Monday, February 22, 2010

A Poached Pear, A Tapped Maple, and Some Momofuku-like Homecookin'

By now you might have recognized that I like to make things from scratch. So, the first of many announcements for today is that I tapped some maple trees at my grandfather's house this weekend. I've got my mom and grandfather recruited to the cause of homemade maple syrup, and will be back at the house to check on the trees sometime over this coming weekend. I don't have extremely high hopes for this project, but it seemed easy enough, and if it works, what a grand success! Of course, my Vermont-based family members have all made syrup before and are not at all impressed. But, the NJ crowd will surely be in awe when I douse my blueberries pancakes with syrup that's fresh from Lake Hopatcong.

In other news, you may find that many of my recipes over the next couple months are vegetarian or pescatarian in nature. I've given up meat for Lent, so there it is. I did it partially because I like to really challenge myself for Lent and give up something that is very dear to me. Additionally, I've been struggling to reconcile my love for the taste of animals with the ethical implications of supporting an industry that profits off of disease and torture. I'll kill animals and eat them, but that doesn't mean that I don't care about how they are treated.

Apparently David Chang of Momofuku fame agrees with me. He had something really interesting to say about sustainable meat in his new cookbook, which I got a chance to peruse over the weekend:

"Pigs have heads. Every one of them does. Farmers do not raise walking pork chops. If you're serious about your meat, you've got to grasp that concept. And if you're serious about sustainability and about honestly raised good meat-which is something we're dead serious about at Momofuku and we try to get more in touch with every day-you've got to embrace the whole pig.

A farm turns out a head on each beautiful, well-raised pig, but nobody's rushing eat it. That's where the cook steps in: you take it, cook it, make it delicious. That's the most badass way you can connect with what you cook: elevate it, honor it, lavish it with care and attention-whether you're slicing scallions or spooning out caviar or boiling up half a pig's head. Turning ingredients into food, and sometimes almost literally turning a pig's ear into a silk purse, is what cooks do in the kitchen" See Momofuku Cookbook, p. 201.

Chang goes on provide a recipe for "pig's head torchon" which looks nothing like a pig's head and sounds pretty amazing.

Speaking of Momofuku, I did make a Momofuku inspired ramen with shrimp, some scallions, and a slow-poached egg. The slow-poached egg concept is another thing I pulled out of that cookbook. Pretty cool. Basically, you put an egg in hot water, kept around 140 degrees or so for 40-45 minutes. Keep the egg off the bottom of the pot though to prevent overcooking. I put it in a metal vegetable steamer-type colander. Whenever you're ready, crack open the egg and you've got a perfect poached egg that is cooked whites and goey, beautiful yolk. Made me feel like a rock star when I tried it.

The shrimp ramen came out really, really good. I have become somewhat of a master broth maker, and this time I used a mixture of chicken broth that had also simmered with some mean-as-hell roasted Jamaican hot peppers, combined with some shrimp shell broth. It just made it extra-seafoody. You could try it with the shrimp broth or just regular broth.

And since we're sharing pictures. I took a picture of a super freak of a mushroom that was in the package of mushrooms that I bought from Whole Foods. It was too weird not to take a picture of it and share with you.

The recipe that I want to leave you with, though, actually comes from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. It is really simple and, if presented well, an absolutely beautiful dessert. Did I mention that it's freaking delicious? Here it is:

Poached Pears
Adapted from Les Halles Cookbook

1 bottle of somewhat cheap red wine
1 cup of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise pieces
4 pears, peeled and cut lengthwise

In a medium pot, combine wine, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil, and let boil for 5-10 minutes. Add the pears, cover, and let simmer for about a half an hour or until the pears are soft and could be eaten with a spoon. Remove from heat, uncover, and let cool. Serve the pears with the sauce they were cooked in and/or with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8 meager appetites, or 2-4 gavones.


  1. "I've been struggling to reconcile my love for the taste of animals with the ethnic implications of supporting an industry that profits off of disease and torture. I'll kill animals and eat them, but that doesn't mean that I don't care about how they are treated." AMEN! We have become a culture of selfish disconnected jerks. Tyson and Purdue should be ashamed of their dishonesty. Less IS more. Your food and write ups are great! Keep it up.

  2. Ramen looks great. The Momofuku book is the best. The restaurants don't suck either!

    Best place to buy fish AND meat? Farmers markets. I just bought pork jowl on Friday. I was hoping to make guanciale, but I think they trimmed off too much fat. And besides, I don't have a cellar in which to hang it. Dang it. But I have about 1/2 gallon or more of rendered duck fat. And there's nothing like doesn't matter the animal. Cured for a day or so, cooked under fat, it's AMAZING. For after Lent, of course.

    There are advantages to being a pork-eating Jew...

  3. Thanks Sandy! Glad to hear I'm not alone on this.

    John, I was looking into it over the weekend. Apparently there is a free-range (as in, animals are fully pastured) farm very near my in-laws where you get buy as much or as little of a pig as you want. I may be looking for some people who want to go in on a half pig with me in the spring. Let me know if you are interested.

  4. Jimbo, you mean "ethical", not "ethnic", right? Or is there something that Irish Catholics get up to that I'm not aware of?

  5. Haha. Good editing. Most hilarious typoe yet! Yes, I meant ethical. My fingers must have been thinking of something else.