Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jamaican Dinner

After touching down a few nights ago as a category 5 disaster for "Pizza Night at Joel's," I can now confirm that Hurricane Ricchio has quieted down to a light rain tonight. A bottle of late night wine from the gas station calms my nerves enough to actually enjoy a clear thought and recollect the goings on from last week's Jamaican dinner.

The party was held at a house on the East End that seemed more like it was built for Hobbits to inhabit than people, which prompted Dietz and I to get most of the cooking done at our house beforehand. He decided to make codfish and ackee with salt pork cracklings, and I opted for jerk chicken.
I called Dan Perron up at Sumner Valley Farm the Monday beforehand and ordered 3 chickens to be brought to the Wednesday farmer's market in Portland. These birds are well cared for (the guy actually prays to each chicken before he slaughters it), and the flavor is incredible. The next step was to score some Jamaican Allspice (Pimento) wood to smoke the chickens. We found and ordered a bag for about 25.00 (the guy also threw in a apron, which made me look like I worked at the Jamaican Home Depot). This jerk chicken recipe is time consuming but WELL worth it as it was the best I've ever had...

The Marinade:

3 yellow onions, chopped
1.5 cups scallions
6 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tsp salt
6 tsp sugar
4 teaspoons ground Jamaican allspice
1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
4 habaneros, seeded and chopped (be careful when touching any of your 2000 parts later)
4 tsp black pepper
10 tblsp Chinese light soy
3 tblsp vegetable oil
3 tblsp good cider vinegar

grind everything into a paste. Resist urge to eat marinade because it smells so fucking good.. Break down and marinate chicken overnight.

To make the chicken:
Pull the chicken out of the marinade, reserving for basting. Soak the allspice wood chips in warm water.
Build a low fire in a charcoal grill with a combination of hardwood charcoal and allspice wood. Hold the temperature at 225 degrees. Place the chicken pieces on the grill, skin side down. Cover the grill and cook the chicken, turning and basting every 20 minutes or so for about an hour and 20 minutes. Add allspice chips whenever the smoke dies down. Stand directly in the smoke to make your skin and clothes smell like delicious allspice wood. It's done when the flesh feels firm and the juices run clear when pricked with a fork.

As far as Dietz's dish, I'm not sure the exact method he used but it was amazing. You can get canned Ackee at the Bodega Latina and I would reccomend Harbor Fish for salt cod. Ackee is one of the most bizarre fruits I've ever eaten, as it resembles scrambled eggs.

The hostess of the party, Laura, had ordered ox-tails from the Meat House in South Portland to make a stew. They were the biggest I'd ever seen, and ended up needing an obscene amount of time braising (until the next day) to reach their full potential - proving that sometimes it pays to get fucked up and forget to turn your slow-cooker off..

Now I know it's a Jamaican party, but I hate reggae. It actually makes me angry, which seems to amaze most people. Nikki tries without success to find a reggae track that I like, even though I insist that I'm doing ok "just ignoring the music." Finally she asks me what song I want to hear next and I make her play "Still of the Night" by Whitesnake. My mood improves immediately. We progress to "Return of the Mack" by Maurice Marks and that "Baby when we're grinding" song by NEXT. I let her play a few more of her own before I declare that it's officially "Sean Paul Time." All the girls seem to appreciate the way my shirt smells like allspice wood..

For drinks we kept it pretty traditional: Guiness Punch (Guiness and sweetened condensed milk), Red Stripe, and Planter's Punches made from Appleton's Rum, the recipe as follows:

2 parts rum (preferably Appletons)
1 part orange juice
1/2 part sour mix (homemade)
2 orange slices
1 count grenadine
dash bitters

muddle all of the ingredients in the shaker, add ice, and shake violently. pour contents into a highball glass and garnish with a delightful green cocktail umbrella. Pound drink and place delightful green cocktail umbrella in your hair and smile coyly at whoever will appreciate it the least. Become defensive and make another drink, pounding a red stripe whilst compiling the ingredients. Have some more jerk chicken..

By the way, I decided that I'm going to be Roseanne Barr for Halloween.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Corn Soup and While I'm At It, Deathmatch Grow! Kill! Forage! Revisited

This recipe was published last year in Maine Home & Design to accompany their feature on Deathmatch: Grow! Kill! Forage! It was probably the most challenging theme we've had, as every ingredient you used had to be grown, killed, or foraged by the chef, or you had to know the person who did. We had to go so far as to make our own salt, and never did figure out where the fuck to get any black pepper (short of going to India). As far as booze went, you had to personally know the winemaker or brewmaster to open it at the party.

This Deathmatch, although a great party, definitely encountered a lot of problems:

1. Too many people, several being uninvited.
2. For the first and only time, there was a shortage of food. This was partly because of too many collaberations - we had 14 chefs but only about 7 courses due to the challenge of the theme.
3. A wildly ambitious menu printing concept that never happened.
4. I found out that a full keg of hard cider is more cider than anyone would ever, ever need.
5. We killed the fucking microwave by rendering leaf lard in it for 4 hours.
6. 2 courses failed, which had never happened.

Positive things about it:

1. We rented wine glasses and tables. You can get perfectly adequate wine stems from one stop party shop for 55 cents apiece. Much better than destroying your own stemware.
2. We filled the bed of a pickup truck with ice and booze. Thanks Josh.
3. We made Nick the official Deathmatch Sommelier. His "reserve corner" around the other side of the house was a big success.
4. Lots of pretty girls.

5. Potocki's green butter.
6. The party was largely outdoors, sparing the house the kind of epic damage it recieved from "Last Meal."
7. Never at any point was I in my underwear squrting hot mayo in anyone's mouth.

For more info, check out John Dennison's reportage of the glorious event, with pics and lists of ingredients and beverages here

Anyway, this was what I came up with for the party - I've modified it to the version I made last night, without the restrictions of the theme.

Corn Soup with Candied Bacon and Chives

1 Tbl. Olive Oil
1 Small White Onion, Diced
2 Shallots, Diced
5 Garlic Cloves, peeled
3 Fresh Chilis - Preferably Cherry Peppers, Sliced
3 Cups Fresh Corn Kernels (About 6 Ears - Get your lazy ass out of bed early on saturday morning and go get it, and most of the other ingredients, at the farmer's market)
1 lb. of the Bacon they sell at Rosemont Bakery.
Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 Quart Whole Milk
1 1/12 Tbl. Ancho Chili Powder (we dried and smoked our own chilis - it's worth it)
1/2 Stick Butter or more........
Salt + Pepper
Chives, chopped for garnish
Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
1. Make the candied bacon. Lay all of the strips on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Sprinkle each with brown sugar and bake until golden and crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain and chop up. You'll probably eat most of it before the soup's done.
2. Heat half of the oil and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add Half Of the onion, shallots, and garlic and cook for 4 minutes.. Then add Half Of the corn and fresh chilis and cook for 3 minutes more - stirring frequently. Transfer contents of the pan into the food processor and add 1 cup of the milk. Process to a smooth puree. Now pour the puree through a mesh strainer to remove the skins of the corn (I like to use the back of a ladle to work it through). Repeat this step with the other half of the onion, garlic, shallots, corn, and chilis.
3. Return the pan to medium heat and pour the puree in, whisking frequently as it comes to a simmer. Be careful not to burn it at this point like I often do. Stir in the remaining milk, as well as the smoked chili powder, and simmer for a few minutes more. Add the cream, taking care the soup doesn't get too hot or it will break. Season with salt (I like alot of it but maybe that's why I have such high blood pressure) and pepper. Garnish with the candied bacon and chives. Serve.

Note: All soups get better overnight - and candied bacon is good for everything.

photos by Irvin Serrano or Jon Leavitt or John Dennison (I can't remember)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

13 Things I've been Doing Instead of Posting on the Blog

As I sit down after work with a bottle of Bogle Merlot that I purchased at Cumberland Farms ten minutes ago, I realize that I haven't posted in a very, very long time. I will also take this opportunity to tell you that Bogle is my go-to when the only stores still open are gas stations..

It's been quite a shit-show lately. To illustrate this point, In the past month I've:

1. Gone on an epic drinking bender that culminated in me almost being fired from two jobs in one day. It's amazing how much you can throw away in such a short period of time.

2. Started waiting tables at Miyake every Monday and Thursday. I've been working in restaurants my whole life and this is an entirely different experience than anything i've ever been a part of. It's amazing, just being routinely exposed to the kind of things that Masa and Shinji do - plus they make an amazing staff meal at the end of every shift.

3. Severely burnt my lip because I'm a fat drunk fuck and I couldn't wait for the Freschetta (topped with pepperoni and napalm) pizza to cool off. The problem with lip injuries is you have to force the story of how it happened on every person you see so they don't assume it's herpes.

4. Started doing a food feature in Maine Magazine, the first of which will be in the October issue. I've been prohibited from using the word fuck or referring to food in a graphic and erotic manner. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time staring blankly at the screen trying to figure out what to write.

5. Tracked down a life-size Billy Dee Williams cardboard cut-out advertising Colt 45 and the slogan "Works every time." It sits proudly in my living room and never fails to scare the living shit out of me when I come downstairs in the middle of the night to get something.

6. Made Braised Pig's Heart and Belly in the style that Chairman Mao enjoyed it most. He once said that "those who do not like chilies can never be revoloutionaries," so I made it so hot that my stomach revolted against me within an hour of consumption.

7. Managed to actually fuck my mouth up by eating too many atomic fireballs, which was awful and kind of embarassing. This severely inhibited my enjoyment of several amazing bottles of wine while watching "Young Guns 2."

8. Drank 5 bottles of wine on a Sunday and then did the world's most amazing intepretive dance to "Flash Gordon" by Queen. I was sore in all of my 2000 parts the next day..

9. Started watching Top Chef: Las Vegas. I have to admit, it's much better than last season. Gail Simmons makes me want to cut myself, and then Padma makes everything ok with the world again.. My prediction: Michael Voltaggio - He seems to have the best grasp of the Glad Family of Products and knows that the best soups start with Swanson Broth.

10. Decided to get an upside-down cross made out of bacon tattooed on my back.

11. Stumbled upon Ricky's Diner in Bridgeton on my way north to bartend a wedding, and had one of the best bowls of clam chowder I've ever had. It's one of those places that you gain 5 pounds every time you eat there but it's so fucking good so who cares? Also, 302 seems to be an ideal place to hit a yard sale and mingle with old people.

12. Discovered that I kind of enjoy wearing eyeliner. I feel like it walks the line between glam, goth, and totally gay. Plus it makes my eyes look amazing..

13. Become aware of the importance of cooking rice the right way, even though it's much more time consuming.