Monday, 24 February 2014

Bivalve bong hits.

You may wonder what the above items have in common. The answer to that started while sitting at the bar of a ceviche restaurant in Manhattan's lower east side. There is a small place called Desnuda where a couple of young chefs make some really interesting, delicious ceviches. They also do other weird shit. One of which is make a quick-smoked oyster. 

I figured I would give it a shot, as it looked replicable. Also I have been on a bit of an oyster binge these past few months. 

The first step - as with most recipes - was to construct a gravity bong. Having of course never EVER done this before, I took to the internet for instructions. I am now on a watchlist, and am publishing this blog post partly to clear my name if it ever comes to that.

I had asked the guys at Desnuda what they were using, and they quickly revealed their secret blend. A Chinese smoked tea called Lapsang Souchong, and Szechuan peppercorns. Both were easily procured in Montreal. These were blended at about 2/3 tea leaves to 1/3 peppercorns, and the bowl was packed. 

Next, shuck. I bought two varieties of east coast (P.E.I.) oysters: a small variety called Shiny Sea, and my favourite, Raspberry Point. The oyster supply in Montreal is really good. You know, the French. 

The next series is fairly self-explanatory. 

The smoke should be really thick, so I burned it slow.
A blowtorch would have been better than the Bic I used. 

It was a two person job to hotbox these guys.

So then I just let them sit there for two minutes. The kitchen got good and smoky, but it is a nice smoke.  

After the smoke they went back in their shells on a bed of ice for presentation purposes, with a few drops of fresh lemon on each. The photo from that step is missing because we may or may not have actually just tipped back the little bowls while standing in the kitchen. But you can imagine how that might be a nice presentation. 

Summary: fucking delicious. Interestingly, the two varieties took the smoke flavour very differently. The Shiny Sea were good, but not nearly as good at the Raspberry Point. I think the natural sweetness, along with brininess of the Raspberry Point made them ideal for the technique. With such a delicate flavour to begin with, oysters can easily be overpowered by sauces. But this infuses a flavour that doesn't overwhelm. 

Next up: freebasing a rack of lamb through a rolled up $100 bill in a locked bathroom. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Moldy pig

A quick review of the archives reveals that the last time I posted anything of substance, Aaron still lived in North America. I'll ease my way back in - no great outdoor adventures post today - but I am finally embarking on an SS&S-worthy indoor quest; the construction (and eventually, use) of a home charcuterie curing chamber. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, but finally got around to actually enacting only recently.

The whole thing's pretty simple - an enclosed space in which you can control temperature, humidity and air flow. Mine's constructed in a more-or-less standard way for homemade jobs - an old fridge, a humidifier, and a sensor/controller.

Antlered harbinger of bresaola

The fridge was a moving-sale deal, and for $50, I got a nicer (well, certainly cleaner) fridge than I the one I already have. Inside is an ultrasonic humidifier (finer mist, less trouble-prone, apparently) with a built-in fan; humidity and air movement in one. Missing yet are some racks for hanging, and a couple of screened holes with adjustable closures in the fridge sides for air exchange.

Less complex, more reptilian

I looked around for some time trying to find an elegant solution to the humidity/temperature control problem. Ebay had cheap and plentiful lab controllers, but being from Hong Kong, they were all 220V, and had complex-looking wiring requirements made all the more difficult by having Cantonese instructions. Further searching, however, and I came across purpose-built, programmable humidity/temperature sensor-controllers marketed to reptile and amphibian enthusiasts. Sold. Program a temperature, and it turns the fridge off and on to maintain it. Program a humidity, and it does the same with the humidifier. Luckily, it's always dry here, so I only ever have to worry about adding, rather than subtracting, humidity.

Showing Hank some love brought it up to the free shipping minimum

The latest stage was waiting for appropriate reference to arrive, which happened today. Now, to mail-order in some Prague Powder #1 and 2, a few culture starters, and I'll be ready to start turning perfectly good meat into shriveled, moldy and hopefully delicious shadows of its former self. I figure I'll start small (cured bacon, duck prosciutto, guanciale if I can talk a local guy into selling an appropriate jowl), with the eventual goal of getting reasonably elaborate (Dall mocetta seems appropriately lofty). We'll see.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, the Saturn has some new friends:

Two different ways to turn dinosaurs into noise