prague powder #1

corned beef

 

this is the tiny little brisket that i snagged from a woman who was buying up all of the briskets at the market the other day. since i’m on a pickling jag why not “pickle” meat? the ingredients are remarkably similar to the half-sour pickles but with added sodium nitrite to give the meat its traditional pink when braised (not grey) hue and to prevent clostridium botulinium. it is a preservative and lends that particular “cured” taste to meat, sausages and patés/terrines. known as rose salt, pink salt and most interestingly, “prague powder #1”. it is usually tinted pink to distinguish it from regular table salt. i got mine at surfas. there is a way to braise meat without nitrites and keep it pink. it involves VERY slowly bringing the meat up to a VERY low braising temperature which gives certain enzymes an opportunity to develop which keeps the meat tender and its pigments intact. i think. must check mcgee on this. hold please.

yup – mcgee p. 149 discusses cooking methods that will keep well-done meat pink. i love mcgee. i have read it cover-to-cover. twice.

there is a jamaican version of corned beef called “bully beef” that my grandmother used to make. i cannot find a specific recipe for it. it was a spicy brined beef that was pressed after cooking into a neat oblong and then sliced and eaten between slices of hard-dough (hardo) bread: a tremendously dense, heavy white pullman loaf.  just the thought of hardo bread and coco buns sends me into a glutinous frenzy. i’m sure that just touching hardo bread would kill frank.

 

kimchi-making time

facebook cracks me up. i spent all morning “live posting” on the face – sharing my kimchi-making fun with my 170 friends. how much more fun would it have been to have simply invited the 4 or 5 who were paying attention to come over and hang out while i did my thing?

so starting at about 10:30 i dove into the kimchi situation. yesterday was all about prep: washing and salting. i did salt for quite a bit longer than most of the recipes i checked out suggested, leaving the three elements (radish, cucumber and napa cabbage) to salt overnight. i rinsed each once before i went to bed but they were still plenty salty and giving water this morning.

i decided to make three different kimchis: pogi baechu – a “white” kimchi with only jalapeños for spice; oi-sobagi – cucumbers stuffed with daikon and scallions in a red chili paste; and chonggak – young radishes and their greens in a fish-sauce-based red chili paste.

the most interesting element is a “paste” made from glutinous rice and water (or brine in some cases.) this is what binds the spice mixture and make it stick nicely to the veg. i used the hand blender in lieu of mincing because i was feeling shortcut-y.

now they ferment. the cucumbers for the least amount of time, the radish for the most (i’m guessing.) then it will be banchan time!

 

half sour

we went to the valley this afternoon to look at a mercedes  that frank has had his eye on. as advertised it looked like an extremely rare grey market 5-speed AMG 500. we are on a mercedes kick here, looking a way to upgrade beatrice so she doesn’t wheeze at 70mph.

the hilarious thing is there is this character – von müller – who has been after beatrice for months. but he doesn’t want to pay. he keeps coming back and lowballing me and i keep upping the price. fuck you – if you want the car pay me what she is worth and stop whining about california coupes, no soft top blah blah blah. beatrice is a matching number, unrestored, never been hit, chocolate brown 1968 280sl. and you keep coming back. so i know the car is worth something substantial – and most likely for a client in germany. so von müller calls malcolm after a few months of silence with a 1970 maserati indy, 4-speed v8, silver, silver on blue. cute car – lift back – the sort of sexy 70s italian v8 that frank and i like (we like the mexico even better but….) he wants to trade it for beatrice. maseratis are pretty exotic and all, but it is worth about 15K at the low end. and i want more for beatrice, my first classic car (sniff.) today i learned that a very similar 280sl, california coupe, in excellent unrestored condition just sold at the beverly hills car club for 31K. that represents (depending upon the mark-up) about $25K to the owner. and frank has just told me that he sees them on german ebay all the time for upwards of 30K euros. so von müller can kiss my ass.

the valley mercedes was not as advertised and frank was sour about it. i am sour that people have been offering 16K for beatrice and a comparable car just sold for almost twice that. so it is somehow appropriate that i have decided to turn my korean supermarket cucumbers into nyc deli-style half-sour pickles.

in the past when i’ve done fermented pickles they have turned out pretty soft. i am reluctant to use alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) to maintain the crispness but i hear that the tannins in grape leaves will keep your pickles crispy. while thinking i might need to delay the whole process until i go to super king, i have an epiphany: the neighbors on the corner have grape vines spilling over their walls and onto the street. i’m sure they wouldn’t mind if snipped a few. i decide to take chewbacca. big mistake. i forgot that in addition to grapes and roses the corner neighbors also have cujo – a giant some-sort-of-dog who can jump as high as their fence. so as i am trying to discreetly snip a few grape leaves chewie is going ape-shit. i mean, beyond. doing back flips and barking his head off. thanks for the support beast.

cur

cur

 

i know i went on about not fermenting in the summer, but it’s not too hot yet and the gartopf has a nice cool spot in the pantry.

gartopf pickling crock

pilfered grape leaves

i lined the bottom of the crock with grape leaves and put in the cucumbers. added mustard seeds, white pepper, black pepper, bay leaf, coriander seeds, a few smashed cloves of garlic and the ubiquitous habanero.

in the crock

i added a solution of sea salt and water and weighted the whole scenario down with the special gartopf weights. it is very important that the cucumbers remain submerged in the brine.

weights

a nice waiting project. i’ll check them daily and skim off any molds or scum that appear. They should be half-sour in about 4 days and fully sour in a week or so.

pickled

frank and i have a fetish for all things pickled – leading us to believe all the more that we are somehow related. i have been pickling and making fermented foods since the raw period: sauerkraut, tsukemono, kimchee. and pickles are the perfect way to learn to wait – and to understand that something fabulous is developing so the waiting is worth it (filmmaking comparison of the day.)

recently, when malcolm’s wife joyce mentioned the pickled eggs  that sit on the bars of yorkshire pubs, we got all excited about pickling eggs. after i was disabused of the notion that the eggs are pickled in their shells (due to a kindergarten experiment i remember vividly where we were charged to see if we could make an egg bounce) i of course went immediately to the exotic: saffron, ginger, garlic pickled eggs! fairway pickling spice plus habenero pickled eggs! after the usual alarming internet researcg (pickled eggs are rife with the potential for botulism! just ask the denizens of any yorkshire pub. whatever.) so i boiled up two different brines with white vinegar salt, sugar and the above-mentioned aromatics. then i boiled some eggs. shocked them (crucial) and threw them in the fridge in their respective brines.

how to boil an egg

i love an undercooked egg. 3 minute soft boiled – just so the whites aren’t icky, 5 minute hardboiled – with a nice gelatinous yolk, etc.) for pickling i would say a 7 minute egg is ideal. the white is firm and the yolk has a slightly translucent center. it is not hard and light yellow whatsoever. the main trick is to start the eggs in cold water, bring close to the boil – do not bring to a rolling boil – and start your timing from there. there are lots of ways to boil an egg. look them up.  the kicker is the shock. as the eggs cook prepare an ice bath. if you shock the eggs promptly the peeling will be easy. the ice maker on the kitchen aid is verkahkt so i use a picnic ice pack:

a week later the eggs were the consistency of superballs and ridiculously tart. the saffron ones were quite yellow and interesting smelling…. so after playing bouncy with them for a while, frank suggested we just stick hardboiled eggs in the remaining juice from a jar of clausen pickles. the horror. commercial pickle juice? with preservatives? WITHOUT SAFFRON??? never. a few weeks later i secretly snuck one hardboiled egg in the remaining juice from a jar of clausen pickles. amazing. soft, delicious. like a protein-rich, non-crunchy, clausen pickle. so this is now the preferred method of pickling an egg. i’m absolutely sure this is exactly what they do in the yorkshire pubs. not what heston blumenthal might do – but good enough for jazz. as i write this frank opines (“sarcastically” – which he just demanded that i add) “see i’m not completely useless.” oh bubbeleh. mwah.

after a session with my pranic healer yesterday and charged with meditating more (more like ever), doing 6:3 breathing regularly and taking a salt bath daily, i went by the korean supermarket on beverly to get a couple of ten-pound bags of sea salt. who knew – IT’S KIMCHEE-MAKING SEASON. i thought cabbage kimchee is made in november and that unfermented radish-y water-based kimchees were more a summer thing. fermenting works better during the cooler months when it can go slowly. when the weather is warm the process is accelerated and the flavors not as complex. but the korean ladies were going bats for young napa, young radish and big spring onions and cucumbers which were all on mega-special with purchase limits – so something was up. i also almost had an altercation with a woman over a well-marbled brisket but that’s a different story. she won.

always a sucker for a sale, a pickle and something that takes weeks to realize, i went for it.

 

 

 

 

 

this morning i threw it all in the sink. the beets are from this week’s csa haul. we got beets, baby garlic, black russian kale, rainbow chard (gratin time) 1 yellow bell pepper, a head of cabbage, 1 guava (wtf am i going to do with one guava?) half a dozen eggs, an avocado, 3 oranges and some cilantro. nota bene we go halfsies with the boys across the street in case this seems sparse. let’s see what surfaces over the weekend.

mother’s day: schweinekoteletts

frank and i have lots in common – a pair of leos who love classic cars – but one of the coolest commonalities is our love of german (and austrian) food. it’s in our genes somewhere – most obviously in his scottish/german ancestry, less so in my my west indian, new york, scottish, irish, african-ness. schnitzel sluts r us.

my mother used to make us pork chops and sauerkraut with apple sauce when i was a kid. it was yummy – particularly the potatoes and sauerkraut part – but the pork chops were generally unyieldingly dry (sorry ma.) i have no idea what she did to them but baking in an electric oven on high for an hour will undo the effects any amount of white wine and sauerkraut juice i reckon.

this fall i will start a new batch of sauerkraut in my beloved gartopf  but it’s getting warm in la so i’ll doctor up some boar’s head and be done because it is really all about the pork. the chops should be boneless center cut, really thick and they absolutely must be brined.

brining is a key meat move in any cook’s technique arsenal. it’s a chemistry trick involving osmosis. the water, salt and aromatics in your brine carry into the meat cells and make them virtually impervious to drying out. harold mcgee has lots to say about this in his various books. read them.

schweinekoteletts mit sauerkraut

1 or 2 center cut boneless pork chops – at least 2 inches thick – per person

brine:

i have to admit i’m a little lazy with my brines. there is all sorts of precision to be had, eggs to be floated, etc. i choose a vessel of an appropriate size for the meat in question and go to town: bay leaf, habaneros or other hot pepper, white peppercorns, black peppercorns, juniper berries, a clove of garlic, a bit of star anise and then salt and sugar in a 1:2 ratio and fill the vessel (usually a ziplock bag) with cold water. if i am doing a big cut – like a brisket – i will boil it all together and add ice and let it cool and be more precise with the measurements, especially with the addition of the nitrite in the case of cured meat like  corned beef. but for a couple of pork chops – some salt, some sugar – taste it – if it’s too strong add more water. throw it in the fridge for a few hours to a day or two. the chops in question today have been in a weak-ish (but spicy) brine for a week. i know. i’ve been busy trying to get a movie going.

sauerkraut (fresh is fine, homemade is best)

potatoes – parboiled

onions, garlic etc.

spices – juniper, caraway seeds, black pepper

white wine (a troken riesling if you want to be authentic)

preheat oven to 300. sauté the onions, garlic, kraut and spices in butter or goose fat. deglaze with white wine, and set aside. brown the chops (rinse off any clingy bits of spice and dry them first) in goose fat or butter. set them into a baking pan (i usually brown them right in my le creuset rectangular pan), position the potatoes around them and cover with the sauerkraut – making sure the meat is totally obscured. cover with foil and seal tightly. bake the whole scenario in the oven for fifteen minutes –  then temperature test the pork. pork does not have to be cooked to 190. it will probably not even kill you at 140. presumably, since we don’t have swine running the streets and eating garbage and small rodents anymore, trichinosis is not as much an issue these days. cooking pork to medium rare (about 145) is fine and even at 165 the brine does its osmotic magic so they should be custard-like, barely pink and really really juicy.

frank likes his sauerkraut sort of browned and crispy – we were at diener in berlin in february (for the berlinale) and they left our wurst plate under the salamander too long and the sauerkraut crisped up – it was nice. so now i do that – just run it under the broiler for a few minutes. good german mustard and apple sauce or sautéed apples are yummy with too.