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February, 2010:

Charcuterie Board

First course goodness

Above is a picture of the first course from my birthday dinner this year.  There’s no pork on the board but I think this is a pretty ideal charcuterie selection.

Starting from the eleven o’clock position and moving clockwise the players on this team are my pickled beans and pearls, duck rilettes, pickled carrots, duck breast “prosciutto” and a lentil escargot terrine.

The lentil and escargot terrine is a recipe taken from Stephane Reynaud’s Terrine.  Though released less than two years ago Terrine has a very old-school cookbook feel to it.  The recipes are all for one type of preparation and are limited to five categories (vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, and dessert and the latter two are more interesting than expected and definitely not quota fillers) and even more remarkable, in the pictures the entire dish is in focus and entirely free of back-to-the-land pastoral scenes. (more…)

Recipe Search: Cornichons

Store-bought gherkins

I remember seeing a blog post last summer that featured perhaps the most hardcore pickling recipe I have ever come across.  It was for cornichons–the roughly-equivalent French version of the Anglo-Indian gherkins.  I may be romaticising it slightly but I seem to remember this particular method calling for bathing the cucumbers in pure acid (or at least an acid solution at the minimally-safe point of dillution; citric maybe? acetic?) before they go into a traditional brine.  The idea, as I recall, is that the acid makes the pickles tart but also helps shrink the cucumbers down to size.

Aside from finding the actual blog post my intuition is that I might get the most authentic cornichon recipe from either Elizabeth David or Jane Grigson.  Any thoughts on this?  Anyone know of another source for a really authentic cornichon recipe?  The Ball Blue of Preserving only has a recipe for sweet gherkins that uses a cup of sugar per pound of cucumbers–so definitely not what I’m after.  Foodie and the Everyman has a pretty kick-ass recipe for gherkins that I may ask to borrow but won’t truly be satisfied unless I can find the recipe that calls for those black PVC, mad-scientist gloves.

I am particularly motivated to try making cornichons for two reasons.  First, they go so well with charcuterie that as I embark on more curing adventures like the duck breast prosciutto I want to be able to offer the whole experience without resorting to store-bought.  I also get the sense that these smaller pickles would stand up much better to a hot-water canning process, and therefore shelf-storage than the lacto-fermented pickles.  It’s a shame to kill the living goodness of a wild pickle by cooking it for preservation and because the cornichons are smaller they go into smaller jars and therefore need a shorter processing time.

Fresh cucumber season is still five months away so there is definitely time.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Great Popcorn Experiment

Popcorn kernels

On Tuesday I celebrated our first anniversary here at Food With Legs.  One of the things I dig most about writing this website is the opportunity to look back at what I was cooking in the past and re-examine techniques.  I was inspired by some talk on Twitter by Michael Ruhlman (author of Ratio, Charcuterie, and others) this week to take another look at my stovetop popcorn recipe.

I no longer lead a microwave-free lifestyle but I still like the idea of making popcorn on the stovetop.  Ruhlman pointed to his post from January 2009 where he gives his recipe for making stovetop popcorn or “pot popcorn” as his son calls it.  His big thing is not preheating the oil before the kernels go in.  My method uses the pretty typical three kernels as a thermostat to judge when the oil is sufficiently preheated.  The difference seems interesting, Ruhlman usually knows what he’s talking about (and seems pretty adamant in this case), and popcorn is cheap so I consider this an ideal situation for a head-to-head, slightly scientific Pop Off. (more…)

Review: The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder

Last August I posted a review of The Stockyards burger but for some reason I always seem to overlook The Stockyards when thinking of a place to eat.  Maybe Corey Mintz was right that St. Clair, just west of Christie, is too difficult to get too.  Luckily, I’ve been in the neighbourhood in the past few months and have gone back to sample more of the menu.

The Stockyards' fried chicken and fries

This fried chicken ($13.50) is easily the best I have ever tasted.  Fried chicken has two contrasting components a crispy, sometimes even crunchy crust that needs to be seasoned with a perfect touch and the chicken. A careful balance of timing needs to be struck between the two because not enough time in the deep fryer results in a flabby, doughy crust and too long makes for overcooked chicken.  At the Stockyards they have found the sweet spot that produces the perfect crust and chicken with just a hint of pink and a seemingly inexhaustible juiciness.  The portion size is so generous that if it weren’t so good–or if I had more self-control–it could easily make two meals.

Tower of excellent onion rings

I touched on the fries in my earlier post.  I have found on the two visits when I had fries that they were over-seasoned.  On nights when the demand for fries is slow I’m sure they’d be happy to mix a lightly-seasoned batch.  This advice applies particularly if you’re going to use your fries for their most godly purpose: to catch the already-seasoned drippings from an order of fried chicken.  The other side I have tried, the tower of onion rings ($5), reveals another spot-on use of deep fryer voodoo.  The batter is a crsipy and flaky combination and the onions are cooked well enough that don’t slither free from the crust on the first bite.

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Pancetta Sweet Potato Waffles

Sweet potato waffles with Ad Hoc at Home fried chicken and rapini

New year’s resolutions don’t resonate with me.  They always strike me as too general (I’m going to eat better), unattainable (drink less), or things that you shouldn’t need a resolution for (be nicer to friends and family).  For some reason Lenten resolutions make more sense to me.  The idea of giving up something that we know we shouldn’t do, that will be difficult to do without  so that we are reminded that with spiritual redemption comes responsibility seems about right.

Lenten resolutions are also attractive because they only last for the forty days of Lent, between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Sundays are considered mini-Easters so they don’t count.  I suspect this is partly so that those who give up booze for Lent can still take communion and note that St. Patrick’s Day is considered a Sunday in Ireland (even if the rest of the world soberly maintains that the day between Monday and Wednesday is “Tuesday”) when it falls during Lent.  In past years I have abstained from pop (which may be the new tobacco), french fries (in residence we were served a take on the fried potato every day at lunch), and swearing in mixed company.  This year I’m going to try to give up all cured or smoked pork products.  No bacon, no ham, no dry-cured sausage. (more…)