Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bones, lard and more

So I haven't been blogging lately, but I have a good excuse, I swear! Well, a few actually. First of all, I have been looking for a new job recently, one with more challenge, more chemistry, and more pay. I found a job to fit all three categories, and I'll be starting in 2 weeks! So besides a job search to keep me busy, I've also been doing a lot more volunteer work for the Central Shelter. Okay, okay, I guess they aren't that great of excuses. But at least I tried some new dishes over the last bit that I can talk about.

For starters, I checked out the cookbook "Bones" from the library (by the way, everyone should use their local library as a resource, especially for cookbooks). Basically, the cookbook is based on the premise that the bones really need to go back into cooking. Keeping meat on the bone while cooking results in more even cooking, moister meat, and usually more flavor. Unfortunately, cooking with meat on the bone has become harder and harder, mostly because supermarket "butchers" are providing few cuts on the bone to meat consumer demand. And by consumer demand I mean paltry, tasteless, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boneless pork with no fat left, etc. And don't even get me started on what they call a butcher these days! Which is why, expensive as other things are, if I want a real butcher, I make a trip to Whole Foods or Bristol Farms. But better than that, they can give me scraps of fat, stock bones, and helpful advice for not more than a buck or two.

Okay, off track a little, but here goes. So I decided to make braised beef short ribs on inspiration from the cookbook. The first time, I made a red wine reduction style braise, and served the short ribs atop a cheddar polenta. It was amazingly good, although a bit rich as the ribs contain quite a bit of fat, along with the rich polenta. The second time I made braised short ribs I used a recipe in "Bones" for a dish with a balsamic vinegar glaze that was quite good. Served along with some fresh arugula from my plant pot (plus some roasted marrow bones for me), it was a very tasty dinner.

That's right, I said roasted marrow bones. Very yummy and very bad for me, but perfect spread on some toast with a sprinkling of coarse salt and a bit of chopped parsley, shallots, lemon juice, and capers. I can definitely see why people rave about roasted marrow bones.

Also inspired by the book, I made a basic brown stock, and then concentrated it down so I wouldn't have to store so much in the fridge. And of course, while I was at Bristol Farms, getting the beef bones and veal knuckles (for almost nothing at all), I picked up some pork back fat from the butcher for rendering my own lard.
Which sounds pretty crazy and weird, and I know it is. But lately I've been wanting to get into sausage making, but without a sausage grinder, I kinda stuck just fiddling around with pork bits in other ways. Still have to try using the lard for refried beans or tortillas or such. I wanna try a pie crust, but as it smells a trifle porky, I'm not sure how it would turn out. Maybe I should make a crust for empanadas or meat pasties instead to take advantage of the pork smell.

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