Au Revoir Madame Emma… Coq au Vin and other French Goodies

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My diary. Monday 30th June, 2014

I had a plan.

Note; I said had.

Today is my day off. No work, no school duties because it is now school holidays (more on that later) and some quiet time with my MacBook Air, finishing a few of the stories I have in my almost ready pile and starting a few stories to go with the hundreds of food photos that are now almost over flowing from my photo library. That was my plan…

Croquembouche in the making

Croquembouche in the making

Obi was getting into the spirit of things

Obi was getting into the spirit of things

Unfortunately this plan was devised by the head of my planning department; a small gnome like creature named Kevin who has absolutely no contact with the outside world, hence did not take into consideration the party we (Jennee and I) were attending last night. You see, our friend Emma (who last sprung to notoriety on these very pages when she hosted a house warming party that left both Jennee and I wounded… Jennee permanently brain damaged, scans would later show) has decided she is off to France for six months. She’s packed her bags and her kids (possibly in the bags) and she is off. Except before anyone leaves around here we need to have a party… a big, fat “au revoir Madame Emma” party… red and white checkered table cloths, French food, guys dressed up with blue and white striped shirts, red neckerchief and beret (where we have this stereotype from I know not, but it was abundant), girls dressed like French prostitutes from the golden era of the Moulin Rouge, ample breasts just barely being contained by corsets and other similar things and nary a pair of knickers between them (note to self; a French themed birthday party is probably a good idea), and booze… oh the booze. We drank like we were at a Scotsman’s wedding,,, and that, my friends, is where this plan crumbled. It was too reliant on me being of sound body and mind today, of which I am most definitely neither. I had put all of my eggs in one basket, dropped said basket crushing all of the eggs which were now oozing their way onto the grass in what could be described as a new age hippy lunch creation; the raw omelette with grass, and now the dog has wandered over and is cleaning the mess for me via it’s tongue.

Good dog.

The coq, ready to feed the starving hordes

The coq, ready to feed the starving hordes

I plated up inside because I needed some better light

I plated up inside because I needed some better light

I have never enjoyed coq so much

I have never enjoyed coq so much

French totem. Nuff said

French totem. Nuff said

But boy, did we eat.

We consumed like the Aussie mine worker on holiday in Bali. Nothing was too much for this feasting farewell to our dear friend. We started with home made chicken liver pate, cheeses… lots of cheeses and fruit, accompanied by only the finest bottles of imitation champagne 12 bucks could buy. That was followed by coq au vin, pommes dauphinoise (or potato grat-arn for those less cultured amongst you. Google that shit and pick a recipe), pickled lentils, sautéed cabbage and peas, onion and pumpkin tart, rocket, pear and walnut salad, crusty bread and, of course, booze… lots more booze. And then to top it all off was the croquembouche, somewhat of a sign that assures you my Jennee has been involved in the feast you have just consumed. Although to be absolutely honest, there were not many amongst us who could fit it in as our bellies were already teetering on the brink of bursting with a cocktail of chicken, cheese and a pile of booze… or maybe that was just me…

Oh yes we ate

Oh yes we ate

The croquembouche

The croquembouche

This is the girl to look out for my French friends (Emma is on the right)

This is the girl to look out for my French friends (Emma is on the right)

A fitting farewell in anyone’s books!

And just a little note to all of my French friends out there – Emma will hit your shores next week and she is ready to eat all of your cheese and pate and she will definitely put a dent in your stocks of wine and champagne. The time to re-stock your cellar is now!

Pork, sauerkraut and pickled lentils… but it’s mostly about the sauerkraut

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One of those days in my kitchen

You know the days when you go tot the fridge to get dinner started and you feel like you’ve been transported to the nursery rhyme “Old Mother Hubbard”. Well today was one of those days for me. I opened the fridge and was greeted by nothing more than some red wine braised pork neck I brought home from work, some home made sauerkraut, some pickled lentils and the usual array of home made condiments. Which translates to me having found an effing treasure trove of a chef’s bounty.

Even after doing what I do for years, I find it hard sometimes… mostly in the morning when I wake up it’s… um… story for another time methinks. This day was not hard though. This was the opposite of hard. This was most certainly soft.

It is not that difficult to conjure up a cracking meal with what can be only described as quite literally four things, if you are lucky enough that those four things are meant to be bedfellows.

I am not a magician; I don’t even have the skills to do a basic card trick (but you are still sure to see me at any local young kid’s birthday party looking like Ronald McDonald) but sometimes things just fall into place… and if they don’t, all you need are a few pickled and fermented things in your fridge to be the hammer you need to get the round peg into the square hole.

One very good point to note about pickled and fermented goodies is they will last a whole heap longer than their regular fresh life expectancy. They last for damn near ever and help to make slapping together and easy tasty dinner even easier and tastier than you thought it could be. Get pickled stuff now!

As I said, I had pork neck for this one, but the sauerkraut and lentils would be a gracious host to an array of meaty outcomes; pork belly, ham hock, duck maryland, thick cut bacon, lamb neck, beef brisket, smoky sausages, not smoky sausages, etc.

Also, remember that with pickling, even if everything does go to shit and you have produced something that looks and tastes about as appealing as the illegitimate offspring of Gina Rinehart and Tony Abbot, then it’s time to get started on pickling yourself! A couple of beers and a bottle of red should do the trick. There you go, everything tastes fine now, doesn’t it!

Porky goodness is always good in my belly… especially accompanied with sauerkraut and lentils

Porky goodness is always good in my belly… especially accompanied with sauerkraut and lentils

BRAISED PORK NECK, SAUERKRAUT, PICKLED LENTILS 
You can cook a piece of pork by now, non? This pork neck was braised in red wine with star anise, thyme, peppercorns and garlic, cooled in the braising liquid and then rolled in mustard seeds and more herbs. The lentils were my pickled lentils, which you can find here, and they were simply warmed through. The sauerkraut is the recipe you can find below (original recipe can be found here), once again simply warmed through.

Go fourth now my child. Make pickled lentils and sauerkraut and let your mind be free…

Sauerkraut sauerkrauting away

Sauerkraut sauerkrauting away

SAUERKRAUT
1 medium green cabbage
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoons caraway seeds

• When fermenting anything, it’s best to give the good, beneficial bacteria every chance of succeeding by starting off with as clean an environment as possible. Make sure your jar is washed and rinsed of all soap residue
• Quarter the cabbage through the core and slice it nice and fine. A mandolin is good, nay great, for this
• Transfer the cabbage to a big mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt over top. Chuck the caraway seeds in now, too. Work the salt into the cabbage and then let it sit for an hour or so as to draw out the moisture
• Grab handfuls of the cabbage and pack them a large jar or even bucket I guess. Every so often, squash down the cabbage in the jar with your fist. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage while you were massaging it into the jar
• Once all the cabbage is packed into the jar, slip a smaller jar or ramekin into the mouth of the jar and weigh it down with a tin of something. This will help keep the cabbage weighed down, and eventually, submerged beneath its liquid
• Cover the mouth of the jar with a cloth. This allows air to flow in and out of the jar, but prevent dust or insects from getting in
• Over the next 24 hours press down on the cabbage every so often with the smaller jar. As the cabbage releases its liquid, it will become more limp and compact and the liquid will rise over the top of the cabbage.
• If after 24 hours, the liquid has not risen above the cabbage, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of water and add enough to submerge the cabbage
• Let the cabbage ferment on the bench top for 5-10 days. It hasn’t got past the 5 day stage here and it tastes damn good, but I’m going to make a really big batch and see how it goes for 10 days
• Store in the fridge for ever

Getting pickled… lentils and beans, that is

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Huh. Sepia…

I love getting pickled. In fact, you could say that I have made somewhat of a career out of getting pickled. I don’t know if it is my German-Polish heritage rearing it’s ugly but lovable head, like the child peering around the corner while his parents are engaging in a little “special time”, but without getting pickled, my life is ass pointless as a silent letter.

I think I should probably clarify something right now… I am taking about pickling fruit or vegetables or, as in this case, legumes. What I am not talking about (but possibly actually talking about) is the pickling that occurs to your brain when you drink excessive amounts (or quite possibly just the right measure) of alcoholic beverages.

Why, as I type this now I am slowly but surely recovering from one such evening.

Quite apt really, eh?

The thing I love about pickles is, well, everything. From the taste to the preserving qualities to the taste… but I think I already mentioned that.

Lately I have been pickling lentils, chickpeas and cannellini beans with effing brilliant results. And where did this idea come from? I like to entertain the thought that I actually came up with this idea all by myself… with my smart brains. Clever, clever Grazza. I quite possibly did not come up with this idea by myself but that’s OK because for now I am living the dream.

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Lentils

Lentils

Cannellini beans. Not much to say about these pics really...

Cannellini beans. Not much to say about these pics really…

PICKLED LENTILS or CANNELLINI BEANS or CHICKPEAS
1 400g tin of lentils or cannellini beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 eshallot or half a whatever onion, sliced
1 10cm stick of celery, sliced
½ small bulb fennel if you have some lying around, sliced
A chilli if you want, sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (apple cider or sherry vinegar would both be cracking too)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
• Mix everything, except oil, together in a bowl. Season well
• Pour/spoon the mix into a jar or your holding receptacle of choice
• Cover with oil
• Put them in your fridge, not mine, as they will not last for more than a few days in my fridge
• They are best after a day or two and should last for a few weeks in your fridge
• Eat them with a piece of whatever meat or fish you want, charcuterie, cheese, bread or by themselves straight from the jar

Sauerkraut is next!

Foodisthebestshitever – the home of easy-tasty!