Archive for wine

Cooking the Easter Bunny

Posted in Home cooking and more with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2009 by restaurantouring

IMG_3472

A couple years ago, I was driving a friend’s car (she was too tipsy to drive) when I accidentally ran over a rabbit that was running across route 10, in East Hanover.

Damn thing came outta nowhere.

I felt pretty bad about the whole crushing-a-skull-under-the-driver’s-side-wheel thing, and the fact that it was Good Friday only made things worse. It was like I just killed the Easter Bunny.

So, this year, I decided to kill a bunny rabbit on purpose.

IMG_3482

After severing the forequarters and cutting off the hindquarters, I trimmed the loin from the ribs and left the belly meat attached. I stuffed the loin with some caramelized onions that had been sauteed with some garlic and fresh sage leaves. I wrapped it all in some duck bacon that my good friend, Jose, bought me, seared it off, and finished it in the oven. It ain’t too pretty, mainly cuz the duck bacon was too thick and not nearly long enough, so the whole package unraveled by the time the food hit the plate. I will probably stick with good ol’ pork bacon next time.

I should note that the rabbit did not come with the liver, kidneys, or heart for some reason. I generally like offal, and I try to make an effort to eat it whenever it is available, if only so that it does not go to waste. For this dish, I was actually counting on some rabbit liver, so I was pretty upset when I discovered that this thing came with no offal whatsoever. Bummer.

While the rabbit finished cooking, I sauteed some potatoes in the rendered duck fat from the bacon, and seared some oyster mushrooms to go along with it. I deglazed with some chardonnay that I had laying around and added some fairly concentrated, gelatinous, deeply caramelized duck stock that I also had lying around. I reduced it to nappe consistency and lightly sauced the loin with that. A la minute.

Voila: dinner.

I hope everyone had a happy Easter!

P.S. I’m a big fan of total utilization. As I write this, the remaining bones and carcass from the rabbit is slowly simmering in a pot of water for stock. I threw in some chicken bones I’ve been saving up for the past couple weeks, too. I just threw the bones into a zip top bag in the freezer and took them out to make a batch of rabbit/chicken stock.

check my Flickr account for higher-quality and larger-sized pictures, especially since WordPress does this annoying thing where the right side of all my pictures gets cropped out of the frame (I’ll figure out how to fix it one of these days, I swear): http://www.flickr.com/photos/epicnomz

to learn more about breaking down bunnies into marketable consumer cuts, search for Michael Pardus, longtime instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, on YouTube. His user name is MPardus, I believe. Or, just click here.

Thomas Keller and Michael Ruhlman: Under Pressure

Posted in Books and gear, Culinary ruminations and other random thoughts, Food in the news, General food knowledge with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2008 by restaurantouring

kellerruhlmansignbooks_resize

I have to admit that I’ve been pretty irresponsible with my money.  What can I say?  Last week, I came to the realization that I had been alive for a whole year since my car crash, and I became overwhelmed with joy.  I was so happy, in fact, that when my date cancelled on me an hour and a half before dinner, I went out and bought a knife.

Oh God, that sounds horrible (I’m mentally stable and a very nice guy, I swear)!  What I mean is that I went out and got something for the kitchen that I’ve been eying for a very long time — a GOOD, quality, 10-inch chef’s knife — as a sort of present to myself for still, somehow, being more-or-less alive.  Cost me around 315 bucks.  Irresponsible, I tell you.  But enough of this preachy, sentimental, boring self reflection.  On with the content (more or less)!

After spending some time in the kitchen with my new knife, attempting to perfectly brunoise some onions, I went over to Michael Ruhlman’s blog and found a post on preparing and eating bone marrow (One of my many, many, many favorite foods) and a slightly older blog post about Thomas Keller’s new book, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.  Reading on, I found that both Ruhlman and Keller would be speaking in Manhattan, at the Astor Center, on Saturday night, November 22, 2008.  To purchase a ticket meant forking over $125, and I was pretty low on funds (especially after buying that new knife), so I (of course) bought a ticket for myself.  It was worth it!  Or at least it would be.  Like I said — irresponsible.  Worth it!

Saturday came quickly, and I spent the day with my friend, Catie (the Editor), and one of her co-workers.  We ate at Shake Shack (but that’s another blog) and sat in a Starbucks (that’s definitely not another blog) to eat and chat. Time flew by and we parted ways so that I could go to this event (Many thanks to both Catie and Cristina for figuring out subway directions for me when I wasn’t paying attention!  To think that I was just going to wander somewhat aimlessly until I found the place — HA!).

The Astor Center is up the short flight of stairs next to Astor Wines & Spirits, near the corner of Lafayette and 4th St.  Upon entering the Astor Center, I gave my name to the girl at the front entrance to confirm my ticket reservation, hung up my jacket (I really need to get a coat, man.  It was freeeeeezing outside), and was offered some wine.

spanishrioja_resize

I started with the 2003 Sierra Cantabria Rioja, a Spanish red wine.  I figured that would help to warm me up a bit, after walking around all day in the bitter New York winter cold (Technically still autumn, but when it’s 28 degrees outside and windy, I don’t care what season it is — it’s cold as balls).  Then, I made my way over to the trays of hors d’oeuvres.

petitebaguettes_resize

I started with the miniature sandwiches, reading the sign and snapping a picture before sampling the sandwich itself:

petitebaguettesign_resize

This was followed by  3 bites of food, each on a little crostini.  All of them were fantastic, the pate campagne and the foie gras (naturally) being my favorites:

patedecampagne_resizepatedecampagnesign_resizesalmonrillete_resizesalmonrilletesign_resizefoiegrasapplebutter_resizefoiegrasapplebuttersign_resize

At that point, the two speakers walked into the room.  I introduced myself to Mr. Ruhlman and told him that I couldn’t stop reading his books, which is true.  I read The Soul of a Chef in about 3 days and I read The Reach of a Chef in less than 2 days.  I’m on the T’s or maybe the U’s in The Elements of Cooking right now, and I will curiously start to read The Making of a Chef last, after I’m done with Elements.

I also said hello to Chef Keller, but all I could really bring myself to say was just that — “Hello!”  I guess I was starstruck.  And I thought I was better than that (HA!).

The two made their way to the front, where the chairs were set up on the small stage, and the discussion was soon under way.

projection_resize1The two were projected onto a screen behind the stage so that the people sitting in the back could see the action up front.  I would have preferred if they just worked on their sound system, since it was noisy and staticky and you could not make out what they were saying at times.

Still, the discussion between the two was interesting.  Ruhlman asked a lot of questions for the chef to answer, and I took notes about a few interesting things I learned that night.  For example, Chef Keller said that the cell walls of vegetables (root vegetables such as carrots, in particular) break down at 83 degrees Centigrade.  If you tried to cook a carrot sous vide at 82.9 degrees Celsius, it would remain forever crunchy because plant cell walls would never break down at those temperatures (Plant cells, of course, are made up mostly of cellulose, which is strong, crystalline, not soluble in water, and not digestible; pectins, which ARE water soluble; and hemicellulose, which are fairly easily broken down by acids, bases, and heat).

Additionally, I learned that despite being able to hold food at a certain temperature indefinitely (short ribs at 134 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 days, for example), you could still overcook food.  The wonder of sous vide cooking is that meat can still look rare or raw, have the texture of cooked meat, and be overcooked like a well done steak.

Attention was also given to the vacuum sealer machines that they use in the French Laundry and per se kitchens.  The kitchen staff discovered that you could compress foods such as spinach and watermelon inside one of these machines.  These discoveries have led to inspired new dishes, such as the vegetarian version of beef carpaccio:  compressed watermelon topped with a gelled mango puree “yolk” (When I saw a picture of this dish, I was disheartened to see the mango yolk idea being used here, since I originally wanted to use a mango puree “yolk” for my bacon and eggs dessert idea.  I should probably just make it, take pictures, and blog about it instead of talking so much about it.  I know gelling fruit purees with compounds like sodium alginate and calcium chloride isn’t original — Ferran Adrià’s been doing it for at least 7 years — but I was still disheartened).

Keller answered a few more questions by Ruhlman, and then the floor was opened up for questions and discussion.  There were only a handful of professional chefs in the audience, and almost everybody in the audience knew what sous vide cooking was.  I was quite impressed with that response, although I guess it’s not a surprise, since we’ve been seeing a lot of sous vide cooking on, for example, the Food Network.

Then, as quickly as it started, the discussion was over, and it was time to line up to get free, personalized copies of the book.  I hung around for a bit first, enjoying a glass of the sparkling white wine that was also offered at the event:

sparkling_white_resize

sparklingwhiteglass_resize3

The two [Ruhlman and Keller] were very nice, and Thomas deviated from his usual message when signing books (“It’s all about finesse!”) to a more appropriate, “It’s all about time and temperature!”  I also managed to get my copy of The Elements of Cooking signed by Michael Ruhlman, although I felt embarrassed to have that book signed at this particular event, since I did not want to insult Chef Keller in anyway (it’s Thomas freaking Keller, after all).

napkin_resize

All guests received a parting gift as well.  I believe it is a brownie or similar chocolate cake type treat.  I have not opened mine yet.  I will do so as soon as I take a picture of it in good lighting, and I will post up pictures of that as well.