02 January 2011

Cooking Innovations

As my athletic prowess has precipitously declined in the past few years the skill of cooking has just as precipitously taken its place. One of the most fascinating aspects of cooking is the art of making stock (except for the one year, probably the healthiest of my life, when I was a vegetarian). I love piling varied and sundry portions of bones in a pan, roasting them, de-glazing with wine, and then watching bones slowly break down, release their marrow, and gelatin to produce a blob of unspeakable goodness.

But the one consistent problem is the space a huge pot takes on the stove, having 5+ hours to watch a pot while there are so many cultural and sporting choices (I live in New Orleans for crying out loud), and the heat spread throughout the room (I live in New Orleans for crying out loud, it is humid in the bleak mid-winter!) So the other day a great friend suggested to make the stock like her brother does...in a crock pot. For the record I despise the crock pot it is too simple, takes too long to heat up, and does not have adequate temperature controls. But they are great for cooking red beans, soups and a pot roast. After pondering the ingenuity of preparing stock in the crock pot I decided to give it a whirl.

The other evening I bought a package of soup bones at Whole Foods (unfortunately, the sarcastic and over-the-top butcher waited on me). {Which by the way brings to mind the sad absence of actual butchers in modern life. There are all kinds of butchers and specialty meat shops but none of these men and women (as far as I can tell) actually cut and dress sides of beef. Instead the cut up designated portions of beef that were processed at regional meat processing plants. Go ahead and try to find fresh knuckle bones, rib bones, chicken feet, hogs feet, & etc. at your favorite locale to buy beef. Sure, they can special order it for you but it will be a few days and it will be frozen.} I also bought some beef stew meat. I chose to follow Gordon Hamersly's recipe in Bistro Cooking at Home which I love and use often but I should've known better, he always takes his food one step further than I my palate will allow. But if you need a basic intro to bistro cooking, wine pairings, cheese plate suggestions and why you should simply eat dark chocolate after dinner - this is your book.

Hamersly calls for the roasting of the bones and beef, the fat drained, pan de-glazed, then placed in the pot followed by the roasting of the usual vegetables,and...tomatoes which I knew was a mistake but I included them anyway. After which you de-glaze, place in a pot, fill with water and simmer for hours. But I placed all of the ingredients in a crock pot, set it on low, and went to bed. It was a great stock, lots of marrow, lots of gelatin, and unfortunately bizarre sweet tomato flavor.

Making stock in a crock pot is a great idea. I recommend that you bring the contents to a boil on the stove top first before placing them in the crock. I would also have a cup or two of water in the crock pot warming up. The only complaints I have with the methodology is that when you wake up in the morning the first aroma that meets your nose is that of beef stock which can and cannot be an exhilirating experience. Also, you are not able to lift the lid to let the moisture boil off.

Considering you do not have to watch the pot for hours, keep a watch on the water and not fill the room up with an excessive amount of heat I think it is a great idea.

Second innovation. Today i made the ubiquitious beer can chicken. I have made it several times but I never have been comfortable placing a beer can with a pop top inside my chicken. So today I decided to try to cut the top off with a can opener and viola it worked perfectly.

Now I mustn't end this post without two pictures of my favorite new culinary delights.

1. Boudain. This stuff is amazing! A friend of ours gave us some frozen boudain from cajun country. I thawed them out and grilled them. Amazing.

2. Cafe au Lait. I know most people know about this but what a wonderful treat every morning: French Market Coffee and Chicory with steamed milk. The perfect way to say hello to the new day.


hawk said...

Been using the Crock to make chicken stock and veggie stock for a couple of years. Smells up the house of a morning but easy, easy, easy. Also, offered my first cup of cafe au lait by Mrs Betty Roth Hebert of Thibodaux. I don't think I've had a coffee drink that tasted as good.

Also, if you want some good meat, a road trip to:

Bourgeois Meat Market - 543 West Main Street, Thibodaux - (985) 447-7128

Some of the best beef jerky on the planet.


G. Travis Norvell said...

i'll go there first chance I get. sounds amazing. the stock in the crock pot is genius. This evening I am taking the stock from the beer can chicken and making my first ever pot of gumbo. I'll post about it afterwards.

Carol said...

the beer can chicken was AMAZING.

check this out: http://store.rarecuts.com/index.php?cpage=welcome