Cassoulet of Anger and Acceptance

Lots of emotion went into this dish.

Anger (This weather is pissing me right off.)

Hope (Something comfort food-y would give The Finger to this snow!)

Dejection (But said snow has made it impossible to drive to the store.)

Acceptance (Maybe I’m stuck, but there must be odds and ends around here that’ll do.)

That’s really the four-stage story behind this cassoulet — the product of snow and laziness.

Looking around the general kitchen area, I spied with my little eye:
lamb shoulder cubes
1 beef shin bone
Rancho Gordo flageolet beans
World Spice Merchants‘ Herbes de Provence (with lavender)
…and enough tomatoes, onions, garlic and beef stock to fill in the blanks

And that was it. I called it cassoulet, though I make no claims to authenticity.

——————————

Hard to believe that in just a few months we’ll go from this…

to this…

Spring can’t get here fast enough. I’ll even leave behind my precious cassoulet for it.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Cassoulet of Anger and Acceptance”

new post

Hey, all. I owe you a big wrap-up of our last week or so, but my mind is elsewhere today. Ru was attacked by a neighbor’s dog yesterday on his afternoon stroll with the dog walker and is at the animal hospital awaiting surgery this morning. Gil’s out of town until tomorrow, so I’m just waiting by the phone and cleaning the house from top to bottom to keep busy.

The situation is especially infuriating because this same dog (a husky) broke through his electric fence and attacked another dog just two weeks ago and it seems the owners didn’t do enough to make sure it couldn’t happen again. So our boy has a big chunk of his haunch missing and needs one surgery today to install a rubber drain and another in a month or so to remove the drain and close the wound. (Ru’s vet took plenty of pictures of the wounds and his office notified the police department, so thank goodness that was taken care of before I even got there.)

So I rushed home from work and got to the animal hospital in time to see him before they closed for the evening.

ru1
He was even more pitiful than this when I first saw him, but at least his bed made him comfortable.

ru2
There was some panting, but he was loopy from the pain meds, so he wasn’t in a bad mood at all. I think he enjoyed the dirty t-shirt I brought for him, too.

ru3
But even getting his favorite new toy (John Calamari or Squid Vicious, depending on which one of us you ask) didn’t stop him from accusing me with his eyes when I was ready to go.

a week’s wrap-up after the jump

Continue reading “new post”

Something old, something new


This isn’t your halmoni’s yuk gae jang.

I’ve been in love with Korean cooking for years, ever since I dated a Korean cowboy-type from Tulsa during my days of indentured servitude in grad school. He came from a family of amazing cooks and it really showed. Being me, I learned everything I could from him and then some, with the help of a basic, but now out-of-print cookbook.

The dishes that probably spring to mind when you think of Korean food are kimchi, savory-sweet bulgogi or my entry in the grilled-meats-that-can-make-you-weep contest galbee, but my favorite has always been yuk gae jang. It’s a beef soup so spicy with hot pepper paste it’ll turn your tongue inside-out. And I’m a fire eater, so you know, be careful if you order this in a restaurant.

Traditional versions of this soup still crop up in my kitchen from time to time, but over the years I’ve bastardized the recipe to make it more veg friendly. It’s meat-free, not vegetarian, but it’d be easy enough to substitute a mushroomy vegetable broth if you want to avoid animal products entirely.


Can you handle the heat?

I tweaked the basic recipe I last posted by making the stock with roasted meaty marrow bones to deepen the beef flavor. To increase the umami even more, I sautéed porcini mushrooms until they’d caramelized, then added them to the pot along with thinly sliced portobellos. It was just what I wanted that evening to warm my bones after the long greyhound hike, but was even better two days later when I stirred a couple of beaten eggs into the leftovers as they were reheating.

*  *  *

But I’m always on the lookout for something new, as my overfilled bookmarks folder and Google docs will confirm. One of the more recent entries was a truly vegetarian option from 101 Cookbooks, Giant Chipotle White Beans. It was a last-minute decision, so I didn’t have time to soak any of my Rancho Gordo selections; instead, I cracked open the two cans of beans we had in the pantry — cannellinis and garbanzos. It wasn’t as weird as you’d think when all was said and done, but I’d probably stick to just cannellinis in the future.

But I’m here to testify about the sauce, which was the star of the show — beautifully balanced, smoky and deceptively rich, and dead simple to make. (I doubled the sauce recipe so I could use the other half on pizza later in the week and think that was one of my better food decisions in a while. Truly spectacular.) The beans were topped with some Bulgarian feta I’ve had marinating downstairs for a couple of months, and even with the canned bean melange, the dish was a home run. We nearly ate it all in one sitting, but just managed to save enough for me to bring to work as leftovers. Yes, leftovers. Holy schmoley, this was good stuff.

*  *  *

Real Kitchens 101: Your weekend lagniappe.

Anything I call this post will sound gross

I don’t think I’m being especially controversial by saying our food preferences are largely culturally-influenced. My dad traveled to China on business quite a bit during his career, and came back with stories of food that often sounded delicious, but also occasionally made my toes curl. Being raised on alligator (usually dry, stringy and flavorless), frog legs (pretty darned good, if a little tough), and boudin (head cheese and rice stuffed into a sausage casing, and slap-yo-mama-good), I’ve had my share of strange looks when talking about meals that aren’t so popular outside of Louisiana. Yet the very same people who introduced me to those foods somehow make the poo-face at tongue, a meat popular at both hole-in-the-wall taquerias and Jewish delis in this part of the country.

Boggles the mind.


OK, maybe not so mind-boggling when I put it that way. Check out the underside.

But the gross-out factor aside, tongue is damned good eating — rich, moist, tender, and so, so flavorful. I realize I tend to wax rhapsodic about certain things, but I fell in love with this cut of meat probably 20 years ago and that’s a long time to go without shouting it from the mountaintop. Those were the years before Food Network, so I was still in my PBS cooking show phase; one of the many programs in the rotation was The Frugal Gourmet. Not my favorite by a long shot, I watched mostly to see how badly Jeff Smith would treat his poor assistant, Craig; I found it fascinating that someone so prickly could’ve been both a minister and a successful TV host. And it was on one of his shows that I was introduced to the wonders of the tongue taco. If you remember his enthusiastic proclamations at all, you’ll understand why I sought it out at the earliest opportunity — at Taqueria Corona in New Orleans. Those tacos never disappointed, and I even managed to turn on a few of my more adventurously-paletted friends to their charms.

But oddly enough, I’ve had trouble finding an equally good version here in New York (in Chelsea, specifically, since I don’t have much time for lunch). Sure, there’s a decent place across 6th Avenue, but the meat is too gamey for my taste. So when I saw tongue for sale at the Snoep Winkel Farm booth at the farmers’ market, I picked some up to try my hand at recreating the experience.

After exhaustively researching the topic, I decided on a simple approach — braising the tongue for four hours on the stove, cooling it overnight in its cooking liquid, then baking it in the oven for another hour the next day. That protracted cooking time is magical, so just step back and get ready for an experience you won’t forget.

To serve, I heated some corn tortillas in a cast iron skillet until they were lightly charred, then topped the tongue with a mixture of onion, cilantro, and lime juice, a sliver of avocado, shredded lettuce, and copious amounts of Cholula hot sauce. We had it for lunch and dinner yesterday, which should tell you how good it was.

And Santa Maria Pinquito beans were the perfect accompaniment, though I didn’t do anything special to them. After an overnight soak, I cooked them for a couple of hours with the usual cast of characters — beer, bay leaf, jalapenos, onions, garlic, and a smoked pork hock. At that point, I added cumin, paprika, chile powder, and salt and let everything simmer for another hour.

So if you’ve never tried tongue and don’t feel comfortable doing so, please give it a shot. For me? Pretty please? You won’t regret it.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Anything I call this post will sound gross”

Once de Mayo

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter P. You may recognize it from such words as Parsley, Pecorino, and my favorite word of late, Procrastination.

Last weekend’s kitchen adventures were spent in the service of Cinco de Mayo with a chicken and hominy soup and a recipe for beans that took the better part of a day to make, but were worth every last stinkin’ second.

But by the time the fifth rolled around, I just couldn’t bring myself to post anything about it.

What’s that word again? Oh yeah, Procrastination.

Which brings us to today.


The aforementioned soup.

Continue reading “Once de Mayo”