Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home-made gravlax

OK, so getting back into flogging is a slow process, but I am doing my best to remember to post. Fortunately, or not depending on your situation, lox is also a bit of a slow process. This should give me enough time to think of something else to post about. We'll see.

For the lox:
Find a nice piece of salmon. Preferably sockeye and it is best if the fish has been previously frozen. This is not only a safety issue. I have made lox with fresh salmon and am still here to flog about it. I have no scientific evidence to back it up but I am of the belief that it is more likely the stress and panic of eating raw/cured foods that leads to illness. Anyway...
The real reason for using previously frozen fish is that it means that the fish was flash frozen straight out of the water. As opposed to 'fresh' fish which probably has traveled for days before reaching your market. This is not always the case though so do be sure to source from a good vendor and do not be afraid to ask where they get their product and how it has been handled.
Back to the lox. This process takes about three days start to finish but it is very easy and much cheaper than purchasing prepared lox.
Start with as much salmon as you want to cure. Fillet the fish if not already done and remove all of the bones, including those annoying, little pin bones running through the fillet.

Mix up a cure; equal parts kosher salt and sugar and one third part of freshly ground black pepper. Use one tablespoon of salt for each pound of fish. In other words this will be two and one third tablespoons of the cure mix per pound. Sorry, I tried to think of a more confusing way to word that but that was the best that I could come up with.
Spread the cure over the fish, using a bit more on the thicker parts and a bit less on the thinner parts. Make sure to put some on the skin side as well.
For traditional gravlax place a large bunch of fresh dill on top of the fish, flesh side and then wrap the whole thing in a double layer of plastic wrap. Store in the fridge in another container to catch the juices. Flip the fish every day or so. It is cured when the thickest part of the fish is a bit firm, about three days.

That is it. Very easy and super delicious. Slice it thin and top bagel of your choice. Or serve it on an english muffin with a poached egg and bearnaise sauce. Use your imagination (and your slicing skills!)

Have you made this before? Leave us a comment or send a photo.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back at last

They say that bacon is the gateway meat. Well for me it is the doorway back into flogging. Unfortunately, there is a large population of people that do not get to enjoy bacon. I am not talking about those crazy vegans, fuck them. I mean there are good, honest, meat eating citizens that cannot eat bacon due to the dictates of their faith.
Well I have a preparation that will make you forever forget about bacon. I am serious, you just wait.

This technique is old school and unfortunately it is not a challenge that most home cooks take on very often. This is too bad. Confit is a preservation technique which is, for obvious reasons, not really necessary anymore. A confitted piece of meat will last, even unrefrigerated for a month or more in a cool cellar. If you are not familiar I hope this will provide the necessary inspiration. Unfortunately if are not familiar you will probably be unprepared as well. Fear not, I will provide all of the preparatory information at the end of the post.

Confit of Pork Belly
One piece pork belly from a heritage breed, organically raised hog. (Note that these additional qualifiers are NOT optional. If you are going to go through the trouble of this preparation, and it takes about a week, it is not worth it if you are not going to use the best meat that you can find.)

one piece pork belly, about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
1 oz kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pink salt* (optional)

1/2 t coriander
10 bay leaves, crushed
1 t black pepper
pinch cumin
1 T pimenton
2 t thyme (dried, if fresh use 1 1/2T)

Mix the cure ingredients (the salts) and the spices together and rub all over the pork belly, being sure to cover evenly and completely.
Wrap in plastic and place in a non-reactive container. Place in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours, turning once.

After curing, remove the pork from the fridge and rinse and dry thoroughly. Turn the oven to 300.
Place a heavy bottomed pot or a dutch oven on the stove on medium low heat. Add approximately 3-6 lbs of lard** This amount will vary greatly depending on the size of your vessel in relation to the size of the pork.
Once the fat is just melted, submerge the pork in the fat. The pork must be covered by the fat by about an inch or so.
Place the pot in the oven and cook until the pork is very tender, 4 to 5 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and allow the pork to cool in the fat.

Once cooled, transfer the pork to a smaller, non-reactive container that will just hold it. Cover it with the cooking fat and place a piece of plastic film on top. Weight the pork down with about 5 pounds overnight in the fridge, at least 12 hours.

The next day, after the pork has been pressed, remove the plastic wrap and add a bit more melted fat to completely cover the pork.

This is ready to eat now of course, in the sense that it is cooked. However it will continue to develop over the next few days in the fridge covered in the fat. Consider it completed after three days in the fridge.
This will last, covered in fat in the fridge for three months or more.

To serve:
Turn oven to 350 F.
Remove the pork from the fridge and scrape away the fat. Slice the pieces that you plan to eat, into the desired shape. It is much easier to cut when it is cold.
Heat a heavy pan, cast iron, over medium high heat for several minutes. Add the pork, fat side down and turn down the heat to medium low. Allow to cook for 15 to 20 minutes to develop a crust.
Slide the pan into the oven to heat the belly through for about 10 minutes.

Serve with, well... more fucking pork belly!
I am not joking. This will make you forget about, something. What was it?

*The pink salt in this recipe is completely optional. The pork is cooked and so it is unnecessary, however the pork will not have that lovely cured flavor without it. I suppose you are expecting a note about the health concerns or an explanation about what pink salt is. Well, you are already on the internet. I am not your fucking mother!

**While lard can be had from the store, usually an Asian or Latin market, these fats are often hydrogenated. This somewhat defeats the purpose of using lovely pork fat in the first place. No worries, make your own. Pork fat by the way is definitely GOOD fat. And not just because it is delicious. Pork fat, especially leaf lard is mostly made up of monounsaturated fats. Most of these are short and medium chain fatty acids. This is indeed the best kind of fat. It also contains a lot of nutrients and fat soluble vitamins. So stock up, and no more guilt for that second helping!

Rendering your own leaf lard.
1. Find a quality butcher, purchase about 6 lbs of leaf lard.
2. Remove the paper like membrane and discard
3. Cut the fat into very small pieces and place in a large pot
4. place in a 25o F oven, render for 4 to 10 hours, stirring about every 40 - 60 minutes
5. strain the fat and store in the fridge or freezer

Oh by the way, remember those guys with the religious objections to bacon. Apparently it is to pork in general. So sorry, guess this one wont work out for you. Although, really no pork! Maybe you should reconsider your faith. Just a thought. Happy eating!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A growing obsession and dying batteries

Coming up fairly quickly on a year with no posts. I am sure glad that those Google kids are understanding and have not yet deleted this blog. But I promise to... OK so no promises but I am going to try and put stuff up here. The problem is that I have actually been spending time cooking!
Cooking and not taking enough pictures. Cooking what you may ask. Spanish food mostly. I have become obsessed.
Spain has been on the top of my list for the last few years but recently my little itch has spread into a full blown culinary rash. Sorry, that is rather unappetizing I know. It doesn't help my obsession that the wife just bought me the Spain DVD. Which every one should check out by the way. It stars Mario Batali, Mark Bittman of the NY Times, Gwineth Paltrow and a Spanish actress Claudia Bessols. The whole thing look absolutely amazing because they shot it with these sexy Sony cameras. I wish I could make a couple of commissions on those with links to my Amazon store because they are like $80K each! Of course, I would first have to have an Amazon store. To be honest I am not entirely sure what that means but all of the serious floggers seem to have one.
Anyway, we have just acquired a new camera and a renewed interest in documenting our foodventures. God I hate it when people combine words like that. Nevertheless, look forward to new posts and new pictures in the very near future!


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rubbing it in, just a little

Oh right, I forgot to mention why the renewed interest in flogging. To be honest I have been meaning to get back to this flog for some time. I no longer have any excuses.
That's right. That's me right there. I love birthdays.
So, as a result, lots of bread baking has been goin' down.
A very basic sandwich bread recipe follows:
2 cups flour (AP is fine, BF is cool too)
into which is mixed about a Tablespoon of salt (maybe a bit less, I never measure such things)
1/2 cup warm water
into which goes about 1 1/2 teaspoons of Yeast
1/2 cup milk, warmed (and yes I mean whole milk, what kind of a site do you think this is?)into which is melted 1 Tablespoon of butter (unsalted always!)
Let yeast bloom in warm water for about 10 minutes,
mix with flour until a shaggy dough forms, wait 5 to 35 minutes (could let it rest like this for hours, but it is unnecessary.)
Mix in the milk let it rest again for 20 - 30 minutes. Then knead until it is done.
No, I am not going to tell you how long to knead it, just do it until it is done.
Let is rise until doubled then split into two loaves. Press down and fold, I usually do all four corners in, then those four corners and pull it tight. I know this is not very discriptive but I am feeling lazy right now. Maybe I will edit it later but at least I am posting something, right? You're just wasting time at work reading food blogs!
Anyway, let these loaves rise again then shape, proof and bake.
400 degrees (on your baking stone of course!) for 12 minutes or so, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake until done, probably around 35 minutes more.

Here is it served with some of the beans left over from a cassoulet made yesterday. Breakfast of champions.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A really weird day in Seattle

No joke. Today was really weird. Sunny all day and almost 80 degrees. Why is that so weird? Well, it is Seattle and it is April. Two weeks ago it snowed. Today it was beautiful so we decided to go hiking up Tiger mountain. It was fun but we spent the entire time planning for our feast tomorrow.

Needless to say by the time we got done we were starving. As the weather was nice, we decided on burgers, something we haven’t done in a long while. So we stopped and got some beef and charcoal and headed home to fire up the Q.

After a lengthy search through the basement and storage I found the old smokey joe and set about preparations. These are beef burgers, noted only because we quite often do lamb. Seasoned with a bit of worcestershire sauce and soy, garlic, shallots and S&P.

On top; grilled onions, bacon, avocado, gruyere (on mine) and basil. BBQ sauce of course doesn’t really need mentioning.

Paired with an unfiltered amber wheat beer from the Trader Joe’s this was a perfect late lunch on such a beautiful day. Damn, why don’t we do burgers more often?

Oh, right. Seattle.

Damn, three posts in as many days. I had better slow down.

Grand Re-opening

OK, so there has been a rather obvious lack of activity on this flog for the past several months. I wish I could claim a great abduction story or something reasonable to explain my absence. A daring escape from the clutches of evil fast food purveyors and thugs employed by the mayonnaise industry.
Alas there is no such tale.
No matter. The flog is back.
The format will be tweaked slightly. Over the next several months WhyMayo? will explore and experiment with all of the food items that most home chefs are too intimidated or lazy to attempt. It seems to me more and more that people know about food, they can't stop talking about the latest episode of Top Chef, but still no one cooks at home. (And none of the floggers in Seattle curse. It is fucking creepy.)

I will try whenever reasonable to include some of the science going on in the foods prepared. Mostly because it is of great interest to me. Who doesn't love AB, right? Mostly though it is my belief that once one understands the basics and all of the things that are happening behinds the scenes, food preparation becomes that much easier. Then, experimentation and elaboration becomes much more fun and feasible. Besides, a basic grasp of chemistry seems almost a prerequisite for cooking these days.

One of the first items to be attempted will be bread. Completely complex in its utter simplicity, just four basic ingredients and endless variations. Great bread is one of those things that typically baffles many home chefs. So much so that it seems rarely attempted anymore.
Perhaps it is a matter of convenience and practicality. Bread is available in most places at reasonable quality and price. Home baked bread certainly must come out of some passion. Perhaps though this is more on point with what this flog will be all about. The seemingly endless march toward convenience. Pre-sliced apples, for fuck's sake!
What should I really expect though from a culture that has a prescription for everything. Why take the time, put forth effort to create something, why search for something about which you are passionate when there is a pill that can make you feel that way about a sofa cushion. I still make happiness from scratch, the old fashioned way (read, liquor).
OK, this post is becoming rather rant like. I should probably stop before I scare off anyone who might actually read this thing in the future. Google ad-sense, Ka-ching!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Told you so!

Ha! I knew I could do it. I have broken the silence. I think the problem has been trying to create some sort of great, re-opening post to reintroduce WhyMayo? to the blogosphere. But I have given up on that, mostly because I have discovered something that upsets me greatly. The US has banned imports of curry leaves! Motherfuckers!
I found this out after looking for them yesterday at the local Asian food store first and then at the Indian food store, nothin'!
Only half jokingly I googled the shortage of curry leaves in the Seattle area to discover that the USDA had actually banned imports of curry leaves from Hawaii due to a bacteria that affects citrus crops, as the plant on which curry leaves grow is a relative of these crops.
I have been unable to find any updates as to when the ban may be lifted.
WTF And I just bought a bunch of chana dal.
(Cheaper at the Whole Foods than at the Indian food store, Nice!)

I guess since this is a food blog I should at least include some shots of the food which was supposed to contain these delicious, deep green little leaves.
This is a very simple dish. Just chana dal cooked in chicken stock, although I am sure that water would work just as well. Half a medium, yellow onion and several cloves of garlic sauteed in butter and olive oil with the typical seasonings. Cumin seed, red chili flakes, coriander and turmeric. Finish with some cilantro and some rice. Breakfast of champions.

Sure would be better with some mutha fuckin' CURRY LEAVES!!! though!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

OK, seriously this time

Wow, almost a year since I posted the coming soon notice. Ha! OK, seriously though, within a week.

Posts to look forward to:
Some great, authentic Chinese food
Bread posts (I just got a Kitchen Aid. What!)
Pizza Root Beer Fridays!
XLBs, you know what I'm talkin' about Dylan!

Many more.

Stay tuned....

I promise