Port-Braised Ox-Tail, Veal Cheek, and Short Rib.

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.

Pork Cheek Two-Ways.

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…

Pan-Fried Sweetbreads with Metaxa

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!

Pan-Fried Sweetbreads with Tarragon and Veal Demi-Glace.

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.

Roasted Chimichurri Sweetbreads

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 Beef Steaks

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.

29 thoughts on “November 6, 2011: Daring Food!

  1. You are truly a man of many talents. A writer, a daring and courageous diner, a creative cook, a celebrated man-about-the-food-trucks, and a man who knows when to mention the tiramasu. I’m confident that by the end of the season you’ll also be great at fantasy football.

  2. Tough read tonight. If I ever come over to your house for dinner, I don’t even want to know… Even if I love it, don’t tell me!

    But I greatly admire your culinary skills and adventurous spirit! You are awesome!

  3. Oh joe I’m jelous I’ve always wanted to try kobe beef espesially those looked like ny strip cuts which is a very flavorfull cut and my favorite.

  4. There is something my dad and I love to do (we’re French BTW) is to use foie gras as some kind of butter over a good red meat and possibly a good red wine + French fries or equivalent + legumes.
    The foie gras will melt over the meat (the meat has to be very hot and eaten right after cooking, can’t wait) and when you eat it that way, you get a delicious marriage of the goose taste and the beef taste. Red meat and white meat together…. this is absolutely insanely good.
    And yeah I know about the California interdiction of foie gras, and I am cool with it because it means MORE FOR ME !!!! muhahahaha 🙂
    Seriously, their loss then.

    Take care all. How is Maximus doing ?

  5. No offense, but I’m looking at the Kobe Beef steak and thinking, where’s the beef? I consider myself well marbled, but I don’t even come close to that. It looks like it’s 45 percent fat. Is the flavor in the meat or the fat?

    My adventurous eating on vacation culminated in a grilled tofu hot dog, which was surprisingly tasty. For years I haven’t eaten regular hot dogs because my stomach revolts. But this was good, and now on the menu at home.

    @Penny Sending positive thoughts your way. What symptoms do you have? I’m waiting to take an MRI for an inner ear lesion/tumor. I have endless headaches, and also developed nystagmus (involuntary eye movement). I hope at least knowing what you’re facing has helped.

  6. Thanks for the food lesson. I really learning something and I enjoyed it. I wish I had the patience and the motivation to do that type of cooking. alas, I don’t. but I enjoy somebody else doing it!

    I took a trip many years ago to South Africa; breakfast and dinner were included. We sat down at a table and were served with the menu selected for us. The first night the menu was displayed on the table. I made the mistake to read it. I was horrified at what I read and couldn’t touch anything. The next day I decided to ignore the menu and just taste what i was served. amazing, I enjoyed almost everything I ate. lesson learned…..don’t bother with what they call it, just enjoy!

  7. Let me just say for the record… The food that Joe and Akemi prepare for us on Sundays makes up for my lack of talent as a fantasy football GM. That Kobe beef steak was pure joy!

    Thanks, Joe.


  8. The idea of tongue makes me cringe. Cheeks, okay could do. Intestines– not on your life. Nor brains. Or eyeballs. I have a story about lamb eyeballs and a dinner in my honor but I’ll spare you. I didn’t eat them, btw. But the rest looks wonderful. 🙂
    How is the process going with Akemi?

  9. That tiramisu looks tasty. As much as I try to eat healthy and all that, I can never resist tiramisu. Any chance of getting the recipe?

    Not to ruin your enjoyment of them, but I find the Kobe Beef to be a bit short on, well, meat. The muscle to fat ratio is way too low for my liking. I’m starting to think it’s a scam of some kind. That being said, it does taste very, very good.

    I see you just finished reading some Asterix books. I loved those as a kid. “Ils sont fous ces romains,” used to be my favorite line. And what did you think of Idéfix?

  10. Even the more daring cuts sounded like they came out well. Given the preparations, I can (almost) taste the flavors and textures you describe. As for teh kobe steaks…I’ll be using a drool cup for the next few hours. Certainly a perfect choice to reward yourself after all the work on the other dishes.
    As for the snow monkeys, condolences and best of luck next week. Now it’s off to the daily grind. Thanks for the post and pics, and you’re een forgiven for not showing us the final appearance of the steaks before ingestion.

  11. Hello Joe !

    Where did you find your “Original animation cell” of the simpsons? I want one!

    Thanks you !

  12. I once had someone reject my teriyaki chicken as “too unusual”. Really? Teriyaki chicken? It didn’t even have pineapple in it, and wasn’t my spicy variety. And I have been asked what I do with “all those little jars” of spices. Uh, cook with them? My newest adventures have been with ghee and tamarind paste. Yum. Ghee does wonderful things for my loaves of bread. Tumeric in anything which will take the taste.

    The pork cheek sounds divine, although my low budget pork dishes almost always involve the slow cooker and applesauce or boiled cider. I’m with you on the kidneys. Blerch.

    Sweetbreads, not my thing.
    Do you like goat?

  13. The food looks great – my mouth is watering here!

    I’m dropping by your blog comments to ask a question: I watch a lot of sci-fi (still miss SGU) and because TV has a shortage of it, I’ve decided to branch my reading out from the literary stuff I normally read (classics to modern) and include some sci-fi. I read Terry Brooks’s Magic Kingdom series when I was 12, along with Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Pryddian. I read Star Wars novels until I was fifteen. Then I moved away from sci-fi/fantasy. A few weeks ago I read, on a friend’s recommendation, Patrick Rothfuss’s two books, and just finished Greg Bear’s Eon (which, though dated in some respects, I thought a wonderful achievement – I think I understood it all!). I know Joe, that you always recommend Old Man’s War, and I’ve just downloaded that to my Kindle: but because the field is so wide, and vast, I was wondering if you – or your readers – could point me in the direction of the books I should be reading – I’m highly ignorant of the genre in fiction. So where should I begin? Both sci-fi and fantasy recommendations are welcome.

  14. The tiramisu and steak look great! The others… Well, I’d probably try anything but the sweetbread. The description of the preparation of which is probably not the best thing to read when already feeling a little bit of stomach flu. Not sure about the tongue – I figure I would have difficulty tasting something that could be tasting me back.

  15. You’re a heck of a cook, Joe! Did the gang enjoy the food?

    I’ve only had sweetbreads once, but I really liked them. I think I would like the tarragon version best, but I’d give all of them a try! Except maybe the Metaxa – that’s not one of those licorice flavored liqueurs, is it? Don’t like licorice. Not one bit.

    @akemi: your tiramisu looks wonderful. I hope everyone saved room so they could properly appreciate it.

    @paloosa, Penny, and everyone else having medical issues: Sending positive thoughts and prayers. I hope all of you start feeling better soon.

  16. @paloosa
    Hope your MRI goes well & your condition is something that is easily fixed. Best wishes. 🙂 And to Penny, and anyone else with health problems.

    I think we should all have some of Akemi’s tiramisu as a pick-me-up. 😉 See what I did there??

  17. Joe, a lot of that food looks really, really good. Is all your cooking experience from watching Food Network and just trying stuff?

    I’m curious how you served the braised meat trio.

    Also…you’ve been quiet about the premiere of Top Chef. Did you and Akemi watch it, and if so, what’d you think?

    I thought this write-up of the first ep by comedian Max Silvestri was really funny:

  18. I know it’s anti-veggy but I love the smell of marinated meat, seconded by the scent of roasting meat! Beautiful dishes, I don’t know if I’ll be brave enough to try sweat meats but love your preparation. Which reminds me that I need to get more chimichurri. I guess it’s easy to make fresh with cilantro, parsley and olive oil but I don’t own any fancy food chopping machines. And I’m a lazy cook!

    Speaking of kidneys, the fried chicken gizzards and kidneys done central am style is very tasty; it’s called fritura and it’s fried in tasty batter. It’s the only way I’ll eat ’em. If you were still on the east coast you could zip down to Washington Heights to visit the fritura turcks:


  19. I’m impressed! I’ll echo Lou Zucaro’s question: Where did you learn to cook like this?

  20. Hi everyone!
    Wouah! When you cook, you cook!
    Usually, I don’t like kidney either but my mother has a great recipe with curry, cream and rice ; it’s very delicious.
    Have a nice day.

  21. @maggiemayday My sister-in-law once told me that people who alphabetize their spices are crazy. I asked her how many spices she had in her cupboard, and she replied “Five.” I have 30-40. Alphabetized. 😉

  22. I’ve always loved pork or beef tongue cooked til soft and yummy… on fresh, buttered rye bread, a little mayo and mustard or horseradish. Yum. It’s not so easy to find and when you do find it, it’s a little expensive – but, IMHO well worth it.

  23. What Ivon is trying to say is, you could start a quilting bee club on Sunday afternoon and he would join that too as long as you and Akemi are cooking your masterpiece lunches.

  24. Buddy, did you really eat 6 giant slabs of kobe steaks by yourself and Akemi?

  25. That stew is looking good. I just came back from Memphis filled on dry rubbed BBQ and blackened Catfish. Taking a page out of your book, I had to go for desert, Bread pudding with the house sauce. OH if only I could have finished it and lick the bowl. The live Blues was good for the digestion.
    I would try your sweet breads without hesitation. They remind me of Roasted pork Trang Style-(Thais there use a sweet glaze and the skin is golden brown and crispy).
    As far as cheeks go, I hear they are great. I always offer them to my girlfriend when we are sharing a sea bass in Bangkok; she will also nibble on the tail if it is crispy. She is not big on pork (I am) nor will she eat chicken feet.

    You are making desirous to get your recipes.
    I love using rosemary and chives from my garden, more so on beef than chicken. My mom gave me some green pepper jelly; any suggestions to use it with?
    Keep up with the good eats, and there is always next week.

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