You can read all the issues of Saveur that you like. But a third hand experience is like eating with a knife and fork or making love through an interpreter. All five senses must be engaged to capture the essence of any escapade, or at least your original outlook of that escapade. I have no troubles or prejudices in eschewing the utensils in any restaurant. My fingers reach down and retrieve the food sensually or even barbarically. In the frenzy of the moment the two are often confused.
On a few occasions I have mentioned how significant travel is to the development of your taste. I will save the details of that essay for the pages of a book. This bit of summertime inspiration came from a trip to a Las Vegas strip mall. The Lotus of Siam is considered to be the best Thai restaurant in all of the United States. After a glass of proper Alsatian, all five of my senses leaped to attention and my salivary glands started to gush upon reading the inscribed Northern Thai appetizer, “Nam Prik Ong (Red Chile Pork Dip)”. This dish has all the pleasure of one of the lesser sins. Its spicy, sweet, tart, it has pork times 2 and you unapologetically use your hands. Of course my version gets a shot of southern refinement with shrimp and okra. As beautiful as the Las Vegas “Strip” may be, I never wander too far from home.
Nam Prik Ong: Red Chile Pork, Shrimp and Okra Dip Serves 8 as a snack that preludes a few hours of wagering
3 shallots peeled
1/3c garlic cloves
10 Thai bird chilies
2c grape or cherry tomatoes
8oz fresh shrimp diced small
8oz ground pork
2c fresh okra cut into 2inch rounds
1/4c fish sauce
3T tamarind paste
local vegetables such as cucumber, endive, cauliflower, carrots all cut to be able to scoop some dip.
crispy pork skins
Start off by placing a skillet over medium high heat. Dry roast and brown the shallots and garlic in the vessel. Remove to your motor and pestle. Do the same with the chilies, and then the tomatoes. Make a paste with the firmness of your pestle and forearm. Add the shrimp and pork into your roasting skillet that is set on medium high flame and cook for a few minutes. Then accommodate your sense of smell by adding your aromatic chili paste, okra, fish sauce, tamarind, water, sugar and the zest of your lime. Let the mixture cook until it becomes a thick sauce and when your wooden spoon parts the sea of flavor the walls stand and hold true. Add a pinch or 2 of salt if needed and stir in the juice of the lime. Present the warm dip to your friends by draping some cilantro over its crown. Slice some vegetables and pile on the pork cracklins to tip the scale back in the favor of justice.
Because of the current over bearing heat, we hold a responsibility to bestow a reprieve by way of oral fixation. I recently went to the local farmers market and I couldn’t help but think that somebody there needs to be selling me an Ice Cream Sandwich. Of course as with all things, I will obsess over it until I get it. My mother is a huge blame for this. I didn’t pop into the world demanding that someone must coddle and spoil me for every second of every breath. I was just too darn cute for my life to turn out any other way. “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”,,,,,,,, and modest.
I am a huge aficionado of salty-sweet desserts. It’s a fine play that isolates the best aspects of life. No life can be balanced without disappointment, for that I do appreciate bitter. But only in small amounts that I can pawn off on other people in the way any good friend would. This recipe for an ice cream sandwich has all the best life has to offer with none of the consequence that accompanies being bitter. Save that for the sullen souls who are resentful of your carefree upbringing.
Lard Cookie and Salted Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Sandwiches Serves 7 people and your dog
For the ice cream
1 14ounce can of sweetened condensed milk or the same amount of already prepared dulce de leche
2c half and half
1 1/2t Kosher salt
1/4c dark brown sugar For the cookies
1c rendered pork lard
1/2c white sugar
1/2c dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2t vanilla extract
1T fresh thyme leaves
2c cake flour
If you possess a “do it yourself” type of personality, then take the can of condensed milk and boil it covered in a pot for 2 hours. Just to have a properly stocked pantry you should probably do a few extra cans at the same time. Let your imagination run wild as to the reasons of “why”. Combine one can of the dulce de leche with the half and half, salt and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan. Place over some decent heat and stir until you are confident that the ingredients have become homogenous. Chill the ice cream base and churn in your machine as you feel is best. Does anyone actually read the instructions? Place the churned iced cream into a container and place in the freezer. Go ahead and lick the churned paddle. You shan’t let a drop of anything this good go to waste.
To make the cookies: Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the lard, sugar, brown sugar, salt, vanilla and thyme in a mixer. Mix for a minute then add the egg and flour to the mix. Continue to let the machine stir for you until the dough comes together. Divide the dough into 16 balls onto a couple of greased baking sheets. Slightly flatten the balls and bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Rotate the pans to ensure all the cookies get treated equally and bake another 12 minutes. Let cool.
To assemble the ice cream sandwiches: Come on, really???
There are no binds that can confine an intuitive cook. Cooking can be just as full filling to the soul as Love when you learn to listen and hear your heart. Our hearts have been telling us what to eat and when to eat it since the day we were conceived. The Heart’s woodwind section becomes easily overwhelmed with the incessant bombardment of the percussion that is the media. I am very apologetic because the heart cannot spin a soliloquy grand enough to be heard above the torture of the television’s song.
I wonder if perhaps my friend Ken has taken the precaution to live without television in an effort to hear his heart without any impediment. Then again he is just probably too lazy to lug it up 5 flights of stairs in New York City. Once I was cooking with friend at the James Beard house and I stopped lugging myself by the 3rd floor of our elevator-less hotel. Regardless of which side of romanticism we stand on, can any of us really blame Ken?
Once we free ourselves from the couch and clear our minds with the smell of the seasons, we can really commit to the self-gratification that we deserve. I did not walk into the grocer with this recipe in mind. It presented itself and the intuition of my open heart told me to desire and acquire it. Cooking with the seasons is not a new concept that Jamie Oliver created. It is exactly the way things were before tomatoes had been modified to sell in December. I would even jest to propose the next time any of us go to a café that is selling an unadulterated raw tomato salad in December, we shall order it and heave it across the dining room. If there is a nearby table with a gentleman adorned in his “winter” linen, then throw it at him and kill 2 birds with one tomato. I got your Food Revolution right here Oliver.
Mint Spiced Lamb Breast with Skordalia Serves 2 couples with similar tastes
3-3 1/2# of lamb breast
2T garlic cloves
1t ground coriander
1 1/2t ground cumin
1t ground ginger
1 1/2t red pepper flakes
1t Kosher salt
½ bunch of flat leaf parsley
1c mint leaves
1/2c extra virgin olive oil
2# baby potatoes
1c white wine For the Skordalia
1 russet potato peeled and quartered
1/4c onion sliced
3 garlic cloves
1/3c extra virgin olive oil
Take the garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper, salt, parsley, mint, oil and the zest only of the 2 lemons and place it into a food processor. Process the mixture until a nice paste is created. Lay your lamb breast into a roasting pan and spread the mint spice paste evenly over the breast. Let the spice mixture massage the meat in your refrigerator overnight. To make the Skordelia: Place the potato and onion into a properly salted pot of water and cook until the potato is tender. Drain the potato, reserving a cup of the liquid and place it into your cleaned food processor along with the garlic, the juice from one of the left over lemons, olive oil, and reserved potato broth. Process the Skordelia until it is smooth. Taste and add any salt needed. Go ahead and make a day ahead just to keep your hand free to make some cocktails during the final preparation of the lamb.
To cook the lamb, remove it from the refrigerator and pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Using a dinner fork as your tool, impale the baby potatoes a few times. Make a sufficient mattress of potatoes and lay the lamb breast on them in a roasting pan. Pour the cup of wine into the pan and cover the pan with some foil. Place the roasting pan into your oven and cook for 2 ½ hours. Make a few cocktails too keep the heat of the pending summer at bay. Remove the foil from the pan and cook for an additional 30 minutes with a raised heat of 375 degrees. Take the pan out of the oven and let the meat rest for as long as your constitution will allow. Cut a few of the lamb ribs from the breast and serve with a fine dollop of the Skordelia and a few of the potatoes bathed in the drippings of the lamb. Be sure not to wash your hands that night. One of mornings great pleasures is the aroma of lamb fat and mint still lingering from your fingers.
Look beyond what I hold in front of you. If you begin to read between the lines, the true soul of TheRooterToTheTooter will be presented to you. Whether or not you can find a Turkey Tail will have no impact on your honest or even dishonest goals for the evening. These ramblings have little to actually do with recipes. It has everything to do with accessing life’s pleasures that seem to be out of reach for so many people. In my lifetime, cooking has been the easiest tool used to achieve or obtain anything I ever wanted. Both the tangible and the intangible pleasures are always within the grasp of anyone that uses the one common denominator that we all cannot live without—cuisine. I decided to put forth that exact ideal in this posting.
Many of you caught on right away with brilliant displays of intelligence and open mindedness. Rosemary at CookingInSens tackled the Crawfish and Sweetbread terrine recipe by using her local French prawns and lamb sweetbreads. Sacrebleu!! Her guests insisted the recipe was from a Frenchman. While Lolita at WhatLolitaEats.com attained exceptional amounts of gratification in the fatty, crunchy, hot, salty, sweet and juicy chicken thighs that she substituted for the Turkey Tail recipe. Through cooking, these women’s goals and intentions were honest and pure. I do find that with some men, that may not be the case. If any man truly held your personal happiness above his own, He wouldn’t have cooked for you. He would have just sent some champagne, truffles and a Bradley Cooper movie over to your house.
Posole Soup with Green Tomato and Brussels Sprout Salsa Serves 10 people not afraid of your artistic interpretations of recipes
1# smoked pig tails
2 pig feet
3# pork butt cut into 2 inch cubes
½ large yellow onion diced small
1/4c garlic very roughly chopped
2 passila chiles stemmed seeded and torn
1 ancho chile stemmed seeded and torn
1T Kosher salt
1T dried oregano
1T dried chile powder
2 15oz cans of posole/hominy rinsed and drained
½# pork skin
1c radishes diced small
1c Brussels sprouts sliced thinly
½ jalapeno seeded and minced
2T chopped fresh oregeno
1 green tomato diced small
An exercise in simplicity of preparation is needed in order to preserve the classic style of this dish. Take all of the pig parts you intend to use, the ones listed were the ones I had around the house, place them into a large pot with the onion, garlic, chiles, salt, dried oregano, chile powder and the zest of the 2 limes. Fill the pot with water until it reaches 4 inches above the meat and place over high heat on your stove. As the broth begins to bubble, take a trusty spoon and remove any of the foam and fat that rise to the surface. Cover the pot and let it slowly simmer for 1 hours and 45 minutes. Add the posole/hominy to the pot to cook for another 30 minutes. Season with additional salt to taste if you sense that it needs it. Remove the feet and pick out the bones. Coarsely chop the meat of the feet and add back to the pot. You can either choose to do the same with the tails or not.
While the broth is seducing the pork, bake the pork skins in the same manner as described in the “chilaquiles” recipe on a previous post. Its on this website, just look for it. Set them aside for later to be used as a garnish. To make the salsa: Toss the radish, Brussels sprouts, jalapeno, fresh oregano, green tomato, the juice of the 2 limes and a pinch of salt together. Let the “salsa” wait for the cue at room temperature.
Ladle the P0sole soup into bowls for your guests and garnish with a heaping spoon of salsa and some strips of crispy pork skin. Then bathe in the success of your honest or dishonest intentions for the evening.
I would like to introduce our new mascots straight from the local Humane Society. They have been a tremendous help these past few days. Rooter and Tooter. They are both mutt brothers that are half pathetic and half ridiculous!
It is with my greatest pleasure to announce the winners of May’s giveaway of Bacon Jam.
As I have stated before, everyone on the email list is automatically entered into each month’s drawing. June’s reward for your interest in improving the live’s of those around you will be eternal happiness and a jar of Mirliton and Mustard Green Kimchi.
Check out these guys in the French Quarter after they found out about winning the Umami bomb I deem to be Bacon Jam.