Ketchup in the Buttery

Manet at the Carnegie was one day in PA, Heinz at the Heinz the next. The history museum in Pittsburgh is officially named for the former senator and is not funded by the corporation, but it features a display of the company’s history and products that is both engaging and advertisementy. Note the name of the restaurant in the picture. There must be a hatch somewhere back there.

And check out the products one used to be able to buy:

Have we really progressed as a society when oyster ketchup is no longer at our grocery?

(By the way, for the record I’m with those who believe that Heinz ketchup cannot be surpassed. Artisanal and homemade ketchups, however much the rage, and however much I applaud the artisanal and homemade in most aspects of life, are, at best, hot sauce with no heat, unmarried marinara, condiments to be condemned.)

What Philosophers Talk About When They Talk About Food

I can’t believe I didn’t know about…the Incompatible Food Triad. “Can you think of three foods where any two of those foods taste good together, but all three combined taste disgusting?”

Wilfrid Sellars, a philosopher at the University of Pittsburgh (hired, the story goes, because the dean was willing to give him his own office overlooking Forbes Field, where the Pirates then played), came up with the puzzle. I was a grad student at Pitt a decade and a half after Sellars retired (though I did take logic from Neul Belnap, mentioned in the article), but I never heard of it before now.

Now I have something to ponder during my frequent bouts of insomnia. And people wonder about the relevance of philosophy to life in the modern world…

Belated birthday post for the boy

My son’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and he wanted to do a blog post about the dinner.

Oven fries, ready for baking…

Burgers, his second-favorite food (pizza takes #1), ready for smashing on the griddle…

And at the end of the meal, the Roman-numeraled (because of the classicist mama) gingerbread cake…

Let’s hope this next year is as much fun as the last! Birthday IX will be here before we know it.

Offal – the punniest food

I won’t make the puns myself, but I did make three delicious dishes involving various internal bits of bird and beast last night: hearts of goat and turkey confitted in goose and bacon fat along with the gizzard of the turkey, all sliced thin, briefly sauteed, then served over greens and sauteed fennel with a mustard-wine reduction; goat and turkey liver pate, smeared on crusty bread with a bacon-onion-balsamic jammy sauce; and goat kidneys cooked in sherry served over rice — with lots of parsley for everything, the key balance, I and my offal friends found, to the organy richness. I’ve had heart, gizzard, and poultry-liver pate before, but goat liver was new — and the thing was huge! that goat knew how to live! — and I’d never eaten kidneys of any kind. These won’t, I hope, be my last. Unlike the monstrous liver, the goat kidneys were the cutest little heart-shaped things you ever saw, and, after a soak in milk, surprising tasty. No pee flavor at all!

Above: the hearts and gizzards in their overnight bath of shallot, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Shouldering On

Saturday was salami day. My co-curer and I seasoned, ground, and stuffed 6 lbs of pork shoulder and back fat into beef “middles,” following fairly closely a Polcyn and Ruhlman recipe for an orange and walnut wonder that we made last year in both fresh and dry-cured forms. Two to three weeks from now, though probably not quite in time for Christmas, these pale and unbecoming cylinders will be fermented marvels, ready to slice thin and eat with a bit of onion or tomato jam on crusty bread.

I had to cut the pork off the bone prior to salamizing it, and, not being one to let bones go to waste, and also being now bereft of my beloved turkey broth, I broiled them brown, sucked out the marrow, then put them in water to simmer for the rest of the morning while we made the salami. When I came home it was but the work of a moment to throw in some noodles and broccoli for a perfect lunchtime soup, topped with crispy pea shoots from Blue Dog and sliced Cinzori red onion.

No morsel was left behind, only a bare bowl and well cleaned bones.

They gave their all

The bones from the Thanksgiving turkey generated many a bowl of delicious stock. Here they make their final contribution, to a lunchtime soup, before being sent to rest in the rubbish. Nary a morsel of meat was left on them. As Julia Child would have said, they gave their all.

(The slight soft focus is from the steam rising from the bowl. O lunch, how I love thee.)

Light memory

Traffic lights dot vertically, pulsing color against a burnished grey sky backlit by the first sun of the day. Faux-Victorian streetlamps still round their glow outwards, while headlights press into the new day’s emerging light. Windshields, windows, storefronts, puddles, slicks of oil or tar, smooth surfaces of poles and posts, metal of all kinds in unpredictable places — all mirror, and, as they do, reduce yet somehow amplify the dawn sky and our human contributions to it. The sun first thing in the morning gives all these little lights a precise place, and they all simultaneously stand out and blend together, like instruments in a virtuosic ensemble. Today the horizon is sky and buildings of a small midwestern city. A few days ago the morning light was no less stunning but it was all sun: spreading and arcing and flowing across the corn stubble, catching the dried leaves of bushes and trees and the stripe of road that led straight through it all, clouds almost an afterthought, but the few there were pushed downwards some of the stray light that had escaped earth’s gravity. It’s maybe what I love most about these short days of late fall, that I get to see these moments of cusp early in the day when the sun is tamed a little by the angle of the planet, plants dead and dormant catch some of the warmth lost during the night and show it to anyone paying attention, and the bulbs and surfaces we’ve made in our attempt to throw the sun back at itself sit comfortably at least for a time with the light that will always outshine them. A picture would be natural here, I suppose, but I didn’t take one. I didn’t want to frame the scenes as I was in them. Words, memory, will have to do.

My Own Private Portlandia – Thanskgiving edition

Tuesday evening I picked up our pasture-raised, heritage (Bourbon Red) turkey from Blackberry Pines Farm, a lovely place run by Jim Ekhardt and Ron Thompson near Pullman, MI. Last time I was out here was a couple of years ago. On that visit, they gave me and my then six-year old son a tour, which included visits to varicolored chickens, turkeys that looked like feather puffballs gliding above their legs, and peacocks in exotic colors I’d never seen before (did you know they lose those long tail feathers all at once?). That time we left with several small chickens (just the right size for frying) and a whole lot of feathers for my son. Maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but there weren’t a lot of feathers laying about this time, so the only thing I brought back was 13.04 pounds of turkey and the newfound friendship of four and a half cats. That same evening I spatchcocked the bird, sprinkled it liberally with a salt and baking powder mix (the b.p. helps crisp the skin), and let it sit until Thursday morning.


I cut off the leg quarters so I could pull the breast out when it hit 150 deg. (checking with my new Thermapen mk 4!), put it all in the oven at a low 250, and by 3:45 had an  almost perfectly cooked bird. It came out to rest, then, at a little before six, once the sausage-cornbread-walnut dressing and roasted green beans were done, I gave it a few minutes at 500 to warm it and crisp the skin, and the result was the juiciest, most perfectly cooked bird I’ve yet done, dark and white meat alike. (The dark meat is a bit tougher with the pastured birds, but the flavor makes the jaw workout worth it.) Besides the dressing and beans, we had garlic mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts with fennel brought by friends. While everything was cooking we laid out a spread of appetizers that included six cheeses chosen by my now almost 8-year old son (we’re raisin’ him right!), some home-cured prosciutto (old and new), an orange-walnut sausage leftover from last year that my friend Joan and I made (still good after 12 mos. in the freezer), tomato jam and various pickles my wife made, and more besides. Family and friends gathered and, with the help of more than a few bottles of wine, we worked things over pretty thoroughly, from all of the above to the pecan and apple pies my mother-in-law brought to bring closure to the meal. The only thing lacking in the evening was light from artisanal bulbs.


Hola mole!

Poblano apple moleWe had an excess of Brussels sprouts in the fridge from a recent farmers’ market trip, and I saw this Lucky Peach recipe that suggested mole-ing them up and serving them over quinoa. Then I realized that the recipe called for a special mole negro paste from a restaurant in L.A. Stymied – but wait! Why not make my own mole negro? I knew that would be a little labor intensive, but, well, I’ll work for mole. I checked a couple of books for recipes, and did a little googling, but I ran up against a wall of Trumpian proportions: I needed multiple kinds of fresh chiles that I knew would be almost impossible to find here. On top of that, the recipe that looked the best, from Roberto Santibanez’s Truly Mexican, involves steps like taking the seeds from the chiles, toasting them, and then setting them on fire. Like Beavis, I’m in favor of fire, and someday I will makes this mole, but I needed something a little easier. Fortunately, Santibanez had another recipe for a pasilla and apple mole, and I thought the apple-Brussels combo would be lovely and seasonal to boot. My pasilla procurement failed however, so I had to substitute poblanos. The picture above is of the pan before the stock was added and it was all blended together. You can imagine how those roasty-toasty nuts, onions, tomatoes and peppers danced with the sweet, lightly caramelized apples in the chicken-broth ballroom. Perfection. Some of it was made into a vinaigrette, which the sprouts were tossed with before roasting, some was blanketed around pieces of pulled chicken — The Lucky Peach recipe is for two servings, and we had eight for dinner, so when I quadrupled it, I subbed chicken for about a third of the Brussels — then all was mixed together and served over the quinoa. A broccoli salad with lime-cilantro dressing from my wife was a perfect side, and tortillas rounded things out. In a word: wowza. The best thing? We have a solid quart or more of leftover mole.