Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cabbage Soup

Cabbage soup. People love it. So I feel like i must clear the air a bit on what is actually in it and show respect to the main ingredient because i dont think it gets the acknowledgement it truly deserves. I hear people throwing around words like meat based, meaty, fatty, bacon, pork, cream based, creamy, etc.... when describing the soup. People.... Its just cabbage and water (and ofcourse a few other things) 
The key to why this soup is so good is because its not being tampered with.
I use very little stock in my restaurant. i do have one pork stock that has been getting used for about two months now that i keep feeding with porky love. eventually id like to take a portion of this stock and hand it down to one of my kids like a family heirloom.
So heres the big secret. 
Saute off some onions, leeks and whole cloves of garlic making sure to not brown any of it. when soft, slowly start adding batches of sliced up winter waxy cabbage. I make big batches, perhaps at home you could just throw in the whole bit at once. Were looking to cook on low to medium heat here. If your patient, you will be able to bring out the natural sweetness of the cabbage. So slow and low as they say. Add some salt and a touch of sugar at this point to help limpify(yes i just made up that word) the cabbage. Next comes a bottle of cheap white wine. In restaurants, we generally use the wine that comes in 1.5 liters at the liquor store that only get bought to drink by people like my girlfriend  who like the idea of having a bottle open that they can drink over a period of two weeks. Slowly simmer your soup making sure to stir until the wine is fully evaporated. Then add enough water to cover the cabbage. 
If we wanted it to taste like chicken or carrots we would add chicken or vegetable stock but we are trying to taste cabbage and just cabbage so leave your fancy stocks in the freezer for a later use. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for as many hours as you can. The more you simmer without browning it the better your soup will turn out. Ever wonder why your grandmothers food tasted so good but looked like shit? They cook the crap out of everything!! I remember eating broccoli that was so over cooked by my granny it was almost spreadable but despite her culinary atrocities, a little butter and it always tasted incredible. 
Then comes the pureeing. A lot of high end restaurants like to refine everything about there food to achieve the perfect look or consistency and although i've been trained to cook that way in the past all that has been forgotten at the black hoof. So we puree and season. I dont strain this soup which would be common in most restaurants. I want all that lumpy stuff to stay in the soup because thats where the flavour is. I dont care if it looks like crap because it tastes good!! Same goes for the marrow bone that gets served on the side. So many poor cooks around the world are given the task of scraping all the grisly meat off the side of the marrow bone so that when its presented to the customer it looks like its been thrown through an incinerator just to achieve that perfectly clean look. People, your eating the fatty, oily marrow thats hidden within the bone of an animals leg and i purposely dont clean it to remind you of that. 
So anyways, puree the soup with whatever blender you have. I myself use an old, on its last leg bar blender which makes an extremely loud noise because something important is loose inside and im just waiting for it to blow up on me one day but we are a tiny restaurant and most of our tools, pots and pans we use are taken from me and my partners home. When pureeing, throw a view knobs of cold butter into the blender to add that extra richness. Season and serve hot with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Thats it people, the secret is that there is no secret. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pickling liquid

Its almost 4am, and i will elaborate later on this but i thought it very important to get out there to whoever is reading this. I have never worked in a restaurant where we ever kept the pickling liquid for anything after its initial purpose. Wow, what a waste of so many vinegars and flavour. 
I have been doing so much with leftover pickling liquid. For one it makes a great salad dressing. especially if its pickled onions. I will bump up the flavour and repickle the same type of veg, take liquid thats pickled beets and heat it up and pour it over celery, i take gherkin liquid and pickle my ox tongues after braising them and vac packing them while hot. i even have a container with pickling liquid i have no current use for that just keeps on collecting left overs....Not only does it save money which eventually saves the customer money but its a great way to develop flavor. Eventually it will be like a 100 yr old sourdough culture that passes on to the next batch. 
After this find, its made me seriously look at the possibilities of things before they go into the garbage or down the drain. 

Back from New york

Its been a while since my last post and id love to say i just got back from vacation but ive actually been in the kitchen  cooking. New york was fun...., expensive, but fun. I went to a nice restaurant each day i was there. After spending a couple grand on food, my favorite meal was a grilled corn with chilli pepper, mayo and grated spanish cheese for $1.90 from a little take out place called Cafe habana. Go figure. 
Bar boulud was good. His Charcutier is a master at his craft. We had a lot of meat, but it was missing cold cuts. It was all baked terrines. Too much by the end of it. But it was worth it as i understand the skill and labour that has to go in to those. 
The best thing about our time off (we closed down for 18 days) was the fact that none of my cured meats got used up. It was refreshing to walk into the kitchen and see a whole shit load of cured meats ready to harvest, which means vac packing and making room for more meat. One thing i've learned over the last few months is that as soon as i get comfortable with my stock i have to keep on producing. Its difficult forecasting how much i'll go through in the future and something i'm still trying to juggle. As for updates, The bear salami turned out just how i had hoped. The balance of salt and pepper was just enough to flavour the meat but still showcase the gaminess of its flavor. I'm happy with it for sure, but like most chefs, the conception of an idea is the most exciting part and now im over it and looking for my next fix. I did an ostrich salami with red wine and thyme and it turned out great as well. Actually i think its my new favorite. For now. 
I'm looking forward to the stuffed lonzino which hopefully will be ready in a month as well as the pork liver salami. I brought in a box of lamb loins to cure up for bresoala after tasting some at a friends restaurant. I plan to tackle those tomorrow and because they are so small, it shouldn't be too long till they're ready. 
The new menu has been pretty exhausting. I've scrapped printed menu's and gone strictly black boards at the Hoof so i can change it as often as i want. 
This week we are serving up homemade cottechino, testina, cassoulet, and pickled octopus with chorizo. 
Next week im excited for a smoked ham hock dish thats been braised, pulled off the bone, pressed and then roasted and glazed with a piri piri spice and pimento paste glaze. That will be going on a salt cod risotto. I doubt it will bring in the local portuguese from the neighbourhood but i suspect it will be tasty. 
The blackboard menu has been a learning experience. Its given me the ability to try new things as they come and also really tells me about my customer base.  Its taught me that people dont come here for green salads and side dishes. I tried it and had lettuce rot in my fridge. I just thought with all that meat it would be nice to have a little greens to lighten things up. Apparently not. 
The newest hit is the black hoofs Tongue sandwich. A shit load of tongue in between  toasted brioche with gherkins, tarragon cream, purple mustard, and some pickled celery. Which by the way is my newest fascination. 
Out of all the pickles i've done, celery is now my new favorite. 
Try it.