Sunday, March 30, 2008

AEB Classics #66: Spicy Sojo-Style Chick Peas

chick pea stew fig. a: finished product

Okay, maybe we're taking this a little far by calling these "Sojo-style," because our investigation into how your typical Sojo-ite prepares his or her chick peas has hardly been scientific. Alls we know is that south of St-Joseph, where we live, not only are chick peas cheap and plentiful, but there's also plenty of good Portuguese chorizo to be had, so we've taken to preparing them in unison.

If there's a better Iberian-style chick pea dish being served anywhere in town, we've yet to find it.

Spicy Sojo-Style Chick Peas

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
3/4 lb - 1 lb extra-spicy Portuguese chorizo, chopped into 1/2" hunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes
2 cups chicken or pork broth, preferably homemade
4 cups cooked chick peas or 2 19-oz cans chick peas, drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large cast-iron pan over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and sauté them for 5-10 minutes. Add the celery and red bell pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the paprika and the chorizo and stir for 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Pour in the wine, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the wine has evaporated. Then add the tomatoes, the broth, and the chick peas and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the broth has reduced by about half. Adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve with lots of crusty bread and a salad.

SA & Fils (4701 St. Urbain, 842-3373) is a good source for Portuguese chorizo. They stock it in three varieties: mild, spicy, and extra-spicy.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

DIY cabane à sucre

maple sugaring 2 fig. a: maple sugaring in the northern woods again

Those of you who've been reading AEB over the last few years will know that we've long had an affection for scenes such as the one above: old prints of homesteaders practicing the alchemy of turning maple sap into maple syrup and maple sugar. You'll also know that we're big fans of the cuisine--yes, cuisine--of the traditional Québécois cabane à sucre: the beans, the ham, the cretons, and all the other assorted pork dishes, the ketchup aux fruits, the tire d'érable, and so on. You might also have noticed that Michelle's birthday is around this time of year, right in the thick of sugaring-off season. What you might not know, however--especially if you don't live in this region--is that if you wanted to take a sugar shack fanatic out to celebrate her birthday with a group of people at a traditional cabane à sucre, you'd have literally dozens upon dozens of establishments to choose from within a 100-150 km radius, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one of exceptional quality (top-notch ingredients + top-notch technique). Believe me, we've tried, and though we've found some good cabanes à sucre, ones worthy of a casual, slightly kitschy weekend outing, we've yet to find one that's worthy of a birthday party. Which means that as much as the idea of taking a group of people out to a traditional, rustic, intimate, backwoods sugar shack for Michelle's birthday appeals to us, it's never really been in the cards.

Now, rewind, if you will, for just a moment or two, to about three weeks ago. We were strolling down Ste-Catherine W. on our way to a movie when we looked in the window at Westcott Books and saw this handsome book:

The Maple Sugar Book fig. b: The Maple Sugar Book

The store was closed at the time, but the cover left such an impression on us that the very next day we made a special trip back to that part of town to take a closer look. And when we did, we liked what we saw, so we took that first edition of Helen & Scott Nearing's The Maple Sugar Book (1950) up to the front counter, chatted up the owner about his numerous bookstore cats, paid for the book, and took it home with us.

The Nearings' book is divided into three parts--roughly, the history of maple sugaring, the practice of maple sugaring, and the philosophy of life that goes along with maple sugaring--plus an appendix on maple recipes of all sorts (from candied sweet potatoes to maple divinity fudge), and it starts off with the kind of bang you might expect from the people who more or less pioneered the 20th century back-to-the-land movement:


We had three things in mind when we set ourselves to write this book. The first was to describe in detail the process of maple sugaring. The second was to present some interesting aspects of maple history. The third was to relate our experiments in homesteading and making a living from maple to the larger problem faced by so many people nowadays: how should one live?


What we have been developing here in the Green Mountains is a source of livelihood that leaves us time and room to live life simply and surely and worthily. Henry Thoreau wrote in his journal on February 18, 1850: "There is little or nothing to be remembered written on the subject of getting an honest living. Neither the New Testament nor Poor Richard speaks to our condition. I cannot think of a single page which entertains, much less answers, the questions which I put to myself on this subject. How to make the getting our living poetic! for if it is not poetic, it is not life but death that we get." Sugaring can bring one an honest living. And anyone who has ever sugared remembers the poesy of it to the end of his days...

We haven't exactly packed up our city-living ways, found ourselves a tract of hardscrabble land, and started homesteading (yet), but the Nearings' The Maple Sugar Book is definitely a great read for a book that devotes so much type to discussions of buckets, pipes, and evaporators, and we've been talking about it off and on for weeks.

In fact, it became such an important of our lives that when we started thinking about our annual sugar shack pilgrimage this year, perversely, the book actually inspired us to stay in the city and stage a full-blown cabane à sucre extravaganza ourselves. We'd be missing out on the fresh air and the woods, of course, but we'd be saving on car rental fees and gas, there'd be little risk of kitsch, we'd be able to guarantee that our food would be both tasty and of a high quality, we'd be able to control the stereo (i.e. we'd be able to play our La Bolduc records if we so desired, but we could just as easily play a Brigitte Fontaine & Areski record) and therefore the ambiance, and, who knows, maybe we'd be able to create some small-scale poesy right at home. We got so excited about the idea, that we decided to throw this sugar shack party for Michelle's birthday.

Now, before you get all hot and bothered because we left out the pea soup, the oreilles de crisse, and the pets de soeur, you should know that our menu was our own personal Dream Team: a few classics, like baked beans and ketchup aux fruits, alongside some dishes that you'd probably never find at a cabane à sucre but you'd be happier if you did (or, rather, we'd be happier if we did). The spread went as follows: two tourtières, two maple-braised pork shanks, two batches of baked beans (one with yellow eye beans, the other with soldier beans), a massive batch of cole slaw, ketchup aux fruits, cornichons, cheddar cheese with crackers and jerusalem artichoke relish, and a can of maple syrup for all those willing to add a little magic to the mix, plus apple crumble with maple frappé for dessert. The tablecloth was of the red & white checked variety, and Michelle had decorated the table with hay to give things a countrified feel (okay, so we threw in a little kitsch). The view from our specially designed AEB tablecam looked like this:

tourtière, ketchup aux fruits, maple syrup, spoon, hand fig. c: tourtière de ville, ketchup aux fruits, sirop d'érable

Tourtière, of course, is the classic French-Canadian meat pie. It might even be the classic French-Canadian dish. Its roots stretch back to the days before the settlement of New France, but this is a dish which, in all of its varieties, became as French-Canadian as they come. The version we've been making since the fall of 2006 is a variation on the one found in Martin Picard & Co.'s Au Pied de Cochon: The Album, and it's the best tourtière recipe I've ever encountered. If you've ever had your typical modern, disappointing, bone-dry tourtière, this is not one of them. The PDC recipe is unorthodox but ingenious, using mushrooms, white wine, and a grated potato to keep the filling moist and flavorful. The PDC original calls for braised pork shank meat and 1 braised pig's knuckle because when they make them at the restaurant they've got a lot of braised pork shanks and braised pigs' knuckles on-hand and available. We've replaced the 200 g / 7 oz of braised pork shank meat with the same amount of ground veal for simplicity's sake, and it turns out famously every time. However, you could use some of the braised pork shank meat from the maple pigs' feet / maple pork shanks recipe you see below, if you so desired, and I'm sure your tourtière would turn out even more hallucinant. Note: when it comes to the ground pork, don't get it too lean--no need to go overboard, but you want a bit of extra fat content for tourtière. If that kind of thing concerns you, just go for a long walk or chop a little wood beforehand, but don't sell your tourtière short. Note #2: the added nutmeg is my touch. Again, this is very unorthodox, so go ahead and leave it out if you like, but I think it really makes a difference. Just remember to go easy on the spices. They should definitely be present, but you don't want to overpower the filling with either clove or cinnamon (or nutmeg, for that matter).

tourtière de ville

1 pie dough recipe
500 g / 1 lb ground pork
250 g / 1/2 lb ground veal
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
100 g / 4 oz mushrooms, chopped
100 ml / 1/2 cup white wine
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter
1 small potato, grated
1 small pinch ground cloves
1 small pinch ground cinnamon
1 small pinch ground nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large pot, sweat the onions and the garlic in the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the liquid released by the vegetables has evaporated. Add the white wine and continue cooking until the wine has evaporated as well. Add the ground pork, the ground veal, and the spices to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring to break up the chunks of meat. Add the grated potato and cook for another 10 minutes. Correct the seasoning, remove from the heat, and allow the mixture to cool.

Preheat your oven to 230º C / 450º F.

Roll out the pie dough and line a pie plate with half of it. Fill this with the ground meat mixture. Cover with the top half of the pie crust, brush it with the egg yolk, and poke or cut some holes in the top crust to allow the steam to escape during cooking.

Bake the pie in the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 175º C / 350º F and bake for another 20-25 minutes.

Serve with ketchup aux fruits.

Two pork shanks from our friends at Porc Meilleur came in at under $5 and they looked and tasted great. This recipe is straight out of the PDC cookbook and it's typical of PDC's genius: take one of the lowliest cuts off one of the lowliest meats and redeem it with a cup of maple syrup and a lot of love.

maple pigs' feet / pork shanks

2 pigs' trotters or pork shanks
2 carrots, peeled
1 head of garlic, whole
1 sprig thyme
6 boiler onions
2 l / 8 cups pork stock
250 ml / 1 cup maple syrup
100 ml / 7 tbsp vinaigrette
15 g / 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

brine: 2 cups of salt dissolved in 4.5 l / 1.2 gallons of water

Soak the pigs' feet or pork shanks in the brine for 4-6 hours.

Put the meat, the onions, the carrots, the garlic and the thyme in an ovenproof casserole. Pour the stock and the maple syrup over the meat (ideally, the liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the feet/shanks). Bake uncovered in the oven at 160º C / 325º F, basting the meat with the broth every 30 minutes until they are well-glazed and have developed a nice crust. Bake for a total of four hours; the meat should be extremely tender and come easilly off the bone. Remove the meat, the carrots, and the onions from the broth and set aside.

Strain the stock and drippings into a saucepan; you should have approximately 2 cups total. Dice the carrots finely and add them and the onions to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce by half. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vinaigrette. Add the parsley and correct the seasoning as needed.

Serve the meat with a generous amount of the sauce poured overtop.


1 cup vegetable oil
50 ml Dijon mustard
50 ml red wine vinegar

Whisk together the mustard, the vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, stirring constantly to create a proper emulsion.

If you're all out of last summer's homemade canned ketchup aux fruits, here's a quick and easy off-season version.

ketchup aux fruits (winter version)

1 28-oz / 786 ml can of whole tomatoes & their liquid
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 pinch of ground cloves
1 small pinch cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a saucepan, bring the whole tomatoes, the onion, the garlic, and the celery to a boil and then simmer them gently for about 15-20 minutes, and gently break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Remove the saucepan from the heat and using an immersion blender or a conventional blender, blend half the mixture, then return it to the saucepan. Add the apples, the maple syrup, the vinegar and the spices and simmer for another 30-45 minutes. Makes plenty enough for a DIY sugar shack bash, and you'll be happy to have the leftovers.

This last recipe is of the WWMD variety: "what would Maurice do." We considered a whole host of maple syrup-laden desserts--backwoods-style crêpes, pouding chômeur, etc.--before settling on something we'd never ever had before because a) we have a lot of faith in Maurice and b) how can you argue with a recipe that gets this kind of write-up?

Once in a while Hettie [the Brockways' Irish "hired girl"] would make what she called Maple Frappe. I was delighted to help chop the ice which Tommy, the handyman, would get out of the big icehouse located out beyond the vegetable garden under a huge maple tree. Every winter, when the river was frozen, Grandfather hired a local man and his son to cut the large blocks of ice and haul them on a sleigh up the long hill to the icehouse. They were packed in sawdust from the lumber mill, and there they lasted all through the long hot summer. Each morning a large piece was dug out of the sawdust--which served as perfect insulation--washed with the hose, then put into the icebox in the summer kitchen. We were extremely advanced as we had a drain from the ice chest instead of the large pan everyone else seemed to use to catch the drippings.

I was delighted also to turn the freezer crank for the privilege of "licking" the ladle. Try this, and soon: 6 eggs beaten until creamy, 1 cup of pure maple syrup, 1 can of condensed milk, 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 pint of heavy cream whipped, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix together and freeze in an old-fashioned ice-cream freezer--not in the refrigerator ice trays. This makes 3 pints of frappe which, by itself is pure nectar, but atop warm apple pie is a delicacy that must be tasted to be believed.

We made an apple crumble instead of the apple pie recommended by Maurice, but it still ranked as "a delicacy that must be tasted to be believed." I don't know if I'm ready to wax poetic about maple frappé the way Maurice does--of course, we don't have an icehouse or a "hired girl" name Hettie, so maybe we didn't get the full experience--but it's got a really lovely, mellow maple flavor to it and I definitely have never had anything like it.

All in all: A+


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I should add...

...that Michelle balanced out the macabre side of the Czech Easter tradition by using her 1970s lamb mold

lammikins fig. a: Kaiser lammform

to carry out an experiment in the manufacture of Paschal lambs.

lamm mold und lamm fig. b: positive & negative

She was so pleased with the result that she gave her latest creation that she iced it, decorated it, and gave it to our friend S. for his birthday last week. And, wouldn't you know it, a day or two later Lammikins showed up on Facebook:

lamm 1 fig. c: Lammikins


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Czech your head 2: and the winner is...

Wow, who knew Czech mystery pastries could generate so much enthusiasm?!

Thanks to all of you who participated and we're happy to report that we have a winner: Fred Wilson. Yep, that's right: these pastries are called jídaše and the term quite literally means "Judases." The shape is based on that of a noose and it's meant to symbolize Judas Iscariot's fate. Grim, huh?

Michelle was just innocently researching Czech Easter pastries a few weeks ago when she came upon a recipe for jídaše and the lore behind them. She grew up in a seriously Czech family with a typically bleak Eastern European outlook on life and even she was shocked. Not exactly the kind of bunnies and eggs vibe that people over here have come to associate with Easter.

They're obviously supposed to impart an important lesson, but, for the life of me, I'm not sure how because they taste so good--perfect texture, subtle flavors: an ideal Easter sweet bread. Apparently you're supposed to have them with honey, but when I tasted my first Easter Noose I immediately thought of a boiled egg. So we had both.

czech mystery pastry with boiled egg fig. a: with egg


500 g flour
80 g icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
lemon zest
100 g butter
20 g fresh yeast
2 egg yolks
250 ml milk
egg wash

In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and yeast and rub them into the flour until the butter is almost totally blended in. Add the yolks and milk and stir into a dough. Place on a lightly floured surface and begin picking the dough up, slamming it down on the counter and pulling the sides up on top of the dough. Seriously. Try it, it's fun! Repeat until it forms a nice smooth dough. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Take pieces of the dough and roll them into ropes about 12" long. Braid into noose shapes. Let rise, covered with plastic until doubled, about 45 min. Brush with egg wash and bake at 375°F until well-browned, about 20-25 min. Let cool and serve with a boiled egg, or honey, or both.

Makes about 18 jídaše.

czech mystery pastry with honey fig. b: with honey

Oh, and as for our winner: please send us an email (ajkinik AT gmail DOT com) with your address and we'll send you your prize. And if your name is Lauren and you were blessed with a stereotypically dour Slavic grandmother, send us an email too and we'll send you a runner-up prize.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Czech your head 1

How well do you understand the Eastern European psyche?

czech mystery pastry fig. a: Czech mystery pastry

Q: The pastry you see above is a traditional Czech Easter pastry. What does the pastry's shape represent and what is the symbolism behind this shape?

Send us a comment with your name and your answer via the 'comments' application or, if you prefer, via email. The first correct answer will receive an AEB Spring Prize Pack worth at least $5 (and maybe even more!), and we'll send it to you anywhere in the world.


ps--If we've discussed this pastry with you over the last few days, you're ineligible. Sorry.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Get 'em while they last!

zeppole fig. a: zeppole with and without cherries from La Cornetteria

March 19th being less than a week away, and March 19th being la Festa di San Giuseppe, you've gotta act fast if you intend to indulge in that most un-Lenten of Lenten* pastries, the zeppola di San Giuseppe.

We're more or less equal opportunity zeppole consumers, but the ones that have been really flipping our lids this year are La Cornetteria's in Little Italy. Michelle even went so far as to declare that they, "may be [her] favorite deep-fried dessert of all time." High praise, indeed. If you decide to pay them a visit, not only will you have to act fast, but you'll have to be strategic: apparently they're only going to have them on offer on two more occasions, Saturday the 15th and Wednesday the 19th.

La Cornetteria, 6528 St-Laurent, (514) 277-8030


* Technically, they're not strictly tied to Lent, but they've become something of a Lent tradition and some bakeries continue to make them until Easter because of their popularity.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

If life deals you lemons...

Remember those Meyer lemons?


lemon fairy marmalade fig. a: Lemon Fairy Marmalade

Lemon Fairy Marmalade

5 small Meyer lemons
juice of 1 lemon, Meyer or otherwise
1 1/3 cups water
granulated sugar as needed

Take the five Meyer lemons with fine fresh skins and peel them thinly, taking just the yellow part of the rind. Slice this into very fine strips, keeping in mind that the finer you slice this, the better the marmalade will be, and put aside.

Slice the pulp (with the white rind attached) very thin. Add the pulp to the sliced yellow rind and the juice of 1 more lemon. Take out any remaining pits without straining the juice. You should now have about 1 cup of prepared lemon and juices.

Cover this with 1 1/3 cups of cold water. Soak for three hours. Measure the volume. Then add an equal amount of granulated sugar, and simmer the marmalade until it jells. Test it, of course, on a cold saucer until it is exactly the thickness you want it to be. At this point you can either can it in clean, hot jars, or allow it to cool and stand overnight. If you choose the latter: the next day, stir it gently but thoroughly to distribute the rind and the bits of pulp and pour into clean jars. If you decided not to can, make sure to keep the marmalade refrigerated and to consume it in a timely fashion.

[adapted slightly from a recipe in Fine Preserving by Catherine Plagemann (1967)]

If you don't have access to Meyer lemons, any other "perfect lemons with fine fresh skins" will do too. But if you use another type of lemon, be sure to heed Plagemann's advice: "It is better to allow this particular marmalade to sit on your shelf [assuming you've canned it properly] for at least a week's time before using it as before that it will taste a little too tart and the rind will still be a bit tough. After a week or so it is quite fine and ready for the table." Use Meyer lemons, however, and it'll be "quite fine and ready for the table" the next day.

As you may have gathered from the photo above, that's what happened with ours. It was open and on the table the next day. We just couldn't resist.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Noma 2: Manic Cuisine

It may be March already, but with Montreal still in process of digging itself out from under yet another blizzard, it seems like an appropriate time to complete our Noma series...

We may have started slowly with Noma: Nordic Cuisine, but when it came to putting it to the test a second time, we threw all caution into those arctic February winds.

Now some of you hotshots out there who've skimmed ahead might be thinking to yourselves, "Two courses--that's it?" Yeah, that's it. But as you'll notice once you read things through carefully, there are a number of different parts to each course, we started the meal at about 5:30 on a weeknight (except for the Day 1 and Day 2 steps, of course), and you see where it lists "chicken stock" down below? Well, for some reason we decided to make our own that very night. Making our own chicken stock from scratch isn't all that weird for us--we do so with frequency--however, making chicken stock simultaneous to the preparation of the very meal that calls for chicken stock in the first place is a litttle strange, even for us. I point this out not out of some pathetic desire to impress you, dear readers, but rather to convey the ambience in the kitchen on that particular night, an ambience that could quite succinctly be described as "manic." Not "manic-bad," mind you, just "manic." And, actually, once we got into the swing of things that night, we were able to relax--considerably. The meal was so labor-intensive for a weekday dinner for two that it was laughable, so laugh we did, especially when the recipes forced us to muster up a little on-the-spot ingenuity (you'll see what I mean momentarily). Still, we were eating by 8:30, so that's not so bad.

We'd selected our menu based on two criteria: we definitely wanted to choose recipes that were seasonal, seasonality being such an important part of the Noma philosophy, and we definitely wanted to choose recipes whose ingredients we could actually find in Montreal (or invent in our kitchen, as it turns out), because unlike the folks at Noma, we weren't in a position to start establishing trade agreements with Greenlandic fisherman. Besides, Noma is all about regionality (albeit pan-Nordic regionality), so we didn't see the point in attempting to track down authentic Faroe Islands langoustines or whatnot. So we settled on Cured Brisket of Pork with Potato Skins and Beer-Cured Onions, with a stripped down version of Sautéed Bay Scallops with Leeks, Dill, and Crème of Egg Yolks as an appetizer. If our logic here isn't clear, it went something like this: a) Quebec is definitely a pork culture, it's also a potato culture, a beer culture, and an onion culture, and we love all of the above, so, all right... Check! b) bay scallops are a little hard to find around here, but sea scallops sure aren't, seeing as the St-Lawrence basin is one of the world's finest sea scallop habitats, so that works, and so do leeks, dill, and eggs, and we love all of those ingredients too, so it's too bad we're going to scratch the leeks, but it'll sure make things easier... Check! Truth be told, more than anything it was the juniper berries--a spice typical of traditional Québécois cuisine--that sold me on the pork, and then we just took it from there.

Now, if you want make the Noma meal exactly the way we did, you're going to have to allot three days to the cause, but, as you'll see, there's a simplified version way down below that can be fully realized in the space of just a few hours that's also very satisfying, so you may very well want to follow that path instead.

scallops fig. a: scallops by Noma as interpreted by us

Sautéed Scallops with Dill and Crème of Egg Yolks

seared scallops:

4 medium-size scallops
sugar and salt
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tbsp of butter cut into 4 nubs
4 rosemary leaves

Toss the scallops in a little bit of sugar and salt and let them marinate for a few hours or, preferably, overnight. When the scallops have marinated, heat the grapeseed oil in a well-seasoned or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. When the oil has reached temperature, sear the scallops gently on both sides--you want them to have a golden crust and no more. When you turn the scallops over onto their second side, place a butter nub and a rosemary leaf on each. When the second side has a nice golden crust, you're ready to serve.

dill oil:

1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
grapeseed oil

Blanch the dill and the parsley in salted water. Cool the herbs down with a cold-water or ice-water bath. Wring them dry and place them in a blender. Add just enough oil (roughly 4-6 oz.) to blend the herbs into a loose purée. Strain the oil with a fine mesh and discard the solids.

crème of egg yolks:

3 boiled egg yolks (yolks from eggs that have been boiled for precisely 9 minutes)
35 g / 3 tbsp capers-brine (the brine from a jar of capers)
25 ml / 5 tsp chicken stock, preferably homemade
20 g / 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 medium carrot, peeled and boiled
200 ml / 3/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tsp toasted peanut or sesame oil
salt and lemon juice

Blend the egg yolks with the capers-brine, the chicken stock, the breadcrumbs, and the carrot. Pour in the grapeseed oil a little bit at a time and continue blending. Then, using your judgment, add the peanut oil, the salt, and the lemon juice until you have an extremely tasty but loose purée (keep in mind that the capers-brine is very, well, briny, so you may not need any salt at all). Strain the crème.


Place two seared scallops on a plate. Place a flamboyant smear of the egg crème alongside. Drizzle some dill oil around the scallops in a circular pattern. Drizzle a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar in the same circular pattern as the dill oil. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as an appetizer.

[adapted slightly from Noma: Nordic Cuisine]

At this point, if you skim ahead just a bit you'll notice that Noma's "Cured Brisket of Pork" has metamorphosed into "Cured Pork Belly." We based this adjustment on the accompanying photograph in Noma: Nordic Cuisine, on the fact that the cookbook is littered with minor mis-translations, and on simple common sense.

pork belly 2 fig. b: Noma does pork

Cured Pork Belly with Potato Skins and Beer-Cured Onions

1 kg / 2.2 lb pork belly
1/2 tbsp juniper berries
1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp green anise
1/2 tbsp caraway
1 rosemary branch, leaves removed, minced
1 thyme branch, minced
14 g / 2 tbsp salt
lard, preferably smoked
grapeseed oil

Two days before your meal, toast the spices in a dry pan till the caraway and anise is just golden and the combination becomes highly aromatic.

toasting spices fig. c: toasting spices

Crush the spices and the salt together in a mortar to make a rub. Clean the pork belly and dry it. Using your fingers, coat the pork belly on all sides with the rub.

On Day 2, preheat the oven to 80º C. Clean the pork belly of the spices. Cover the pork with a thin layer of lard and put it in a roasting pan. Put the meat in the oven and cook slowly for 12 hours.

Remove the brisket and place under pressure (i.e., under a cutting board) to compress it and put it in the refrigerator overnight.

On Day 3, score the rind of the pork belly and then slice it into oblong pieces. Sauté these pieces slowly in a little bit of oil over medium heat until they are crispy and warm at the edges.


3 tbsp balsamic plum vinegar (or 3 tbsp "balsamic plum vinegar," i.e., 2 tbsp ume plum vinegar mixed with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar)
1/2 rosemary branch
4 juniper berries
50 ml / 3 tbsp + 1 tsp apple juice
200 ml / 3/4 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
100 ml / 1/3 cup+ weissbier or blanche

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce the vinegar with the rosemary and the juniper berries for a couple of minutes. Add the apple juice, bring the mixture back to a boil, and reduce for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock and the weissbier and reduce the mixture down to half its original volume. Strain the sauce and season to taste.

marinated onions fig. d: marinated onions

beer-cured onions:

20 pearl onions, blanched then separated into shells
200 ml / 3/4 cup beer (use a good lager)
90 g / 1/2 cup honey
1 thyme branch
5 juniper berries
110 g / 3/4 cup balsamic apple vinegar (or 110 g "balsamic apple vinegar," i.e., apple vinegar mixed with balsamic vinegar in a 2:1 ratio)

Boil the beer, the honey, the thyme and the juniper berries together and reduce for 5 minutes. Take the marinade off the heat and add the balsamic apple vinegar or "balsamic apple vinegar." Pour the marinade over the onion skins and let them steep in the liquid for at least 30 minutes. Don't throw the thyme and juniper berries away--you'll want to decorate your plates with them.

potatoes fig. e: our potatoes as they went into the oven

crispy potato peels:

1 kg /2.2 lb small potatoes, scrubbed
oil for frying, such as grapeseed or peanut

Bake the potatoes in the oven at 160º C until they are just tender. Take them out of the oven, allow them to cool briefly, and cut them into halves. Gently and carefully so as to preserve their shape, scoop the potato flesh out of the peels and save for another purpose (i.e., tomorrow morning's home fries). Take the peels and fry them in oil heated to 160º C until they are crispy. You may have to do this in multiple batches. Remove the peels from the oil and place them on paper towel to let them dry. Season with salt.


Place one piece of pork belly on each plate and surround each piece with potato skins and onions. Garnish with juniper berries and thyme and/or rosemary and drizzle some sauce over the entire ensemble. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

[recipe adapted from Noma: Nordic Cuisine]

The results were nothing if not spectacular, and several of the component parts were truly outstanding (the crème of egg yolks and the crispy potato skins, but especially the beer-cured onions), but there was one major problem: while the scallops were a total knockout, the pork belly hadn't quite worked out. The flavor was there in spades, there was nothing wrong with the approach, but for some reason the 12-hour extra slow & low roast had dried that poor pork belly out. So the pork, the star attraction, was okay, and we still enjoyed it--after three days, we kinda had to--but it was far from phenomenal, far from the succulent pork extravagance we were expecting. Longtime readers will know that we've had all kinds of success with roasting pork for eight-hour spells at a considerably higher temperature, so I think I'd just adjust the cooking time--no more than eight hours?--if I tried this recipe again, but let's not kid ourselves: we were a little disappointed.

Nevertheless, the next day the leftovers made for a pretty great sandwich consisting of pork belly, beer-cured onions, arugula, mayonnaise, and that special sauce in a hard roll. It looked something like this

pork belly 3 fig. f: pork belly sandwich

and it made for a fine sandwich. Michelle quipped that it looked like Nordic banh-mi, but I wasn't willing to go quite that far.

And while I was eating my pork belly sandwich the next day, I got the idea of using the same basic formula--that aromatic rub, those beer-cured onions--to prepare a dish that would cut down on my prep time considerably and that was guaranteed to turn out perfectly. I was pretty sure that you could use that basic formula to great effect with a pork roast or a pork tenderloin, but the fundamental idea behind Noma's dish had to do with working magic with a lowly cut of meat, so I went with a pork chop--a plain, old pork chop.

A few days later, I whipped up a half version of Noma's pork rub

1/4 tbsp juniper berries
1/4 tbsp coriander seeds
1/4 tbsp green anise
1/4 tbsp caraway
1/2 rosemary branch, leaves removed, minced
1/2 thyme branch, minced
7 g / 1 tbsp salt

and rubbed it all over two healthy pork chops, then I refrigerated them overnight to let the rub work its charms. The next day I took my pork chops out of the refrigerator, wiped the rub off, and allowed them to reach something approaching room temperature, I made some more of Noma's special sauce, quickly braised some parsnips, mixed a salad, and took the leftover beer-cured onions from our previous adventure out of the refrigerator, and when the pork chops were at room temperature, I heated 1 tbsp grapeseed oil in a well-seasoned skillet over medium-high heat. Roughly ten minutes later--including about eight or nine minutes of cooking time for the chops--we sat down to this:

pork chop fig. g: Noma-style pork chop

This version maybe wasn't quite as dramatically Nordic as our previous meal had been, but it also wasn't as manic. And it was good. Damn good.


Friday, March 07, 2008

On Brockway, or How To Judge A Book By Its Cover

The first thing you notice is the spine. There you are, just browsing the bookshelves of your favorite local secondhand book store, glossing over a lot of the same old same old when out jumps that spine.

brockway 1 fig. a: spine

The font's so trippy that you can barely make out the title, Come Cook With Me--kind of pathetic, really, but there's something about that font + that title that demands a closer look. So you pull the book off the shelf and you rest your eyes on this:

brockway 2 fig. b: front cover

Sweet Jesus! It's obviously a Yellow Submarine-era edition,* somehow simultaneously nostalgic and psychedelic, and just check out that name: Maurice Brockway. Amazing! Mau-rice Brockway. Moe Brockway. What a name! And an "introduction by Pauline Trigère," too... Who knew? You flip to the inside flap of the dust jacket and find the following:

...Can you make Cioppino? or Hootsla? or Bauletto con Funghi or a really good fish chowder? Have you ever tried Frizzled Liver, Bagna Cauda or Apple Crow's Nest? [yes, no, no, yes, no, yes, and no]

This is not only a first-rate cookbook but a charming night-table narrative as well. [perfect!] For Mr. Brockway's gastronomical adventures are told with a fervor of joie de cuisine that makes reading about them a treat.

Introduction by Pauline Trigère, well-known fashion designer. [but of course!]


Maurice Brockway grew up in upstate New York in a small American town a few miles from the Canadian border [!], in a rambling white house where cooking and eating were given their proper reverence. [as it should be] After college (Ithaca) and a few years in the business world of New York City [yes, I've heard of it], he bought an old inn in Stamford, Connecticut, and operated it as Brockton Manor for several years during the 1940's. [awesome!]

Then he was appointed assistant banquet manager of the Hotel Plaza in New York, and later became director of sales and catering manager of the Ambassador Hotel, staying on when it became the Sheraton-East.

He has a talent for being able to "cook by ear," [hmm...] and can duplicate any dish he has eaten anywhere in the world. This lifelong interest in food is reflected in the nostalgic quality of this narrative about the pleasures of cooking and eating. [I hear you]

You've already decided you absolutely must accept Maurice's invitation to go and cook with him, when you suddenly flip the book over to check out the back and find this:

brockway 3 fig. c: back cover

The glasses, the tux, the pose, the phone: talk about debonair! If you're still not sure if this is a great photograph [it is], just check out the name of the photographer: Irwin Dribben. I mean, how can you possibly go wrong with a photographer who has a name like that?

So you march right up to the front counter and you buy your copy of Come Cook With Me and, later that night, you discover that your instincts were correct. Not only is it a "charming night-table narrative," but your first read-through seems to confirm that Come Cook With Me actually is "a first-rate cookbook."

And, sure enough, the next day, experiment #1 with Maurice Brockway's Come Cook With Me is a hit.

With numerous tempting recipes to choose from, Michelle opted for a recipe listed simply as Orange-Grapefruit Pie a) because it was Citrus Week 2008 and b) because Maurice claimed that "once you serve it you will probably be known as 'Miss Citrus Pie' of your community," and she was eager to hold that title.

Citrus Pie

1 large grapefruit, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 navel oranges, peeled and sectioned
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp minute tapioca
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 pie crust recipe

Mix grapefruit and orange section with other ingredients and let stand while preparing the pie crust. Pour the mixture into the unbaked crust and cover with a top crust. Bake in a 9-inch pan in a 450º F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400º F for another 20 minutes. Let cool, then place it in the refrigerator to chill it further because Maurice says, "I prefer this citrus pie when it is served ice cold," and who are we to argue?

That citrus pie was good. Maybe a little too good. We weren't really sure how or why, but for some reason that three-citrus-medley resulted in a flavor with bright floral overtones. Remarkable. In any case, Michelle isn't known as Miss Citrus Pie in our community yet because no one else got the opportunity to sample her Grapefruit-Orange-Lemon Pie. In less than 24 hours we'd reduced it to one single, solitary piece

citrus pie 1 fig. d: the remains of the pie

and that piece disappeared moments after this photograph was taken.


*Come Cook With Me actually predates Yellow Submarine by a year.

Monday, March 03, 2008

March Madness

pink grapefruit fig. a: pink grapefruit

With pink grapefruit on sale at our local supermarket (6 for 99¢, and never better), white grapefruit marmalade slated to be in production this week here at the AEB test kitchen, talk of a triple threat (orange, grapefruit, and lemon) Citrus Pie in the air, and now this

real meyer lemons fig. b: Meyer lemons "from a California backyard"

--seriously, this is what I found on our doorstep today--this is shaping up to be Citrus Week 2008.

So much for nordic cuisine, right?

How many pink grapefruit did the banqueteers consume this week? What became of the white grapefruit marmalade? What is Citrus Pie and how on Earth does one make it? What exactly does one do with one's cache of Meyer lemons direct "from a California backyard"? Recipes to follow...


ps--thank you, Lemon Fairies!