Monthly Archives: January 2010

She’ll get by / Without her rabbit pie

This song should be playing while you read today’s post.

I often feel like a novice when I’m out foraging for new things, but never more than last weekend. W. and I have been watching those smug fat bunnies on Madison’s bike paths and thinking about rabbit pie, as I’ve mentioned. What finally lit a fire under our asses: the rabbit meatballs during my birthday dinner at L’Etoile. (Clarification. The … uh … Fantôme Farm Chèvre-filled Agnolotti with Silver River Rabbit Meatballs in SarVecchio-Black Truffle Broth.)

This weekend we went hunting for the first, second and third times. Continue reading

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An unfamiliar mollusk

I’m having one of those “It’s not you, it’s me. Wait. Maybe it is you” kind of moments. In this case, “you” is (are) being played by the frozen cooked apple snails I bought from Midway Asian Market, in my aforementioned attempt at food-pioneering my way through that frozen section.

I figure I can’t think of a single meat that isn’t better preserved by freezing than by canning, right? (Sardines—maybe.) And I have loved canned snails as long as I can remember. In fact, I was so young when I first got the idea to make mushroom caps stuffed with snails that I had to stand on a chair to get the tray into the oven. In Alaska I once harvested snails straight off the kelp in the ocean, sauteed them in butter on a beachside fire and smashed them like a caveman, spitting out the grit. These denuded snails look so lovely there sleeping in neat lines in the tray, curvy and delicate.

But one sniff—oh God no. Not food, says my primitive reptile brain (and you’d think the reptile would be more amenable to mollusks!)

Surely they must be spoiled.

Or is it me? In college my boyfriend and I bought some cheese, searching for the One Best Cheese he had discovered in France. “This smells like feet,” he said without ceremony, upon the unwrapping of it. “I don’t know,” I said. “It’s not so bad.” We took it back to the store. It only about three dollars’ worth, a tiny wedge of Muenster, which I now know as a famously stinky—and sublime—cheese. I’m still embarrassed when I think about it, though not so embarrassed that I won’t publish the story on the Internet for your entertainment.

So is it me or is it them?

Internet query: I find I am once again guilty of eating an animal other people keep as a pet.

How to eat our way out of this mess, or gefilte fish as ecological warfare

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in La Crosse, WI: Asian carp caught accidentally. Fat and ugly, is what this fish says to me. But delicious?

New product alert: Asian carp. AP reports today, a week after my local paper the Capital Times, that some Louisiana companies are planning to put “silverfin” on the market, with the state’s blessing.

This is the same guy who tried to sell us on nutrias. AP writes:

The campaign for silverfin is “dramatically different,” he said, because the fish doesn’t resemble an overgrown rat.

And:

As for the fish’s taste, Parola said that it’s a cross between scallops and crab meat.

Theoretically, I’m all for eating the invasive species before they get to Lake Michigan. In general I’m for eating-based solutions. And considering how many fisheries humans have successfully overfished already, I think we’re experienced enough to take on a bigger challenge.

But I should mention that carp is the main ingredient in gefilte fish (sample recipe), which, for you goyim out there, are Jewish fish cakes. I think if the nationwide market for gefilte fish had potential, it would have taken off already. Unlike most fish recipes, gefilte fish calls for boiling the fish cakes for a couple of hours. I always thought this was to eliminate any possible carp flavor.

Personally, I find the flavor of scallops and crab to be very, very far from that of gefilte fish.

Jessica Vanegeren in the Capital Times floated another idea: carp caviar. These fish are major breeders. They make tons of eggs, and they’re spawning three times a year. “Unfortunately, there is no market for carp caviar,” Vanegeren writes.

In fact, I was just bemoaning my inability to stick to Buy Local when it comes to the subject of tobiko, the little flying-fish eggs. And it seems the carp will jump into the boat, which sounds like pretty easy fishing. (You don’t even need grenades.) So—gefilte fish aside—how can I try some Midwest caviar?

New meatpliances to enable further carnivory

In my dream, I go to the front door and someone has left me a gift basket of assorted meats, from pig to pheasant. It hasn’t happened yet—although a friend did pay me in two pounds of bacon and a tin of duck cracklings for doing a pittance of an errand the other day. Will Work for Food. Mmm. (Thanks, Mike!) And my parents did send me a deer sausage for my birthday. (Thanks, Mom!) The dream is alive. Usually I stick more to the vegetables, but times have been meaty lately. On the foraging front, of course, there’s little but critters to collect at this time of year. I do miss mushrooms.

Smoke 'n' grill 'n' chips. A carnivory enabler.

Still, the maw yawns for more, and in this case I’m talking about the maw of my brand new smoker. I’ve waited a long time for this bad boy. W. and I are hoping to go cold-camping up north this weekend and come back with grouse or hare or both. And to catch a bunch of bluegills from Lake Monona to smoke whole. And smoked sausages, once I get my sausage grinder. Etc. I have also been curious about the taste of the Canada geese at Lake Monona that so studiously ignore me, though with an attitude like that they’re probably protected and know it.

We now also have a turkey fryer! W. has plans to boil down maple syrup in it. Friends, Madisonites, lend us your trees. (And I have plans to co-opt it and use it to fry a turkey. Not a Canada goose. I would never.)

Pork-bellied, we lurch toward decadence

Now that it’s been a few days and I can use my brain again, I can say I have recovered from Sunday’s Pork-Off at the Weary Traveler. (I imagine search-engines’ evidence of the previous statement will misdirect some new readers to me. One can only hope.) A dozen or so of the best local chefs were competing for our hearts through our pieholes.

Pigholes. Continue reading

Escoffier was there first

You haven't lived until you've had one of these. From Larousse Gastronomique, American Edition, 1960.

Where do my memories come from? Sometimes I worry I have made up most of them, or that I was programmed with them just yesterday. But if someone had programmed me, surely that someone would have done a better job at researching the facts.

Foods undreamt of in your gastronomy.

For years, the apotheosis-throne of Difficult Food has been occupied, for me, by headcheese. Continue reading

Twins!

Good luck for my breakfast, if not for the chicken.


Double-yolkers, as chicken people call them, are actually a “mistake,” according to the helpful people at Poultryhelp.com. They’re what happens when a hen ovulates too quickly, or “when one yolk gets ‘lost’ and is joined by the next.” Inside the chicken. Sometimes it’s hereditary.

A year ago, in Juneau, I had the pleasure of looking at all the eggs a chicken has inside it at any one time. Before Karen Waldrip learned that the marten was living inside the chicken yard, the sneaky bugger got more than a few eggs and carried off at least one chicken. She found another maimed, with its scalp hanging down; she killed it to stop the pain. When she butchered it she found all the eggs inside that the chicken would have laid. There were about eight of them, and she saved them in a Ziploc in the freezer, in the order in which they would have been laid. The littlest was like the tip of my pinky, and the largest was a full-size yolk without a white on it. The albumen, membranes and shell are added at the last minute (Excellent brief primer on egg production.)

Double yolks hardly ever result in twin chicks, sadly, because they’re so likely to fight each other before they hatch.

Incidentally, eggs sometimes have other problems. Sometimes they come out without any shell. Or if they reverse direction inside the chicken’s egg-assembly line before they come out, they may get another layer of white and shell. Eggs without yolks used to be called “cock eggs,” because, Poultryhelp says, people thought roosters laid them. But now, so much more accurately, they are called “fart eggs.”