Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Spring Fever

I took the bone from Sunday's lamb leg and put it in our huge stockpot with some aromatics with a goal of producing many quarts of some highly flavorful and polyvalent stock. I love lamb with phở flavors; since there's significant overlap with many Moroccan spices there's a natural sympatico with the rich, gamy meat. So to the pot I added the following: a charred onion, a charred thumb of ginger, a carrot, some fresh parsley, some fennel stalks, a few cloves, two star anise pods, coriander seeds, a cinnamon stick, and black peppercorns. I brought it to a bare simmer and held it there for about five hours, skimming it when I came in from the studio to pull an espresso and refill my water glass. This new stove can do such miraculous things with two gallons of liquid.

I froze most of it (already loving the new chest freezer) and put some aside in the fridge for various purposes. First up, dinner: a risotto made with the recently dug carrots and the newly arrived ramps. I added garlic mustard, which is up in abundance and easily exceeds anything one would hope to find and pay money for at a store right now. It has a short season, but man–along with lamb's quarters, it's right up there for delicate elegance in the free and forageable category. All of these early spring arrivals are so tasty and cleansing; it's a helpful reminder that we're animals and evolved to need such things after a long winter. I started the carrots just after the rice and added the minced greens at the very end so they'd keep their color.

And I made too much, on purpose. Leftover risotto is just a wonderful thing to have at one's disposal in the fridge; arancini, sushi, soups–it's a magical thing that gets one halfway home without lifting a finger. In this case, sushi. I Picked Milo up from school and we kept going, across the river, to pick up our fish order from Gerard. This time around, we got Arctic char, mussels, and scallops, figuring that we could get at least three dinners out of the order. I put the mussels on ice for later on (thinking moules frites for tomorrow) and trimmed and rubbed the char with miso, putting it back in the fridge for about half an hour to pick up a bit of flavor; because it looks like salmon, I always find char to be a letdown since my brain is expecting the fatty richness and instead gets the subtle sweetness. It's my brain's fault, really, since it is actually quite tasty.

I put a few scallops into a small jar with kimchi brine to firm up and flavorize, also for just 30 or so minutes, since the hour was latening, and ran outside to pick some things to help make it even better: a ramp, garlic chives, red mustard leaves, and spinach sprouts. Since I recently got a sushi mold, I figured I'd try to make a pretty plate. Also, I bailed on dinner last night because I was tired and worked late and it did not go over particularly well, so extra beauty was in order.

I seared the scallops ferociously hard on one side, removing them before they cooked more than a quarter of the way through so they were silky raw on the other side. I cut them in half, and nestled them into little gunkan-maki (battleship sushi) with a dribble of their pan juices. The char, trimmed to size, fit into the mold to make battera sushi. And I made two rolls: avocado and ramp. All the above used the risotto in place of plain rice, and the delicate phở notes added a certain something. The chives, cabbage flowers, and spinach made for some very interesting garnishes, both visually and gustatorily. A very satisfying combination, and well-complemented by an unoaked Finger Lakes Chardonnay: Red Tail Ridge's sans oak 2008. I like their approach to winemaking, and they do decent work given their tricky climate. Unoaked Chardonnay makes a good match with this sort of clean food, because the vanilla and pineapple qualities from oak (especially American) can overpower the food.


Julia said...

Do you eat bittercress? I've just realized that the weed I have everywhere is rather tasty. Garlic mustard is a great thing to eat, especially since it's invasive. Got to get rid of them somehow.

The Spiteful Chef said...

Those are stunning. I think your sushi mold is wider than mine, though.

I wouldn't know a garlic mustard or green if it bit me in my pink ass, but I'm thinking in Colorado I'll try my hand at some mild gardening in a beekeeping suit to protect me from wasps.

cookiecrumb said...

How does the risotto hold together? At all?

cook eat FRET said...

that was like reading poetry. well, ok, not really but damn it if you don't always make me feel like a total hack.

Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

Fantastic photography!!

peter said...

Julia: Not sure which one that is. Do you have a picture?

Kristie: Oh, you'll be an awesome gardener. Because you love nature so much.

CC: I make it sticky- not too soupy.

Claudia: Oh, you and your humility.

Mel: Thanks- it's the longer days that make all the difference.

Anonymous said...

I love your food and the way you write about it, pure class really. I am always inspired. As I write this Roma has just won a really important football match and the whole of Testaccio is screaming and blasting car horns, the whole of our very solid builing and this computer is shaking - my elderly neighbour seems to be jumping up and down. Sorry for that bizarre information.

peter said...

Rachel: No, it's great to hear the report. I spent some time in Testaccio on my last trip to Rome, and have fond memories. I remember back when I lived there, during a big game the streets would be empty and eerily quiet, then erupting suddenly from windows all around in a roar of dismay or exultation if a goal was missed or made.