Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This Little Piggy--Cochon 555

Cochon is the French word for pig and or the sound a little piglet makes. Cochon 555 is a story of pigs and 5's.  This year marks the fifth anniversary of this traveling culinary circus (although our first to attend) which strives to promote the sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs.  The event was held at the Cedarbrook Lodge which is an urban oasis hidden right by Seatac airport.  It used to be owned by WaMu back in their heyday and used as a corporate conference center.  Now, it is owned by the Wright family (owners of the Space Needle).

The competition pits chefs cooking five different heritage (more on that below) breeds of pigs with the goal to use the entire 200 pound pig snout to tail and everything in between to create their menus.  The Seattle St. Patrick's day stop on the circus tour had bonus action though- a sixth chef was added along with Mark Bodinet from Cedarbrook Lodge's Copperleaf Restaurant who cooked another pig BBQ style for the chefs and their teams after the competition.  The chosen chefs this year were Jason Franey – Canlis, Johnathan Sundstrom – Lark, Jason Barwikowski – Woodsman Tavern, Joshua Henderson – Skillet, Rachel Yang / Seif Chirchi –Joule/Revel, and Shane Ryan – Matts in the Market.

These chefs are given distinct breeds of heritage pigs.  Old Spot from White Buffalo Ranch in Oregon (originating from England is a critically rare breed) was given to Jason Franey of Canlis.  Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi (husband and wife duo from Joule/Revel) where given a Berkshire pig known for it's marbling from Washington based Florek Family Farm.  Shane Ryan of Matt's in the Market also got a Berkshire but from a different farm, Mosaic Farms in Oregon.  Joshua Henderson of Huxley Wallace Collective (better known Skillet fame) drew a beaut, the Farmer's Cross pig known for sweet meat and marbling.  Tails and Trotters farm in Oregon uses local hazelnuts to feed these pigs and increase their flavor.  Jonathan Sundstrum of Lark fame is a two time 555 winner and probably a favorite going into this competition.  He got the beautiful (yes pigs can be beautiful) Hampshire another English breed from Jones Family Farm in Washington.  These pigs have a superior fat to meat ratio.  Last, but not least Jason Barwikowski an Oregon chef, was paired with McKinlay Vineyards in Oregon who provided an extremely rare breed, a Red Wattle pig named for its red color and the fleshy skin under its jowls.  If you want to learn more about these hogs there's a great blog written by Hanna Raskin on the featured swine in this year's event.

Charles Smith: photo via Charles Smith Wines
To wash all that piggy down the pork feast was accompanied with wines from five small family-owned wineries including Elk Cove Vineyards, McCrea Cellars (where we love going to the home of the owners right here in West Seattle and attending the fun events Bob and Susan hold), Syncline, Buty Winery, and K Vintners (made by one of the most fun ex-rocker manager turned wine makers, Charles Smith, it's a shame he wasn't there) plus special tastings from Robert Kacher Selections. 

This year five bourbons in addition to five family wineries and five chefs cooking five pigs was added to the line-up. Tastings of Templeton Rye, Breckenridge Bourbon, High West (a FloJo favorite--because its located in Park City, UT), Buffalo Trace and Four Roses in addition to the perfect manhattan bar showcasing Luxardo cherries.   We thought the mason jar toppers given out at the perfect manhattan bar were a nice touch!

Ro trying some oysters
Also new in 2013, the first annual "Punch Kings” cocktail contest featuring Breckenridge Bourbon and six local bartenders (Adam Fortuna a bartender from Artusi was the NW Punch King).  We tried a Bourbon blackberry concoction from Brave Horse tavern that was very good (see recipe below).  A new Tartare Bar and Hama Hama sustainable oysters were also part of this year's festivities.

Tartare Bar
Twenty official judges and approximately four hundred guests cast their votes at the end of the pork eating frenzy to take home the King of the Swines trophy.  The winner gets to compete with the other regional winners at the finale Grand Cochon event at the FOOD and WINE Classic in Aspen on Sunday, June 16.

Tracy Smaciarz's demo
A couple of additional fun add-ons included a butcher demonstration from Tracy Smaciarz from Heritage Meats with a raffle to benefit the student volunteers from South Seattle Community College culinary program.  The winners of the $15 a ticket raffle got to pick out their packages filled with choice cuts from the demonstration.  We talked to one winner that picked a package filled with pork chops and pork belly.  Now isn't that a great parting gift!  There were also ice-cold brews sponsored by Anchor Brewing out of San Francisco and local Pike Brewing Company, Fernet Branca digestifs, and an impressive cheese bar put out by DeLaurenti Speciality Food and Wine.

We started out trying the offerings at Chef Shane Ryan's station (from Matt's in the Market).  His menu included rice noodles with confit pork belly, smoked Vietnamese sausage, pork broth with headcheese and grilled riblets and fried pork wrapped in betel leaf.  Neither of us had tried betel leaf before, it had a very bitter flavor that we felt overpowered the dish.  It is supposed to stimulate the appetite so it's good that we started with it because we needed a healthy appetite this night.

Rachel Yang aka "Gangster"
The battle of pork Asian flavors went to Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi from Joule and Revel who are in the running for the James Beard 2013 Best Chef Northwest award along with fellow chef Jason Franey of Canlis.  Their menu included Squealing Noodle (pickled pork skin, green curry and prik), Red Hot Soup (pork shoulder, sausage, kimchi), a Kalbi bowl (Korean marinated rib, kimchi and sesame) and one of the best desserts of the night Pig a la mode (chocolate chip cookie made with pig lard and peppercorn ice-cream).  The Asian flavor portfolio was there, but we felt the amount of spice and heat really masked the flavor of the pork in many of these dishes.

Jonathan Sundstrum of Lark, last years winner, served pork belly onigiri with grilled scallion aioli and lard poached pork loin with chorizo and Rockwell bean ragout (which was a fantastic bean soup).  He may have had the people's choice dessert favorite, Chicharone "Nutter Butters" a peanut butter cookie sandwich.

Holy Mole

Posole and  Torta
Jason Barwikowski's team went with a more Mexican vibe and brought some bold flavors. Dishes included: Mole made from pork belly in red chile mole sauce; Tacos made with chorizo, pickled onions and a lard tortilla; Posole with smoked shoulder, hominy, cabbage and relish (that included the pig head and feet); Torta with pork loin al pastor (it looked similar to a slider) topped with pineapple, avocado and refried beans; Churros (chicharones, cinnamon, sugar with chocolate-tequila sauce).

Pork leg gravlaks
Joshua Henderson
Ro's favorite chef of the night was Joshua Henderson of Huxley Wallace Collective who's menu included: Crispy-fried Pig Ears, chicharon and chickpeas with Aleppo chili and fenugreek salt, fresh coriander; NW Oyster Rockefeller with creamed stinging nettle and lardo crumbs (above judges only or we missed them) and two of the best dishes of the night Cappelletti filled with milk braised pork, testa brood, hazelnuts and sage. Our favorite bite of the night were the Pork Leg Gravlaks with pickled mustard seed gribiche; We also missed his dessert which was a crepinette with sultana mustard and pistachio.

tete de cochon and pork rinds
Chorizo sausage and pate en croute
FloJo's vote and the actual winner of the evening was Jason Franey with a Canlis-esque line-up of pork delicacies.  Pork Rinds made with sauerkraut powder; fleur de sel and shigoku oyster ailoi; Tete de Cochon (head cheese) with Dijon mustard gel; Pate en Croute with sauce gribiche, sauternes and pickeled radish; Chorizo sausage served on a honey roll with rouille and fermented Fresno chiles.  The desserts were crazy in that you could totally taste the pork ingredients and somehow they worked.  Pork pot de créme, with bacon brittle, cinnamon and green apple espuma garnished with whipped cream and pork jerky shavings, which were promised to make the dish taste even better.  There were also bonbons filled with smoked back fat and bourbon caramel.

Pork pot de créme and bonbons

And the winner is....Jason Franey!  The 2013 Northwest Prince of Pork.

On the drive home in our pork coma state, we were left wondering if Cochon 555 was worth the heavy price of admission ($125 per person general admission and $200 VIP)?  We liked the heavy weight Northwest Chefs that were cooking and the free flowing alcohol.  We felt the effort was there on the food, beautiful and creative and definitely highlighted many parts of the heritage pigs they were given. However, putting food out for four hundred people is not easy and many of the dishes were not something we would seek out to eat again.  We didn't enjoy the mad rush to try to make it to every chef's station and try their offerings.  Not everything was put out at the same time so you were constantly left guessing if you had tried everything.  It was extremely crowded and with a glass in one hand and a plate in the other it became a challenge trying to eat and drink in peace.  With all the different stations there was a lot going on that it felt overwhelming, especially in a space that did not feel conducive to level of activity and its guests.  It was standing room only and not a lot of options when it came to seating so you felt like a chef in that we were on our feet the whole time.  The music was too loud all night long and made it very difficult to hold a conversation.  Several times during the evening the lights were turned off to show a video presentation while many of the guest were still trying to eat or get to the next station.  The registration process was clunky and not well thought out for the space and involved signing for an envelope of cash and handing that over to another worker to give you a wristband (which we never fully understood the sense in that).  We will probably not return next year because we found more downside than up.  But, we came we saw we ate pork!

 Live life with pork, flavor and fun!

Recipe for Mikey's Black Gold Punch
Brave Horse Tavern

Monday, March 18, 2013

Patty Cake, Patty Cake

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We've been celebrating this Irish holiday all weekend.  St. Pat was the most well known patron saint in Ireland and given credit for championing Christianity in Ireland.  He was born in Roman England and lived in the fourth century.   Not much is known about Pat, but legend has it that he taught Irishmen about the Holy Trinity by using a shamrock.  Also, the original color associated with St. Patrick was blue, but it morphed into green over the years perhaps to match the shamrock.

St. Patrick's Day is an official holiday in Ireland and an unofficial one everywhere else.  Guinness beer coined a marketing campaign years back stating, "Everyone's Irish on March 17th."  Indeed some interesting traditions have been created outside of Ireland for example drinking green beer, pinching someone if they don't wear green, a lot of merriment and raising of glasses and participating in parades.  The city of Chicago even dyes the Chicago river green.

The tradition of drinking whiskey, as legend has it, comes from a time when St. Patrick visited an inn and the inn keeper was only filling patron's glasses half full with whiskey.  St. Pat taught the inn keeper a lesson in generosity and the Irish whiskey has been flowing freely ever since.  

Guinness is a dark stout first produced in 1759 in Dublin Ireland, but  not sold publicly for ten more years until 1769.  It's tangy, creamy and smoothness is crafted like an English porter.  A little known fact, although it's dark as night and seems like a very heavy beer, it's one of the lowest calorie beers out there (we don't count lite beers they are not even worth mentioning let alone drinking).
For Americans the tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage came about from the first generation of Irish immigrants in search of the comforting tastes they remembered and were missing from home.  For St. Paddy's day, this had traditionally been boiled bacon, but times were tough and most immigrants were poor.  So they substituted bacon for the cheapest cut of meat available, which was beef brisket.  New York City was a melting pot of cultures as it is today and the Irish used that to combine cooking methods and tastes to "spice" up the brisket.  They copied the salt-curing technique from Eastern Europeans.  The corn part of corned beef is not literally corn.  Rather, it's the salt crystals used in the brining process that look similar to kernels of corn.  The spices used for corned beef were largely derived from Jewish immigrants making pastrami using mustard, black pepper, coriander seed, allspice and clove.  The pairing with cabbage was again an economics decision because cabbage was the cheapest vegetable available.  Before this weekend, Ro's knowledge of corned beef was solely the variety that came from a can.  She was about to be reformed!

The next component, Irish soda bread doesn't have Coke in it at all, or any other soda pop.  The "soda" comes from bicarbonate of soda- or as we Americans refer to it- baking soda. This leavening agent gives the simple bread its flavor.  It is traditionally made round because it used to be baked over an open fire on an iron plate.

We celebrated by doing what the early Irish did to celebrate, yes by raising a few glasses, but also by having a feast of traditional simple Irish food.  We started our feast on Friday night, inviting our friend Mindy "O'Toole" over for our twist on the traditional Irish-American St. Patty's dinner.  She brought the Guinness and Harps for another fun drink, the black and tan, which combines both the light and dark beers, but separates them so you can see both colors.  If you are ever in Ireland make sure not to order a black and tan.  This drink is referred to as a half and half in Ireland to avoid the negative association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, nicknamed the "Black and Tans."

Here's what we included in our Irish feeding frenzy:

  • C to the Three:  Corned Beef, Cabbage and Carrots w/ Whiskey-Orange Glaze
  • Mashed Potatoes (typically boiled potatoes are served, but we LOVE mashed)
  • Cheesy Irish Soda Bread Pudding
  • Black and Tans
  • Irish Chocolate Coffee ice-cream w/ Irish coffee
  • Cheesy Irish Mushroom and Asparagus Quiche- Saturday breakfast
  • Corned beef hash- Sunday brunch

The first step was to get the beef cooked.  This step will take approximately 3 hours depending on the size of the brisket.  Being a cheaper cut of meat, the brisket needs the extra time to cook and get nice and tender.

Cx3: Corned Beef, Cabbage and Carrots with Irish Whiskey-Orange Glaze
  • Whiskey-orange sauce:
  • 1 cup sweet orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup Jameson Irish whiskey
  • 1 tablespoon Nunya sauce (if not available increase Dijon to 2 TBSP)
  • 1 tablespoon Grey Poupon Dijon mustard plus more for serving

  • 1 2- to 2 1/4-pound piece lean corned beef
  • 1 pound bag of carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 1 head of cabbage with the core removed and cut in half, quarters and quarters again
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Nonstick oil spray

Put corned beef brisket into a large pot and cover it completely with water.  Add the packet of spices that comes with the brisket.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot with a lid.  Allow brisket to cook for 50 minutes per pound.

When there is 30 minutes remaining on the cooking time preheat oven to 425°F. Coat large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. 

Boil next 4 ingredients in saucepan until reduced, stirring often, about 5 minutes. 

Remove corned beef from the pot and pat dry with paper towels.  Place the corned beef on the baking sheet.  Generously brush corned beef all over with glaze; place on one side of prepared sheet. Toss carrots and 1/4 cup glaze in large bowl to coat; place on the other side of sheet. Sprinkle carrots with salt and pepper. Roast until carrots are tender and beef has a crispy glazed coating, brushing occasionally with more glaze, about 35 minutes. 

Meanwhile discard the water the beef was cooking in and refill with pot with clean water.  Bring to a boil.  Add the cabbage (cooking in batches as needed).  Allow cabbage to cook for approximately 3 minutes or until tender.  Remove cabbage from water add 3 TBSP butter and salt and pepper to cabbage.  Keep warm.

When ready to serve transfer brisket and veggies to a family-style platter.

Next comes the dessert because it needs time to freeze.  Again, this sounds like a lot of work, but if you have an ice-cream maker this is pretty fast.  If you don't want to go to the trouble of making your own,  pick out a fun Irish ice-cream from  your store's freezer section and top with Irish mint cookies.  But, this recipe makes a delicious boozed up variety that you can't find in your store and it has a smooth finish like gelato.

  • Irish Chocolate Coffee Ice-Cream:
  • 4 beaten egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (1 oz for finishing)
  • 2  TBSP Mocha Mint instant coffee crystals
  • 1/4 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • Your favorite mint cookie (we prefer Oreos in our home)

In a heavy medium saucepan combine the egg yolks, sugar, milk, half-and-half, chocolate and coffee crystals.  Cook and stir over med heat until mixture is slightly thickened and bubbly and then immediately remove from heat.  Beat mixture to get some air into the mixture and making it smooth.  Transfer the bowl with the mixture into a bigger bowl with ice to cool down the mixture.  Once cool stir in the whiskey.

Then place the mixture into your ice-cream maker and churn until frozen.  Place in the freeze until ready to serve. 

Once ready to serve, place two scoops in each bowl.  Finely grate remaining chocolate over the ice-cream and top with a cookie.  

We had Irish coffee along side the ice-cream.  Make a pot of your favorite coffee, add sugar cubes to taste, 2 TBSP Jameson Whiskey and cream to taste.  Delicious!

For the Irish Soda Bread we had the option of slices of bread with butter, but all of us chose the other option, which was Cheesy Irish Soda Bread Pudding.  They were light like a quiche with the rich cheesy goodness that added some luxury to the meal.  The two part process seems long, but this is pretty easy to make as the soda bread does not need to rise.

Cheesy Irish Soda Bread Pudding
Irish soda bread:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup half and half with 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 4 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups half and half milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Nonstick oil spray

Make soda bread:
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
Put the half and half and lemon juice together in a bowl and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add milk and butter. Stir just until dough is evenly moistened but still lumpy.  Add a little additional flour if needed.
Transfer dough to a well–floured surface and turn dough to coat with flour. Gently knead with floured hands about 8 times to form a soft but slightly less sticky dough.  It will still be sticky!
Form into a domed 6–inch round and put on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut a 1/2-inch-deep "X" across top of each loaf with a sharp knife. Dust 1 tablespoon of additional flour over loaf.
Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer loaf to a rack and cool completely.

Make puddings:
Needed Equipment 6-8 ramekinsPreheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Spray ramekins with cooking spray.
Cut loaf in half and reserve remaining bread to be used for breakfast the next morning.
Tear other half of loaf into bite size pieces. Divide bread among ramekins, placing in the bottom
Whisk together eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir in cheese and spoon over bread in ramekins or baking dish. Let stand 10 minutes.
Put ramekins into another baking dish and add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of ramekins or dish.
Bake until just set and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Allow ramekins to cool 20 minutes before serving.

We used Friday night's leftovers to make breakfast the next two mornings.  The leftover  bread pudding batter (or if you need more just make another batch of the pudding) can be used to make a cheesy quiche.  Instead of putting the mixture into ramekins we used a pie dish.  Tear the left over Irish soda bread and place in the bottom of the pie dish.  Then whip up more of the egg and milk mixture if needed.  We added sautéed asparagus and mushrooms to the mixture.  Then fill the pie plate, pouring the liquid mixture over the bread crumbs.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out cleanly.  

For Sunday brunch we used the leftover corned beef to make hash.  Pour 2 TBSP olive oil into a dutch oven pan.  Add 1 package of hash browns and cook until almost brown.  Add 1/2 a chopped onion and 1/2 cup chopped red pepper.  Continue to fry and then add left over corned beef.  Hash should be crispy and browned when done.  Then fry an egg (or two) per person to place over the top of the hash.  We served with slices of mango and banana and an English muffin (not Irish, but as close in geography as it gets).

We had a great time cooking our version of St. Patty's Day favorites and spending some quality time hanging out with friends and enjoying this festive weekend together.  

Ro, Koa, Mindy and Lucy

An Old Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!
Live life with flavor and fun!

Sprinkles McSpud & Greenie O'Blaze

Our Green Play List:
  1. Green Light- John Legend, Andre 3000
  2. Good Riddance- Green Day
  3. Green Eyes- Coldplay
  4. Love and Happiness- Al Green