Thursday, March 26, 2009

Veal * Tasted * Unseasoned

Colman Andrews in Gourmet:

"Organic milk-fed veal saddle (borrowed from a six-course $95 tasting menu, since superseded by an eight-course $150 one), served with cèpe-like honshimeji mushrooms and parsley-root purée, was a wonderful piece of meat, rosy and tender, though it tasted curiously unseasoned."

You don't say?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Pity the Pork Chop

I pity the pork chop that has been subjected to this sort of indignity in the name of "locavorism":

The brine:

1/4 cup maple syrup
5 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons peeled, sliced ginger
3 tablespoons crushed garlic
1 sprig fresh sage
3/4 cup onion slices, cut into 1/4 -inch rings
5 bay leaves
2 teaspoons peppercorns

The infused oil:

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup vegetable oil

The sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 star anise
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 tablespoon agar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

You would think that when you're working with organic Berkshire pork from a slaughterhouse that supplies some of the nation's fussiest chefs, you might want to calm down and prepare something where the people might be able to taste, I dunno...the pork? Well, the chef does admit he has a bit of an O.C.D. problem (NY Times Magazine, 1 March 2009).

Hey, why not throw some arugula-macadamia-pesto aïoli on ol' Porky? Let's 'ave a really good meal!

On y'r bike, Jim.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Et Tu, Saveur?

Saveur is our favorite food magazine, an exemplary publication of its kind. The beauty of Saveur's approach to food is that it almost always places food in its cultural, geographical, and historical contexts. But in a lively way, without being dry or academic. And it's not a dumb recipes-and-(fantasy)-lifestyle rag, like some we could name.

And, it always has a lot of really neat pictures.

Thus it pains us all the more to have found this lamentable example of aïoli abuse in the latest issue (March, 2009, No. 118):

Lemon Aïoli (suggested as an accompaniment to steamed artichokes)

1 egg yolk
1 tsp. dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive or grapeseed oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste

This is not as bad as something like, say, maple-chili aïoli. But it is as absurd an "aïoli" as one can imagine, for it utterly lacks the essential ail, the garlic from which aïoli takes its name.

Aïoli, we repeat, is not a fancy French name for mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is the fancy French name for mayonnaise.

And aïoli is aïoli. Please.

Friday, February 20, 2009

From the Annals of Anti-Social and Counter-Productive Behavior

The scene: Seward Co-op parking lot, Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A shopper, on foot, approaches the store as a mini-van, parked at the end of aisle nearest the store, starts to back out. Mini-van brakes to allow shopper to pass.

Around the corner comes cream-colored PT Cruiser, oblivious of mini-van's reverse lights and shopper, both. Cruiser must stop halfway around the corner, blocked by mini-van. Mini-van is also now blocked by Cruiser. Cruiser driver honks and gestures angrily at mini-van driver.

Mini-van pulls forward to let Cruiser pass. Shopper proceeds into store.

Leaving store, shopper sees Cruiser parked where the mini-van was.

(Don't get shopper started on the cell-phone-chatting shopping cart drivers inside....)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Inaugural Meeting of the Aïoli Anti-Defamation League

Okay. I'll call the meeting to order. Roll call: OYGID?


Anybody else?

Very well then. Let's get started:

Aïoli is not synonymous with mayonnaise. Let’s break it down: aï-, that’s for ail, garlic; -oli that’s oil spelled sideways, also olive without the –ve. Aïoli may appear very much like mayonnaise, but in fact it need not even contain eggs—a boiled potato can be used to emulsify the sauce.

It is a sauce of garlic and oil, usually made in the manner of a mayonnaise, with the frequent addition of lemon juice, salt, Dijon mustard, and pepper. It is served, in Provence, in near ritual manner, in the aïoli monstre, platters of vegetables, meat, fish anointed with the garlic-hot sauce which, according to the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral, “intoxicates gently, fills the body with warmth and the soul with enthusiasm. In its essence it concentrates the strength, the gaiety, of the Provençal sunshine.”

Says Mireille Johnston in The Cuisine of the Sun, “aïoli is a legend, a festival. It offers a whole banquet by itself.” “This wonderful sauce has been called ‘the butter of Provence,’ ‘the soul of the south,’ ‘cream of sun’…”. “In all cases, it is supremely invigorating.”

Fergus Henderson: “Aïoli often seems to be mistaken for garlic mayonnaise, but this is not so. Aïoli is aïoli and eating it should be an emotional experience—it is strong, but that is its role in life.” (The Whole Beast)

Roy Andies de Groot: “Following the custom of Provence, I stuck the corner of my huge napkin into my collar, while Madame cut chunks of bread, poured the wine and served the fish and vegetables. I ladled a dollop of aïoli onto the side of my plate. It stood up, glistening and stiff. I spread a little of it on a piece of fish, on a bean, on a carrot, on a slice of potato, on a morsel of bread…the garlic seemed to be the perfect companion to enhance the flavor of everything on the table. Perhaps it is the aromatic strength of the food, the hot softness of the air, the lazy beat of the sunlit hours…in Provence, garlic is a way of life.” (The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth)

Aïoli is not a sandwich spread, or a catch-all for whatever flavorings some fusion-minded chef mindlessly dumps into a mayonnaise.

Chipotle aïoli? Lemongrass aïoli? Wasabi aïoli? Basil aïoli? Ginger aïoli? Barbeque aïoli?

Merci, non.

The most egregious abuse of aïoli I have recently encountered was a “pineapple-mango aïoli,” at a small Minneapolis restaurant known for its devotion to local ingredients. Pineapple…mango…aïoli?

On y'r bike, Jim.

Let aïoli be aïoli.