30 April, 2008

Spring, I hardly know you.

vin de citron styled

So much for April. Last week in photo styling class we had to shoot a beverage and convey temperature. Does it look cold? The condensation portrayed here is a 50% glycerin mix. So much for the magic.

What's more important is what's inside: Homemade fortified wine, vin de citron, commonly referred to as vin de hoo-hoo. This year why not make a batch? Impress your friends with homemade Lillet. Summer is right around the corner.

Here's a link to a previous post on making vin de citron


24 April, 2008


Boneless Ham a la Gourmet Magazine 1987.

Here's the scene last Monday about 11:30 PM (that's 23:30 for my Continental friends, and a half hour more if you are in Hyderabad): I walk in with my haul from baking class, 2 rye loaves, 2 pains de campange, 12 mini baguettes. Bonne Femme is sitting on the couch unable to sleep. "I have fresh bread, who wants a ham sandwich?" BF replies, "I would but we don't have any mayonnaise."

"Huh? We got eggs don't we?"

One egg yolk, 1/2t mustard, a splash of vinegar, juice from half of a small lime, salt, white pepper and six ounces of canola oil. Thirty seconds later, Hey Presto, mayonnaise.

Midnight snack.

In school this quarter I am taking a food styling for photography class. Even though a friend who is a noted photography expert remarked, "Take the Class? Hell man, you could teach it," I still need to learn the "Tricks of the trade." I mean how do they get a burger to look hot and juicy even though its no warmer than a jar of jam? How do they make a beer look cold and refreshing even though it's been several hours since it came out of a can? I don't know the answers yet, but I will find out over the next few weeks.

For the first project I decided to shoot ham, so I gotta make some ham. I started with the brine recipe for "Glazed Holiday Ham," from Charcuterie, by Ruhlman and Polcyn. I threw in a handful old pickling spice and boiled it to a tea. Once this mixture had cooled I put in the ham. Since my boneless ham was in several pieces I figured it wouldn't need to sit too long, maybe three days.

Thoroughly pickled, time to tie our friends into roasts.

I let the roasts rest for a day then smoked them on the Weber Smokey Mountain.

Three hours later at an internal temperature of 155F, the ham is ready for its close-up.

This brings me to another philosophical quandary: Food as props. I'm sure somebody has written a book about this but I get an uneasy feeling about "styling" an object in order to made it look appetizing, then throw it away because it's inedible. This isn't a still life, this is portraiture. (all ham depicted in this blog was treated with respect, handled in accordance with sanitary guidelines and happily consumed). I know these thoughts verge on silly, along the lines of stepping on a bug, or the vegetarian having to cook meat at culinary class, I know there is give and take and compromises that are made for the greater good, but I haven't come to terms with it yet; I just can't put it down the drain.

In the mean time here are a couple of pictures of ham doing what it is supposed to do:

(Ham on a bagel under an egg and hollandaise)

(Ham on biscuit with egg)

Feeding someone, making someone happy.


16 April, 2008

The Istanbul Report: Food in The Streets

Grilled mackerel on the Galata bridge

"You and Ledina can eat all that crap together in Turkey."
--Eric (Ledina's husband) on prospects of eating non-fleshy animal parts.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to visit Istanbul. I was going to meet up with Ledina, a good friend of mine from the Addis Ababa salad days. Ledina is a most impressive gourmet adventurer and I knew that she was the perfect person to discover a new world of culinary delights: After all she was the first one who dug in to the raw goat chunks (Tere sega), when we were in Ethiopia. We were joining Ledina’s sister Bora her friend Michael. It was a small army of fearless eaters-- stuffing our faces as we worked our way forwards and backwards across Istanbul, stopping for the occasional draw on the nargile or water pipe. The four of us were primarily interested in street food, as it tends to be the best tasting, cheapest and lets say, experiential. This is the way to locals eat anyways, not in tricked out tourist traps of ‘we have terrace’ restaurants with menus in four languages. Sultan’s Revenge be damned-- I’d rather eat hunkered down on a street curb swatting off the battalions of stray cats (and there are A LOT of stray cats in Istanbul!) than in a restaurant.

I had purchased a Lonely Planet guide that included a run down on street vendors and things that we might come across such as mussels, fish sandwiches, cucumbers, raw meat balls, etc. It warned that sampling some of these dishes risked bouts of severe diarrhea. The stuffed mussels for example, were recommended only for those that wanted to live ‘very very dangerously’ and went on to add ‘if you try these, you must be mad’. I wanted to live dangerously. And yes, I might exhibit symptoms of madness; but having lived in sub-Saharan Africa in a mud hut drinking river water for two years, I figured I already played host to most of the possible range of microorganisms and furthermore believed that the Turkish varieties were probably pretty small time stuff compared to their African counterparts. I was not to be proven wrong.

I sampled all that I could off the streets. The stuffed mussels for those who live dangerously? they were OK, but tasted more like a ball of rice than of any shellfish. There was amazingly delicious rice pilaf, with such fierce turnover, it is highly unlikely that it sat anywhere long enough to be fertile ground for bacteria.

The grilled fish sandwiches were always good, made more fun by the novelty of ordering them off of tiny wooden fishing boats docked along the Golden Horn river. Unfortunately, I never did manage to get my hands on the raw meat balls. Given my love of kitfo, it looked like they would be right up my alley. We hit everything else on the lonely planet list though, and more. I loved the carts of raw cumbers, expertly peeled before your eyes and served with a shake of salt.

Thirsty? There were carts laden with fresh oranges and grapefruits, pushed by men who would slice open and juice up some refreshing citrus. I was most enamored with kokorec, which are sheep’s intestines.

I used to be a bit squeamish when it came to the interior meats, but now-a-days I have a true appreciation of their capabilities. Especially when prepared porchetta style, all tied up and seasoned with aromatic herbs and served in a hot roll. I am ready and waiting for Macmac to try his hand at some boudin or haggis.

It wasn't all fish sandwiches and barbecued sheep intestines for us though, the sweet stuff is just as good and just as plentiful. Pastry and candy shops selling lokum (gummy Turkish candy) and all manner of baklava dot the city like the syrupy sugary stars. We also became specialists in the wonderfully eclectic asure.

Asure is a mix of fruit, nuts, grains and beans in a sweet starchy medium perfumed with rose water and cinnamon. Asure has it all, texture, flavor, color and all around mind-belly satisfaction--it feels good to eat it. The rosewater aroma imparts asure with a very sexy, exotic attitude, emboldened by dried figs and pomegranate, but is grounded in homey familiarity with its broad white beans, chickpeas and barley. We tried one that even contained maize kernels! I will certainly begin trying my hand at recreating this in my mother’s kitchen in the coming weeks... Asure is also interesting to me in that it breaks many of the rules that have been laid out for desserts in the western context. It is not cakey, flaky, creamy or chocolately; it isn't even terribly gooey. Often times, we just ate asure for lunch rather than downing a greasy French-fry-lamb kebab. Of course, we also took a fish sandwich for dessert.

Thanks Jolie. I believe my sister is getting back to the US today. You'll need to book her quickly for your Turkish-Ethiopian party food, she doesn't stay still for long.

Check Jolie's Flickr Page for more photos.


09 April, 2008

Fools for School

Break's over.

This week I started spring quarter and a Intro to Baking and Pastry class. As part of the class we are supposed to take photos of our work, I will try to keep a running photo diary on my flickr page.

In other school news I received the following email this morning from our roving corespondent, Jolie:

--------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Apr 7, 2008 1:26 PM
Subject: LE CORDON BLEU PARIS - Candidature
To: [Jolie]

Chère Mlle [Jolie],

Nous vous remercions de votre intérêt pour LE CORDON BLEU.

Nous sommes heureux de vous informer que votre candidature a été acceptée pour LE DIPLOME DE PATISSERIE - programme intensif du 17 Novembre 2008 au 5 juin 2009.

Nous vous adressons aujourd'hui par courrier la lettre d'admissibilité comprenant les détails pour le règlement du solde des frais de scolarité ainsi que le règlement intérieur de l'Ecole.

Nous vous rappelons que la date limite de paiement est le 3 Octobre 2008.

N'hésitez à nous contacter pour toute information complémentaire.

Avec nos sincères salutations,

Admissions Director
8 rue Léon Delhomme

My French is a little rusty but it looks like we will have a stringer working the Paris beat this Fall. That will make three in my family that have gone to culinary (My Uncle J cooks at Orso in Anchorage). Like my pal Sabra says: You crazy kids are always up to something (Sabra also has stories to tell of being elbow deep in the butter cream bucket).

Très Bien Jolie!

My mom, Ekarhu and Jolie spent the Easter Holiday in Spain. They put some nice pictures up on flickr, check them out.

We'll get back to the business of sausage real soon.