Saturday, March 13, 2010
Buddha Is All Like, "Hey! What's Going On Here...."
The actual cooking begins. I spend all morning shopping and tying up loose ends because I know my friend Jess is taking me out for lunch to ply me with Margaritas. I needed to make sure I had everything I needed, while I was still fit to drive.
The first stop is Pat’s Meat Market, where I pick up three large chickens, a five pound pork shoulder, three pounds of lamb top round, a five pound duck, two pounds of chicken wings, and three pounds of smoked ham hock. I really can’t say enough about the service and quality here, everything is top notch. I then have a minor “pig’s feet-tastrophe” when Haknuman Meachey, my usual go-to, is out. Hannaford’s randomly saves the day, not only having the trotters but also splitting them up for me.
Now that my fridge is overflowing with meat, it seemed like a reasonable time to have several Margaritas. This puts me in the mindset to begin making stocks when I get home. Buddha jumps over the wall calls for two, a chicken and a “superior.” Both contain fried vegetables, where the infused oils are reserved for use in the main dish later.
The Two Stocks:
Superior Stock (Chiu Kop Seung Tong)
4 pounds pork neck bones
3 pounds pork butt
1 six pound whole chicken, cut into six pieces
2.5 pounds smoked ham hocks
½ pound fresh ginger, lightly smashed
1 bunch fresh scallions, trimmed and cut in half
¼ cup fried shallots
½ cup fried scallions
2 gallons cold water
Chicken Stock (Gai Seung Tong)
1 eight pound whole chicken (including giblets), cut into six pieces
2 pounds chicken wings
7.5 quarts cold water
½ pound fresh ginger, lightly smashed
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch fresh scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds
4 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
¼ pound fresh cilantro, cut into thirds
¼ cup fried onions
½ teaspoon whole white peppercorns
¼ pound dried boxthorn fruit (wolfberries), soaked for ten minutes
Both stocks call for all the meat to be blanched to remove impurities and then you combine everything in the pot, bring to a boil, and simmer partially covered at a very low heat for at least 6 hours. Strain, allow to cool, and skim the layer of fat off of the top. These are very good all-purpose stocks, which is why I included the recipes.
I find that a good thing to do while you wait is go to work. After a very busy night at Miyake, and complimentary pizzas from the owners of Pizzeria Otto, Masa makes me my birthday cake – Dashi Tomago, a Japanese egg omelette (which I love), with Nato beans and minced Daikon radish (which I’m not so into).
My house smells amazing when I get home, and you can start to see why Buddha may have been tempted. Karl from Miyake now joins the fray to do a little prep with Dietz and I. We pull the stocks off the stove and begin prepping the abalone, which is brought to a boil, simmered, and then left in liquid overnight to soften. The shark’s fin goes into a mixture of rice vinegar and water, also to hang out overnight.
A note about shark's fin: I know this is a highly un-ethical industry, and honestly I do feel bad about using it. However, I also feel that every element of this dish needs to be authentic, and I promise no more shark's fin after this....
We open a bottle of Rene Geoffroy Rose Champagne, and start hard boiling the quail eggs. Next up is prepping the dried scallops, which immediately dispels the nice meat broth smell in the kitchen in favor of shaoxing wine mixed with low tide, which probably caused Buddha to go back over the wall. Though they may not be great now, you can definitely see how they will enhance the dish.
It is at this point that Dietz decide he is going to do a taste comparison of the two shaoxing wines we have on hand. The first, the cheapest, reminds him of overly sweet and cheap sherry. He then tries the “nicer” of the two and immediately runs to the sink to spit it out. I think he looked like he was going to vomit for about five solid minutes, as he described the layers of bitterness that kept “going and going.” I guess my quest for “drinkable” Shaoxing continues...
Tomorrow Nolan joins team Buddha as we push forward towards some kind of fucked-up culinary Nirvana. The first manner of business is to subject him to the "Shaoxing taste test."