The monthly brief has a Continental European theme, despite my recent neglect of this area in my writing. In February I have favored more exotic locals like Colombo, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, and the Udon Thani Provence of Thailand. So with a Px Bodegas Toro Albalá in hand here is the best of February.
The culinary companion of February is:
At the risk of sounding 2011, this month’s culinary companion is a copy of the six volume, 2500 page Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. I’ve chosen this book for what it represents – a $700 perspex bound statement of your commitment to food that you’ll never prepare because it’s now so passé. Dismissing modernist cooking techniques such as sous-vide cooking and hydrocolloids, with terms like insipid, inedible, unsubstantial and airy is now de rigueur as we return to real food, and real food traditions. It’s well know in modernist circles that the best digestif after a degustation menu of “high culinary art and good company” is a lamb kebab and artisan cola.
The flavor of February is:
Flavored fleur de se, like many gastronomes I love salt, so much so that I have a caramel salt on my Cheerios instead of sugar. I’ve been experimenting with adding other flavors to salt for a while now, flavors like Ouzo, the anise-flavored aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece and Cyprus, and truffle.
I recently used truffle salt on deep fried sous-vide egg yolks, a recipe inspired by The Seattle Food Geek. I served these eggs as a tapa with slices of jamón and challah – a special Jewish braided bread. Jamón and challah is another example of my conflicting food philosophy, where I pair foods on not shared key flavor components however different they are, but on moral conflicts.
The beverage of February is:
This month’s beverage is not actually a beverage. It’s a way of abbreviating Pedro Ximénez, the complex sherry amalgam of raisins and more raisins, to capital P small x on menus.
Px 9.5, menu spotters will also notice the lack of a second decimal place in the price.
The must-have item of February is:
Having an expensive KitchenAid Artisan Mixer is no longer enough to show your commitment to the foodie persuasion. This month, the must-have items have been chosen with this in mind. They show everyone you are serious about food, serious in a way that extends the maxim of if you do not eat, you die.
The first item is a way of presenting your whole jamón ibérico de bellota, a small good I have written about in Food souvenirs. Traditional jamón holders, or jamoneros, are essential for slicing wafer thin pieces of ham for your guests to enjoy with a dry fino sherry and a copy of Lucky Peach. Having such a ham on display also fills your house with the musty, sweet and earthy smells of hanging pork, something Jo Malone has yet to reproduce in her scented candles.
The second item also shows your commitment to food by owning an item usually reserved for commercial kitchens, albeit in a more modernist way. An immersion circulator is an expensive piece of lab equipment capable of maintaining extremely precise temperatures in liquid baths, I wrote about them earlier this month in Sous-vide. Cooking food sous-vide for unnaturally long times shows your commitment to both maintaining the integrity of ingredients and really slow food. Really slow food trumps slow food, the movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Although these principles are noble in endeavor the food typically isn’t slow enough for me. With an immersion circulator, I can indulge in short ribs over 48 hours, and eggs over two hours – really slow food.
The top stories of February are:
- Sous-vide – Nothing says E. coli more than undercooked and insipid chicken prepared at the hands of a sous-vide novice.
- On the edge of pasteurization – I thought I would include foods on edge of pasteurization in my diet to cure my eczema and condition my sensitive stomach for a future trip to Bangkok.
Again, thank-you for all the comments, re-tweets and likes.
I have a few photo credits to make, firstly I’d like to thank Tim Lucas for his beautiful photos of the Jamón and jamoneros made available under a Creative Commons license. I’d also like to thank Avlxyz for making his photo of Casa Iberica in Fitzroy available under the same license.