Thursday, December 31, 2009
Today was interesting. I saw a post from a friend on Facebook about her upcoming cooking of a pork belly. Anytime I hear the word or think about that cut of meat I instantly get excited. So I dropped her a line offering up a recipe.
I didn't think much about it at all after that. But then she called me out of the blue today. She is a reporter for the Sacramento Bee and was doing an article on Pork Belly. She asked if she could interview me and if I would be willing to offer that recipe for the SacBee. Surely, sounds great!
She performed an interview over the phone regarding the precious meat that I love so much. It got me really thinking, how can I express why this meat is so special. For me several reasons. First off I really love pork. I love that it is a cheap meat that is so amazing to cook with. I love that it is not glorified the way that steak is. The way that the meat takes on the flavors of the components of a dish is magical. Myself, I am a bit of a sweet freak. I love that pork pairs so well with sweet elements.
Growing up we ate a lot of pork; Christmas, Thanksgiving, Religious Holidays. You name it. My grandmother made the most amazing sweet gravy that paired with either the whole roasted pig, which we did frequently, or the roast which we prepared for smaller groups. I think this is where my love comes from.
The right pork, raised by the right farmer has the perfect amount of fat. Good fat. Fat that transfers the natural flavor of the meat to the palate. Pork belly is the premium example of that. Depending on the piece you get, it could be as much as 80 percent fat in a single bite. I try to trim it up to about a 50/50 ratio.
The fat however is the best part some would say. It is what makes the outside so very crispy and crunchy when rendered correctly. Cooked by braising, or even better by sous vide at a very low temperature over a very long period of time, the fat and collogen slowly breaks down and begins to melt if you will. So when you take a bite you have a super succulent and moist piece of meat with the perfect crispy exterior in every bite. Perfection.
Here is the recipe that I shared with the Bee. Enjoy!
Kurobuta Pork Belly
One of the most succulent cuts of meat, the pork belly is amazing when braised or cooked slowly. Pork belly is a slab of bacon, which is raw, uncured. We cure it our self, then cook it sous vide for 12 hours until meltingly tender. We finish by crisping it in a pan and glazing with the cooking liquid from sous vide bag. You can order this from Vande Rose meat market in the Quarry Ponds in Granite Bay, or from your local butcher. Much of this recipe can be done a few days in advance!
3 cups ice water
¼ cup kosher salt
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup cold apple cider
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
4 T peppercorns
2 T Dijon mustard
1 bunch lemon thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 yellow onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic
2 carrot, peeled and cut 1”
Bring ½ cup water, salt, honey and sugar to boil until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in mustard, herbs, peppercorns, onion, garlic and carrot. Pour liquid into remaining ice water in large container. Add the pork belly and make sure it covers the belly completely. Add remaining ingredients. You can weight down the with plates or pans to ensure full coverage. Leave for 6-7 hours in cure in refrigerator.
To braise the belly:
1 cured pork belly (snake river farms) trimmed of excessive fat
2 yellow onions quartered
2 head garlic smashed
2 green apples cut 1”
1 bunch lemon thyme
1 bunch parsley
2 bay leaves
3 carrots peeled and cut 2”
1 cup white wine
1 cup apple cider
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups veal stock
Heat a pan with canola oil large enough to hold all ingredients. Sauté pork on all sides until slightly browned. Remove pork from pan and sauté carrots for 2 minutes, then add onions & garlic and apple for 2 more minutes. Then deglaze pan with wine and vinegar. Reduce by half, then add pork and remaining ingredients. Cook in 280* degree oven for 6 hours. Let cool in liquid until you can handle the meat. Remove meat from juices and place in Pyrex dish. Strain the braising liquid into a clean bowl. Cover the pork with enough liquid to cover, place a second Pyrex dish on top of the meat and weight down with a heavy pot. Refrigerate over night. Reduce remaining braising liquid to about 1 cup, strain and reserve.
½ cup sauvignon Blanc
3 Tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 cup apple cider
1 cup veal stock
2 T diced shallot
1 t garlic diced
2 sprig lemon thyme
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon whole grain mustard
2” carrots peeled
2 T butter cold
Heat pan and add wine, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme & carrots. Bring to boil then simmer until almost liquid is almost gone. Add apple cider and reduce until almost all liquid is gone again. Add veal stock and peppercorns and simmer until reduced by 2/3. Strain into a clean saucepan. Reduce over low heat until it has a thick syrup consistency, then whisk in butter one piece at a time to emulsify. Add cider vinegar and whole grain mustard at last minute. Keep warm or refrigerate overnight.
Pickled Pearl Onion
20 pearl onions, peeled
1 cup water
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Combine sugar, water and both vinegars in pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour directly over the pearl onions and stir in the salt. Cool at room temperature. Reserve in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Vanilla Apple Puree
6 apples peeled, cored and cut into 1” pieces
2 cups sauvignon blanc
1.5 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 lemon juiced
3 T champagne vinegar
1 vanilla bean, seeds & pod
To Finish Puree
2 tablespoons honey
2 vanilla bean seeds scraped
½ t cinnamon
¼ t ginger
½ cup cream +/-
salt to taste
Prepare poaching liquid. Bring wine & vinegar to boil and then add sugar, honey, cloves and water. Remove from heat once sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice.
Place all apples in poaching liquid with 1 vanilla bean. Poach apples gently over simmer until soft but not mushy. Remove from liquid and add apples to blender with enough of the liquid to just puree. You are trying to achieve a very thick consistency.
Add the butter, and enough cream to achieve the consistency of a smooth mashed potato. Add remaining ingredients to taste. Reserve under refrigeration or use immediately while warm.
Apple Celery Salad:
2 green apples, peeled and cored
Celery Leaves or Micro Celery
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Place the shallot, Dijon mustard and vinegar in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Cut the apples into matchsticks 1/8” x 1/8” x 2”. Place the apple slices in the vinaigrette. Toss with the celery leaves and taste for seasoning. Do this immediately before plating.
To Finish at service:
Warm the apple vanilla puree in a saucepot until warm. Keep warm.
Reduce the braising liquid to about ¼ cup then whisk in the cider reduction. Keep warm.
Remove the pork from the refrigerator. Reserve the cooking fluid in the bag, or a bit of the braising liquid to glaze the meat. Trim any excess fat, leaving some at the top to crisp nicely. Cut into the desired shapes. Add the pieces to a cold pan and place over medium heat to cook. Once crisp and brown, turn over. Cook both sides until crisp and warm, then add the fluid to the pan and let reduce, basting the meat to glaze. Serve over the vanilla apple puree, spoon some sauce along side, and top with the salad. Place a pickled onion along side.
RECIPE BY PAJO BRUICH, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
2009 is coming to end in what seems to be speedy fashion. A year that has passed with the blink of an eye, 2009 has been a great year. This year was the birth of my first child, a surprise in a daughter, and a bit of a scare in a daughter! She is the most amazing jewel a man could ever ask for. I have found fatherhood extremely fun and rewarding. It has brought me a sense of caring and patience much needed and much appreciated.
As the months flew by I watched her change from infant to a little person, with quite the personality and flare for adventure. We call her a diva, princess, miss attitude, and our little actress for being oh so dramatic! If only time would just slow down. I cannot believe it has been a year!
Professionally was a strange year. Started off slow, with only a few events and happenings. Then all my focus shifted into the outdoor commercial kitchen. Taking 3-4 months out my life to complete the project was so fun and rewarding, but I made no money in the process and failed to cook as much as I should have. All with the knowledge that it would pay off.
The open house yielded some 100 people almost, all to observe our work and enjoy good food and company. The place became an instant hit and once complete, events sold like wildfires!
A new relationship was made in Beth Daane. Beth of Danne Photography and I established an amazing working relationship. Her amazing food photography sent my ability to market myself through the roof. I tell her she is a good luck charm. Her eye for photography and passion for her craft is equal to my own for food. I love it! I was able to start a new website thanks to having some fantastic photography around! www.pajoscatering.com
I started going public. Doing events such as the Lincoln Showcase, where we stopped everyone in their tracks and had a line for days. We really made people think about food in a new way and they enjoyed every minute of it. So many contacts were made and great people were met as a result. My following has grown.
Got involved with the arts, a truly fun opportunity where people could appreciate my artistic eye. A lot of fun!
Finished the year with the run of Holiday parties that was great. Busy as ever, working far too hard for the pay and sleeping far too little and enjoying every minute of it. Being able to still create the food I think is appropriate and amazing, This is passion!
Turned 30 this year. Wow. OMG scary as ever. Why? I generally love my bday and we party for weeks in celebration of its arrival to the point that Angie gets sick of it! JK. Kinda. But this year was different. Being a Father? Working harder? Struggles financially? What is it? The thought of my mortal self? Future health issues? Holy cow I am still young aren't I? It came with me kicking and screaming along the way and I celebrated a fantastic bday. All my friends and family were there to support me and I loved it! Then it went and a sense of calming overcame me. Good, finally this is what I need.
But now this sense of urgency has overcome me. I am 30. I have not accomplished what I wanted to by now. I love every thing about my personal life and would not change a thing. But professionally, I need to get moving. I have a 5 year goal. A ten year goal. A one year goal. I need to get busy and hustle hard to get myself out there. I have been cooking and love it, know it is what I want to do. I have been training and overcoming successfully the hardest of challenges I can find. And I am good at it. People respond to it.
Now to settle down with the Family, remember the year and enjoy each other. Embrace the meaning of the Holidays, the relationships we have with our Friends and family, to be thankful. I love the Holidays.
My 2010 will be something for the books. I plan to do something unheard of by a young Chef that never had any schooling, formal training, never worked with the Top Chefs of this country. For being self made this is pretty great and I am very proud. Keep your eyes and ears open because here I come people, ready or not!
Monday, December 7, 2009
It is nearing 3 years since our first and previous visit with The French Laundry. Another visit was long past due. As I considered how far my cuisine has come and evolved over the past three years, it only seemed like perfect sense to do this again. For research of course! Always good to sharpen your skills and get inspired by observing the best Chefs in the Country.
It also happened to fall perfectly on Mom's birthday weekend! So we celebrated her birthday and mine, which is next week! What a gift.
After securing a reservation for the three of us, I came to realize what a treat we were in for. Knowing that it is truffle season, I was excited! So we packed our clothes and booked a babysitter to join us for the weekend to watch the little one. Off to Yountville we went.
We had such an amazing experience previously that we were naturally concerned about our experience this time. Together we learned that when in the hands of The French Laundry, there is nothing to worry about.
Dinner was truly amazing, something that I could appreciate so much more, knowing the technique and recognizing the skill and refinement that went into the entire production. I picked up some great inspiration and new techniques. So inspiring.
Amuse Bouche: Gougeres, Salmon Tartar
The Gougere seemed smaller and lighter than I previously remember, with the slightest nuance of nutmeg if you will. Extremely warm and meltingly smooth with cheese.
The salmon was so very fresh, cut with such precision, like a surgeon yielding a scalpel over a patient. The lingering acidity of the lemon in the creamy creme fraiche left salvation on our palates.