Corned Cow’s Tongue

No matter how you slice it, (I prefer thinly) tongue has a bad reputation.
“I don’t want to taste something that can taste me back” and other cheeky comments aside, there’s an innate distaste for the tongue that’s seemingly cultural. A popular item in Mexican, Asian and European cooking, the tongue is a muscle that’s surprisingly tender when cooked.

I swung by Cannuli’s in Philadelphia’s Italian Market on Wednesday and picked up a fresh cow’s tongue with the intention of corning it. I’ve never really worked with brining before, so this would be a fun little experiment all around.

I had all the ingredients onhand save for pickling spice and a container big enough to hold the tongue, so once everything was picked up, I started preparing the brine. It came together quite easily, leaving an amazing aromatic odor in my kitchen.

While the brine was cooling, I washed the tongue and the brining bucket and did a little kitchen cleanup. With the brine refrigerated, I poured it over the meat and used a sterilized mason jar to keep it weighed down. Now all that’s left is patience. In five days it will be ready to cook.

Quail

Claire is convinced that quail look like “little naked people”.
That didn’t stop her from enjoying them with me for our pre-Valentine’s day dinner.
We decided a few weeks ago to simplify Valentine gift giving; instead of getting each other a present, we’d go out for a nice dinner and pay each others tab. That still left us with our usual Monday night cooking date, so we decided to have a little fun and make a batch of roasted quail.

I grew up eating quail; Robert (my brother) and I used to hunt them on the P5 farm in Plant City. He usually did the dirty work with a shotgun and I handled plucking. As fun as you’d think picking birdshot AND feathers out of a tiny game bird is, I assure you that buying six packs at the supermarket is much, much easier.

I seasoned all six of the little naked gents (after removing any stray feathers) with sea salt and pepper, and browned them with prosciutto. While they were browning, Claire started working on a porcini & shiitake mushroom risotto. For greens we sauteed a small batch of broccolini.

Everything came out perfectly. We tore the little guys apart (saving all of the wishbones!) while watching Superbad. The porcini was wonderfully woody; I haven’t used porcini before but I think it’s going to be my go-to fungus for future mushroom risotto.

As for Valentine’s dinner?
We went to Morimoto.
It’s been a while since I had gone and was Claire’s first time. Our dishes were spectacular. Pork Belly, Kobe carpaccio, seared duck breast with duck confit fried rice and overeasy duck egg and buckwheat soba with truffle oil, bacon and scallops. An orgy of awesome.

Two days of good food and amazing company!
Happy Valentine’s day, everyone.

Pickles

Claire and I had an amazing weekend. After hosting a tattoo convention afterparty on Friday, a busy Saturday and getting tattooed on Sunday by my buddy Rick Lohm, we deserved a break.

The way our schedules line up has Monday as our “weekend”. Which is great for hotel rates… We secured a nice room in Atlantic City for $44(which a friendly desk clerk named Sayed upgraded to an even nicer room) and spent the day doing coupley stuff.

Wandering the boardwalk, buying saltwater taffy and Steel’s fudge and enjoying each other’s company.

Tuesday saw a return to the real world- Claire returned to her volunteer placement and I had time to kill in the kitchen. I decided to buy supplies for homemade pickles. I haven’t made them since I was a teenager, and even then I had my Mom’s help. So supplies purchased I waited for Claire to get home. Four hands and a cool head usually do better than my solo experiments.

While we prepared the pickle brine and chopped the cucumbers, Claire made a leftover charcuterie pizza. Duck prosciutto. Locally cured chorizo and citrus coriander salami topping a garlic butter brushed pie.

We timed it just right. The jars were pulled out of the waterbath right around the time the pizza had cooled and been cut.

Dish towels covering the garlic dill pickles, we left our newborns to cool and seal while we watched an SVU marathon.

By the following morning, all six jars had sealed. We’re going to let them rest for a few days and check back in with a taste report!

Atlantic City pictures after the break!

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Mozzarella Cheese- delicious frustration.

Since most of my food experiments seem to be meat based, I decided to go off course and try my hand at cheese making. Mozzarella seemed like a great first cheese. Recipes were abundant, supplies (rennet, citric acid) readily available and the process seemingly 1, 2, 3.

I decided to spring for locally produced milk; pasteurized but not ultra pasteurized. Apparently not supporting big markets like Superfresh and Acme comes with a price; and that price is $3.95/Quart. This was already starting to be a risky proposition. If I screwed up, which is always a possibility (see Lox) I would be out dang near $20. With good mozzarella going for about $5/lb… the potential was there for a very unhappy Shawn.

When the rennet and citric acid finally showed up I purchased the milk. Recipes ready, I followed them to the letter. The letters weren’t really consistent from recipe to recipe; cooking temperature, amount of citric acid and rennet, expectations of a nice thick layer of curd… everything was a little different.

Little Chef Claire was on hand to help keep my frustration at bay; as I adjusted rennet & citric acid quantity, cooking temperature and the straining process to something unrecognizable to all of the recipes I used as reference.

Straining the curds from the whey was “icky” and time consuming. We eventually resorted to cheese cloth to help strain it, appropriately enough. At this point, we were convinced we’d made ricotta. The kneading was constantly producing more and more whey and the curds weren’t bonding. Going back to one of the recipes, I decided to pop the pre-mozzarella into the microwave for 20seconds. Heating it up pushed out more whey and helped the curds start melting together. Repeat. Repeat. As the short trips to the microwave continued the blob of curd started to become cheese. It started getting stretchy. My frustration gave way to being geeked that I had just MADE CHEESE.

Claire took pictures of me pulling the cheese two, three feet. It was awesome.

I sampled a little piece. Amazing.

I couldn’t wait to get the pictures she took resized to include in this post. Then my macbook and my card reader had a disagreement and it deleted all of the pics she took. Of the cheese making process. Of the ribeyes and foie gras from the other night. Of the vanilla bean and snickers ice cream she made after I finished the cheese.

All gone.

Win some loose some. Pardon the iPhone Hipstamatic pictures.