Tuesday, June 13, 2006

When You're Swimming in Goose Fat

Make that paean to the joys of salt and animal fat, of course. Being a bit of a paranoid hoarder, I stockpiled on these jars of graisse d'oie as soon as I laid eyes on them. Exactly how many jars? Let's just say should I be bequeathed a gaggle of geese or a flock of ducks anytime soon, putting up enough confit to last through a year's worth of cassoulet won't be an issue.

Duck and goose legs aside, pork belly makes for deliriously good confit. I adapted the instructions from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie. A variation on rillons, the recipe attributed to Jim Drohman of Le Pichet in Seattle uses a sweet spice cure that, in the Loire tradition, incorporates white wine.

Pork Belly Confit

As for the best way to reheat these succulent, deeply flavoured chunks of meat poached and preserved in goose fat (duck fat or lard also work)? In a deep vat of hot fat. Yes, deep-frying is the way to go - as Charcuterie explains, deep-frying not only ensures a uniform crust without and a melting texture within, but because the density of the deep-drying medium (the fat) and the confit are similar, juiciness is optimised. To serve, a dab of mustard and a pile of green beans tossed with vinaigrette and toasted, sliced almonds.

A crock of confit up your sleeve makes light work of cooking for company, freeing you to focus on other courses. We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday, and thanks to the assurance of having the main course virtually ready, I had time to rustle up a few other things.

Sake-Pickled Salmon with Wasabi Crème Fraîche

The recipe can be found in The Farallon Cookbook by Mark Franz and Lisa Weiss - a must-include seeing as it is one of the favourites at the restaurant - as well as the recently published 2006 IACP award winning culinary compilation, Cooking at De Gustibus by Arlene Feltman Sailhac - a must-include seeing as it is one of the most popular recipes ever demonstrated at the legendary cooking school. Sort of like an Asian escabeche, the salmon is part-cooked in the hot pickling solution based on sake, the Japanese grain alcohol. Served with a dollop of wasabi-flavoured crème fraîche and topped with ikura, it's a piquant, palate-rousing start to a meal.

Asparagus Soup with Morel Custard

Asparagus and morels are a classic pairing given an unexpected and wonderful twist (asparagus becomes a creamy soup, morels a voluptuous custard) in this recipe from Tom Colicchio's Think Like A Chef, a book I love for all sorts of reasons not least of which because it is just about one of the most home cook-friendly chef-authored cookbooks around - rather than list an intimidating barrage of restaurant recipes, he deconstructs the chef's creative process methodically. In the "Trilogies" chapter from which this recipe is taken, the same basic cluster of ingredients (say asparagus, morels and ramps, or lobster, peas and pasta) are used in a series of recipes designed to demonstrate how a little imagination is all it takes to put a vibrant, new spin on commonsensical combinations, proof that cooking can and should be about a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Txangurro "Ravioli"

Adapted from Jane Lawson's Cocina Nueva, this is a lush take on that Basque stalwart of stuffed spider crab baked in the shell. The crustacean shells have been replaced by sheets of silken homemade egg pasta, encasing a luxurious filling of freshly picked crab meat bound by a rich tomato-based sauce scented with thyme. Instead of forming ravioli to be poached, I made plump pillows of "free-form ravioli" (part-cooked pasta squares loosely wrapped parcel-style around the filling) to be baked - I adore how fresh pasta goes all crisp and caramelised around the edges when subjected to dry heat, and thought it would make an admirable variant, what with the velvety final dressing of cream and Manchego sauce perfumed with bay leaf. A scattering of tiny olive oil croutons, some flat-leaf parsley, and a dusting of smokily sweet paprika later, you're good to go.

Chocolate Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches

Just about the biggest payoff from figuring out how to make macarons - apart from the macarons themselves, of course - are the exciting composed dessert possibilities they present. Inspired by Pierre Hermé's lovely Miss Gla'Gla and Mosaic creations, I thought a pair of chocolate macarons sandwiched with scoops of ice cream would be a fun yet extravagant ending to the meal. On a whim, I decided to make 3 different flavours - Tahitian vanilla bean, bittersweet chocolate, and salted caramel - without sparing a thought for my incredibly long-suffering monolith of an ice-cream machine. Luckily, it happily obliged, churning out the batches in succession with nary a wheeze. Accompanied by shards of macadamia toffee crunch and a drizzle of chocolate fudge sauce, the resulting dessert is strictly for the inveterately sweet-toothed.


Blogger Unknown said...

wow, can't believe my luck - first to comment - and what an incredible spread..
J, you never cease to amaze - everytime I visit, I feel as if I've just stepped into a cookbook spread and with the kind of stuff that you do, and the ingredients that you use, if I hadn't already met you - I wouldn't believe that you live in SG!
That pork belly confit deep-fried to a crispy layer... *sighing in frustrated desire*

3:04 pm, June 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I'm lucky to be the second :) Joycelyn, everything looks amazing and I wish I could taste all the flavours - the morel custard, spider crab and pork belly!

And of course, the ice-cream... I'm so happy that you've got the same machine as I have, isn't that just great? ;)

4:01 pm, June 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the third! lol.

Stunning photographs as usual J and the crab ravioli sounds wonderful. As it happens, i have picked out the meat of a male spider crab last night and am thinking of ways to prepare it.

You certainly seem to have the macarons down to a T!

4:35 pm, June 13, 2006  
Blogger FooDcrazEE said...

havent been in here for ages and I was blasted with sinfully delish food picture......really never cease to be amaze by ur culinary skill. Thanx for them

5:33 pm, June 13, 2006  
Blogger Annette Tan said...

Yummeee! Looks fab! I going to need that macaron lesson soon. I also love what you did with the crab pasta. I made it for M the other day and he thought it was too rich. I think it was the copious amounts of parmesan i put in the cream that did him in. Which recipe did you use for your salted caramel ice cream? The thought of the flavour makes my mouth water...

6:23 pm, June 13, 2006  
Blogger gagatka79 said...

I was put off with this gras at the beginning but when I came to the ice cream sandwich - you've won :)

7:46 pm, June 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for those beautiful shots of the confit! you honor the pig...

8:49 pm, June 13, 2006  
Blogger obachan said...

Everything looks soooo beautiful! I'll dream about eating all of them tonight. :)

10:33 pm, June 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh J, you have the luckiest friends ever! I am in envy of your ice cream machine...

12:10 am, June 14, 2006  
Blogger e d b m said...

J, love the photo of the ravioli. gorgeous.

7:54 am, June 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had the same reaction when I saw those jars of goosefat at Culina...assuming that you bought them there :) Also left with their last two duck legs in the hope of recreating your yummy duck confit some time soon.

All these dishes look lovely.

9:09 am, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Jen said...

Those Macaron Sandwiches look absolutely droolworthy!! Now that's pefection on a plate
Again beautiful photographs.

12:20 pm, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Chubby Hubby said...

Deep-fried pork belly confit and you didn't call me to have some? Sigh... Any chance you can make some again?

12:22 pm, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Ange said...

Yummo on the ravioli, know what I'm craving now or is it duck confit....drool, drool, drool

2:47 pm, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Gustad said...

wow, those egg pastas for the txangurro, looks like silky creps almost. good stuff

10:26 pm, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Where do you ever get the time to prepare all these meticulous dishes?
They all always look so lovely!

11:37 pm, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Anne said...

The crisp/tender pasta is the food of my dreams! I only wish I could see the wonderful filling. You should become a personal chef. I think your attention to detail would be wasted in a large-scale restaurant but perfect for long, slow suppers for people with developed palates who would appreciate all of your many talents. Truly amazing.

7:51 am, June 15, 2006  
Blogger Raquel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:33 am, June 16, 2006  
Blogger Raquel said...

Oh my GOD!!!!! Txangurro raviolis ... chocolate macaron ... You are AN ARTIST!!!!!

6:53 am, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your photos (as usual)!
by the way, what DO macaroons taste like? guess i'll jus hv to wait till i find some and try them myself!

10:44 am, June 16, 2006  
Blogger Orchidea said...

I really like the meat you showed us... and the salmon...

5:03 pm, June 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The confit pork belly looks so yummy. And the pictures are gorgeous (do i need to say this, really?)

Anyway, i rencently bought Pierre Hermé's latest book (PH10) containing all its creations. And i can't wait to try miss glaglas!


4:06 am, June 17, 2006  
Blogger Michelle said...

I'm happy to know that I'm not the only "hoarder" out there! Unfortunately with this move coming up, I've got to start going through my hoards and using them up. I only wish I could make something with them that looks like what you would magically create...*sigh*...such beautiful food, as always.

7:29 am, June 17, 2006  
Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said...

I recently bought some organic pork belly and had no idea what to do with it. Wish I'd seen your recipe, although my meal did turn out OK. A confit is a wonderful thing. It's such a shame fat isn't good for us in huge portions. I like the sake-pickled salmon as well, and the morel custard. Wish you could post the recipes too, as the photos are so tempting and we can't always get these books in Australia (alas Amazon does not deliver).

4:26 pm, June 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was absolutely fantastic. beautiful and quite perfect. i'm entirely impressed by that incredibly delectably thin macaron.

but i think it's the pork belly that has me salivating the most. beautiful!

9:25 pm, June 20, 2006  
Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

So pretty - not surprising, since all your photos are stunning.

Thanks for sharing.

BTW - I tagged you for the 5 things meme, in case you can pull yourself away from the kitchen for a while.

12:18 am, June 24, 2006  
Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

the pics are spectacular! i really hope you are doing this for a living! funny, i worked at degustibus during cooking school assisting all the chefs that taught there then went to farallon after i graduated so this is a walk down memory lane.

2:21 am, June 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great pictures and jars of goose fat - what more could a web surfer want!

2:06 am, April 08, 2008  
Blogger Claudia said...


I've been reading your entire blog again, and I will take a break in June 2006 tonight. I am amazed with it all, how you wisely select dishes in people's books and how you make them beautifully. June 2006 is I think the month that appears the most appealing to me so far (from June 2005). Brioches in the oven, brandade de bacalao, pork belly, asparagus soup, sweet potatoes, pickled salmon.

It is unfortunate that my cook book collection is non-existing and my cooking is so restrict but as my eating is vast and embraces the globe I can enjoy to appreciate your talent. I can't do much more than admire your wonderful food though.

I will re-read the entire blog sending some astonished comments once in a while.

Hope you don't get fed up of me. You don't have to approve the publishing if you don't feel like. It is ok for me.


3:50 am, November 24, 2008  

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