Monday, March 26, 2012

Why is taste historically stunted?

I have a serious question. This weekend I spoke before the Renaissance Society of America about food, of course. It occured to me that no one present would have the slightest qualms about watching a play of this era, looking at a 500 year old painting, or hearing Renaissance music. They do it all the time. It's their profession! Then at the reception, with marvellous food mind you, it occured to me: what would happen if you served them Renaissance food? I mean sweet chicken blancmanger, peacocks resewn into their feathers spewing flames, sweet sour perfumed sauces. Sugar and cinnamon on everything. They would run in terror. They might be amused for a few minutes, but no one in their right mind would take it seriously and honestly eat it with enjoyment. Why are our historic sensibilities completely and utterly stunted when it comes to gastronomy, but so highly refined for the other arts? Is there something inherently different about taste, because we ingest it? So it becomes more closely bound to our own time than any other kind of taste? Or is it because historians set the canons of taste for the past in the other arts but have never done it for food? Everyone recognizes the Mona Lisa but would be very hard pressed to identify a signature Renaissance dish.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Corned Beast

Ah, SO sorry I forgot to put a picture up. It's my sourdough roasted and sliced horizontally, my sauerkraut, my mustard, this wicked winey corned beef and I think melted cheese too. Browned in butter, GASP!

If you haven't done so already, now's the time to start your corned beast for St. Patrick's Day. I did it yesterday, and a full week to cure is about right. The reason to do it is not cost: corned beef was $3.99 a pound in the supermarket yesterday and raw brisket was $4.99. You do it because it's fun! And tastes better, because you can do whatever you like with it. Moreover, you don't need a buy a huge honking hunk of beast if you only want a bit. I bought a 2 lbs brisket end with a nice cap of fat. To start: sprinkle generously with salt - a little more than if you were just going to cook this. (I actually used a red salt impregnated with French wine that my friend Lissa in Paris gave me, but regular sea salt is fine.) Then very lightly sprinkle with pink salt. (Instacure #1) Then add whatever you like - I used juniper berries sent to me by Miss Butterpowered Bike from Colorado. Plus coriander, black pepper and bay leaves. Throw it in a leakproof ziplock and into the fridge for a week. Now here's the divergence. Forget boiling it. Much of the flavor is lost in the water. So after it's thoroughly cured, rinse it off. I like to put it in a casserole on a bed of sauerkraut (your own), add water or other liquid (such as beer - your own), cover and bake slowly for about 3 or 4 hours undisturbed. Serve on toasted rye (your own) with a good smear of mustard (also you own) along with the kraut. It's LOVELY.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kombucha Egg

This morning two long running experiments came together fortuitiously. First there is komucha. I have tasted many that were positively vile with seaweed and other garbage. Then others that just tasted like fruity vinegar. But I imagined just a sweet tea kind of komucha would be lovely. So I just made some black tea with sugar and threw in a disk of vinegar mother to see what might happen. Three weeks later it is perfectly delightful. Tart tea vinegar. Not effervescent, maybe because I left the lid off? But then it occured to me, if this is really just vinegar why not throw in some hardboiled eggs and see what happens? I didn't salt it, but maybe should have. We shall see. If it works, maybe vegetables would pickle nicely in it too. Does anyone have experience with this?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Circus Peanut Soup

This is a West African Recipe of such elegance and beauty that the only way to properly defile it is to use the most heinous of all mass produced junk foods: bright orange vaguely marshmallow-like, artificially banana flavored, tough chewy bright orange circus peanuts. They are the very antithesis of food. I love them. You'll need a whole 3.5 ounce bag, preferably stale. I bought mine at Walgreens. This is a serving for two as a starter; add more ingredients to make a big pot. In a small saucepan, brown 3 chicken thighs with skin and bones in a tablespoon of olive oil. Remove them, add one chopped onion, and a half cup each chopped red and green bell pepper. Add a tablespoon of minced ginger, and crushed red pepper to taste, plus some toasted and ground coriander. Then grate in two roma tomatoes, without the peel. Have fun here, you can add whatever you like. Brown the vegetables and add the chicken back in. Cover with water and simmer for about 45 mintues. Remove the chicken and discard the skin and bones. Shred the chicken and return to the pot. Taste and make it hotter if you like. Throw in the whole bag of circus peanuts and let them melt. There will be a jolt of sweetness, so adjust with a touch of acid or mor heat if you like. Garnish with a sliced circus peanut. As you will see the gelatinous goo thickens the soup well. Not perhaps as nice as peanut butter, so if you use a touch of the latter I wont tell. But here's the most perverse part. IT ACTUALLY TASTES GOOD! *I bet you could make this with PEEPS too. Next will be cooking with Necco Wafers.