The most important meal of the day is breakfast. It is utterly impossible to become a productive man making sound intelligent decisions without starting off the day with sugar, caffeine and liquor. The thrust of these three social lubricants will not only make the sky open up from the sense of your well being, but you will find the annoyances of mankind more tolerable. Be mindful in not taking in so much lubricant to where you start to exchange “tolerable” with “excusable”. Bourbon may first give a sharpening of your tongue. But without any moderation it will then take away any compassion you have for the souls less fortunate than yourself—-and there are many. I am steadfast assure of this fact because you are reading my ramblings instead of watching Guy Fieri stick his gaudy jewelry all over some food he is preparing to seduce some poor soul’s wallet. Anyone looking to buy a Lamborghini?
Tomorrow is the Bacon Jam Give away!!! Sign up or have a friend sign up to the email subscription list before its too late.
Pain Perdu Farci: Bacon Jam Stuffed French Toast with Chicory Coffee Syrup Serves 4 people ready to persuade the world
For the Bacon (Who’s your Umami) Jam
3lbs bacon cut into random pieces
½ large yellow onion rough chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 1/2c white wine preferably a gewürztraminer
1/4c soy sauce
1/2c Louisiana cane syrup
3 bay leaves
2T shiitake powder (can be made with a coffee grinder and a few dried mushrooms from your local Asian market)
3/4c dark brown sugar For the Syrup
1 1/2c Louisiana cane syrup
1c chicory coffee To Assemble
1 shot or so, or so, of fine bourbon
8 slices of French bread
1 stick of unsalted butter
Spiced pecans (recipe can be found in the chicken gizzard confit posting)
Start by making the bacon jam. This will make 6 nice pint jars of jam to give to a loved one or to bribe a publisher to print your cookbook. Either way it is a score. Place a large pot onto the stove and put in all of the listed ingredients. Cover the pot and bring it to a confident simmer. Cook the jam for 20 minutes in the covered pot. Remove the lid, slightly turn up the heat and cook an additional 25 minutes or until the mixture has been reduced by half. When the jam starts to love on the bottom of the pot a bit too much, scrape it with a wooden spoon and be assured that you are done. Take off the heat and let cool a bit. Remove the bay leaves and process the jam in an electric food processor. Evenly divide the jam into your sealable jars and set in the cooler until needed.
To make the syrup, bring the sole 2 ingredients to a simmer and reduce by half in a small pot for 10-12 minutes. Let cool and it will thicken on its own account. To finish the dish, whisk the eggs with the milk and bourbon. Generously spread some jam onto one piece of bread. Place another piece of bread on top entrapping the jam. I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will, repeat for the rest of the bread slices. Place the stuffed pain perdue into the egg mixture allowing it to soak in the pleasure of a freshly laid egg, not dissimilar to the way your loved one acts in a shower of your complements. Put a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat and place a common sense worth’s pat of butter into the skillet. Cook the Pain Perdu until it is wonderfully brown on both sides and warmed all the way through. If you tend to cut the bread very thick you might want to continue the heating in the oven. Place the Pain Perdu onto a plate and shower it with complements of syrup and spiced pecans. Don’t make the mistake of dusting with powdered sugar. That’s just uncalled for and too messy for the mid-morning.
We all have good days and we all have bad days. One could only hope that through the course of life the good out number the bad. If you listen to your heart and act accordingly, I assure you that the good times will out number the less than desirable moments. The heart tells far more than we tend to want to heed. Adversity will knock on your door. It is not Adversity itself that makes us who we are, but it is in how we handle Adversity that will leave us naked to the eyes of the world. The tougher the decision, the greater the reward.
What does this have to do with pig ears, jalapeno and watermelon? I have no idea. My heart was screaming all week and I couldn’t gather my thoughts above my chest. I did indeed listen and act accordingly and this is what I ended up with. I wish every decision were as easy as composing a plate. But then every reward wouldn’t be as great.
This recipe could actually be concluded fairly fast with a little common sense and some advance preparation.
Crispy Pig Ear, Jalapeno and Watermelon Salad Serves 7 supportive people and the 1 in need of support
4 Pig ears
1 20oz bag of raw peanuts in the shell
1/2c soy sauce
3T Kosher salt
½ red onion cut into strips
2t ginger minced
2t garlic minced
1 lime zested and juiced
1/2c rice vinegar
1t Kosher salt
1t Sichuan pepper ground
1/2t Chinese chili paste packed in oil
2qts watermelon seeded and diced
10 leaves of mint torn with your hands
10 leaves of basil torn with your hands
4 jalapenos sliced into thin rings
1t Kosher salt
1t Sichuan pepper ground
Prepare your oven for the ears by pre-heating it to 325 degrees. Place the ears of the pig into a pot and cover with some rich pork stock. Bring the pot to a simmer, cover it with the appropriate lid and place into the oven. Let the ears listen to the stock bubble gently for 2 hours. Remove the ears from the stock and place into the refrigerator to cool. Save the stock of course.
While the ears are at the attention of your oven OR perhaps a little foresight and do this the day before: Place the peanuts into a pot and cover the peanuts with some water. Add the sambal, soy, siracha and salt. Bring the pot to a simmer and let the peanuts cook covered in that same pot for 4 hours. Drain the peanuts and set aside in the refrigerator until the day comes that you need them.
In a large salad bowl, place the red onion, ginger, garlic, lime zest and juice, rice vinegar, salt, Sichuan pepper and chili paste in a bowl. Let the flavors mingle as the red onion loses its attitude for 30 minutes. To Serve: Pre-heat a fryer to 360 degrees. Toss the cornstarch, flour, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Retrieve the pig ears and slice them in about ¼ inch strips. Go ahead and toss the watermelon, basil and mint with the tamed red onion mixture. Compile the watermelon salad onto a plate. Coat the strips of pig ears with the cornstarch and begin to fry. While the ears are frying coat the jalapeno in the cornstarch. After the ears have splattered about for 30 seconds add the jalapeno and continue to fry until the ears are as brown as fine Italian leather shoes. Remove from the fryer onto a paper towel and season with a touch of salt. Arrange the toothsome bites of pork and spice over the watermelon then garnish with the southern classic boiled peanuts-albeit via Chinatown.
“One day you may be picking the grapes, but the next you may be drinking the wine.”
It is in good manners and faith, that on Monday’s, all the kitchens of New Orleans are filled with the simmering pots of red kidney beans, sausage, rice and laundry. The tale states that the Creole slaves would cook red beans and rice on Mondays due to the ease of letting the cauldron toil while the week’s dirty laundry was attended to.
Nothing exemplifies the spirit of a peasant turned king like a pot of perfectly cooked beans. My heart holds such an endearing place for the dish, that I take my home tradition one step further by cooking any kind of bean on Monday. But I digress when it comes to the laundry and wisely leave it to the professionals.
Smoked Pork Neck with White Beans Serves 4 people with an appetite for the good things
or 6 people that are not really your friends
1lb heirloom Cannellini beans such as Rancho Gordo
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 yellow Onion minced
2 stalks of Celery minced
1 medium Carrot peeled and minced
5 cloves of Garlic minced
2 Bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs of smoked Pork Neck
Pork or Chicken stock or even water if you are desperate
coarse kosher or sea Salt
1 bunch of Kale stemmed and cut into strips
10 Sage leaves shredded
real green extra virgin Olive Oil
Crusty Artisan Bread
Take a large container from your pantry and let the beans fall into the bowl like the rain on a tin roof. Fill your bean container with water until it doubles the volume of the beans. Let the beans soak in the water overnight. Place the olive oil into an appropriate size pot, in which you have a lid, and place your good judgement over a stove that you have adjusted the burner to a medium-low heat. Once the pot is hot and the oil is dancing, add the onion and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Cook the onion for 5 minutes all the while giving it a good stir every minute or so. After cooking the onion clear for 5 minutes, add the celery and carrot to the pot and recover your vessel. Cook and stir for an additional 5 minutes before adding the garlic and bay leaves to the pot. Once again, cook for an additional minute. Lay your pork neck pieces into the pot and strain the beans from the soaking water. Add the beans to the pot along with enough stock to cover the “Pork and Beans” by 3 inches. Raise the volume of your flame to high and bring the pot to a simmer. Once the pot is simmering, replace the lid and turn your flame’s volume back down to low. Let your Pork and Beans frolic in the pot for 3 hours and 10 minutes. I like the density of the bean to appear slightly more yielding than I imagine my desires to be. The beans will firm up slightly upon serving just like your morals.
Take the lid off of the pot liberating the aroma into your presence. Taste the pot’s liquor and add the suitable amount of salt. Shuffle the Kale into the pot and cover again for 10 more minutes. Turn off the volume of the flame and place the sage into the pot. Cover the pot and let your ingredients get acquainted for 10 minutes. Since life is too short to eat with people you don’t care for, lay out 4 large warm bowls. Place a husky toasted slice of bread into the bowl and ladle your pork and beans over the bread. Upon acceptance of your friends, drizzle that great olive oil you’ve been saving over the top of the Pork and Beans. Use your vegetable peeler and ribbon a little of the cheese over that lily too.
The most important man in any professional kitchen is the dishwasher. The dishwasher doesn’t wear a big hat or a monogramed coat. But his stature is equal only to the highest chef in the brigade. He dons the cloth of the peasant. A baseball cap with a white polyester shirt bound by metal snaps enrobes what is sure to be the most revered individual in the kitchen. Day after day preforming a sweaty unwanted job for the smallest of pittance commands 100% of respect’s attention.
Sergio was my dishwasher. He was walking down the sidewalk when he saw me trying to paint the outside of my restaurant in preparation of a not so grand budgeted opening. He picked up a roller and started working. From that day on we would never be apart. He never took a break to partake in the daily lunch, “I eat later”. He was never late or did he ever miss a day of work. He never asked for a raise, so one year I bought him a van. To instill respect and equality to the cooks, I abolished the use of chef coats in the kitchen and we all wore dishwasher uniforms. Our joint tireless work ethic and preservation towards excellence afforded us a fair amount of success. There we were, a couple of downtown kids dressed up like social elitists, noses in the air ordering all the best Restaurant August in New Orleans could cast upon our table. Nothing was too extravagant or too expensive for the guys that felt equal to everyone. Although our hearts humbly whispered, that we had no equals.
The next night we catered the GRANDEST wedding the French Quarter has ever had the pleasure of hosting. 250 miles from home, Sergio and I with OUR brigade walked into Latrobes and you would have thought we were mafia by the way we just assumed ownership of the city as our natural rite. No cost was spared, from the indoor snowball stand, the sushi station, the dessert buffet, po-boy profiteroles to the jazz marching band. We busted our ass and etched a memory that will last in 300 people’s hearts for the rest of their lives. Just like every night, as we wound down the evening and mingled with the guests that insisted on professing their love for us. I asked Sergio if he wanted a cerveza. He turned to me, “Si” with an apron that seemed to have blood splattered on the front. I asked him what had happened and he said “Nothing, cutting meat”. High from the constant adoration from 300 guests I didn’t question him. I knew he never butchered anything that day. The next day Sergio didn’t wake up. He passed from my life in the same way that he entered it. Working hard to make our lives equal to none.
This dish consists of 2 peasant foods in a silver cup. What else is there to say?
Pimento Cheese with Candied Jalapenos and Chicharron “Scoops” Serves 2 indentured souls
1# or so of pork skin
1# sharp cheddar cheese in the block form
1c red bell pepper stemmed seeded and diced small
3 ounces of cream cheese
2T lemon juice
10 dashes of Tabasco
1T olive oil
1/2c candied jalapenos diced*
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay a piece of foil over a sheet pan. Take the skin of the pork and using your best knife cut the skin into 3 by 3 inch squares. Arrange the squares onto the sheet pan with the skin side down. Lightly salt the skins the way any sensible person with a decent amount of pride would do and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan after 15 minutes just in case your oven suffers from a small case of schizophrenia. Make sure all of your “scoops” are golden brown and set them aside.
One would have to really dislike their parents in making the conscious decision to spit on their legacy by constructing pimento cheese with pre-grated cheddar. Make your family proud and grate the cheddar then set aside. Place a small pan over low heat and drizzle in the olive oil. Scatter the pepper into the pan, season with a touch of salt and cook until soft. Set aside to cool. Take a medium sized bowl and mix together the cream cheese and mayonnaise until it is smooth. Add the respect of your family’s name disguised as freshly grated cheddar along with the lemon juice, Tabasco, candied jalapeno and softened red pepper. Add some salt if you believe it to be necessary and fold the mixture with a wooden spoon as a nod to tradition. If you are kind enough with your stirring the pimento cheese will have the confidence to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best Europe has to offer. Place the Mexican “Scoops” onto the table accompanied by the Pimento Cheese in a silver cup. For this dip has no equal.
“Truly great cooks never cook with people above them” Me
*If you are unfortunate to live where candied jalapenos are not readily available or you’re just that much of a go-getter, make them yourself. Slice some fresh jalapenos and place in a pot to which you have 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar with1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar. Simmer a few minutes and set aside for a day or two or ten.
Do you ever wonder about the words you say to some people? Do they absorb it or does it actually make a difference in their lives? Will they remember what you say? Do they even give a shit? I can’t say why I remember Thomas Keller telling me, “There is no such thing as creation anymore, only inspiration”. Conversely, I can’t say why my memory limits my recall of my mother’s birthday (it is in some month that starts with a “J”—but not January, I remember that much). Maybe it is a simple matter of unconscious importance. If I dole the blame onto the unconscious, that frees me from liability.
I am taking inspiration from my friend Bryan Jandres at Bouchon in Yountville, “Sometimes it fun to explain, analyze and talk about wine. Sometimes its fun to just put a good bottle on the table and let it all work out”. There is no pre-amble to accessorize this Oxtail Grilled Cheese with Cognac Raisin Jam. I’m just putting it out on the table and letting the silence wax the poetry.
Oxtail Grilled Cheese with Cognac Raisin Jam Serves 6 people looking for comfort among friends
flour for dusting
olive oil for searing
1 yellow onion rough chopped
3 carrots peeled and rough chopped
2 stalks of celery rough chopped
1/4c garlic cloves
2 sprigs of rosemary
1, 6oz can of tomato paste
2c red wine
2t ground black pepper For the Jam
1 orange juiced
1c golden raisins
1, 1/4oz pack of unflavored gelatin
2t fresh rosemary minced
1 loaf of crusty multi-grain nut bread
8oz of creamy French cows milk cheese
arugula and Creole mustard vinaigrette(from the Boudin de Tete recipe)
Start off by pre-heating the oven to 325 degrees. Season the oxtails with a nice amount of salt and pepper. Powder the oxtails with the flour and a few slaps of the wrist to remove the excess. Put that enamel-braising pan you saved for months to get on the stove over high heat. Drizzle in a little olive oil and brown the oxtails on all sides. Take your time and do it in as many batches as needed to not treat the oxtails like the general admission section of a U2 concert. Remove the oxtails and hold aside. Let the pot continue on its angry tear as you add the onion and carrots. Cook the vegetables until brown, stirring as infrequently as possible. Add the celery, garlic and tomato paste and continue to let the pot punish the vegetables for another couple of minutes. Pour in the water and wine along with the rosemary and black pepper and take a minute to free any of the crunchy bits being held prisoner on the floor of the pot with the scraping of a wooden spoon. Place the oxtails into the pot and bring the pot to a simmer. Cover the pot if you haven’t yet lost the lid and place in the oven. Let the oxtails braise for 2 hours covered then remove the lid and continue to cook for another hour. Take the pot out of the oven and let cool in the broth. For the Jam: Bring the water, Cognac, orange juice, sugar and raisins to a simmer. Cook for 1 minute. Dissolve the gelatin in 2T of water, then add to the pot and stir until it is dissolved. Stir in the rosemary and process the mixture in a food processer. Set aside to cool. To Assemble: Pick the meat from the bones of the oxtail and strain the braising liquid. Don’t be ashamed if your laissez faire attitude permits a few cloves of garlic to miss the trap of the strainer and find it’s way into the bowl with the oxtail. Lightly moisten the shredded oxtail with a little of the stained liquid and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Freeze the remainder of the liquid and be confident in knowing that you are better than most people because you have that in your back pocket for another day. There are many ways to finish this dish. Spread some of the jam onto a slice of bread and top with a layer of oxtail and cheese. Unless you’re an idiot, you’ll know to place another piece of bread on top. Then toast it in the oven or put it in a Panini press or slowly brown in a skillet on top of the stove—the choice is yours. Toss the arugula with the vinaigrette from the Boudin de Tete recipe found on this website and serve.
“The professional kitchen is like jail, EVERYONE but yet NO ONE should ever have to experience it.” Me
“ALL CULINARY tasks should be performed with reverential love, don’t you think so? To say that a cook must posses the requisite outfit of culinary skill and temperament–That is hardly more than saying that a soldier must appear in uniform. You can have a bad soldier in uniform. The true cook must have not only those externals, but a large dose of general worldly experience. He is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend of artist and philosopher. He knows his worth: he hold in his palm the happiness of mankind, the welfare of generation yet unborn…. If she drinks a little, why, it is all to the good. It shows that she is fully equipped on the other side of her dual nature. It proves that she possesses the prime requisite of the artist; sensitiveness and a capacity for enthusiasm. Indeed, I often doubt whether you will ever derive well-flavored victuals from the atelier of an individual who honestly despises or fears-it is the same thing-the choicest gift of God.”
I started to write a sophisticated essay about the disconnection that our society has in regards to not knowing that our food actually came from a living animal. The biggest culprit of this disconnection is the fact that we never see the face of our food. But that started to sound like a point that had already been beaten into the head too many times,,,,,,,,,,,,,no pun intended! Besides, there are far more intellectual people than I in this world to expound on that thought. The justification of my birth rests solely on enlightening you to the Joie de Vivre of the table and the journey that leads us there. Approaching this year’s Mother’s Day, I can think of no journey better than this elaborate presentation of a stuffed pig’s face. It would be wise for most of you to just live vicariously through me on this one or live near me and just come over when your hungry. As much as looking your own dinner in the eye is not for the faint of heart, so is this recipe. But if you feel you are the master of your domain and confident of your place at the hearth, at least do as I did. Use it as an excuse to buy a sweet new Japanese boning knife. After all, we are all mothers in one form or another.
Boudin De Tete
Serves 20 open-minded friends or 20 acquaintances, 15 of which will make the mistake of not eating that evening. That’s why they are only acquaintances.
1 Pig Head
Rendered pork lard
Rich and gelatinous pork stock
2c white wine
cheesecloth and butcher’s twine
2c panko breadcrumbs
Kosher salt and ground black pepper For the stuffing:
1c long grain white rice
3/4c red onion
2T minced garlic
T black pepper
T white pepper
3/4c green onion chopped
1/2c flat leaf parsley chopped
1/2lb pork liver diced
1/2c white wine vinegar For the Okra Pepperonata:
1 red onion peeled and sliced
1 red bell pepper cored and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper cored and sliced
1 poblano chile cored and sliced
2T garlic sliced
1/4c rice vinegar
1c pickled okra cut into halves For the Creole Mustard Vinaigrette:
2T creole mustard
1/4c rice vinegar
1/2c extra virgin olive oil
For the Stuffing: In a small pot bring 2 tablespoons of pork lard to a smoking heat. Add the rice to the pot and stir the grains for about 30 seconds. Add 1 ¾ cup of water to the pot along with a teaspoon of salt. Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer and cover the pot. Reduce your stoves flame to low and cook for 17 minutes. Place the cooked albeit firm rice into a mixing bowl on the counter. Plop another tablespoon of pork lard into the same pot and cook the onion in that pot over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until your kitchen smells good again. Of coarse don’t be an idiot, season every time you cook with a pinch of salt into the pot. Place the translucent onion over the cooked rice. Add the rest of the stuffing ingredients and mix them well. Set the stuffing aside in your cooler until your ready. For the Pig Face: Where do I even begin to explain how to butcher the face off of a pig’s head? It doesn’t pose as much difficulty as you may believe. Just run your knife along the bone simultaneously pulling the meat until you have the face removed. That’s really it. Amputate the tongue from the head and slice it in half lengthwise.
Lay the boned face skin side down on your cutting board. Vigorously season the inside of the face with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing over the inside of the face and roll up like a pinwheel. Open up the cheesecloth and wrap your pig face pinwheel up like a piece of candy with a twisting of the sides. Take the butcher’s twine and tie up the sides of your candy. Then secure your pinwheel by tying a few more pieces of string along the center. Set your oven on 325 degrees. Gently lay the swaddled pork into the biggest roasting pan you possess. Pour the stock and wine over the pork until it is covered. Bring the stock to a simmer on top of your stove, then cover the pan and place in the oven for 4 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and uncover it. Let the pork rest in the stock for an additional hour. Wrap the bundle up in plastic wrap and place in your cooler to set overnight. For the Pepperonata: Place a large skillet onto your stove and turn the heat up as high as the fire department will allow. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan and place the onion into the pan. Brown the onion that you so intelligently seasoned in the skillet. Take the cooked onion and place it in a mixing bowl. Then repeat this step with the red and yellow bell pepper. Once again bring some olive oil to smoke in your hot pan and add the poblano. Cook for a few minutes and then add the garlic and the tarragon and continue to shake the pan over the heat for another 30 seconds. Take the cooking vessel off of the heat and pour in the rice vinegar. Swirl around the pan and empty the contents into the bowl with the onion and sweet peppers. Toss to marry all the flavors and add any salt as needed. Set the pepperonata aside. For the Vinaigrette: You just deboned the head of a pig. Do I really need to explain the mundane process of making a vinaigrette?
To finish the dish, place 3 bowls out on your counter. In one bowl put the four and season it with some salt and pepper. Place the egg and milk in the second bowl and whisk together. Put the panko in the third bowl and season it as well. Remove the rolled pig face from the refrigerator and free it from its straight jacket of plastic wrap. Slice the Boudin de Tete into a 2 inch slice. Place a sauté pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Dredge the slice of pig head into the flour, then the egg and finally the panko before placing in the sauté pan and cooking for a few minutes on each side, making sure each side is brown and crispy. Toss some arugula in the vinaigrette and mound on a plate with the pepperonata. Put the crispy boudin with your most skillful artist’s eye onto the plate and drizzle on a touch more of the vinaigrette. Present with some champagne and a kiss to your mother. Repeat as needed for all those other “mothers” that are gracing your table today.