Members of an eastern North Carolina historical organization are trying to stimulate interest in Colonial-era pig preparations they claim the current crop of pork devotees has unfairly overlooked.
"Cracklings have gotten a lot of bad press," sighs Sarah Weeks, a volunteer for the Perquimans County Restoration Association. But she insists, "People can add them to any savory recipe," she insists.
While a few high-end chefs have toyed with cracklings, Weeks would like to shift the crunchy, salty byproduct of rendering lard from the amuse plate to the kitchen pantry. That's why she's enlisted an ally to show up at the association's hog-killing festival this weekend with crackling-streaked biscuits.
| Cow head in banana leaves at Hill Country. Photo: Kat Kinsman
Well OK, not every girl's life -- but at least those of a troika of squeam-free dames including Hill Country's executive chef and cookbook author Elizabeth Karmel, Homesick Texan writer Lisa Fain and lucky, lucky me. And it all happened because of Twitter.
See a step-by-step barbacoa making slideshow and read a description after the jump. Warning -- it's not for vegetarians or the faint of stomach.
Though some Jewish food mavens may beg to differ, we think few dishes are as associated with the children of Israel as gefilte fish. While not as easy-to-love as blintzes, as versatile as horseradish or as soothing as chicken soup, the ubiquitous balls of ground fish make a fine appetizer for almost any holiday meal.
Gefilte fish, which takes its name from gefüllte, the German word for "stuffed," was traditionally made using finely ground pike or carp mixed with eggs, onion, flour, seasonings and either matzoh meal or challah bread. It was then packed into the skin of a deboned fish, poached with onions and carrots, chilled and sliced. Today gefilte fish is typically formed into patties and served cold. It is often preserved in a jellied fish broth and commonly accompanied by horseradish and a slice of carrot.
While gefilte fish isn't one of the symbolic foods on the Passover Seder Plate, it is a traditional part of the meal in many households. Part of its popularity lies in the cultural significance underlying its preparation: Since one can buy it deboned, it doesn't require work at the table, which means that it can be eaten during the Sabbath when work is forbidden. Another benefit is that fish is parve, so kosher consumers can eat it on the same plate with either meat or dairy foods.
Another reason for the aqueous critter's lingering popularity lies in its economy. Originally developed in Europe's Ashkenazi Jewish community, gefilte fish balls incorporated cereals and fillers to stretch the fish itself. The fish was class-free -- accessible enough for the poorest member of a community, yet glitzy enough for the most wealthy.
Today gefilte fish continues to be a popular and enduring cultural motif. On one end of the spectrum, enterprising chefs like Wolfgang Puck are finding ways to make it more exciting; on the other, a strong market for the traditional ground fish and stuffing survives. Brett Werner, manager of Miami Beach's popular Roasters' n Toasters deli, estimates that his store has sold approximately 200 quarter-pound pieces of the fish for this year's Passover already!
How do you feel about gefilte fish?
The thing almost reads like a list of urban food legends. Maggoty cheese? Check. Grilled dog? Check. Soft-boiled duck fetus? Check. Some, like sheep's heads, jellied moose snout, and octopus, are on the list simply because they are conceptually a little difficult to deal with. Others, like blowfish sushi and boiled bat, are potentially life-threatening.
All in all, I don't know if this list is a compendium of "must trys" or a compendium of "must avoids"!
There are two big reasons for the great lobster drop. One is the fact that many high-end consumers, the kinds of people who could afford to eat lobster regularly, were hit particularly hard by 2008's financial meltdown. The second reason lies in the collapse of Iceland's economy: seafood producers in Canada that used Icelandic banks have not been able to get the credit they need to buy large amounts of lobster.
Personally, I'm going to be taking advantage of this sudden piece of good news. While I'm not a big fan of shelled lobster - to be honest, the huge crustaceans remind me of aquatic cockroaches and the whole lobster dining experience is disturbingly like an alien autopsy - lobster tails and lobster bisque are among my favorites. What's more, with lobster going for a fraction of its former price, this might be the perfect time for a Monty Python recipe that I've always wanted to try: Lobster Thermidor Aux Crevettes with Mornay Sauce, Truffle Pate, Brandy, Fried Egg and Spam. While I'm at it, I'm also keeping an eye on other delicacies; after all, who knows what will drop next?
Time Magazine reports, with a soupçon of punny glee, that sales of offal in Great Britain have surged as of late, likely in response to the international economic downturn. Quoth London's Liz Logan:
"Tough economic times have Britons eating their hearts out and swallowing their tongues. Not literally, of course. But offal - or "variety meats," as the food category is euphemistically called in the U.K. - is experiencing a surge in popularity, with sales up 67% over the past five years."Thing is, even in advance of the pound sterling's plunge, the nose-to-tail herd, helmed by offal stalwarts like Fergus Henderson and River Cottage's Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, had been squealing 'bout the culinary benefits of tripe, kidneys, brains, tail, giblets and trotters. Come for the savings, stay for the savoring -- the message seems to have come home to roost.
I posted a while back about my love of grilled chicken hearts, and I'm no stranger to whisking up a batch of giblet gravy, or a neckbone ragout, but I'm hungry for your favorite takes on organ meats. Post 'em in the comments below.
Thank you to Flickr user vvvanessa for uploading this drool-inducing image to the Slashfood pool.
Giblet gravy recipe after the jump.
My parents, who had lived in Asia, were huge fans of sushi and sashimi, which meant that much of my childhood was spent traveling from one squalid Japanese restaurant to another in search of honest-to-goodness fresh fish. My sisters and I usually crunched tempura while my parents gobbled down morsels of hamachi, toro, sake, and saba, rating the various venues and moaning about how good the stuff was. As time went on, the claims that this was "grownup food" started holding less and less water; by the time I was ten, the whole family was in love with raw fish.
For your breakfast fix, try Smithfield's maple-smoked bacon (locate your local grocer here) or Oscar's Adirondack slab bacon -- and, if you're ready to commit to a serious relationship, sign up for the Bacon of the Month club. If you're adventurous, you can learn about curing your own bacon here. Wherever it came from, to cook your bacon you will need a good cast iron frying pan, such as these beauties from Le Creuset and Lodge. Both work well with a bacon press.
A bacon keeper is an inexpensive and indispensable feature for the frosty landscape inside your refrigerator. Now you than you're set to preserve and prepare your bacon, start cooking with it. Cobb Salad isn't Cobb Salad without bacon; here's a great recipe for this American classic. Once you've mastered your Cobb, explore additional recipes at The Bacon Show -- but be warned: after you sample your homemade bacon-infused vodka, you will probably need one of these.
While bacon is nourishing your interior, insulate your exterior with a bacon scarf. Outfit your breakfront, office cubby, or any other environment you choose (bacon-themed bathroom, anyone?) with a selection of novelties from the bacon collection at Archie McPhee. Finally, if you're wondering wherefore this depth of scholarship concerning bacon, consider this: aside from being namesake for one of art's masters, bacon inspired the art of no less a master than Salvador Dali.
Although time, geography, and economics have kept me from regularly partaking of the delicious Kaba-yaki, I can certainly understand why it is Japan's official summer food. I can even understand, to a certain extent, why Japan Tobacco, Inc. recently came out with "Unagi Noburi," or "Surging Eel," an eel-based carbonated beverage. Made from (among other things) the head and bones of eels, the soda contains several of the vitamins that are contained in the fish. The company is marketing it as a sort of energy drink, designed to extend its drinkers' stamina.
According to reports, the drink tastes more or less like Kaba-yaki. While the idea of a broiled, barbecue-y eel drink initially nauseates me a little, I have to admit that I wasn't all that hot on eel itself when I first heard about it. Given how the Kaba-yaki turned out, I may have to give the soda a try!
A few days ago, I wrote a post about chicha morada, the amazing Peruvian blue corn drink. Thinking on it further, I am becoming increasingly convinced that Peru produces some of the best dishes in the world; with that in mind, I plan on writing a fair bit more about the wonders of lomo saltado, papas a la huancaina, and other treats. However, in the interests of total honesty, I also have to acknowledge the dark side of Peruvian cuisine, the surreal side, the side that dresses up guinea pigs in colorful costumes then roasts them with cheese.
The twisted tale of the Peruvian Guinea Pig Festival begins in a cute, whimsical way. In the small city of Huacho, located north of Lima, somebody came up with the bright idea of holding a regional carnival to honor the cuy, or guinea pig. Now in its third year, the event features contests for fattest, quickest, and best dressed cuy. People from the surrounding communities primp and preen their top animals, preparing them for the race and dressing them in the height of rodent fashion. It is not uncommon to see the animals dressed in bright silks and taffetas, sporting little hats and crowns, and generally looking like a cross between a fur mitten and the infant of Prague.
While the winners of the fastest and best dressed contests are spared from the final competition, the remainder of the cuy become fodder for the greatest test of all, a battle royale that pits woman against woman, village against village, and cuy against cuy: the fight for tastiest guinea pig. Amidst an orgy of stuffing, roasting, skewering and smoking, the women of Peru demonstrate their skill with one of the country's traditional delicacies.