St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty serious holiday for my family and not in the “green beer and pass out before it is dark” kind of serious either. Every year, I tell myself that we will just grab some corned beef from the store and do it cliche and every year, I decide not to go that route. Continue reading »
In the conceptual phase of Christmas Eve dinner, this was supposed to be a traditional suckling porchetta (not just the loin wrapped in the belly, but the whole beast rolled) and it was supposed to be eaten over dinner. Porchetta is a great dish, and currently ranks highly on the hot list, for better or worse, but like many Christmas ideas, concepts are one thing, but you add in other people’s plans and execution becomes another. Continue reading »
After over seven months preparing, early October brought my first marathon. Without going into too much detail, it went well, very well for a first marathon, but coming out on the other side, I knew that I would need a break, and more importantly, L would need a break. She was the one caring for the girls during my training runs. With that in mind, a few months back, we scheduled a kid-free weekend in the Northwoods of Wisconsin for the weekend following my race.
A fall weekend in the woods away from kids meant that we will both do our favorite things, L will sleep and read and I will cook and read. Our plans were only bolstered by the weather – it was cold and sunny on day one, but cold and rainy the next two days. It was perfect. We moved from couch to couch reading. I would get up to tinker with my new Aeropress coffee maker or grab a bite of cheese or feed the fire in the fireplace. As meal time approached, I would move my tinker from coffee to food. Continue reading »
A few weeks ago, Chris Cosentino, a meat hero of mine, stopped through Chicago doing publicity for his book. His book is wonderful, focussing more on vegetables than I would have expected, and shows off some terribly exciting beginnings to meals. Our current favorite from the book is a dish of strawberries and favas, but something that we tasted at his dinner at the Publican has stuck with me the most. The dish was a fantastic plate of pasta sauced with capers, olives, and tomato – a simple puttanesca – only the pasta was not made from flour and eggs, but from pork skin. Continue reading »
I am going to say it. I do not like cooking fish. I barely like eating cooked fish, but I really, truly, honestly dislike cooking fish. Unlike most things that I don’t like to do, I do not feel like fish cookery is something that I need to get past. I am perfectly happy honoring the mighty fish by fire by leaving it to the experts. However, one project by the amazing “Ideas in Food” crew that caught my attention despite it involving me cooking fish was making fish head cheese. Continue reading »
When faced with the question this past fall of what I would do with a bacon rind, I used some to enrich a pot of beans and used a batch of fresh skin, nipple-on no less, to do the same for meatballs. Certainly delicious, if perhaps a little too precious. Faced with a slightly different challenge from myself, what to do with a bunch of rind from an already dried serrano ham, I followed Michael Ruhlman’s direction from the Butcher & Larder event and went directly for the jugular. I would attempt cracklins. Simple, delicious, undistilled, pure pork skin. But there was risk. Continue reading »
Before meeting my lovely bride, I had no tradition on New Year’s Day. We watched football, but nearly every New Year’s Day was spent the same way as my Christmas Day – in a car. Granted, my interest in food as a cultural touchpoint had not been piqued, but I was unaware of the traditions of cotechino & lentils or greens and black-eyed peas. The first New Year’s Day that she and I spent together, her mother was visiting and prepared a New Year’s meal of cheese grits, collard greens and black-eyed peas. I did not understand the significance until she explained after the meal, but I would never spend another New Year’s day without eating collard greens and black-eyed peas.
One of my resolutions for 2012 is to learn more about classic Southern cooking and food traditions. Through some cursory research and discussions, I found that there are folks who are very particular about mixing different types of greens and how there are particular ways of cooking different types of greens. These details are what I am interested in learning more about. Continue reading »
Around this time of year, especially since we had kids, things start to go a little haywire. We are pulled in multiple directions and there are never enough hours in the day to do everything, much less do everything well. With all that I had to do, I outsourced the acquisition of a ham hock to my mother, who was prepping for a visit, when planning for ham hock rillettes.
There is a really great old school butcher in my hometown, Jacobs Meats, which would have lines out of the door if it existed in a place like Chicago, but mostly serves neighborhood folks over 50. In Appleton, most shoppers prefer their meat in a styrofoam/clingfilm cage packaged far away. Likely because of my rushed description of ham hock that I wanted, what I got was a regular pork hock, unsmoked and uncured. I knew that the quality would be high and that this was a very useful cut of meat, but I had no intention of going to straight to stock with it, so I stored it until inspiration hit me. Continue reading »
One of most often asked questions to me in the bacon making realm is why keep the rind attached to the belly. Hell, the question came up to Ruhlman at the amazing demo at Butcher & Larder a few weeks ago. As far as bacon making, while I am a firm believer in following instructions, in my opinion, as long as the rind is attached to the belly when you buy the belly, you are doing it right. Whether you smoke the rind and remove it or remove it before starting the entire process is completely up to you, mostly because the skin is delicious and useful fresh or smoked.
The most obvious use of fresh pork skin is cracklins’. To be sure, these are really, really delicious when done right, but for this post, I will let the Publican continue their domination of the pork cracklin’ world, where they make cracklins’ that will change how you look at the protein pack stoner food, and focus on two easier home applications. Continue reading »
As a literal bookend to my quest to make a great dish with pigs’ ears, I took a similar chance with pigs’ tails. Even more obscure culinarily, the tails presented some challenge as to how to eat these extraordinarily phallic cuts of pork. While BBQ pigs tails are more regularly eaten in the States than any other way mostly as part of whole pig roasts, I want to explore something more global and more true and specific to the qualities of the tail.
After a relatively long research period, I found fabada. Fabada is a Spanish bean stew similar to cassoulet, but less rich and more about the beans than the accompanying meats of which there are still many. Traditionally, it seems that any or all of morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo, jamon, tocino (bacon!), and, in some cases, pig’s tail are included in the pimenton and saffron laced broth when cooking the Asturian favas. Continue reading »