Sorrel, Chicory and Crispy Ear Salad

This is a fine accompaniment for Brawn.  You will need a pig’s ears, cooked as in the recipe on page 39.

This was one of the first recipes I completed during the 24-hour cook-a-thon that happened many moons ago.  Since its preparation was a solo act, I’ll just present it in the usual fashion.

IMG_3378.jpg

Two blushing-pink pig ears are a nice sort of hello, aren’t they?  My face just broke out into a broad grin as I recalled how excellent they turned out.  If you like bacon on your salads, I’m going to do my best to sway you into considering fried, sliced pig ears instead.  Mind you, bacon usually doesn’t need the swipe or two from a disposable razor to remove a few stray embedded hairs.  This pair of ears did.

Wow, I’m not doing a great job so far swaying you. Um, moving on.

IMG_3390.jpg

The ears went into a simmering pot of pork stock for an hour to cook.  Fairly straightforward and simple, which was great because I needed to tend to other dishes I was preparing at the same time.

IMG_3415.jpg

An hour later I fished the ears out, and set them aside to cool and firm up before I sliced them.

IMG_3452.jpg

It’s just easier to slice pig ears when they’re firm. Here’s a tip for those of you attempting to fry pig ears:  you can’t slice them thinly enough.

IMG_3459.jpg

Really thin slices crisp up wonderfully, and the cartilage is just enough to provide an interesting textural aspect along with the rich porky flavor.

With the hard part completed all that was left was preparing the greens.

IMG_3395.jpg

First up was the sorrel. Sorrel leaves are packed with tart, lemongrass notes that liven up salads something fierce. They’re one of my favorite discoveries so far from starting this website. I removed the stems from each leave and washed them thoroughly.

IMG_3400.jpg

Mr. Henderson calls for two heads of chicory, but since I was the only person going to give it a shot, one would more than suffice. A few quick chops and the chicory was ready.  I then mixed the chicory with the sorrel, a handful of curly parsley leaves, a small amount of capers and a shot of vinaigrette.  A few choice slices of pig ear on top and the salad was finished.

IMG_3482.jpg

Light, simple and refreshing. This recipe is an excellent way to use spare pig ears if you’ve purchased a whole hog’s head to make brawn or a terrine. And bacon lovers, how’s that salad topping looking to you?  From one bacon-lover to another, you need to give this a shot.

One down, thirty nine to go.

Warm Salt Cod, Little Gem, and Tomato

This may sound similar to the preceding Anchovy, Little Gem, and Tomato salad, but it is fundamentally different.  We salt our own cod, which has not been dried, so it is firm but has not developed that peculiarly nature that is ideal for other dishes.  This is a dish you have to start a week in advance.

I’m ecstatic to mention that thanks to my friend Paul C. over at Xesla Research Organisation, I’m getting the chance to fly to Sacramento and partake in the Nov. 11 rematch of last year’s “Iron Chef Duck” cooking competition between Chef Michael Tuohy of Grange restaurant and the awesome Hank Shaw.  Paul won Hank’s contest with a down-right mouth-watering entry of smoked duck confit and was kind enough to ask me along.  How could I possibly say no?  Paul, I owe you one.

As Mr. Henderson mentions above, this recipe does ring familiar for me.  Three years ago (Wow, it’s been that long?) I made the Anchovy, Little Gem and Tomato recipe as a salad for a group of my friends.  As someone that has made and eaten both salads, I agree with Mr. Henderson’s assessment.  That recipe is lighter fare, meant to be nothing more than a simple starter salad.  This one is a bit more, and one could enjoy it for lunch or even a light dinner and be quite happy.

IMG_1921.jpg

I started off by taking the fillets of cod that had been salted earlier and rinsed them clean of a layer of salt before letting them soak in a bowl of clean water overnight to rehydrate them

IMG_1939.jpg

The next day I sliced two tomatoes in twain, gave them a light coating of olive oil before a quick seasoning of salt and pepper. Into the oven they went to roast a little while. The roasting removes some of the water from the tomatoes which in turn softens the flesh while concentrating their flavor and sweetness.

IMG_1965.jpg

After a bit the tomatoes were properly roasted. I removed them from the pan…

IMG_1974.jpg

…and added a healthy amount of aioli. The powerful emulsion was mixed with the leftover oily tomato juice. This would end up being the dressing for the salad.

IMG_1953.jpg

Now that the salted cod had re-hydrated and desalinated, it needed to be cooked. Mr. Henderson asks that the fillets be cut into 1-inch cubes.

IMG_1961.jpg

The cubes were added to a pan of clean, simmering water for about five minutes.

IMG_1979.jpg

All of the previously mentioned ingredients, plus the lettuce and a handful of chopped curly parsley, were placed in a bowl and tossed carefully to combine.

IMG_1989.jpg

And here’s the final product. It was a huge shock when the first bite of salted cod ended up not being salty at all. Instead it sported a sort of muted fish flavor that was really soothing and enjoyable. The aioli based dressing added a slight bite while the roasted tomatoes rounded things out with their sweet acidity. This is an excellent salad that only people with serious issues with fish would balk at. Actually, I think I’ll be making this again for lunch next week.

One down, forty three to go.

Deconstructed Piccalilli

Traditionally, piccalilli is a spirited yellow crunchy vegetable pickle.  This salad was created by my sous-chef, Dorothy Harrison.  Not too surprisingly, it goes very well with cold meats or oily fish, as well as being a fine dish eaten by itself.

I’m having a tough time calling this a “recipe”.  It’s just so darn simple to make, it feels like the printer forgot some of the steps.

Having never eaten, or for that matter, even heard of a piccalilli, I went out into the great wide Internet for more information. Wikipedia had exactly what I needed, per usual.

Piccalilli is a relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices; regional recipes vary considerably.  British piccalilli contains various vegetables and seasonings of mustard and turmeric.  It is used as an accompaniment to foods such as sausages, bacon, eggs, toast, cheese, tomatoes and beer.

That’s a pretty impressive list of food stuffs one could eat the original piccalilli with.  I could see this being my “go-to” salad for near future for it’s sheer straightforwardness and compatibility.

IMG_1316.jpg

A quick pic of all the needed ingredients.  No, really.  This is it.

IMG_1321.jpg

The haricot verts-or green beans for us non-french speaking folk-needed to have their tops and tails removed before a quick blanching in heavily salted water.  It turned out that this step took longer than actually assembling the salad!

IMG_1337.jpg

In less than five minutes, the necessary amount of green beans had properly blanched.  I tried to follow Thomas Keller’s Big-pot blanching technique. Big-pot blanching involves boiling vegetables in brine strength salted water until they are cooked through.  Supposedly the result will be vividly colored, perfectly seasoned vegetables.

IMG_1339.jpg

The only problem is that I’m a creature of habit, and plunging recently blanched veggies in ice water is almost second nature by now.  I’ll have to try Mr. Keller’s technique again some time without the polar dip.

IMG_1346.jpg

Next up I needed to peel and thinly slice a red onion. Luckily I had just sharpened my favorite knife…

IMG_1351.jpg

… meaning razor thin onion slices were a snap to produce. Happiness is a stupidly sharp kitchen knife.

IMG_1358.jpg

After finishing with the onion, I moved on to the cauliflower.  The biggest of the bunch at the supermarket, I ended up only needing half of it for the salad.  The rest was roasted and enjoyed with dinner the next day.

IMG_1359.jpg

The part I did use was broken into “generous florets” and set aside.

IMG_1367.jpg

The last vegetable that needed a little prep work was a single cucumber. Mr. Henderson asks that the pre-pickle be cut into three same sized sections, which are then sliced in half, and finally cut into wedges.

IMG_1371.jpg

Not my cleanest knife-work, sadly. But I suppose it was close enough. My prep finished, it was time to make the salad dressing.

IMG_1373.jpg

In my haste to assemble the dressing, I completely forgot to take pictures of the process.  That’s okay though: I’ll just tell you what I did.  First I got out my mini prep food processor.  Then I went hunting for the top for about 10 minutes.  I might have swore a little.  Then I found the top and did a little dance in celebration.  Into the mini prep went a little sugar, a splash of red wine vinegar, some English mustard (Colman’s is my favorite), two cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and almost one cup of extra-virgin olive oil.  One minute of holding down the chop button and the dressing was completed.

Ta-da!

IMG_1383.jpg

With all of the prep work done, constructing the salad was trivial. To prove my point, I’ll explain how with a haiku.

Combine everything
Include the sweet bright dressing
Don’t forget capers

Ah, that’s right!  I forgot to mention that a handful of briny capers are also called for.  I portioned out the salad in a bowl, and the recipe was completed.

As you might have already figured out, this salad has a lot of crunchy textures to enjoy.  Flavor-wise, expect lightly bitter vegetables mixed with the fiery and sweet mustard dressing.  This is a perfect summer salad, and I recommend combining all of the ingredients and sticking them in your fridge for an hour or two.  Serving it ice cold makes for a refreshing retreat from the summer heat, and the dressing will thicken up slightly, thus providing an optimal coating for the salad.  As Mr. Henderson mentioned in the foreword, this salad begs to be served with oily fish, as the two play extremely well off each other.

One down, fifty three to go.

Skate, Chicory, and Anchovy

When Poached and allowed to grow cold, skate sets beautifully into a firm but giving fish whose natural structure shreds perfectly for our salad-making purposes.

Way back in 2008, I made the only other skate recipe in “The Cookbook”, which was Skate, Capers, and Bread.  I’d never worked with or eaten skate before, but the flakey white fish found a home in my heart almost instantly.  Sadly, the common skate has been fished into endangerment, and so I had promised myself that I’d not cook or order skate again after making this recipe.  It’s just a shame that this dish isn’t nearly as captivating as the last one.  I’ll explain at the end of the post.

IMG_1159.jpg

A quick trip to the supermarket and we had everything we needed to assemble the salad.  First up, a poaching broth for the skate.

IMG_1175.jpg

In this pan you will find a lot of components.  Let’s see: there is some white wine, a little lemon zest, a whole head of sliced fennel, a sliced onion, two stalks of chopped celery, a bisected head of garlic, a bunch of curly parsley and last but not least, a few scant peppercorns.  Whew!

IMG_1171.jpg

One of the skate wings we’d bought was just picture perfect.  Excellent color, impeccably skinned, and ultra fresh.  The second skate wing wasn’t as photogenic, but it too was of high quality.

IMG_1177.jpg

Carefully I slipped the first skate wing into the pan and added just enough water to cover it. The pan was brought up to a up to a boil, and from there down to a simmer. As the skate poached away, my wife and I started working on the anchovy dressing.

IMG_1200.jpg

Into my mini prep went twenty anchovy fillets, multiple cloves of garlic, a healthy splash of red wine vinegar, a good amount of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper.  A few pulses later…

IMG_1204.jpg

…and the dressing was done. It’s amazing how many powerful flavors you can pack together harmoniously.

IMG_1194.jpg

By this time, the skate had poached enough, but there’s something Mr. Henderson mentions that confuses me. He instructs to check that the flesh comes away from the bone, and I’m just guessing that two times I’ve bought skate that they were pre-boned. Is leaving the bones in skate wings common, or are boneless skate wings the norm?

With the skate done, I turned the heat off and let the pan sit until everything in it had cooled.

IMG_1233.jpg

After an hour things had dropped in temperature.  The skate wings were slowly pulled out of the poaching liquid and segmented into strips.  They went into a bowl of curly endive, some arugula, a handful of chopped curly parsley and a small amount of capers.  To that I added the industrial strength anchovy dressing, and tossed everything together until it all had an even coating.

IMG_1241.jpg

A fine looking little salad if you don’t mind me saying so. It was right after the first bite that my heart sank. I’m not sure if I had left the skate in the poaching liquid too long, or maybe I had added too much fennel, but the sweet and delicate flavor of the skate was completely overpowered by the essence of anise. Sure, I’ll throw back a glass or two of Absinthe if the mood strikes me, but even today I’ll leave the black licorice jelly beans for someone else to enjoy. The rest of the salad was nice and peppery, the odd caper here and there adding briny goodness and the always welcome flavor of garlic and anchovies made itself known through the dressing. But it all seemed pointless when the skate didn’t taste like skate.

If you’re a lover of licorice then perhaps this salad is right up your alley. Me? I’m wishing I had cooked the skate in brown butter yet again.

One down, fifty four to go.

Warm Pig’s Head

The flesh from a pig’s head is flavorsome and tender.  Consider, its cheeks have had just the right amount of exercise and are covered in just the right enriching layer of fat to ensure succulent cooking results, and the snout has the lip-sticking quality of not being quite flesh nor quite fat, the perfect foil to the crunch of the crispy ear.

For the past few months, a group of my friends has been getting together on either Saturday or Sunday to eat, drink, and have fun.  It’s the perfect opportunity to share one of he recipes from “The Cookbook”, and one of the first I made was this one, a warm pig’s head salad.  Which means that I needed…

… a pig’s head.  I picked this beautiful piggy noggin up at my local supermarket, believe it or not.  Much love to my Hispanic brothers and sisters for being the force behind the demand for such awesome things.  On top of that, it was only ten dollars!  They have no idea what goodness they’re selling, and I have every intention of taking advantage of it at many times as I can.

Cooking the head for this recipe is exactly like cooking it to make Brawn, so the same stock vegetables were needed, along with the herbs, the peppercorns, the lemon zest and the splash of red wine vinegar.  This time though, we didn’t need extra gelatin that the Brawn called for so the trotters were left out.

Before putting the head into my stock pot and filling the whole thing with water, I cut the ears off for easier removal if the flesh started to fall off the cartilage.

On to the stove the pot went.  The water was brought up to a boil and then back down to a simmer for two and a half hours.

While I waited on the head to finish cooking, I started working on the salad side of the recipe.  I needed a big handful of curly parsley that had been finely chopped, a handful of cornichons, also chopped, and yet another handful of capers.

I also needed a few sorrel leaves to add to the salad.  The sorrel leaves have a very unique flavor to them, a sort of tart strawberry.  This little plant was picked up at the Austin Farmer’s market, along with a few other little herb plants.  That’s one of the greatest reasons to visit your local Farmer’s Market: you never know what neat things you might come across.

By this time the ears had fully cooked.  I pulled them out of the pot, dried them off and threw them into the fridge to cool down.  Once they had cooled, the cartilage was nice and firm, making the slicing process much easier.  I tried to slice each ear as thinly as possible, as I’ve found that if the slices are too thick the cartilage is a real pain to chew.

Sorry for the terrible picture, but it’s hard to get into a good position when you’re frying slices of pig ear.  The slices relish spitting hot oil as they crisp, and usually in the exact direction of the closest person.

The slices were nicely crisp and crunchy.  My wife and I had to stop ourselves from eating all of them before we got to our friend’s house.

Beep, beep, beep went the timer, ow, ow, ow screamed the cook (thanks to awkward nature of trying to remove the head from the boiling stock).  Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings, because I had a fully cooked pig’s head on my cutting board.  Judy Garland, I am so, so sorry.  After I had stopped hopping around the kitchen holding my scalded hand, we started removing the meat from the skull, and skinned the tongue.  Usually I’d have a picture showing the process, but since it’s rather grizzly I decided to hold off on it.  When the meat was properly shredded, we packed all of the needed recipe components up and headed over to our friend’s house.

A little dressing, a few chunks of day old bread and some peppery salad greens were mixed together with the sorrel, parsley, cornichons, capers and meat.  The crispy pig ears were placed on top for garnish–a very tasty garnish, might I add–and the dish was complete.   Much more than a salad, this recipe could easily be considered a full meal.  And what a meal, too.  Perfectly tender cheek meat married to unctuous fat was the star far and away, but the crispy pig ear slices were delicious as well as texturally exciting.  The other ingredients added hints of salty and sour and sweet, which only ramped up the layers of complexity.

This salad wasn’t exactly what you could call a fifteen minute meal by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t worth every ounce of the effort.

One down, sixty seven to go.