Call me lazy, but I’ve been trying to keep it simple lately. Especially in the presence of good ingredients.
It just so happens that a pound of said ingredients recently landed at my place. Yesterday my friend Dorian (from Dorian’s Seafood Market) posted on my facebook wall saying she had some Nantucket Bay scallops she wanted me to try. Not being one to turn away mollusky delights, I instantly wondered what I could do with them.
Fresh scallops beg to be treated simply. they have a soft sweetness and texture to them that is easy to lose in the commotion of an overactive seasoner or a paranoid overcooker. if they’re not fresh enough to eat raw you probably shouldn’t be eaten them at all, dontcha think?
These nantucket bay scallops are smaller than scallops people would pick if it were up to them, but I love that about them. they’re bite-sized- you almost pop them like candy.
I decided to do them two ways. only one of them made it to camera.
The one you won’t see is the ceviche. Lemon, orange, siracha, salt, pepper, and some cilantro. let it sit (covered) in a fridge for a few hours and your set.
What I did manage to shoot was the pan-seared lemon-cumin preparation:
pat the scallops dry
Salt, Pepper, Cumin
Get a pan very, very hot, and use a mixture of butter and olive oil
sear it for maybe 2 minutes. they should still be tender to the touch and opaque in the center when you take them off the fire
remove the scallops, bring the pan back to the burner, and deglaze the pan with lemon juice (and white wine if you like)
Serve with a giant, interesting salad (and stop using iceberg lettuce, everyone mocks you about that when your back is turned)
I stopped my by parents’ place today for a quick brunch. But what to make? Brunch can be a bit tricky: balanced precipitously between breakfast and lunch, it’s a meal that begs for something more significant than a bowl of cereal, but not quite a burger.
I think the croque madame is the perfect solution for the hybridized sunday meal. Typically made with ham, Bechamel, Gruyere, and topped with an egg- it begs to be interpreted and expanded upon. To be honest, I dont think i’ve ever made a basic Croque Madame before. I find Bechamel to be a bit much. I’d rather more cheese and some other interesting surprises buried inside, such as this:
That, my friends is a fantastic specialty meat product known as Blood Tongue, or Zungenwurst, for those of you who sprechen sie deutsch. I’ll give you two guesses as to what’s in it.
It’s a pretty appropriate ingredient to be using around Halloween, I’ll give you that. I’ll also admit that it’s not for the faint of heart. As I raided the fridge I spotted half a pound of it sitting in the deli drawer, thinly sliced and wrapped in paper with the price written on it in pencil- a sign that it had come from the archdukes of meat, Schaller & Weber. Nothing I write here is going to sway you to eat it- you’re either adventurous enough to try it or you’re not. If you’re the former, then high-fives for you!
This particular Croque featured the following, in no particular order or quantity (Note: this sort of recipe is one that doesn’t need exact measurements or instructions- just take an ambien and have another mimosa- everything will be just fine)
Start out by constructing the sandwich as if it were a pannini: lots of grated cheese (don’t be a facist about the cheese, more is better), mustard, ham, and peppers. If you’ve got a pannini press, all the better, if not, toss it on a skillet grilled-cheese style. Unless you hate delicious things, use butter on the skillet/press.
while that’s going on, prepare a sunny side egg. when it’s almost ready, shred some more cheese on it. Once the sammich is brown, top it with the blood tongue, drape the egg on top, and (you guessed it,) more cheese.
There’s quite a bit going on in this sandwich, but it’s worth it. the blood tongue gives it a lively personality, and the roasted peppers give it some welcome sweetness and pop.
Foodie nightmare: You over at someone’s house or maybe on a trip somewhere and you’ve been tasked with cooking dinner for your friends. You hit the kitchen up and do a quick scan of you’re working with. you check to see if there’s a gas burner, decent pans, and cooking utensils you can actually use. You apprehensively check the knife drawer/block: you know it’s not going to be good. There’s a glass cutting board next to it. Those poor knives.
Oh god. Is that a rusty miracle blade? Even worse- are there Cutco knives in there? FML.
Call me a snob. Do it. I think the state of kitchen knife ownership in the average american household is a travesty.
Look, don’t get me wrong, I’ll make due with shitty kitchen equipment when I need to cook. Some of my most entertaining dinners have been in such situations. But that won’t stop my from turning this post into a PSA.
Don’t let your friends buy shitty knives. It’s dangerous. Most of America’s shitty knife buying is predicated by a combination of mis-information by marketing machines and a lack of wanting to maintain knives.
One of my favorite food blogs, Cooking for Engineers, decided to test myriad kitchen knives of various qualities and costs. It made for an awesome, eye-opening piece of digital literature. Check it out here.
You may have noticed a few rather shocking bits of information from that piece: Cutco’s chef knife costs an absurd $110 and was the worst in terms of performance. That’s more expensive than the Global, Henckels, and the Wuhstof chef knives that were tested.
I yearn for a food culture revolution in the average household. It isn’t about buying expensive stuff. It’s about buying high-quality, reasonably-priced tools that turn the mandatory action of cooking into a more significant, pleasant one.
There’s something beautiful about a great knife. It’s a tool with who’s singular function can be used in countless ways. It’s the simplistic marriage of form and function- a handle and a blade. Look at all the things you can do with it. Being able to cut things is something we’ve taken for granted for millenia, but the significance of it doesn’t escape me. Feeling a sharp knife slice through something effortlessly speaks to me. It’s a testament to the value of craftmanship.
Last week I headed to Korin Trading Company to do some birthday knife shopping. If you’re not familiar, Korin is a sort of Mecca for Japanese knives and cookware. We were greeted by Saori san, owner of Korin. She’s an absolutely fantastic person who has a very deep, passionate knowledge of Japanese knives. Many heavy hitters in the NYC food scene go straight to her for their knives.
I was on the hunt for a beautiful Western-style Japanese knife as a birthday present. Saori San showed me a host of gorgeous knives, including Nenox’s, Masanobus, MACs, and their proprietary brand, Togiharu. As a side note: if you’re looking for a fantastic set of hand-finished Japanese knives, Togiharu is a great place to start. You can find a 3 piece set for $267 which, ahem, costs less than three Cutco knives and is decidedly much sharper.
After holding and trying a few different knives Saori San handed me an Ittosai Kotetsu chef’s knife. Case closed. Perfectly balanced, the handle fit perfectly in the gorilla mitts that I call hands. the pattern of the folded damascus steel hypnotized me . I had to have it. I got the 8 inch chef’s knife and a 5 inch petty knife. Saori then generously threw in wooden sheaths, a fantastic cutting board, a sharpening stone, and a DVD on sharpening. I was over the moon.
As we rung everything up, their in-house sharpener took the knives and touched up the edges. As I was told, knives are about 85% as sharp as they could be when they come from the factory.
I brought them home and started murdering some vegetables. they glided through everything i could find in my kitchen: radishes, onions, sweet potatoes, leeks, tomatoes,peppers, and (of course) pork. Totally worth it. To be honest, I enjoy looking at them almost as much as I like using them. can you see why?
An obvious statement, at best, but an apt one. But let me qualify it a bit.
I love great meat.
I love well-raised meat.
Meat that was brought up, killed, and prepared by people who respect the idea of eating an animal for sustenance.
The truth is, the vast majority of meat we buy and eat doesn’t fall into that category, and most people don’t know where to look for it.
Last week I had the pleasure of spending my 28th birthday in a fantastic kitchen surrounded by that very sort of meat, purveyed by the folks at Fleisher’s Meats. They had teamed up with Suzi and the gang at Cooking by the Book with a new type of cooking class: The Takeaway Class.
About 20 of us would show up, get razzle-dazzled with a demo by Josh Applestone and his crew, and then learn to do it ourselves. Afterwards, we would cook and eat all the meat we prepared together, walking away with the Fleisher’s guide to well-raise meat, and one of their engraved boning knives.
The class was more than a demo by Josh and Bryan, it was an eye-opening education on what we eat. Today’s food culture, even that of a place like Wholefoods, is embedded with lies veiled as marketing. Quick example: in order for something to be labelled as “antibiotic-free,” all a farm needs to do is not give the animal antibiotics for 30 days. That animal could have been pumped full of antibiotics its entire life, only to weaned off of during its last month of life.
Trust becomes an issue. How can you trust the meat you eat? Simple answer: Pay more and buy it from a butcher who breaks down a small number of whole animals from farmers they trust. Obviously Fleisher’s is a prime example. If paying more for high-quality, sustainable meat is an issue, worry not- the very nature of the class is grounded in how to save money: By buying bigger cuts of meat that you trim and break down yourself, you save money by the pound. Buying a whole rack of lamb and then frenching it yourself will save you a dollar or two per pound.
Eating sustainable meat is also about eating the whole animal: offal, odd cuts, etc. If you can only get hanger steak out of a cow, imagine how many cows have to be slaughtered to meet that demand. Buying odd cuts lets you experiment and instills creativity in your cooking- and the butchers themselves often have great ideas for preparing them. Regardless of what you’re preparing, though, keep one thing in mind: The higher quality the meat, the less you have to do to it. Keep it simple if you want to taste it for what it is.
In the class, we broke down and frenched racks of lamb, spatchcocked (yes, it’s a word) and tore down chickens, made cutlets out of pork (sirloin end?) and learned how to properly tie roasts. After demo-ing and doing some hands-on-work, Suzi’s crew gathered all the animal parts and showed us how to cook them simply. The result was a gathering of meats that made me full and happy.
After drowning ourselves in lamb, pork, beef, and chicken, we finished it off with a candied bacon ice cream (you heard me). We were then each given a copy of Fleisher’s “Guide to Well-Raised Meat” as well as a Victorinox boning knife. Josh Applestone autographed our books with”Eat more veggies!”
For all of you NYC’ers looking to try Fleishers’ products without schlepping to Kingston, worry not: They’re opening a brooklyn shop in the next week or two.
I used to be friends with a woman who was a nutritionist by profession. She was a nice person, but pretty uptight. She once told me I had to break my emotional connection with food. Admittedly, my food follies as of late have been calorically supercharged, but that’s what exercise is for right?
I haven’t thought about what she said to me for a few years, but looking at the picture above brings it back to me. I get what she was saying, but it was inherently maligned. People who rely on food as an emotional crutch have problems that need treatment. But food is inherently about an emotional connection.
Sustenance aside, cooking for someone is about providing for them. It’s more symbolic than it was in caveman times, but the action of creating food for someone and sharing it with them is a core example of the human experience on a basal, altruistic level. Eating food elicits feeling of happiness because of that shared connection. It becomes a memory, and brings up past, similar memories.
What’s my emotional connection to the awesome looking burger? Aside from being freakin’ delicious, it was made by a good friend, Tadashi Ono.
Tadashi is the executive chef at Matsuri. As a Japanese chef who learned his chops in a traditional french kitchen, he’s an artist whose ability to created beautiful, interesting food is steeped in an organic, heartfelt love of creating food for others to enjoy.
I met Tadashi when he came on as head chef at my parents’ restaurant, La Caravelle (now closed). He came on in the mid 90′s and unleashed a fusion of japanese ingredients in a traditional french setting before it became an overdone fad. It was inventive, not gimmicky. He created some of the best food to ever come out of that kitchen, and it was a joy for my brothers and I to eat there whenever we could.
The burger in question comes from Tadashi’s new book: The Japanese Grill. It’s full of simple, delicious, Japanese grill recipes that are perfect for the summer. At a glance, the burger looks pretty normal. Hell, it even looks overcooked. It’s not. Tadashi invited me to Matsuri for a cooking session and used it to show off a few awesome dishes from the new book, including the burger.
The secret to that burger is as follows: It’s a mixture of ground pork,beef (the fresher the better, duh), panko soaked in milk, onion, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Check out the recipe here.
Pretty large patties are formed with a divot in the middle. when you hit it on the grill rack, the pork fat renders, and it plumps up.
To add nutritional insult to injury, a pat of butter on top of the burgers while they are finishing up adds a simple decadence to it. Slap the burger on a lightly-grilled Brioche bun, and you’re almost done.
Normal ketchup won’t do. Instead, Tadashi iterates and combines it with a popular japanese condiment, Wasabi.
Together, it’s a fantastic combination. The burger is juicy and fatty, despite being cooked medium due to the pork content (not that I have a problem with medium-rare pork). The wasabi ketchup offers a refreshing antithetical kick that brings everything together.
The best part of watching the burger take shape was watching Tadashi himself. He exudes a heartfelt love of the craft; it speaks to his emotional connection to the creation and sharing of food.
Tadashi reminds me of the importance of having that emotional connection. It’s cultural and inherently human to do so. As far as I’m concerned, that once-friend of mine was as wrong as ever. She has repressed her connection to something that brings us all together, and that makes me sad for her. If proving her wrong means gaining a few lbs around the middle, so be it.