Deer in a Jar

DSC_0049Virgil, my fry bread guide, got a deer this year and I got a piece of it. Two jars of canned venison, in fact. Until a couple of weeks ago I had no idea you could keep venison in a jar, but there it is. Life is a learning experience. Here’s what I did with it:

Hungarian Cabbage Rolls (with Canned Venison)

1 lb canned venison, finely chopped

1 cup uncooked rice

salt

pepper

1 green cabbage

1 can sauerkraut

2 small cans tomato juice

sugar

The quantities here are a tad approximate, but this is a very forgiving recipe. First, cut out the core of the cabbage with a sharp knife. Boil the cabbage for about 10 minutes, prodding it aimlessly until the leaves start to come apart. Drain it and let cool.

In a bowl, mix the chopped venison, the rice, and enough salt and pepper. Take a leaf of boiled cabbage and put a few spoons of venison mixture on it.

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Tuck in the sides and roll up. Easy!

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Layer the bottom of a heavy pan with sauerkraut. Place the rolls on top of this.

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Cover with sauerkraut and add tomato juice (and water) to cover. Sprinkle with sugar. Simmer for about two hours. Eat with good company and cheap wine.

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Tucker Downunder

wild kiwi foodsI’ve dealt with some weird foods throughout the history of this blog. Finding and trying weird foods is a hobby of mine – in a new restaurant, I look for the oddest thing on the menu and order it. Sometimes the chef pokes his head out of the kitchen to look at me.  On a recent trip through the astoundingly beautiful New Zealand, I found two more that I would like to share with you, one because it is good, and the other strictly for the horror-and-disgust factor. Consider yourself warned.

New Zealanders like whitebait, the immature fry of fish of many species. Every year, in a very limited and strictly enforced season, Kiwis compete for the chance to stand in a river with a net, scooping up shoals of the things as they migrate, rather like we do here in the Pacific Northwest when the salmon are running (except, of course, for a notable size difference in the prey. Whitebait are an inch or two long, and salmon a big enough to dent a car). The classic preparation of whitebait is fried in a “patty” (which is traditionally just a pure egg batter, like an omelet), which is then sometimes placed between two slices of bread. The end result is a fatty, greasy, protein-heavy snack full of tiny little fish, complete with head and guts and little eyes that stare at you as you raise them to your mouth. You can also eat them in more elegant preparations, such as sautéed in white wine, if you’re a tourist. I’d known about the Kiwi craze for whitebait since my young days reading Footrot Flats, so it was a given that I would sample them as soon as I could on my first trip to New Zealand.

sandwich board

Is it special? Is it fresh? Is it neither? Punctuation can be confusing.

First taste of whitebait: “Huh. Okay. It’s just tiny fish.” Second taste: “Okay. They’re not bad.” Third: “Are there any more?” That’s the mark of a true delicacy – initial uncertainty, followed by lifelong devotion. This is absolutely my favourite kind of food.

whitebait sandwich

whitebait

That was the good one.

Annnnnnd speaking of delicacies, here’s one I absolutely did not expect to see on a menu, ever: muttonbird, a.k.a. sooty shearwater. If you’ve never seen a shearwater, think of a dark brown seagull, which is essentially what they are. Now seagulls flock in great numbers to the rooftops around my apartment building, and sometimes, after being woken once again by their furious arguments at four in the morning, it has occurred to me to wonder how they would taste, had I a rifle handy. I always came to the conclusion that, were seagulls any good to eat, people would already be eating them, as with pigeons and squirrels in other cuisines. But now at last I had a chance to find out!

Muttonbirds are another species with a very limited and strictly enforced hunting season. In this case the strictures go further: muttonbird, or “titi” in the local language, can only be harvested by the Rakiura Maori people and their descendants, and as such is a key part of Southern Maori culture and heritage. How could I pass up a chance at this beast when I saw it on the menu of a fish and chip cart!

Here’s my advice to you: should you ever find yourself in Southern New Zealand, and you see muttonbird on the menu of a fish and chip cart, pass up the chance at it.

Deep fried muttonbird. Do not, under any circumstances, eat.

Deep fried muttonbird. Do not, under any circumstances, eat.

I pride myself on having an experienced and daring palate, but over the years I have found two foods I absolutely do not like: raw sea urchin, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Muttonbird is exactly like a cross between these two foods. It’s an incredibly fatty and greasy bird that tastes like a tidepool smells. Now when I put it like that it sounds it might be alright, and as these “culture and heritage” meals sometimes tend to be, it must have been better than slow starvation. But I sadly cannot recommend it.

To be fair, deep fried muttonbird from a fish and chip cart may not be the best preparation. A Kiwi friend of mine provided the following recipe from the enigmatic “Maori Cookbook.” (I say enigmatic because this rare paperback, which you can still find on Amazon for $188, contains no author, date or printing info, making it hard for me to credit.)

To Cook Mutton Birds:

Remove the feathers of the mutton bird (if any). The mutton bird may be treated in the same way as wild duck, i.e. roasted with a savoury stuffing of breadcrumbs, or, for a change, apples and onions. Bake for 1 hour. Alternatively, boil it briefly and pour off the water. It is really a matter of taste. If you don’t like the bird’s salty taste, boil it again, or rather simmer it until softish and then grill the bird until brown and sizzling. Garnish with a white sauce made with white wine. Pour it into the sauce as many Stewart Island oysters as it can comfortably accommodate.

That doesn’t sound so bad.

On the subject of this trip to visit the family Downunder, I must include a couple of pictures here from the Mecca of the produce world, Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. If it’s not at the Queen Vic, it’s not edible (you can’t get muttonbird, for example).

market seafood

It's so hard to find good kangaroo garlic mettwurst in the States.

It's so hard to find good kangaroo garlic mettwurst in the States.

Rolling out fresh borek pastry. One of the things I miss most about Australia is the Turkish food.

Rolling out fresh borek pastry. One of the things I miss most about Australia is the Turkish food.

And just to finish with a recipe, here’s a salad my mother makes.

Quinoa, herb and pomegranate salad

150g quinoa

½ vegetable stock cube

75g pine nuts

1 pomegranate

A small handful chopped mint

A small handful chopped coriander

1 lime, juiced

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cook the quinoa according to pack instructions and add the vegetable stock cube to the cooking water.

Leave to cool, then break up with a fork.

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until like golden.

Mix the pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, herbs, lime juice and olive oil through the quinoa.

pomegranate salad

Pork Poems

This week I lost a tooth, which always puts me in a maudlin state of mind wherein I obsessively contemplate the nature of mortality, and I’ve been thinking the best way to be memorialized would be to have a food named after me. Here are some examples I can think of:

The sandwich (Earl of Sandwich)

John Wayne candy bar (John Wayne)

Oysters Rockefeller (John D.  Rockefeller)

Fettuccine Alfredo (Alfredo di Lelio)

Eggs Benedict (no idea, but it has to be someone)

Frangelico (Fra Angelico, duh)

Cherry Garcia ice cream (Jerry Garcia)

Earl Grey tea (some British prime minister)

Margarita cocktail (Rita Hayworth. Real name Margarita Cansino)

Melba toast (Dame Nellie Melba)

Pavlova (Anna Pavlova)

General Tso’s chicken (also has to be someone, right?)

Dongpo pork (Su Dongpo)

"I want Dong Po!" ... too obscure? I love 'Kickboxer'.

"I want Dong Po!" ... too obscure? I love 'Kickboxer'.

Dongpo pork is a new favourite recipe of mine. It is Chinese cuisine at its finest – simultaneously elaborate and simple. The ingredients are few but the pork must be boiled, reboiled, simmered in a sauce, fried, boiled again, then steamed. Why is it named after the poet Su Dongpo? No one knows. Almost certainly he didn’t invent it (who could imagine a poet going to all that work?). As Lin Hsiang puts it in Chinese Gastronomy, this dish is “…named after Su Tungpo, the poet, for unknown reasons. Perhaps it is just because he would have liked it.” And I bet he would have. When you are done, the pork is so tender the fat can be eaten with chopsticks.

Dongpo Pork

1 lb pork belly

1 tea bag (Lapsang Souchong for preference)

4 spring onions

About an inch of fresh ginger, slivered

1 head broccoli

Sauce:

1 cup water

8 cloves garlic, smashed

5 slices ginger

1 tablespoon peppercorns

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

Boil a pot of water and toss in the pork. When it comes back to the boil, drain the pork, clean the pot (go on, do it), put the pork back in and cover with cold water. Bring back to the boil. Boil 30 minutes. Fish out the pork, keep the water.

Heat up another saucepan with all the sauce ingredients. Add the pork and simmer for a few minutes, until nicely coloured. Remove the pork and reserve the sauce.

Heat up some oil in a saucepan (or wok). Fry the pork on all sides until well browned and the skin is crispy. While this is happening, steep the tea bag in boiling water for a minute or so, then toss the water and keep the tea bag.

browning belly

Place the pork in the saucepan of water again, and add the tea bag. Simmer 30 more minutes.

Cut the spring onions in half, and use them to make a lattice at the bottom of your bamboo steamer. Place the pork on top of this, then steam for 2 hours. You will need to top up the water a few times.

steaming onions

Don't forget to cover the steamer... unlike this pic

Don't forget to cover the steamer... unlike this pic

Cut the broccoli into florets and place in the steamer for the final 5 minutes of cooking time.

Place the pork and broccoli on a serving dish, reheat the sauce (thicken with cornflour if you like) and pour over the pork. Garnish with the slivers of ginger.

It’s a long process, no doubt, but there’s only one life to eat, enjoy, and enjoy eating. As the poet himself put it:

Shui Lung Yin by Su Dongpo

Drinking through the night at East Slope,
still drunk on waking-up,
I return home around midnight.
My house-boy snores like thunder,
no answer to my knock.

Leaning on my stick, listening to the river,
I wish this body belonged to someone else.
When can I escape this turmoil?

In the deep night, with the wind still, the sea calm;
I’ll find a boat and drift away,
to spend my final years afloat,
trusting to the river and the sea.

My Kitchen, Explained

I frequently complain and whine that my kitchen is too small, but to be honest, I kind of like it. It’s a bit like working on the line, where you have to constantly bark “behind you!” when you reach for another towel or a salt shaker. It’s a bit like the galley of a ship. It’s easily controlled. It cannot sprawl and dishes cannot accumulate because there’s nowhere to accumulate them. Also, and this may be the main reason, if you make something good with minimal resources, it’s a natural triumph, whereas if you make something good in a fully stocked enormous space, it’s expected. As Calvin said, “I find my life is easier the lower I keep everyone’s expectations.”

My Kitchen

a) Bare hanging lightbulb, hinting at ghetto nature of cuisine created in this space.

b) Herbs hanging up to dry from skylight.

c) Model of the Wright Flyer.

d) Generic art.

e) Storage Space Alpha (above cupboards): two stockpots, two cast iron skillets, two cast iron saucepans, two steamers, medium saucepan for boiling, Silverstone non-stick fry pan, three roasting pans, muffin tin, pizza tray, two mixing bowls, colander, cake tin. It helps I am tall.

f) Storage Space Beta (hanging on the wall): mandoline, miniature saucepan, heat diffuser, sieve, miniature frypan, cooking chopsticks. Also a fusebox.

g) Crappy electric stove. Permanent storage place for kettle and a pizza stone. Note also total lack of ventilation fan.

h) Trash, recycling and general plague pit.

i) Storage Space Gamma (bookshelf): two mortar and pestles (huge and tiny), two tagines, pressure cooker, deep fryer, electric hotplate for hotpot, butane torch for crème brulee, toaster, collection of wife’s Egyptology books.

j) Only bare counter space in kitchen, cluttered with Mr. Coffee, three peppermills, two salt grinders, tiny chopping board, fresh herbs in water.

k) Storage Space Delta (behind sink): cookie sheet, roasting racks, cleaning supplies.

l) 70’s era fridge with no separate freezer. Contains millions of things stacked upon things and about 10 pounds of frost which must be chiseled out on a regular basis. Yes, that is a magnetic stuffed panda on the side.

m) Primary chopping board, and dish rack. The place where magic happens. And dishes.

n) First cupboard: blender, slow cooker, meat grinder, coffee grinder, lots of pickling jars. Also a whiteboard for recipe ideas, shopping lists, and dirty drawings. Below: a tall rack that once held dog food samples (don’t ask) holding onions, garlic, potatoes, seaweed, exotic flours, nuts, rice, sugar, pastas and noodles, a sake set and a rolling pin.

o) Second cupboard: spices (lots of these), teas, plenty of weird ingredients with no easy classification like gelatin, dashi, and liquid smoke.

p) Third cupboard: canned goods, flours and other powders, dried beans and pulses.

q) Fourth cupboard: all of the crockery I own, plus empty jars, Tupperware, fondue set, ramekins, rarely-used Vietnamese coffee makers, measuring cups.

r) Same as q), but with more grease spots due to being over the stovetop.

s) Stupid false drawers and cupboards that contain a water heater that can run a hot shower for almost a full five minutes.

t) Real drawers: cutlery, a million utensils too tedious to list, including a weird 70s sushi-making machine which was too awesome not to buy when we saw it at Value Village.

u) Storage Space Epsilon (fridge top): bottles containing fish sauce, soy sauce (two kinds), oils (four kinds), vinegars (eight kinds), cooking wines, whatever beer doesn’t fit in the fridge.

v) Magnetic knife rack: two chef knives, serrated tomato knife which doesn’t work but I can’t bear to throw away, bread knife, weird Vietnamese scrap metal knife we bought and never use, tongs, kitchen scissors, oyster shucker, and an eight-inch spike (surprisingly handy).

Trust me, the rest of the studio is worse.

Ducking Around in the Kitchen

marx-1I regret that Peking changed its name to Beijing. iphone 6 snoopy case My life is full of regrets. iphone 7 flamingo phone cases The most recent one is betting a bottle of Fernet Branca on the outcome of this year’s NCAA tourney. (My overconfidence has never recovered from the occasion, a couple of years back, when I correctly guessed the finalists, the winner, and the exact point spread. swarovski iphone 6 plus case Gambling and winning can be just as detrimental as gambling and losing.) “Beijing Duck” just doesn’t have the same romantic ring.

Peking duck is one of China’s national foods. supernatural phone case iphone 7 plus It is so good it was responsible for re-establishing relations between the United States and China in the 1970s when Kissinger insisted Nixon had to travel to China to taste it. It’s an interesting preparation, combining very few simple ingredients and an amazingly elaborate method. In a nutshell, here is the process:

1) Inflate the skin of the duck with a bamboo tube or bicycle pump to separate the skin from the fat.

2) Hang up the duck and scald it all over with boiling water to close the pores.

3) Let the duck dry in a warm drafty place for a few hours.

4) Make a marinade of honey, soy sauce, lemon and Shaoxing wine, and repeatedly baste the duck while it dries for up to several days.

5) Slow-roast the duck hanging upright in a tall oven over a fire of Gaolin wood.

Eating it can be just as elaborate, with the entire meal being based around different stages of the duck. First the skin is eaten dipped in garlic sauce, then the meat is stir fried or served in thin pancakes with green onions and plum sauce, and then a broth of the bones and fat finishes the meal. I love duck for this reason: one duck feeds Leslie and I for days.

Duck 008I attempted Peking Duck for the first time last weekend, and boy was it fun to hang up a duck and scald it with water and then dry it for hours in front of an electric fan while basting it. I always believe food should be both entertainment and nutrition. If you want to try it yourself, Andrea Nguyen has an excellent breakdown on her website Viet World Kitchen, and while I was a little less dedicated, I followed much the same process. Since neither Andrea or I have a tall brick wood fired oven, we both just roasted our duck on a roasting rack over a roasting pan to catch the drippings (absolutely essential when it comes to a fatty bird like duck).

Then we ate some of the duck with Chinese pancakes, green onions and plum sauce as described above. This is by far and away our favourite way to eat duck, no matter how it is cooked. I took photos, but they sucked, so I’m not going to put you off by showing them.

The days that followed contained many joyful variations on duck, such as:

Duck stir fry!

Duck 012

Duck stock!

Duck 011

…Which was used in duck risotto with roasted hearts of romaine!

Duck 015

Chinese duck salad with Filipino lumpia!

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Duck Dodgers in the Twenty-Fourth and a Half Century!

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The Chinese duck salad was a new one on us, and really a hit. The recipe is from Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, in his book “The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines.”

Chinese Duck Salad

1/2 lb cooked boneless duck meat

3/4 lb bean sprouts

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

DRESSING:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tb light soy sauce

2 tb sesame oil (it seems like a lot, but it isn’t)

1/2 tsp sugar

freshly ground black pepper

torn lettuce for base

Place the salad ingredients in a bowl. michael kors phone case iphone x Mix the dressing separately and toss with the salad.

Pork Buns, Revisited

pork bunI sometimes worry overly much about the recipes I post not always being original. But then I ask myself, what does it mean to be “original”? Was Nicolai Tesla being “original” when he invented the radio? Was Dorothy Richardson being “original” when she pioneered the stream of consciousness narrative mode? Was Momofuku Ando being “original” when he invented the instant ramen noodle, thus changing the lives of college students everywhere?

Well… yes.

Am I being original when I reproduce this recipe for pork buns from David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook? No. But in my defense:

1) My pork buns are not exactly like Chang’s. marc jacobs iphone 7 case I add gluten, for example, because Chris just introduced me to gluten and it’s a miracle substance that converts cheap ordinary flour into expensive bread flour. Also, my recipe is a little less finickitty. If you want the whole recipe with all the professional details, buy the book.

2) There are probably dozens of New York restaurants which serve pork buns kind of like this.

3) This is too good not to share, for many reasons. This is a food to eat before you die kind of good.

David Chang runs several restaurants in New York under the general name “Momofuku”, so called partly in homage to Momofuku Ando, and partly because it sounds similar to an epithet describing someone who engages in Oedipal behaviour. This should give you some idea of his personality. He is, however, a genius cook, and I encourage you to seek out his chaotically-arranged cookbook for its glimpses into restaurant life as much as for the recipes.

I have already blogged about pork buns, or char siu bao, in an earlier post, but I have come to find this recipe superior. Here’s why: they do not resemble traditional stuffed pork buns, in being more of a folded-over-slice-of-bread shape. The advantages of this are many: they look cool, they are fun to put together, you can freeze the buns separately from the filling for months, and most of all, you can vary the fillings at the table, enabling you to sup with your vegetarian friends without worrying about which bun is which.

This recipe makes a ton of buns – about fifty. But you really can freeze them for months with no loss of quality, which makes quick lunches a snap: load the steamer with a few buns per person and steam for three minutes. Ta da! So clear off the counters and get started.

Momofuku-Style Steamed Buns

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dry yeast

1 1/2 cups water, room temperature

4 1/2 cups plain flour

2 tablespoons gluten

6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening, room temperature

1. Combine the yeast and the water in a bowl. Add the flour, gluten, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and fat and mix for 8-10 minutes. flexable iphone 7 case The dough should gather into a neat shiny ball, not too tacky. iphone 6 moving glitter case Place it in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with a dry kitchen towel, and let it rise somewhere warm 1 hour 15 minutes.

2. Punch the dough down and place on a work surface. Cut the dough in half and divide each half into 5 pieces. iphone 6 case sea creatures Roll the pieces into logs and cut each log into five pieces, making 50 in all. Clear off more counter space because you’re running out. Each lump should be about the size of a ping pong ball. iphone 7 plus phone case shockproof Roll each gently into a ball and cover them all loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30 more minutes.

3. Cut out 50 small squares of parchment paper.

4. Place a ball on the counter and with a quick swipe-swipe of the rolling pin, turn it into an elongated oval about 4 inches long or so. Gently fold the ball over on itself (it should be a greasy enough dough that it won’t seal when you do this). Place the folded bun on a square of parchment paper and move on to the next one. Cover all the buns with plastic wrap again and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

ball o' dough

ball o' dough

squished ball o' dough

squished ball o' dough

folded squished ball o' dough

folded squished ball o' dough

now find somewhere to put them

now find somewhere to put them

5. Set up a steamer on the stove. drake iphone 6 case I favour bamboo because I like the way it does not drip, and it smells nice, and I like bamboo. Steam the buns on their parchment squares for 10 minutes. With a double stack I could steam 8 buns at a time. You can serve the buns immediately, or let them cool completely and store them in plastic freezer bags for months. To reheat, just put them in the steamer for another 3 minutes until warmed through.

Fillings

David Chang’s buns are famous because he only serves them with pork belly. iphone 8 fancy cases I, however, cannot get pork belly, and slow roasted pork shoulder was just amazing. He smears the inside of a bun with hoisin sauce, and adds pork, some quick cucumber pickles (cucumber thinly sliced, sprinkled with salt and sugar and allowed to sit for 30 minutes), and a sprinkle of chopped spring onions, and I cannot recommend this approach enough. The cucumbers provide just the fresh snap to balance the fatty salty pork and the chewy bun. However, go crazy! Try chicken, fried seitan, red-cooked pork, bean paste, or garnish with peanuts, cilantro and sprinkling of sugar Taiwanese street food style.