Friday, January 29, 2010

Eat Pork Get Pork

According to the President of Argentina, eating pork means that you will pork more than if you ate Viagra. Is this merely another lame attempt by a proponent of homeopathy to undermine the legitimacy of conventional pharmaceuticals or is something more insidious going on? I wonder what Dr Mercola thinks about this? ;-)

Argentine president: Eat pork, spice your sex life - Yahoo! Finance

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ruff News for Chinese Pet Food Lovers

Chinese legal experts call for ban on eating cats and dogs

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gutting a Mangalitsa

I'm tired so I'll not mince words. This video show Christoph Wisener demonstrating how to disembowel a pig such that all of the internal organs can be harvested for food. Every cut and motion he makes are all aimed at making sure that fecal material does not escape and that each organ emerges from the pig unscathed. It looks a lot easier than it is, although I'm sure if you did it a couple of dozen times it would not be difficult at all.

We're Gaga for Guts! | The New York Observer

So someone at the New York Observer thinks that offal is something special and that people who cook and eat brains and kidneys are pushing the edge of the envelope. Wow, sometimes I really think that I was born into a world too old too late...

We're Gaga for Guts! | The New York Observer

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to Dress a Hog

As regular visitors to this blog already know, I spent his past weekend in Brancheville New Jersey slaughtering, butchering and cooking Mangalitsa pigs under the auspices of two of the world's leading breeders and artisan butchers of this very rare and exceedingly fat and fine beast, Christoph and Isabell Wiesner of Göllersdorf, Austria. Also in attendance was Heath Putnam who is responsible for introducing the Mangalitsa into North America and who's business Wooly Pigs supplies neutered boars to Micheal Clampffer who manages Mosefund Mangalitsa where the event was held.

The rest of the group was made of mostly of chefs, cooks and restaurateurs who use or want to use Mangalitsa pork in their work. But not everyone was a culinary professional, that's for damned sure. Morgan owns a bar in Houston and a farm where he's raising 40 Mangaltisa hogs. Phil, who took the photo at the top of the page,  is a surgeon who has a small farm in Seattle where he keeps a small herd of Scottish Highland cattle and, check this out, is building out a small yet-to-be-approved USDA abattoir for slaughtering and butchering. Another guy was a political scientist who works at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC. An eclectic bunch of people, for sure, all united by an abiding passion for taking charge of what they cook and eat in ways that most people would think are totally whacked.
Here is a video taken in the early morning hours of Saturday a few minutes after the pig that is being dressed was killed. There is a video of the killing here. I was surprised by the difference the in my response to seeing it on tape versus seeing it in person. When it was happening did not bother me at all, but when I watch the video I wince. Not sure what that is about.

I'm going to follow this video up soon with one that shows the pig being cut and gutted. I'll bet you can't wait.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This is Cooking!

Back when I was teaching Introduction to Gastronomy at the CIA, I used to run a lesson that I titled "The Socratic Cook" that, in the spirit of Socratic didacticism, made no propositions other than that it was possible to be a Socratic cook if one was willing to ask a lot of questions. Among the many questions that I posed in this lesson were several that I suspect many students thought was absurd: What is cooking? When does cooking begin and end?

The goal of this lesson was not really to find answers to these questions (That would have been an impossible goal given that none of these can actually be definitively answered.) but rather to lead my class to a place where they could see -or begin to see- how rich with experience the cooking life can be if we stay curious and don't try to place limitations on what we think we are supposed to be doing as we pursue our craft. The truth of this was driven home to me big time when, this past weekend, I spent two days at Mosefund Mangalitsa Farm in New Jersey with a group of people (most, but not all of them chefs) who'd come from as from from as far away as Seattle and Houston to learn how to slaughter, butcher, cook and cure hogs from two masters of the craft, Christoph and Isabell Wiesner.

Christoph and Isabell, who breed and farm Mangalitsa hogs in their native Austria (Christoph is president of the Mangalitsa Pig Breeders Union of Austria or “Interessensgemeinschaft der Wollschweinzüchter Österreichs” -IGWÖ) ; Isabell Zernitz-Wiesner is the manager of their farm Arche De Wisentale.) were invited to Mosefund to run the workshop (Pigstock 2010) by Michael Clampffer who raises Mangalitsa pigs for sale to individuals, restaurants and butcher shops. I was there as a guest of Michael who had been my student at CIA in, not coincidentally, Introduction to Gastronomy.*

So what did we do? Well, on Saturday Christoph and Isabell taught us how to slaughter, clean and butcher hogs that, unlike most hogs, have long hair and very large amounts of fat. In all seven hogs were killed. (I did not get to kill any because there were about twenty people in the class who had paid to be there, and since enough of them wanted to slaughter, I had to bow out.) We roasted one the hogs for dinner and the others were eventually taken home by the students who'd paid an up-charge for the meat. On Sunday we drove over to the local firehouse where Isabell showed the group how to turn the offal into dishes like head cheese and blood sausage.

Here is a slide show of some of what happened on Saturday. There are no images of slaughtering here because I did not shoot any that were good enough to include. I did record video of the pig we would have for dinner being slaughtered, however, when I tried to load it to my PC I discovered that my camera was imcompatible with my 64 bit version of that piece of garbage known as Vista. I'll load it when I van wrest my daughter's 32bit Vista-driven machine from her social-networking addicted fingers.

*I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I am by these three. But I'll do it anyway. Christoph, a former civil engineer, showed great expertise in breeding, meat science and butchery. I was equally impressed by his humane approach to animal husbandry and his humility. I did not discuss breeding or meat science with Isabell but I was really impressed by her knowledge of animal behavior and husbandry. She's just as skilled as Christoph at the slaughter plus she's a damned fine cook. Of course, it was Michael who organized the weekend (there is another workshop next week) and did a fabulous job of making sure everything happened when it was supposed to happen and without incident.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's a Fork

Almost two years ago, Tyrone Barton, was working as the Chef on a hospital ship when he found this peculiar looking utensil. Not knowing what it was, he sent this picture to me hoping that I might be able to identify it. When I could not, I emailed everyone on my contact list asking them to try to figure out what it was. There were lots of speculative responses but no one could say for sure what the thing was. I was pretty sure it was part of a carving set, but was not willing to stick my neck out and say so without proof.

Well, I am happy to announce that the mystery is over, done, solved, extinct. JokeyJoe (I've no idea who he is.) has discovered that the double sided forky thing is indeed part of a carving set that was made by the Sheffield Company. Here is a link to a photo and description of a set that JokeyJoe found for sale on Ebay.
Thanks JokeyJoe! I'm sure there are hundreds of cooking enthussiats who will sleep a little bit better tonignt knowing that this identity of this vaguely threatening device has been settled.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Minimalist of Technique

I'm torn between ignoring this guy altogether and making hay out of his mistakes and sloppy technique by way of reminding myself and others how NOT to cook .

Once again the author of the New York Times column "The Minimalist" shows us that cooking does not have to take a long time as long as we minimize the degree of care and skill that we bring to the kitchen. But first let me point out what Mr. Bittman gets right or does well as he shows us how to cook a Tri-tip steak with romanesco sauce.

1) He gets the pan hot before he puts the meat in to cook.
2) The sauce, although not to my taste, is well-crafted

Now the stuff that I don't recommend.

His take on bovine anatomy would get him in a lot of trouble if he was butchering a cow for someone who understood the retail value of a Tri-tip steak. Last time I looked, cattle were quadrupedal and bilaterally symmetrical, which implies that there are two of each distinct muscles for every animal, making this statement false
"First, there is only one per cow, so it is not all that common."

Tri-tips are located at the posterior-ventral end of the sirloin between the round (hind leg) and the sirloin (think of sirloin as the hip). Since each cow has two sides then there should be TWO tri-tips per cow, not one.

His 500 degree oven is much too hot. The evidence for the overheated oven is in the appearance of the meat after it is cut. Notice the thick band of well-done and the small lens of rare towards the center. That type of layering is indicative of very rapid heating associated with high oven temperatures and usually results in
  1. Higher rates of moisture loss
  2. Reduced denaturation of connective tissue due to reduce availability of water (moisture) for hydrolysis
  3. More rapid coagulation and shortening of muscle fibers resulting in tougher meat that is also more prone to squeeze out water

Making an already bad situation worse, despite his advice to let the meat rest  he does not let the meat rest before slicing so juice leaks out at an accelerated rate. Also, while the meat may have been at 125 degrees F when he took it out of the oven the meat ends up being almost well-done because the overheated oven made the outer layers of the meat too hot, thereby making the meat "carry-over" too much.if he had used a more moderate oven temperature, say 350 or 375 degrees F, there would have been less carry-over and the meat would have been more homogeneously red (rare).

Further capitalizing on an already nearly ruined piece of beef he uses a serrated knife which exacerbates moisture loss by "sawing" instead of "snipping" the muscle fibers thereby maximizing their surface area for water loss. The serrated knife also makes ugly "wavy" looking slices for a highly unprofessional presentation.

"The Minimalist - Tri-Tip Is a Delicious Cut of Steak, but Hard to Get -

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pâté ain't what it used to be

I was mildly relieved to see a recent comment thread following a post about a culinary expert who's cooking technique might benefit from a stint at Culinary Boot Camp, develop into a discussion of culinary nomenclature.

Things can become very nasty very quickly when someone criticizes an other who has achieved "expert" status (no matter how ill-deserved that status might be) and I have learned to expect to be verbally beaten about the head whenever I take the unusual (for me) step of pointing out that somebody's emperor is buck naked and doesn't seem to know or care that his prosthetic phallus is dangling down there for everyone to see.

The point at which the thread in question turned away from a discussion of the merits of my argument for regarding the "expert" as technically inept (I doubt that I could ask this guy to fry an egg and expect him to get it right the first time.) came when Scotty questioned the expert's use of the word pâté (pr. pah-tay) when referring to a dish of molded pureed chicken liver. Scotty claimed that the expert's pâté was not really pâté because it was not covered or enclosed in a crust. This lead me to disagree and make the counterclaim that it was pâté. But my argument ended up falling apart because I neglected to add accent marks. Anyway, what followed was kind a mess so I thought I would try to sort it out now. Here goes

In old-school French gastronomy pâté (literally paste) was usually a meat, poultry, game, fish or vegetable dish (or some combination thereof) covered or surrounded by a pastry crust and baked. The the meat (or whatever the main ingredient was) could be ground, chopped, pureed, layered (or some combination thereof) and was often highly seasoned. If the dish was baked in an earthenware mold, it was pâté en terrine. The truth of this becomes especially obvious when you look in French cookbooks published prior to World War II. After that, it changes.

Nowadays, pâté can refer to any meat/vegetable/game/poultry/fish where the main ingredient is ground, chopped, pureed, layered (or some combination thereof). Often the modern pâté is baked in a mold, but is can also be precooked and molded. When a modern pâté is topped or surrounded by pastry crust it is called
pâté en croûte (croûte = crust). Whether the modern pâté has a crust or not, if it is baked in or poured into an earthenware mold it is called pâté en terrine.

In old and new school French gastronmy the word pâte ( pr. paht; also literally "paste" but inflected to suggest kneading /squishing -thanks Linda) usually refers to dough (as in pâte a choux, puff paste & pâte nouille, noodle dough) but can also refer to various preparations of chocolate and other sweet and savory paste like concoctions.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One way to break down a lamb

There are many ways to skin a cat and just as many ways to break down a carcass. Here I demonstrate how I broke down one of the lambs that Trent Hendricks and I bought in November. I don't butcher them this way all the time. Sometimes they come back from the slaughterhouse split in half down the backbone, which makes them easier to cut (because I don't have to split them) but makes it difficult to determine the yield of salable product and waste from each animal.

Since I don't have unlimited time to take pictures while I'm working and there isn't anyone who has enough free time to shoot them for me, I limited my photo shoot to show how I broke the carcass down into primal and subprimal cuts. I did not, for example, show how I cut rib and loin chops, boned out butt roasts etc.

Tom Schneller who teaches meat fabrication at The Culinary Institute of America and is the author of two terrific books on meat and poultry butchering, reminded me to tell readers of A Hunger Artist that if you are planning to use a meat saw to cut lamb (or any other carcass) be sure the blade is very sharp. If the blade is dull, it will tear up the meat, bounce off bone and make lots of coarse bone dust -in other words, it'll ruin your day.