Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wrapping a Turkey in Caul Fat

At the urging of my friend John, I wrapped this year's turkey in caul fat (crépine in French), which Harold McGee defines as "a thin membrane of connective tissue with a lacework of small fat deposits embedded in it." Used in France primarily to wrap sausages and terrines, caul fat covers the intestinal organs in a pig or sheep (the one used in cooking is almost always pork). I have used crépine - most recently to cover a classic terrine de campagne - at cooking lessons in France.

Despite its unprepossessing provenance and appearance (like a stretchy hair-net from the fities), caul fat provides a continuous baste for the turkey. By the time the bird is fully cooked, the caul fat has mostly dissolved; any flaky remnants (see picture below) are easily brushed away.

Turkey wrapped in caul fat
Turkey roasted with caul fat wrapping
The main drawback is that caul fat is hard to find. The fine butcher shop Citarella could not get it for me but my friend Piglet got some for me at the quirky but excellent, all-organic new butcher, Harlem Shambles, at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 116th Street. If you can find it, caul fat is worth the trouble. I can't prove that it made the turkey taste better, but I did have fun using this ancient artisanal product.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I just watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about Jiro, an 85-year old sushi chef who runs what is supposed to be the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Sukiyabashi Jiro. The ten-seat restaurant, on a basement floor in Ginza, has received three stars from Michelin. Jiro's is not a place to go for drinks, appetizers and a few pieces of sushi. There are no appetizers, just a 20-piece set menu that starts at 30,000 yen (about $375) per person. Not to worry, though: it's impossible to get a reservation.

The movie is delightful, with great images of sushi and every stage of sushi making, from the shopping at the Tsukiji fish market, to the preparation of perfect rice, to the cutting (and sometimes cooking) of the fish and assembly of the finished bite. The subtext of the movie is how passionate Jiro is about his work, and just how hard it is to be a great sushi chef. Early in the movie, Jiro sums it all up, with appropriate Japanese modesty and understatement:
Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.
Only in Japan.

Bobby Jay

Monday, November 5, 2012

Momofuku and Daniel Join in Hurricane Relief Benefit

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which left downtown Manhattan without power and wreaked major havoc on the entire area, the team at David Chang's Momofuku and Daniel Boulud decided to help in the way they know best: by preparing a spectacular meal, charging a lot for it and donating the proceeds to the Rec Cross's relief effort.

J and I went, and had a great time while providing much-needed funds to the relief effort. Here is the menu, including the wines expertly paired with each dish.

Menu for Momofuku/Daniel Benefit

I have had only limited experience with the Momofuku empire (an excellent lunch at Momofuku Milk Bar), much more with Daniel's. As expected, the food that was provided by the Momofuku team was extremely imaginative, that provided by Daniel a bit more classic but perfectly prepared. A highlight of creativity was the foie gras - lychee, pine nut, pictured below.

Foie gras with lychees and pine nuts
Where's the foie gras? You're looking at it, flakes of frozen foie gras that melt in your mouth, covering fresh lychees and pine nuts. In all honesty, my favorite dishes were more straightforward: the duck with wild rice, apple and brussels sprouts, prepared by the Daniel team, and the veal sweetbreads with yuzu kosho, labne and Asian pear.

The meal was not the only great aspect of the evening. The 42 diners were arrayed along a single enormous table, and judging by the 10 or so people we were able to interact with, it was a lovely group of accomplished and articulate but unpretentious food lovers. There was a great chemistry in the room, and a good (and useful) time was had by all. Thanks to David Chang and Daniel Boulud!

Bobby Jay