Monday, 21 November 2011

a bum

There is the odd perk to my job. This does not include having hands that do dishes feel as soft as my face (with 24hrs of stubble). No, I get to eat what the boss throws away!

Honestly, this is a good thing...

Mind you, my boss doesn't throw much away. There seems to be a stinginess that, for the most part, I admire amongst the small family-run businesses that I have come across here. This is how money is made, I guess. The same determinned (or mean?) streak that has made France so famous for its tradition of wonderful paupers' cooking makes sure that nothing is wasted. Nothing that is worth selling at least. Needless to say, with these kinds of kitchen scraps, I often have my work cut out.

Now and again it's straightforward: Five chickens deboned equals ten chicken wings for my barbecue (too fiddley to be worth deboning, not enough of them to sell) plus some tasty stock for a risotto or soup the next day.

Often I have to be in the mood for a project:  Twenty chickens, chopped in half and prepared for grilling, equals, well, lots of bones and forty feet! (There might be lots of them, but they are chicken feet!) I've already made enough stock - Patte à poule façon chinoise anyone? I've got enough for a party...
patte a poule with shiitaki - not bad, but dim sum style is better!

In fact chicken's feet are delicious, if a little demanding*. We used to eat them in a great dim sum place in Liverpool. I love them. They're really chickeny. Clearly, there's not a lot of bulk to them, but they are rich and gelatinous and a sticky-lipped treat!

A pair of stuffed and rolled suckling pigs leaves a fairly considerable challenge: Bath Chaps! This is a pretty gruesome task, but I must admit I rather like that sort of thing. Sort of...

The idea is to remove the skin and flesh from the head, including the prize-asset cheeks, and roll it up around the tongue. Fergus says a spirited butcher will do this for you, but I have spirit too so the game's on...

I was quite pleased with myself! Having never seen a bath chap before in the flesh, I don't really know how accurate my efforts were but, as you can see, the process was pleasingly revolting and the uncooked product acceptably neat. After being pot roasted with some aromatics and a bit of water, much as I might a shoulder of pork, it tasted pleasingly unrevolting, and my brave dinner guests didn't feel quite so brave after all! It actually turned out to provide rather tidy, and surprisingly lean, delicate mosaic scallops of tender baby pig face. Yum!

Waste not want not. Merci Patron.

* They need to have their scaley outside skin singed off, then fried, then marinated, then braised (and then steamed, for dim sum). Then you need to get your head round the idea of sucking the skin off a still-patently claw-like claw!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The importance of trussing chickens

In his classic chef-porn rag, The French Laundry, Thomas Keller writes about the art of tying chickens up with butchers twine so that they look all neat and tidy; a fascinating subject i'm sure everyone would agree...
He makes a point about how it was useful for him to have belatedly learnt the basics after working under a baddass old-school french chef. He has a point. My french experience hasn't been quite as enlightening, but I tend to be reminded of his beautiful (if a bit pretentious) book, when i spend an hour every friday up to my ears in giblets and bits of string while bunging bits of baguette up the poultry's bottoms.
This post is brought about entirely because I always think they look cool when they're all done!
 fortunately no one saw me sneaking about with my slr trying to coax a winning smile out of 30 dead chucks...