Sense and Sensibility. Some days I am filled with one and some days I am filled with both. Some times I’m just filled with IT. But it is in the times of downtrodden depression that I seem to have the magical ability to conjure up neither. All of our recipes and journeys up to this point have been filled with luxury. But in a sly sort of way, our luxurious meals have still has been fairly economical. The Breast of Lamb recipe literally cost me $12 and it fed 4 people comfortably. The Rooter to The Tooter is luxury for the intelligent. Of coarse every so often we must throw caution to the wind and really splurge. What’s the first thing one does when he has been asked not to return to his job? Buy $25 worth of Chinese black chicken to make rillettes that serves one, of coarse.
Probably some where below in the comments section our beloved ScottyRockYourBody will make a concise case as to why my behavior actually shows me to have plenty of Sense and Sensibility. His point will be great and from the outside looking in, make an enormous amount of sense. Just bear in mind, for he does not live in reality. He lives in the Abacos.
As I sit here and take in the luxury of the rillettes on my tongue while my 2 pups, Rooter and Tooter nap in my lap. My gorgeous fiancé searching through the cellar for something special, I really do feel a hell of a lot better about the rising sun tomorrow and whichever new adventure it will hold.
Black Chicken Rillettes with Quail Egg Salad Serves one with a spirit that can’t be broken and talent that can’t be denied
2 whole Chinese black chickens
Chinese five spice
1 can(15oz) of quail eggs
2T green onion chopped
T dill pickle relish
2T sweet pickle relish
2t fresh ginger minced
Take the whole birds and cut them into their respective pieces. Cut off the neck, then the legs and split the breasts. Place all the pieces into a pot and add the lard. Mark your flame to medium heat and after the lard has melted make sure all the pieces of chicken or fully submerged. What a wonderful fantasy those 2 chickens are living. As the fat starts to jiggle like my belly when I walk, turn down the heat to low. If the fat starts to jiggle like my belly when I dance, then the music is too loud and must be turned down. We are poaching not frying. Let the birds poach for 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let the black chickens cool in the fat.
Remove the birds from their fantasy of fat and pick all the meat and skin from the bones. The skin is fairly thin and so I see no reason not to invite it to the party too. Take 2/3rds of your chicken and shred it in a food processor until it is fine and smooth. Take the other 1/3 of your chicken and shred it by hand. Mix the 2 together and add some of the poaching lard until a smooth spreadable paste consistency is achieved. Add the salt just until it tastes slightly more salty than you want and the Chinese five spice to taste slightly more spiced than you want. The subsequent chilling will compensate your palate later on. Place the mixture into a crock and top with a layer of poaching fat. The fat will seal the rillettes from the oxygen and the bacteria that follows it. Chill the rillettes crock until the time comes.
Make the egg salad by rough chopping the quail eggs and mixing in a bowl with the green onion, relish, ginger and mayonnaise. A pinch of salt wouldn’t hurt.
The chosen vessel for consumption is the crostini. I like the “chewiness” of frying as opposed to baking for this recipe. Cut some ½ inch thick slices of crusty artisan bread and get a ¼ cup of olive oil hot in a pan. Fry the bread on both sides until nice and brown and pile them up for later.
Gather your puppies and put them on your lap. Arrange the rillettes, bread and egg salad on the arm of your lazy boy. Give your gorgeous fiancé some pathetic look that will make her go fetch a bottle of wine. Can anything really be that bad?
“Hard work is for people who have no talent.” George Carlin
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.
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.