Sassi Saucier and the One Year Soup

Delayed post, originally drafted on September 21, 2014.  I’m developing an unfortunate habit of writing things and then not posting them if I don’t have the perfect photos, or if I would have done something very differently. This Must End. I give you, belatedly and with No Illustrations At All, Sassi and the One Year Soup.

TL;DR: Make soup stock out of more than one kind of protein. Be amazed.

I’ve had some unprepossessing grayish lumps  in my freezer for nearly a year. They are labelled “Magic Clam and Lobster Broth.” I have a birthday tradition, in the less-lean years, of getting lobsters and clams from Maine. Coming up on Lobster Weekend 2014, I was trying to use up the stock I have left from last year. (I’m also reminded that I never posted the recipe for Lobster Waffles, because I couldn’t figure out what to tell folks to use for the broth, given that it’s mean and obnoxious-foodie-privileged to expect people to have clam and lobster broth just lying around. I’ll try to do some tests with bottled clam juice and maybe some frozen lobster tails or something…) Continue reading Sassi Saucier and the One Year Soup

Sassi Clarifies Stock

I’ve seen a variety of instructions for clarifying stock with egg whites. The lack of authoritative step-by-step details annoys me. (I realized too late that I should have called this post “Sassi Clarifies Clarifying Stock”, but now I don’t want to mess with the permalink.) Today I had two different stocks to clarify, so I tried two different techniques. Sadly, I’m lacking important photo documentation; my phone ran out of charge at an inopportune moment, and I couldn’t wait, so I’ll have to provide visuals in a future test. Continue reading Sassi Clarifies Stock

Lamb & Pumpkin Stew; Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

(Re-posted here, Sept. 2014. Originally posted on Oct. 18, 2012, as a Facebook Note.)

Here’s how I made the stew I posted a picture of yesterday (Oct. 17, 2012), plus bonus toasted pumpkin seeds. IMG_0005

[Retrospective comment: Alas, I took no photo of the Best Pumpkin Seeds Ever.]

Things you should be aware of: I have access to crazy ingredients. My mom hunts wild mushrooms. She cans or dries a lot of them and gives them as gifts. I live in a metropolitan area with specialty food shops like Balducci’s and Penzeys (where I get Aleppo pepper and most of my other spices). For the past three or four years I have put “fancy salt” on my wishlist for Christmas, so I have a collection of salts. I realize this is not normal.

Also, my almost-former-boss and longtime friend and ally Piers (whose imminent departure for a new job in France is the primary cause of both my recent sleeplessness and willingness to focus obsessively on a recipe that takes four days) said he thought it would be funny if I included not just the recipe, but also all the other stuff that was going on. Jim Chokey, I charge you with turning this narrative into recipe-file-appropriate form. Continue reading Lamb & Pumpkin Stew; Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Sassi Saucier’s Maybe-Masterpiece

For some time I’ve been posting cooking notes on Facebook (including a slightly earlier draft of this one). Henceforth, I’ll be posting them here, under the “Sassi Saucier” category. 

TL;DR: Duck confit with jicama fries and a rhubarb jus; Szechuan peppercorn duck breast with rhubarb-jicama slaw. Skip to the recipes.

If there were an Epicurean Guild I were trying to get into, this might be my masterwork submission. I do not say that lightly. It’s spectacular. I’m not even going to “IMHO” that. (That Sassi, she is not humble.) From my researches during the 2014 Rhubarb Season, I present:

Silk Road Duck Confit with Jicama Fries, and Szechuan Peppercorn Duck Breast with Rhubarb-Jicama Slaw.
Silk Road Duck Confit with Jicama Fries, and Szechuan Peppercorn Duck Breast with Rhubarb-Jicama Slaw.

Duck, Rhubarb, Jicama: Two Ways.

Servings: 4-12.

  • The confit-and-fries could serve 4 on its own if you made twice as many fries as I made for Two Ways, and had a salad.
  • The slaw is enough for 4 duck breast fillets. I only made two fillets during the Two Ways prep. (So, if you were only making one Way, you should use 4 duck breast fillets for 4 entree servings.)
  • The pairing could probably serve 8-12 as an appetizer or small plate.

Continue reading Sassi Saucier’s Maybe-Masterpiece

Mmmm, brains.

It’s not what you think.

We had our office holiday lunch today at Bistro d’Oc.[1]
Brains were on special.
I got to say to Johanna, “Do you want to split some brains?” to which she replied, “Yeah, that would be great”–not one of your more usual conversations, I think you’ll agree. (Well, outside the context of a zombie invasion, obviously.)
They were lamb brains with lemon and capers and noisette butter, and they were a fine thing indeed.
Johanna cheerfully admits to suggesting Bistro d’Oc for the holiday lunch “because they serve offal.” I was most impressed that several of our less-culinarily-adventurous coworkers tried a little bit of brains (“Can I taste your brains?”). I don’t think they’ll ever order them on purpose, but they didn’t spit them out or anything. (Hilariously, later in the meal, I did have to spit out a little bit of fig spread. I’m twitchy about figs at the best of times, and I was expecting it to be tapenade. Blick.)

[1] I’m kind of mystified by the online reviews of Bistro d’Oc, many of which are savage. We had a 12-person holiday lunch (reservations for 14, but two couldn’t make it). When we arrived, the room was set up with two tables–one of 6 and one of 8. Our executive director asked the waiter if he could rearrange the tables so we could all sit together. He did so. He recommended gorgeous and inexpensive wines and described them accurately. He knew what went into everything on the menu. It’s a bistro, and it does it well. It’s not a high-end haute cuisine celebrity chef experience, but if you know your charcuterie and succulent cheeses and duck confit, it’s good for what ails you . I feel as though a lot of the reviewers don’t understand what a French bistro is; either they don’t like French food, or they were actually looking for a bar.

The joy of variety

Tiny Garnet sweet potatoes are much, much yummier than big ol’ Beauregard sweet potatoes.
Also, re. the “yam” vs. “sweet potato” question: This has bothered me for ages, and this is a summary of my informal research:

YAMS (from Wolof “nyam” meaning “to taste”) are a food plant grown across Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Oceania. The tubers involved are often ginormous, and they have oxalic acid (an irritant) in their skins. They don’t look anything like sweet potatoes to me, except for the general shape and starchiness.

SWEET POTATOES are a food plant grown across Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, North America, Asia, and parts of Oceania. Some varieties (mostly the very-orange ones) are colloquially called “yams” in the U.S. and Canada; speculation is that this is a linguistic transfer from kidnapped Africans who stuck the word “nyam” on the closest parallel big starchy tuber widely grown in the American South.

So, it’s not wrong to call a sweet potato a yam; it just might get you the wrong thing if you’re in an international market.

HFCS rant.

Here’s my contribution to the massive blogospheric response to the “Sweet Surprise” pro-high fructose corn syrup ads. HFCS is not a food choice I would make. I think that “food” should be “something you can figure out how to make yourself, in a normal kitchen, starting from pieces of plants and/or animals.” (Admittedly, I don’t know how to make baking soda, but then, I use it mostly as a cleaning product.)

I also feel strongly that food should be artisanal, not industrial. I was waiting for a freight train to pass at the intersection of Seminary Road and Capital View, and I was watching the cars go by, and I got a bit alarmed at one point by the progression of petroleum product-petroleum product-some kinda sulfate-some kinda sulfate-petroleum product-corn syrup-corn syrup. Just kinda freaked me out.

This is a “best of all possible worlds” rant. I’m not naive. I know I’m privileged beyond the dreams of most humans ever in history in terms of the options available to me in choosing food. I don’t think everyone in the world (or even everyone in my neighborhood) has regular, affordable access to fresh fruit and vegetables and protein sources; I just think they should. I’d rather see social changes to encourage that than corporate profit-driven monoculture schemes to feed the burgeoning masses as cheaply as possible, and the stockholders as richly as possible. It’s a giant weird Malthusian/Hieronymus Bosch nightmare to me, the way economics and agriculture have twisted around each other.

The ads say it’s “made from corn”.
Well, yes, in a way.
But it’s not made from corn in the same way as, for example, maple syrup is made from maple trees.
Maple Syrup:
Step 1- Tap tree.
Step 2- Boil sap.

Corn Syrup:
Step 1- Mix dried corn kernels with water and sulfur dioxide for a day or two.
Step 2- Grind up the corn.
Step 3- Separate the germ (oily part) from the pulp (starchy/protein/fiber part) using a centrifuge.
Step 4- Filter off the fiber with some more milling and screening.
Step 5- Centrifuge the remainder, to separate the gluten from the starch.
Step 6- Keep diluting and centrifuging the starch mixture up to 14 times to make sure you’ve got just starch. (I’m pretty sure I could handle this recipe myself up to this point, but I don’t have the right screens and I don’t know where to get sulfur dioxide.)
Step 7- Get some bacteria (Bacillus sp., but I don’t know what the sp. stands for) to make some alpha amylase (that’s an enzyme that occurs naturally in saliva and pancreatic juices).
Step 8- Mix the alpha amylase with the starch. This breaks it down into polysaccharides. I guess if you were trying to do this at home, you could spit in it.
Step 9- Get some aspergillus fungi to make you someglucoamylase.
Step 10- Mix the glucoamylase with the polysaccharide solution. This gets you glucose.
Step 11- Get some D-xylose isomerase. (I don’t know where you get this, or how it’s made.)
Step 12- Mix the D-xylose isomerase with the glucose. This gets you a mixture of about 42 percent fructose and 50-52 percent glucose (and some other sugars).
Step 13- Using liquid chromatography, get your fructose level up to 90%. (I don’t think you can get a liquid chromatograph setup for the home kitchen. Not even at Sur La Table.)
Step 14- Blend some of your 90% fructose with the 42% fructose/52% glucose so you have a 55% fructose solution. (SAT mixture problems, anyone?)

So, corn syrup is sort of made from corn. But I’d argue that it’s made from corn even less than Velveeta is made from milk. (Acknowledged: Beer and cheese are produced in multi-stage processes involving bacteria and/or fungus, too. Also acknowledged: I don’t know what liquid chromatography is, and it probably isn’t scary.)

And it makes rats’ hearts get really big. (I couldn’t find a proper scientific study that actually says their hearts exploded, but this study says “fructose feeding induced significant increases in…left ventricular weight.”)

Ecoguilt parameters, continued

Eating local good; eating veggies better.
This article from Science News discusses the various sources of greenhouse emissions in the farm-to-table chain.
Sadly, the online version does not include the fab pie chart from the print version, but you’ll get the idea: eating less beef and dairy does more to reduce your ecoguilt total than only buying local.
I guess it’s time to start phasing out the lattes…

A retraction, and a recommendation.

Retraction: I’d like to take back the mean thing I said about tilapia the other day. Not the “bamboo of fish” part; the “I’d rather eat tofu” part. On Monday I made a dredge out of ground flax seeds and coriander (seed) and orange peel, and dipped the fish in egg white and then in the dredge, and baked it, and put it in the fridge. Yesterday I heated/crisped it up in a frying pan and ate it over a spinach and grapefruit salad, and it was very very delicious. Also, a tilapia filet is a very nice convenient 4-oz portion.

Recommendation: Need any really cool animals made out of junk?