Monday, October 16, 2017

Maiale Arrostito Nel Latte -- Pork Roasted in Milk (part 2)

Yesterday I posted the Artusi version of Pork Roasted in Milk.  Today I am posting the translator's variation as Part 2.

The book is Pellegrino Artusi's The Art of Eating Well.  Yesterday's post describes the book and its history and impact on Italy's culture.  Read it!  Amazing!

ISBN 0-679-43056-3
The variation, on page 318:

Maiale Arrostito Nel Latte -- Pork Roasted in Milk (part 2)

Cut the zest from a lemon, in thin strips, and sliver 2 cloves of garlic.  Stick the pork with the lemon and garlic, tie it with string, and rub it with salt and pepper.  Brown it in 2 tablespoons of oil, turning it frequently, and then add the milk.  Reduce the heat and simmer the meat until done, turning occasionally, and stirring the curds that will form to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Continue cooking until the milk has almost completely evaporated, about 45 minutes, then remove the roast and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Slice it thin, spoon the curds over the slices, and serve.

My Notes

I did not have any fresh lemon or garlic in my kitchen at the time (how embarrassing!).  But I did have a store-bought mixture of lemon peel, dried garlic, salt, and pepper.  I rubbed the outside of the pork loin with a generous amount of it.  The meat weighed about 1 1/2 pounds.

I browned the meat in a cast iron skillet in about 2 tablespoons of oil, turning it to brown it all over the wide sides.  Then I added about 2 cups of whole milk.

This recipe does not call for the meat and milk mixture to be covered, which is why I decided to cook it in the skillet.

Right after the milk was added.
I raised the heat to bring the milk to a boil then reduced it to make the milk simmer.  It was a challenge to turn the meat because it was so easy to splash the liquid out of the pan (yes, it happened!).  After about 45 minutes, I saw mostly curds in the simmering milk.

Just before removing the meat.
The meat sat, covered, while I simmered the liquid for a little while longer to reduce it.  The curds became dominant and beautifully light brown.

Curds and liquid.
When I sliced the pork, I discovered that it was not completely cooked inside.  I took what I could off the ends and served it with some of the curds and liquid spooned over the top.
With a parsley garnish, of course!

The Verdict

The meat was moist.  The lemon and garlic flavors came through lightly and created a gentle blast on the taste buds.  The curd sauce had a meaty flavor.  It was great!  My guest tasters and I agreed it was a better experience than the Artusi recipe.  Don't get me wrong:  we liked Artusi's version.  But this was definitely the better of the two.  Success!

We ate what was available and enjoyed every bite.  I took the part that wasn't cooked thoroughly and put it back in the liquid.  It simmered while we ate dinner.  That cooked it and it wasn't dry.

Both versions made excellent leftovers, too.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Maiale Arrostito Nel Latte -- Pork Roasted in Milk (part 1)

I had a lovely pork loin that was crying out for some fun way to prepare it.  Of course I turned to Artusi!

ISBN 0-679-43056-3
The book is The Art of Eating Well by Pellegrino Artusi, who lived from 1820 to 1911, translated by Kyle M. Phillips, III.  It is considered "Italy's Most Treasured Cookbook" and here is why:
Before Marcella Hazan, Guiliano Bugialli, or Ada Boni, there was Pellegrino Artusi.  A prosperous Florentine silk merchant, Artusi was also a passionate gastronome, and over his long life collected a large number of recipes for the foods he loved to eat and serve to his many guests.  In 1891, he collected them into a cookbook, La Scienza in Cucina e l'Arte di Mangiar Bene ("The Science of Cookery and the Art of Eating Well"), for which he could not find a publisher.  So he published the book himself.
Over a hundred years later, Artusi's book is still selling in every bookstore in Italy.  It has gone through 111 printings, and a copy can be found in almost every Italian home. ...
But The Art of Eating Well is not just a cookbook.  Artusi was also a bon vivant, a noted raconteur, and a celebrated host, who knew many of the leading figures of his day and read widely in the arts and sciences.  His book is an extensive compendium of recipes, but also provided Artusi with ample opportunity to share his knowledge of the natural world, snippets of philosophy, dietary advice, and the occasional earthy anecdote.  Artusi is also loved by Italians for his wit and his way with words; his book is one to read as well as cook from. 
(Quoted from book cover flaps.)

But the enthusiasm for his work doesn't stop there.  Here is a passage from the Introduction, by the translator:
In 1982 I bought a copy ... from a used-book seller who also carried a few new books on the side.  My copy was new.  I didn't want a new copy, but when I asked him if he had any used ones, he shook his head and replied that mothers passed their copies on to their daughters.  He'd sold only three used copies of Artusi, as the book is called, in thirty years.  I thought about that on the way home, and when I opened the book, began to see why.
 ... Pellegrino Artusi read widely, corresponded with the intellectuals of his day, and had something to say about just about everything. ... While today his comments are merely interesting, at the turn of the century they undoubtedly provided the first glimpses of the outside world to many of his readers who lived in small towns and had neither the means nor the opportunity to travel.
Over the years, Artusi's influence on Italian cuisine, and, for that matter, on the Italian language, has been profound.  When he published the book in 1891, only a small fraction of the Italian population even spoke Italian, and almost all lived in abject poverty, a poverty known simply as miseria.  If the average Italian even managed to stay his hunger, much less eat meat once a week, he considered himself lucky.
There was, however, a new star emerging:  the middle class.  These were households prosperous enough to eat meat regularly, if not daily, and to enjoy a varied diet, but not wealthy enough to afford the armies of servants employed by the aristocracy. ...  They greeted Pellegrino Artusi's book with joy for two reasons:  The recipes are tasty but not extravagant, and the book is written in clear, straightforward Italian.  ... France was the cultural and culinary hub of Europe, and the Italian aristocracy ate French cuisine. ... 
Consequently, in Artusi's day, most Italian chefs were French trained, and the cookbooks they wrote were so heavily laden with French culinary terminology that they were difficult to follow.
I could keep going with the list of contributions attributed to Artusi's book, but I suggest you get a copy and read the entire introduction yourself.  You will learn about his early life, the challenges his family faced, and of his success as "a shrewd and gifted investor."

Here is the last paragraph in the Introduction:
Pellegrino Artusi set out to write a cookbook and instead helped to establish a national cuisine and unify an incredibly diverse country.  At the end of his recipe for gnocchi alla Romana he says, "I hope you will like these as much as my guests have.  If you do, toast me if I'm alive, or say a Rest in Peace if I've gone to push up cabbages."  He deserves many of both.
So let's give one of his recipes a try!  I chose

Maiale Arrostito Nel Latte -- Pork Roasted in Milk    (page 318)

Take a piece of pork loin that weighs about 1 1/4 pounds, salt it, and set it in a pot with 1 1/8 cups of milk.  Cover it and simmer it until the milk has almost completely evaporated, about 45 minutes.  Increase the fire to brown it, stirring constantly, lest the curds stick and burn.  Once it is browned, remove the meat, drain away the excess fat, and add a few more drops of milk to the curds in the pot.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and use it brush slices of toasted bread, which you will serve with the meat.

In all, 1 1/2 cups of milk will suffice.  Pork cooked this way is delicate and is not filling.

Special Note:

After Artusi's recipe, the translator has included a variation.  Since my pork loin weighed over 3 pounds, I cut it in two and tried both recipes.  The variation will be posted tomorrow as part 2.

Pork, milk, and salt.  That's all, folks!
My Notes

The piece of loin I used for this version weighed about 1 3/4 pounds, so I adjusted the milk amount to almost 1 3/4 cups.  I used whole milk.

I used about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  I think it would be acceptable to use more.

The pork (fat side down) and milk went into a large kettle so it would fit and I could cover it.  Notice that the milk does not cover the meat at all.

After it was all in the kettle, I brought the milk to a boil.  Then I reduced the heat to a simmer and covered the kettle.  The timer was set to 45 minutes but at about 22 minutes I peeked in and decided to turn the meat.

The meat is turned.  Notice the initial curd formation on the sides of the pot.
At the end of the 45 minutes, this is what it looked like.

More curds!

The milk still had some evaporating to do so I left the lid off and raised the heat a little.  I stirred it almost constantly, working around the meat, until most of the moisture was gone and the curds were numerous.

This looks right!
Then I removed the meat and added about 1/2 cup of milk to the curds.  I brought it to a boil.  It did thicken just a little bit.  I did not pour off any excess fat because it didn't look like any was there.  

Notice the curds and liquid are a light brown in color.
I sliced the pork as thinly as I could.  The curd mixture was spread on dark rye toast, as instructed.

As served, with a little parsley garnish.

The Verdict

I ate the meat and the toast separately, which was acceptable.  The pork itself was a little dry but had a nice, delicate pork flavor.  Not salty at all.  I blame the dryness on me; I think it was the extra cooking with the lid off.  If I did this again, I would remove the meat before reducing the liquid.

The toast with the curds was excellent.  I worried that the curds wouldn't have much flavor but they did!  I didn't get any milk or dairy sensation from them but they had absorbed the salt and nice, meaty pork flavors.  The curds were on the surface of the toast and the liquid had soaked into it.  I would have been happy just eating that.

Artusi's version is the pork slice next to the bread.  I served it with a fruit salad.
So this gave me an idea.  I put the slice of pork on the bread and spooned a little of the extra curd sauce on top.  This was even better!  No more dry meat and the flavors all combined to a lovely main course.  My guest tasters agreed this was the better way to serve it.

I suspect that if the meat hadn't been dry, just serving the meat on top of the toast would have been fine.  Perhaps that is what Mr. Artusi had intended.

We all agreed it was a success!  

Rest in Peace, Pellegrino Artusi!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sweet and Sour Green Olive Appetizer -- Zeitoon bi Hamod er Rummaan

This is my first post since May.  Life went into overdrive in June and is just now settling down!  Nothing bad, just very busy.  But enough of that, let's talk about recipes!

I was in the mood for something Arabic so I perused one of my fun books, The Arabian Delights Cookbook by Anne Marie Weiss-Armush.

ISBN 1-56565-219-3
Ms. Weiss-Armush, born American, was introduced into the food from the Middle East when she and her husband moved to Syria and she first met her mother-in-law.  She learned recipes and traditions from a variety of places in the Middle East during the 11 years she lived and traveled there.  This book was published in 1995.

This recipe, a type of mezzeh or appetizer, is one she and a friend concocted after having it at a Lebanese restaurant.  Look for the recipe on pages 47 and 48.

Sweet and Sour Green Olive Appetizer

1 cup green olives
1/2 small onion, slivered
3 tablespoons hamod er rummaan pomegranate syrup
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar

The onion is sitting on the blue lid.  
1.  Drain the olives of their brine.

2.  Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the olives.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving.

My Notes

While the olives were draining, I mixed the marinade.

I used about 1/4 of the onion you see in the picture.  I don't think I really slivered it but I did slice it thinly so the marinade could penetrate it.

I used about 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  This is what I thought would bring out the flavors without making anything taste salty.

Just the marinade
Once I had everything ready, I mixed the olives into the marinade.

Olives only slightly mixed into the marinade.
I then put them into a sterilized canning jar.  I sterilized it using the water and microwave method I have used before.  I am not certain it was really sterilized but it certainly was very clean!

I worried that the marinade didn't cover the top of the olives, so I turned it over and gently shook it during the first 24 hours in the refrigerator.

The Verdict

I waited a few days instead of just one to taste it.

Oh my, very good!  At first the onion flavor was dominant, which did not please me, but then the marinade and the sour of the olives came through.  It was a little too sweet, so if I make it again I will reduce the amount of brown sugar to 1 teaspoon and see how I like that.  It could be that the pomegranate syrup Ms. Weiss-Armush used wasn't as sweet as mine.

After a week or so the onion flavor mellowed and was more acceptable.  It should be a background flavor.  The little bit of crunch the onions added to the mixture was pleasant, too.

What I tasted was the slight chewy from the olives, the crunch from the onions, the sour and sweet from the pomegranates.  It was all very inviting and made me want to eat more.

One important note:  I stored the olives in the refrigerator, which caused the olive oil to harden.  The mixture tastes best if you allow the olives to come to room temperature before serving them.

Success!  I gave some to friends who also shared it with friends.  They gave me positive reviews and one person asked for the recipe.  I think it is time to make some more!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Culinary Symposium, 2017!!!!

I was fortunate enough to attend the Society for Creative Anachronism's West Coast Culinary Symposium this year.  The last time I attended was in 2014, and I wrote about it here.

This time I had a better idea of what to expect and was excited to see that they had planned a Roman feast for the Saturday night dinner.  They also were scheduling a number of interesting classes for the weekend.

The Friday dinner was a Traveler's Feast, which means a potluck and boy, what fun it was!  The hosts provided some soups and bread and the rest of us brought more goodies.  As I learned last time, it was an opportunity to share with our fellow enthusiasts the products of our kitchens.

The time period is pre-1600 and the represented cultures were numerous.  There were medievalists, Roman Empire re-enactors, Vikings, and Renaissance representatives.  And probably more but I was not adept at recognizing them all.

Here is a sample of the Traveler's Feast.

(Above)  Clockwise from the top:  Gravlax, apple tart, whipped cream with fresh berries, pickled cabbage, pickled cucumbers, honey-ginger carrots and parsnips, pickled asparagus.

(Above) Clockwise from the top:  Honey-ginger carrots and parsnips, sausage, pork and apple pie, date ball, chickpeas with cheese, gravlax, pickled turnips and leeks, homemade cheddar with some mustard, quince preserves, apple tart, and a preserved meat.

My Viking friends had made the gravlax to share, and it was wonderful.

There were homemade cheeses, soups, breads, pickled vegetables, and fruits.  Some of the foods weren't "period"  (see the tomatoes) because some people were traveling and couldn't bring something homemade with them.

It was all good!

My contribution to the feast was the dish with chickpeas and cheese.  I'll write about that in another post.

Since Friday was arrival time, people came in throughout the evening and so the food choices changed accordingly.  It was nice to see my friends and meet new ones.

Saturday morning found me up early and hanging out in the dining hall.  I discovered that Master Cariadoc's beverages of julap and sekanjabin were still available.  Julap is basically a simple syrup flavored with rose water and it is lovely.  I discovered it was good to add to my morning tea and was exquisite in hot cocoa.

Sekanjabin is a simple syrup mixed with wine vinegar and mint.  His recipe is found here.

What a delightful way to wake up!

Then the food began to be set upon the serving table.  I loved the drama of this shot:

The eggs were joined by breads, spreads, fruit, and some leftovers from the Friday dinner.

That little jar by the fruit was a very thick, aged balsamic vinegar. I enjoyed it drizzled over the fruit.

Here is the menu for the Saturday breakfast.

A close up of the dried beef.  It was crispy!

My helping, part one.

See the drizzle on the fruit?
This is the broth and sops.  It was a sausage soup and you poured it over bread in your bowl.  The bread is the "sops".

I was surprised to see there were date balls left over from dinner.

After breakfast and clean up, it was time for the classes to begin.  My first class was on Roman Fast Food.

The teacher, Claudia, has a reproduction Roman brazier used in cooking at what were Roman restaurants and fast food businesses.  She had it modified to meet state fire safety requirements; that is, it is higher off the ground.  This also makes it easier to use without straining your back.  Some of the more interesting features of it are listed with the pictures.

The back of the brazier.  Notice the grills are removable.  The rings are for supporting pots that are big enough not to fall through.  She mentioned that tall containers of water could be set inside, too.

The front of the brazier.  The bars above are adjustable and perfect for holding skewers of meat or vegetables.  When not needed, they are moved down to the front (see below).

You can see the adjustable bars moved out of the way.  Here Claudia is using a blowpipe to encourage the coals.

The design is convenient enough to cook the lentils in a pot on a trivet, right over the coals.

We also cooked some meatballs, which we fried but could have placed on skewers.

You can see that the removable grill came in handy to support the fry pan over the coals.  You can see that, had she wanted to, Claudia could have four containers of food cooking at once.  In a very minimal space.

Claudia has done her research, including traveling to Roman sites and viewing the museum collections and archaeological digs.  Here are two books she brought as references:

All the other classes I attended did not give me the opportunity to take pictures as I did with the Roman Fast Food class because they kept my hands busy!  But they were good and I learned a lot. Next up was The Evolution of the Kitchen.  Then came lunch.

It consisted of Roman pickled vegetables, mustard, and preserves.

But wait!  There's more!  The cooks handed each of us our own flatbread plate with different kinds of meats and homemade cheeses.

A clever and intriguing presentation
Why yes, there was a class that was taught on charcuterie, and we were able to sample some of their wares.  Some of the Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast meats were from that topic, too.

So the idea was to add the pickled vegetables and et cetera as accompaniments to the meat plate.

After lunch was a keynote speech (my pictures of her speaking turned out poorly).  I thought the speaker was dynamic and interesting in expressing her support and encouragement of people experimenting and exploring historical cooking.

Then I attended a class called "Redacting Dutch Sauces."  Yes, the focus was on Dutch sauces but the main point was to help you think your way through the steps of redacting, which included getting a clear picture of the goal before you start cooking, considering your options, judging the quantities according to the goal, and (my weakest skill) writing down what you are doing as you are doing it and keeping good notes.

One well-made point was that two people redacting the same recipe using the same ingredients may end up with two dishes that taste very different from each other, just because of the choices they make on quantities and what tastes right to their tongues.

My last class for the day was on making sauerkraut and other fermented foods.  While listening to the teacher's life experiences with brewing, fermenting, and preserving, we prepared our own sauerkraut to take home.  Mine turned out to be tasty and, fortunately, not too salty.  It was fun to see the lacto-fermentation occur and everything get all bubbly.

Then came dinner.  That Roman feast I mentioned earlier.  It was amazing and tasty and intriguing and good!  I was so full from all the other meals and classes throughout the day that I wasn't sure I could do the feast justice.  Fortunately I could take small servings and still get a good taste of everything.

The first course was olives and a cucumber salad.  A pleasant way to get your saliva flowing.  I thought I had taken a picture of them but I can't find it.

Next came the bread salad.  This was feta cheese and herbs in a sauce served over bread that had olives baked in it.  That could have been the rest of the meal for me!

But no, the third course was lentils cooked with artichoke bottoms, and sausage with pine nuts.

The fourth course was chicken with what looked like leeks and herbs in a sauce.  It, too, was tasty.

What I thought was bacon turned out to be leeks (I think).
And when we thought we were bursting and couldn't eat another bite, the fifth course was dessert, a Roman style cheesecake served alongside dried cherries and also dates with honey and a bit of salt sprinkled on it.

The cherries did not make it into the picture.
I enjoyed that the cheesecake was really not sweet but more like a slightly fluffy cheese dish.  The poppy seeds were a nice touch.  The dates reminded me of the recipe I made a little while ago, Dates Alexandrine, except it didn't have the almonds inside.  But I still loved the honey glaze that included a bit of salt.

The rest of the evening was spent chatting with friends, listening to the "Mortal Peril" competition, and getting an impromptu talk on Brewing Monastic Ales.  Complete with samples!

Sunday was a short day.  It started off with breakfast, of course!  Some leftovers from dinner (more bread salad!) and two special hot dishes:  bread pudding and ham-and-cheese strata.

Of course, more julap and sekanjabin throughout the Saturday meals and at Sunday breakfast.

Then off to a class where we created our own Hippocras and learned more about flavored beverages.  Mine turned out quite good and was even approved by my guest taster (at home) who is particular about the wine he drinks.

As I said, I had a lovely time, a fun and relaxing weekend, I loved the food and fellowship, and made new friends.  It was a privilege to spend time with such knowledgeable and experienced people and I was honored that they would share their skills with me.

I came home full of scents and flavors and ideas and am all charged up to explore historical cooking even more.  Success!

The End:

Sadly, it had to end.