Sunday, March 30, 2008
In an effort to minimize the farm's consumption of fossil fuels and the impact of heavy machinery on the soil Trent uses horses for tillage. Here he is striking a pose for sustainable agriculture while spreading compost. From the look of this picture it seems to me that his motivation for eschewing internal combustion engine powered machines in favor of horse-drawn apparatuses (like this manure/compost spreader in the photo above) has, at least in part, something to do with the more abundant opportunities afforded by the older technology to look cool while he works.
BTW, in the background to the left is the cow barn and to the right is the dairy barn containing the milking and cheese-making rooms, kitchen, aging room and retail-sales outlet.
By Saturday 10 piglets out of the litter of 11 that was delivered by the gray sow were alive and doing well. The same could not be said for the offspring of the black sow, who's numbers by Saturday AM had dwindled to three from an initial farrowing of 13.
I know we are raising these pigs to slaughter and turn into salami, but it is still sad and very frustrating to see them dying off so soon after birth. I'd like to think that it's the sow's fault for not being able to settle down and feed nurse them. But that's not the way it works. We are the stewards of these animals and their loss are partially our failures. We owed those pigs a good if brief life, and what they got was a brief period of hunger and an early death. It stinks.
So here is a slide show of how I put together a potato and leek torta rustica. It's pretty thrilling so you may want to swallow and aspirin or whatever before you look :-)
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
When you spend as much time in the kitchen as I have, the stuff that billows up from the memory well often has something to do with food. Such was the case last week as I was trying to figure out what to do with a surplus of pie dough. I could have frozen the dough, but doing that would have required that I remove all of the stuff that was piled on top of the chest freezer which, on Friday, included 5 gallons of stock, my tool box, 50 pounds of turkey, ten pounds of chicken, my camera bag and well, you get the idea. So anyway, I'm staring at the pie dough and then I look over at the big bag of potatoes in the corner of the room and I start thinking about Richard Avedon and then something along the lines of "Damn, I have not made Dorian's torta rustica in over twenty years."
My father's family has been cooking and eating torta rustica, a very simple double crust pie made from lard dough filled with rice or potato or spinach for generations. But the rusitca that I was thinking of was a much fancier version that I was taught to make by Dorian Leigh , (who had posed for Richard Avedon, hence the connection) at her home in Ridgefield, Ct in the early 1980's.
Dorian's torta rusitca was a magnificently complicated and delicious construction made from brioche dough and layers of spinach, Gruyere cheese and black forest ham, all baked in a spring form, allowed to cool and then pressed overnight. On the basis of the combination of ingredients alone I would have loved this dish, but what killed me was how it combined techniques from the sophisticated charcuterie I was trying to learn (layering of internal ingredients, pressing under weights to compress air pockets) and by how much the final product reminded me of a geologic stratigraphic section when it was cut. It also did not escape my attention that she had done something that well-heeled chefs have been doing forever: turned a peasant dish into haute cuisine and rendered it's name oxymoronic.
(What can I say? I'm easily amused.)
So with all this stuff scudding around in my head, I decided to make two torta rustica based on Dorian's model. Both were filled mostly with potatoes, leeks and Trent's (Hendricks Farms and Dairy) Gruyere cheese, but one I added a ring of Chicken sausage that I developed for the farm only two weeks ago (It's seasoned with lemon, thyme and a suspicion of garlic).
Er, ah, I did not write a recipe for this, but if anyone would like a walk-through, just email me and I'll throw something together.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
"According to Patricia Lynch Associates, which represents Hudson Valley Foie Gras, State Supreme Court Judge John Egan Jr., last week rejected a lawsuit [emphasis mine] against the Sullivan County farm which contended that foie gras was an “adulterated food product.
The Humane Society of the U.S. tried to say that the delicacy, made from fattened liver, was the product of a diseased animal but Egan disagreed."
New York Politics Capitol Confidential : Albany Times Union :
The other piece of the reason for my inability to feel comfortable articulating what I do is that although I have fished and gardened since I was old enough to bait a hook and (later) plant a row of tomatoes, I've never been so involved in the production and husbandry of the food I cook. Having to discuss how the food I prepare is produced beyond what a supplier has told me or what I've read in a book somewhere just hasn't been a big part of what I do. So in situations like now, when I want to tell you about the latest additions to what in effect is my pantry, I come up a bit short in the vocabulary department and have to dig into dictionaries to make up the deficit:
One of our purebred Berkshire gilts, is a gilt no longer. The gilt has farrowed, and in farrowing has become a sow and mother to 10 piglets. Here are the baby photos.
The world's poorest nations still harbor the greatest hunger risk. Clashes over bread in Egypt killed at least two people last week, and similar food riots broke out in Burkina Faso and Cameroon this month.
Monday, March 24, 2008
[One of the founders of eGullet] said he believes the genetic component of weight and health matter more than moderation and exercise. Although his father died from heart disease, he thinks that the state of medical knowledge on the relationship of diet to health changes so frequently that it can’t be trusted.
Some of his views about diet and health border on the extreme. “I think the whole diabetes thing is a major hoax,” he said. “They are overdiagnosing it.”
I think that just like their factory-food-scarfing, trailer-trash counterparts, many so called 'gourmands' are following the wrong model of how they should relate to food and eating. They are too focused on stimulating their senses of taste and smell and the concomitant affect on the pleasure centers of their brains. (I refer to this as the "junk-food syndrome," where junk is synonymous with "smack," "horse," "number-one" i.e. heroin.) Moreover, their approach to eating is a denial of what anyone with the slightest degree of altruism and worldliness understands is a fundamental truth: food is a privilege and regular overeating is an indirect insult to everyone who is and has ever been hungry and malnourished.
And chefs who overeat to the point where they are likely to become sick need to revisit how they think about what they do and it's existential underpinnings. Chefs who find themselves eating too often and becoming overweight, might consider nailing something like the following over their kitchen doors
- food is the material from which we build objects around which people gather and interact;
- food is sustenance that we make to give or sell;
- cooking is craft and craft is everything (and cooking is what justifies our existence);
- all of the above are of equal value and importance.
The Fat Pack Wonders if the Party’s Over - New York Times
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
If you have never seen the schnazola of a very pregnant Berkshire sow (she was supposed to farrow, two days ago) you can scratch off another "must do" from your life's to-do list. This picture was taken Saturday (3/22/08) at about 3:30 PM by Christian the Apprentice during one of his trips to the barnyard.
With nostrils like these, who needs eyes?
[I'd like to think that] You are never going to believe this one: Organic pancake batter in an aerosol can! Is this a damned abomination or what? Anyone who has ever made pancakes from scratch knows that there is nothing easier in the baking universe than making pancakes from scratch. Take a cup of flour (okay, cheat and use self-rising flour) add a few tablespoons of sugar, a few more of oil, a couple of small eggs, milk and stir. Duh!
And take a look at who is selling this over-packaged garbage: Whole Foods Supermarkets.
What's so "whole" about pancake batter in an aerosol can I wonder?
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Rip out your lawn and plant a garden? And while you are at it, add a chicken coop, a hog wallow and a fish pond. But make sure to check with your local zoning board and get all the proper permits.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Now this is great food writing! Stefan Gates visits a restaurant in Bejing that specializes in male genitals and wants us to know all about it. (My thanks to Gary Allen for the link.)
It’s good, and the penile nature of the meat lends an undeniable frisson of excitement to the meal. I tell the boss that “it’s the first time I’ve had penis in my mouth, but I like it and I’m going to do more of it”. Well, someone had to say it.
Want to read more Grasshopper?
Monday, March 17, 2008
Thus Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, its full name as printed on my bill, charged £252 for a three-course lunch for two, the only alcoholic drink being a bucks fizz. I don’t normally care about bills, even though I pay them myself without reimbursement. But this one had me reeling, and writhing.
I went with my delightful friend Adam Kenwright who owns London’s second largest theatre advertising agency. I’m sure he’ll overtake the number one spot currently held by Dewynters. He deserves to.
The Ducasse room has been widely criticised, as has its food. I found the premises very pleasant. The private “room”, a kind of white, sparkling tent, annoyed some people. I liked it. But not much else.
They offered dreadful Tufa water from Somerset. “You’re a French restaurant, why can’t you do Evian?” I asked. So they produced Evian.
Adam drank some Tufa and said, “It tastes like tap water.” Of the Evian he said, “That’s different altogether.” He was right. All this baloney about how marvellous it is to drink tap water is rubbish. It was rightly condemned by a real expert, the food guru Egon Ronay.
Did you like that? I'm sure you did, so why not click the link below and read the whole thing darling.
So Hardee's dispensed with any semblance of social conscience and in 2003 introduced the Thickburger. In 2004, this begat the downright lurid Monster Thickburger, a messy two-thirds of a pound of charbroiled Angus beef containing more than 1,400 calories and 107 grams of fat. Soon afterward, when McDonald's, under fire in the wake of Super Size Me, responded to critics by phasing out its supersize menu, Thickburgers were there to help fill the void. Sales soared, nutritionists cried foul, and a string of burgers of escalating perversity followed from both Hardee's and Carl's Jr.: the Breakfast Burger (a huge patty crowned with a fried egg, bacon, and hash browns), the Philly Cheese Steak Thickburger (topped with sliced steak and cheese), and the Pastrami Burger (take a guess).
Nothing but bad news this morning. The financial markets are in turmoil, my asthma is kicking up and the Chinook salmon appear to have disappeared from the Sacramento River.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
If anyone has identified the name and utility of this weird fork thing please let us know. Life has to go on, we all have to eat and sleep, tend to our gardens and flocks and breathe, yet none of this is possible until we know what this thing is.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Can you find three foods such that all three do not go together (by any reasonable definition of foods "going together") but every pair of them does go together?
The Incompatible Food Triad --- George W. Hart
On day one, they looked more like the pupae of the next horrendous thing to challenge Godzilla than anything that you or I might want to eat. But today -when I took these photos- they were beginning to look more like something your mom or dad would slice and put into your lunch for school.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Regular readers of this blog probably know that my interest in cooking competition is tepid at best. So tepid in fact, that last season I had to force myself to watch "The Next Iron Chef" when my good friend Mr. Ruhlman was on as a judge. But force myself I did, and I suppose I will do the same when Dale has his moment in the sun.
Good luck Dale!
Good luck! I'll be holding my breath in anticipation of the redemption of your reputation; you big porker you.
And while your hirelings are busy laying white paint all over the decrepit edifice of your business practices, why not try raising animals that are not tormented by confinement and producing some meat that is not mushy and bland? Perhaps then someone besides you will actually care that you are in danger of losing money and jobs.
Monday, March 10, 2008
"Restaurant Association of Maryland mobilized the chefs and restaurateurs of the state to beat back the effort to not only ban foie gras in food establishments but to ban its transport across the state." Foie Gras Phobia Meets Its Match in Maryland
Saturday, March 8, 2008
This week I pushed out the edge of the charcuterie envelope a bit by making really big fermented and dry cured salami. These each weigh about 15 pounds and, I suspect, will take several months to ripen. They are made from ground pork and cubed pork fat (in ratio @ 4:1) and seasoned with fennel, garlic and wine et al. I'm pretty confident that they will taste good, but a little worried about not being able to prevent them from drying out too fast and hardening up (case hardening).
As I have noted in earlier posts, we hang all of our salumi in the cheese aging room, which (I'm sure I have not mention) is very big and a bit tricky to keep properly humidified. We are all going to have to be vigilant in making sure that the room stays damp so that these great sausages, mature into proper salami, and achieve their rightful place in the temple of Esculentus.
Friday, March 7, 2008
This is not the first time that the notorious cheeseburger in a can has been the subject of a post at A Hunger Artist, neither is it likely to be the last time it is treated here. But this is nonetheless a momentous occasion in that it contains a link to a first person account (with video, thank you) of someone who actually ate one of these nightmare inducing monstrosities.
Taste Test: Cheeseburger In A Can | The A.V. Club
by The Foodist
I invited The Foodist to guest blog here after reading his blog and learning that he was a student at The Culinary Institute of America. I thought it would be interesting to me and my readers to hear from someone as he made his way along what is certainly one of the more unique paths in the world of post secondary education. Well, The Foodist is done with The CIA and is off to begin what I am sure will be a great career. Goodbye Foodist, and thanks for all your contributions, you will be missed.
So after countless hours, tests, hellish evenings, and sluggish mornings I now join the ranks of hundreds of others as a Alumni of the Culinary Institute of America. So how does it feel?
Does indifferent count?
I'm happy to be done, glad to be getting on, but at the same time there's a big piece of me that wishes it wasn't so. Not because I feel an overwhelming connection to the school or the people there, but because I feel like there's still much I can learn from the place.
There's a part of me that feels like I squandered the time I had. I could have spent it buried in the library, skulking around the kitchens watching, and picking teachers and instructor's brains. Then again when I say it like that, it just doesn't sound like fun to me.
Lets face it, I'm a cook. I love reading and learning as much as the next motivated guy, but sitting behind a desk for another 2 years just isn't me. You'd catch me on the roof with a French knife if it came to that.
But really I feel I could have used a little more time to learn or read over, a lot of that stuff is coming with me. Course Guides, menus, recipe packets. Hell, if it got printed on paper and was required to bring to class it's in a notebook and on my bookshelf. That was one of the best aspects about the school: going "Paperless" and working with an online database of course material, you can download it and take it with you when you go.
In the end, it's going to be the experience that carries me through. In my, albeit short, experience in this world I've come to realize it's not so much the information you are given, but the experience of having learned it that stays with you. You can tell me till your face turns blue how to make the perfect Hollandaise sauce, but until I do it with my own two hands it will never come out right for me. School was much the same way, now that I've done it training sessions, employee meetings, seminars; they'll all be a drop in the bucket compared to the last few years.
And though I am gone from that place, with another student every 3 weeks to push things along, the place is never really gone from you. There will be some that will roll their eyes when they speak of where they came from, some will boast with pride, others will mention it as if it was a second thought. The truth of it is its still in all of them, and they took it with them too.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Many thanks to my homeboy, Christian the Apprentice, for sending this my way.
Some of us shoot off our mouths and throw stuff when things do not go our way, while others shoot dope and drop things . (Okay, so what if many of these end up with book deals and their own TV shows. It's still not cool to scream and shoot dope, right?)
Then there are the chefs like Robert Irvine who lie like The Old Deceiver on Allegra in order to impress their way into lucrative jobs and media appearances, while other chefs actually kill people. Does anyone remember John Sweeney, the chef who preceded Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison, strangled 22 year old Dominque Dunne in 1982? Not much to worship in that pathetic excuse of a man, I think.
By comparison, Chef Kevin O'Connell who is accused of using his customers credit cards to pay his restaurant's bills, is a saint.
Chef Kevin O'Connell Jr. faces jail in Montana credit card thefts
MSG is at least as safe as salt when used in responsible amounts.
Of course, there are always going to be people who are convinced that MSG is responsible for everything from autism to xenophobia. But as I also discovered a long time ago, it's a heck of a lot easier to blame an ingredient in your diet for your health problems, than it is to accept that you might be an irrational screwball who is either over-consuming the ingredient or imagining the symptoms.
Anyone remember the "white sugar" scare (which was preceded by the salt scare and the fat scare) when refined sugar was being blamed for hyperactivity in children, migraine headaches and the demise of reason? That was fun. It's not really over of course, I still meet plenty of people who think that sucrose is evil. But more often than not, if someone is going to be phobic about sugar these days they are going to blame corn-syrup for their obesity or obsessive compulsive behavior or whatever.
I suppose there is no way to avoid these periodic episodes of ingredient phobia. Americans have never been an overly reflective people, and when most folks get their science news from media that is by necessity sensationalist, all it takes is a few million or so credulous and frightened people to create another food bogeyman.
Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor - New York Times
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Stay tuned for nothing to change.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Members of Congress say they want answers from the owner of a Southern California slaughterhouse involved in last month's massive beef recall.
Congressman John Dingell says members of a House oversight subcommittee will meet Wednesday to vote for a subpoena of Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. owner Steve Mendell. The Michigan Democrat says Mendell will be required to testify next week on Capitol Hill. Mendell was a no-show at a meeting of the subcommittee last week.
Federal officials recalled 143 million pounds of beef last month after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing workers at the slaughterhouse abusing sick and crippled cows. [Source]
I'm not sure what is responsible for the nearly complete sense of alienation that I experience almost every time I go into the supermarket. But today that feeling that I was a stranger in a strange land, coupled with a maddening resentment that I was dependent on such a vulgar and banal institution, would have been too much to bear if I was not such an intrinsically optimistic kind of guy :-)
I think what pushed me right up to the edge of running out of the door whilst tearing at the miserly patch of hair that my genome has determined will be the "freak flag" of my middle age, was the recognition that there was very little in that nearly 50 thousand square foot monstrosity that I could buy. I'm guessing that more than 90 % of the foodstuff in there is either offensive to me (think: pallid thawed fish; frozen/dehydrated/vacuum-sealed/canned bake, boil or nuke-n-serve space food) or so bizarre in appearance that I cannot think of it as food for humans. Even a lot of the "good stuff" sucks.
For example, they only sell Parmigiano Reggiano in wedges that have been vacuum-sealed. The vacuuming compresses the cheese and ruins the texture so all it is really good for is grating.
Take a good long look at the picture of supermarket shelves in the upper left hand corner of this post. Squint a bit so the divisions between the packages becomes blurred and the colors run together. Does it look like food?
I did not have an epiphany, not even close. I've felt like a stranger in a strange land when I shop in supermarkets for at least 30 years. But 30 years ago the markets were smaller, and with a lot less stuff that looked like it was designed to be eaten by people who were not so indifferent to what they were eating.
Monday, March 3, 2008
School Popularity Affects Girls Weights
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Wow! I suppose we'd all be well advised to be more careful about the claims we make on our CVs.
I think even I need to be careful. After all, I did not work as Marilyn Monroe's personal chef after I ran the kitchen at Big Pink where Bob Dylan and The Band recorded the album Music From Big Pink. It was the other way around (or was Marilyn already dead?). And I think that PhD from Yale in Art History was really from Brown. Or was it NYU?
Anyway, it's definitely essentially true that after I became a Certified Master Chef at the age of 15 and trained the kitchen staff of the Nixon White House, I went on to become the youngest Member of Parliament to ever, errr...