Friday, June 27, 2008

Edelweiss Sausage & Delicatessen

My great-grandparents, Elizabeth Heagel Arndt and Johann Arndt, immigrated to Portland from the Norka colony near Saratov, Russia in 1910.

So, I think I've mentioned once or twice that I'm a (fucking) German girl, and while I generally use that as an excuse for my penchant for dairy products and cured meats, thick beer and boorish behavior, I've never really told you my family's story. Here it is in a nutshell.

In the late 18oos, many Germans immigrated to the Americas not from Germany, but from near the city of Saratov, Russia, where they had followed their beloved Catherine II (the Great) in the 1760s. She implored Germans to come to Russia in her Manifesto, which promised resource-rich land, political freedom and religious autonomy to anyone who would come to settle the rugged landscape of Russia. This was opened to all Europeans, but it was primarily Germans who took her up on it. Within a few years, there were 101 German-speaking colonies settled along the Volga River.

These so-called Volga Germans lived happily near the city of Saratov until the 1870s, when the Russian government instituted a series of reforms that were intended to unify the Russian republic. Unfortunately, this came with forced military service, the requirement of Russian-only spoken language and crippling taxes (sound familiar?), which spurred another mass migration, this time mostly to Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and the United States. Many of the Volga Germans that came to the US went to the Mid West, but a large number of families eventually settled in Portland, Oregon. Mine was one of them. If you'd like to read more about the Volga Germans in Portland and elsewhere, the Center for Volga German Studies has a very informative website.

Even though I'm a third-generation American and speak more Russian than German (to the chagrin of my father), I swell with a strange nationalistic pride when I talk about German specialties. When I step into a place like Edelweiss, I feel like I'm among my People.

* * *

Edelweiss is one of those locals-only gems that I'm frankly loathe to even tell you about, let alone glowingly review. I mean, next time you're in Portland you'll be all, "What the fuck, Heather. I want a Reuben with pastrami so tender and moist that it disintegrates the moment it touches my lips. I want brats that snap between my teeth, sending meaty juices and spicy mustard dripping down my chin. I want to wash these down with fragrant German beers that I've never even heard of. Hook a nigga up."

And I'll sigh a weighty sigh and begrudgingly, I will be obliged to take you there, because I couldn't keep my damn mouth shut and now you know about it.

In the back corner of an unassuming little deli located on a residential street behind an AM/PM, there's a treasure. A little lunch counter that serves up bratwurst and sammiches for a few bucks, with your choice of sides. You always order the German potato salad, because you just do. A beer? Why not, how about just a mug (it's a little early for a whole pint, wouldn't want to raise any eyebrows). Then take your ticket and grab a seat.

You can just fetch yourself a beer from the fridge, or have a mug from the tap.

I'm a complete xenophile, so of course I get a major hard-on for shit like foreign beers. I like how the one on the far left looks like it says "Burnonator". Like what Trogdor is to the countryside, the peasants and all the peoples in the thatched-roof cottages.

Paulaner Salvator Doppelbock? In the daytime? Don't mind if I do!

While you wait for a stout, smiling woman in an apron to bring your plate, why not do a little shopping? This is my secret source for European cultured butter (they were out of French this time, so I picked some Dutch butter). I will admit, I totally buy packaged spaetzle. If you could get real German spaetzle, wouldn't you consider it too? The Eurobake breads (best rye ever!) are also available at the Russian market up the street on Foster Rd.

The dairy products and chocolates all feature toe-headed Aryan youths smiling fiendishly toward the Vaterland. I'm a blue-eyed devil and it makes me nervous.

Ohthankgod! She brought the food, just when I was certain I would chew my arm off.

Everyone always orders the brats, but my money's on the Reuben. It's the best I've ever had in this town - house-cured pastrami, tangy thousand island and sauerkraut, and creamy melted Swiss cheese all nestled lovingly on toasted rye. This is the goods, right here. I couldn't finish my sammich, or my German potato salad (served warm, with a creamy bacon vinaigrette and minced chives), but I made a heroic effort. The beer alone was like eating a slice of bread, so who can blame me?

You know what, I've changed my mind. Next time you're in Portland, don't email me or call. And certainly don't expect me to take you to Edelweiss. This secret is staying safe with me.

Edelweiss Sausage Co. & Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pig Roast Redux

Pig Roast 2008 was a success. So much so, in fact, that I created a new tag for my blog: Epic Undertakings. Not since the (poorly-photographed, but delicious) cassoulet last winter have I felt more triumphant and exhausted.

Thank god my brother-in-law, Joe, was there to help. He's a chef, and although we were both relatively inexperienced dealing with pork en carcasse, he was ready to jump right in. I insisted Scott take it easy since it was his birthday, but he was on hand to apply rub and fetch clean towels and fresh beers.

Even though I knew we were unfolding a tarp with a dead pig in it, I wasn't really prepared for the flashback to 10th grade A&P, when we had to dissect fetal pigs. That smell isn't formaldehyde after all. It's the smell of a dead mammal. I felt it necessary to look in her eye and really soak in the fact that I would be cooking and serving her to 40 of our closest friends.

We began by slashing the skin all over to get some of my dry rub into the fat. I, being a 12-year old boy, instantly began to snicker.

"Tastes like salty milk and coins." This photo is for Syd. She has a special category for things of this ilk.

After using up my whole jar of rub on just one side of the pig, we decided to leave one side less rubbed, with just some salt for seasoning.

We had to split the sternum and spine to get the body completely flat, which was imperative for even cooking. If we had been spit-roasting the pig, we would've omitted this step.

The sticky Korean-style barbecue sauce I made was slathered on the ribs: gochujang, copious amounts of ginger and garlic, some sesame oil, palm sugar and tamarind paste.

All wrapped up tight in her body bag, I was inspired to name the sow Laura Palmer. She took an overnight nap with some bags of ice in the chest freezer (turned off).

After sitting in the rub overnight, Joe and I hoisted the pig over to the pit, which had been heated with two bag of cowboy lump mesquite and dampered with wood chips. After the initial flare-up, we remembered to soak the wood chips in water before adding them to the coals. Hickory and mesquite added excellent smoke and the entire neighborhood could smell it.

Note the pit. A hybrid between the Hawaiian style pit and the Cuban style oven, this was two CMUs (concrete masonry units, or cinder blocks) high x four long x two wide, on top of a pit dug to ~24". Having not seen the pig until we already did our CMU shopping, I'd say we did a pretty damn good job gauging how many we'd need. We lined the hole with aluminum foil to reflect the heat, then covered the pig with industrial-sized sheets of foil to keep the heat in (and the flies off).

We fashioned a grill out of steel rebar (washed twice) and metal mesh (the kind used for reinforcing concrete), lined with hardware cloth. It was necessary to use the mesh for concrete jobs because other steel meshes (including "cyclone" fencing) tend to be galvanized, and that is not good eats. The hardware cloth prevented meat from falling off into the fire, assuming we would cook it long enough for that to happen. A second grill/screen was constructed and clamped to the other using metal hose clamps. This enabled a flip midway through the cooking process. By the by, we adapted the idea for the pit and grill from this extremely helpful website.

Half cooked and pre-flip, this is the pig after about 4 or 5 hours at a temp that we tried to maintain at ~250°F. Note the nice golden smoke color on the skin. This is when the second grill screen was attached to the top of the pig.

After the secong grill was attached, the pig got its flip and finished cooking for another 3 or 4 hours.

Don't judge me. When you get up at 7:30am to start cooking a pig, it's perfectly okay that you're on your 5th or 6th pink lemonade chuhai by 6:00pm. Although daytime drinking + sunshine usually = my violent demise, I managed a steady buzz all day and didn't even puke, not even a little.

Not to get on a high horse, but I think it's easy to forget that our dinner comes at the sake of another life (unless you're vegetarian, to which I say "been there, done that"). It's healthy and completely necessary to come face to face with your food once in awhile. Frankly, I think it should be required.

* * *

In the busyness of getting everything ready, I didn't get any photos of people just enjoying themselves and eating sammiches and tacos. Hell, I didn't even get a chance to sit down and chat with my friends until an hour after the meat was all carved up and sauced. But today's leftover baked beans (in the oven yesterday for 6 hours), pasta salad (with leftover roasted veg tossed in), and a barbecue pork banh mi was the best damn hangover cure a girl could dream up.

When Susan and Shin came over to help clean up, I made Shin a banh mi (with a dab of the leftover Korean barbecue) and Susan, being from Ohio, wanted nothing more than plain pork, mayo and pickle on bread. I sent them home with a gallon-sized bag of shoulder and another half gallon of meat from the face. The skull is sitting in the dirt in the yard to let the bugs clean it up for me, as a souvenir of our adventure. The remaining gallon-bag of leftovers are going to be turned into chile verde enchiladas, and maybe some mu shu or fried rice. Then I don't think I want to eat pork again for a very long time.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pig Roast 2008

Okay, I'm gonna have my hands pretty full for the next couple days, and have been in southern Oregon for the past two, so this is just a quickie This is What's Going On post. Also, Happy Birthday to my sexy genius husband!

We're roasting a whole 100-lb. pig tomorrow. It will be delivered tonight, whereupon I shall slash its skin and smear a dry rub all over the shoulders and hams, and will inject the remaining parts with a spiced brine solution. Overnight it will sit in our storage freezer (turned off), in its cozy little body bag (a mattress bag from U-Haul) under bags of ice.

Tomorrow we will start bright and early getting several bags of Cowboy Charcoal (lump mesquite from Trader Joe's) going in our chimney starter, and will line our hybrid Cuban-Hawaiian cooking pit (an aluminum-lined hole in the ground with a cinder block oven built around it) with glowing coals. We will layer these hot coals with apple, mesquite, hickory and cherry wood for smoke. I might throw some branches from our quince tree on there for good measure. Every hour or so, we will add another bag of hot coals and a handful or two of wood chips.

We are building a cage of sorts out of rebar and chicken wire to support the pig during cooking, which will be conducted over the hot coals rather than in them. This will require us to flip the pig once. This is what scares me the most.

I plan to have several feasting stations when it's all ready: one for Carolina-style (buns, vinegar sauce and slaw), tacos (hot sauce, cilantro, minced onion and tortillas), a banh mi station (some julienned jalapeño and cilantro, plus I already made my own do chua that is tasting really good) and the coup de grace: the Cuban. We are going to wrap a few of the hot bricks in foil and use them as a roughshod panini press to create the mother of all sammiches. We'll have our own ham (uncured, but still) and pork, and I will bust out a jar of quickles tonight. We even already have a wedge of Jarlsberg that needs eating.

Okay, that's it for now. I need to go find a marinade-injecting syringe and make room for ten bags of lump coal in my car. I'll update soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Los Gatos Comida Salvadoreña

Oh man, so I was in the field for a couple days last week, this time in central Oregon. My intrepid coworker and I were feeling a bit peckish, and still had at least 4 hours to go before we hit Prairie City (oxymoron that it is). We stopped in Madras, the last "urban" area we'd see for awhile on Highway 26, nearly screeching to a halt upon finding a pupusería on the main drag.

Tammy ordered up a horchata to sip while we waited. I'm normally a pretty adventurous person, but I just can't wrap my mind around horchata. I dunno. It sounds like a tahini milkshake. I had a Diet Pepsi for the caffeine.

I ordered up some pupusas and platanos con frijoles y crema, Tammy ordered tamales de pollo. We were overjoyed when our plates of hot and cheesy arrived dressed with a crunchy slaw.

The pupusas revueltas were filled with frijoles and melted cotija - dense and chewy - yet they bore an airy quality that begged you to devour the whole damn platter. The tortillas were made of rice flour (de arroz is the typical Salvadoran way), which gave the whole dish a bit of lift.

The tamales came wrapped in banana leaves, a steamy pillow of tender masa and shredded chicken. The house-made salsa roja cooled off an impatient bite to just below palate-scarring napalm.

"I want to eat nothing but this for the rest of my life," cooed an ecstatic Tammy upon tasting the unctuous sweetness of fried platanos swabbed through cool crema and earthy frijoles refritos. Luscious and umami, hot and creamy delft all in one bite.

Los Gatos Comida Salvadoreña
129 S 5th Street
Madras, OR

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Last (Springtime) Supper

..or, Wherein I Dispatch a Chicken in Under Three Minutes.

Summer is just around the corner, but we are finally starting to see the really good springtime-y local produce at our favorite high(er) end grocery store, New Seasons. I really should be getting paid by those sumbitches, since I spend so much money there already and then just turn around and tell everyone how awesome their stuff is.

Anyways, after a month or two of asking, begging, even flirting with the produce guy (I may be over 30, but the bat of an eyelash still gets me pretty far), New Seasons got morels. Yay! I didn't even have to drive five hours and pick them myself! They also have those perfect garlic scapes and local asparagus that is green and slender as a fairy's wand (okay, pardon the reference, but the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released last week and is partially to blame for my recent absence).

We didn't have any miniatures and had to use weird shit that I collect like dead bugs and roadkill teeth. Oh, don't look at me like that.

I picked up a 3-pound roaster and, having not given myself enough time to roast a whole chicken (and recalling the "pink juice" debacle), decided I would need to break it down. Since I had done this once before (last Thanksgiving, on the turkey), and had seen it done on TV at least a million times, I figured I could give it a go. I honed my blade against the cold steel with a few quick swipes and set to it.

It was a breeze! Less than three minutes later, I had four pieces of chicken, ready for the pan. Okay, I ended up leaving a little more scrap of breast meat on the sternum than I'd intended, but I did manage to keep the wing attached to the breast and the skin was intact. The legs were a quick slice (the skin), pop (the joint) and snip (the tendon) to victory. Now I have a nice clean carcass waiting for a roast and a bath in a stock pot. I felt like such a champion! Like Hung in that one quickfire challenge in last season's Top Chef! Except with only one chicken and way more time!

I gave the parts a nice massage of olive oil, crushed garlic, the zest of a lemon and a squonch of lemon thyme and lemon balm from the garden. A fat pinch of kosher salt and lots of pepper, and let it sit while you get the rest of your prep done.

My new favorite way to cook chicken is to sear it in a screaming-hot grill pan (so hot the skin squeals and curls back on itself), then flip when there's some good maillard and grill marks on it, and stick it in the oven for ~20 minutes. This also works quite well to roast a few veggies (scallions and zucchini come to mind) - they get a little grill mark and then roast up soft with crispy edges in the chicken fat.

The vegetables were treated simply: saute with some minced shallot in good French butter, deglaze the browned butter with a splash of Pinot Grigio, then some fresh thyme and high heat until the wine reduces to a thin glaze. Finish with a nice crunchy sea salt. The garlic scapes are such a wonderful green vegetable: the stems stay relatively crisp not unlike a mildly alliaceous asparagus, and the heads go tender like a roasted garlicky Brussels sprout. If you can find them (or grow them, like I am this year), I highly recommend it.

Since I am a strict Dinner=Protein+Green Veg+Starch kind of person (hell of old school), I made a buttery smash of baby white potatoes and the last of my nettle-pumpkin seed pesto.

So, sorry I've been out all week! I was also in central Oregon for a couple days, and will post about the delicious pupusas and platanos con frijoles y crema that I ate in Maupin soon. First, I have some goblins to slay.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pulled pork and sweet potato hash with tomatoes

Man, we had the best brunch this morning. Best of all? It practically cooked itself.

* * *

Last night we had some long-lost friends over for dinner. Well, it's not that they were lost, but having a couple kids can sure make it seem that way (them, not me). It was great having them, but I was a little disappointed when the Japanese intern they're hosting had other plans and couldn't join us. I had really been looking forward to giving her taste of authentic American cooking - not the sort of canned corn and sliced hot dogs on Bisquick "pizza" that defines the Japanese interpretation of American food, but real southern food like slow-cooked pork and juicy heirloom tomatoes.

The menu:
  • Carolina-style pulled pork sammiches with kohlrabi-dried cranberry slaw
  • Sweet potato frites with walnut oil and Maldon sea salt
  • Heirloom tomato salad with parsley flower vinaigrette
  • Seven-spiced peach slump with ginger and pine nuts, topped with vanilla ice cream
I made my usual pulled pork recipe, but with two extra pounds of pork butt (and one less hour to spare in the oven), it was not falling-off-the-tongs tender. Tragedy! I ended up having to chop it up and mop it back through the golden fat to come close to the desired effect (the sweet-and-vinegar-y sauce that makes it "Carolina-style" also helped, as did the addition of a little gochujang for extra tongue-spank). Since I was engaged with my guests and their charming progeny, I wasn't paying as much attention as I normally would on the fries, and they ended up a bit squidgy with only crispy edges (not all-the-way crisped like I'd prefer). Oh well. Everything tasted good, and that's what's important, right? Right?

The salad was tasty and fast: thick slices of three different varieties of heirloom tomato with a drizzle of balsamic/white wine vinegar, olive oil, and sprinkled with chopped parsley flowers (my crop has bolted) and minced shallot. Hit of salt and pepper and you're laughing.

The dessert was really last-minute. I just sliced some nice organic yellow peaches, tossed them with a bit of sugar and a spoonful each grated fresh ginger and my homemade seven spice (this time with some pink peppercorns added) and pine nuts. I made a basic rolled biscuit dough (recipe from Joy of Cooking, halved, with the addition of a 1~/4 cup sugar). I rolled it out to the size of my casserole, dumped in the peaches and laid the dough on top. I jabbed a few holes to allow the steam to escape and sprinkled more sugar on top. Baked at whatever temperature the oven was already at (I think it was ~350), and pulled from oven when crust was golden.

But here's the million-dollar question: What do you do when it's 11-ish on a Sunday morning and you have a fridge full of leftover chopped pork, sweet potatoes and good tomatoes? Damn skippy - you make some fucking hash! Just chop everything (the pork's already chopped) and fry it all up in a pan using a dab of the congealed, orange pork fat that's settled into your storage container. When it's crisped up on the edges, dish it up and slide a fried egg (over easy) across the top.

Since it's actually nice out for a change, have the Hubz pour some mimosas, and go ahead and heat up the leftover peach slump just for shits and giggles. Butter some leftover wheat levain from Friday night's orzo and toast in under the broiler. Retire to your shady patio and enjoy brunch while watching the hummingbirds drink up the last of the rhododendron's nectar, and know that this is the life.

Yes, that is the Deery Lou mug from which I drink my daily coffee. No, I am not five years old.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Orzo with linguiça and clams

I had some linguiça in the fridge that I bought like a month ago. Check the date: Sell By June 08. Perfect. Linguiça (lin-gwee-suh) is a Portuguese cured sausage that resembles chorizo. I don't think it has tongue in it, but the name suggests it. Peter G. from Oz knows what I'm talking about. He's a cunning linguist.

I was thinking of making something rich like feijoada, a rich Portuguesi stew of beans and pork products (also the National Dish of Brazil), but even though the weather is meh, I want to eat vegetables and herbs and brightness. And although my garden isn't quite there yet, the heirloom tomatoes at New Seasons are fucking pulchritudinous. Yes, that's right. Pulchritudinous. Yeah, I have a thesaurus. What's it to ya?

I got so excited about eating linguiça for dinner that IMed the Hubz at work:

Hethz: Linguica - as sammich, with beans, or with fideos and clams
Hubz: Clams?
Hethz: Yay and crsty bread for soppage
Hubz: Sounds perfect.
Hethz: Except wtih orzo we dont hvae fideos and i dont wanna break spaghteti (I'm a terrible typist and IMing reflects this painfully clearly)
Hubz: Of course.
Hethz: Yay (then a bunch of extra-happy smilies cascade down the screen)

A nice trait of the Hubz' is that he knows better than interject when I IM him in the middle of the afternoon with meal ideas. He just smiles and nods while secretly continuing to do his work.

Orzo with linguiça and clams
Avoid my n00b mistake and actually check your clams when the seafood guy hands them to you. If there any broken ones (or worse, empty ones), give him a dirty up-and-down look and ask him is he fucking kidding you with this shit. Anyways, that's what I would've done if I'd thought to actually check my clams before gleefully trotting off swinging my basket and humming a tralala. Makes enough for two gluttons plus leftovers.

1/2 medium onion chopped
1 anaheim chili or 1/4 yellow bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 very small fennel bulb, sliced (probably 1 cup?)
2 linguiça sausages, sliced
1 c white wine
1 c canned stewed tomatoes and their juice (diced or chop up three whole stewed toms)
~ 2 or 3 handfuls orzo pasta
a small handful of good olives (I had dry-cured Greek ones, but Kalamata would also be great)
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp pimentón (smoked paprika)
a few pinches of chili flake
some cracks of pepper
1 lb. clams (we have Manila clams from Washington that are great), rinsed
1 small-ish fresh tomato, chopped
a squonch* of flatleaf parsley, chopped

*This is the amount I always tell the Hubz to pick from the garden when he asks "how much?", and it's always just the right amount.

In a wide frying pan, saute the onion, peppers, garlic, fennel and linguiça in a little olive oil. When the sausage starts to brown and the veg start to go a bit sticky and glossy, toss in the wine and stir. Add everything else except the clams, fresh tomato and parsley. After about ten minutes of cooking over medium-low with a lid and stirring once in awhile, add the clams and fresh tomato. Cook for 5-8 more minutes, or until the clams are open, Discard any that don't open, because that means they were dead before you cooked them and this is how people get food poisoning.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread and a budget Spanish white such as Marqués de Alella 2006 Pansa Blanca.

Oh, I almost forgot! I'm sharing this dish with Kevin of Closet Cooking for the food blogging event he's hosting, Presto Pasta Nights. I hope he likes it! Go check him out say hi! He is totally the Napoleon Dynamite of food blogging (I mean that very affectionately). This is normally an event by Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast (omg, hi Ruth!), but Kevs is hosting this time around. I'm sure he doesn't mind if I call him Kevs.