One aspect of my job I love is walking through the dining room, hearing comments about the food and answering questions regarding origin, cooking techniques and such. Beaujolais Nouveau last night was especially interesting, because we get to treat our customers with dishes they might not normally see in our home town. Here’s a rundown of what we served

Oxtail Soup

We seasoned and seared the tail pieces before we braised them all night at around 220 degrees. There is no substitute for the transformative effect long, slow heat. Remove the meat, de-fat and clarify the stock and reassemble for the final soup.

Country Style Pork Pate

We only have one cookbook we refer to on a regular basis, well, OK, two cookbooks, both of them by, as we refer to him, Ruhlman. His work on Charcuterie is hands down the most useful reference book I have ever worked with. Seldom do I follow a recipe, but this pate was as written. Pork, pork liver and duck confit wrapped together in a free form loaf and cooked in a water bath. Served with crostini and cranberry gastrique.

Charcuterie Plate

Again, the spirit of Ruhlman guides us through making Duck Prosciutto, Tasso Ham, Merguez sausage. And since our smoker broke, we had to fashion a ghetto model out of a couple of old hotel pans and tin foil. Not quite the same level of control, but when something goes wrong in the kitchen, the rally cry is “Improvise!”

Grilled Marinated Beef Heart

Here we applied another Rube Goldberg method that would make my dad proud. I sealed the heart with a red wine marinade in ziplock bag, mashed as much air out as possible, sealed it up and dropped in a steam table filed with exactly 140 degree water, give or take a degree or two as monitored by my probe thermometer. This takes the place of a $900 dollar immersion circulator, which is not quite as sexy, but it effectively took the otherwise tough piece of meat and made it lusciously tender after about 5 hours. We then sliced it thin, skewered it, quick grilled it and plated it with blue cheese and honey glaze. This was probably the surprise of the night for people who were skeptical at first. Maybe when my ship comes in I’ll buy the $900 piece of equipment, but you have to admit, this makes a better story.

Cassoulet

A classic French dish with white beans, pancetta, duck confit. Not really much to say about this one. Not a flashy presentation, but incredible flavor, again due to the slow cooking process. Damn the microwave.

Paw Paw Custard

A month or so ago, a guy stopped by my restaurant with a bag full of paw paws. Known as the Indiana Banana, this fruit is the largest edible fruit native to America. It has an outer skin like a mango, with a banana like aroma and texture similar to avocado. One of my kitchen staff said, “Smells like Laffy Taffy.” Not sure of the respectability of comparing something I serve to a 10 cent candy, but he was right it that it has such an unusually sweet aroma, that the first thing you might reach for is Laffy Taffy.

I’m off for the night. Time for the Beer Pastor to bring the message.

It’s not gross tasting, is it?