Monday, June 23, 2008

Mission: PDC Maple Pig's Feet

So... once again, back is the incredible, edible pig's foot. Now with more... maple?

We don't have a real set procedure as to which one of us (Melissa or Jacob) chooses the recipe of the week. It's usually a collaborative process - using our favorite problem solving tool (banter) - but this week, M approached J and simply said "it's your turn to choose!" And so he flipped through, looking at this and looking at that, but he kept coming back to this recipe. There was so much going for it. To wit:

1. It's primary ingredients are two pigs feet with shanks. (Yummy!)
2. It takes advantage vegetables that we can get at our favorite farmer's market. (Fresh!)
3. It requires a long braise. (Easy-peasy!)

But... it also prominently featured Maple Syrup. And despite our stunningly great experience with the pouding, Jacob was skittish about this. He's always been suspect of maple - and syrups in general - associating them with the two breakfast foods he least likes: pancakes and french toast. On too many Sundays mornings in his childhood, he would fruitlessly try to increase his enjoyment of those dishes by adding whatever syrup was available and ending up with a mushy, oversweet mess on his plate; and invariably he would end up going hungry after refusing to eat his creation.

So there was trepidation. For a moment - but then, it evaporated as he thought to himself: "Surely, Mrs. Butterworth has nothing on authentic Canadian Maple Syrup! I must Trust in Chef Picard! I must have faith! I must move forward! I must let go of my fear!"

And so it was that he chose PDC Maple Pig's Feet for this week.

In the beginning, there was mis en place:

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Note that we had brined the feet and shanks for just under 24 hours, in the fridge, before getting started. (Many thanks to our very favorite local butcher - Avedano's -who miraculously produced these for us with about 5 minutes notice!) Now, at this point, we had nearly defrosted our "pig stock" - about a half gallon's worth - in our pan:

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And so we started to put everything else into it. First the shanks, then the carrots and onions (fresh from the farmer's market):

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And then some garlic. And now we added the (dreaded?) maple syrup to the mix:

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And then it was time to braise. For a long, long time; with bastings on the half hour. Easy enough, right?!? So we basted once:

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And again:

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And a few more times for good measure:

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Until it was time to pull it, and it looked like this:

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So we pulled the feet out and put them aside. We took out the veggies and put them aside as well. While Jacob diced the carrots, Melissa strained the "stock":

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It was at this point that we discovered that the "stock" was actually... ONION SOUP BASE! That's right! We had been braising the poor pig's feet in the extra onion soup base that we had made for an earlier chapter of the project! We panicked for a moment and then thought that, well... the base was, after all, made from pork stock... so perhaps it would be a happy accident! Perhaps all would be well! (And really, it tasted amazing, so we weren't all that worried.)

So, then we added the carrots and onions back into it and cooked it down a bit, like so:

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At this point we put down a nice bed of PDC mashed potatoes (which take to freezing quite well, we found!), stuck a shank and foot on top, and poured some sauce atop the whole thing, just so:

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And then we ate.

Oh my. The skin was delicious and sweet and crunchy (even though had been braised mercilessly). The sauce was salty-sweet, in good proportion. But the sweetness was not overtly maple. M said that she would have been hard pressed to identify it as maple, had she not known it to be so. Jacob thought very much the same thing.

Regardless, this was delicious, more than delicious - super muy licious. We have gone from being braising believers to being braising zealots. And we are considering what to braise in pork stock - or onion soup base - and maple syrup next. Cornish game hens? Salmon? Lamb? This will be revisited in an OOS, we are sure.

Note to selves: Just because it's labelled "pork stock" in the freezer, that doesn't mean that it's pork stock. Could be onion soup base, after all.

Note to selves, 2.0: Onion soup base makes a good substitute for pork stock!

Time, mis to eat: About 5 hours, not including brining (+24 hours).

Next Up: Not sure! It's Melissa's turn to pick! :)

Blast From the Past: Let's talk about stock, baby.

Mission: Pig's Feet Meatball Ragout

So here we are, back again... and yet it feels like the first time we've ever been around.

We're going for the gold in the next two entries, presenting to you two recipes so unimaginably amazing that we're still not sure that we were actually able to pull either one of them off. One involved quite a bit of labor, planning, effort, and company - and the other was almost shockingly easy to construct and went down so well with a glass of champagne that we were nearly embarrassed to be eating it just ourselves.

In this entry, we present our attempt at Pig's Feet Meatball Ragout... a stunning dish, just the thing for a cold summer night in San Francisco. In the next entry, we will present Maple Pig's Feet... a wholly different thing altogether, an almost mysterious set of tastes from a simple set of ingredients.

We've kept you waiting long enough. It's time dive in. It's time to see if we can find, for just a moment, what it is about pied de cochon inspired Chef Picard so much.

Let's mis en place, shall we?

First, our shanks, having brined, along with some pig's feet stock for braising:

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Second, the rest of the mis, for the rest of the dish, just so:

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Now, we get started on the meatballs, having done our slicing and dicing and whatnot, using that big red wedding present that seems to be getting more use now that we've started up on this project:

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And after everything was nicely combined, we formed the result into little balls:

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Which we then set to heating on our big copper pan:

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Meanwhile, we got started in the greatest use of stock in the history of stock. Follow along with us... first, we used the stock to braise the shanks, which we then put aside. Then, we strained the stock:

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And used it to braise those yummy little meatballs:

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Which we then put aside. Then we strained the stock again:

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And took some delicious potatoes and boiler onions and stuck them in it:

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And once these were done, we put them aside and once more strained the stock - maybe we should start thinking of it as a sauce at this point? - one more time:

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And got the flour that we had been browning out of the oven:

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And added it to the sauce, to thicken it up. At this point, everything went back into the pot and got all stirry and delicious:

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Then, to make any sauce worth making, the addition of a small amount of butter:

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And, once the butter was melted, and all things were heated through, we put it to plate (along with our old friend, the PorKrispy Treat):

Pig's Feet Meatball Ragout

And served it to ourselves and two of our test subjects friends.

And oh, my.

Hélène is quite right to love this. We loved this. Our guests loved this. Our dog would have loved to love this, but she didn't get any.

As you may imagine, this dish was almost overwhelmingly porky. (Braising everything in pork stock will do that.) It really was just right up on the edge, but still on the good side; according to us and to our guests. The little cornichon was actually a perfect touch, it cut through the dish wonderfully, and we all ended up having several of them with each bowl.

Note to selves: Do NOT attempt to reheat this on the stove. Jacob, wanting more the next day, stuck the whole pot on the stove to warm it up... forgetting a fundamental of cooking: do not put heat on a roux and walk away. The entire leftover was ruined (more than half the dish) because the flour, which we had taken such care to roast carefully the day before, burned; producing an intensely smoky and unpleasant flavor that permeated the entire dish.

(Jacob's shame and humiliation from this experience partially explains the long delay in posting the recipe publicly. But he feels that he must own this mistake, and embrace the lesson with both arms.)

Time, mis to eat:
A long, long time... more specifically, about four hours. Browning the flour took a surprisingly long time, but once it started to brown over it moved quickly... do pay close attention to this part.

Next up: Footy fun continues with PDC Maple Pig's Feet.

Blast From the Past: In what could possibly be foreshadowing: Onion Soup.

Mission: PDC Corn Relish

So... we're back. There's been company, there's been madness, there's been mess... but that's all over, and we're back in the kitchen. Cooking it up. Canning it down. Doing it for YOU.

First up... some corn relish. No mis en place for this one - we were multitasking - but so you know, this dish involved corn, some delicious red bell peppers, vinegar, and some other stuff.

The first thing we needed to do was get the corn off the cob. And what better tool for that than... the CORN ZIPPER?

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Then, we simmered the corn and the other stuff for a little while in our big red pot:

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And after about 45 minutes it looked like this:

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And was ready to go into the mason jar:

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And then the mason jar went into some boiling water for a while:

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And then... we took it out, and put it with its brothers and sisters in the canning pantry:

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We'll taste it in about a month or so.

For this recipe we leaned heavily on M's early 70's era Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which has a substantial and detailed canning section. It also had a recipe for corn relish that was much like the one we made here! But we're sure that it is not nearly as good as this will be.

Note to selves: We used about six ears of corn for this and got one mason jar out of it and maybe a forkful (each) to try. Next time we'll use more corn get more fresh to eat, because this was goooood.

Time, mis to eat: About two hours - most of which was either simmering the relish or boiling the can.

Next Up: Pig Feet Meatball Ragout. Really!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Preview -- Mission: Pig's Feet Meatball Ragout

We have house guests at the moment, so blogging time is a bit limited, but here's a preview of this week's entry! It involved all sorts of porky goodness, front pig's feet, back pig's feet, pig neck, shanks, ground pork meatballs and fried pork on top. (Oh, and some potatoes and onions. To make it healthy.) Porktastic!

Pig's Feet Meatball Ragout

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mission: Zucchini Flower Tempura

So finally, after a false start a couple of weeks ago, we were able to find some nice, fresh zucchini blossoms. And while we were at it, we got some squash blossoms as well. And with these wonderfully fresh items - procured from our new favorite farmers market - we went to our friends' house and went... to... town.

(Before we get started, a big 'what-up?' to our friends in Tucson who introduced us to squash blossoms on a trip to Del Mar some time ago... hey, what up kids?)

So first, our meez. As you can see, this one is kinda simple - just the blossoms, and some tempura batter. The Album doesn't provide a tempura batter recipe, so we found a simple one online and mixed it up! (Apparently, ice water is the key to success in a light, airy tempura.)

Zucchini (and squash) Flower Meez

Meanwhile, the oil was getting toasty warm in a pot nearby. So the first thing you do is, you dunk the blossoms in the tempura:

Dippin' in the batter

And then you dunk them into the boiling hot oil (actually, it was just up to around 375)...

First one in the oil

And then we put some more of them in there...

It's a fry party!

And waited for them to get golden brown...

Getting nice and toasty

And then we fished them out. And ate them.

PDC Zucchini Flower Tempura

Oh, and the taste? Kinda like deep fried candy except light and delicious and kinda like lava -- at least the first one was. (Our advice to you? Don't stuff the whole thing in your mouth at once.) But seriously, they were delicious. Kind of like moderately "healthy" fried bar food. The tempura was crispy and the zucchini was soft and the flowers added a unique texture. With a little maldon salt, it was perfect appetizer. Delicious, and easy -- minus the cleanup of deep frying. (Which we didn't even have to do because our rock star friends that we cooked for offered to clean up!)

Notes to selves:
Things directly removed from hot oil are... hot. And they rock. And are really good and light and wonderful. And the tempura onion rings we made with the remainder of the batter were freakin' awesome, as well.

Time, mis to eat: 45 minutes. 30 of which were heating the oil. Or maybe not that long. There were some margaritas involved, and maybe a manhattan or two as well. Typical deep frying time, let's say.

Next Up: Honestly? Unclear. Depends on what we find at the farmer's market and how many dishes we feel like washing. TBD. But it will be good! Oh, it will be good!

Blast from the past: We were to understand there'd be punch and pie.