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Roll Mops

One of the things we enjoyed greatly when we visited The Spotted Pig was the rollmops.  Rollmops are English pub food consisting of pickled herring rolled into a cylindrical shape, traditionally around a pickled gherkin or onion.  At The Spotted Pig, the rollmops are rolled and filled with creme fraiche.

After enjoying them so much at The Spotted Pig, I decided to try and replicate them at home.  We used left over sour cream instead of creme fraiche, but the result was fairly accurate and very tasty:

Rollmop

Rollmop

The cut of the pickled herring wasn’t conducive to rolling it.  So we settled for the alternate presentation shown above.  The garnish is chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.  A good lesson:  these pack a lot of taste into a small, cheap package.

Louis’ Lunch

On the way to visit friends in Massachusetts, we made our first visit to hamburger Mecca:  Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut.

Exterior, Louis' Lunch 01/24/09

Exterior, Louis' Lunch 01/24/09

Louis’ Lunch is reputedly the birthplace of the hamburger.  From the Louis’ Lunch website:

One day in the year 1900 a man dashed into a small New Haven luncheonette and asked for a quick meal that he could eat on the run. Louis Lassen, the establishment’s owner, hurriedly sandwiched a broiled beef patty between two slices of bread and sent the customer on his way, so the story goes, with America’s first hamburger.

The place is legendary, having been featured on many a TV show about famous hamburgers.  Part of the legend stems from the way the hamburgers are made:  they grind the meat themselves and broil the patties vertically in the original (1895) upright cast iron gas grills.  The final product is served on toasted white bread.  The only options are cheese, tomato, and raw onion.   Ketchup, mustard, mayo, and any other condiments are forbidden.

Louis' Lunch lays down the law.

Louis' Lunch lays down the law.

We arrived at 12:15 PM, just after they opened.   The building is tiny.  The seating is very limited and was all taken.   There were three or four people in line in front of us.  The line moved fairly quickly and we placed our order —  two hamburgers with everything (cheese, tomato, raw onion) — and stepped aside to wait.  While waiting, I took some crappy photos of the interior:

Wooden mantle over non-working fireplace with years of carved names.

Louis' Lunch: Wooden mantle over non-working fireplace with years of carved names.

Table with "Velvet Knife" carved into it by visiting drunken post-grunge band.

Table with "Velvet Knife" carved into it by visiting drunken post-grunge band.

After about five minutes, someone got up from a tiny booth and we were able to snag it.  The place really started to fill up.  Quickly, there was a line out the door with at least twenty people standing outside.  It was so crowded that I had a hard time getting a good picture of the action:

Derek Jeter moonlighting as cook.  Note gas grills in background.

Derek Jeter moonlighting as cook. Note gas grills in background.

Then we waited . . .

 

And waited . . .

 

And waited . . .

After about 45 minutes to an hour, just as I was beginning to wonder if they had lost our order, my name was called.  The moment of (blurry) truth:

Exterior of burger.

Exterior of burger.

The blurry money-shot.

The blurry money-shot.

The burgers were flavorful, but could have used some salt.  Mine was on the medium-well side of medium-rare, though still juicy, while my wife’s burger was closer to medium-rare and jucier still.  I had a bite of my wife’s burger, and it was superior to mine.  My theory is that my burger was on the top of the rack in the vertical oven, while my wife’s burger was on the bottom, which meant that the juices from the burger on top dripped onto and “basted” the burger on the bottom.   The burgers were also quite small (I could have eaten two very easily).   Nevertheless, they were tasty and unique.

Louis’ Lunch most reminds me of the New York pizza institution, DiFara’s.  Both have a limited menu, single-minded focus, and long history.   Also, both can be inconvenient to the point of frustration, though this only adds to their mystique and charm.   Both represent a window into the past when life was less hurried.  It is a shame there are fewer and fewer places like these with each passing year.

Cassoulet

For my first post, I’m going to show you the cassoulet I made for New Years’ Eve.  It is based on Michael Lewis’ Cassoulet de Canard recipe that appeared in Gourmet several years ago.  It’s a two-day recipe that is a lot of work but well worth it.  I’ll also apologize in advance but I forgot to take pictures of some steps (i.e. the middle).

First up is the cooking of the beans:

I know, I know, they're just beans right now.

I know, I know, they're just beans right now.

This is the pork rind after it has been boiled twice:

You can't see the hair in this picture.

You can't see the hair in this picture.

I wish I had taken a picture of it before it had been boiled, as it looked disturbingly like human flesh.

Now let’s get to the action.  After the beans soak, you season them by cooking them with the boiled pork rind, a bouquet garni, and a pound of bacon.

Who knew pork was a season?

Who knew pork was a seasoning?

While this cooks for about an one and one-half hours, you prepare to cook the meat.  And you thought the pork rind and the bacon was the meat.

Sorry about my foot.

Sorry about my foot.

That is seven duck confit legs after removing the meat from the bones.  I didn’t make my own.  So sue me.

Since I forgot to take a picture of the meat cooking, I’ll describe it, and let your imagination do the work.  Basically, I browned some meaty lamb bones in a cup of duck fat.

Of course, I did chicken out and remove some of the duck fat before it melted.

Of course, I did chicken out and remove some of the duck fat before it melted.

Then, a pile of onions were cooked in the duck fat.  I then added a whole bottle of white wine, a quart of chicken stock, the duck confit meat, chopped tomatos, and some garlic and other seasonings.  This cooks for an hour and one-half.  After cooling, both the bean pot and the meat pot go in the refrigerator overnight.

On New Years’ Eve, before our guests arrived, I grilled the saucisson a l’ail, a fresh french garlic pork sausage stuffed into a natural beef casing.  I actually drove into NYC to purchase the sausage, because, well, I’m crazy.  Check out these behemoths:

Check out these behemoths.  That's a 12" grill pan.

That's a 12" grill pan. Sausage not to scale.

After our guests arrived, I took out the two pots, opened them up, and saw this:

Downy soft!  Beans covered by snowy white blanket of fat.

Downy soft! Beans covered by snowy white blanket of fat.

Meat protected by hard shell of fat.

Meat protected by hard shell of fat.

All that fat you see had to be skimmed:

Which half do you want?

Which half do you want?

The meat pot still had a lot of fat throughout – so much that it was too thick to maneuver.  I heated the meat pot for a few minutes to loosen it up.  Then, the duck meat was removed with a slotted spoon and reserved, while the lamb bones were discarded.

The pork rind was discarded and the bacon reserved.  I ended up chopping the bacon into smaller pieces and crisping it in the microwave.  The recipe did not call for this step, but not enough fat had cooked off the bacon to proceed.  Contrary to Mr. Lewis’ recipe, there was plenty of liquid in the bean pot, so it had to be drained.  I used a slotted spoon to be as gentle as possible to the beans, which took a long time.

Assembly consisted of adding the leftover one to two quarts of meat juice, fat, and cooking liquid to the beans, then adding the reserved duck meat and grilled, sliced sausage.  Not having a 10-quart enameled cast iron pot, I split the recipe before doing this and put three quarts of the nearly finished cassoulet in my freezer.  The remaining majority of the cassoulet got breadcrumbs on top and went into the oven for an hour.  What came out was this:

View 1 -- Note the bubbling goodness.

View 1 -- Note the bubbling goodness.

View 2 -- if it weren't burning hot, I'd put my face in it.

View 2 -- if it weren't burning hot, I'd put my face in it.

I have to say, the cassoulet was awesome.  You didn’t taste just beans with meat mixed in, but depths of flavor distributed throughout the dish.

The MVP was the saucisson a l’ail, which had a great aroma and flavor that permeated the dish (and the room).

That’s all for now.

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