Friday, April 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza 2011: Gascony or bust

Drinking and Smoking in Seattle

If my new landlord knew I owned a Butane torch he never would have loaned me his pen to sign my rental agreement. I said yes to my new abode because I saw young asparagus growing among the weeds in the unkempt garden plot; I never gave fire detectors a thought. I guess it’s because I have a habit of ripping them out to avoid alerting my neighbors to the fact that I’m cooking. Needless to say, for this challenge I chose to observe “The Fifteen Foot Smoker Rule”: the one that rapidly spread like wildfire through college dorms and municipal buildings alike over the last two decades. I guess my only reprieve was that my ‘PBR’ (Pabst Blue Ribbon, for the uninitiated) didn’t need to be in a glaring red plastic Solo cup as it was during college. (Note to self: buy futures in glaring red plastic Solo cups: they’re recession-proof.)
Enough ranting, here’s our menu:

Hazelnut shell smoked pork loin, roasted and served with Chicory two ways - a la Gratin and Salad

Hazelnut shell smoked salmon poached in apple cider served with apple cider cooked lentils, braised “roasted” beets and toasted hazelnuts    

            A word about hazelnut shell smoking: Don’t get me wrong, I love smoking with tree wood, but there’s nothing quite like the smell of smoking hazelnut shells. It’s like the perfect street corner in New York City when the wind can’t stop bombarding your face with the street vendor’s sweet smell of roasting nuts. You always hear people going on about what their idea of heaven would be – one thing I know: mine would smell sweet and toasty like roasted nuts.

Your recipe for success:

1 2 1/2” slice of Pork Loin
1 T Kosher Salt
1 T Brown Sugar
1 large head Chicory
1 T Butter
1 T All-purpose Flour
1 C Chicken Stock
1 C Heavy Cream
2 grams Parmesan Cheese, grated
2 grams Gruyere Cheese, grated
1/4 C Hazelnuts
1 Orange
2 Pieces of Ham (optional)  
1 T Whole Grain Mustard

Lightly cure the pork loin. Place the pork loin on a plate or in a Tupperware container and rub the kosher salt and brown sugar into it. Refrigerate for 24 hours.  The next day uncover the loin at least 1 hour before you smoke it to develop what is known as a pellicle.

 I set up a rather ghetto smoking apparatus and all in all smoked the loin for about 45 minutes. While you’re smoking the loin, put the butter and flour into a sauce pot, stir and cook until it smells nutty. Then pat yourself on the back because you’ve made a roux. Stir the chicken stock and cream into the roux and simmer 20 minutes. You’ve made a béchamel sauce! While you’re simmering, boil a large pot of water and halve (length wise) and clean your chicory. Save the leaves for later. Once the water is at a boil, place the chicory along with about 3 tablespoons of salt in the pot and boil for 15 minutes. You want the leaves to turn a translucent dark green. However, you want the structural integrity of the root and green to remain.

I just have to say I’ve been waiting to braise greens for a while now - between Jane Grigson’s Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery and Julia Child’s French Chef DVD Series, it was bound to happen. This is Ms. Grigson’s recipe.
After 15 minutes, drain the chicory and pat it dry. If you like, wrap each respective half of chicory in a single piece of ham. Lay the chicory, wrapped or not, in a casserole pan and pour the béchamel sauce over it. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Place the casserole (uncovered) into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. If your hazelnuts aren’t toasted, put them into a sauté pan and put that into the oven with your casserole to cook for about 10 minutes or until fragrant. Take them out to cool.

When the pork loin has finished smoking, sear it on the fat side and pop it into the same oven with your casserole. You are looking for an internal temp of 135 degrees which should be about 40 minutes in the oven.
Wash and clean the chicory leaves you’ve saved. Cut them into bite sized pieces. Cut the rind away from the orange and divide it into segments.
Let the pork rest outside of the oven for about 20 minutes so that any juices can reabsorb back into the protein. Resting the meat will bring the internal temperature up to around 145 degrees.  By now your hazelnuts should be long out of the oven and cooled. Right before you’re ready to serve, pop the chicory casserole under the oven broiler for about 10 minutes to gratin the top. Cut your pork loin in half – toss your greens in some oil and vinegar, add the orange segments and toasted hazelnuts – add a drop of whole ground mustard to the plate and serve.

Recipe for success:

1 3oz portion of fish
1 t brown sugar
1 t kosher salt
2 medium red beets
1 c dried lentils
1 pint of apple cider
1 c chicken stock
¼ c cream
1 apple
1 T lemon juice
¼ c hazelnuts
Balsamic vinegar
Foie Gras scrap (optional)

Cure the fish using a light dusting of the combination of the brown sugar and kosher salt. Cover the fish and refrigerate it for 24 hours. The next day lightly rinse the fish under a steady stream of cold water and leave uncovered under refrigeration for at least 2 hours to develop a pellicle.

A new way that I love to cook vegetables is in their own juice. First peel the beets and discard the top then put through the juicer. Juice one of the beets into a sauce pot; add a bit of balsamic vinegar and honey to taste. Simmer the beet liquid on the stove top while you peel the other beet, discarding the tough skin. Continue to peel around the width of the beet yielding long thick sheets. Square off the sheets into manageable perfect rectangles and simmer in the beet juice until tender, about 20 minutes. You may want to wear gloves when handling beets. Beets will stain your clothes and hands when given the opportunity.
Place the lentils in a small pot with tall narrow sides in which you’ve put 1 cup of apple cider and the chicken stock. Cover the pot with foil and place it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. I check mine often because the worst thing in the world is a soggy broken mushy lentil. You are looking to have tender, yet not overcooked legumes here. At the same time turn your hazelnuts out onto a sauté pan and place in the oven with the lentils for about 10 minutes or until fragrant.
Set up your smoker. I used an indirect smoking technique and smoked the salmon for about 20 minutes. While I was smoking, I heated the remaining 1 c of apple cider on the stove to 145 degrees.  Once the salmon was finished smoking, I dropped it into the apple cider so that it was completely submerged, and poached it until it was just starting to flake:  about 3-5 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the liquid and let the poaching bath simmer so that the liquid begins to reduce. Taste the liquid as it reduces so that it doesn’t become too strong you’re looking for a syrupy consistence. Once you’re at that point when add the heavy cream and continue to simmer adding salt and pepper to taste. Cut the apple into a brunoise. Lightly drop a few drops of lemon juice (to keep it from browning-not for flavor) and grains of salt in with your diced apple and let it sit in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.        
 Optional: Okay so judging by my picture you may or may not know that I was at my place of employment while preparing this dish. I wanted to try this dish for a while because of a cider poached salmon I had read about in Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life. Coincidentally, I needed to put up a dish that my coworkers could taste and critique. I killed two birds with one stone. My coworkers loved this dish so much that it will probably make it to one of the menus at the restaurant where I work. My secret is that if I use foie gras in the dish it ups the stakes a bit,  so I tore pieces of foie gras from the lobe (the whole liver),  got a cast iron pan terribly hot – lightly seasoned the foie gras with salt and seared it really hard for a couple of seconds. Foie gras, apples, beets and lentils all go together quite well. If you have the opportunity to use foie gras, please do so.        
            For the plating: pat dry one side of the beet ribbon so that it doesn’t slip and place that side down on the plate. Place small piles of drained and cooked lentils on the plate. Place the cooked salmon on the ribbon and scatter the apples and foie gras together on the plate - a technique I saw used at Daniel Boulud's Lumière. Add a few micro greens, sauce the salmon, and call it a day. This dish can be served either warm or at room temperature – whatever you prefer. 

Delish! Cure on everyone!