Monday, September 09, 2013

I'll Trade You Money For Wine

First things first, I only found out about Robbie Fulks a few weeks ago, and bugger me, what a man, what a talent, what a crime that he so little known. Listen to that track just up there if you don't believe me. You might want to visit his website too; it's very old fashioned in that he writes stuff on there, as opposed to filling it with PR bullshit.

I've been struggling to find a book that holds my attention for a few weeks, but I have been saved by "Black Irish" by Stephan Talty, which has had me scouring wikipedia for information on Buffalo, where it is wonderfully set. The city is as much a character as Washington is for Pelecanos, but minus the sentimentality. Talk about hard bitten.

My weekend with Jamie was not a great success:

The Dough
I don't usually cook on Friday night, what with working all day, then going shopping and not usually getting home much before 7, but Jamie had inspired me, and I resolved to make his Chicago pizza pie. I can  make pizza, I've made thousands of 'em, and I can make bread, I have made millions of loaves, and they are usually pretty good, so I why I decided to use this new and unfamiliar method of making the dough, Lord knows. Anyway, it didn't work. The dough didn't rise and it felt very heavy, dense, and soggy. The sauce was very easy to make though. Being Friday, and as I'd been shopping, the kitchen was well stocked and I  managed to ease the disappointment  with plenty of red wine accompanied by many corned beef cobs 
I couldn't be arsed throwing the dough away on Friday night, and when I got up on Saturday morning, bugger me if it wasn't showing signs of life. Having nothing to lose, I decide to give it a whirl. I stretched it out, lined a flan tin with it to make a big one, not the 4 recommended by Jamie, smeared some of the sauce on it and topped it with some crumbled sausage, some torn pancetta and a load of cheddar and Parmesan. It was alright, no better, no worse. The kids ate it, but wondered why I hadn't made a normal pizza. It was no easier to make than yer bog standard pizza, and I won't be using that method to make dough again. The sauce, though, was something else, and required absolutely no effort to make, and I still have loads left .The kids will be getting it mixed up with some pasta and leftover chicken before this week is very much older.
The Sauce
I'm not at home typing this, but, as best as I can remember, you just chuck a tin of tomatoes into a processor with some red wine vinegar, a clove of garlic and some chopped chilli and salt and pepper and whizz the bastard up. That's it.
Usually, when making a topping for pizza I sweat an onion, then add garlic, chilli, sugar, salt, pepper and red wine or sherry vinegar and reduce it down into almost a jam. Takes a bit of time but tastes nice. Jamie's simple effort is as good, and  there is loads left. It is virtually an arrabiata, so just cook up a bit of bacon and mushroom, mix with the sauce and some pasta, and you have an effortless tea. 

Hats off to Jamie for that
The Pork
His recipe for pork shoulder required a 4.5 kilo lump of meat. One is not going to find a lump of pig that size around here, besides which, 4.5 kilo???? No one can eat that much pig, you'd have to be a family of 14, and even then, people would be begging for mercy. Now, I may complain that we have no deli, baker, greengrocer or decent butcher in town, but we do have 3 big supermarkets and a little M & S. I am intimately acquainted with all of them, so I knew that the best place for a sizeable lump of pork was Asda, so that's where I went, and I bought the the biggest pork shoulder they had.......a measly 1.2 kilo. At times like these it is best not to think about the provenance of the meat, but, it looked like a sorrowful and sad specimen.
My plans for this went a bit awry. I had intended to do a huge Sunday dinner, except it would be for Saturday tea. What I hadn't factored in was that, come tea time, I would be the only fucker in the house. That was OK though, the point of buying this joint was to try some of Jamie's recipes for leftovers, rather than have him tell me what veg to cook with a slab of meat, and, clearly, there were going to be plenty of leftovers,
Jamie doesn't say to do it, but I brined that poor dead flesh for about 12 hours. He recommends bashing or whizzing up a load of fennel seed with salt and pepper and rolling the joint in that. This was new to me and I gave it a whirl, with some trepidation, but it turned out fucking delicious. That's it for the meat really: chuck the spice on, with some oil, sit it atop some sliced onion and apple and whack it into into the oven. I deviated from Jamie a bit, I added a glass of white wine  and about half a pint of chicken stock to the roasting tin and cooked it on 160 for about 3 hrs. The crackling was the best crackling I have ever had. I shall be doing this again, but not until I can find a lump of meat weighing at least 2 kilo.
The Gravy
The eldest got in from his McDonalds shift at about half nine and declared that he wanted me to cook him steak, mash and gravy. My initial thought and response was rather unkind; fuck me, I thought, I've been arsing about all afternoon and half the night and now he wants steak, mash and bloody gravy. Well, he had the steak, a huge ribe eye, and that wasn't going to take more than 10 minutes, the spuds would be little trouble and I had the pork just about finished, which would give me juice for the gravy. So I did him his bloody steak, mash and gravy. The gravy was so nice it made me cry. I'm crying again, just thinking about it. I've saved some and I'm going to make a huge mound of buttery mash and have the gravy with it. Nothing else. Then I shall rest.
The Soup
When it became clear that there was little point in making a huge, fuck off dinner, I made soup. I love soup, so easy, so cheap, so comforting. I had a bag of watercress on its last legs so made a pea and watercress soup. This is how: I sweated an onion with a spud for about 10 minutes, then I added the pitiful looking watercress, about 12 ounce of frozen peas and a couple of handfuls of spinach; then I added salt and pepper, a chicken stock cube and a spoon of vegetable bouillon. Cooked it for 20 minutes, gave it a whizz, and added a blob of creme freche. That was Bob, my uncle. I had it with some expensive bread, I shall come back to bread another time, as it bugs me. There you go, I had been cooking and preparing food for hours and what I had for my tea was a bowl of soup and a load of pork crackling. And very delicious it was too.
The Sunday Dinner
I have nothing to say about the Sunday dinner. It was just Sunday dinner: Chicken, with a load of veg, and stuffing. And Yorkshire pudding. That's how it is, some like stuffing, some like Yorkshire pudding. I forgot to salt the Yorkie pud, but It was only me that seemed to notice. I had bought a big enough chuck that there should be enough left on its poor, sorry carcass to utilise another of Jamie's leftover recipes.
The Poodles
I used some of the leftover pork to make the kids tea, and I didn't use a Jamie recipe. Just tore a load of pork  up, put it in a hot wok with spring onion, spinach, soy sauce, black bean sauce and chilli bean paste, sizzled it all up for a couple of minutes while some poodles were doing and then mixed it all up together. They ate it, and you can't say fairer than that.
While I was at it I made a couple of pork wraps for my dinner at work. So pea soup and pork wraps already made for a free dinner.

Jamie is a genius.
The verdict
So far, so so. I have also made  a pasta, prawn and pea thingy out of that book, which was simplicity itself and all cooked up in the time it takes to cook the pasta. It was OK, nothing special, but good enough to add to the old repertoire, so that's a win. When I make it again though, I'll add some chorizo or bacon to it at the start; it was nice, but a bit lacking in oomph, however, for a tea knocked up in 12 minutes flat, I'm not complaining.

The tomato sauce for the frankly mediocre pizza was really good, and so was the crackling on the pork and the gravy. I'm not sure if me or Jamie should get the credit for the last one, I think.
I didn't use the book that much, I got notions from it, rather than recipes. For the rest of the week I'll be using his leftover ideas, and I hope this is where the book will come into it's own. Some of his ideas are quite obvious, and there is nothing wrong with that, but some of them are new to me and I shall look forward to giving them a whirl.
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