Monday, March 15, 2010
Don't You Worry About Buddha, He's "Taken Care Of...."
As the final day begins, we all enjoy our schedule being radically fucked up from daylight savings time. All it really meant to me was that I was cracking open an ice-cold Schlitz at 10:30 instead of 9:30, which was brilliant.
Karl arrives and starts our lunch, smoked pork banh mi sandwiches with a side of mustard greens. As if these weren’t delicious enough, he poached a few eggs to give it more of a “brunch” feel. We have one round of sandwiches with toasted buns (that he got from Kim's), and then another with a soft bun, because Karl decides that the toasted ones weren't good enough. This lunch pretty much de-rails us for about a half hour and we meet in the living room to digest and discuss the game plan for the day. I also take this opportunity to declare my new-found love for Schlitz, with a kiss of the hops. We’ve got the whole team at this point – Drew, Nolan, Karl, Dietz, and myself – so the work gets done quickly.
What’s interesting about BJOTW (I’ll call it that from now on) is how many times each of the elements is cooked. For example, the daikon, bamboo shoots, and carrots are all blanched in oil, simmered, and then steamed. The meats get stir-fried with aromatics and then also get simmered before being added to the final pot for a steaming. The quail eggs are boiled an then deep fried to garnish the finished dish, and all of the “luxury” ingredients (shark, abalone, dried scallops, and Yunnan ham) are wrapped in cheesecloth together and steamed a second time.
The day goes at a fairly leisurely pace, with occasional intermissions to watch Rocky IV on the big screen upstairs. After Creed is killed by Drago, Karl needs a tissue because "the air is so dry in here" - which I think is adorable. We continue to drink the only Chinese beer available in Maine right now, Tsing Tao, but quickly abandon the "authentic" feel for other Asian beers such as Singha, Ki-Rin, Asahi, and Sapporo.
When it comes time for final assembly, the braising liquid from the meats and birds goes into the pot, and then a rack. On top of the rack goes bamboo leaves, then the meats, the “luxury” ingredients, and the vegetables. The entire pot is topped off with a big louts leaf and left to steam for an hour and a half.
The meats and vegetables are removed to a platter, and the broth goes into a tureen. The traditional Chinese way of serving is each plate of food gets a little broth poured over and you are given an additional cup of liquid gold to sip.
You’re probably wondering, after 4 posts, how this fucking thing tasted.....
I’ll go play by play:
1. The Broth
The aroma is what got Buddha over the wall in the first place, and holy shit was this good. Meaty, complex, and some of the best I've ever had.
2. Chicken & Duck
Perfectly tender and flavorful, especially the chicken.
3. Lamb & Pork
The flavor was great but some of it got a little dried out during the last steam. The broth took care of this problem, though.
4. Shark’s Fin
I have to say this tasted amazing, with a pleasant gelatinous texture.
This had great flavor and a lot of snap to the texture, I really enjoyed it.
6. Dried Scallops
Better for flavoring than eating....
7. Yunnan Ham
Also a component that added flavor to the final dish but not great to eat on it’s own due to drying out.
8. Daikon & Carrots
I was amazed at the fact that they were cooked perfectly, I thought for sure they would be mush. I’m assuming the blanching in hot oil had something to do with this?
9. Bamboo Shoots
Fresh bamboo shoots taste a lot like fresh corn with a very creamy texture – I loved these.
10. Pig’s Feet
I like gnawing on pig’s feet, because it’s fatty and wonderful and it makes me happy. So fuck you.
1. Snow Pea Shoots with Steamed Mushrooms
The mushrooms, after being soaked, got steamed in a bowl with chicken fat, stock, soy, ginger, scallions, and gin. They were a wonderful accompaniment to the pea shoots cooked in garlic oil.
2. Choi Sum with Yunnan Ham
The choi sum was delicious stir-fried in onion oil, but as mentioned earlier, the ham got dried out. I think next time I might substitute steamed Chinese bacon here.
3. Mustard Green Stems in Sweet Mustard Sauce
This dish is so easy, yet so delicious. The mustard sauce was just colman’s powder, water, sugar, salt, and sesame oil. It was a perfect match for the stems stir-fried in coriander oil.
4. Lotus Root with Pickled Peach Sauce
We made the executive decision here to deep-fry the lotus root, and it definitely paid off. The pickled peach sauce was good even though the quality of peaches available wasn’t stellar.
5. Steamed Buns
Perfect for sopping up the insanely-good broth.
All in all, it was a delicious feast and an amazing experience. I can’t encourage you enough to get involved in ridiculous cooking projects like this, you learn so much and it’s a great excuse to be drunk for three days. A highlight of the party was my friend Stephen showing up with a 1981 Vina Tondonia Rioja Blanco. It’s old whites like this that keep me interested in wine, with so much funk and layers of flavors. I would almost describe it’s flavor as “pears served with barbeque chips,” very cool.
Josh Potocki gives me my birthday present at this point: a 6 pack of PBR, a bag of Jack Links “prime” beef jerky, and the latest issue of Penthouse Magazine. Have you read Penthouse lately? It’s actually more enjoyable to read than shitty men’s magazines like GQ or Esquire, and I’m not just talking about the obvious reasons. The articles made me laugh a few times, and they swear a lot – which I enjoy. The bottom line here is: I think I want a job writing for Penthouse.
Everyone is now drunk and wearing lotus leaves in creative manners, such as "The Cabbage Patch Kid," "Ming the Merciless," and "Lotus Ga-Ga." Things start to wind down at this point, I think due to lack of hard liquor.
I love waking up in a house full of leftovers, especially these kind. I fired up some chicken stock and simmered a few pieces of smashed ginger in it, and then tossed in some leftover pork, duck, and chicken. I then added black soy, salt, chopped mustard greens, and scallions. I finished the soup by poaching an egg in it, and served with cracked black pepper and Japanese red pepper flakes (togarashi).
Though Buddha seemed to have taken off, I did find some leftover beer in the refrigerator crisper. Hot soup and ice-cold beer are Nirvana enough for me....