I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth.
~Ovid, Metamorphoses

This month is so blessedly confusing. William Shakespeare turns 400 this month, who wrote incredulous prose, theater and poetry,  (some scholars opine April 23 as his birth + death both), Elizabeth II who still endures (born April 21, 1926) not only navigated WW II but the British Empire fall, spells 90 years today — then my daughter, one of my sons and my bed mate, well, have sort of met “milestones”…Yikes!  How to celebrate.

I have had the honor to meet the steadfast, tight lipped, dutiful Queen Elizabeth II and actually the baby blue eyed, amiable Queen Mother at the elegant Badminton Trials outside of Bath, England, with its dearth of dog breeds and horses (courtesy of the royal life boaters’ urgences), and obviously happened on to my piquant “bookmark” via others and sometimes alone. My children and their children, both presently and to-be…the season has all been bewildering.

The exalted Bard is a tad ancient even though his works are ineludible — his dramas and comedies are just damned astonishing. There is so little space here to expound upon his pervasive work, so apologies in advance to all for any short shrift. Much like Shakespeare’s quote in Merchant of Venice: “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.” 

Perhaps probably should have saved Scones (May 23, 2009), Dickens & Tikka Masala (February 7, 2012) or Scotch Eggs, Sort of (January 7, 2016) for this page. You no doubt get the English drift. Oh, well. But please do not be disappointed because it all remains good grub.

I must say though, that rognons are sublime…had them three times in a row in Paris, all at the same resto, once watching the sous-chef carving an exquisite lamb shoulder roast for ma femme who appeared decidedly perplexed (with good cause).

The past intrudes — as it should.

KIDNEYS ON TOAST

8-10 lamb or veal kidneys, or so
3 T all purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper

2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3-4 fresh garlic cloves, plump and fresh, peeled and smashed
1-2 fresh shallots, peeled and sliced

3 t Dijon mustard
3 t soy sauce or apple wine vinegar
3/4 C chicken stock
1/2 C dry white or red wine

8 slices artisanal bread, such as ciabatta, toasted
Parsley leaves, chopped
Orange zest

Eggs, local and fried or poached

Remove gristle, nerves, core and internal membrane from each kidney, leaving the halves intact. Rinse well and pat dry. Combine flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper on a plate and mix well. Coat each kidney in flour mixture, and shake well to remove excess. Then again, season the kidneys directly with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and then dip them in flour (my choice).

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat and add butter, oil, plus garlic and shallots. Once butter has melted and has begun to bubble, but has not browned, discard garlics and shallots, add kidneys and cook until browned, about 2 or so minutes. Flip each kidney and brown on other side, about 2 or so minutes.

Add dijon mustard, soy sauce, stock and wine to skillet, whisking some. Simmer kidneys until done, about 2 minutes. Remove kidneys to glass bowl cover with foil and allow to rest. Once stock has thickened, remove pan from heat and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, after tasting.

Slice each kidney to your liking and place on toast. Top with cooked eggs.

Serve dribbled with sauce and adorned with chopped parsley and orange zest.

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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

 

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
~David Hume

The proof has been divulged, and thorough knowledge should follow, right?  Seems logical and quite simple, almost acutely rational.  Sometimes or always, though, or really are we constrained by our psyches or basic instincts or neural circuits or are we harnessed and have visions or dreams or torments which guide us?  Or does humanity deal with prompts, insights, anxieties, kisses, primes, embraces, seductions, or even prefrontal cortices? Should we judge by, discard, or empathize with others’ conscious or subconscious or unconscious or neural thoughts? Or should we cognitively assay or attempt reason at all? What to do?

Don’t know, yet, but perhaps should…in any event, both beef arm and pork butt, alas not tri-tip (the bottom of the beef sirloin), were cooked this week.  Apparently, the kiss principle.

Chuck arm roast comes from the muscular shoulder of the beef steer, a slightly leaner cut of pot roast.  So, not unlike pork “butt,” the cut is sublimely delectable, tender and proves likewise inexpensive — not in the least faraway from succulent Santa Maria tri-tips even though it does come from a different part of the animal.  Although pork shoulder takes longer to shred depending upon poundage, in each beef event, you can both cook slow and low in the oven (2-3 hours @ 300 F), braise in stock and/or water over the stove top simmering calmly for a couple of hours, grill over the barbecue (20-25 minutes or so) or finish at high heat (something like 400 F+) in the oven after ‘cuing, if necessary to bring to a close. No doubt there are other approaches to this rather thick flesh.

Comme d’habitude, my preference is to grill with soy sauce only – that rich umami concept with the presence of glutamate and five ribonucleotides and so on, and it doubles down for prompt home chow, especially when it is somewhat chilly outside. But, that never means that marbled arm roast should not be whirled at by other methodologies.

Perhaps, more stubborn than first intuited, but now it may be overly belated to psychoanalyze me.   Too late.

GRILLED ARM ROAST

Arm roast, about 2-3 lbs, room temperature
High quality soy sauce, preferably shoyu

Have your butcher cut a fresh arm roast.  Spread the beef with shoyu all over, somewhat sparingly, and massage then allow the arm roast to sit in the spare umami juices for just a couple of hours.  In the interim, light the coals until they are medium to medium high (around 3-4 seconds to the hand test). Grill roast to desired doneness, as cooking time will vary upon thickness of the meat and the heat of the grill.  Medium rare is preferred, but to each her or his own, no judging or empathizing.

Allow the meat to rest, somewhat amply, before serving.  Serve with olive oil slathered veggies, such as mushrooms, chile peppers, asparagus, etc. and a toothsome red.

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.

Pescatarian Purée

November 4, 2011

A humorless, but not tasteless, post.

Edamame 枝豆 which literally translates as “twig or branch beans” are large-seeded, immature soybeans in the pod. Often served boiled or steamed, straight up in the pod sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Edamame (Glycine max L.) grow in clusters on bushy branches, and the beans are plucked in the pod at the peak of ripening.

A wonder veg teeming with nutrients. Edamame is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids and is a fecund source of protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, folate, essential fatty acids, and isoflavones.

Serve over or under sashimi, cured yellowtail, seared tuna or scallops, or maybe drizzled on a fish taco. When shucked, they also splendidly compliment salads, rice or risotto…to name a scant few.

EDAMAME & HORSERADISH PUREE

2 C edamame, shelled
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t sugar
2 t ushukuchi (light soy sauce)
1/4 C fresh horseradish, peeled and grated
Water

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, prepare ice water bath in a large mixing bowl. Blanch edamame for 30 seconds, spoon out and toss them into the cold bath. Then, drain and set aside, reserving 2 tablespoons of whole beans for plating. Transfer remaining edamame to a processor fitted with a metal blade or a blender and add salt, sugar, soy sauce, horseradish and enough water to create a purée. Process in pulses until very smooth, adding water if necessary. Taste for seasoning.

For looks, finish with a scattering of the reserved edamame beans.

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.

Mushroom Broth (Stock)

August 18, 2011

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

~William Shakespeare, Macbeth

The debate over broth vs. stock. Why has this always been so perplexing, even amusing?

Broth derives from the Old English noun broþ, having trickled down from an Indo-European verb root bhreu- or bhru- (“to heat, boil, bubble”), which also produced the word “brew.” So, etymylogically speaking, the noun broth means “liquid in which something has been boiled.”

The Germanic form brotham was borrowed into vulgar Latin as brodo, which by way of Old French broez came into 13th century English as broys or browes.

Stock presents a tad more complicated root scenario given its varied definitions and uses (inventory, corporate stock, summer stock, livestock, paper stock, stock remark, etc.). The word originally denoted a “tree trunk,” coming from the Germanic stukkaz. Stock, as used in the sense of broth, was so coined in the mid 18th century, because one keeps a “stock” of “broth” on hand in the stockpot.

Etymylogically, they seem nearly interchangeable. But, many chefs may dispute this, contending that stock is produced by slowly simmering relatively unseasoned bones and cartilage, some meat scraps, vegetables and aromatics in order to extract their essences. Often, the collagen rich bones are first oven roasted with the vegetables, and then added to the water to further enhance colors and flavors. This gelatinous, rich, and viscous stock is then strained and later used as a base to build sauces, gravies, soups or braises. Broth, on the other hand, they claim is crafted with whole meat morsels, is more delicate by nature and refers to an already finished and seasoned product. So, although not necessary broth can be made of stock.

Add to this semantic cauldron culinary terms like bouillon, court bouillon and consommé and mayhem ensues.

The distinction between vegetable stock and broth seems neglible. As for mushroom broth, made from those noble fungi taxonomically classified as a kingdom separate and apart from plants and animals and more genetically related to animals than plants…a vegan conundrum?

MUSHROOM BROTH

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs crimini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 1/2 C large mushroom stems (e.g., portabella), cleaned and sliced lengthwise
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 C dry white wine
1 T shoyu
1 C dried mushrooms, such as porcini and/or shiitake
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 t dried herbes de Provence
3 sprigs fresh thyme
8 whole black peppercorns
3 C water
3 C vegetable stock

In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the mushrooms, stems, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine, shoyu, dried mushrooms, salt, dried herbs, thyme, peppercorns, water and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the liquid is reduced about one half, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Pour the hot broth through a fine strainer into a large bowl. Strain a second time for good measure.

Store broth in the fridge for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.