Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mmmmm Braise-a-liscious

It's winter time and as the cold weather comes in there's nothing quite as warming as braised meat. Lesser cuts are perfect for braising because they're typically tough and have a lot of connective tissue, which renders into rich meat and sauce. And quite frankly, one of the best lesser cuts to braise is the shank.

The shank is the lower leg of the animal. Hind shanks are typically meatier and more flavorful. If you go to the butcher and ask for a hind shank, he'll know you know what you're doing.

The shank take hours to cook. Low and slow, so all of that connective tissue releases its gelatin into your sauce and makes it lush and rich.

And while it takes a long time, braising is really quite simple.

Start with a dice of mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) some herbage like bay and thyme, liquid (enough to cover about three quarters of the meat) like a combination of wine and stock, salt, pepper, cover, heat.

I was looking to braise something a few weeks back on a cold, wet Saturday. I wondered into The Butcher and the Larder and stared into the case looking for a suitable lesser cut. Just then, Rob comes out of the walk-in carrying a whole goat. "Whatcha looking for?" he asked.

"I dunno, something to braise."

Quickly he suggested "How about a couple of hind shanks?"

"SOLD!"

He qucikly cut them off the back legs of the animal, trimmed them on the band saw, wrapped them, and sent me on my merry way.

Like I said above, mirepoix, herbs, wine, stock, salt, pepper, cover, 325 degree oven for 3 hours and serve with some mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and top with some reduced braising liquid and chopped parsley and mint.



Wow, simple and amazing.  Try it with lamb if you can't find goat, or even an Osso Bucco.

It'll warm your soul on a cold winter's night.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Pig's Head That Won an Election.

So I'm sitting there happily munching away on the pig I roasted in the Caja China and I was sitting next to my friend Scott, who I work with. Scott had brought his two sons to the party and they were behaving like perfect little gentlemen. His oldest, RL, was sitting next to Scott and asked me about the pig's head. "Can I have the head?" he asked.


A bit puzzled, and more skeptical really, about why a 10 year old would want a pig head I said "Well, if it's OK with your dad" while glancing at Scott.


Scott says, "It's for a school project it's fine."


"OK, RL" I say "You can have it, but what's it for?"


"We have show and tell every Monday about something we did over the weekend and I want to tell the class about this."


"Pretty cool, OK, I'll wrap it up for you."


So after wrapping it up I tell Scott how to clean it before his boy took it to school.


Tuesday at work Scott tracks me down and tells me "You have to hear about the pig skull."


The story goes something like this.


Monday morning RL strolls into his class with something in a big plastic bag. Curious about this the teacher asks "RL, what do you have there?"


RL happily responds "It's a pig skull for show and tell."


"Bring that here." the teacher commands. "I want to see that." So RL walks over to her desk and proudly opens the bag revealing the cleaned skull in all of it's glory. The teacher turns pale white in a bit of horror but understands that this could be a good lesson for the kids. "OK" she says "you can show that."


So, show and tell time comes about and when it's RL's turn he gets in front of the class and tells them about this party he went to with his dad where this guy roasted a whole pig. He tells them about the Caja China and then, after building up the story, tells the class he came home with a souvenir. Then, he opens the bag and lifts out the skull.


Now,  in a fifth grade class the girls screamed, and the boys hooted with glee. They couldn't get enough of it.   The commotion was so great that it caused a teacher from the other fifth grade class across the hall to come and see what all the racket was about. She saw the skull, turned white herself, then asked RL's teacher if he could bring it to show her class across the hall.

Needless to say the reaction from the other class was about the same. RL and his pig skull were the toast of the fifth grade for that Monday.


So that was pretty cool to hear that a kid, who had probably never seen a pig skull before, took an interest in it and was rewarded with the glee of his classmates.


But the story doesn't end there. A few days later Scott comes up to me at work and tells me that RL was running for his class representative to the school council. He had run the year before and lost, but he was trying again. Just before the election Scott asked him how he thought he'd do. Somewhat glumly RL replied "Well, I think I'll get 2 votes, mine and my campaign manager's." Now, c'mon, that's a scream, a fifth grader has a campaign manager for school council elections. That's awesome. But RL went onto explain that since he wasn't one of the "popular" kids he couldn't realistically expect to win the election.


Anyway, as the election approached, of RL's two opponents, one changed schools, and the other, seeing RL's new found popularity from the pig skull, decided to drop out leaving RL to run unopposed. Thus RL won his student council election.


Needless to say I'm tickled. I hope one day that young man can look back on this story and see how an open mind about food can change the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Going Whole Hog

Part of what got me started writing this blog was the idea of using the whole animal that gave its life to feed us.  Now, that’s easy for a restaurant to do but when it comes to the home cook, like me, once you get beyond something the size of say a turkey, using a whole animal is pretty much impossible.

A few years ago however, a friend of mine told me about this party a friend of his was at  called “Pigs and Pinot.” Aside from my immediate love of the name, which had two of my favorite things in the world in it, the idea of a party which involved good food and good wine really intrigued me. My friend explained to me that at this party they cooked a whole pig in something called a Caja China or China Box.  As I researched this thing I found that a Caja China is the way folks in Cuba roast whole pigs. Supposedly it gets its name from the Chinese railroad workers who brought it to Cuba in the mid nineteenth centuries and used it for cooking, this may just be a myth, but what I can tell you is using one is as simple as advertised.

All you have to do is load this sheet metal lined box with whatever it is you’re cooking, cover it with the lid and place lit charcoal on top. Replenish the charcoal as needed and when your food is cooked, open the box and serve. Easy peasey.


The more I looked into this China Box, the stronger my urge to throw a party similar to the one I had heard about grew. Thus, earlier this year I finally decided to throw the first ever “Swine and Wine” party. It was to be a celebration of all things porcine and vinified (I'm pretty sure that's not a real word but you know what I mean and hey, its my blog!) I set the date for Saturday, September 24th.

As the date approached I got more serious about my research into the Caja China.  First, where could I get one. I certainly didn’t want to spend $300 to purchase one for what might be a once a year, or even less, affair. Well it turns out that the guys at The Bristol just happened to own one.  Since I’m a regular there they told me it would be no problem to borrow it for my event.  Next, where to find a pig. Well, that seemed like a no brainer. First off, there’s no way I was going to serve some warehouse raised GMO fed pig at my party.  So, my choice was obvious. Talk to Rob at The Butcher and The Larder. Having never really cooked for more than a dozen or so folks I had no idea how big of a pig to get. After some discussion we decided that since I was planning on around 50 guests I’d get a 70 pound pig from Slagel Farms. 

Since I was planning on cooking the pig using a traditional Cuban cooking method, obviously my idea was to go that direction in flavor profile.  After a bit of research I decided on a simple blood orange and garlic marinade.

I picked things up at various times during  the week leading up to the party. Sunday I shopped for numerous supplies, Thursday I picked up the China box from the Bristol, and bought some more ingredients and supplies. All the while I was stressing over this 70 pound pig.  It seemed like a lot for 50 people, but Rob reassured me it was the right amount. What if I screwed up cooking it? Well, everything says that Caja China cooking is almost idiot proof. What if people didn’t show up? From Evite and Facebook responses  it seemed that I’d have right about 50 people coming, and they all seemed excited about it.  OK Calm down.

I realized that I had nowhere to store this pig overnight when I picked it up on Friday. After a brief chat with Rob he told me all I needed to do was to wrap the pig in a tarp, lay it in a bath tub, cover it with several bags of ice and cover it all with another tarp.  For the 14 hours or so it would be in there I’d be fine.  OK Swell, pig cooling plan made.

So after work on Friday I picked up the pig. Rob split the spine for me (more on that to come) and scored the skin. I popped the pig in the back of my car and off I went. 


I picked up 4 large bags of ice and got the pig (all 74 pounds of it) into my bathtub under ice and wrapped in tarps just like Rob told me.

After that I made my marinade. 2 quarts of blood orange juice, a pound of peeled garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of salt , 2 tablespoons of oregano, a tablespoon each of black pepper and cumin. Blend it all together and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

One of the cool things about cooking a whole hog in a Caja China is that the cooking time is crazy fast. Like 4-5 hours, as opposed to the 12 plus hours of roasting on a spit or the 24 hours in a smoker.
So at about 11 in the morning, two friends came over to help me get the pig started. 

Step one, salt the entire pig, both inside and out.



Step two, put the pig between the two metal grates so it lays flat and secure the grates together with “s” hooks. Since Rob split the spine this worked out pretty easy, although some brute force was needed.







Step three, inject the marinade into the pig all over, then rub the marinade all over the inside and outside of the pig.


Step four, put the pig into the box, skin side down.

Step five, cover the box and put 16 pounds of lit charcoal on top.



Now this next part is very important. At no time for the next three hours can you open the box. Not even for the slightest peek.  Don’t do it. Just let the box work it’s magic. Every hour just throw another 10 pounds of charcoal on top. That’s all you have to do. That and hang out with a nice glass of wine or a beer. No tending to the fire or watching temperatures like other whole hog cooking methods.   The China box is really a “set it and forget it” way of cooking.



After 3 hours and 36 pounds of charcoal, you can finally open the box.


It looks nicely roasted but the skin needs to get crisp...



...so grab hold of the racks and flip that bad boy over, skin side up.



Also, insert the probe of a thermometer into the ham to measure the internal temp so you know when the pig is done.


Close the box up, add another 10 pounds of charcoal and go back to your wine.  OK I can do that.




Everything I read said it would take another hour to complete the cook, well I guess because the pig was pretty big (74 lbs. Remember?) it took about an hour and 45 minutes.  When we opened the box it looked amazing. Of course because this is a lesser cuts and guts party the ears never even made it to the table. Heck, I don’t think they even made it out of the box.

Anyway, the skin was crispy and sweet, and the meat came out just amazing.
It was so easy and delicious. The marinade added a nice flavor but the pork flavor was what this was all about.  This isn't BBQ so there's no smokey flavor. But if you take it for what it is it's just specatacular.  I had a Cuban friend at the party and he was gleeful. "It's like Christmas" he squealed (pardon the pun) because this style of roasted pig is the traditional Christmas meal for Cuban families.

The party was a real hit but really the pig was only a small part of what made it fun. 

If you've ever wanted to do a pig roast, try the Caja China. It's so easy and fun I can't wait for next year.

Check back soon when I tell the story of how a pig skull helped win an election...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eating at Next

So, this post is a long time coming. Several months ago I wrote about the "Ticketing" system at Next, the new restaurant by Grant Achatz.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to be able to score tickets, especially considering the insanity that happened when they were released.

Anyway, I don't like writing reviews of restaurants, so take this more as a trip report. Actually, I intentionally waited to write this report until after the "Paris 1906" menu concluded. If you don't already know, Next reinvents itself every 3 months serving a new menu from a different time and place. I wanted to wait until the  "Paris 1906" menu was no longer available before writing this. If you've been you may agree or disagree with some of my thoughts, that's up to you.

My reservation was for 5:30, the first seating of the night, and we arrived a few minutes early.  It was a nice early spring evening and the door was still locked. We waited outside for a few minutes with some other folks. There was a tingle of excitement in the air. Promptly at 5:30 the hostess opened the door and greeted us.

We were quickly seated in the sleek dining room. Comfortable and elegant all at the same time, the room is comprised of soft gray hues with an interesting beam curving along the ceiling of the long narrow dining room. The tones of a cool, early 20th century French singer came over the sound system. 

We were greeted by our server with a "program" for the evening. The simple bifold, heavy stock program was printed on a gold exterior with a subtle "Next Paris 1906" logo on the front. Upon opening it the interior was printed with a map of the streets of Paris with these words:

"Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier opened the Ritz Hotel Paris in 1906. A New upper class thrived; visiting the Ritz, along with restaurants such as Maxim's, became something more than just dinner. Part fashion show and part social scene, the restaurant was now the entertainment.

Paris, 1906 - Escoffier at the Ritz was and easy choice as our opening menu at Next.

Escoffier's life was framed by La Belle Epoque; it was a period of political stability, technological innovation, and a thriving economy before the chaos and horror or World War I. His seminal La Guide Culinaire established dishes and techniques that became the bedrock of Western cuisine. His kitchen organization and methods are still taught today.

The main liberty we have taken with the presentation is to 'plate' most of the courses.  At the Ritz, this menu would have been presented as part of a grand buffet, or served upon great platters set amongst the guests at large tables. While Escoffier gave precise details on how these should be arranged, the visual feast occurred before the food arrived on a guest's plate. 

We have followed many of these guidelines, but have done so on a personal scale.

Bon Appetit"


Our server came back almost on cue after we finished reading the program and explained that this was their take on Escoffier at the Ritz and the whole idea behind the restaurant was about taking a journey.

Throughout the evening service was impeccable. Neither rushed, nor too slow, timing, attention to detail and every guest need was taken care of effortlessly.

Our first glass of wine was presented not long after. A very nice non vintage sparkling wine from the Alsace, Chateau d'Orschwir Cremant d'Alsace Brut. Unlike a lot of Champagnes this wine was not overbearing with yeast. The bottle was presented, glasses were poured and the bottle was set on a small silver tray on the table. Not that we'd need more, but left in case we wanted more. The first course arrived seamlessly after. A beautiful tray of Hors d'Oeuvers set upon an elegant silver tray. The server briefly described each; leek with mushroom, anchovy on top of quail egg, pig on cracker with chive, foie gras and brioche, and creamy egg custard with truffles.

These were as tasty as they were beautiful. The leek was a perfect round of leek greens filled with an earthy duxelle. The pig on cracker was the silkiest rillette I've ever eaten. The small quenelle was set atop a house made cracker that was light and crisp. The custard was served inside an eggshell. This dish contained potato puree, whipped brandade, and of course the custard, all garnished with chopped truffle. I really wanted to like this dish more. To me the potato was out of balance with the rest of of the dish. While the flavor was nice I really didn’t get much of that custard creaminess I was expecting. The Foie Gras Brioche was a real stroke of genius. The mini slice of brioche had a small circle cut from its center which was filled with a wonderfully smooth, yet not too rich torchon of foie gras. Wow, really elegant. My favorite bite though was the quail egg topped with anchovy. This perfectly cooked medium boiled quail egg was a single bite and the yolk just oozed. I was skeptical of the anchovy garnish, but it all worked together so well.

While enjoying the Hors d'Oeuvers a camera crew from CBS was shooting in the kitchen. To get some dining shots the camerman came into the dining room and turned his sun gun on (that little yet powerful light on top of the camera) and aimed his lens straight at me. Well, I don't really like being shot without my permission and I like a glaring light blinding me while I dine even less. Lucky for me I'm a producer and I knew exactly how to get him to stop...look straight into the lens and stare until he shoots someone else.  It worked.

The next wine was served not long after the dishes from the first course were cleared away. This was an unusual wine. 2005 Domaine de Montbourgeau Savagnin “Etoile” from the Jura region of France. This nutty white is intentionally oxidized which gives it the character of sherry. This paired perfectly with the next course, Potage a la Tortue Claire. Turtle soup! When the waiter presented this dish he referred to it as Turtle consomme. OK, so I have a bit of a problem if this was in fact supposed to be a consomme. Consomme is supposed to be crystal clear. When this soup was poured from the elegant white tea kettle into the bowl garnished with carrot, turnip, and chervil, it was not crystal clear. A minor point to be sure, since the soup tasted great.  The chervil garnish really played well with the consomme. I'm usually not the biggest fan of consommes because I just don't think they deliver the bang of flavor I'd like. This one too was a bit delicate.  I'd have preffered a bit more intensity. I was curious about what type of turtle was used and the waiter informed me they get the snapping tutrtles from a farm in Louisiana. Talk about an informed staff! The sherry-like wine worked perfectly with this dish.

The bread course was next, a nice little roll served with butter. Nothing “wow” here, but I made sure to save some of the bread for sauce sopping later on.

Next (PUN!) we were served a fantastic 2006 Macon Milly-Lamartine “Clos du Four.” This white burgundy showed why Burgundy is a great wine region. Neither over-oaked nor too buttery, this minerally white was sure to be a great food wine. While the wine was good the next course was my favorite of the evening. Filet de Sole Daumont. All I can say about this dish is wow, just wow. The sole may have been the single most perfectly cooked piece of fish I've ever eaten. I just can't say enough about how amazing this was. Also on the plate were a perfectly fluted mushroom cap stuffed with crawfish, a crawfish head stuffed with crawfish mousse, and a small ball of breaded sole roe deep fried to a crispy brown. All of this was sauced with a spectacular bruleed butter sauce. Aside from the obvious flavor explosion one thing that really stands out in my memory about this dish was how the texture the flute cut on the mushroom cap really made things even better. A subtle point, but something that I'm sure most people miss. Too bad, because it's small details like this that really make a restaurant like Next stand out against the rest.

The wine that followed this dish was a bit of a surprise. This 2009 Chateau de la Liquiere “Les Amandiers” from Faugeres in the Languedoc is a rhone style blend. The reason it surprised me is because the next course was Supremes de Poussin. Chicken. Red with a chicken dish? Yup it worked, it just goes to show how the minds behind Next are always pushing to give the diner a new experience. It would have been so easy to serve a rich chardonnay from Burgundy with this dish, but not these guys, they never take the easy road and always push for excellence. The slight smokiness of the wine really paired nicely with the dish. This course was a perfectly cut diamond shape of chicken breast cooked sous vide, topped with a super rich and velvety foie gras sauce. Along side were two rounds of cucumber which were seeded, and filled with a chicken forcemeat. This was all poached in butter and wrapped with a salt pork. The cucumbers were really outstanding. Of course what isn't when it's poached in butter? I didn't quite “get” the salt pork though. I just couldn't figure out why it was needed and what it added to the dish. Also, while the flavor of the chicken and sauce were fantastic, the chicken was just ever so slightly over cooked. Again, not a huge problem but a slight, unexpected misstep.

The next wine was a 2006 Domaine Brusset “Les Travers”, Cairanne located in the Cote du Rhone. The huge berry flavors and good tannin structure stood up well to the luxurious, fatty texture of the Caneton Rouennais a la Presse. This duck entree was perhaps the most talked about and raved over dish of the entire menu. The sauce for the dish was made with a duck press. Chefs put the carcase of the carved duck into this tool and crank the press down to extract all of the juices which are used to create an elegant, yet not overly complex sauce. While really good, I found that the duck just wasn't hot. Now, perhaps this was intentional as in Escoffier's day it would likely not have been hot. Regardless I'd have liked the dish to have been hot. Another minor misstep I think.

Along side of the duck was served Gratin de Pommes de Terre a la Dauphinoise. This was the finest preparation of potatoes Dauphinoise I have every had. Creamy, perfectly cooked potatoes that weren't too rich. Usually this dish is so rich you can only eat a few bites. But not this one.

After this we got a small, tiny Salade Irma. An array of greens served with nasturtium blossom, asparagus and radish. While nice, I found this salad to be slightly overdressed.

Dessert was a Bombe Ceylan. This coco covered ice cream dome sat atop a chocolate cookie aside rum soaked cherries. While perfectly fine, I felt the dish was a touch too cold and paled in comparison to the rest of the meal. This was served with a Smith Woodhouse 10 year tawny port.

Finally came the Miganardises. 3 really wonderful little sweet bites to end the meal. Salted Carmel, a spectacular nougat, and a beet jelly that blew me away.

While enjoying our last course I mentioned to my friend that I hope we could get a tour of the kitchen.  One different thing about dining at Next is that no bill is presented at the end of the meal because everything is paid for in advance upon the purchase of your ticket.  After our dishes were cleared we got up to leave and a server came over to us and said he had arranged a tour of the kitchen for us. Apparently he heard me say I'd like one while he passed. I didn't think I was speaking loudly enough for anyone other than my friend to hear me.  Again, just another example of the level of attention to detail and outstanding customer service which comes with a dinner at Next.

So much has been written about Next; Paris 1906 that there's not much more I can say about it. Many people exclaimed “Perfection”, “I can now die happy”, or “The best meal of my life.” Well, I don't think it was that great. It was really outstanding and worth every penny. While it wasn't perfect the meal was one that I'll remember for a long long time. Congrats to all at Next on giving diners a wonderful experience.

While I didn't take photos of any of the dinner you can find some really spectacular ones here. Thanks to the folks at LTH Forum for allowing me to post this link and to "Yellow Truffle" for his permission and great photography.

Now I look forward to my “Next” meal “Tour of Thailand” which I was able to score tickets for tonight!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Short and bitter

OK, so it's been a long time since I've blogged. I'll own that. But you know, I saw something tonight that pissed me off.

While watching a cable show hosted by a guy who eats Bizarre Food, he was taken around a city known for the "Independence" of our nation by a "Food Blogger." This chick was cute and couldn't have weighed 110 pounds. When he took her to a place that severed a lot of lesser cuts and guts she admitted, on camera, that she had never eaten tripe or tongue.

Seriously?

What does she write about? All the trendy new places serving the see and be seen crowd I bet.

Screw that. Who are you going to listen to when it comes to food? The chick who doesn't ever expand her horizons when it comes to food or the guy who isn't afraid to try anything and cook it too?

And she gets the national TV segment.

Eff that!

I'll be back soon to talk about the good stuff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Most Anticipated Restaurant in the World

So, we can't always eat the lesser cuts. Sure I love them, but sometimes, when presented with the opportunity, you eat a really exciting meal that is comprised of some of the finest ingredients that are neither local nor sustainable.

A little over a year ago Chef Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea, which was recently awarded three Michelin Stars, announced the opening of a completely new type of restaurant, called Next (This link does not work with Internet Explorer but Firefox and Chrome work.) When the opening of Next was announced the website offered people the chance to sign up to be alerted of it's opening. I was lucky enough to sign up the first day the site went live. More on that in a bit.

Next was going to do things differently.  First, this restaurant promised to reinvent itself by changing both the time and place of its menu every three months. Diners might experience 1906 Paris, 2050 Bangkok, and other places and time. Next (pardon the pun), Next would not accept reservations. Instead, it would sell "tickets". Like buying an airline ticket, prices would vary. 6:00 on Wednesday would be less expensive than say 8:00 on Saturday. Achatz promised to deliver 3 star dining at one star prices. Over the next (PUN!) year excitement grew from the murmur of those few excited about this idea to an all out frenzied hysteria just prior to opening.

A few months out from the announced early April opening the time and place for the first menu at Next was announced. Paris 1906 - Escoffier at The Ritz. This was to be a total departure for Chef Achatz who is known for modernist cuisine. Dinner at his flagship Alinea includes many airs, foams, and a host of other molecular gastronomy techniques.

Auguste Escoffier, is known as the chef who basically invented modern (not modernist) cuisine. His recipes, techniques, and even his system of running a kitchen are still used today. Seeing how Chef Achatz, known for forward and futuristic thinking about food, brought himself back in time was going to be interesting to say the least. That is, if I could score tickets.

As the time for the release of tickets approached social media exploded with anticipation. People were going bat-shit crazy. When will the opening be? When can "I" buy tickets? How will you release tickets? And on and on. It was announced that tickets would be offered first to those who signed up on the website as I had.  Those signing up first would be offered tickets first. Finally, just a few days prior to the opening, the date was announced. April 6th, 2011. Next would be releasing tickets to 500 people at a time. You would be allowed to purchase 2 reservations each. Only parties of 2 or 4 would be booked. There was also the 6 person "Chef's Table" that could be booked for a bit more money, but would include extra courses.

Oddly, owner Nick Kokonas chose to release tickets on opening day. Would I be able to get tickets? If so, would I want two seatings? Because Next was selling tickets, the seats were required by law to be transferable.  A lot of speculation was made about a potential secondary market.

The morning of the announced release of tickets arrived. 10:00 a.m. was to be the time of the first emails. What was supposed to happen was that, when your turn came to buy tickets you would receive an email letting you know to go to the website, enter your email address and await your individual password. 10:00 came and went and nothing. Sigh, maybe I wouldn't get to eat at Next. It turns out that there were a lot of technical problems with the ticketing system on the restaurant's end. Delays. Finally at 2:00 it was announced that the first emails were being sent. Because of the delay, rather than 500 emails, the first 1000 people who signed up would be getting an email. I was one of those! I quickly went to the website, entered my email address and almost immediately received my password. I signed in to the website where I was informed to fill out my profile, including my credit card information, before proceeding to chose my reservation time. I did as instructed and chose a table for 2 at 6:00 on Wednesday, April 13th, 2011. I also chose my drink pairing. Options ranged from water service for no charge, all the way up to $98 for the reserve wine pairing. I selected the standard wine pairing for $48 per person. The total for two was just under $300, tax and tip included.

This was the cheapest you could get these tickets with this wine pairing for.  So, should I buy a second set of tickets? Tax time was approaching and I knew Uncle Sam was going to be demanding a hefty check from me. If I played it right I could buy another set, scalp them and maybe even pay for my own dinner there with the profit. But something just didn't feel right about that. I immediately tracked down a friend at work who I knew really wanted to go but didn't sign up until the last second to receive his email. With over 19,000 people signing up, his chances were slim to none of getting an invitation. He jumped at the chance to buy tickets under my name and we booked his tickets.

What followed online was astonishing. While the ticketing system worked flawlessly for me, hundreds of people, maybe even thousands, posted on the Next Facebook page that they couldn't access the site. Many complained that they knew they signed up on day one to be informed of the opening. Many said they received their invite email but couldn't get their password. What the owners of Next couldn't anticipate was the amount of traffic their site would receive when tickets went on sale. Now, I'm certain many people were doing anything they could to circumvent the system, and get tickets even though it wasn't their turn.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.What happened was that people were trying to get into the system who weren't currently allowed to and all of this extra traffic really bogged it down. So, some people who did genuinely receive their invite email were having a hard time logging in and weren't able to.  But I got my tickets, was able to help a friend get his, and I was happy and a bit giddy with excitement. 

In my Next (PUN!) blog I'll tell you about my dinner at what might just be the most anticipated restaurant in the world. Next - Paris 1906.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Some People Don't Get It. Some People Do!

Some people just don’t get it. OK, so this is going to be a bit of a rant.  I was at dinner the other night and a young, well dressed, good looking couple was seated at the table next to us. From the minute they were escorted over to the table they didn’t say a word. Not to the host, not to one another, or to anyone else.  They had their faces buried in their respective iPhones and were furiously texting away.  When the waiter came to greet them, drop off menus, and take drink orders, they both muttered their drink preference without even looking up from their beloved iPhones. They remained sitting there in silence tapping away at their keyboards. This went on for a full 10 minutes when they simultaneously set their phone on the table, text messaging apps still running, and only then did they start speaking to one another. Their dinner was continuously interrupted by ever so urgent breaks to return a text.
Seriously? This is how adults dine these days? I mean, this wasn’t at some diner or fast food joint, we were in a nice restaurant. Where did these people grow up? My parents would never have allowed for that kind of behavior when I was a child. Let alone as an adult. If I had pulled a stunt like that as a kid I’d have been told, in no uncertain terms, to put whatever it was that was taking my attention away from the meal with my family away. If I had not complied whatever it was would have been taken away until at least the end of the meal and likely a whole lot longer. With these two however, they continued their respective text conversations on and off throughout their meal. This is how you enjoy dinner out? Where are your manners people? Put the phone away for an hour or so, enjoy each other’s company, damnit is it that hard to be civil for Christ’s sake? If your text conversation is so pressing take it away from the table, finish it, and come back to have dinner when you’re done. I swear to god I really do hate people sometimes.
Conversely, the people who own and work at the restaurant I was having dinner at that night do get it. The place serves really great food, in a comfortable dining room that’s neither too formal nor too casual. They have a great wine and beer list, attentive and friendly service and for the most part use local, sustainable, and organic ingredients. They bring in a lot of whole animals and do a lot of “snout to tail” cooking. It’s not rare to see rabbit kidney or chicken gizzards on the menu, and they do a lot of their own charcuterie. In case you don’t know what that means, well, it’s using the bits and scraps left over from an animal to create amazing things like sausages and pates.  These guys care about the ingredients, how they're prepared and how they take care of their customers.
Where is this little gem? It's on Damen Avenue in Chicago and it's called The Bristol. If you live in Chicago and you haven't eaten there you have to check it out. If you're not from Chicago, the next time you come you have to eat there. It's one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Seriously, these guys rock.
When you go, don't be afraid of something that might sound like it's outside of your culinary comfort zone. Trust me, you won't be sorry you expanded your food horizons.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Tasty But Cheap Dinner

A lot of people say “I can't afford to eat organic meat.” You know what? Just about anyone can, you just have to select the right cuts.

I picked up some gorgeous Dietzler Farms beef cheeks for The Butcher and The Larder last week.

The cheek is the facial muscle of a cow. It's typically lean and quite tough. It's loaded with connective tissue and is super dark in color due to the amount of work the muscles get throughout the cow's life. Because of this it's the perfect cut for braising. Cooking this cut slowly, over low heat,allows the connective tissue to break down and release its collagen which produces a very tender, rich and dense, almost falling apart result. And the real beauty is, they're cheap, like really cheap. The 2 pounds cost me just about $6. And because of the rich result these could easily feed 4 people or more depending on how you prepare them

Now, you usually can't just roll into your butcher and pick up beef cheeks, and you certainly won't find them at your local megamart. Typically, you'll have to order them in advance from your butcher. But When I was in The Butcher and The Larder the other day Rob just happened to have some. Obviously I jumped at the chance to buy them. The two cheeks weighed in at about 2 pounds. That's a lot of cheek.

I decided I'd make them into ravioli. That way I could freeze any uneaten ones in individual servings.

2 pounds of beef cheeks makes enough ravioli to easily feed 8 people. At $6 for the protein,and just a few bucks for the other ingredients, you can easily feed 8 hungry adults for under $3 each. You can't eat at a fast food joint for that!

I started out by getting my mis en place together. If you don't know what that is, it's a French term meaning “everything in place.” Before they start cooking chefs begin by doing all of their chopping and measuring, this way, once the cooking begins, every ingredient is ready to go. They don't have to stop to get something else or run across the kitchen to grab another ingredient. All of that additional running around would throw a professional kitchen into chaos. I once read a quote from a chef “If you want to hike, go to the outdoors, when you want to cook, mis en place.” If you don't typically cook like this, try it. You'll be amazed at how easy it makes cooking.

My mis en place looked like this.


2 pounds of beef cheeks

One onion diced, one carrot diced, tow stalks of celery, diced, once cup of chopped tomatoes, two cups of red wine and 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped rosemary.

I started by searing off the beef cheeks in a touch of oil in a hot pan.


Searing gives meat that is about to be braised a nice texture. You're not really cooking at this point you're just caramelizing the exterior of the meat.


After about 2 minutes on each side I took the cheeks out of the pan, lowered the heat, and added mirepoix (That's just fancy chef speak for onion, carrot, and celery.)
I sauteed the mirepoix for about 10 minutes then added the tomato, wine and rosemary.

Once this all come to a boil the cheeks went back in and I covered the pan and popped it into a 350 degree oven for about 2 and a half hours.



Now, you could serve these cheeks on top of some mashed potatoes or polenta along with some of the reduced braising liquid and have a great dinner.

But, as I said earlier I wanted to do ravioli. So, after everything cooled down I poured it into my food processor.
A few quick pulses reduced it into something that didn't look too appetizing but tasted great. I adjusted the seasoning with a bit of salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Then I made some fresh pasta and rolled it out

and made my raviolis.
Now, it wouldn't be a Lesser Cuts and Guts dinner with just some ordinary sauce. I made a chicken liver and brandy sauce and garnished it with some fresh parsley and Romano cheese.


Sure it was a bit of a project and took some time, but none of it was really difficult and it was a cheap dinner that suckers downtown are paying $25 a plate for.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day, Pork and a Heart

This is a blog in 2 parts. First is a part about what's most certainly not about a lesser cut or guts.

I just ate the best pork chop I've ever had in my life.

Knowing that today was Valentine's Day and that I'd be making myself dinner at home I sought out a good piece of meat. I stopped at The Butcher and The Larder and picked up a really nice looking pork rib chop. I prepared it simply topping it with bread crumbs that were toasted with garlic and sage and a bit of Dijon mustard. Sear it off and in the oven for 12 minutes.

Serve with some sauteed spinach and wow. Just wow. What made it so good? Well, it came from an animal that was humanely raised. Fed organically, and butchered by some guys who really know what they're doing.

As an old girlfriend's good ole boy brother in law once said "The Lord knew what he was doing when he made the pig."

OK, enough about that. It's Valentine's day. And it's all about heart. Last night was about heart for me.  I had dinner with a buddy at The Bristol. These are guys who "get it." Chef Chris Pandel and the owners John and Phillip are guys who are dedicated to serving local, seasonal fare and are dedicated to nose to tail cooking. What's that you may ask? Well, it's about eating guts. They're not afraid to serve the nasty bits because they know they can make some amazing things to eat from these things.

Take for instance this amazing beef heart dish I ate last night.


Beef heart served with roasted root vegetables, bone marrow dumplings, and roasted root vegetables. Now, if you've never had heart before, and I'd imagine there are a lot of you who haven't, you really need to give it a shot.

Surprisingly it's quite mild in flavor. It's incredibly lean, and when made properly it's crazy good. This version was simply fantastic. The bone marrow dumplings added some fattiness to the dish that paired wonderfully with the lean heart. The root veg added a bit of sweetness and it was topped with a bit of pork jus just to make it even more decadent.

So, maybe I didn't have a date for Valentine's day, but I got my Valentine Heart yesterday from some guys who really get it.

I hope you're eating well tonight.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our Ancestor's Leftovers

So, after all of the meat and the offal are eaten and there's nothing left but bones there's still some amazing eats left.

First of all, you can take the bones and make stock. There's a pretty big difference between broth and stock. Broth is made from the meat of an animal. Sure it's tasty, but you know what? Chefs know something you don't. Stock is where the real culinary magic lives. Stock is made from bones. Now, you might be thinking “Bones? What's so special about bones?”

Well I'll tell you. Bones are loaded with collagen. When you slowly simmer bones for hours with mirepoix (that's carrots, onion, and celery) bones release their collagen. So, what's the big deal with collagen? Well, it gives your stock this amazing unctuous texture along with the flavor of the bit's of meat still attached to the bones. Now you've got something special.

But don't turn all of the bones into stock. There's something even more special in some of them that you really want to eat. Marrow!

Bone marrow is amazing! Growing up we used to fight over who would get to eat the little bit of marrow in the round steak bone when mom made steak for dinner.

So what's so special about marrow? Well our ancestor's would eat it as sustenance as they scavenged a carcass. Gross right? NOT!

 
Historically, native American hunters would pass up a thin bison carcass, rather than eat the lean muscle or just eat the fatty meat left over they'd crack open the bones and eat the marrow inside. Bone marrow was a very popular food among foragers because it's a great source of protein and calories. Of course, whatever killed the bison couldn't get into the bones, but our ancestors knew how to break the bones open to get to the goodness inside.
 
But it's not something you can just grab at the megamart.  You'll have to go to a good butcher shop to get it.


I did just that last week.  While at The Butcher and The Larder  Rob, the owner, was breaking down a side of beef. I inquired about any marrow bones that might be available.  While they didn't have any in the case they said they had a whole femur in back they could cut for me. SCORE!

They brought out a femur from a Dietzler Farms animal. The femur is loaded with marrow. A whole femur makes two good sized serving of marrow. He tossed it onto the ban saw and cut each ball joint off the ends then cut it in half. I could hardy wait.





When I got home I prepared the marrow by simply placing it into the oven and roasting it for about 20 minutes. While it was roasting I sliced some bread to spread it onto, and made a parsley and shallot salad top it off.


Oh man! Was it good.

So what's the point? Sure you can get a tasty steak from cattle, but once the meat is gone why waste what's left? You shouldn't, because there's still some stuff left that tastes even better than the prime cuts.

Our ancestors knew it. Why don't you?

So, go out of your way. Instead of going to the megamart to buy your meat, go to a butcher and ask what's good. He'll turn you on to some amazing stuff.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bacon Day!

Wow, what a crazy week. I'd set the goal of writing 3 posts per week in this blog, but I failed miserably in that. I'll do my best to get back on track.

Anyway, blizzard schmizzard. Yesterday was the end of the curing process for my bacon. I pulled it out of the cure, rinsed it under some cool running water, wiped it dry and set it on a wire rack over a baking sheet then put in the refrigerator to dry overnight.

I woke up on Super Bowl Sunday and darn it if it's not snowing. Well Mother Nature, I don't care. There's bacon to smoke and you won't stop me.

First I took my pork belly out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature.

Here's what it looked like after the cure.




I plunked a few chunks of apple wood into a bowl of water to soak. This process will help the wood to smolder and smoke rather than burn.

I shoveled a path through the freshly fallen snow in the back yard and made a small space on the snow covered patio for my smoker.

I set up the smoker, lit a small fire and waited for the temp to come up to 200 degrees. Once it did I put the belly onto the top grate, covered it up and now we wait.






It's going to take about 3 hours for the internal temperature of the belly to come up to 150 degrees. Now we wait.





OK 3 hours is up, the internal temp of the belly is right at 150 degrees and now we have BACON!

Behold its salty, smokey, sweet goodness!



And that's it. Sure it takes some time, but the steps aren't all that hard. Actually you don't even need a smoker. You can do this on just about any BBQ grill.


Now I have enough bacon to last me quite a while and it's so much better than anything you can buy in the store.

So get out there and start making your own bacon.






Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Horrible Mistake

After cooking a terrific Lesser Cuts and Guts dinner last night, (which I'll tell you about later in the week) tonight I made a terrible mistake. Now I don't always eat the Lesser Cuts, nor should you. Here's a story about my dinner tonight that was not going to be a Lesser Cut. I wanted it to be fast, easy, and good. At least I got the first two right.

Personal commitments kept me busy during the day, so I went to the local megamart for some staples and to pick up something to cook for dinner. I wanted something quick and easy to cook, yet at the same time tasty. I thought “Gee, a steak and baked potato with some sauteed spinach would be nice.

So I grabbed some bagged spinach and a decent looking baking potato. Of course these things are hard to screw up. Then I looked for some fresh chives for my potato. The only fresh herbs available were those that come in the little plastic boxes. The one box of chives on the shelf was just disgusting to look at. Most of them were wilted and beginning to rot. I can only surmise that this was brought on by the frequent mist of water sprayed onto the produce. The water gets into the air holes of the box, trapped inside, and rapidly accelerates the rot process. Fortunately, at 6:30 on a Sunday evening, there was someone working in the produce section who found a fresh looking box of chives in the back. The sad thing is, even though I told him this last box of chives was rotting, he left it on the shelf. Someone, no doubt, will grab this box without looking carefully at the contents, only to come home with something inedible.

But my frustration didn't end there.

I had to find the steak I wanted. Being disappointed with the selection of steaks in Styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic, I asked the "butcher" what else they had. He showed me some decent, but not great, looking porterhouse steaks that were on sale. They were even labeled “All Natural” whatever that means. I picked the best looking one and off I went.

Now I'm not expecting some amazing eats here, and the price was certainly right. I thought “Wow, that was a great deal.” Forgetting that you get what you pay for.

I got home and made my dinner. The spinach and potato were good. Heck, even the chives weren't awful. But that steak? Ug! Just terrible. The texture was beyond bad and the flavor was just barely existent. Clearly this was beef that came from some feedlot somewhere. The quality was just so bad.

It got me to thinking. A lot of people out there gladly buy this garbage, take it home and cook it and think “Wow, what a great meal.” It's a shame. The people who run these megamarts are selling America a lie. They tell you, this a great, natural food that you can get cheap. Excuse my harsh words here but, BULLSHIT!

We need to demand better. People need to learn that the food these megamarts are selling us is generally crap, is raised in ways that produce foods that are unhealthy for us to eat, is raised in ways that are bad for the environment, and taste like stuff I wouldn't feed a dog. It's a sin!

I stopped buying chicken at megamarts over a year ago. It started when I wanted to roast a whole chicken for dinner one night. Now, I'm single, and a small chicken would feed me and leave plenty of left overs. I get to the megamart and I was stunned that the smallest chicken in the store was seven pounds. SEVEN POUNDS? What kind of hormone pumped chicken weights seven pounds when it's dressed? And that was the smallest bird I could find. I was disgusted. I haven't bought chicken from a megamart since. Nor should you. The chickens I buy now are certainly more expensive, but you know what? They're organic, raised humanely, are better for me, and taste really really good. So screw the corporate chicken giants that are Perdue and Tyson. These companies don't care about the well being of their animals, what their production methods do to the environment, the quality of their product, and worst of all they don't care if you die. All they care about is a good quarterly earnings report for their stock holders. Well they're not getting my money anymore, and they shouldn't get yours either.

So I guess I don't get to buy protein at the local megamart anymore. I'm fine with that. Actually I'm happy about it. You should do a bit of your own research, do some taste tests and I'll bet you come to the same conclusion.

Next time you buy some meat ask where it's from. Ask how it's raised. Ask if it's allowed any pasture time. If you're at the megamart I doubt the guy behind the counter can answer these questions. You might get some double talk corporate speak though. Heck, the guy I bought my steak from tonight couldn't even answer the simplest of questions like; How long should I cook this for? But, if you make the choice to pay a bit more and shop at a butcher shop or fish monger, you're likely to get straight answers and the guy behind the counter will sure as hell know how to cook the damned thing.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bacon is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!

Who doesn't love bacon? I know a guy who's wife is a vegetarian except for bacon. It's that good. You know what's better? Homemade bacon! It's so simple and delicious that after the first time I made it I swore I'd never buy store bought bacon again.

How simple? Well, I'm here to show you.

First start with a 3-5 pound pork belly. I like the belly I'm going to cure to be at least 1 inch thick. Mine is a Berkshire belly that I bought from Becker Lane Farms. These guys are certified organic and raise their animals humanely, feeding their pigs certified organic feed and give them plenty of pasture time. Not only are these practices good for the environment but they also deliver some really tasty meat!

OK enough about organic already! Let's get to the bacon!

I'm doing a brown sugar and maple cure. I enjoy the sweetness this cure adds to the bacon.



So I start with a ¼ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup of kosher salt (I love irony!), a quarter cup or real maple syrup, and of course, the star of the show, our Becker Lane Berkshire pork belly.

I began by combining the brown sugar and the salt, then mixing in the maple syrup. The cure looks like this



After that I just spread the cure all over the belly

Then just pop the belly into a well sealed bag. You can use a 2 gallon zip lock bag, but since I didn't have one I just used a turkey bag and made sure to squeeze out most of the air and tied a good knot to seal the bag.


 
Notice that I've left some room in there. Over the next week this baby is going to release a good amount of liquid. That's the cure at work. The salt pulls the water from the protein and that's how the meat is preserved.

Now all I have to do is pop it into the refrigerator and turn it over once a day to redistribute the cure and the juices.

You also may have noticed that I didn't use any pink salt. Pink salt is a nitrite salt. It's typically used in curing but, as I learned this week, it isn't really essential. I found this out while at The Butcher and the Larder, a great new butcher shop here in Chicago. Rob told me if I do it this way and don't like the results he'll give me another belly. Somehow I don't think Rob will have to pay up on that bet.

So, with the idea that simple is better, I left it out.

Next Saturday I'll pop this baby into the smoker for an hour and a half or so over apple wood and that's it.

Easy to make, simple ingredients, and really delicious.

You should try it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Open Your Mind Part 2

I never really understood people who are picky eaters.

I've cooked for and had dinner with people who have flat out refused to taste some particular dish that they thought they wouldn't like. Now, its OK not to like something. But you've got to at least try it. Otherwise you could talk yourself out of missing something you might just end up loving.

While I eat just about anything, there are some things that I don't like. The raw pulp of tomato, can't stand the stuff, super oily anchovies, not so much, and oddly, I'm not a fan of olives. But you know what, I've tried them all, many times over. If someone says “Wow, this is fantastic, you have to try it” and it contains something I may not be fond of, I try it. Usually I don't care for it, but in some cases I'm surprised. Like the time I was served an heirloom tomato salad at an Italian restaurant that I frequent. I didn't think I'd like it, but someone told me it was amazing, so I tried it. It was spectacular. The perfect balance of basil, peppery olive oil and garden fresh heirloom tomatoes. And if I had said “No I don't want that” I'd have missed out on something really amazing.

So where do I get this idea that I have to try it? Well, when I was growing up we weren't given the option of saying no at the table. If mom was making it, we were eating it. Period. You see, I grew up in a middle class house. My dad worked for the city and my mom was a secretary. Money must have been tight, but every night we sat down to dinner together and ate. And when mom cooked it, I was eating it. Like it or not. While I love broccoli and cauliflower now, I hated them as a kid. We ate a lot of that stuff back then.

There was the one time I got my revenge though. It was St. Patrick's day, and even though we are a Polish family, mom always made corned beef and boiled cabbage on St. Paddy's day. So there I was, a stubborn 6 year old. I ate my corned beef and boiled potatoes, but that sulphery smelling quarter head of boiled cabbage sat there on my plate, staring me in the face. I was told that I was not leaving the table until I ate my cabbage. I was upset and crying. Thowing a bit of a fit actually. Long after my sister had been excused from the table because she had cleaned her plate, and after much insistence from my parents, I knew I didn't have a choice. I wasn't happy about it but I dug in. After the second bite though, my stomach lurched, I gagged and that damned cabbage, along with a good portion of my dinner ended up back on the plate, and the table, and the floor. Needless to say, I was excused.

Now I'm not saying we should make ourselves puke trying new foods, but we should have an open mind about things we've never tried.

Oddly, a lot of the food we hated as kids was usually because of improper cooking. I don't know many kids who liked brussel sprouts. Usually they came from a can and were boiled to a disgusting consistency. I made dinner for some family a while back and served  roasted brussel sprouts. I found them at the farmers market that morning, still on the stalk. I coated them with good olive oil and a bit of sea salt and popped them in the oven. They were gorgeous. A few people declined, but after a bit of pressure from me they gave them a shot. You should have seen the looks of surprise in their eyes. They were stunned that something that could taste so horrible, but when prepared well, could taste so amazing. So when you say you don't like something it just might be that you've never had it propperly prepared.  But you won't know until you try.

Have you ever had bone marrow? It's actually quite trendy now, but when I was a kid you never saw it in a restaurant. At home we used to fight over who would get the precious bit of marrow from that little bone in the center of the round steak. If you haven't had it you've got to try it. Sure it looks like a big gelatinous snot, but spread it on toasted bread with a bit of parsley, capers and shallot and WOW! It's like butter on crack.

When it comes to trying something new, that I've never had before, I dig right in and you should too. You might find out you really like something and realize you've been missing out your entire life. For instance, imagine the first guy to ever eat a lobster. He must have though to himself “Gee, that big bug over there looks pretty gross. But I'm hungry. I already know that the sand doesn't taste very good, let alone how my bowels reacted to it, so maybe I'll eat the big, gross looking sea bug over there.”

Imagine his delight when he realized what an amazing discovery he made. I bet his fellow villagers threw him a parade too!

So the next time someone asks you to try something you've never had before and your initial reaction is “YUCK, NO WAY!”, think to yourself for a second about the guy and the lobster, and give it a shot. Who knows, you might throw a parade for the person who offered it to you.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Open Your Mind

So you're at the local megamart shopping for your groceries. You look into the meat section and see the pristine looking steaks. They're neatly cut and placed into Styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic.  Do you ever think about where that steak or pork chop came from?
Well, it came from a living being. And that animal gave its life to feed us.  But a lot more comes from a pig or a cow than the tenderloin, loin and other more desirable cuts, and I think it's our responsibility to pay homage to that animal that gave its life to feed us. We shouldn't eat the best and throw away the rest. There are a whole lot more delicious pieces to that beast than the cuts you're used to eating. Aside from cuts like shoulder, belly and head, there's something called offal. That's the guts of the animal. And all of these things, when prepared properly, can be delicious beyond compare.

But do you eat these things? I do, and they're amazing.

Actually I bet a lot of you already do eat these lesser cuts and some of you don't even know it.

Who doesn't like bacon, what about sausage, or osso bucco? These are all lesser cuts that come from an animal. And you know what? They're delicious!

So let's go back in time a bit, to the times of our ancestors.  In those times there was no supermarket, or butcher to visit. Before domesticated animals we ate what we caught and hunting was hard, like really hard. So when an animal was killed in the hunt we ate everything we could and even made valuable items from what we couldn't eat. Clothes, weapons, and even jewelry were made from the remains of the hunt.  So if you're a vegetarian or the vegetarian's hezbollah like cousin, a vegan, did you know that some of the first couture fashion and jewelry came from animals? Anyway, when we killed an animal during the hunt, which at times was a really dangerous operation by the way, we ate every last scrap we could. Liver, kidneys,and  heart were all prized sources of protein and over time people developed really tasty ways to cook these things.

So the next time you sit down to eat your steak, pork chop, or even chicken dinner, think about the other things that came from that animal that had to die to feed us. Think about what happened to the head, the guts, the less savory cuts.  And maybe, next time you go shopping, you'll ask about a cut of meat you might otherwise not choose. Ask the butcher how to cook it. Sure, it might involve some extra effort to cook, and often more time to do so, but in the end I'll bet you're really happy with the results.

If you've made it this far congratulations. In this blog I'll talk about these lesser cuts and guts that I cook and eat. I’ll tell you how to make some amazing food and  I'll also take a look at eating sustainably, locally, and all in all better. I'll try to update this blog a few times per week and hopefully you'll not only enjoy what you read but eat better too.

Bon Appetit!