Relations

She isn’t particularly pretty. When you speak of her no one really ever gets too excited. In fact, im not sure people are completely listening. One might describe her as plain, or just, not memorable. It’s like when someone you are really fond of calls you cute, it stings a bit because you dont want cute, you want to be their sexy.
Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t rejected ever, she’s always welcomed. She’s always someones favorite, someone you couldn’t pick out of the room, someone with that sort of taste. At the end of the night you just don’t really recall your conversation with her, she was there though, right…

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There she is. Young. There’s some age on her sure but nothing defining. She is the distant unrelated cousin at the Christmas party. You always saw her. She wore those ‘sweaters.’ Her presence was kind of annoying, yet, the familiarness of her was somewhat comforting.

She disappeared for a while. Or maybe that was you.

And then there she was…only this time it wasn’t at Christmas, it was in the middle of spring. Full, glorious, blooming, spring. The sweater was gone, very gone. Replaced with something very revealing, there was nothing cute about her. She had age*, their was an air of sophistication*. You planned on remembering more than this conversation. A smile played across your lips as you gazed at her, there was more than spring radiating in you.

We’ll call it appetite.

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xo
sks
*air = 425 for 90 min
*sophistication = bourbon, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar glaze

The Family

Someone recently told me that if you open your lunchbox and find an arugula salad, tossed by the hand of another, it means love. And this got me to thinking. Food is an expression of love. It takes time, and attention, and a ton of patience. Food doesnt always work out, it can be frustrating, and fail. But food can also make you smile, and desire, and dream and experience it again…and so does love.

So, the six of us got together and made love, or well, rather, we made meatballs!

JB began at the pasta helm. Armed with 00 seven flour as we affectionately call it, she began her magic. Organic yolks were added and special things happened.

She made short work of the task and soon we had pasta dough, ready to have a little rest then become the fettucine it was meant to be.

During her respite, we set out to turning 4lbs of pre cased weasel into our meatball mash. We derobed the lovely lasses, and noted immediately the course grind of actual strands of pork meat entwined with fat. Our butcher was a pro! This was no table scrap throw together everything but the kitchen sink organization!

This was real sausage, two ingredients, as it should be. Simply put…run from someone who extols the virtues of additives and extras in your casing. Or rather…question those who need to drive the Ferrari’s, what are they reaaaaaaallly trying to hide. Just sayin’, less is often more in both sausage, and love, as it turns out.


We added some grass fed beef to the bowl, chopped white onions, eggs, several cups of breadcrumbs, and then a healthy dash of oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the fold. The secret white ingredient you ask…why thats our dear friend ricotta, do it, you’ll never do it without again.

Shape your meatballs to your desired dimensions, but don’t handle them to much. Something important with meatballs is that you want the fat intact, not melted from you pawing them too much. This is important in the maintenance of a juicy meatball, and burger too for that matter. Sometimes you dont need to have your hands on everything, just bits of things, for bits of time. You’ll learn. You may err now, but your next go you’ll make less mistakes, better, juicier, meatballs. People will remember them. They’ll remind you after even you have forgotten. They’ll smile, because of you.

Speaking of smiling. The smell of fresh pasta is something you need to treat yourself to. We did. After her most successful pasta nap, enter kitchen aids.

We draped it over the back of chairs and across our tables, dusted it lightly with semolina and just admired with eyes and nose at our splendors. Soon she would be ready for a quick boil, a slight sauce, and her meaty companions.

What happened next you ask? Bruschetta was made by JB: the most elegant rub of ricotta and lemon zest topped toast with roasted butternut squash and fried sage. Beth fashioned a crisp arugula salad with fennel and generous shavings of aged parmesan laced her lemony leaves. I created a caponata of eggplant, and Donald handled dessert in the way that only he knows best-Tiramisu in all her glory. Rich, silken marscapone, espresso drenched lady fingers…truly heaven.

Natalia supplied us with our Italian wares, so scarf teckties were worn and of course mustaches did abound. Some more creatively wore their facial hair compared to others, some just got sassy, and others didnt need them because they can grow their own!

The rest of the evening was for us. We could post a few more photos but you wouldn’t see it. You wouldn’t catch the lingering glances and shared smiles. Nor the passed forks and the infectious laughter, like a favorite song, trickling up and down the lengthy mustachioed table.  Arms were slung around neighboring chairs, and something more than a thank you for full bellies was occuring. A deeper, unmentionable gratitude was present. Sated by our epicurean creations, and each other, there was love in them meatballs, and I’ll take that in my lunchbox any day.

xo sks

Carnitas…a love story in three hours

Sometimes there’s a scene from a movie you just can’t get out of your head, or a sentence in a novel that is unforgettable. Well, this one began with a glance and an utterance…
Isn’t it sexy,” her eyes glinted as she gave a sly grin and the smallest upward flicker of an eyebrow.
It was the look of luck, of something special happening that words or cameras can’t capture. It’s something that can only be conveyed through the eyes of those who have a pretty certain idea of the bliss ahead. Of possibility. And let me tell you, more than an inkling was coming from those eyes.


Fingers and steel found the invisible seams in the 12lbs of gorgeous pork shoulder as JB deftly carved the meat into manageable mounds of lovely. Seems that butchery was just another one of her many hidden talents, that, well, none of us were that shocked by.
Nestled in our largest pot we ladled liquefied lard over our pork, and a bottle and a half of Negro Modelo, the latter just seemed fitting with the theme.
Feel free to do what you wish with that leftover half bottle of Cerveza.
Refresh yourself if you will, because this is hard work!
Two oranges were quartered, squeezed of their juice, and their rinds joined the party in the pot as well. Lastly, our caldron received 3 sprigs of thyme, some bay leaves, and a cinnamon stick for good measure.

Crank up the heat to get a good amount of bubble coming through, and then turn her down for her slow 180min simmer in the beautiful bath.

No, you’re not done.
As in any relationship worth its weight, there is always work to be done.JB revealed that she isn’t opposed to traveling with tools as she pulled a hand blender mixer-y sort from her bag and blitzed a fiery roasted tomatillo salsa into submission.


Jicama was pealed, and compatibility was found as she was mixed with grapefruit,cayenne, cilantro, some lime and olive oil, and a simple salad was born.

Cabbage showed up and with patience, and radish, she became a lovely lime driven slaw to top our tacos.

Ok, so, apparently kitchen aids in a gal’s bag are common because Natalia pulled a tortilla press from her satchel too. Hmmm…JB is the hand mixer type, Natalia the old school masa iron.
If I pass you on the street and you see my gaze lingering on your bag, now you’ll know what I’m wondering about you. Maybe on first dates we shouldn’t ask people what their hobbies are, or where they grew up, but more like, if you could have ANY kitchen utensil in your bag right now what would it be? I bet you could tell a lot about someone.
What type are you? Take some time on that one, a second date may depend on it!

Well Nata’s satchel surprise was well worth it. Our masa, being the consistent dependable partner she is, was molded into the tortillas she was always going to be, nothing different, yet truly delicious.

Guacamole made her presence known, a habanero pesto happened, queso fresco was in attendance and of course Beth brought it home with the beans!
Soaked, parboiled and pinto’d to perfection, she mixed in some sauteed onions, thyme and a healthy handshake of our very own snowy white lard. Its not so much a refry as it is a mash, mix and heat. Holy Moses they are good!!
I’m going to say this once now…Stop screwing around ordering blackkkkk beans at those taquerias in the mission. Step up, and ask for what you really want, refried beans. Seriously. You’re practicing in your head arent you? Dont let us down.

Three hours came and went and it was time. The table was set, the margaritas were shaken.JB fried us up some tasty chickpeas to start off our celebration. Spicey wonderfulness happened in our mouths.

I turned up the heat on the carnitas to get a golden sear on our meat.
Parchment paper lined our largest serving dish and the meat was pulled from her pot. We ladled some of the pan drippings over the hand shredded jewels.

The image was eye fellating.
We paused. We sighed. You’re pausing, see.
This time the glances were of success, and yes, there was lust. Use your hands, fingers slippery with greasy lick your plate clean kind of lust!
The meat, what to say about it. The edges were crisp from their light fry, the inside supple, savory and porky with just a hint of orange and a whisper of cinammon. I can say a lot of it didnt even make it into the tacos because she, alone, was kind of a star.

Isnt that how things, life, people, should be?
Alone…awesome, and then mixed with something else…somewhere else…someone else…you get amazing.
Hmm…I’ll have to have a think about that one, and maybe put a whisk in my bag for my theatre date tonight. Maybe.
xo
sks

The Render

Render [ren-der]

verb (used with object)

1. to cause to be or become; make

2. to transmit to another

3. in other words, an exercise in patience and pork fat

Some might suggest, that in my epicurean adventures, I tend to bite off more than I can chew. My plans oft too grandiose, while excellent in theory, prove impossible in practice and execution. However, some may also tend to agree that at the end of it all, my table is always set and ringed with good friends while the tinkling of the Reidels signal an accomplishment of some kind.

Education by experience is one of my favorite traits of our friends. We very often decide on a path and then with little or no preparation, assuming success (or at worst, anticipating laughter later over reminisced follies), we optimistically embark. That is how we chose to handle the lard. This is not a recipe, but instead maybe a ‘redux’; one evening when we relinquished timorous tendencies, and entered into something new and uncharted, full boar!       

Thawed and already leaving a greasy stain on my cutting board (and my sweater) 9 lbs of skin on back fat lay before us.

This is where you need to pull out that fancy Japanese knife you got as a gift that one celebratory affair. Trust me, it is time for her, it’s right, and you may never want another after.

Begin by removing any lingering meat on the fat, anything venous in appearance, creating a clean canvas if you will. Steel will slide deftly through the fat, as well as fingers due to the slippery nature of our subject, so be mindful. Chop the fat into manageable sections. We chose handy kitchen shears for this action. In hindsight, the smaller, the better for your pan (and any hankering you have to sleep that evening).

Confession: I have never eaten chicharrones, pork rinds, cracklins’, or whatever your preferred moniker. Rendering will isolate these crispy cuts, but wander on if you’re searching for such mentions here; we didn’t go there. Judge if you must, I am not an enthusiast. It’s not an experience I feel I need to have at this point. To me, it’s like that one pristine isle languishing in a perfect azure sea or a magnificent ancient monument, the kind seen frequently in travel magazines. Once arrived, you feel strangely, sadly, like you’ve already been there. Awe does not overwhelm you, as anticipated the day you find yourself there. Instead perhaps you find yourself wishing you had left the perfect memory of it in the glossy 9 by 11’s. This is how I feel about pork skin: my passport will remain ensconced in its drawer on this particular detour.

Alright, let’s go back.

Pig layered in the pot, add water to almost cover and adjust your flame to just above low.

Begin the melt, aiming for the sweet spot: that lovely lull when the rainbow oil slick of fat starts to form in your pork bath and equilibrium falters, tipping the scales towards the land of the lipid!

Enter patience.

Defined here, as we discovered:               

3 parts bourbon, 1 part Antica, 2 shakes grapefruit bitters, one REAL maraschino cherry, rocks. The cherry must be the color of pig heart, not Hallmark heart hue. Buy them, thank us later. (I’m not even going to mention the size of your ice cubes, we’ll discuss it later. One thing at a time, I know, change is hard).

Libate and stir your render. Do it every thirty (the latter, not the former or I make no promises).

Ladle off excess melted lard, strain it through cheesecloth into a clean bowl or double up some paper towels, either works well. Then add a little water back to your pot and continue on your journey.

The trick is not to allow sticking of any sort to the bottom of the pot. This causes discoloration of your lard, they say: and thus a less prized, somewhat compromised quality of resulting fat, they warn.

Well, I am here to report that between 1 and 3 am, on a school night, sticking did occur and the world is still alright! Just go back and reread that part where we told you we had 9, capital N, elll bees of fattage to render. Now let me tell you something new we discovered that night:

There’s something special that happens between those single digit hours on a weeknight, those hours intended for sleep. If you’re awake, maybe you know. There’s a stillness that sets in, a quiet calm that invades. It makes the visible dirt on the streets less apparent and the dirt in our lives somehow more manageable. We found it that night. It happened for us not on the street, but in the serenity that came at the stove. Brown bits, bourbon and back fat came together in those pre-dawn pork hours to form a beautiful snowy white lard, sating those handy, salvaged mason jars and maybe, in some way our souls.

Go forth now, it’s safe, sleep. Someday soon, you will render.
xo
sks

The Pickup

As it turns out, a chest freezer takes about four hours to cool down, which was just enough time for us to pick up the pig, formerly known as Weasel. So yesterday, after our respective morning errands, Sarah, Connor, Donnie and I jumped in the Subaru with a large catering cooler in the back and headed up to Napa. We of course stopped at Oxbow market for lunch, because really, who wants to visit a bunch of carcasses on an empty stomach?

Barry the butcher wasn’t in at Brown’s Valley Market, but the strapping young butcher who helped us out let us take a quick tour of the back. There were two other meat cutters carving up large hunks of beef and slicing bacon. Our pig parts came in three cardboard boxes. We pulled the car around back to the loading door to quickly and unceremoniously cram Weasel into the cooler while avoiding a slew of vulturous yellow jackets that were buzzing around the alley. She fit perfectly.

All of the meat was carefully vacuum sealed in plastic with a label denoting the cut. Of course we wanted to know the final weight of our pig bits, so we put Connor on a bathroom scale with a milk crate and took stock:

 

 

 

 

 

We are very much looking forward to our first pig meal: Carnitas on September 17. In the meantime, a sneak preview at Sunday brunch this morning confirmed that Weasel is indeed a tasty pig. Now we are down to five packs of bacon and may need a security system for the freezer, cause that stuff is like gold!

When a pig freezes over

I eat out every night, foraging for food among the Mission’s sea of taquerias and local eateries. I hate suburban malls and getting up early on weekends, and also have no patience for shopping of any sort. With this context, you can see that I was the perfect candidate to figure out storage for our frozen pig. The original plan to store our meaty parcels, to distribute them amongst our tiny urban iceboxes, sounded much smarter while bourbon-storming. In the sober light of the busy work weeks that preceded our pig pick-up, we decided to acquire a chest freezer.

We started with the used appliance store around the corner from Sarah’s house. After two visits, a phone call and a host of broken promises to call us with quotes, we decided that the establishment was probably a front for trafficking illegal workers and we turned to Craigslist. At first glance I was stoked; there were freezers, many under $100. The available inventory was spread throughout the far reaches of the bay area. After three days full of maddening staccato flakey communication brought me no closer to our desired acquisition, I remembered why I hate Craigslist. One look at the Home Depot website and a new chest freezer didn’t look so expensive. And that my friends is how I ended up at the Daly City Home Depot at 8:30 this morning.

Lemon Confit

Pork is incoming! Today I started to have a mini panic about all this meat. The panic quickly turned into excitement as I began to brainstorm more than pork recipes, but the shear possibilities of accoutrement at hand as well.
This leads me to today’s recipe: Lemon Confit. I actually thought of this recipe because I have a friend who insists that lemon belongs on almost everything. In salads, on meats, you name it, she’ll squeeze it, so this recipe is for her.
This is a fantastic fridge staple, and a recipe that allows you to reap the benefits of your hard hard work for months to come.
We may thinly slice the confit and serve it with charcuteries or atop a smear of our lovely pate jacketing a crostini. In butters to brighten sauces, and yes, we believe it’s a friend of bourbon as well. She’s destined to be a major player!

GO GET:
5 lemons, if you can pick ’em off that tree down the street, even better.
4 tbsp sugar
4 c kosher salt
1 quart mason jar

DO THIS:
Wash and scrub your lemons.
Cut them in 6-8 slices each
Toss them into a bowl, squeezing them to release a bit of their juices as you do.
Pause…enjoy that fresh lemon scent, and your dripping citrus-y hands in your lovely kitchen.

ReFOCUS
Mix the salt and sugar together in a clean bowl.
Add a cup of the salt-sugar mix to the bowl of lemons and juices, toss ’em
Now, alternately add salt-sugar mix and lemons with their juices, to the mason jar.
I chose to employ the handy wooden kitchen spoon and spear my mixture through a few times to release any air bubbles and get all those juices flowin’. Air = mold, so get all of it out if possible and that lemony acid equally distributed throughout the jar because the acid will keep your fruit vibrant in color as well.

Cap it.
Fridge it.
Wash up.
Stay tuned.
xo
sks