Friday, January 30, 2009

Headcheese / Part Three

After a full week since it entered our home, the Headcheese is finally done and I can safely say it was one of the most laborious foods I've ever made. At the same time, preparing it once immensely rewarding. While I think it came out quite well, the gelatinous pork delicacy is not for everyone and thus far I seem to be the only household member eating it.
Headcheese on baguette with pickle, mustard, and caper berries.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday / Fish Chowder

Tonight David and I were hankering for fish, and since he was feeling under the weather I decided to use the potatoes, onions, garlic, sage, celery, salt-cured anchovies, & milk we had in the fridge to make a get well cure: chowder! In addition to the ingredients we had on hand, I made a quick trip to the store and rounded out the soup with some fresh cod, bacon, fennel, and a nice loaf of crusty bread.

With a little help from my chowder experts in Maine (thanks, Jim! thanks, Dad!) and a generous amount of salt, we ended up with a pretty fine dinner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friday / Breakfast salad

Wednesday / Ten of Cups

Wednesday night we feasted with dear old friends. We ate delicious food. We drank way too much cheap wine. We sang songs. We had our tarot read.
Priscilla's corn pudding
Karyn's Brussels sprouts with turnips and pecans

Molly's Pork Pozole with all the fixins

Tarot readings by JeffH

We spent all day Thursday recovering.

Headcheese / Part Two

Today, while David is at work, he's left me in charge of the pig head. After brining that beast for 5 days, today's the day when the cooking actually begins. I haven't had to do much really, just peek inside the giant stockpot once in a while to make sure everything stays at a low simmer. For the next six hours or so, there the head will stay, bubbling in its bath of aromatics.

The house smells incredible - like celery and allspice - and it has become hard not to see this grotesque operation in a new light. There's something romantic about a several-day-long cooking project. Perhaps it's the sheer amount of care and attention paid to something as lowly as a pigs head (you can't help but grow attached!), or maybe it's just my longing for any connection to farm life here in the big city. In any case, as I've been meditating on this pig's head, I keep thinking back to my very favorite series of books from childhood: Little House on the Prairie. I know well and good that this Brooklyn apartment is worlds away from that Little House in the Big Woods, but today this pig-related passage feels strangely familiar:

Uncle Henry went home after dinner, and Pa went away to his work in the Big Woods. But for Laura and Mary and Ma, Butchering Time had only begun. There was a great deal for Ma to do, and Laura and Mary helped her.

All that day and the next, Ma was trying out the lard in big iron pots on the cookstove. Laura and Mary carried wood and watched the fire. It must be hot, but not too hot, or the lard would burn. The big pots simmered and boiled, but they must not smoke. From time to time Ma skimmed out the brown cracklings. She put them in a cloth and squeezed out every bit of the lard, and then she put the cracklings away. She would use them to flavor johnny-cake later.

Cracklings were very good to eat, but Laura and Mary could only have a taste. They were too rich for little girls, Ma said.

Ma scraped and cleaned the head carefully, and then she boiled it till all the meat feel off the bones. She chopped the meat fine with her chopping knife in the wooden bowl, she seasoned it with pepper and salt and spices. Then she mixed the pot-liquor with it, and set it away in a pan to cool. When it was cool it would cut in slices, and that was headcheese.

The little pieces of meat, lean and fat, that had been cut off the large pieces, Ma chopped and chopped until it was all chopped fine. She seasoned it with salt and pepper and with dried sage leaves from the garden. Then with her hands she tossed and turned it until it was well mixed, and she molded it into balls. She put the balls in a pan out in the shed, where they would freeze and be good to eat all winter. That was sausage.

When Butchering Time was over, there were the sausages and the headcheese, the big jars of lard and the keg of white salt-pork out in the shed, and in the attic hung the smoked hams and shoulders.
The little house was fairly bursting with good food stored away for the long winter.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Headcheese / Part One

It may seem strange from a quick look at this blog, but I was a fairly avid vegetarian for 8 years of my life, and a vegan for almost a year of that 8. While living in London I had a craving for meat and the usual internal motives that kept me from eating it weren't really there anymore. I always knew once I fell off the wagon, I would fall hard and I surely did. For at least a year I ate meat at every meal, trying to make up for lost time. This has leveled off considerably and while I have consumed a lot of meat since my veggie days, it has only been in the last few years that my growing ethical concerns about meat consumption has lead me to explore nose-to-tail eating and cooking.

So it is in the spirit of obligation, chance, and pure culinary exploration that I am making Headcheese for the first time. The good folks at BK were kind enough to let me part with a Pig's head (excluding the delicious jowls) from a pig butchering class and as I write it is sitting in a brine in my backyard. Before putting it in the brine I took a few pictures. After some discussion we decided I should just link to a picture of it to be courteous to our readers. While I agree with this decision, the only drawback is that having a Pig's Head posted would really separate us from every other 'couple-makes-beautiful-dinner-blog.' Oh well.

Anyway, should you not find such things offensive please go
here. And in case you were wondering removing eyeballs from a pig is somewhat gross. More coming soon. - dmp

Recipe / Cass Elliot's Duck

The Brooklyn Kitchen recently acquired several heirloom recipe index cards. They are free and near the cash register. Perusing through them I found some fantastic things but the diamond in the rough was this Duck recipe by Cass Elliot. I have no way to prove it but I hope and pray it is 'the' Cass Elliot; the one and only 'Mama' Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas. Assuming she could cook as well as she sang I am sure this is heavenly.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday / Family Style

Baked black beans with feta, pepperjack, corn and all the fixins.

Sunday / Leftover Stew

My motivation for this soup was really just to clean out the fridge. At the end of any given week, we have lots of halves of several-day-old, nearly-wilted veggies, which are just begging to be tossed in a stock pot and slow-cooked beyond recognition. This week we also had one left-over chorizo, some chicken stock, and a half bottle of mediocre white wine, so it seemed pretty clear that soup was on the menu. I didn't have the highest hopes for this no-nonsense meal, but I was hankering for an afternoon cooking project, and decided to dive in.

I doubted this stew throughout the entire cooking process. Something seemed a bit off, so I kept trying to compensate by making more additions - wine, salt, tomato paste, herbs - but nothing I did seemed to make it better. Finally, I just decided to stop futzing with it and let it do its own thing. When we heard that Jeff's friends were coming over for dinner, I pulled the pot off the stove altogether, and moved it to the side to make room for preparing the 4-course feast that was to come. The stew sat neglected on the counter all night, and before we went to bed I hastily threw it in the fridge. What I didn't know, was that something miraculous would happen while that stew chilled overnight. When I pulled the dutch oven out to reheat the stew for Sunday dinner, the flavors had melded, everything had mellowed out, and the stew had thickened and become intense in its flavors but not overly aggressive. Served with a bit of herby sour cream and crusty bread, it was a total delight.

In the most recent issue of Diner Journal, chef Caroline Fidanza talks about insaporire; a word Italians use to describe the moment that a dish "opens up and swells" with all the flavors it has been cooking with. She talks about this real moment when "the dish will let you know that it has arrived and will point you in the direction of what to do next." It's not about timing or precision, it's about watching and tasting and trusting your ingredients. I didn't know it when I started, but I think this humble Leftover Stew served a much greater purpose than simply clearing out space in the fridge.

Saturday / Collective Four Course Dinner

Saturday was a big day on Withers Street. Molly and I both had the all day cooking bug; she made a delicious soup (more on that coming soon) and I made my Coke braised short ribs. When JeffH came home and let us know his dear friends from out of town (Nick, Danny, & Andy) were coming over for dinner, a full on banquet took shape. I think I speak for everyone when I say how happy I was with it and how organically the whole process developed; it was a reminder of how powerful cooking with friends can be. While it wasn't planned, Fennel turned out to be the Iron Chef secret ingredient of the night.
First Course: Salad of Fennel, Beets, Carrots, Feta, and Parsley
Second Course: Jeff's Pasta with Eggplant & Fennel Ragu
Third Course: Coke-Braised Short Rib (spiced with Ras Al Hanout) over Sauteed Kale and White Beans
Fourth Course: Goat Cheese with local Honey and Fennel Seed (Inspired by our visit to Babbo, this is perhaps my favorite dessert.)
Scarpetta: In Italian culture, 'scarpetta' or 'little shoes' describes the act of soaking up the juices from the cutting board with bread. If only we had bread on hand. (thats Pam on the right)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday / Lunch

Generally speaking there is a very unified culinary palate here on Withers street; Molly and I amazingly nearly always agree on flavors. There are exceptions of course and Anchovies are one of them. I love them and Molly could easily do without. Today I toasted some French Baguette directly over the grill top, drizzled a little olive oil on them and laid these little fishes on there with some lemon juice, pepper, thyme, and a touch of salt.

In my humble opinion, anchovies are the perfect food. They are immensely salty and have so much depth and richness to them. At their very best they give the luminous impression of their origins, the deep blue sea. Rustic and simple; I, for one, can't think of a more satisfying lunch. - dmp

Saturday / Breakfast

fresh ricotta with strawberries, honey, flax & cinnamon raisin toast

Thursday / Cinnamon Raisin & Rosemary Garlic

Based on our previous success with no-knead bread, this week David and I decided to play with the recipe a bit and make some additions: Cinnamon Raisin & Rosemary Garlic. The loaves didn't rise quite as much as the originals, so next time I think we'll just add a little more yeast to compensate for all the additions. They taste great, though, so we'll continue to play around with different grains, nuts, herbs, etc.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday / Mussels with Chorizo and Fennel

Thankfully, I think I redeemed myself with dinner tonight. As a Maine girl, preparing steamed mussels just comes like second nature. The chorizo, fennel, and white wine were new additions and added a lovely layer of spice and sweetness which balanced quite well with the rich, sea salty mussels.

Wednesday / Experimental Lunch

On a clear, cold day such as this, our house feels mighty cozy - warmed by our hissing radiators and brightened by the strong midday sun, which splashes onto our living room floor and bounces back up to reflect on our kitchen ceiling. I couldn't help but be distracted from my work! It was just too tempting to be lured in by the romantic notion of enjoying a hearty, hot lunch for two.

Generally, we don't keep that many supplies in our fridge or pantry, but you can pretty much always count on breakfast staples: eggs, cheese, bacon. I decided to fold these three ingredients into a pasta carbonara - a rich, velvety, egg/bacon pasta. In theory it was a great idea: delicious ingredients, homemade pasta from the Italian joint down the street, good winter food.

In practice, though, it was kind of a disaster. The flavors worked well together and the pasta was cooked just right, but man, I really messed up the egg bit! Instead of the rich, velvety sauce, my whole dish was sprinkled with little bitty chunks of scrambled eggs. I know this is all part of the learning curve, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit annoyed. I'm hoping that with a few revisions, mainly tempering the egg mixture better next time, this dish's future incarnations will be a much more satisfying.

In the meantime, here are a few images of Pasta Carbonara, take 1:


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reading / Caroline Fidanza

Serious Eats NYC posted a great interview with Caroline Fidanza, Executive Chef of Diner / Marlow & Sons and certainly One & Supp's favorite chef and inspiration.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday / Lunch

Going to make my lunch today I was completely gutted to find that all of our delicious No Knead Bread was already all gone. We have some Whole Foods brand Multi-Seed Bread (our normal bread supplier has been absent from the McCarren farmers market on Saturdays) but still I was all jazzed about some cured pork on homemade bread with some olive oil. Lunch was still delicious but we gotta make more bread!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday / Pork Tenderloin with Polenta and Apple

Making polenta and rosemary pork tenderloin last night, a rare bit of improvisation struck me and I decided to bake the pork (post searing) in apple juice and 'julienned' apples and it was definitely the right choice. I thought the end product was a bit dry and could of used some more sauce (or 'jus' for the fancy) but mro and JeffH said otherwise. Thank the lord for saturday night. - dmp

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday / Bread & Butter

It was back to basics today: homemade bread & butter. David taught me how to make butter a couple weeks back, and it's already become part of our weekly ritual. No churn required, just a pint of cream (I used our favorite, Ronnybrook), a hand mixer, some sea salt, and 15 spare minutes.

As for the loaf: I attempted Sullivan St Bakery owner Jim Lehey's no-knead bread recipe for the first time, and it couldn't have been easier. Stir up flour, water, salt, and yeast, give it a slow rise for 12-18 hours. Dust with cornmeal and let it rise again for two hours, turn it out into a dutch oven and bake for 45 minutes. That's it. No elbow-grease required. It is, hands down, the simplest and most satisfying bread I've ever made. And it even looks like the real deal.

All in all, it's been a most satisfying snowy Saturday.


Friday / Steak Over Creamed Spinach

I made a similar meal for my family in Texas over the holidays. My mother referred to the salad as 'avant garde.' go figure. - dmp