More blanching!

Im no stranger to asparagus when it is in season, usually sauteed or steamed, but this is the best I have ever prepared. Rapid boiling followed by rapid cooling is clearly a winning method. Gone is the crunchy, squeeky-on-the-teeth feeling, reaching more toward the consistency of tinned asparagus, without being mushy or slimy. Maybe ‘lightly tinned’ might be a good way of describing it.. or what about just ‘cooked perfectly’?

Peeling and segmenting the oranges in an attractive fashion was a wee bit time consuming, but not the dressing. Again simplicity wins with juice of a lemon, olive oil, salt, and white pepper. Only recently have I found white pepper, and when I did, it was on a supermarket shelf in an ordinary suburban supermarket. Does this mean it is an out of fashion ingredient used by old wives in their bean salads? Who could say. I can see how, if I had used white pepper here I could have avoided freckling the dish with black dots.

With ease of preparation, great looks on the table, and a suitably fancy french name, Asparagus and Haricots Verts Salad will be joining the table with those from other pages that have been repeated and have become part of my repertoire. The lemon in the dressing, and the segments of orange lend a refreshing citrussy – my flatmate Jo says “it tastes really ’70s” – flavour, offset by the salt and pepper and oil. Mmm mmm!

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The recipe for the particularly French sounding ‘tomato salad’ specifies heirloom tomatoes. Anthony Bourdain goes so far as to say

“..if you cant get a good tomato, don’t make the damn dish”.

In the introduction section on “scoring the good stuff” he proclaims that “Nothing illustrates the chronic, delusionally determined drive toward mediocrity better than the tomato”, citing Italian restaurants that serve cardboard-like tomatoes out of season, before going into some detail on the benefits of acquainting oneself with local slow-food movements. Anthony is reluctant to subscribe to the notion of saving the world through sustainability or whatever perceived ambitions of the movement, but puts forth that the food really is better, so why not encourage your local grower, market, artisanal goat cheese maker, etc..
I reckon slow, local, independent produce really is better, AND what better place to make a difference than at the kitchen table. Two things that come to mind when thinking on this subject and that have really inspired me, are Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’, and the doucmentary ‘The Real Dirt on Farmer John’. You can watch the entire thing on youtube, but I recommend sitting back and watching it in better quality if you can find it.

I have 21 heirloom tomato plants growing in the back yard  – all descendants of a single tomato from last years harvest.. this guy:

Today’s project is to begin netting over this years crop before they start to ripen, fueling copious servings of Anthony Bourdain’s tomato salad and sparing none for the birds.

Once the lime zest confit is made, this is real low hanging fruit. The first recipe in the book to take under an hour.. it took about 5 minutes. I didnt have any sour cream or crème fraîche to go with them but they were delicious as is. Super simple and very limey, sweet, minty, zingy blueberries.

Interesting that this is such a simple dessert, yet the accompanying photo in the book is a modification of the method. It clearly has chiffonaded lime zest (from the previous recipe) and appears to have been sprinkled with a crust of sugar before serving.

I’ll be making this one again before blueberry season is out.

Get a bag of limes.

Peel a couple of limes, scrape out the pith from under the peel, boil in sugar and water until reduced by half. Strain. Keep the confit for use in future recipes.

Squeeze the rest of the limes and mix the juice 50/50 with Tanqueray over ice. Strain out into an old fashioned glass. Gimlets ahoy!

What looks to be a salad that can be thrown together in a few minutes, takes over an hour to prepare. Dishes stack up all over the bench, and most of the pots in the cupboard get used

I have never blanched anything before. All of a sudden there is a queue for the ice bath. I followed the recipe from another part of the book for boiled eggs: place eggs in cold water in pot. Bring to boil. Take off heat and leave with lid on for 10 mins. Transfer eggs to ice-bath then peel when cold.
Result: no grey bits around the yolk, no breakages, and no timer needed.

A [relatively] simple, colourful, delicious and filling salad. Note the fancy Niçoise olives, imported tuna and white anchovies. The dressing is red-wine-vinegar and olive oil, whisked together with garlic. I’m sure I’ll be using this method again along with the above boiled eggs.

I’m pretty sure Ive made something like this before, but I’m fairly certain it didn’t involve boiling potatoes in cream.

Sliced spuds, plus parsley, rosemary, thyme and nutmeg all boiled in cream.. THEN, slopped into a garlic and buttered dish, sans herbs and sprinkled with Gruyère. Pretty much about 3 weeks of daily jogging required to burn off a single serving of this monster.

White pepper isn’t mentioned in the ingredients. It just pops up unannounced in the method. Yeah, I’ll just reach over and grab a dash of that from the.. WAIT, It is mentioned.. arguably its hidden, but.. clearly I failed to read through thoroughly before starting.

Notably this is the first Les Halles recipe calling for rosemary I have come across. While my parsley, bay tree and thyme have been providing in almost every dish so far, my rosemary and oregano has been left to flourish..

I not sure why I would make this again. Its great to know how to make an extremely creamy potato dish, but hard to see what it might accompany.

Roughly translating to ‘pot on the fire’ – as in on the hearth – this dish is simple and classic. Just unload a bucketload of various stewing meats into the biggest pot you’ve got, fill the rest up with a modified mirepoix, add water and simmer until tender.

Of course, its not entirely that simple. The ingredients took a bit of hunting for. Carrots & onions, cloves, the white part of 6 leeks, cabbage, potatoes – check. Celeriac was a bit harder to find, but I found a huge one and cut it into eighths – as opposed to quartering two small ones as instructed.

Veal shank, ox tails, blade steak – sure. Beef short ribs? Noone sells that cut here in NZ. So I substituted with a big pile of relatively meaty brisket with the bone in.

The first step is to cover the meat in water, bring to the boil, take the meat aside, then throw out the liquid and clean the pot and start over. The reasoning here isnt explained, however a vast amount of scummy filth leaves at this stage and as far as I know it didnt lessen the flavour of the finished dish. The meat at this point is grey and very dead looking and smells particularly rank. It was very hard to see how things would improve.

It should be mentioned that ‘the biggest pot’ we had, was a rather flimsy aluminium affair, and the next one down is the one that leaks out the side when full, so I went out and bought a shiny new big pot.

All the meat, a bouquet garni, and most of the veges go in, to be simmered for a 3 hours. The potato and cabbage jump in closer to the end. Enormous amounts of fat and scum get lifted off the surface periodically.

I dont have an enormous serving platter with which to arrange the meat and vegetables in “an attractively disheveled fashion”, but instead unloaded the contents onto the biggest plates available, along with a bowl each of sea salt and cornichons, and as much mustard as could be mustered. The meal satisfied all my flatmates(err.. except the vegetarian), and my parents – which in itself was an interesting and successful experiment. There was more than enough to go around, and loads of leftovers. All the meats were deliciously tender and flavorsome, and the veges interesting. Especially the large sections of leek, and the celeriac. A delicious success, and Im left looking forward to next time.

At the Wild game shop in Huntly, I asked the gentleman at the counter whether ‘Wild pork’ was boar.
He looked at me quizzically and stated that since it wasnt specified, it could be boar or sow. I decided to not ask any more questions.

I cut the shoulder up into large cubes then placed in a bowl with diced onion, carrot, garlic and leek and added “1 cup/110ml of the wine” – which is it Tony? Half a cup or a full cup?? I added a full cup, then marinated overnight. At this stage in proceedings, the ingredients and aroma very much matched Soupe au Vin. Not a great sign of things to come, since I wasnt really taken with the winey leeky soup. On the other hand, Coq au vin starts out somewhat like this and is excellent.

Larousse Gastronomique defines ‘Civet’ as the following:

I suppose some of the blood from the boar makes it into the marinade, but it is hardly a defining characteristic.
It would be interesting to see what the general take on this is..

The boar cubes come out of the marinade stained a rich red and needing a pat dry before going into the pot to get browned all over, and set aside while the drained veges go in until caramelised. Next the meat goes back in, along with the marinade juice, some veal stock, a bouquet garni, more wine, and probably some other stuff I am forgetting now and gets simmered for ages then the liquid gets seperated from the meat and carrots, and everything else is strained out and never makes it to the table. At this stage it is apparent what a properly complicated French style affair this is as a pile of bowls and sieves begin to stack up.


At the last minute the meat is once again set aside and the (now very rich) sauce is boiled for a wee bit with bitter chocolate and
red wine vinegar then spooned over the meat. The flavours work perfectly. This recipe impressed me as much as the whole roasted fish basquaise did, and my guests agreed.

My mother spotted and purchased for me copy of the 1961 edition of Larousse Gastronomique. This book is not something else, it is THE real thing. There’s over a million words, arranged into alphabetized recipes; encyclopedia-style. It appears in the ‘further reading’ section of Les Halles Cookbook as the go-to book to settle disputes:

If you ever find yourself in a drunken brawl with a bunch of chefs or food nerds over questions of historical culinary minutiae, or “correct” ingredients, [I’m going to call you later on this Tony] this mammoth, irreplaceable work should settle the matter

The butter section spans a good 5 pages, whereas the eggs section spans 25. There are dozens of recipes for aubergine, a couple for turtle.. you get the picture. It has it all, and I will be referring to it constantly from here on in.

Im going to take the time to link to some guys blog, who tried to pull a Tom&Tony a.k.a a Julie&Julia on Larousse Gastronomique, and pulled out after 100 or so recipes. A mere fraction of the gazillion or so recipes, but still a commendable effort.

Later in the week I took off down to Mt Ruapehu for a spot of snowboarding with the lads. On the way back we stopped at a wild game shop, but thats a different story..
One evening I whipped up a Poulet Basquaise with couscous for the team before we sat down to a settle things once and for all over a game of Settlers of Catan. This ties in nicely with a link to letterstobourdain.com, where Davy is trying to figure out if Tony is as good a chef as he is a writer, by cooking his way through Les Halles Cookbook. He’s over half way now and his writing is worth a good read. I suggest you – my sophisticated reader – check it out, especially his recent post on cooking Chacroute Garnie at a LARP. Man, thats like 42 trillion nerd-points right there. Legend.

Above, my buddy RobDelicious settling in with a winning move.

The pigs heart and the accompanying sauce are cooked separately then combined on the plate.

The sauce: add a half shot of Armagnac to a hot pan to dramatic effect, add half cup chicken stock, reduce, add 8 cloves of garlic confit, juices from the roasting pan then an alarmingly hearty quantity of butter.
The organ: Sauté onion chunks in pork fat, mix in parsley and thyme. Salt and pepper the heart then shove in the onion herb mixture. Shoving bits of onion into the ventricals of a cold heart is, well.. strange, and memorable.

Bon appétit!

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