Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.
~Frank Lloyd Wright

From the advent of the ancient Roman Empire (around 30 in the “before common era” or b.c.e.), neither humans, nor other flora and fauna, have experienced the extensive tidal flooding on coastlines.  In all probability, this dire situation, undoubtedly created by human activity, will worsen this century and next.  In the absence of carbon emissions, sea levels would be rising less rapidly.  But, assuming human discharges continue at the same high ratio, the oceans could rise by some four almost five feet by 2100 — that would prove disastrous by anyone who has visited or even lived near coastlines.

Already, the Marshall Islands are disappearing (a site of the battle of Kwajalein atoll in WW II).  The rising seas regularly flood shacks with salt water and raw sewage and saltwater and easily encroach sea walls .  The same will happen here and elsewhere. The losses and damages will be prodigious across the board.  As the burning of fossil fuels increases heat trapped gases in our atmosphere, the planet warms, and ice sheets melt into the oceans.  A warming, climate changed earth is not abstract.

It is simple physics — ice melts faster when temperatures rise.  Really?

Oh, and please do not allow the oil industry, chieftains of fossil fuels, off the proverbial hook. Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, Sohio as well as Standard Oil of California and Gulf Oil, (the predecessors to Chevron) knew many decades ago of climate change, yet spent many millions and numerous exorbitant studies in a shameful smiling and deceptive handshaking campaign denying the same.

Also, to spin otherwise with “scripture” and an equally gimmicky snowball, Senator, is flatly immoral — mere showmanship and patent obfuscation. Displaying a snowball on the floor was his disturbing ruse to deny the existence of global warming.  Such an unwanted steward of the environment and so contrary to the evidence. By the way, do you have children and grandchildren, perhaps even great grandchildren, who get to shoulder your politically motivated, anti-scientific views and burdens?  Or are you just an angry octogenarian who does not care a whit or simply another paid for politician? Or maybe you just reject out of hand the Department of Defense report that unequivocally finds that climate change poses a national security risk and that global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability?

But, here is the real thing — organic chicken, binchoton charcoal, so the yaktori is both crispy on the outside and tender inside, homemade tare sauce, fresh and seasonal veggies and sake.

On to something more enticing, beguiling…焼き鳥

CHICKEN YAKITORI

2 lbs chicken gizzards, cleaned and trimmed
6 pieces boneless thigh meat, cleaned and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

1 1/2 C cold water
1/4 C kombu
1/4 C bonito flakes

1 C fine soy sauce
1/2 C mirin
1 C high quality saké
1/4 C raw sugar (turbinado)
garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 C grated fresh ginger

Scallions, thinly sliced lengthwise, for garnish

As stated above, cut chicken thighs into 1 1/2″ pieces and place with whole gizzards into a shallow dish.

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the water and kombu to a gentle simmer. Add the bonito and return to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 3 minutes.  Strain the kombu and bonito broth into a medium saucepan.  (This step can be axed if you are in a real hurry, but they provide more dimensional aromas and that umami sapidity to the dish.)

In that same medium heavy saucepan, add broth to the soy sauce, mirin, saké, raw sugar, garlic and ginger. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 10-15 minutes, at least until until slightly thickened. Reserve a few tablespoons of sauce for serving. Pour remaining sauce over chicken, place in a sealed plastic ziploc bag, and refrigerate overnight.

When using wooden skewers, soak in water for an hour or so. Preheat barbecue grill with binchoton charcoal to medium high heat. Bring the meat to room temperature and then thread chicken pieces onto skewers, and grill, turning halfway, for a total of about 10 minutes for gizzards and about 6-8 minutes for thighs.

Serve yakitori drizzled with reserved and tare sauce and garnished with fresh scallions and varied vegetables.

Pourboire:

Tare recipe
1/2 C chicken broth
1/4 C mirin
1/4 C soy sauce
2 T sake
3/4 t (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 plump fresh garlic clove, crushed
1 scallion, chopped lengthwise

 

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History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
~Mark Twain

These bosoms need little augmentation or enhancement — well, besides a few spices.

MAGRETS DE CANARD (DUCK BREASTS)

2 duck breasts, each about 1 lb, always equal
Salt and ground black pepper

1 1/2 T raw sugar, divided in half
1 C shallots, finely chopped

Zest and segments from 2 oranges or blood oranges
1 C dry red wine

1 T red miso

Heat oven to 200 F.

With a sharp knife, score the skin side of the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern but do not cut into the flesh. Season with salt and pepper. Heat an ovenproof heavy skillet to quite hot. Place duck breasts in pan, skin side down, and sear until browned, at most about 2 minutes. Remove and reserve 1 tablespoon of fat, discarding the rest. Return duck to pan, skin side up, and place in oven for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Place reserved duck fat in a heavy skillet on medium high.

Toward the end of roasting, sprinkle breasts with half the raw sugar and cook a couple of minutes, until the pieces start to brown but remain crisp, then remove to a platter or board.

In the meantime, reduce heat to medium low in a heavy pan or skillet, add the shallots and sauté slowly until very tender. Stir in both the orange zest and wine. Simmer gently until the wine is reduced by half. Stir in remaining raw sugar and the miso. Season with salt and pepper and then set aside.

When duck is finished, allow to rest, then slice the breasts on the bias and arrange on a platter. Briefly and barely the reheat wine sauce and fold in the orange segments. Assure that the salt and pepper is to your liking and spoon sauce over and/or under the duck breasts.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
~Mae West

Homo naledi whose feet and teeth mimic homo genus but still bear human lineage were unearthed last month. These hominids with smaller than current brains and intracranial space have been dubbed a mosaic species due to their varied anatomical features. They are ancestors from some 2.5-2.8 million years ago, from the same genus which includes the famed Lucy. An average Homo naledi was about 5′ tall and weighed some 100 lbs.

Lithe, petite ladies — slender and agile enough to wriggle through the proverbial crack in the wall — snakily, shimmied and crawled down narrow limestone shafts and lightless tunnels in South Africa to gather fossils and skeletal remains bones and the like from the burial vault. It was breathtaking to watch how they adroitly slid down the scant walls and so carefully culled these bony artifacts from the dirt.

Paleoanthropology professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg was seated on the ground above poised before his laptop watching them dive and eagerly awaiting their safe return with their trove. They did not disappoint, even though some expressed concerns about trampling on such delicacies. As Dr. Berger remarked, “…there is no substitute for exploration.”

In the Rising Star Cave, these underground astronauts encountered tombs where many of the Homo naledi were interred by rituals which perhaps avoided scavengers.

Bok choy which translates to “white vegetable” in Chinese is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family which also includes broccoli, kale, collard greens, cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Not surprisingly, they are rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A (carotenoids), potassium, folate, vitamin B-6, calcium, and manganese. Bok choy have smooth, glossy, spoon shaped leaves that cluster with a small base.

In some realms, smaller is better.

BABY BOK CHOY

1 T soy sauce
3-4 T oyster sauce
2 T rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Pinch of raw sugar

1-2 T peanut oil
2 T plump fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger root, peeled and minced
4-6 bunches of baby bok choy, with ends trimmed
3 T chicken stock

Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, raw sugar and rice vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a heavy skillet (non-stick or not) placed over medium high heat until oil shimmers. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger, then bok choy, and stir fry for about 2 or so minutes. Add stock to the skillet, then cover and allow to cook for a couple minutes more, until bok choy has softened some at the base. Toward the end, drizzle with the soy-oyster-sugar-vinegar sauce.

Remove bok choy and friends from the skillet and turn onto a platter or separate plates/bowls. We tend to serve bok choy sidled up to lemon grass chicken and jasmine rice or noodles (September 5, 2010), but it can be paired with a host of wokked, sautéed, roasted, or grilled main dishes, Asian or otherwise.

Butt Ssäm-wich

March 28, 2012

There is no such thing as an ugly woman.
~Vincent Van Gogh

Ssäm (쌈) simply translates as “wrapped,” and refers to a Korean dish in which larger leafy greens — lettuce, cabbage, seaweed, sesame or bean and pumpkin leaves — are often used to cloak meat such as slow and low roasted or braised pork (belly or butt). But tongue, fish, kalbi, bulgogi, roe, and clams have also lined these luscious roll ups over time. Have to suggest and although this is by no means a directive or ethnically correct, ssäm would be divine with braised sweetbreads. Just a little whimsy.

Some say that ssäm was first savored by certain young women of the Goryeo dynasty, called Kisaeng (euphemistically pronounced kis-sang) or “art persons.” These comfort women emerged in the 10th century and were meticulously trained in music and poetry, but were also conscripted and subjugated as courtesans. Closely regulated as government slaves over time, they were obliged to entertain and offer their sensual wares with local royalty, military officers and dignitaries from China, Japan and other reaches. Sadly, other than rather vague anecdotal references, an unnerving and undeserved, even shameful, cold silence has enveloped the centuries old Kisaeng — likely resulting from repeated sexual abuses, horrid exploitation and degradation, and harsh postcolonial memories in Korea. Japan was particularly complicit in war crimes involving sexual violence with “comfort women” in territories occupied by the imperial military during World War II yet the country continues to ignore and abstain. The atrocious horrors of human servitude and trafficking usually meet with baseless denials and have ever been worse than intolerable. Is there true remorse?

(With a few alterations, this recipe is more than loosely adapted from the phenom chef/owner David Chang from New York’s momofuku restaurants — noodle bar, ssäm bar, ko, má pêche, seiōbo, and the bakery milk bar.) I might add this dish is flat sublime and will no doubt enrapture all around your table.

PORK BUTT SSAM

7-8 lb bone-in pork butt
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C raw sugar
1 C coarse sea salt

1 T coarse sea salt
1/2 C light brown sugar

1/4 C honey

Thoroughly mix both sugars and salt in a bowl. Rub pork with a few smashed garlics then rub the dry sugars/salt mixture all over the pork butt and cover thoroughly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 6 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 F

Remove pork from refrigerator, discard any juices and allow to reach room temperature. Place the pork in a large, heavy roasting pan, place in the oven and cook, basting every hour after the first two hours, until meat is tender and easily shredded with a fork, about 7 hours or so. The internal temperature should read about 195 F.  At that temp, the connective tissues have melted, and the pork will be fork-tender and juicy.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together remaining tablespoon of coarse sea salt and brown sugar and then set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 500 F

Sprinkle and rub in the salt and brown sugar mixture over the top and sides of the pork, then drizzle with honey. Return pork to oven until nicely crusted, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the oven and allow to rest some. Carefully extract the single bone in the butt and discard, then shred the butt with forks and fingers.

White rice, cooked (bap)
Kimchi

Bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Chinese steamed buns (mantou)
Flour tortillas, warmed

Serve shredded pork enveloped in lettuce wraps bedded in rice or noodles or in chinese steamed buns or in small flour tortillas. Bed in some rice or noodles, lightly mount with kimchi and lather with ginger-scallion, ssäm, gochu garu and sichuan pepper, Korean soy sauce, and/or red curry peanut sauces. Try to avoid the urge to overload.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions
1/2 C fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil
1 T light soy sauce
1 t sherry vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together.

Ssäm Sauce
1/3 C fermented bean & chili paste (ssamjang)
2 T chili paste (kochujang)
1 t sherry vinegar
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Gochu Garu and Sichuan Pepper
3 T Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
1 t Sichuan peppercorn, toasted and ground
1 t white sesame seeds, toasted
Pinch of sea salt
2 T canola oil
Pinch of sugar

In a small bowl, combine the Korean red pepper powder, Sichuan peppercorn, sesame seeds and salt. In a small saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Pour half of the hot oil over the chile powder mixture. Whisk the mixture and add the remaining oil. Stir again to moisten all of the dry ingredients and add the sugar.

Allow the mixture to cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar.

“Korean” Soy Sauce
2 T shoyu
1 T water
1-2 t sesame oil
1 t white sugar
1 t raw sugar
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 t Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
2 T green onion, white and green parts finely chopped
3 t sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle

In a small bowl, stir together the shoyu, water, sesame oil and sugars, until the sugars have fully dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion and sesame seeds. Refrigerate while the pork cooks to allow the flavors to meld.

Red Curry Peanut Sauce
1/4 C roasted salted peanuts
1 T brown sugar

2-3 t Thai red curry paste
8-10 T water
2 t peanut oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 C shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 fresh Thai or serrano chilies, including seeds, thinly sliced crosswise

Finely grind 3 tablespoons peanuts in a food processor along with brown sugar. Finely chop remaining tablespoon peanuts by hand and set aside.

Stir together curry paste (to taste) and 6 tablespoons water until paste is dissolved.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, shallot, and chiles, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add ground peanut mixture and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in curry mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped peanuts.

Allow to reach room temperature, then dilute with water to reach desired consistency.

Un Frisson: Poached Salmon

October 17, 2011

The journey not the arrival matters.
~T.S. Eliot

An old school angle of using moist heat to envelope this savory, pink friend.

Appearing in the ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius’s De re Coquinaria, poaching has been in kitchen parlance for centuries. But, not until the 17th century, when fire became more manageable, did the technique truly blossom into vogue. The French call this method frisson, which is a moment of intense excitement—a shiver, a shudder, a thrill [from the Old French friçon, a trembling, from the vulgar Latin *frictio (friction), a derivative from Latin frigēre, to be cold]. Not to be boiled aggressively, but gently slipped into and simmered in an oh so delicate aromatic liquescence.

A detour worth embracing, indulging.

POACHED SALMON

3/4 C shoyu
3/4 C water
1 T raw sugar (turbinado)
2 star anise
8 green peppercorns
2 dried guajillo or ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and halved
1 1/4 lb salmon fillet, cut into two portions

Bunch of scallions, trimmed and halved

Combine the soy sauce, water, sugar, star anise, pepper corns and chiles in a heavy, deep skillet. Raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the fish and enough liquid to completely cover the fish. Bring to a lively simmer. Poach until the salmon is just slightly opaque, about 10-12 minutes, turning once as the liquid becomes a glaze. Remove and discard the star anise, peppercorns and chiles.

Serve over jasmine rice, ladled with the sauce and garnished with the scallions.

The finest clothing made is a person’s skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.
~Mark Twain

The delicious fig has often borne the burden of negative connotation. Fig leaf even carries a pejorative metaphorical sense of covering up behaviors or thangs that are embarrassing or shameful…the implication being that the cover is merely a token gesture and the reality of what lies underneath is all too obvious. Who can forget the biblical tale of Adam and Eve strategically covering their god given genitals in that original act of christian expurgation? Of course, none of us ever deigned to imagine what lurked beneath those leaves.

Prim and proper, yet highly skilled and insanely face paced, badminton now wants to lift the proverbial fig leaf some. The sport is engulfed in a controversy incited by an officially sanctioned dress code. In a effort to revive flagging interest, the World Federation has mandated that elite women must now wear more revealing skirts or dresses as many now compete in shorts or baggy tracksuit pants. In a typical “sex sells” approach, the Federation in conjunction with the marketing firm Octagon has decided that more flesh translates into a larger following. “We’re not trying to use sex to promote the sport, we just want them to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular,” naïvely remarked a deputy president of the Federation to the New York Times. It comes as little surprise that the Badminton World Federation is male dominated.

The reaction to requiring more skin while not universal has been almost zealously critical. Those offended who seek to have the rule abolished simply argue that the governing body of a sport decreeing a “less is better” clothing code for women smacks of overt sexism. Seems a point well made. Perhaps the governing board should compel male shuttlecockers to be barechested in speedos and women to be adorned in skimpy tops and thongs—now that would draw some throngs.

It just seems clothing optional should be a personal choice.

FIG COMPOTE

1/2 C turbinado (raw) sugar
1/2 C unprocessed local honey
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 C cold water

2 C dried black mission or mediterranean figs, stemmed and halved

1+ C premium balsamico di Modena

Place the sugar, honey, lemon zest, vanilla and water in a small saucepan over moderately low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Put the figs in a medium bowl, pour the syrup over the figs and allow to cool for about 4 hours.

Drain and discard the syrup, then put the figs in an airtight container and add enough balsamic vinegar to cover well. Cover and refrigerate for another 4 hours.

Serve over a fine ice cream of choice or topped with marscapone or freshly whipped cream—even gracing pork or lamb dishes.

P.S. The BWF announced Sunday that it was scrapping the rule that would have forced women to wear skirts or dresses in elite competition.