28 December, 2007

Gravlaks Nation

photo: Erik in Oberlin

Photo: Erik in Oberlin

(Dear MAC: )

I just made gravlaks this morning--two kinds actually; one the kind we brought last year (you know, the one Jen loved so much.), the other kind a new one with caraway, red pepper, aniseed and whisky. We're using two recipes in Kitchen of Light, by Andreas Viestad. We're also doing a kransekakke, and will try to send a pic or two of it as well.

All the best,

Erik in Oberlin

Dear EIO:

Thanks for the pictures. Merry Christmas. There is nothing finer than cured fish on Christmas morning. Gravlaks, as spelled by the Norwegians (Graavilohi for our Finnish friends, or gravlax in Stockholm), is so easy to make, I don't know why every red blooded American isn't salting away a fillet right now. We went through two and a half pounds in two days.

Slice and sweep.

Christmas Day with hollandaise and mustard

Next day picnic lunch at Cedar Falls.

Here's how you do it:

Grind spices, combine with salt and sugar.

Rub it on both sides of the fish.

Don't be shy with the dill.

Wrap em up together and cure in the fridge for 3 days. Flip daily. Slice thin, using your sharpest knife, in a sweeping motion leaving the skin on the board. Garnish however you want, I like mustard,

Christmas mustard if you've got it.

Here's the quantities I used:

2 lbs 8 oz (1136 grams) Salmon fillet, skin on

40 g Kosher salt

65 g Sugar

5 g white pepper

1 g caraway

a bunch of fresh dill.


17 December, 2007

Christmas Party

The proper way to open cava as demonstrated by Zack.

Office Christmas Party 2007
Once again the holiday party for Bonne Femme's office was held at a tony Lincoln Park location. As with any party I like to bring some food:

I love this roast. A boneless pork loin is wrapped with a pork belly. In between the layers a cream of olive oil, salt, rosemary, juniper berry, garlic and pepper is applied, then smoked over hickory.

Fazzoletti della nonna coi funghi secchi e spinaci.

Italian crepes. I think it literally translates to "grandma's headscarf with wild mushrooms and spinach." I got the idea from Marcella Hazan.

I got these Criminis (baby bellas) River Valley Ranch in Burlington Wisconsin. Stop by if you are in the neighborhood.

I made the mushrooms into a Duxelles, pureed sauteed spinach, and made a white sauce with Parmesan cheese. Making crepes was fun.

Rillettes du canard.

After receiving Brian's letter, The Jersey Report: Confit du Canard, I got a duck. I like to think I aways read the label but in this case I didn't and when I got home I realized that my pintail had been "flavored" with a brine solution. So I skipped salting it. Rillettes is potted meat, but to get the meat I have to make a confit first.

I threw away the orange sauce, saved the neck and the carcass for stock, and rendered the skin and fat.

I got about 12 ounces of fat from the duck. I needed more so I made some lard.

For the confit I probably added 16 ounces of lard to the duck fat to make sure everything was covered. I put in the meat the gizzards and the wings. They cooked in a 200F oven for about 6 hours.

For the rillettes, I took the confit meat and a little duck fat and ran it through the Cuisinart.


I feel no holiday is complete with out some home cured fish. This one with dill, white pepper and caraway.

Other Additions:

Kiff made a magical mango chutney to go with the pork. Audrey roasted chestnuts for a superb chestnut cheesecake. Corine's spinach salad added color and balance to the holiday fare. JJ made Christmas cookies, and Bonne Femme made her signature bacon and onion tart, polenta and the ever popular Ice box cake. Thanks everybody for a great party.

Merry Christmas


13 December, 2007

I wanna be like Bill.

The Accidental Foodie cooks from a book

Chicken Italian Sausage with parsley and cheese stuffed into ravioli

Peposo Notturno - Beef shanks braised in Chianti

Dear Gentle Readers:
Put on your foodie hat (chinstrap extra tight), we are diving into a book for this week's adventure. Don't run away, we aren't mushroom hunting with Tolstoy or soft boiling eggs like Toni Morrison, we are looking at Heat by Bill Buford. In this book the author goes on a culinary quest that begins in Mario Batali's restaurant, Babbo, and ends up in Italy to try to find answers to such questions like when did eggs first become an ingredient to for pasta. During his search, Buford learns about rustic Italian preparations, made in home kitchens for centuries, and how they have evolved into fancy pants plates in hipster restaurants. I like the rusty preparation part, but do I have to read aloud while stirring the polenta?

Bonne Femme at the whisk.

I resisted reading Heat, for a long time. The book, for me was like lentil soup: the thought of it didn't really appeal to me but but once I got into it I realized it was really good. You should be able to find this book at the library, it also just came out in paperback. Bonne Femme had the idea of cooking out of it and what she wanted to make just happened to coincide with what I was working on at school.

Peposo Notturno - Pepper by night

Please turn to page 274 in your books. The recipe is so simple that you just have to try it. Basically it is braising beef in wine for a really long time with only pepper salt and garlic added. The hard part is getting the meat. On Page 272 Buford goes in some detail off the knife skills used to attack the beef shank. Since I had carved one up in Kitchen class a few days earlier I was raring to go. I started out with one nine pound beef shank.

After a lot of cutting (I don't recommend this for people who are short on patience or sharp knives) I came away with three pounds of beef shank cubes. As for the other six pounds, I used the bone and trimmings to make a beef stock, and I got about 8 ounces of suet from rendering the fat. But first, I loaded up the dutch oven with the meat, poured in the Chianti a bunch of ground black pepper, a head of garlic, brought it to a boil then set it for stew (about 225F in the oven). Eight hours later you'll have shredded Italian beef. There are lots of little things you could do or add that would make this dish better, but then it wouldn't be Pepposo Notturno.

While that's cooking let's make some pasta.

Making pasta is not particularly hard to do, but describing the process is, so I'm not going to try. I don't make it very often and I always have to look for a recipe to get back on track. After reading Heat I never have to look a recipe again. On page 183, Buford documents one person's pasta recipe: One etto, one egg. One egg For every hundred grams of flour. It works. For the ravioli I made, I used three etti and three eggs.

For the ravioli filling, I wanted to use the Italian Cheese and Parsley sausage that has been so popular around here. This time I made it with chicken. Here's the portions I used:

512 g Chicken
100g Parmesan cheese
10 g salt
4 g white pepper
3 g coriander
10g fresh parsley
5 g dry milk
a little vinegar and water to smooth out the binding.

For the pasta
250 g AP flour
50 g Whole wheat flour
3 large eggs

Since I was making this up, it didn't occur to me that I might have to cook the meat mixture before stuffing the pasta. So I sauteed the forcemeat then I minced it in the Cuisinart.

The listed portions made about 40 to small raviolis which isn't much for a party of seven. But I made them as a garnish for consommé. Why soup? I liked the idea of using one whole chicken to make the stock, the soup and the garnish.

Everybody had a good time at the party.

molding polenta

candid moments at the table

Peposo Notturno with polenta and spinaci alla romana

In a recent essay for class I wrote, "Fixing food should not get in the way of a good life, it should be a part of it." The instructor asked if that was original. At the time I didn't really think much about the line, I was just trying to close out an essay, however I did write it and I do believe it. Anyone can make good tasting food at home, and when you have fun making it, it tastes even better.