Yes, we are launching into serious autumnal cooking! It’s time to slowly simmer and tenderize with a braise. And to inspire you, we’re offering 15% off a selection of our favorite cuts for braising at dartagnan.com. From ribs and racks to shanks and shoulders, apply the simple technique for tender results. Our special pricing lasts through October 11, 2013, so shop now.
Posts from the ‘Bits & Bites’ Category
“Indeed, stock is everything is cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.” –Escoffier
Forget about the cans and boxes of watered-down, flavorless stock in stores. The best stock is made at home and the good news is: it’s not difficult to do. You will be amply rewarded with glorious, golden liquid that will boost the flavor of sauces and serve as a base for soups. Professional chefs confess that they dip into a constantly bubbling stock pot when water is called for in a recipe.
When Brillat-Savarin said, “Soup is a healthy, light, nourishing food, good for all of humanity; it pleases the stomach, stimulates the appetite and prepares the digestion,” he was not referring to canned soup or low-sodium, thin broth. Bone broth rich with gelatin was the basis of soup in his day. And French studies on gelatin have found it to be useful in treatment of many diseases, and helpful to digestion.
Rich, homemade chicken stock has been called “Jewish penicillin” for its healing qualities. Bone stock has minerals that the body can absorb easily—important ones like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. Why pay for supplements like glucosamine chondroitin, which supports joint health, when you can get it naturally from bone stock?
How it’s done
Whether making chicken, fish or beef stock, the first thing you will need is a pile of bones. And the next is a stainless steel pot. The one we used is a 14-quart stock pot, but depending on how many bones you have, you can do this in a smaller (or larger) pot.
Waste not, want not. Start a bone collection; save all the bones, wing tips, backs, necks and gizzards from any poultry that you eat. Seal the bones in a bag and store in the freezer until you’ve collected enough and are ready to make the stock. No need to defrost them–frozen clumps can go right into the stock pot. And you can mix raw and roasted bones and bits together in the pot.
If you can get hold of chicken feet, throw them in–the collagen in them makes a gorgeous, gelatinous broth that jiggles when refrigerated. This is the holy grail of chicken stock.
We used a combination of a fresh, raw chicken carcass mixed with frozen chicken bones. Toss the carcass and bones into the pot with the onion, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Cover with water. The rule of thumb here is that meat, bones & water + heat & time = stock. All you need to do is fill the pot with as much water as possible and let time and heat do their thing.
Bring the whole thing to a boil, and skim the foamy scum off the top. Always skim! The effluvium that rises to the top can spoil the taste of the stock, and it looks pretty nasty, too. You can use a broad, flat spoon or a fine-mesh strainer to do this.
Then reduce the heat and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook it, the more concentrated and flavorful the stock will be. You can cook it for 10 hours if you like, or even 24. It will just continue to reduce and become more delicious. About 10 minutes before finishing, add the optional parsley (just throw it in whole), for added dimension and brightness.
Allow to cool a bit before attempting to remove the bones, chicken scraps and soft vegetables with a strainer or slotted spoon. Strain the stock into another pot or large bowl. Allow to cool and skim off the fat as it rises to the top. Be sure to save the fat. Chicken fat, aka schmaltz, is a valuable cooking medium, and a necessity in chopped chicken liver. Or leave the fat in the stock, and pour into quart or pint containers. Do not fill to the top, as the stock will expand when frozen. Store a quart in the refrigerator and put the rest in the freezer. When you chill it, the fat will separate and you can remove it then.
Use chicken stock in sauces, soups and sautéed vegetables. Add some to the water when cooking rice and pasta. You will soon find it an indispensable ingredient in the kitchen. Add salt and pepper when you cook with the stock, but never in the reducing process, or it will get too salty.
What You Need for Chicken Stock
1 whole free-range, organic chicken (or assorted bones)
2-4 chicken feet
1-2 onions, cut in half
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2-3 bay leaves
Bunch of parsley (optional)
A message from Ariane–
It is always a joy to return to my country – Gascony—for any length of time. This summer, I spent 3 weeks there with my family and friends. We rented a rambling old farm house with a swimming pool and we relaxed into the pace of South West France. Which can actually be pretty brisk!
Summer is dedicated to food and music festivals in Gascony, so there was plenty to do. There is the Tempo Latino festival in Vic-Fezensac and the Jazz Festival in Marciac, where Wynton Marsalis always appears. We went to Cuivr’enfoliz, a brass band music festival in Fleurance, which featured 12 brass bands, including some all-girl bands.
Not far from there is the lovely town of Barran, a bastide, or medieval fortified village. If you are lucky enough to visit Barran, you can’t miss the famous church, the 13th century Collégiale Saint Jean-Baptiste. Its spire is helical, or spiraled. In the middle ages, artisans learned their trade by apprenticing with masters and then proved their skill by producing a masterpiece of their own. This church is one of those masterpieces—and a real challenge of symmetry.
Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Armagnac. Maybe it’s a bit chauvinistic, but I truly love the fiery intensity. And, no, Cognac is not the same –I won’t drink it! And in a region known for Armagnac, the ancient city of Éauze is the capital of Armagnac. So, after a day of visiting my good friends Armagnac makers at Domaine de Lagajan, then saying Hello to the Grassa family at Tariquet, we gathered for dinner at a long table under the ivy awning for a well needed solid ration. After the late dinner, we sat at “the loft,” in the middle of the main square to sip more Armagnacs. Their outside cart alone stocks 53 varieties. A “normal” tasting is about 6, but we had to try 14 types, could not decide which ones were better than the others, and have no idea how we got home.
At Domaine Lagajan, under the direction of George, the father, the whole family makes Armagnac the old way, with a continuous still over a wood fire that must be tended for the entire week that it takes to distill pure spirits. The fire under the beautiful copper alambic is a convenient place for the workers to make their lunch while they babysit.
A hallmark of Armagnac production is la part de anges, or the angel’s share, which is the percentage of alcohol that evaporates from the casks, every year. These vapors create a black fungus (Baudoinia compniacensis ) that you’ll see thriving on the alcohol fumes on the walls of the distillery and aging rooms. One can see it on the outside of the building, which is a telltale sign that some Armagnac casks are aging inside.
George accumulated, over the years, a huge collection dedicated to the old ways—farm equipment from the Middle Ages and other instruments we have forgotten how to use. I liked the painting of D’Artagnan at the entrance, hanging above a few swords and a plumed hat.
At Vic-Fezensac, where Tempo Latino is held, we encountered a flock of geese outside the tourism office. We thought they were looking for Youri Buenaventura, who was performing that evening, until we saw the gooseherd with his dog. On their way to the foie gras market, maybe?
Farming is an important part of life in Gascony, but raising bulls for bullfights is pretty unique. Jean-Louis Darré, a man whose entire life and passion is about breeding these fierce animals, invited us to look at them up close, in his ranch near Mirande. The bulls were magnificent to see… from a distance. We couldn’t get too close. Though, apparently when they are in a group, the bulls remain calm, we took no chances.
We also became friendly with a neighbor near the vacation home in Marambat who raises bees. He has 12 hives and how he removes the honey is amazing! It is a little bit stressing but totally amazing to be surrounded by bees with their gentle buzzing, and the smell of the summer fields and fresh country air. He tends to his 3 organic potagers, (kitchen gardens), one of which is regularly stomped by a family of wild boar, and about 2 dozen hens. Like most people in Gascony, surviving and even striving on his own food production is just a way of life.
Ah, the food. It’s all fresh, locally grown on family farms, and every time you eat, you are experiencing the honest flavors of the land. The only time you rely on “foreign” ingredients, is to take inspiration from neighboring Spain, like the day we made a huge paella outdoors, with incredible seafood: langoustines and mussels, and chicken, rice and plenty of chicken stock.
For outdoor grilling, we used the bottom of an old wine press and made pork ribs the country way. The marinade was piment d’Espelette, olive oil, wild oregano we picked ourselves on the roadside and fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden. No BBQ sauce needed!
When I go home I am reminded of the importance of food raised the right way. Growing up in a place dedicated to food – from the hotel kitchen of my father to the surrounding farms and vineyards—taught me so much. Here in my adopted home, I try to bring that sensibility about food to my American friends. Spending time in Gascony reminds me of this mission and inspires me.
It is a region of France less traveled than others, and it is raw and beautiful, full of character and wonder. If you can, go to Gascony. You will see a side of France you might not expect, and you will eat well, I promise.
Ah, America the beautiful. Mom, apple pie, baseball, purple mountains majesty. There’s much to be culturally proud of, if you’re an American, even though our dear nation is relatively a baby compared to other countries around the globe. And while many of the things we love to eat in these United States have been borrowed from other countries — particularly the hamburger (Germany) and the hot dog (also Germany), and the pizza pie (Naples, Italy) — there is one type of food that everyone will agree is uniquely American: Barbecue.
While the concept of roasting meat over low heat for a long time is as old as history itself, American barbecue evolved, over the years, to become something of its own, independent character. Sure, you can get a spit-roasted lamb in Greece, barbacoa in Mexico, or a whole suckling pig in Spain. But try to get a rack of “fall-off-the-bone” beef ribs smothered in thick, tangy, spicy mustard-based BBQ sauce anywhere else in the world, and you’ll either come away empty-handed or disappointed.
The first thing that anyone should know about barbecue (or “barbeque” or “BBQ” as it’s also often known), is that it is never a verb. One does not “barbecue.” Similarly, a “barbecue” is not an event, nor is it a type of grill. The term “barbecue” means, quite simply, meat. Specifically, it is meat that has been cooked “low and slow” over charcoal or wood. Purists will never allow gas-cooked meat to be considered real “barbecue.” And “vegetarian barbecue”…well, let’s not get silly, shall we? That said, the different types of barbecue to be found in the USA are as varied as its regions and people. Although there are some outliers in Yankee states, most barbecue – and what many feel is the best to be found in America – comes from the southern states.
So, who does what kind of barbecue, and how? Exploring the regional variations is as fascinating as it is delicious. If you happen to live in Texas, the land of the long horn, you’re going to go straight for the beef brisket, sliced and served with a light brown, mustard-based sauce. Famous versions of classic Texas barbecue can be found at places such as Austin’s The Salt Lick, or Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas.
But not all barbecue is beef, of course. In the western parts of Kentucky, for example, they use neither beef nor pork to make their barbecue, but rather mutton, which is an older sheep. “Why not use lamb,” you might wonder? Because lamb is soft and tender and wonderful when cooked rare or medium rare. With mutton, because it’s older and has more connective tissue, you need to cook it for a long time to get those tough tissues and fatty muscle to break down, much like you would do with braised meat. In the rest of Kentucky, instead of mutton, you’ll find some wonderful sliced pork butt, from the shoulder of the pig.
Then, of course, is the matter of sauce, which is likely the best way to differentiate the regional barbecue styles in the US. In Memphis, Tennessee, you’re definitely going to want to tuck into some dry-rubbed pork or beef ribs, although they can be served dry or dripping with sauce. Tennesseans also like their sauce nice and smoky, whereas in Georgia, you can have your barbecue either sweet or spicy. Similarly, BBQ enthusiasts in Arkansas enjoy a kind of grab bag of different meats and sauces, although many prefer it to be spicy, as do most of those who love to dig into barbecue in Louisiana. If you happen to be in the midwest, you’re best off if you love your meat covered in lots of sauce, because that’s how you’ll get the best barbecue in places like Kansas City and St. Louis.
Vinegar is also an important factor in barbecue; sauces made from vinegar as the base are popular in North Carolina, home of the “pig pickin,” and in Mississippi, where they love their meat nice and vinegary. But perhaps the two most interesting types of BBQ sauce can be found in South Carolina, where you’ll discover a yellow sauce made from mustard, and Alabama, where, believe it or not, the barbecue sauce is white, derived from a mayonnaise base. Note, if you’re going to try to replicate this kind of sauce and have a good recipe, make sure to mop it on your barbecue only after it’s off the grill, since the mayonnaise will separate if it gets too hot, and no one wants that.
Whichever barbecue you enjoy best, always make sure you get your meat from a trusted source, and make sure to keep those coals from getting too hot. And, at the end of a long day cooking barbecue, you’ll be rewarded not only with some of the best meat found on the planet earth, but that also carries that wonderful, indispensable trademark: Made in the U.S.A.
It may be hot outside, but it’s frigid in our giant walk-in freezer. Time to reorganize and offer 25% off during our annual freezer sale! Take advantage of the deals from August 13 through August 25. We encourage you to shop early for best selection (we will sell out!). Head to the website now.
A truffle is an irregular, round-shaped fruiting body of fungi, which grows underground in a symbiotic and mysterious relationship with the roots of trees. On average, truffles vary in size from a walnut to a golf ball, but there are sometimes exceptional truffles that can weigh a pound or more.
Tuber melanosporum is often called the black “Perigord” truffle, after the legendary truffles of that region of France. But black truffles are also found during the winter months in several parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including Italy and Spain. The black winter truffle drives people wild—it has dark, robustly-veined flesh that appears almost black-purple, and has the strongest flavor and aroma of all the black truffles.
Seasonality, the difficulty of locating the truffles, and erratic weather conditions all impact the cost of truffles, making them one of the most costly ingredients in kitchens around the world.
Remarkably, even miraculously, the black winter truffle has finally been cultivated in the Southern Hemisphere. With acidic soil, cool winters and warm summers, Australia offers conditions ideal for growing truffles, at least in the identified microclimate in Western Australia where we have found a successful truffière.
This is the holy grail of truffles.
The truffières were amply planted with oak and hazelnut trees whose roots were inoculated with truffle spores. The years of patience have been rewarded; they are now harvesting black truffles in their winter season, which is June through August. These trees are producing a steady supply of quality black winter truffles, which are located in the traditional manner, with truffle-sniffing dogs.
We are pleased to say that the Australian truffles are just as impressive as their European counterparts. It’s like Christmas in July for truffle fans, who can celebrate the extension of the season. One way of doing that is to make Tournedos Rossini.
We love Michael Ruhlman’s writing, whether it’s in a cookbook, his blog or even twitter. But this article in the July issue of Conde Nast Traveler about his culinary pilgrimage to Gascony is enough to make the stomach rumble. It’s possible that we are a little biased; Ariane is quoted in the article, and of course, she is Gascon to the bone.
Settle in and give Michael your undivided attention for a little while. You will be rewarded with an appreciation for Gascony; the people, the beauty of the countryside, the way that agriculture and food are intertwined, and the intense devotion to eating, drinking and living well.
Plus, you will get a sense of the ethos that built D’Artagnan, as Ariane has worked for 28 years to bring these sensibilities to the culinary scene in the United States.
You may want to pour yourself a glass of wine (or Armagnac) to sip while you find out why ancient Gascony is France’s new foodie destination. And then book your trip. It’s that inspiring.
Happy 1oth Anniversary, ‘wichcraft! Check out this video series to learn about their carefully-sourced ingredients. We’re proud to supply them with our heritage breed bacon, which they put to good use in many delicious sandwiches. In this short video, watch for Tom Colicchio and for Ariane’s bacon socks! And learn how we raise pigs to make the best bacon around.
Mmmm. Might be time for a BLT.
Now that’s how you do it! Here’s an insanely cool video from our client Alobar restaurant in Long Island City, New York. Chef Ian Kapitan straps our suckling pig on for a joyride through NYC before turning it into one of his signature dishes: Porchetta di Testa. More than just rock ‘n’ roll and food porn, the video reinforces Chef Kapitan’s commitment to humane, sustainable meat and whole animal butchery. Well done!