Attitude Adjustment

My back story: I used to cook only to feed myself. Then as I learned more about the science end of the kitchen, cooking became a hobby. After a while, The Rogue Estate came into being and cooking became a hobby to share with others. A few years later, cooking was a part time job to earn extra money and these days: cooking is all of those things and my full time career. "Do what you love!", said the gurus. "ON IT!", said I. With that brief history of my personal relationship with cooking in mind, I have noticed my attitudes towards cooking and sharing have changed as my skills and reasons for cooking have changed. When I started out, I did a lot of random stuff and had little understanding of the processes and vocabulary - so any time I figured something out, or someone was kind enough to hit me over the head with it I mean teach me something, I'd treat it as a state secret. Keep it close. Everything was like the Colonel's Secret Recipe. I was privy to some special trinket like leveling up in a video game. Which is complete bullshit. Only I didn't know it at the time. As my friends and I undertook writing this blog and figuring out what our "Chef's Night" concept should be all about, sharing ideas, successes and failures became easier. It was less about state secrets and more about "this is cool, check this out".  But it was still done from a rather snobby mind set. "I know more than you do, newb!" - an angle which is readily apparent from a lot of the early posts here. And even with hearts going in the right direction, still bullshit. As I transitioned from hobbyist to professional, I had the great fortune of encountering some very patient "teach by example" mentors in the industry - in person and via books, videos, etc. A lot of folks out there who had the epiphany that I eventually had: Sharing knowledge hurts no one and helps everyone. The lifting of the veil, as it were: there are no secrets, no hacks, no spooky knowledge that can only be shared with the anointed few. There is nothing going on behind the scenes that can only be done by way of magic mere mortals couldn't possibly understand. Schooling and traveling abroad are not the only way to learn and become accomplished in the kitchen. To hold those attitudes is total bullshit. We all got where we are today because someone, somewhere was kind and gracious enough to share knowledge with us, be it in person in a kitchen, classroom or indirectly via books, videos or other media. Although we may all be special snowflakes, it is extremely unlikely that the dishes we are cooking haven't been done in many forms and fashions by thousands of other people over the course of human history - even if we're not conscious of exactly whom, when and where. A good recipe is one you can reproduce, time and time again and get consistent results, time and time again. A GREAT recipe is one you can share with others, who in turn can also get consistent results, time and time again. I offer this post as a re-dedication of  The Rogue Estate blog - wherein we, the residents and guests of the estate will share our love of cooking, eating and living with you all - sans the requirements of any secret handshakes. Also worth mentioning that while we're all lovey dovey and here to share - we'll still do so in our usual irreverent, expletive laden, sarcastic rhetoric. Cooking is FUN. Writing and reading about cooking should be fun, too. So enough of the sentimental introspection: let's get into it up to our arm pits. -/// Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 12.45.21 PM

RE-born…. IT’S ALIVE!

A bit of technical housekeeping: It's certainly been a long time since we've had the luxury of a decent looking AND functional blog around these kitchens. But after a lot of inertia and hosting issues, here we are, at last! A new home and a new look. We've been keeping busy on Facebook, but while FB excels at the "quick and dirty" photo gallery type activity, it is rather ill suited for publishing recipes, reviews and meandering missives on contemporary culinary trends. In addition to revamping this old blog, the RE Twitter account has also been resurrected. So if twitter is your jam, we've got your covered there as well. Jack, Ian and I have all kept quite busy over the last couple years, even though you wouldn't know it from the blog posting habits. We've all got plenty of pent up energy, so you can expect to see more from all of us and perhaps a few others going forward. -///

Rogue Estate BBQ

Get updates on where and when to wrap your mouth around those succulent smoked meats, get in touch to schedule a party or simply gaze upon the food and fire porn - all this and more can be yours on the RE BBQ Facebook Page Like it today!   Ribs

Caramel Fish Sauce

I was recently referred to this recipe supposedly penned by Andrew "Bug Breath" Zimmern, which is published on the website of the world's worst culinary magazine, Food & Wine. Fish Sauce Caramel - sounds edgy! Further reading reveals that the recipe is pompous, intimidating, unbalanced and worst of all, BORING. the goodsOooooo but it's got "Asian Fish Sauce" in it. F&W Bitches, please - I drink "Asian Fish Sauce" or as we call it, fish sauce, from a FLASK. The concept is sound, it's a loose interpretation of a vietnamese nuoc cham, but it's too lose and really leaves a lot to be desired. So I'm here to rescue this poor concept from the obscurity of what the mentally handicapped authors of F&W consider "unusual". Caramel Nuoc Cham, Rogue Estate style:
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 Tbl Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 C Water
Combine the Sugar, water and lemon juice in a 6 qt saucepan over medium high until it caramelizes. 15-20 minutes depending on your cooktop. stir occasionally not obsessively. When it gets to a pleasing caramel color, reduce the heat to the warm/simmer and stir in the following:
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Star Anise Powderimage
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Ginger Powder
  • 1 tsp Sambal Chili Paste (or Sriracha pepper sauce.)
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tbl Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 C Fish Sauce (the brand is really unimportant here.)
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 2 C finely diced Red or White Onion (whichever you prefer.)
Keep the whole mess simmering for 5 minutes while stirring to get everything cozy and warmed up, then turn the heat off and move the pan someplace to cool. Once it's below napalm levels, transfer to an appropriately sized bowl or jar with a sealable lid. Use it on damn near anything, keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks, as if it would actually last that long. "Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan" my ass. If you F&W tools are going to ghost write recipes for Zimmern, you could at least pretend to write in his voice and, heaven forbid, make the crap you're peddling accessible to your dwindling audience. -///

Bacon’s More Sophisticated Cousin

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The cast of characters. See also: The Usual Suspects.

Braised meats aren’t usually thought of when pondering Asian cuisine. Braising is generally associated with the French in dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon, or American Pot Roasts. This is a fool-hardy assumption, however. Enter the Japanese preparation and staple of any ramen-ya worth its weight in rice, braised pork belly, or Chashu. Yet another adaptation of a Chinese dish, char siu, chashu has become something else entirely. While char siu usually refers to a roasted meat glazed with honey and soy (and added red food coloring in some cases) the Japanese took most of the same ingredients, turned it into a braise, and added their own flair with the addition of mirin and sake. Also, the Chinese use the term “char siu” to refer to any number of meats roasted in the same manner, for the Japanese however, chashu is made with pork belly. Nothing else. We can get behind that. The recipe that follows is a cross-reference between two other recipes I found and my own added spin here and there. The process is fairly long, as with most braises, but the ingredients are pretty cheap and simple. The differences in my recipe and the ones I referenced are these: One recipe called for rolling the belly, which is traditional, and the other did not. I went with the flat preparation. While rolling the belly takes longer to cook it comes out juicier, or so I hear, but that can be solved by simply cutting down on the oven time and keeping vigilant watch. There was, however, the issue of the skin. It likes to be cooked for a LONG time, which would make the rolled method more logical. I soldiered on with my plan though. The rolled recipe also called for skin on (or rind on) pork belly, while the other called for skin off. This suggestion I did follow. The flat prep recipe said to sear all sides and blanch the meat before braising while the other said to roll it and go. I seared, only the meat side, and did not blanch. I left the skin un-seared, and blanching after searing would inevitably wash away some of the brown color the sear provided. Color = flavor, a fundamental philosophy in all of cooking, so blanching after searing just seemed like a bad idea to me. That recipe was from a very highly respected chef, though, so what the hell do I know. One recipe also called for the addition of typically Chinese or South-East Asian spices like cinnamon, star anise and black peppercorns. This, too, I followed, predictably. Perhaps just as predictably the fish sauce was my addition. Had to be done. There was no way around it. It was for the benefit of science and all mankind, you see. I expected the skin to be tough and un-chewable but I was wrong. Very wrong! It was gooey and sticky and gelatinous, and provided a very interesting contrast in texture to the supple fat and the chewy yet melting to the tooth meat. Next time I try this I’m going to try one of the suggestions I shied away from this run just to see the difference. But for now, I’m satisfied with these results. It was good. It was really good. It was really fucking good! This is going to be a picture heavy post, so those of you who are easily offended by unadulterated and unapologetic food porn may wish to close this window now or just fuck off from the room. It’s about to get real up in this bitch. Chashu, Japanese braised pork belly. The ingredients:    
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Fuck you, Malbon! Any blood spilled because of this addiction is on YOUR hands!

2-2.5 pounds raw Pork Belly – uncured, not smoked, rind on 1 cup Mirin 1 bottle (300 ml) Hakutsuru Draft sake ½ cup of Honey 1 ½ cups Soy Sauce (Yamasa brand is my preference) 3” knob of fresh Ginger – peeled and crushed 1 Star Anise 1 stick of Cinnamon 1 tsp. Black Peppercorns 5 cloves of Garlic 6 cleaned and chopped Scallions 3 Tbsp. Red Boat Fish Sauce Kadoya Sesame oil Light Vegetable or Olive oil (No extra virgin!)        
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Yeah, yeah, I already know what your gonna say about overcrowding the pan... The meat is thick enough and is going to be cooked long enough to render that point moot.

Procedure: Preheat oven to 275 degrees, 250 if it wil go that low. Oil a pan with the light veggie oil and heat until just starting to smoke. Sear the meat side of the pork belly until golden brown. Set aside. Add a little bit of sesame oil and toast the dry spices (anise, cinnamon and black pepper) until aromatic, about 90 seconds. Add the crushed ginger and sauté for a few seconds, then add the garlic whole and stir fry for a few more seconds. When the garlic is just starting to take on a bit of color deglaze with the sake and mirin. Reduce by about half, we're really just looking to burn off the alcohol.  Once reduced add the soy sauce, honey, scallions and fish sauce and bring back to a simmer.        
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Most of the flavor in dry spices is locked in their oils. Toasting in a little oil brings them out more than if just pitched right in and gives them a little more complexity

    Place your pork belly skin side down in a deep and tight fitting oven-proof container and cover with the hot liquid. Cover loosely and place in the oven for 2 hours. Check on it at this point, the point of a paring knife should sink through to the bottom of the pan with little resistance.             Once it’s finished, pull it out of the oven and place it in the refrigerator, still covered in its braising liquid, until fully chilled. What will emerge is a slightly gelatinous liquid and pork belly that is much easier to slice into serving sized portions. If one were to slice it hot one would end up with a mess of basically pulled pork belly. Decidedly NOT what we are looking for here.        
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Ready to cover and lounge in the oven for a couple hours

Slice into 3 or 4 blocks through the narrower width (if it was whole this would be the length of the belly) and then into ½ to ¼ inch slices against the grain of the meat at the time of service. To reheat there are a few methods you could take. You could thicken the liquid with cornstarch and use it to glaze the slices in the oven or in a steamer until heated through. Or you could simply drop the slices in some simmering soup and pour that over some ramen. If you own a brulee torch you could char it slightly, which is certainly the most dramatic approach. Or you could do what I did. I placed the slices on a broiler plate, covered it with its braising liquid and put it in the broiler until it started to audibly pop. The popping is from the skin that was left on. At this point I pulled it from the boiler, basted the slices with the liquid in the pan, and put them back under the broiler, repeating this a few times until the slices were nicely browned.    
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Ready for it's semi-final destination. The Broiler!

Serving suggestions for this are myriad. As already stated, this is a classic topping for ramen, but Chef Takashi out here in Chicago serves it with steamed buns. Hell, you could just shove it in your slavering maw straight outa the broiler! By this point it’s been long enough in the making that any delivery method would be simply that. Just a means to get that unctuous pig belly into your impatiently awaiting face! The braising liquid in and of itself is a thing of beauty! Use it to season soup broth, as a pig infused marinade, as a fucking beverage! Seriously, its used to marinade the soft boiled, runny yolk but firm white eggs that are also a staple ramen topping!    
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Finally ready for a vicious tongue lashing! You dirty little pork belly...

I REALLY hope you guys try this, time investment be damned! Just like most braises, this one just gets better if left in the fridge for a couple days before serving. Which means you can make it well in advance and be the fucking hero of any dinner party! All the work having been done the day before, and being better for the aging, leaves you to focus on other things that might need to be done at the last minute. The pork belly will wait. It’s patient like that. This is a seriously good accompaniment to just about any vaguely Asian inspired menu. You will be in love. You will want to pour the liquid in your eyes.You will want to rub the meat all over your body to attract a mate. And if they are repulsed by it, fuck them! They aren’t good enough for you anyway if they don’t like perfume of pork fat, ginger and soy sauce!    
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Kadoya. Ask for it by name!

Live well and COOK PORK! -Jack        
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Serving suggestion! This or dive at it like a savage that hasn't seen pork belly in years. Either would be completely appropriate.