat right back into the pot.

Push cloves into each onion half and add the onions to the pot, along with the leeks, celery roots, turnips, garlic, carrots, and bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper and cover with cold water.

Bring the pot to a slow simmer, gradually, and let cook over medium low heat until the meat is tender or around 2 1/2 hours. Skim the cooking liquid with a ladle periodically to remove scum and foam. Add the potatoes and cabbage and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until soft. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Remove the beef (shoulder or brisket) from the pot and slice into thick pieces. Remove the veal shank from the pot and cut the meat off the bone, again into ample pieces. Retrieve the marrow from the veal bone.

Pour some broth into serving bowls along with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese with thick slices of toasted baguette. Arrange the meats, marrow, and vegetables on a serving platter and ladle some cooking liquid over and around. Serve the rest in a sauce boat.

Put the cornichons, sea salt, and Dijon mustard into bowls on the table.

Advertisements

If I had to narrow my choice of meats down to one for the rest of my life, I am quite certain that meat would be pork.
~ James Beard

Pork (n.)circa 1300 (early 13th century in the surname Porkuiller) “flesh of a pig as food,” from the Old French porc “pig, swine, boar,” and directly from the Latin porcus “pig, tame swine,” from the Proto-Indo-European porko- “young swine.”

Homespun charcuterie that warms the cockles.

Akin to more cultured pâtés, rillettes are often made with pork, goose, duck, chicken, game birds, rabbit and even some species of fish such as anchovies, tuna, trout and salmon. Throughout France, there are some slightly varying regional renditions with some suave, silky and smooth while others are more rustic, coarse and textual each with differing spice and herb blends. Originally a peasant dish, rillettes are essentially a potted meat either braised or cooked as confit, that is poached slowly in fat and seasonings and morphed into a more or less lisse end product. If this helps at all, confiture de cochon (“pig jam”) is what the French have affectionately dubbed rillettes de porc. Literally translated into English, rillettes means “planks,” and these unctuous delights tend to keep well chilled in the fridge well before they walk one.

Although I hesitated to mention that rillettes make exquisite holiday gifts, wedding finger fare for non-vegans and the religiously lenient or as amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule — Martha would no doubt be pleased.

PORK RILLETTES

1 t allspice berries
1 t coriander seeds
1/2 t mustard seeds

1 lb. freshly cut pork belly, skin discarded
1 lb. freshly cut boneless pork shoulder, skin discarded

1/2 t ground black pepper
2 t sea salt
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 dried bay leaves
3 thyme and 3 parsley sprigs, tied into a bundle
1 C dry white wine

1/2 C cold water
1/2 C chicken stock

2 T pork or duck fat, to top

Heat the allspice berries, coriander and mustard seeds in a medium heavy skillet over low medium heat, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally, until they become aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool, and then coarsely grind in a spice grinder or coffee mill devoted to the task. Transfer to a small glass bowl and set aside.

Coarsely dice both the pork belly and shoulder and place in a heavy pot, making sure the mix reaches room temperature. Add allspice, coriander, mustard, pepper, salt, garlic, thyme and parsley bundle, and the bay leaves. Mix well and pour in the wine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a very slow simmer and cook, skimming any foam, for 30 minutes. Add the water and stock, return to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 3-4 hours, stirring only a few times, until the meat is fall-apart tender.

Uncover and increase heat to medium. Cook 20-30 minutes more until any liquid is pure fat, not water. Look at a spoonful of the liquid, making sure that the little water bubbles have evaporated. Taste the fat and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Set aside to cool some, then remove and discard thyme, parsley and bay leaves.

Mash and shred the mixture, using your fingers and/or forks. Alternatively, add the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed until smooth. Transfer to a ceramic crock, terrine, or glass jar with a lid that clamps tight, pressing down so there are no air bubbles. Put the rillettes into the container of choice and press down with the back of a spoon to remove any air pockets.

Melt the pork or duck fat in a small pan and pour a slight amount (about 1/4″ thick) over the tamped down rillettes. The fat should be set before serving. Gently place sheets of plastic wrap against the surface of the meat to remove any air.

Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight. Remove from refrigerator some 20 minutes before slathering on toast points or crusty baguette slices with cornichons, pickled red onions, and champagne or a Loire Valley white wine as sides.

Sandwiches, Anew

April 2, 2010

Too few people understand a really good sandwich.
~James Beard

Stated otherwise, Mom always reminded us that “a sandwich is always much better if someone else makes it for you.” Something about inspired, yet minimal, textural play, fine bread, and a good schmear with no shortcuts. A gift of sorts — a labor of love, knowledge, devotion and that pampered touch, I suppose. Mom always seemed to choose her aphorisms judiciously so they tended to ring true. They have born repetition more than I could count.

These may not be the precise lobster rolls she so coveted during trips to coastal Maine, but hopefully they assimilate distant cousins. Probably just some no frills freshly trapped boiled or grilled lobster, mayonnaise, simple seasonings and a toasted bun would even suffice.

Mom was an almost unparalleled tomato zealot and egg sandwiches were a house staple, so the BELT (bacon, eggs, lettuce & tomato) is simply a natural. The basics to create an incandescent BELT are: fresh eggs, ripe heirloom tomatoes, slab artisanal bacon preferably from heritage pork (The Berkshire, The Tamworth, The Duroc, et al.).

As for the last sandwich, tins of sardines and kipper snacks commonly adorned our pantry. Maybe they were period pieces—food stashed for that ominous Cold War nuclear armaggedon we ever awaited, cowering under our school desks. Now, beyond their gentle sea flavors, canned sardines are known for their nutritional omnipotence. One nutritionist dubbed sardines “health food in a can.” Health food advocates assert that they do nothing less than:

• Prevent heart attacks and strokes
• Build healthy cell walls
• Improve cholesterol levels and help to lower triglycerides
• Lower blood pressure
• Protect brain development and improve cognition and mood
• Improve memory problems associated with aging
• Alleviate inflammatory conditions such as asthma and arthritis
• Provide essential support for joint and skin health
• Slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
• Maintain blood sugar balance, thus reducing risk of diabetes

Both impressive yet sadly ironic given that the Stinson plant in Maine, the last sardine cannery in the United States, is shutting down this month. For those who may wish to extend life expectancy or slightly slow the aging process, buy a case of these wunderkind. That even goes for those who think enhanced health care coverage is “armaggedon” too. More sardines and less orange skin dye may help you in the long run, Rep. Boehner. A nearly comical faux terror alert carrot facial hue. Is that cream applied head to toe or just above the collar? ~Sincerely, I am Curious Yellow

For the aioli recipes, chose from any of those in the Aïoli, Aïoli, Aïoli (and Rouille), 01.25.09 post.

LOBSTER ROLLS WITH TARRAGON MAYONNAISE

2-1 1/2 lb whole live lobsters
Sea salt

2 T finely chopped red onion
3/4 C tarragon mayonnaise
1 T dijon mustard
2 T coarsely chopped tarragon leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Hot dog buns (preferably top loading) or petit pain (french roll), sliced open
Extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter, softened

Prepare a large ice water bath. Immerse lobster in a large pot of boiling salted water, until they turn bright red, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, plunge the lobsters into the ice water for a few minutes, then drain.

Twist off the lobster tails and claws and remove the meat. Cut the lobster meat into 1/2″ pieces and pat dry, then transfer to a strainer set over a bowl and refrigerate until very cold, at least 1 hour.

Gently combine lobster and next seven ingredients in a large bowl.

Split the rolls and brush with olive oil or butter. Grill, open side down, until golden, around 40 seconds. Fill each roll with some of the lobster salad and serve immediately.

Tarragon mayonnaise:
2 large fresh egg yolks, room temperature
1 T dijon mustard
1 T fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1/2 t sea salt
Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper

2/3 C canola or grapeseed oil
1 t white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Separate egg whites from yolks. With a balloon whisk, whip together the egg yolks, mustard, tarragon, salt, cayenne pepper in a medium glass or metal bowl.

Add a few drops of oil while whisking; then pour in the oil slowly, in a very thin stream, while whisking vigorously with the bowl tilted at an angle on a folded towel. The emulsion should become thick and creamy enough to hold its shape.

Pourboire:  consider using marscapone and heavy whipping cream in lieu of tarragon mayonnaise…a difficult choice, but such is the kitchen.

BELT (BACON, EGG, LETTUCE & TOMATO)

4 thick slices good quality slab bacon, sliced

2 thick slices of ciabatta or other rustic white bread, toasted
1-2 T aioli
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 fresh heirloom tomato slices
2 butter lettuce leaves

1 T unsalted butter
2 large eggs

In a heavy skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, turning, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Spread aioli on both slices of bread. Season with salt and pepper on the top piece.

In a heavy, nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the eggs and fry over moderate heat, turning once, until slightly crisp around the edges, about 4 minutes. The yolk should still be runny. Assemble the sandwich with lettuce, tomato, bacon, then eggs, and close with second bread slice. Serve promptly.

SARDINE ‘WICH

2 tins boneless, skinless sardines packed in olive oil
3 T aioli
1/4 C cornichons, drained and finely chopped
2 T capers, rinsed and drained

Ciabatta, sliced and toasted or grilled
Aioli
1 avocado, seeded, peeled and sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 C fresh arugula
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove sardines from tin, draining oil. Transfer to a small bowl, and combine with aioli, cornichons, and capers.

Lay out ciabatta slices and lightly paint each with aioli. Then top with sardine mixture, avocado, tomato, arugula, and egg. Salt and pepper to taste, and then finish each with an aioli painted slice of bread.

“Sauce” Gribiche

June 2, 2009

Akin to, but neither a classic mayonnaise nor hollandaise, it has been assumed that gribiche potentially has French parentage. So far, my research reveals that gribiche may be a culinary orphan with unknown lineage—which makes it deserve no less adoration. Think summer hues, picnics.

GRIBICHE

4 hard cooked eggs, yolks only

1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 C white wine vinegar

2 T fresh tarragon, finely chopped
2 T fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 T chives, thinly sliced
3 T capers, drained and chopped
6 cornichons, finely chopped
1 T dijon mustard
1 C extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the shallot and white wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the tarragon, parsley, chives, capers, cornichons, mustard and olive oil. Finely chop the egg yolk and add to the bowl. Then add the wine vinegar, shallots, a pinch of salt, and whisk vigorously. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If possible, chill overnight in the refrigerator so the flavors may meld.

Serve over asparagus, leeks, boiled potatoes, poached eggs, shrimp, fish, or cold chicken.

Butter is…the most delicate of foods among barbarous nations, and one which distinguishes the wealthy from the multitude at large.~Pliny the Elder

My previous topic, Languedoc-Roussillon, will be revisited promptly. But before the serious que’ing season is upon us, I have been meaning to post about herb butter. (I have yet to fully comprehend why so many await the summer season to begin grilling, as some of the most satisfying open fire cooking is to be had in cooler seasons, even ankle deep in a blanket of snow—a glowing orb, comforting much like a fireplace.) Herb butter is simply made by blending butter with herbs and spices which quickly transforms and dresses up a dish, often grilled or sautéed meat, fish or chicken.

CILANTRO LIME HERB BUTTER

8 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T chopped cilantro, packed
1 T lime juice, freshly squeezed
Grated zest on 1 lime
1/4 t sea salt

Mix together butter, cilantro, lime juice, and salt in a small bowl. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.

If you save the butter for later, wrap it up in plastic wrap in the shape of a log and refrigerate until firm. To use, just unwrap and slice from the butter log and place on warm food.

HERB & LEMON BUTTER

8 T unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T minced fresh herbs (chervil, parsley, dill, fennel, chives)
1 t freshly grated lemon zest
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the softened butter and the remaining ingredients to a medium size bowl.
Use a large spoon to cream the ingredients together until well blended. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.

If you save the butter for later, wrap it up in plastic wrap in the shape of a log and refrigerate until stiff. To use, just unwrap and slice from the butter log and place on warm food.

HERB BUTTER WITH CORNICHONS AND EGGS

Large bunch of fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, tarragon, chives, oregano, thyme)
3 cornichons, chopped
3 good quality anchovy fillets
1 T of chopped capers
3 egg yolks, hard boiled
1 clove of garlic peeled, crushed and chopped
12 T unsalted butter
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper

Drop the herbs into boiling water for 1 minute, place into an ice bath, then drain well. Place the herbs into a food processor or blender and purée in short bursts. Add the cornichons, anchovies, capers, egg yolks, and garlic; purée further until well combined. Add the butter and continue pulsing until you reach a smooth consistency, while seasoning with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Serve immediately or save in refrigerator.

If you save the butter for later, wrap it up in plastic wrap in the shape of a log and refrigerate until firm. To use, just unwrap and slice from the butter log and place on warm food.

Steak Tartare

February 7, 2009

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
~Harriet van Horne

V Day even rawer.

Steak tartare, the classic chopped raw beef dish topped with a raw egg, brings on images of Parisian bistros. A bistro is a familiar name for a café serving what used to be moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting.

The word allegedly derives from a Russian word быстро (bystro) which means “hurry.” Cossacks, who occupied France after the Napoleonic Wars, frequently demanded that French waiters serve their food promptly, shouting the word that evolved into “bistro”.

This romantically induced etymology has been disputed over the years. Cossacks did occupy Paris in 1815, but the first recorded use of the word “bistro” appeared in 1884, almost 70 years later. So, the numbers are not supportive. Another possible source for the word could be bistraud, a word in the Poitou dialect which means a “lesser servant.” Yet another theory offered comes from the word bistouille or bistrouille, a colloquial term from the northern regions of France, which is a mixture of brandy and coffee. Bon matin!

STEAK TARTARE

12 oz fresh cut, organic beef tenderloin
4 t shallots, finely diced
4 t cornichons, finely chopped
3 t capers, drained and rinsed
2 t Dijon mustard
2 anchovies, salt packed, rinsed, cleaned and finely chopped
2 t chopped parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 fresh organic, free range egg yolks

1 baguette or other artisanal bread such as ciabatta, toasted
Extra virgin olive oil
1 plump, fresh garlic head, cut crosswise

Trim the beef of any fat and connective tissue and set aside. Chill the beef while preparing the remaining ingredients.

With a wickedly sharp knife, cut the beef into julienne strips, and then cut across into a very fine dice. Continue chopping over the pile some until the meat appears roughly ground.

With a fork, combine the chopped beef with the shallots, cornichons, capers, mustard, anchovies, parsley, some salt and pepper to taste. If needed, add a tablespoon or more of olive oil.

Serve in mound like in the center of the plate, making a well in the center filled with an egg yolk. Spread the tatare over toasted baguette slices which have been drizzled lightly with olive oil and rubbed with garlic heads.

Fine friends: French burgundy or California pinot noir