Friday, December 29, 2006

Experiment: Pork Butt: Round one

It is quite clear that forgetting to salt has had an impact. The meat is just a bit bland without it. The apple juice has also made it rather sweet, as expected. This will need to be fixed though as it makes the meat one dimensional and the sauce is already a bit sweet as well. It is really hard not to mess with the second batch as I have many new ideas to adjust the recipe but damn it! This is an experiment to determine the necessity of the marinating time, so I must resist.
However, for the next time, it definitely needs more heat. I think that the jalapenos that went into the marinade, but not into the braise, will need to be added there. First though, I will go over exactly how the braise was prepared.
About half an hour before the meat is ready, pull it out of the fridge to bring to room temp. Then start preparing the mirepoix for the braise. Chop one large yellow onion, two celery stalks, two carrots, two green onions and three slices of bacon. Brown the meat in a thick bottomed pan on high heat with a good amount of OO. This is a critical step. As I often am, you may be tempted to move the pieces around. Resist this urge. Make sure to develop a good caramelization of each side before turning. It is much better to have an over done piece than one which is not properly seared. Also, do not crowd the meat in the pan. This was not really an issue in this case because of the small amount of pork worked with. However, for the next time the meat will need to be tripled at least. If there is not enough room in the bottom of the pan, do this step in batches.
Once all of the meat is browned, remove it from the pan and add the onions. Add a bit more oil if necessary. Then drop in the bacon and the garlic cloves from the marinade. Then add the celery, carrots and scallions. Let all of this cook down a while, 20 minutes or so. After these have cooked through, move everything to the sides of the pan, open a can of tomatoes and, after crushing the tomatoes up with your hands, add them directly to the bottom of the pot and cover. This part of the process is more important than it may seem. By putting the tomatoes directly onto the bottom, and leaving them there for a while, they will also caramelize and create a very nice flavor that would otherwise not occur.
After the tomatoes have had a chance, stir it all up and throw the meat back in on top and just cover with everything. Also, add about a third of the marinade to this mix. Retain the rest. Let the braise go for two hours, stirring about every half hour. Once it has cooked, remove the meat and blend everything else with a hand mixer. In this case, the amount of meat was really inadequate for the amount of sauce that was produced. Therefore, the meat needed to be kept separate, pulled apart and the sauce added. The next time of course, more meat will be used and hopefully be able to be kept in the sauce.
Approximately 30 minutes before the braise is done, take the reserved marinade and place in a pan over high heat. Bring this mix to a boil to reduce, adding a few pats of butter. Stir frequently and reduce to very nearly nothing. From about two cups to less than half a cup. This should take about half an hour. Once this sauce is reduced and the braising liquids mixed, add the sauce to the rest and stir together. I had to salt this sauce at this stage but if done at the appropriate time, before the meat sits in it, that should be unecessary.
It turned out quite good. Not quite what I was expecting and not quite pulled pork. Not quite bbq style anyway. Still it was a good start and I have many ideas on how to improve for next time. Just hope I can resist the urge to fuck with the next batch. Should be posting the results of the comparison soon.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Experiment II: Pork Butt: plan of attack

I guess I should start with the corrections. Due to time constraints, that is the focus of the experiment after all, the marinating time for the first has been shortened to three hours from four. Also, because Whole Foods is a lame, stinky, whore of a food store, the meat has been changed to pork butt from shoulder. Pork butt is the more typical cut for preparing pulled pork though I prefer shoulder in most cases. It is just as tasty and less expensive. I hate whole foods in general and especially the one by our house (SM & Fairfax). It has a very poor meat selection. What store doesn’t have pork shoulder? Come on! Besides that, I asked for one pound and he sliced one that was 1.3lbs. Now I know that cutting meat is not an exact science, but if you were the employee, would you not at least ask the customer if this cut was still OK?! No such courtesy. This is truly one of the worst meat departments that I have ever frequented. We went once and they didn’t even have ground beef. No lie, how could I make up something like that? Also, their fish monger doesn’t care for monk fish. Thus they don’t stock it. Christ!
So, the WooF’s shortcomings aside, here is how I have prepared the marinade. It was really just a random assemblage of what I thought would make for a somewhat bbq experience. This is not intended to be exactly like a bbq pulled pork sandwich. Much to the disappointment of the wife. It does smell quite nice however and this is what went in.
Starting with the liquid. Two parts to one of apple juice and beef broth. Then, a healthy handful of roughly chopped garlic (probably 1/4 c.) Half a shot of Bourbon (the house B here is MM.) One Cinnamon stick, 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin, ground and, sadly, not roasted (stupid, stupid) One teaspoon of honey, half a jalapeno (though I can’t be sure that this is an accurate measure as we grow our own and they don’t get quite as large as the store bought variety. A heaping tblsp should do.) On the top go the herbs. What effect these will have, I have no idea. A small bunch each of parsley and cilantro with one sprig of tarragon. Mostly because we have such an abundance of fresh and wonderful herbs at the moment, after a weekend trip to the Farmer’s Market. Just seemed a shame not to include some. The tarragon was a gamble, admittedly, but time will tell. Kind of minty but with a bit of spice as well. Smells good anyway, though tarragon is not one of the more aromatic herbs.
So this is where they sit at the moment. Happily soaking up this slightly alcoholic elixir. Hopefully absorbing some of the herb’s wonderful qualities and, damn it! I forgot to salt. Oh well. Next time.
Don’t forget to stir two or three times a day for the longer batch.
Stay tuned for part three, the braise

Labels: , ,

Experiment: Pork Shoulder: the test

So it is just after nine in the morning. I have finished off my first pot of coffee and had a bit of breakfast. Clearly, it is time for some pork shoulder.
Actually I have been thinking about this for a while now. A few weeks ago I pinched another recipe from Mario for a braised pork shoulder. It was very good. Tender and delicious. It made us high, truly. Not sure if it was because the meat had soaked in an entire bottle of wine for three days or because we hadn't eaten much that day. Anyway, it was good. It got me thinking though. About what else? Pulled Pork Sandwiches!
I love pulled pork sandwiches. I have never attempted them and I don't much like to follow recipes. I know I just told you that I pinched one from Mario. Really though, that is always more like a starting point. Some inspiration. I never actually follow to the letter. (Except with the fish, just because it is so simple and wonderful, there is really nowhere to change anything.) OK, so this inspires me this morning to go out and acquire some pork shoulder.
If this one was so good, you ask, why mess with it? Well, because that is just who I am damn it. Plus, the prep time is really quite prohibitive. In fact, this is what this experiement is all about. Here is the setup. I will take two similar cuts of meat, marinate in the same liquid, cook in the same manner. The only difference will be in the time that they soak. I will let one chill in the marinade for two days and one for just four hours. Then cook and see what happens. If nothing else I will have quite a lot of pork to eat this week.
This is going to be a four parter at least so stay tuned.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 18, 2006

Weekly Recipe: Pizza

It is that time again. This one looks, and tastes beautiful, but it is amazingly simple. As always, exact measurements are not to be expected. More important, in my opinion, is to know the ratios. This way you can make any amount required and not have to deal with a great deal of leftovers. Of course, left over pizza dough rarely lasts long in this household. The basic dough is really very easy.
Start with about a cup of warm water (80-100 degrees F) Into this will go one packet of dry yeast. Add a bit of sugars. Any will do though I usually use either brown or honey. Just a bit for the yeast to feed on. It likes sugars and warm water. Let that mix sit while you measure out four cups of flour and a pinch of salt. After the yeast has had about five minutes, mix in about another 3/4 cup water and two tablespoons OO. I never actually measure the oil, just add a decent amount. Mix the wet into the dry. I usually use a wisk but if you are one of those assholes with a kitchen aid then use that, by all means.
For you jerks with kitchen aids, this is even easier. It only takes about five minutes to make perfect dough. For the rest of us, it will take a bit of kneeding after the wets are mixed in. Kneed with a good amount of flour until the dough is just tacky. Form into a ball and oil. Let is sit for 90-120 minutes in a warm place until doubled in size. A trick that I use is to, after removing the dough from the mixing bowl, before kneeding, fill the bowl with hot water to soak. You'll need to do this to clean it anyway. Once the dough has come together on the board, rinse the bowl to remove those bits of flour and dry. This will create a warm place to leave the dough to rise and you don't have to dirty another bowl.
At this point, it is really a matter of taste. This one shown is one of our favorites, bbq chicken. Unfortunately, since it is winter in LA, stores no longer carry coals so the chicken had to be baked. Still turns out quite nice. A mix of bbq and tomato sauce forms the base and on top goes red onion, the chicken, mozzarella, cilantro, green onions, bacon, garlic, etc. etc. Really though, this is the place to be creative. Just put on whatever you like. Or use it as an excuse to clean out the fridge. Herbs and cheese, salami and artichoke hearts, or just fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella. Go nuts.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Things to look forward to.

In addition to the New Year, global warming and eventual death, here are a few other things to look forward to. Basically this post is a cheat. You see, I am completely bored, nothing to do but still cannot find the energy to put together a well reasoned and thoughtful post on anything at all. So I thought I would give a glimpse of a few ideas I have for future posts.

Another weekly recipe: Lamb Burgers
The wife says I shouldn't give this one up, but what the hell. You guys have been faithful supporters. (all two of you)

Rant: On charcoal and why it cannot be found at Trader Joe's during the winter. (It is LA! For fuck's sake. It may be December but it is still 65 degrees!)

Adventures in wine country:
Follow us on our search for a very specifc bottle of wine that is no longer in supply.

OK, I know this is the lazy way out. Now at least I have committed myself to making these posts, right. I have all of you to hold me to task.

Some clever tag line here

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Nearly on topic

Last weekend I was again confronted with the reality that this woman is completely and thoroughly perfect. How did I come to this conclusion you might ask. Well, this is not a new realization, hardly. I was just presented with further proof as we sat at BLD for breakfast, again. After taking a sizeable bite from her fried egg sandwich, she exclaimed "Fuck, I love this bacon!" How could this be anything but love?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I got nothin'

Rather I really have too much. There is still so much to recount about our recent Seattle trip over the Thanksgiving holiday. Unfortunately, it has already been quite a while and my memory is not what it used to be. (To be completely honest, it was never all that great.) In an attempt to start to clear out the flog inbox, I will relive our Sushiman experience.
We were very fortuate that all of the places that we wanted to visit happened to have accomodating schedules that week. Salumi was open on Wednesday and Sushiman was open the day after Thanksgiving so we had a chance to visit twice. Something about living in LA really increases the desire for great sushi. For some reason, there just seems to be no great places here. Many come close. Nobu has decent fish and a great atmosphere but it doesn't have everything and is just not special. Sushi Karen in Culver City has really great yellowtail but is not an overall wonderful experience. We still visit whenever we are in the area though. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
As it was lunch, we decided to each try one of the lunch specials. She got the sashimi plate and I the sushi plate. Much to our dissapointment, Bobby was not present that day. The fish, as it always is, was great. Even the day after Thanksgiving so you know it wasn't delivered that day, it was still quite good. They use only wild, Alaskan salmon so this is obviously our favorite here. A few months ago, when we were in Seattle, we actually again made two stops at Sushiman in a single day. There for a little appetizer before heading to my dad's house for dinner. Then for a delicious dessert of salmon and toro sashimi. We actually closed the place down that night. Bobby was behind the bar and he is a very friendly, very chatty person. So we talked about sushi and many other things until about half an hour past closing. This is truly just a wonderful place. Anyone with an opportunity should go. Sorry that I cannot recall more details but it has been so long. Serious sushi craving now though.

Labels: ,