Monday, 5 April 2010

Palate me no palette!

I've been busy the last week, rocketing around, dealing with the spring weather (i.e. the horrendous rain and cold winds), all of which combined has gifted me with an atrocious cold.

Really, an atrocious cold.

The sort of cold where you make a lovely Easter Sunday lunch for family, making a recipe that you've looked forward to making for a while, having saved it up... and you have to ask other people to taste for seasoning, because you cannot taste a thing.

How unfair.

I think most of it was due to being generally over-tired, but I certainly didn't improve matters by spending an hour on the balcony in a bitter cold wind on the Saturday, oiling my butcher's block. I'd sanded it down on Friday, looked around for my paintbrush to oil it, and realised that the brush had managed to vanish at the last move. So I had to leave it, and oil it on Saturday afternoon, in said cold wind, with Greta hurtling around on the balcony as well, trying to eat my lavender plant (No, baby! Eat the mint! Or the chives! Leave the lavender alone!), and I think that just finished me off.

And I'm not wildly happy about the butcher's block either. Before, it was a lovely soft, drift-wood colour. Now, it's quite aggressively golden. I strongly suspect that I might have to sand it down again in a few months... And even if the water does now bead off, it's still not as pretty as it was.

On Sunday morning, however, I bravely strapped on a box of kleenex, opened the book to page 441, and headed into the kitchen, to attack the braised pork in milk from Marcella Hazan.

Now, I'd read that this recipe was trickier than it seemed. That it didn't necessarily work. But I'm usually an optimist about recipes, and I can usually make things come out right at the end, and I really liked the look of this recipe, and Peter didn't say No, which is a definite step in the right direction...

I first browned my long, thick chunk of "cou de porc", to which the very nice butcher (not in the slightest bit inspired by my batting eyelashes) had added a large, and free, chunk of bone, "to thicken the sauce". Ooo-er, Mister!

Having browned my pork, I took a look at my Staub casserole, looked at the space around the meat, re-read the instruction about using a dish that was just bigger than the meat, and took out the Le Creuset casserole instead. I put my browned meat in there, poured a cup of milk, poured it over the meat, looked at it, and added about the same again. And then a bit more.

I really fail to see how you can "braise" a piece of meat in a pan with more than 2/3 of the meat out of the liquid. And I was right on that, as it transpired later...

Enough to say that I then brought it to a simmer, put the lid on slightly askew as instructed, and went in the shower.

The meat cooked for three hours. In the meantime, I knocked up a small gratin de cotes de bettes (Swiss chard), followed by a boiled salad of Swiss chard. All of which are on this webpage, btw. I wouldn't normally follow a whole menu like this, but there were lots of yummy heads of bettes at the supermarket, and we like them. Well, Peter and I do- Greta refused to even try a mouthful of one. No biggie, I will try again some other time!

(Cotes de bettes in my fruit bowl, as it normally lives on the butcher's block and said block wasn't dry yet.)

Normally, I'd have made a gratin by slicing the ribs and then adding them to a dish with a load of cream, some onion and garlic, and baking that, or I'd have cooked the ribs in a deep deep frying pan/wok in olive oil with some garlic until soft, then right at the end have added the chopped leaves and cooked them until wilted, and served that up by itself... Or amalgamated the two, cooking the stalks, then cooking the leaves, mixing them together and putting them in a gratin dish with cream... Anyway, it's certainly never occurred to me to gratin them "naked", and I don't think I'll bother again, as it didn't really work.

It tasted fine, but it didn't really work. Which was pretty much the leitmotiv for the whole meal.

After three hours, I took the meat out and set it to rest. In the mean time, I boiled the hell out of the sauce, reducing it down, but after ten minutes I'd had enough, so we served up.

The top half of the pork, that hadn't been covered by the milk (despite me basting it frequently with the simmering milk), wasn't cooked through. It was very pink and squishy. We cut around the outside, then I put the meat back in the remaining sauce, turned the heat up, and left it to cook whilst we ate.

The family said it tasted good. Me, I wasn't so convinced.

The second helping, with the meat cooked through, and the sauce finally reduced down to the "nut-brown clusters" (why couldn't she just say "cook until the milk congeals and separates"?), was much better.

Still, I'm not wildly happy with it. I don't think I'll bother again.

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