2009.Jul.24 Friday · 5 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“The origin of the Yellow Pig is shrouded in obscurity: Kelly refuses to divulge the secret. Of the many “creation myths,” though, Benji N. Fisher ’85 offers the most probable explanation: “In Princeton about 30 years ago. David Kelly and Michael Spivak (author of several math textbooks) were drinking buddies, and instead of seeing pink elephants, they saw yellow pigs.”

– Laura A Haight, Hamming It Up At Hampshire, The Harvard Crimson

Buenos Aires – Leave it to me to find an obscure geek’s holiday, no? Yellow Pigs Day, the 17th of July each year, is not exactly the most widely celebrated festivity… that may not be true, it’s celebrated by mathematicians everywhere these days, or mathematics students anyway, there just aren’t a huge number of those when you come down to the final numbers. We didn’t go for the traditional singing of the yellow pigs songs, nor did we play ultimate frisbee here in the house, but I think we managed three nights of fun and folic inspired by the color yellow and “the other white meat”. I’m also, with the input of a friend with an eye and appetite for such things, working on improving those little details of presentation that will hopefully add a little something to our meals.

Frisee & Lardon Salad

Frisee Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

While the traditional frisee and lardon salad is a classic in French bistro culture, with its cubes of barely warm bacon and glowing yellow yolk in the center, and that’s where I started from, by the end of the weekend I’d changed it to a warm bacon vinaigrette (saute finely chopped bacon, deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar, add a dollop of mustard, season with salt and pepper, and spoon over the frisee) – which changes the texture of the salad, and really spreads that lovely bacon flavor through it. It was also really good practice for making lots of poached eggs (the secret when you have to make a lot of them – poach them in batches of 3-4 at a time, when just set, move them to an ice water bath, you can keep them for 6-8 hours that way, or in our case 1-2, then when ready to serve, carefully drain off the water and pour a pot of boiling hot water over them, let them sit for 45 seconds to a minute and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon – they’ll heat right up again without cooking more). For the wine, a light and crisp sparkling, the Gascón Extra Brut from Mendoza, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

Yellow Pea, Lentil & Corn Soup

Yellow Pea, Lentil & Corn Soup with Fritter

This started out as a fairly simple but tasty yellow split pea and lentil soup. The base a stock made from fresh sausage, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, cumin, salt and pepper, then the split peas and lentils (the orange-red Turkish lentils) added to it and cooked until soft. I pureed that and added in a mix of leeks and corn that that been sauteed until just lightly caramelized. Drizzled with yogurt and sprinkled with cilantro and toasted cumin seeds. Good, but somehow felt a little pedestrian to me. Left the soup itself alone, but added in a corn and sausage fritter (fresh corn, blanched, mixed with sausage meat, flour, baking powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and at last minute folded in some whipped egg whites, then fried). Put that in the bowl, ladled some soup around it, then topped it with yogurt, cilantro, toasted cumin, and the addition of some deep fried (or frizzled as they’re usually referred to) leek strips. That really just changed the dish to one I was quite proud of. I paired this one up with a lovely salteña Torrontés from Etchart.

Saffron Mallorredus with Prince of Napoli sauce

Saffron Mallorredus with Prince of Napoli Sauce

I decided on a saffron pasta for the third course, and since I’m gearing up for a class on Sardinian cooking, a traditional mallorredus seemed the way to go. It’s a semolina flour and water pasta, no eggs, colored with a bit of powdered saffron and seasoned with some salt. The shape is referred to as that of a thick walled canoe with ridges on it. We found it to be too thick making it the way that it traditionally is – it may be correct for the rustic style of the pasta, but I started making them thinner – they don’t hold the ridges quite as well, but they’re less chewy. Personally I think they look like caterpillars…. When thinking about a pork-based sauce, the Prince of Napoli sauce that I’d had recently popped to mind, though refining it a bit. I sauteed fresh, sliced mushrooms in a bit of bacon fat, added finely diced ham and cooked until lightly browned, then set that aside. For serving, I made a quick bechamel sauce – light roux of butter and flour with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then added milk and cooked to thicken. To that I added finely diced fresh buffalo mozzarella and cooked just to get it melted, added in the reserved ham and mushroom mixture, some blanched and shocked peas, and tomato concasse. The only real differences as we progressed was making the pasta thinner and presenting it a little prettier in the bowl with some fresh herbs sprinkled over it. A nice, rich rosé, in this case the Malbec from Susana Balbo’s Crios line worked beautifully with the pasta and creamy, gooey sauce.

Roasted Pork Loin with Charred Yellow Pepper sauce

The main course stayed pretty much steady throughout the weekend. Pork loin marinated for the day in olive oil, brown sugar, ground chipotle pepper, smoked paprika and salt. Seared off and then roasted in the oven to just medium. Sliced and served over sauteed green beans (the last night I tried roasting the green beans after blanching and shocking them – not sure if it really changed anything, perhaps a slighty browning that wasn’t there from the quick saute. The sauce, a blend of charred yellow peppers, garlic, rice wine vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper, based on a Bobby Flay recipe that I particularly like – proportioned to taste. The wine, from Alta Vista in Mendoza, their “premium” line Bonarda, a grape that works great with slightly smoky, sharp flavors, and lighter meats like veal, pork and chicken.

Banana Custard Pie

Banana Custard Tart

Banana Custard Tart

This one, flavor-wise, was fantastic. Presentation-wise, took a lot of work. The base, a cocoa crust, the filling, a simple banana and buttermilk custard. The topping was another matter. I wanted to do a turmeric infused coconut and white chocolate ganache, and a bit of internet research showed that making a ganache with coconut cream rather than regular cream, is a popular option among the vegan set. But, I’ll tell you now, it’s not quite that simple – the coconut cream doesn’t set the same way as heavy cream does. So, night one looked beautiful in the pan, but when I cut into it, I realized that the ganache hadn’t set really at all – it was sort of like a thick sauce. Plus, the little piped on dark chocolate design shattered into shards. Still, it was tasty, it just looked a little messy – like I’d ladled a scoop of sauce and sprinkled some bits of chocolate over the pie. I realized the next day that I’d misread the weight of the chocolate and used less than I needed. Figuring that was the issue, I made it again, though this time waited on the chocolate piping. Better, but it still didn’t set quite right. Much thicker, but still kind of… oozy. Third night, the same, but on top of that, for whatever reason, the ganache more or less soaked into the custard, leaving it not at all pretty on top. Have no idea what that was about – maybe the custard hadn’t quite chilled enough to pour the ganache atop? So, I dusted the whole thing with cocoa and powdered sugar, and then grated chocolate over it, and, hmm, I actually liked it best this way! The wine, from Saint Felicien, their Semillon Doux, a wonderfully rich and complex dessert wine with some slightly tropical notes that played off perfectly against the banana and coconut.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Allan Kelin July 24, 2009 at 11:25

Everything looks ridiculously delicious BUT, as you know by now, I have sworn off desserts forever — except for special events, celebrations, dinner, etc — so I’d really appreciate it if you would limit your photos of them.

dan July 24, 2009 at 12:59

I promise to limit them to no more than 2-3 per day.

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