Saturday, January 5, 2013

Back To The Slaughterhouse ...

So, how was your New Year's Eve? Ours was kinda quiet, as was our Christmas: headed over to Stacey's in the evening for some eating and drinking (very restrained in my case, for I was driving) and talking. I'd whipped past earlier in  the day with a rolled rôti d'echine de porc, slapped it in a cast-iron cocotte on a bed of garlic, sloshed some white wine over, salted it and covered it with tin-foil, and left very precise (sort of) instructions as to its cooking.
Namely, into the oven at 210° for about forty minutes, then another three hours at 150°, and do NOT remove the tinfoil if you value your life. So when we turned up it was about ripe, and all that was needed was to reduce the juices, try to slice the thing (not easy, had a tendency to fall apart - hardly surprising really, under the circumstances) and arrange the bits back in the dish with some fried caramelised apple rings on top.

Whilst I got the pastry ready for a little apple crisp for dessert, can't beat it. And everyone knows that there's only Good Cholesterol in butter.

Preceded by some excellent foie gras with pain aux figues, and accompanied by some more red cabbage coleslaw, that made a pretty good meal. I do so love that cut of pork, just the right amount of fat all through it so that the meat stays soft and tender virtually no matter what you do to it. (OK, warped minds could probably find some way to make it inedible, maybe by boiling it in mustard for 24 hours and garnishing it with cigarette butts, but my point is that you would really have to make a considerable effort to ruin it.)
And then having a jarret de porc sitting around, as one will, I'd stuck that into a Temuka cocotte (wedding present, thanks to some friends of long ago but godnose which ones, still have it anyway) with honey and soy sauce and some red wine and strange-taste vinegar (that's Chinese sweetened black vinegar, if you really want to know: been wondering exactly what to do with it for a while now) and a bit of star anis, and put the whole lot, covered, into the woodburner before we left. I don't think that was a mistake, I could be wrong ...

Seven hours later ... I really should have been around, I guess, to take the lid off at some point because I'd kind of hoped that the skin would come out lacquered but sadly that was not to be: it was indeed a beautiful deep rich golden brown but with the moisture and that long slow cooking all the collagen or whatever it is that holds the stuff together had just melted out and into the cooking stock, so Margo was deprived of crackling.

Still, in more summery weather the meat would have been wonderful as part of a cold buffet, or chopped finely and rolled up in a lettuce leaf with chopped mint and whatever else took your fancy, but as luck would have it we decided to use it in a rice stir-fry, and pretty good it was too. The only problem is that I am now left with a pot full of wonderfully aromatic, thick dark cooking liquor, so I suppose I shall just have to go out and buy another jarret ...

Pity the poor pig, by the way. Not only do we see them hobbling around on little crutches or, even worse, with their forequarters supported on little wheeled trolleys due to some bastard removing the forelegs (a jarret, incidentally, is no more than a ham hock) but at this moment there must be about fifty of them, neatly cut into bits and packaged, slumbering away in the refrigerated bins at Carrefour. 

Must be la semaine du cochon or something: I drew the line at getting a head and trotters (for Margo would, I suspect, refuse point-blank to eat a head-cheese) but I did pick up some spare ribs (which are going to get braised slowly and then grilled some time soon), a kilo or so of poitrine which is even now starting on the road to apotheosis and bacon-hood in salt and brown sugar and juniper berries, and yet another hock which is currently in that left-over stock and slowly cooking.

Which means, I suppose, that when that's done I shall have even more cooking stock sitting around, and shall perhaps have to do a whole ham next time ... nothing but problems when you start cooking.

Whatever, if these are the worst of my problems I shall count myself lucky. I still have to work out what to do with the blettes I picked up at the market this morning: maybe slice them, fry them with onion and bacon and chèvre, then put them atop half a pita bread along with some chopped tomato and a bit of cream and an egg, then back into the oven?

Or perhaps I could do more or less the same thing only instead of pita I could bake some potatoes until the skin is really crispy, scoop out the fluffy insides (have to think of something to do with that, couldn't really use it for the same meal I guess) and then carry on as above.

Plus, due to an excess of enthusiasm some time ago we ended up with some teeny porcelain cocottes which have been sitting in a cupboard ever since, which seems a bit unfair: we also, entirely coincidentally, have a popsicle lobster in the freezer. (I went out and did a stock-take the other day, looking for some suet, that's how I know. We also have some pork chops and a couple of pork roasts that really need using up some time, a banana cake and buckets of raspberries, but these are issues which will be dealt with at some later point.)

So anyway, I'm thinking that maybe I should just thaw that sucker out, cut it in half and crack the claws (I hate that bit, it always spits resentfully at me and I always seem to have a clean shirt on, you'd think I'd have learned by now) and pull all the flesh out (and for some reason I always seem to wind up gashing myself on one or more of the spiny bits of the damn things) before chopping it coarsely, a brief flambée with whisky, and then mixed with a stiff bechamel flavoured with mustard, curry, white wine, and shallots.

At which point I could just spoon the mixture into those poor lost cocottes, top it with grated cheese and parsley, and put them into the oven to bubble and brown. Problem solved, I guess.

And just as you think everything's started to go right, something else pops up on the horizon: I went round to the neighbours this afternoon as Emilie's old HP is on its last legs so she went out and bought herself a laptop and of course her old files needed to be transferred over and printer drivers installed and a Wifi connection established and on top of that the new machine is under Windows 8 running TIFKAM (The Interface Formerly Known As Metro, if you're not familiar with that particular acronym). Which is not, in my admittedly limited experience (the past two hours) especially intuitive. But maybe I'm just coming at it with too much baggage, can't really expect them to replicate the Windows 3.11 look'n'feel.

I must admit that if (a big if, admittedly) you pay attention to the little introductory video that plays whilst Windows is busy installing itself it's not so difficult to pick up on the idea that by putting the mousie into one corner of the screen and waiting patiently for the system to realise that this has happened you will, eventually, get a menu that lets you get back to the familiar old Windows desktop, albeit one without the program launch bar.

And quite frankly, which frikkin genius had the idea of putting the shut-down options under "Parameters", which you can only get to by putting the mousie-thing right down at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen?

One that was having a particularly bad day, in my opinion. Also, from the same pop-up menu, the "Peripherals" options seems notably pointless, as - at least on her machine - the only option it displayed was "You cannot send anything from the desktop". Which seems a pointless remark to make. Especially if that was not, in any case, your intention.

I mean, it would seem obvious to me that if you were the sort of person that clicked on a menu item labelled "Peripherals", you would reasonably expect to at least see a list of the devices connected to your computer, maybe - and that would be really nice - a list of available Wifi connections (with actually useful options available should you click on one) and other good stuff, but no. I guess the fabled Microsoft Usability Lab has not been working overtime recently.

Whatever, to thank me she gave me a slab of fresh foie gras which is just crying out to be cut into thick slices and very quickly fried on both sides before being dusted with fleur de sel and anointed with a bit of balsamic vinegar as it sits next to a green salad: sadly, Margo would rather eat stewed rats' buttocks rather than that, so it's going to be a private pleasure. Which I rather think I shall enjoy, enormously. Mind how you go, now.

No comments:

Post a Comment