September 26, 2015

Blog the Thirty-first: Two Ways to Braise Chicken on‑the‑bone

plus a bonus Pork Chop Braise!

I don’t cook my most delicious food for my Gentile friends, because I don’t think they deserve it.  I spend half the afternoon over a skillet, gently sautéing layer upon layer of a chicken braise, and they say, “Delicious!  See, there’s nothing wrong with serving chicken at a dinner party.”  Such is their indulgent homage to my chicken‑on‑the‑bone.  It’s as if they’re telling me not to feel embarrassed, which being a praeteritio itself embarrasses.  Or else there’s the wistfully condescending, “It tastes like something my grandmother would have made from her French provincial cook book.”  That’s a sweet compliment (I think), but you know what, it’s a hell of a lot easier for me just to make you a steak, so how about you spare me your reassurance and my afternoon, and we go with the steak, eh?

And there’s yet another problem with braising chicken parts for you Gentiles:  when it comes to eating, you’re big babies.  Many of you don’t like the “dark” meat, and you don’t know how to use a fork and knife to get it off the bone.  Next best thing of course would be for you to pick it up with your hands and gnaw it off with your teeth, but you’d sooner leave mouthfuls of flesh still clinging to the bone to be tossed in the trash rather than sully your fingers or your napkin at a dinner-party.

No, no, braising is not labor to be thus wasted on the polite; this is food for the hungry soul.  The dark meat at the bone is the tastiest of the animal, a gift of its viscera to yours.  Cutlets of breast have no such power to stir your viscera.  They offend little because they offer little; are receptive to the flavorings of your choice because they have so little of their own.  Bland food for bland souls.  Carnivorous souls want that whiff of blood, that tearing of sinew, that slick on the tongue of cartilaginous jelly rendered from bone—recollections of a time when men gave thanks to God as they reverently laid on altar fires the beasts sacrificed to feed their bowels.  Polite Gentiles can’t handle such truth, let alone mention of bowels. 

September 4, 2015

Blog the Thirtieth: Fish Steaks, Plus

Marinades for Swordfish and Tuna,
plus a bonus recipe for Filet Mignon

In the eyes of the foolish, fish steaks are good food.  Well, they’re not.  Sure, they cost a lot.  Sure, they’re fancy.  Sure, they make a good impression.  But so what?  That’s food for the vain, not the hungry soul.  When you cook fish steaks, what you mostly need to worry about is their drying out. They want to be tough, and you have to stop them. Now, tell me, does that sound like good food?

I live in an old colonial town on a great Bay, once the livelihood of watermen, but now the playtown of perpetual recreants.  Would you believe the place has more good sushi bars than Italian restaurants?  Talk about a transvaluation of values (transpacific, to be precise).  Anyways, the price of good tuna has been driven up beyond the tolerable by this Asian invasion [are only Asians allowed to say that, or do those crazy-high SATS preempt protected class status?].  No way I'm paying twice as much for tuna as for a rib-eye—vanity of vanities!  It’s cheaper in the end just to get the sashimi lunch special at Joss, with a miso soup and salad thrown in for good measure.  Anyway,  even though my parents never bought but fresh fish steaks back in Brooklyn, I make do with frozen tuna, wild from Vietnam, when it goes on sale for $10 a pound, but averring the palpable difference in taste and texture.  (I bet you can still get it fresh for under $15 a pound in Bensonhurst.)

Now, there are two ways to deal with fish steak’s determination to dry out, the Way of the East or the Way of the West.  The Eastern Way is to get the very best and very freshest fish steak and not cook it at all, making quite a fuss about how you slice it up and lay it out.  That’s the Way of the East at its extreme, namely Japan.  I advise you not to try this at home; go out instead for sashimi.  You might think it uncharacteristically ecumenical of me to recommend Asian food to you, but allow me to explain to you how my culinary respect for the East only corroborates my Western chauvinism.