New Menu items

We added a couple of new items to our menu tonight, both will be available for lunch and dinner.

Pasta dish changed to-

Billy’s Spaghetti with Braised Rabbit, Countneck Clams, Chervil, Tarragon, Fennel Cream and Zesty Crunch

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Billy our saute cook made the spaghetti, the rabbit is from Feather Brook Farms in Raynham, MA.  The countneck clams are from Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, MA

 

New fish dish-

Seared Wild Alaskan King Salmon Fillet with Soldier Beans, Escarole, Turnips, Carrot – Radish Salad and NH Smokehouse Bacon

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The salmon is caught by the Nicholson family in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  Soldier Beans are from Osbourne Family Farm in Charleston, ME.  The carrots are from Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA and the turnips and radishes hail from Verrill Farm in Concord, MA.  The bacon is from North Country Smokehouse in Claremont, NH.

Death of a pig (part 7.5)

Back to the ham, I had a Panini today made with Hoosier’s ham.  It was fantastic, Mark (our day sous chef) did the sweet and smoky ham up with Robinson Farm’s (Hardwick, MA) Family Swiss and dill pickled onions served on Raul’s (our baker) sandwich bread. I enjoyed with some of our homemade fries and Alex’s (our long-time lunch cook) tangy ketchup.

My lunch, fries were added after I took the photo.

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Death of a pig (part 8) Saucisson Sec

Making dry cured sausage is simple; grind some meat mix it with spices, stuff it into casings and hang it to dry in a fairly humid, cool space, then wait. To quote Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part”.  Three-ish weeks later, if all goes well you have a beautiful semi-dried full flavored, rich, fatty, dry, slightly tangy, cured sausage.  I have made this recipe many times with varied results, mostly great.  However, once in a while I have gotten a batch that just doesn’t work.  Don’t worry when it’s not right it’s obvious, it does not have the rosy meat color you expect from air-dried cured meat, it looks kinda gross and smells rotten.

Below is a pictorial of the steps we used to turn Hoosier’s fat and flesh into Saucisson Sec (dry-cured sausage).

Ground pork mixed with spices.

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The trusty hand cranked sausage stuffer, many hundreds of pounds of sausage have been made using this beast over the 15 plus years we have had it.

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I’m pushing out the sausage into casings.

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Sizing them up.

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Hanging them to dry in our curing room, next to some duck prosciutto that is just about done.

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Three weeks hanging and they’re done.

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Though we still have quite a bit of Hoosier left to use; most notably the head and a bunch of meat to braise, it may be a while before we get into it.  I will continue to write about as we utilize it.

 

 

Cuba with Dad

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My parents were visiting us over the Thanksgiving long weekend and my father Walter mentioned that Americans are now able to travel to Cuba and that he wanted to go.  He noted that my mother Carolyn had no interest in going.  I immediately chimed in that I would be happy to go with him.  My dad had visited Cuba before the embargo, while attending the University of Miami in the mid 1950’s.  He has always talked fondly about the country and has often expressed a desire to return.

Within a few days I reiterated my willingness to go with him, that was all the motivation he needed.  He jumped on it, in no time flights and an Airbnb where booked.

Wally, as his friends, and sometimes I refer to my dad, is conversational in Spanish.  I on the other hand understand quite a bit and speak very little, which is a shame.  I work in restaurants where at least half of the employees first language is Spanish.  I also have a brother who has lived in Spain since the early 90s whom I have visited upwards of twenty times.  I should really have a much better grasp on the language than I do, hopefully I will suck-it-up and learn more.

I met my dad at his house in Florida so we could depart very early the next morning for our flight on JetBlue from Fort Lauderdale to Havana.  The flight was very sort, 45 minutes total flying time.  The first thing I noticed in Havana was how nice and accommodating the Cuban people were, very outgoing yet relaxed.  We arrived several hours early to the Airbnb and were greeted warmly, told not worry, it was not an issue.

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I have always heard about the old American cars in Cuba and figured that they would be a few here and there for the tourists.  I was wrong about that, I would estimate 70% of all cars were American models from the late forties and fifties.  No car, old American or new Russian, had anything that we would consider pollution control.  Straight exhaust streamed out of tailpipes or up through floorboards, as we experienced in one taxi.  It was really nasty, walking around the city you could taste it!  For many reasons this needs to be fixed.

I had read in several publications not to expect much when it came to food.  Most of the restaurants are government owned and there was not much emphasis on creativity or quality.  This proved to be very true, the food we experienced was blah!   We went to a couple of restaurants recommended to us by locals and they just kinda sucked, no love for the food at all.  Considering the quality of the food it was also expensive, $20 -$25 for a piece of grilled fish or some braised beef is fine, but it should be at least adequate.  At each of the restaurants we visited we ordered the main item – fish or meat and it was served with rice, beans and vegetables, nothing interesting.  I have read that some privately owned restaurants, Paladares,  located in private homes are supposed to be better than the government run restaurants.  The problem is they don’t have websites, not that with the very limited wifi you would be able to Google a Paladare.  Next time I visit I plan do more research ahead of time to find some better dining options.

A few of the restaurants we dined at.

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Our best meal each day was breakfast, prepared in our flat by Juanita, our maid.  She would arrive before we woke, have coffee ready at the predetermined time, then she would proceed to make us breakfast which included fried eggs, ham, cheese, a selection of fruit, toast, butter, jam and juice.  Then she would clean up after breakfast as well as the rest of the flat. The breakfast cost the equivalent of 5 U.S dollars, a real bargain, and Wally was able to practice his Spanish with her.

Wally with Juanita, the remnants of Juanita’s breakfast.

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If you like light crisp Caribbean style beer the indigenous Cristal is adequate, I drank several.  I was able to find an ocean-side table with a nice view at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba each evening.  The locals have an affinity to Heinekin, personally I would rather not drink than let that insipid liquid touch my lips.

mediocre beer with a great view

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I had a great trip with my dad, we have not had a lot of opportunities to spend undisturbed time together like this. It was a wonderful trip and I will cherish the time spent with my dad.

Havana is a beautiful city steeped in culture, here are some scenes from around the city.

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A fisherman avoiding the sea spray on the Malecon

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Che Guevara immortalized in the Plaza de la Revolution

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Commonplace food service out of the windows of private homes

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Morro Castle guarding Havana Harbor

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Gypsy lady smoking a Cuban Cigar

A couple of markets, note that there was no refrigeration for the meat.
City streets
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A long queue at La Casa Del Perro Caliente (The Hot Dog House)

 

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Scooter taxis

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Hotel de National Cuba

 

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Walking by a school, these kids knew an obvious tourist when they saw one and asked me to take their photo.

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Looking from Morro Castle towards downtown Havana

Along the Malecon

All photos credited to me Peter McCarthy

Death of a pig (part 7) Ham

After two plus weeks in brine and 14 hours in the smoker Hoosier’s American Style Smoked Hams are done and they are beautiful; sweet, smoky, moist and tender.  We have been making this style of hams for many years, tweaking the recipe and methods to ensure a great ham every time.

Hoosier’s hams – each ham is cut into three pieces, brined, tied, smoked, chilled and sliced.

Smoking our own hams bring us much more than ham (the meat).  The meat could end up in ham sandwiches, part of a pasta dish, paired with cheese for a first course or even as a ham steak.  The skin makes a smoky gelatinous stock we often use in pigs skin risotto, soups and stews.  Scraps and bits are often used as a flavoring ingredient, such as in our Bangkok Chicken Wings where we pair the sweet ‘n’ smoky ham with Thai fish sauce, lime juice and spicy chilies.  We also always place a pan directly under the smoker to collect the drippings (liquid bacon), which finds its way into vinaigrette, sauces and marinades.

The fat that surrounds the ham, often 1 1/2″ to 2″ thick is freaking amazing.  Currently on our menu are Ham Fat-Potato Croquettes.  We take two parts diced ham fat and combine it with one part mashed potato, roll it into balls, bread ’em and then fry ’em. We’re serving them with mustard cream and last summer’s pickles.

A few of the dishes we are / have served using Hoosier’s hams-

Blue Corn Biscuits with Backroom Smoked Ham, Pete’s Sweet Pickles and Robinson Farm’s Swiss Cheese

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Bangkok Chicken Wings
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Sliced and served with local Burratina, arugula and Pete’s Pickled Peppers

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Ham Fat Croquettes

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The next post will be about Saucisson Sec, a dry cured sausage we made from Hoosier.

Death of a pig (part 6) Belly

A bit of a delay in getting this latest post out, I was visiting Cuba with my dad.  I will do a post about my trip in the near future.  Don’t worry we still have plenty of Hoosier to write about and serve.

Pig belly, oh glorious pig belly, a perfect marriage of meat and fat.  Cooked properly it has an unmatched succulence, melt in your mouth fat with just the right amount of meat.

At EVOO we have cooked pig bellies many different ways, usually braised, then glazed with a myriad of sweet and / or spicy sauces, sometimes fried and often finished on the grill.  Every so often we will cure and smoke the bellies to make bacon, though I get more satisfaction out of the other preparations.

Hoosier’s belly on the grill

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Hoosier’s belly is being prepared this way: Sweet Soy Glazed Grilled Pig Belly with Miso Laced Parsnip Puree, Roasted Radishes and Carrot – Daikon Sprout Salad

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After braising the bellies we trim them to make evenly cut, nice looking, portion sized pieces.  With those trimmings we remove the skin and pulverize the crap out them making a semi-chunky paste, kind of like rillettes, only better.  We serve it at room temperature as a spread with homemade pickles.

Pulverized Braised Pig Belly with Arugula, Pickled Garlic Scapes and Grilled Bread

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One of my favorite preparations: Gochujang Glazed Braised Pig Belly

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The Hams are just about ready, they will be the subject of the next post.

Death of a pig (part 5) Smoke

Smoke has been an integral part of our cooking since we opened in 1998.  At our original location we had an inexpensive charcoal / wood fueled smoker just outside of the restaurant’s back door.  We smoked all sorts of meat, fish and vegetables, we used the shit out of that smoker.  In our new (2010) location we didn’t have the option of putting a smoker out back, a city sidewalk was not going to work.  We needed to continue smoking food, it had become part of who we are.  After looking at many options and speaking with equipment specialists we went with an electric heat controlled floor model that the specialist insisted was big enough.

We quickly realized the smoker was too small and that the the initial heat is way too high. I think it’s programmed so that we to get the smoke going quickly.  The electric heat regulation is convenient, we just add smoke using wood chips and chunks; we have also smoked with different teas, coffee, dried herbs and spices.  I sometimes hope the smoker we have will shit-the-bed so we can get a bigger one.  Other times I think the smoker has been a work horse; most days it’s full of something, be it pig parts, pastrami, bluefish, salmon or veggies.

EVOO’s little smoker – filled with Hoosier’s bones.

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After a few days in brine the thinner pieces of pig are ready for smoking.  The skin is first, filling the smoker racks, adding a few chunks of hickory every hour or so, maintaining a temperature of just under 200 degrees for 6 to 8 hours.  We end up with some beautiful mahogany hued smoke bombs that we have used several ways in the past. We have often braised it and used it to flavor risotto, at times we have made a stew with the smoked skin and beans.  Hoosiers skin was braised, cut into strips and served with cavatelli and seared sea scallops.

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A video of Fredy our amazing prep cook making the cavatelli

We will progress through all of the bits that need smoking, three to four batches of skin.  A 200 lb pig has a lot of skin, this will take at least two days.  Then we will smoke bones another 1 – 2 days, after that the heart and a few pieces of tasso ham, followed by the head and eventually the American style hams. I will post about each of them as we work our way through this beautiful pig.

I think the next post will be about the belly, followed by more smoke and possibly saucisson sec.