Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shitake Toast, another hyper-local recipe

This year's Maker Faire here in California, which in the past has been mostly electronics, woodworking and other metal-head nerd stuff, featured a "homegrown village" with several vendors displaying composting techniques, jam making, wild-food foraging, and even stone-tool making! One of the more popular booths was a stand from "Far West Fungi", the folks that sell mushrooms at the Ferry Building and local farmer's markets. Here at the Maker Faire they were peddling what looked from afar like big sawdust blocks wrapped in Plastic but that turned out to be home mushroom kits! We bought a Shitake kit, a brick of oak sawdust and rice bran molded together and treated with Shitake mushroom spores. We lugged it home, and set it up in a cool spot in the garage that gets a little bit of light. Mushrooms, as you might imagine, are very fussy. After poking a few holes in the top of the bag, we eagerly awaited a bloom of mushrooms. And suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there were mushrooms an inch or two wide sprouting all over the block! We got about two-and-a-half pounds, which would usually sell at $7.50 per pound. That means that the kit, which made me hem and haw at $19, has paid for itself on the first bloom. The instructions say we can expect 3-6 blooms, and I can't wait for the next one. Here's what we did with them: Recipe: Hyper-Local Shitakes on Toast What's Guerrilla: Our mushrooms came from the garage. What's Gourmet: Fresh Shitakes have lots of flavor and a surprisingly delicate texture. Materials: A pound or more of shitake mushrooms, as fresh as possible. One clove of garlic, chopped and several sprigs of thyme. A teaspoon of mustard and a teaspoon of Worchester sauce. Some finely-chopped parsley. Rounds of bread, toasted. A small saute pan. Method: 1) Remove the mushroom caps from the stems. Slice the caps into half-inch chunks and slice the stems as thinly as possible. 2) Get olive oil smoking in a pan, then toss the mushrooms in saute vigorously for a few minutes, until the mushrooms start to wilt. 3) Toss in the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant. 4) Add the worchester sauce and mustard, and stir to combine. 5) Put the mushrooms on the toast, sprinkle with parsley, enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cochon 555 - Pigging out at the Fairmont

Wow. I am absolutely floored by the Cochon 555 event last Sunday. My apologies for the belated post, by the way, I had to skip town early monday morning and just got back. That's probably alright anyway, since it's tken me that long to come to grips with the dazzling array of offerings in the Fairmont ballroom. There's a lot to cover here. so let's start with the basics. Many thanks to Foodbuzz, by the way, for scoring me and several other of their bloggers passes to this very posh pig out.
Cochon 555 is a travelling event that aims to promote heritage breed pigs (like the Ossabaw pictured above - thanks Carly&Art) by challenging five chefs from five restaurants each to prepare a single heritage pig from head to toe for several tasting judges and for us plebians. The event also featured five family-owned wineries showcasing their wares and a whole pig breakdown demonstration by Dave the Butcher.
The afternoon featured Peter Mcnee of Poggio Trattoria; Nate Appleman of A16/SPQR; Ravi Kapur of Boulevard; Staffan Terje of Perbacco; and Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats. On the wine side we saw Krupp Brothers, Hirsch Vineyards, Elk Cove Winery, Arcadian Winery, and K Vintners/ Charles Smith's Wines. I started by milling around and snapping a shot of our star attraction:
I didn't catch his name (I'll call him Wilbur), but he was a 10-12 week old Berkshire pig of about 70 pounds and he responded well to Dave's touch. He didn't have as much meat, or fat, on him as a full grown Berkshire would have, but he broke down into a couple of nice roasts and some very creative loin chops.
On to the rest of them. I absolutely cannot list all the offerings on the five tables, but I'll name some of the most memorable. From Appleman and the A16/SPQR team, a whole roast pig served with a stew of Asian root vegetables. The meat was succulent, and the lotus root, shitake and something-I-didn't recognize stew was rich.
Next to the whole pig table, a rather unlikely crock pot from Rancho Gordo filled with vegetarian(!) Yellow Indian Woman beans, a native California Heirloom variety. it's an odd thing to see among the other porky carnage, but as a gardener and a flexitarian, I really appreciated it. I might plant some myself for next season.
From Boulevard, a rotating selection of tidbits was available. I sampled truffled sausage, a canape of pig liver mousse, preserved lemon, dates, and cocoa nibs, cured back fat with spicy jalapeno. The back fat was fascinating: a surprisingly chewy texture with a rich, salty flavor cut nicely by the jalapeno. A fancy way to treat an unfancy ingredient.
Next up was Ryan Farr's 4505 Meats. While standing in some of the other lines (there was a healthy amount of waiting) I was accosted by Farr's hipster nymphs carrying crisp corndogs and thinly-sliced "pig face." Rather a macabre way to describe head cheese, no? When I finally got to the front of the line I met what I think is the absolute star of the show: the chicharon "taco" with pulled pork, peaches, and sharp barbeque sauce. It was great! Crisp, puffy pork rind with soft, savory pulled pork, sour sauce and sweet fruit on top. A great combination. I wonder how I could make it at home...
After the first three tables (plus a nice Viogner from Charles K, a limited-run Tempranillo from Krupp, and several glasses of Highwayman's ale from Magnolia) things got more than a little bit blurry. There was delicious lump of sausage and liver from Perbacco with some carmelized cherries, a chocolate-blood pudding and some charcuterie from Poggio Trattoria. And at the end of the whole thing, when I was quite stuffed, someone brought out a whole roast pig with crispy skin and barbeque sauce. AND they started raffling off pieces of Wilbur! I wish I could stay to the end and take home a roast (or even a foot) but I couldn't handle it anymore - I had to get home...
Everything was delicious, if not nutritious, and many thanks to Foodbuzz for sending me!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A quick Cochon 555 shout out.

I'm looking forward to attending the Chochon 555 event at the Fairmont tonight (with Foodbuzz's generous support). It should be an exciting evening, including a demonstration breakdown of a whole pig by Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf Charcuterie. Ravi Kapur of Boulevard, Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats, Nate Appleman of A16/ SPQR, Staffan Terje of Perbacco and Peter McNee of Poggio Trattoria will compete to cook poor Wilbur and be crowned Prince of Porc. Krupp Brothers, Hirsch Vineyards, Elk Cove Winery, Arcadian Winery, K Vintners/ Charles Smith's Wines will be competing to match the chef's creations. The whole thing aims to promote heritage bred (that is, fat and happy) pigs, something I've been curious about for a while. Look for a post all about it very soon!

From the Garden: Pork Belly with Hyper-Local Vegetables

Speaking of pork, summer is in full swing here in San Francisco and the foggy days are warmer than usual and cut through by the occasional sunbeam. That means that the garden I planted so long ago (March) is bearing its glorious fruit. The perpetual damp and cruel wind that we sometimes get here on the south side of Bernal Hill makes it very difficult to grow eggplant, corn, decent tomatoes, or squash, but cool season crops like beets, runner beans, peas, carrots, lettuce and onions have been star performers. The following recipe prominently features our midsummer bounty and a nice bit of briny pork from the freezer.

Roast Pork belly with hyper-local vegetables.
(A hybrid between recipes from Cook with Jaime and Nose to Tail Eating.)

What's Guerrilla:
Pork belly is a cheap, rustic cut of pork (a little goes a long way) and the simply prepared vegetables were free!
What's Gourmet: With gentle treatment, pork belly melts into a delicious, giving roast with crisp crackling on top. And fresh, seasonal, hyper-local eating is all the rage now, right? Materials and method follow the jump.



Materials:
-A good chunk of pork belly (the full belly is several pounds, but I more commonly see it in one-to-two-pound pieces) brined for several days.
-Enough sliced onion to create an allium cushion underneath your belly.
-Assorted root vegetables (I used Russian Banana potatoes, Early Wonder beets, and Royal Chantenay carrots, and yellow onions from the back yard).
-A handful of woody herbs (I used thyme and rosemary from the yard).
-A splash of Olive Oil (not from the yard).
-Salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed.
-Half a can of beer.
-A roasting pan or cast iron skillet that can hold everything comfortably.

Method:
1) Kick your broiler up to full blast and set the rack six inches or so under it.
2) Pull the belly from the brine, rinse any excess salt, and pat it dry. Then make small slashes in the top that just break the skin (some books call for a razor blade or carpet knife) a quarter inch apart. Smear the skin lightly with oil and work some salt, pepper, and fennel into the cracks.
3) Slice the onions thinly, and place them in the bottom of the pan. Sit the belly on top and make sure all of the onions are tucked underneath. If they aren't protected under the broiler, they'll burn.
4) When the broiler is pre-heated, put the roasting pan under the broiler. Check it every two minutes until the skin starts to bubble, then turn the oven down to 325 and pour some beer in the bottom of the pan. Let the belly roast for an hour or more (depending on the size) while you prep your vegetables.
5) Boil (in salted water) the potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes and the beets for 20. In theory, you can boil everything together, but if you do everything separately the colors won't bleed. Let the carrots and beets cool, then slip of the skins and cut them into rough chunks. The potatoes can stay whole.
6) When the belly is giving, arrange the vegetables around the pan, splash with olive oil, and pop back into the oven for half an hour.
7) Pull the pan out and let the meat rest for ten minutes. Mix the vegetables together (the onion and beer will by now almost be gravy). I like to remove the crackling (the crispy skin) and break it into pieces, then serve it separate from the sliced meat. Serve with a healthy dollop of mustard and sauteed beet greens on the side!

Waiting to Inhale: Our visit to The Great American Food Festival

On Saturday, June 13th I woke up groggy from being too excited to sleep all night. That's right. On this exciting day, my parents, Eric and I were going to get to romp around the Shoreline Amphetheater celebrating all things great about food and wine. We were going to go to the...drumroll please...GREAT AMERICAN FOOD AND MUSIC FESTIVAL! A self described celebration of great American food, chefs, musicians, and winemakers hosted by the Food Network's Bobby Flay and featuring Diners, Drive-Ins and Dive's Guy Fieri. Now, I'm not a huge fan of the Flay, Fieri or the Food Network...but seriously who could say no to participating in such an event?Unfortunately, what I had thought was going to be a celebration of food turned into an allegory of everything that is wrong with the Great American Food experience. The food was all quickly and unthinkingly prepared and thrown out to the ravenous hordes who cared less about what they were eating than with the fact that they were eating. I watched as people crammed entire sausages and bagels into their maws as they stood in line for chicken wings or endless (actually they did run out) cheesecake. There was no real respect shown for the chefs (only about twenty people in all sat around to listen to the demonstrations and they seemed to be there to either mock Bobby Flay or consume leftover demonstrations) or the winemakers (I saw someone actually pour a red wine sample into a white wine sample, just to get rid of the extra cup.) When we finally left, sunburned and sore, it was literally all I could do to keep my self from crying (anymore that is.) All in all for me however, the real Great American Food experience was missing at the event. There were few, if any, local or organic vendors and zero vendors distributing information or education about food. As we stare into a future of morbid obesity and rampant diabetes, I can't say I am surprised. If we continue to accept a table where food is reduced to the mere consumption of calories, we deserve to suffer the consequences. I hope that over the next year, we can through blogging and conversation, change this mindset. I'd love to see Bobby Flay throw down with Bistro Burger, but I'd also love to see seasonal ingredients on Iron Chef every once and a while. Maybe my expectations are too high or I'm too judgmental, but if what I saw last night is a celebration of Great American anything, I think I might need to make a move. And as always, we welcome dissent and disagreement, so please let us know what your experiences or opinions on the Great American food experience really is. I would certainly love to be wrong this time. -Tiffany Recuerde, para el hombre no hay mal pan...
Hippo image courtesey of flickr user Carbonnyc
Gory details about the day after the jump
I packed up my water bottle and slathered on the sunscreen and ate a nice light pea and mushroom carbonara for lunch (the ticket price includes your first plate of food for free!) And I was so ready to get my grub on as we pulled into the parking lot across from the amphitheater. We made the dusty walk to the Amphitheater, talking about what demonstrations we wanted to see and what plate of food we wanted to try. However, all my dreams were dashed once they took my ticket. The first thing that greeted us was a sea of people, mostly obese, standing in line waiting to inhale anything edible. The place was a madhouse of screaming children (anyone under six apparently got in free) and starving adults on their fourth or fifth plate of food (the next tier of ticket up from ours was an all-you-can-eat pass.) My parent's finally talked me into paying $12 for a beer and we made our way through the crowd to get to the actual amphitheater and found a shady place to watch the Burger throw down. It was really fun to actually see Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell on stage (even though from our vantage point they each stood about two inches high.) And, we loved the way that the chef from Bistro burger made him squirm when he challenged him to a throw down. All of the chefs were from San Francisco, representatives from Mo's, Pearl's, Bistro Burger and Burgermeister put down some of the best plates of hamburgers that I could imagine eating and each were unique in their presentation. Pearl's rocked out a kickin' bison burger and Burgermeister topped their burger with triple cream brie! And the smells coming off the stage can only be described as heavenly. After the Burger throw down, we decided to grab a plate of food and come back to enjoy the music of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Le sigh, it was not meant to be. My folks went to Tony Luke's to grab us a few Philly cheesestake sandwiches ($8) (whiz wit, of course!) And, Eric and I went to the Katz pastrami sandwich ($12) line. Fast forward to an hour later and Eric and I have moved up approximately two feet in line (mostly due to people abandoning the ship, not people actually getting food.) The sun is literally beating down on us, and we're all feeling a little bit sick watching people in line cram down food from the other lines while waiting in this line for either a pastrami sandwhich or a dozen chicken wings ($12.) Luckily my parent's had made more progress so we asked them to grab us a sandwhich and bailed after spending a total of an hour and fifteen minutes in line to no avail. My folks grabbed two cheesestakes and two roast pork sandwiches (the vendors had all run out of sides by this point) and we headed over to the kitchen aid demonstration stage to pull up some lawn and park ourselves to eat the sandwiches. We each enjoyed half of a cheesestake and half of a roast pork sandwich while listening to Aida Mollenkamp demonstrate how to make tacos and agua fresca using kitchen aid equipment. After eating and lingering to watch the end of the presentation, we headed back past the pastrami and wings line. And yes, almost two and a half hours later and the woman who had been ahead of us was just placing her order. Bless her patience, I think I would have started to gnaw on Eric had I been forced to wait that long. We didn't have much more in us at that point, so we headed toward the exit. But, on our way out, I had the rare opportunity to see a twenty something, bro-ish and bulky guy yelling "What do you mean they ran out of cheesecake? I love cheesecake, I need cheesecake!!" Ok, he actually used more explicit language in between those words, but I thought I'd leave them out for the sake of my soul. I could not believe that this guy was freaking out so much, especially when he already had an It's-It in one hand and a beer in the other. As we left the amphitheater, it was all I could do not to jog. Seeing all of the grotesque obesity and food inhalation made me feel fat and slow. I wanted to run and do jumping jacks and become a vegan. And most especially, I wanted to get home so that I could eat some, shudder, yes vegetables! Because I am one of those crazy people who typically eat three to four times as many vegetables as proteins and so far I had been left out in the cold. Once we finally made it back home, Eric lovingly prepared some delicious whole beet soup for me with fresh beets from the back yard and all was back to normal.