One of my favorites meals as a child was the Smurf Sandwich. I guess I have always empathized with Gargamel and his mangy cat Azreal, even in the tender toddler years. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but my daughter has developed a fascination with these little figurines, and thus it came back to me in a flood of nostalgia. The 80’s were something else, despite the hair bands. Even though I basically can’t stand the Smurfs TV show any more, there’s just something about these blue little guys that brings up all kinds of warm feelings. So, I thought I’d go ahead and fix myself a Smurf Sandwich for old-times sake.
The above photo is a cross-section of Brainy Smurf’s right thigh (a very satisfying smurf!) Smurfs are magical creatures so their meat is laced with all of this preternatural marbleization, but they are also forest dwellers, and lean, so they are kind of gamey. The likelihood of capturing enough of them to make a luxurious stew or braise being pretty slim, it proves necessary to create a spread from the meat of as many Smurfs as you are able to get your hands on. The Smurfs need to cook long and slow in order to adequately tenderize the meat. Cooking them with some aromatics, such as their mushroom houses (yes! cook them with their homes) is recommended. The distinct flavor of the Smurf pairs well with peanut butter. It’s really strong, in the same way a truffle is–it’s almost overwhelming. The way we would do it when I was a kid was to really break the meat up into almost a paste really, and then whip it into some fluff. Then, you would just make yourself a Fluffernutter with the essence of Smurf up in it. If you are in the mood for something a bit more toothsome, and have a few Smurfs to spare, then go ahead and throw a few on whole.
We almost picked up a pizza for dinner last night, but at the last minute decided to buy a premium 28 day dry-aged rib-eye instead. Needless to say, this is one of the better things that life has on offer, at least in terms of food. We don’t eat red meat very often in our house, and it is even less often that we splurge on insanely expensive cuts like this one. We usually buy bavette or one of the other miscellaneous ‘flap’ meats. Fortunately, we were parked right outside a specialty market, so we didn’t have time to reconsider.
I’ve taken this post as an opportunity to jump right into doing some of these sort-of augmentation design pieces I alluded to in my previous post. There isn’t much to work with around here, but I made due with a section of the Sunday NYTimes, and paper shopping bag. I like the first, the second was is just OK to me, and the third one is really just a cop-out I did real quick just to wrap it up. I have to spend some time playing with my baby today, after all!
This is billed as a Momofuku recipe, but the reality is that this is just the way it is done, at least on the stove. Grilling is a whole different story. The ribeye featured in this post is half the size of the one the recipe calls for.
Instructions for Cooking a Ribeye per David Chang of Momofuku
2 to 2.5 pound bone-in rib-eye steak, preferably dry-aged
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Few sprigs of thyme
3 garlic cloves
1 medium or 2 small shallots
Maldon salt or use any large grain sea salt you have.
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
2. Heat a medium to large (10-12 inch) cast-iron pan over high heat.
3. While the pan is heating, season both sides of the steak liberally with Kosher salt. I would say more like how you’d sprinkle a bed with rose petals, rather than how you’d salt a sidewalk in New York in the winter. Then season with pepper.
4. When the pan is ready (really, really hot), place one side of the steak down and do NOT touch it. The steak should sizzle aggressively. After 2 minutes, using tongs, flip the steak onto its other side. The seared side should be on the golden side of browned. Sear the other side for another 2 minutes. Then, stand the steak up on its fatty edge (opposite the bone) and sear that for 30 seconds. Afterwards, turn it back down on the first side that was seared.
5. Place the steak in the oven and leave it alone for 8 minutes.
6.Protect your hands and remove the steak from the pan, then place it back on the stove over low heat. Add the butter, thyme, garlic and shallots to the pan. As soon as the butter melts, start basting! Use one hand to tilt the pan at a 45 degree angle so that the butter pools at the bottom. Then with the other hand, scoop the liquid butter up with a large spoon and bathe the steak. Baste constantly for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes or so, the steak will be rather rare. If you like it that way, stop now and move to step 6. If you like medium rare (which is your next and last option), keep basting for another minute or two. Move it to a plate and let it rest. Make sure to leave the remaining fat/butter in the pan and reheat it once the steak is ready to eat.
7. Lastly, slice the steak. Cut the steak off of the bones and slice against the grain (perpendicular to the bone) into half-inch thick slabs. Sprinkle on some Maldon salt and drizzle the remaining fat/butter over the pieces. Serve with potatoes and drippings.
Once I decided to give up my social networking page, I came to discover that there is a lot of other things going on around the interweb. I’ve been looking at A LOT of design/styling pages lately, and I have to admit that some of the work out there is mildly intimidating. I suffer from a severe lack of style. My desk is all tangled cords & wires, some papers, and a beer can. While I have to admit that I can make individual things look beautiful or delicious from time to time, I also have to admit that I have virtually no skill for capturing or creating a beautiful setting or scene. Sometimes, I get lucky, but I would like to learn to be able to design and coordinate something so simple as a truly striking plate setting. The unfortunate side-effect of this desire is presumably another box (or many boxes *ugh*) of stuff. Maybe weird stuff that I would never otherwise use. This may be a mild artistic crisis. In the meantime, I figured out how to isolate a single color and make the rest of it black and white in photoshop today. It works for other colors besides red. Luckily, I didn’t have any photos of roses or red coats to experiment on. I think it’s great for greens. I might start leaning on this a bit too heavily in the future.
Having never made it to any of the Boke Bowl pop-up dinners hosted at various restaurants around town, my first impression when I visited their recently opened brick-and-mortar was that I had just entered an indoor playground. There were children in abundance. Perhaps even more children were present than adults. But who can blame the hapless parents? The guy at the end of my communal table isn’t walking into Biwa for a bowl of ramen with 5 kids in tow. Alternatively, he’s not going to drag them out to 82nd and convince them to gnaw through some beef tendon. He’s going to the place that has effortless counter service, those terrifying pterodactyl trainer chop sticks for them to muddle through their meal with, and homemade twinkies! The kids are welcome, and thus they permeate with abandon.
Boke Bowl offers up a safe bowl of soup featuring hand-cut ramen noodles. By safe I don’t mean to say that it’s not delicious, because everything that I’ve eaten here has been pretty damn good. What I mean is that everything is easily recognizable, and there are virtually no surprising elements such as coagulated pork blood you’d find in a bowl of bún bo huê. No bones. Hell, I haven’t even encountered a slice of fish cake. The point is that a bowl of ramen at Boke is a consensus spectrum of elements deemed universally palatable, if not downright delectable.
On my last visit I ordered a trio of sides: pickled cucumbers ($1), soy pickled shiitakes($1.5), and kimchi($1). The cukes are a standard quick-salt style pickle, just a bit of salt and sugar tossed in a bowl. They are what they are, a nice nosh, but nothing special. However, the soy pickled shiitakes were a different story. They packed quite a wallop! Like little plastic explosive pickle sponges, they detonated in an intensity of vinegar that knocked me back a bit. I’d read about these in the Momofuku cookbook (there appears to be a lot this restaurant has in common with Momofuku, actually,) but this was the first time I had eaten them. They are a deeply satisfying snack. Unfortunately, the kimchi seemed like an after-thought. Composed of Napa cabbage, julienned carrots, and scallions, it was lackluster with no true bite or pop in the mouth associated with more bold takes on kimchi. Most of the Korean places around town would throw this on the table for free, but Boke charges a buck. It’s a minor quibble.
Boke Bowl offers their ramen noodles in a selection of three base broths: pork and chicken, seafood miso, and caramelized fennel. On my first visit, I stuck with the basics, the pork and chicken broth($9), served with slow smoked pork shoulder, greens, bamboo, winter root vegetables , and roasted water chestnuts, standard. I added a slow-poached egg ($1) and pork belly ($1.5) as I am wont to do. For those keeping score at home, that’s an $11.50 bowl of soup, a hefty price to pay for lunch. I can’t front like it wasn’t good, though, because it was. One of the better bowls of soup I’ve eaten around town, actually. The broth was rich and luxurious, especially with the egg worked into it. The pork belly add-on was a substantial slice for the price, crispy yet tender. Despite all of its virtues, though, I still walked away hungry. I’m not a bird. I’m trying to be full for that kind of coin. They could be a little less stingy with the noodles and the broth.
Never-the-less, I returned. I went out on a limb and ordered the caramelized fennel broth($8.5). It proved to be worth the risk. While it is a vegan broth, I am decidedly not a vegan, so I added on some buttermilk fried chicken with ODS($3), and the de rigueur slow-poached egg. This bowl was stacked with japanese eggplant, edamame-ginger rice cake (a highlight,) trumpet mushrooms, and bean sprouts in addition to the extras in the last bowl. While I found the pork-chicken broth a sumptuous indulgence, there was something about this caramelized fennel broth that really appealed to my sensibilities. It tasted kind of like a . . . well, a savory cake batter! It had a certain depth that the pork-chicken broth lacked, despite its rich comfort. It didn’t hurt that the fried chicken add-on was tremendous. I had misgivings about throwing a fried piece of meat into a bowl of soup, but miraculously, it worked well. The ODS (orange dot sauce) and the chicken crust that I wasn’t able to devour with due expedience melted into the broth in such a fashion as to enhance the dregs, leaving me no choice but to tilt the bowl and scrape out the last bits of goodness.
1028 SE Water Avenue
Portland, OR 97214
Lunch: 10 to 3 Monday to Saturday
Boke Bird: 5 – 9:30p Thursday (currently reservation only)
If nothing else, I can slay a pork loin roast! This has become our small family’s traditional Christmas dinner, being that we’ve made it two years in a row. My extended family does a beef rib roast, so this is just a step sideways. Last year, me and a couple of guys went in on a half a pig from Tails and Trotters. As part of the deal I walked away with two of these bad ass roasts. The thing about the pigs from T&T is that they have a ridiculous fat cap:
In this picture I had cut away half of the fatty layer, and it’s still thick as hell! A long time ago I did a fairly unsung post on cooking duck breasts, which have a comparatively thick fatty layer in reference to their general size. If you’ve ever had a really well cooked duck breast, then you know that there are few things better to eat than the crispy, rendered skin on a duck breast. It is simply amazing! Initially, when I saw the volume of fat on these roasts (and the pics in this post is a composite of 3 different roasts) I was pissed! Seriously angry, because I was just like ‘These are all fat! WTF!?’ But then I sat and thought on it, and hit upon the idea to cook them the same way I cook duck breasts, and I started to feel way better about the whole thing. The picture at the top is from the first one I made, with long parallel cuts through the fat. Honestly, they’re all parallel like that because I’d already tied up the roast with kitchen twine, and I didn’t want to do it again. I didn’t actually think to score the fat until after I had tied and brined it.
To render the fat, you have to cook it on the stove on medium to medium low heat. How much you render it depends on how much patience you possess. I’ll spend 45 minutes just on rendering the fat. The beauty of it, though, is that you don’t really need to pay that close attention to it so long as you don’t have the heat too high. Because of the large area, and curved nature of the roast, you have to render it in stages, and my experience is that it takes about 3 stages of rendering at 15 minutes per section, emptying the pan of the rendered fat occasionally. The last one I did took 2 sets of 20 minutes, since the butcher frenched the bones for me (sick bastard. . .)
Once you’ve sufficiently rendered it, the roast goes into a 350º oven until its internal temperature reaches 135ºF, basting every 15 minutes. With these roasts it takes about 1 hour. On my first attempt I added all the garlic to the pan as soon as it went into the oven, and 1 hour ended up being a touch too long, so now I add it after 15 minutes at the first baste, tossing it around in the fatty juices in the pan to coat them. The roasted garlic is so good. I recommend adding 2 or 3 bulbs worth of cloves to the pan, as in my experience there never seems to be enough to go around. We consistently fight about who will get the last few pieces!
After pulling the roast at 135º, it is essential to let it rest for a minimum of 15 minutes. The rest will redistribute the juices throughout the roast, and also bring the temperature up to approximately 145º, for medium to medium rare.
This is a wholly unforgivable plate shot of our roast from Christmas 2010, but I share it to illustrate a few things about the process. I did not render the fat long enough, and as you can see there is a great deal of actual fat left around the edge, which is fine, I guess, because there is still a whole lot of the deliciously crispy part. However, the proportions should be reversed––there should be way more crispy part! I tried to remedy this by scoring the fat in cuts closer together and on a diagonal on my next attempt. It proved to be a justified modification. However, on my third and most recent attempt, I scored it in a full-blown diamond cross-hatch, and this achieved the best results, while perhaps not being as pretty as the other variations. The fat rendered better, the crispy bits were thicker and some how more flavorfully power-packed. I recommend this approach most highly. Check the full roasting program below, and here’s to gluttony in the New Year!
Thomas Keller Pork Brine:
Combine the following in a large pot:
1/4 cup plus 2 TBLS honey
12 bay leaves
3 large rosemary sprigs
1/2 bunch thyme
1/2 cup of garlic cloves, crushed
2 TBLS black peppercorns
1 cup of kosher sale
1 gallon of cold water
Bring to boil, and let it boil for 1 minute, then allow it to cool. (This brine is also great for roast chicken, just add 2 halved lemons.) Once it’s cool, pour it over the roast in a large container and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Cooking the Roast
1 (4) rib Pork Loin Roast with substantial fat cap, ideally around 1/2″ thick
3 bulbs of garlic broken into cloves, skin left on, and lightly crushed
a few sprigs of thyme
fresh ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 large pat of butter
Pre-heat the oven to 375º
Remove the roast from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry. place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This makes scoring the fat much easier. With a very sharp knife, score the fat in a cross-hatch pattern being careful not to cut into the flesh of the roast. Once this is done, grate a hearty amount of fresh nutmeg over the fat, and then rub it in with a tablespoon or so of thick grained salt. Next tie the roast off with butcher twine using one piece through each set of ribs. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium to medium low heat. If the heat is too high, the fat will not render, but rather it will sear it, encasing the fat within the fat! As seen in the photo above, it is necessary to use some sort of leverage to keep the roast tilted up to one side. I use a wooden spoon, but anything heat resistant will do. Once the roast is in the pan, and the fat begins to render, you will need to pour off the accumulation into a separate bowl. How you go about it is a matter of personal strength and preference. I tend to grab it through the twine with a pair of tongs and hold it over a plate, while pouring the fat into the bowl. This stage will take some time.
Once the fat is sufficiently rendered, and you find that you have a uniform, cripsy, golden crust, move the roast into the oven skin-side up, and lower the oven to 350º. After 15 minutes pull the roast and add the butter to the pan and baste it. Then, add the thyme sprigs and all of the garlic, and toss around to coat. Next, place as much of the garlic on top of the roast as space will allow, and move the roast back into the oven. Baste every 15 minutes, and check the internal temperature after 45 minutes. Allow the roast to continue cooking until it has reached an internal temperature of 135º, then pull the roast from the oven, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Finally, slice and serve as you see fit. I like it cut nice and thick, right through the ribs!