Today, I played with Manga Studio’s free props and rag dolls. I wish there were more — I’d have a blast goofing off with these. It’s a shame that my options are so limited; otherwise, I could run a web comic on freebies alone. Yes, yes, I know I have to use my own art. But that doesn’t stop me from having some fun.
About ten days ago, I described how I went about brining my pork shoulder. Here it is, getting ready for its salty bath:
It’s in a plastic garbage bag. I added the brine, tied it off, and kept it at approximately 36 degrees F for ten days. Every day, I turned it or shook it up a bit.
Yesterday was day 10, to be precise, so I removed the boneless shoulder from the brine, rinsed it off, dried it. Then I dusted it liberally with paprika and ground black pepper, and left it in the fridge for another day to let the outer surface dry. Here it is, ready for the grill.
I banked the coals to one side, and used two to three cups of soaked hickory chips to create the smoke. The pork sat suspended on a grate at the opposite end of the barbecue.
Eight hours later, it smelled like the real thing and looked like the real thing, but the internal temperature was only 120 degrees F. I sliced a bit off one end, and it tasted great, but still looked raw. I popped it in the oven at 250 degrees F, and left it in (about two hours) until the internal temperature was 160 degrees F. And here it is:
There are a number of questions yet to be answered. Will it kill me? Make me wish I were dead? Will the middle be as tasty as the end bit I sampled earlier today? Is it smoky enough? Too salty, not salty enough?
And if this works, why not make lambstrami?
No, I haven’t been blogging much lately. Yes, I’ve been writing — editing, to be precise. I finished the second/third pass-through on Gator & Shark, and I’ve sent it to an editor. Now I’m trying to breathe new life into The Brakan Correspondent. It’s rough; I finished it eight years ago, and have been fiddling with it ever since. I have some great set-pieces in this novel. Just a question of cutting away the crap to find the novel within.
But on to the food. I’m going to give you a play-by-play of my latest grand experiment: porkstrami! I’m allergic to beef, I miss pastrami, and I’ve heard that pork pastrami is at least as good as the real thing. Unfortunately, porkstrami isn’t the sort of thing you can get mail order. You have to make it yourself, and that means corning, smoking, and cooking the pork.
I chose a seven-pound pork shoulder. For the brine, I’ve modified from Alpoe the Mad’s recipe (mostly because I don’t like juniper berries). Here’s mine:
One gallon of water
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of “pink salt” (see below)
Four bay leaves, broken up
8 garlic cloves, crushed
5 whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice of ginger
Boil the ingredients, then cool the brine to room temperature. Add the brine and the pork to a garbage bag and put it in the refrigerator. I’m going to let it brine for at least ten days. Every day, I will shake it up a bit to redistribute the ingredients.
Pink salt: I bought this from our local butcher, who had no idea what it was or how it was used (I think he was a junior butcher — took him ten seconds to bone the pork shoulder, but he was lost on the pink salt). According to Alpoe the Mad’s blog, this is 6.25% sodium nitrite. Kinda necessary, I suspect.
I’ll keep you posted, with pictures too once it gets interesting.
I’ve finished the first major pass-through and I’ve sent the manuscript off to my betas. These are all folks who have expressed an interest in seeing the manuscript, so if I’ve overlooked you, let me know. It’s a bit big, 138K words. Sadly, I was not able to pare it down. I cut out at least three or four thousand words, but added back another three or four thousand.
The edit took
a month less than a month. I’m pretty jazzed about that, considering I finished The Brakan Correspondent in — what? 2004 or 2005? — and have yet to finish editing past the fourth chapter.
Not only have I blogged beef tongue before, I did a decent job of it, too. That was seven years ago, I’ve since become allergic to beef, but my method of preparation has not changed a bit. I’ll throw in some commentary along the way, but here we go with beef tongue, baby:
Glorious beef tongue. Why is it that so many foods I despised as a child I now regard as delicacies? Tongue, chopped chicken liver, eggplant, pine nuts, cantaloupe: as a kid, these foods brought me to tears, but when I eat them now, I have happy memories of childhood. Where’s the logic in that?
A tongue bought fresh from the market is already several days old. Don’t leave it around in the fridge for another few days — it won’t improve with age. Instead, scrub it under cold water and then soak it in cold water for two hours.
Next, cover with a thick layer of Kosher salt and wrap in plastic. Store in the refrigerator for two days, flipping it after day 1.
If your tongue weighs 3 to 4 pounds, you won’t need to soak it afterwards. Simply rinse off the salt and toss your tongue into a stock pot. Cover it with water — Julia recommends five inches over the tongue, but I think you’ll be fine if the water just barely covers it. Add a bouquet of herbs. Garlic and bay leaves are essential; add juniper berries if you want a corned beef flavor (but if you come over to my house, I won’t serve you that kind of tongue, nosirree). This last time, I used whole allspice, which worked well. I add celery, onion, and carrots to the stock pot as well. Quarter the onions and keep the skin on (similarly, for the garlic, just cut the bulb in half and throw the two halves into the stock pot).
This is where people mess up. They don’t cook it long enough, and they end up with a fibrous nightmare which, yes, licks you back when you eat it. Simmer it at least 3 hours, preferably 3.5 or 4. You ought to be able to easily pierce the base of the tongue with a knife.
Plunge the cooked tongue into ice water. Slit it down the side with a sharp knife or razor, and then peel the tongue the way you would pull an undersized glove off a very sweaty hand.
The end result should remind you of pot roast, but with far more richness. Well simmered tongue has a melt-in-your-mouth quality. If it’s chewy, you screwed the pooch and undercooked it. Too bad.
Classically, tongue is sliced thin and served on rye bread with stone ground mustard, red onion, and pickles, but I prefer soft tacos. For that, you need a quarter-inch dice of tongue meat. Quickly stir fry it over high heat (only to warm it — it’s already cooked) and serve over fried corn tortillas with a garnish of finely chopped white onion and cilantro. Top with salsa.
For our most recent tongue, I prepared a somewhat Indian tomato sauce in the following manner:
1. Saute one medium onion, finely diced, with one teaspoon finely chopped ginger and two finely chopped garlic cloves.
2. Add two 14 ounce cans of tomato sauce along with the following spices: 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or any hot red chile flake). For saltiness, I added about a tablespoon of fish sauce.
3. I also added one heaping teaspoon of roasted tahini paste as a thickener. I doubt this added much to the end result . . . perhaps a bit of complexity. Omit this if you like.
4. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then serve it over the sliced tongue.
Eat anything fun lately?
For tonight, I made Tyler Florence’s recipe for galumpkis (stuffed cabbage). And now that I think about it, I did futz with the recipe: I used a pound of lamb and a pound of pork, no beef. Otherwise, yeah, everything was the same.
Quite good, although the sauce came out watery. I suspect the only fix for that is to cook down the sauce (in the earliest stage of the recipe) until it’s like mud. The meat and cabbage give up too much liquid, so I suspect that’s the only way to deal with the problem.
Oh, and I’ve decided I like working with grape leaves far more than cabbage. Cabbage is a pain. On one of the comment threads (perhaps on someone else’s stuffed cabbage recipe), one person claimed that if you froze and thawed the head of cabbage, the leaves will come off perfectly. Hmm. I can tell you it was impossible to remove the leaves from a fresh head without a lot of tearing.
Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s hoping it will be better than 2011. At least up until that end of the world thingie.
There’s two loaves there. Karen braided 1.5 loaves. I am a braiding dyslexic.
Mee krob is one of those pain in the ass Thai dishes that even the Thai restaurants rarely make. Back in Crescent City, we had a lovely restaurateur/chef who would make it for us if we begged prettily. Aside from her* mee krob, most others have been overly greasy, or have used too much sauce such that the rice stick becomes soggy.
Every so often I get it into my head to try to make this stuff, and oh boy does it make a mess. Conceptually, it’s similar to Pad Thai, but the additional step of deep frying seems to raise the difficulty by an order of magnitude. Oh, well. Consider it part of the Thanksgiving feast, a few days late.
Here is, roughly, what Mee krob ought to look like:
The basic idea is that you have fried rice stick (Chinese is mai fun) dressed with a sticky, peppery sweet/sour sauce, then tossed with sauteed green onions and red peppers, scrambled eggs, and a variety of other things, including garlic, tofu, fresh cilantro, freshly chopped green onions, and meat if you like. I used some leftover chicken breast and a few shrimp. You dress the thing with the cilantro, chopped green onions, some un-sauteed red pepper slices, and bean sprouts.
Here’s the basic recipe I used, but I had to adapt it. I knew the sauce would be all wrong — way too salty for starters.
If you can find whole tamarind, you can probably find tamarind paste. It’s at most Asian markets. I used two tablespoons of paste with two of water. But here’s my sauce — you can compare to the original if you like, but trust me, this is the real deal:
4 tablespoons tamarind juice (see above)
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
1 teaspoons lime zest
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Chinese red pepper sauce
Combine the ingredients and simmer until it begins to thicken. Set aside. Ideal consistency is a bit thicker than room temperature pancake syrup. Too thick and it won’t incorporate into your fried rice stick easily, and too thin and it might soften your rice stick.
The sauce can be made ahead. The next step is to prepare your various vegies: separate the white and green parts of the green onion; chop your cilantro and your red pepper — I used red jalapenos; wash your bean sprouts. Dice your tofu and dry it on paper towels. Dice four cloves of garlic.
Lightly fry the tofu, then place in the oven to keep warm (I used a 300 F oven).
Saute the white part of the green onion with some of the red pepper, and once the onion is nearly done, add the garlic. VERY lightly saute the garlic (you don’t want to make it bitter!) Keep the sauteed vegies warm in the oven.
Saute your shrimp if you’re using it. I added a tablespoon of the sauce while sauteing to add flavor. Put the shrimp in the oven to keep warm.
Fry up your rice stick. Here are some tips: unless you have a huge deep fryer and want to use a ton of oil, pre-cut the rice stick using kitchen shears. Rice stick will fly everywhere, so put the “bale” of rice stick into a gallon bag, then cut it with shears. You are trying to create flatter “bales” so that they will submerge in less oil.
Set your rice stick aside on paper towels.
Once you’ve made the rice stick, the clock really starts ticking, since this stuff goes stale FAST. The only thing left is the egg. The linked recipe recommends dripping egg into the hot oil. I did this in batches, and the way I did it was to put two scrambled eggs into a sandwich baggie, seal it, then snip a little hole at one corner. Swirl the egg into the hot oil.
Everyone should do this at least once just because it’s fun. BUT. This is easily the greasiest part of the dish, so in the future I will forgo the scrambled eggs in oil bit and do it the Pad Thai way (make an omelet and cut it into strips).
Toss together your sauteed vegies, sauce, and rice stick. Use a big bowl or else this will be damn near impossible. You can put your other warm ingredients on top or on the side. Finish with garnishes of bean sprouts, cilantro, green onion, and red pepper.
It’s beautiful and the flavor is decadent. It’s the closest thing that a main course ever comes to being dessert — probably because of all the greasy stuff and the sweetness of the sauce. You may note that I cut down on the brown sugar by 1 tablespoon, but it’s still fairly sweet . . . as it should be.
This isn’t something you’ll do once a week, or even once a month. But for an occasional treat, and probably for company (provided EVERYTHING else can be made in advance and kept warm), it would be a show-stopper.
*Her name is Koon and her restaurant is Sea West, a true gem. Indeed, the two best restaurants in that town are Asian. Thai House (a Vietnamese restaurant — don’t ask) is the other gem.