Friday, September 9, 2011

Frites à l'ARC

We had to sacrifice potatoes to the knife today. Julienne. Bâtonnet. This dice. That dice. So, the result is lots of potatoes in different cuts.

Serving different cuts of the same vegetable is taboo in chefdom. Chef Teresa once graded me down for exactly this kind of sin against the Gods of Gastronomy. It's just not correct. It shouldn't be done.

Yet, here I am with all these potatoes. They're sitting there in the refrigerator, soaking in water and hopefully losing starch minute by minute. It's either offend the Gods by mixing cuts, or offend them by wasting food. A real dilemma.

In the end, the ingrained adage "don't waste food" won out. I remember when they used to say, "think of all those starving people in China. Eat your broccoli". I wonder if the Chinese now say, "think of all those --- big noses in America. Finish your char siu!". Not that I ever had any problems finishing my char siu, considering that all those people in China would surely disapprove of my throwing it, uneaten, into a landfill.

So, here it is, apologies to Chef Teresa for my indiscretion. It is definitely more trouble, since three different cuts all have different cooking times. Definitely not economically logical for a restaurant, but I'm at home with nothing better to do than finish projects, study, do homework, answer e-mails, deal with cat/rat issues, try to tame a half-wild cat who might want to adopt us but isn't quite sure, bake some bread and cook the rest of the pork.

This pork is a great example of fat is flavor. Almost enough to make me want to get that tattoo for real. Oh, I never posted it...

Fat is Flavor
 There it is. Chefs have lots of tattoos. It's all the rage to work 16 hours a day then go under a buzzing needle to have something ridiculous engraved on your flesh that you can watch blur, sag and uglify as you grow older. Still, sometimes it's tempting to sheep out, join the crowd, jettison one's individuality for the sake of group fashion and nonconforming conformity. Back to the pork.

The pork is just some ingredients and lots of time. Pork shoulder, cut into 3" cubes, white wine, fresh thyme, fresh marjoram (or oregano, but the marjoram needed trimming). Bay leaves, onions, garlic, more garlic, red, ripe tomatoes that it was really time to use, Yolo Wonder peppers, salt and black pepper. Throw it all in a pot and let it simmer for about three hours until the pork is meltingly tender and imbued with all the flavors floating around it. Unlike carnitas, I don't take fry the chunks in their rendered fat. The acidity of the tomatoes and the flavors of the other vegetables just seems to make any caramelization superfluous.

Meanwhile, about those potatoes. They should have soaked overnight, since every good plate has something that requires preparing a day ahead. But since I'm breaking the rules, a few hours will have to do.

Take the potatoes out of the water, dry them. Heat some oil. Fry the three types of potatoes separately, just to where they begin to take on color. Put them on a plate and do something else for an hour or so. Just before serving time, re-heat the oil and fry the three cuts separately until they just begin to show some color. If they overcook, they'll turn bitter and that would not reflect well on ARC, especially as it's an added sin over and above mixing cuts.

Toss the potatoes with some smoked salt, maybe a bit of Maldon sea salt for big flakes, a bit of fresh ground pepper, plate with the pork and serve. Eat the shoestring (julienne) and diced potatoes first and be hasty. Once you've polished them off, your sins are extirpated and you may continue your meal at a leisurely pace, sipping some Vinho Verde to keep Bacchus happy. Might as well have one happy god on your side, right?

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