Cooking Independently...

July 4th is always a time of year that I find myself searching for something(s) to cook that will satisfy my inner soul and cause me to question my tastes. It is a time that we typically will invite our friends over to join in the celebration of our country's independence, gorge themselves on various bites which I have labored over, drink new bottles of wine, or perhaps engage in a tasting of lively cocktails that my lovely wife has so creatively concocted, watch the setting sun over the Puget Sound, participate in the burning of the local driftwood creating a huge fire and settle in to watch us and others practically blow themselves up lighting various degrees of legal and illegal fireworks. Good times! The food is always a focal point however. I wait until the last possible moment to decide on what to cook. This drives my better half crazy beyond all means. Each year, I say that I will make an easier menu, pick simpler ingredients and spend less time in the kitchen so that I may spend more time with our guests. Yeah, right! This is where I am at home. Literally and figuratively. These dishes I come up with are not restaurant dishes, although they could very well be in their own right. They are not complicated, although that too sometimes is open to interpretation and subjection. They are foods and dishes that I dig deep in my flavor files and memory banks to cook and aim to create a lasting memorable experience for our guests, and selfishly, for myself as well. I love bold flavor. I love spice and character. And I love heat! People ask me at times why I do not cook like this in my restaurant...for me, the only thing I can think of is that is something I reserve for me and my family and those that join us for meals at home. Yes, they could make great restaurant meals, presented in a more rustic flair and "flava", probably would be well on their way to a much more lucrative and successful style restaurant than that of the more stylish, sleek, sophisticated and avant garde one that I work in now, but that is for another time and place. Perhaps in the future, I will explore this. The menu this year went down like this...

Some of the freshest line-caught Blue Marlin from Hawaii, seasoned and marinated in salt, pepper, Sweet Moroccan Pepper (paprika-ish) and a touch of some Australian spice blend(coriander, cumin, garlic etc) with a dash of Olive Oil was grilled, then doused with a warm bath of Moroccan Preserved Lemon, Picholine Olives, Garlic, Tomatoes, Shallots and Olive Oil. This even had my ten year-old asking for more. Very Med.

Next, was a play on the overly used technique of sous vide. I picked up some fresh Alaskan Halibut Cheeks. Naturally, a bit on the tough side, I decided that this technique now had great merit. I seasoned them with Salt, Pepper, chopped Fennel, Cilantro, Anise Seed, Lemon and Orange Zest and Olive Oil and let them sit overnight. The next day, I packed them into the zip-lock bags(home style sous vide) with Shallots, Olive Oil, Orange Juice, an Orange Segment and a splash of Harissa. Sealed them tight and cooked them in 125 degree water for about an hour. I then removed them and let them sit at room temperature for a bit, then charred on a hot grill to get that last "smack" of flavor in a bold form. They were delicious. The flavor held all of it's natural goodness and added a new dimension to the cheeks.

There were also the typical salsas; Pineapple-Red Onion-Cilantro~(a signature) and relishes; Mango-Red Jalapeno with Mint and the like, but the real showstopper was the marinated, spicy Pork "Sliders"! This was the HIT of the feast! Many of us could not stop devouring these little "muffulata-like" sandwiches. First I took a boneless shoulder and placed it into a agro dolce vinegar-honey-brown sugar-salt brine for an hour to tenderize it a bit, as well as add a little bite of acidity. It was then patted dry and rubbed with salt, black pepper, smoked sweet paprika, chipotle powder, Moroccan pork rub(cumin, garlic, pepper, poivron rouge, coriander, bay, ginger etc), garlic powder, chili powder and a splash of evoo. This was left to do it's thing overnight. The next morning, very early, I sauteed a mixture of onions, carrots, garlic and shallots, all chopped very small so as to just melt into the braise later, in which I again added more of the same spices to create very intense, highly aromatic foundation to the pincage. I added in the pork and browned in the very hot marmite. Next was the deglaze with various means of flavor...balsamic vinegar, molasses, honey, water, white wine. Throw down a bit of brown sugar, thyme and oregano and bring to a simmer, cover and then this is left for the long endurance of cooking for 6-7 hours at 250 degrees. The sliders were embellished with a lathering of Orange-Paprika flavored Aioli, slices of late-harvest sauvignon blanc vinegar Pickled Jalapenos(with a hint of mustard seed, honey and pepper), the Mango-Red Chili Pepper Relish and fresh picked Cilantro leaves all stuffed inside a soft, yet crusty shelled "po-boy" style loaf. Damn tasty.

To cap off the feast, my good friend Tyler Anderson, did us good with fresh cooked-to-order Cinnamon Doughnuts on our deck. One look around, and the faces said it all. This was what it was all about. As the last sparks flew in the sky, and the explosion blasts came to an end, and the embers on the beach burnt out to smoldering ashes and the stuffed guests stumbled out to the road, I was able to record this 4th as yet another great party at the beach house. Anything I would do differently??? Yes...hire a person to clean up!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is sous vide "overly" used? As a newcomer as far as techniques go, it is probably one of the least used in kitchens. Is sauteeing overly used too? Or grilling? In comparison to sous vide, they are used drastically more, but sous vide is "overly" used?

Perhaps because it is still on the cutting edge, its shift into mainstream gives the impression that it is being over used.

11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Walsh said...

Where have you been my friend?? i took a great trip to the chef's garden, on my blog, and wow, i had pop corn for indepenance day, so this is awsome. there has to be some supper summer stuff in the north east. let us know.

7:52:00 PM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

Michael...I have been here. Not always writing, but always cooking or thinking of new ideas. Actually, I am in the Northwest in Seattle. But yes, many cool and super ingredients. Heirloom tomatoes, berries, stonefruits, mushrooms, beans, onions, fennel etc. I will check out your post...

anon- sous vide does appear to be much overly used and plagerized. However, it is an old tecnique, not new. The French developed it back in the mid-late 70's or so to allow for consistency and their art of food to be replicated by the commis etc. It has been brought back to the mainstream by a handful of visionary chefs, or perhaps researchers as it were to re-introduce the technique as it allows for a very moist heat transfer and maintains flavors and natural juices by means of eliminating evaporation and moisture loss through normal methods. Everthing moves in cycles it seems. And yes, the media does tend to over-emphasize things at times.

9:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it's true, sous vide was brought about in the 70's, there fore is not brand spanking new, it is the new comer on the scene compared to the centuries most other cooking methods have been used. So it is not old by any means.

And I still disagree with you, further more that you have now included the word "plagerized". To plagerize is to steal an original work and call it your own. A technique,particularly one that has been used for 40 years now, can not be plagerized, stolen, or over used. It belongs to everyone who wants it.

If anything, cooking sous vide still has much more room to be incorporated into kitchens of all sizes, making it under used in my opinion.

4:33:00 PM  
Blogger cuisinier said...

Anon- I appreciate your viewpoints. You are correct in that it is relatively new to the scene. I guess when you have experienced it a couple decades ago, it appears as "old", yet to many, it quite new. As for the dissagreement, the term "plagerized" is a play on words, as I will do from time to time. I am familiar with the correct meaning. I also do agree that a method or even a recipe for that matter is open game for anyone to use. I do not have a problem with it so long as one does not try to claim it as their own originality. Everyone has copied something at some time. Thank you for commenting.

1:16:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home