I’m a fairly adventurous eater and will try almost anything at least once. I’m fairly open-minded when it comes to sampling atypical menu items but, of course, that doesn’t mean I like everything I sample. Blood preparations (ie. sausages and puddings) have never won me over, not because of the main ingredient but because of their texture and consistency. Brains have a nice creamy texture but its their aftertaste – an unpleasant metallic undertone – that makes them hard to enjoy. I find tripe too chewy, kidneys unpleasant in flavor, and duck tongues boney and relatively meatless. On the other hand, I love foie gras (fatty duck and goose liver), delight in thinly sliced charcoal grilled cow tongue, and always order the chicken feet whenever I’m out for dim sum.
I like daring food. I like to eat it. I like to watch its preparation on the Food Network. And, lately, inspired by the culinary creations of the Iron Chefs and Top Chef contestants, I’ve liked preparing it as well…
Pictured above is the braised meat trio I made a few weeks back for football Sunday – because, of course, nothing says football like ox-tail, veal cheeks, and short ribs. My variation of the recipe calls for an entire bottle of port, reduced by half, as the braising liquid. After eight hours of slow-cooking, the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.
You’re unlikely to find the more daring meats on display at your local butcher. Fortunately, the gang at Market Meats (2326 West 4th Avenue – Vancouver) are more than happy to accommodate unique requests. Like the other week when I went in and asked them for pork cheek, figuring I’d have to place a special order. “Pork cheek?”asked my man Spencer. “You bet.” He disappeared into the back and returned a minute later with a package.
I ended up making Pork Cheeks two ways. The first braised in an ice wine and pear reduction, the second marinated with apples, dijon, sugar, and chicken stock before being seared and finished in the oven. A double-dish worthy of Top Chef. I saved a couple of pieces for Lawren who, uncertain at first, needed only a couple of bites to convince him to polish off the leftovers.
On that visit to Market Meats, in addition to the pork cheeks, I also picked up a package of sweetbreads. For those of you who don’t know, sweetbreads are neither sweet nor any sort of bread. They’re the thymus gland of a calf (or lamb). Although they may look like brains, they possess a much firmer consistency. Like brains, however, they require a whole song-and-dance advance preparation. In the case of sweetbreads, they are soaked overnight in cold water (the water should be changed three or four times), then rinsed, patted dry, and the connective tissue and membrane removed. Then, they’re pressed and refrigerated for another few hours to remove any excess liquid. I know, I know. To most, they may seem more trouble than they’re worth. Hell, I’m sure that, to most, the simple act of making a trip to your butcher to buy them would be more trouble than they’re worth, but, like ox-tail, they’re something I grew up with. My mother would serve them, bacon-wrapped and crispy-grilled. I decided to make them three ways…
I dust them with flour, then pan fry them until golden, season them, then add a half cup of Metaxa and flambe. Once that’s done, add a few tablespoons of cream to finish and voila!
I followed the same preparation as the first dish, dusting with flour and browning, then add some fresh tarragon and a veal demi-glace. I allow that to cook down for five minutes, then serve. This was our favorite of the trio. Tarragon lends it a wonderful sweetness.
I dipped these in a chimichurri sauce made of blended fresh parsely, fresh oregano, garlic, and jalapeno peppers, then simply oven-roasted them.
Finally, today –
Kobe steaks are daring only insofar as, at about $80 a pop, you risk major disappointment if you screw them up.
I brought them up to room temperature a half an hour before cooking, then seasoned them with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and chives before searing them over medium-high heat in a cast-iron pan –
I finished them in the oven (325 degrees for approximately eight minutes). Alas, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product so you’ll have to trust me. They were delicious.
Finally, dessert –
Akemi’s tiramisu. This time, only daring insofar as a failure to mention it could well prove hazardous to my health.
A sad weekend for my Snow Monkeys. They were trounced and it looks like it’s time to make changes. Besides Romo, my two best players were late waive wire acquisitions: Steve Breaston and Brandon Jacobs! NoShow Moreno, you’re cut! Gaffney, you’re cut! Watson? Cut!
The Running Dead also came up short, potentially costing Ivon a playoff spot. Over in his league, looks like Lawren has an uphill climb for a playoff spot as well. Rob, on the other hand, is simply relieved his Cowboys won.