Wednesday, March 04, 2009

So, during the summer of 2007 we moved to the Crescent City. Thank God.

This is the home of legendary haute-creole restaurants (Antione’s,1840; Arnaud’s, 1918; Tujague’s, 1856; Galatoire’s, 1905; Commander’s Palace, 1880) and dynamite local secrets (Irene’s; Brightsen’s; Dick n’ Jenny’s; Jacques-Imo’s; Cochon; etc…..) Chefs in this city are household celebrities: Emerill, Prudhomme, Dooky Chase, Spicer, Besh, etc……

The standard has been raised. What was bombast in Jax before, in the Big Easy, is called “Tuesday.”

Upon arrival I purchased two books: Escoffier by Escoffier and After the Hunt: Louisiana's Authoritative Collection of Wild Game Recipes by Chef John Folse. Escoffier codifies classical French cooking techniques and Folse explains how to prepare anything that crawls, walks, swims, flies, or grows south of Natchez. Later on, I pick up The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine by Folse as well. I am ready.

(Where’s the bbq?) Not in this post. Consider this post to be an “Empire Strikes Back”: Not so much enjoyable as it is a necessary segue between “Star Wars” and “Jedi.”

Mama Sauce:
Learning Creole and Cajun cuisine begins with learning the Mother Sauces and how to make good, rich, dark stocks. Then follow up with secondary, and tertiary sauces (marchand du vin, choron, meuniere, sabayon, etc…this is where the magic lives.) Find good farmer markets for fresh, seasonal vegetables and seafood from local sources.

This is a good time to make some comments about making your own stocks (highly recommended—the crap you get from the store has an artificial flavor and is loaded with sodium.) Yes, it takes along time and will monopolize a Saturday morning. The payoff is huge, figuratively and physically: (1) it makes a LOT of stock, (2) volume per dollar, it is CHEAP, (3) it contains insane amount of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, protein, etc. Nourishing Traditions by Fallon explains all this thoroughly. Use the cartilaginous portions of the animal (the least expensive) and roast them to bring out flavor. This caramelizes the natural sugars in the marrow to make a rich, dark stock with a flavor punch. Chicken: use the wings and feet—I know it sounds gross, you’ll thank me later. Beef: ask the butcher for marrow bones, or use the knuckles, shanks, tail, etc. Duck: fillet off the breast portions for use as an entrĂ©e, remove thighs for a confit or cassoulet, remove extra fat and use to render lard (more on that later), and use everything left—I buy whole Peking-style ducks (head and feet attached) and use the whole thing.

There are only a bajillion stock recipes out there—it’s basically chopped veggies, herbs, spices, cold water. Go knock yourself out. After simmering for hours (+8 min), strain the stock. Then place liquid only in a wide, shallow pan and reduce by half to concentrate flavor. I pour mine into muffin pans and freeze. Remove the stock puck and place into a big ole Ziploc bag to keep in the freezer for when you need it. When you reuse it, mix with equal parts water to “bring it back up”. Or not, your call.

Duck Fat
Duck fat….hmmm….is indispensable in European cuisine. Place the removed fat and fatty skin portions in a sauce pan over a low fire. Simmer it until the pieces stop bubbling. If it smokes, turn down heat, or remove it. The objective is to render all the saturated fat out of the pieces of flesh with out burning anything—take your time. I pour this off into little mini-muffin pans (+2 T) and freeze. It stores in the freezer similar as stock pucks above, but use it up with in a few months so it does not become rancid.

Use rendered duck fat to baste lean meats as they cook, or inject into meat prior to cooking. My fav is to make a duck lard compound with gorgonzola and minced, roasted pecans; stuff this into butter-flied deer tenderloin and roast it. Used in lieu of butter or olive oil, duck lard adds a deeper, rich, slightly wild flavor to dishes that otherwise would be kind of tame (lame). You can toss it with roasting potatoes, brushed it on savory puff pastries, use it to make the above mentioned sauces really sing.

Eventually, this knowledge will be incorpoated into BBQ. And I see the BBQ reaching sublime levels of taste. But first, one has to learn the rules before one can break the rules.
Ok…first post in almost three years. A lot has happened since and I promise to do better about updating things from now on. Promise.

Since we last spoke, we have moved from Jacksonville to the beautifully entropic and mystically fecund city of New Orleans. Our barbeque meanderings in the past 1,095 days have covered much ground as our styles evolve. Before we dip into the world of duck fat, oyster liqueur, sazeracs, and tasso, we close the chapter of “Jax”.

The last post leaves us in Spring 2006 where our new pot smoker was given a “baptism by fire”. A couple of friends from north of the Mason-Dixon wanted to see what the big deal was about this thing called BBQ. So we had a very hands-on lesson one Saturday; much meat was consumed.

Fast-forward to Memorial Day weekend 2006. Out-of-town friends as well as 73 of our closest local friends descend on our house to sample the most succulent of treats (more detail on recipes below):
Whisky-marinated brisket, slow smoked with a cracked pepper crust
Kumquat and ginger stuffed ducks
Sticky glazed bbq chicken
Fresh boudin blanc
Something we found at an Asian market
Dry-rubbed, 15-hour roasted wild boar

Several regular charcoal grills were converted and shade tree-engineered to cook all this. The boar was hung inside a metal trash can which had been incorporated into the pot smoker. Pictures here.

Whisky-marinated brisket:
This one is fairly simple. Coat a brisket with freshly, coarsely cracked black pepper and kosher flake salt. Rub it in; do it again. Keep doing this until no more red meat is showing, then place in ceramic or Pyrex pan. Gently pour a drier Tennessee whisky in the pan so as not to disturb the “crust”. Remove from dish eight to twelve hours later and place on a 250 degree grill. Cook at this constant temperature for about an hour per pound of meat, and very hour or so, pour a little of the marinade over the brisket. Remove from grill when internal temperature is about 160, and place on cutting board to rest for 15 minutes. Thinly slice and serve au jus or with an awesome dipping sauce.

Kumquat and ginger stuffed ducks:
Remove internal organ pouches from duck and cut off head, and feet (if bought Peking style). Remove extra pieces of fat around cavity orifice—use this later to render duck lard. Prepare kumquats by removing flesh from skins and thinly slicing them. Peel and thinly slice fresh ginger root. Liberally salt and pepper cavity and skin. Place kumquat skins and ginger in a bowl; add some diced shallot, minced, fresh chopped herb d’Provence, and a splash of white wine. Very carefully, using your fingers and working from cavity orifice forward, create a pocket between skin and meat. Spoon kumquat et al mixture in this pocket and massage forward all over the bird. Then place on grill with indirect heat and cook like you normally would a duck.

The remainder of dishes did not have any elaborate preparations. When a pig is wild, or feral, it’s free-range and organic by default. It’s been living off the land eating muscadines, scuppernongs, wild onions, dew berries, dandelions, etc—almost like it’s self-marinating just for us. So we restrained the use of seasoning in this case to let the natural flavors of the pork shine. A simple dry rub of salt, black pepper, white pepper, granulated onion, and granulated garlic was used. Every hour of cooking (15+ in all), we sprayed it with a mixture of white wine vinegar, apple cider, and sorghum molasses.

Friday, December 01, 2006

in april, a couple of friends decided they needed to be schooled in the art of cooking meat over fire. so we got a pork shoulder, a duck, and a chicken. a good friend, randy reichert, gave us a back quarter from a nice doe.

the pork shoulder was deboned. this allowed us to smoke the seasoned bone seperately to use in soup stocks later. the top secret recipe pork rub was liberally applied inside and out of the shoulder. it was trussed with the skin/fat layer on top.

the duck was stuffed with ginger, fresh kumquats, sage, onions, and garlic. it was injected with a spiced honey white wine sauce.

the venison was rubbed with salt and pepper, some garlic, juniper berries, and rosemary. strips of bacon were laid across the top in order to keep it moist. the venison was cooked until rare and then removed from the grill. wrapping it in foil helps the meat to sweat itself off the bone. it was then thinly shaved and served with a great dipping sauce made of equal parts cider vinegar and sorghum molasses with 1/4 part fresh ground black pepper. Combine ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for a while. sauce is best if made a day ahead.

its been a year since i bothered to add content here--but now there is enough to talk about.

so we begin our oddessy in early spring of this year. newell watkins developed a prototype for a terra cotta smoker cooker made from flower pots. i took his prototype and adapted the design based on materials i found in my backyard. what you see here is the final product of "pot smoker 2.0". it has a firebox built up from collected concrete blocks with a sheet metal lining. two bottom-to-bottom 18" flower pots make the smoke chamber and cooking chamber. 18" terra cotta plate forms the lid.

the basis of the idea was to make clay smoker cooker out of re-used construction material. similar to a big green egg. one of these could easily add to your home's resale value. trust me.

now its time to cook something in it!

Friday, November 18, 2005

just testing this thing out

more to come.......