Ever Eat a Daylily, Bud?

Once again my husband tries something new from the garden. This time it is from the flower garden. We have some beautiful daylilies blooming right now. The perfect ingredient for a tasty appetizer?lily3

But for the ingredient in this recipe you have to look past the lily.lily2

You’re getting close but you have to go a little further past the flower.

budsAh there they are, right next to the flowers. The buds.budThe new buds are what you want to pick to make

Pickled Daylily Buds

2 1/2 cups water
4 Tbls salt
35 daylily buds ( the tastiest are those just about to open)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, halved

1. Place 2 cups of water and the salt in a bowl, stirring until the salt dissolves. Add the daylily buds and let stand overnight, covered.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and garlic.

3. Put the drained daylily buds in a clean pint jar. Add the hot cider to almost the top, cover, and allow to cool on the counter. When cool, place in the refrigerator and leave for 2 weeks to pickle. We ate them in 24 hours and they were fine.

They taste like pickled beans and are a nice accompaniment to a sandwich or as an appetizer with a piece of cheese and a glass of wine. Fun Summer food!jar

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I ate an oyster and I liked it

No seriously, I did. It wasn’t bad. This experience won’t make me run out and order raw oysters the next chance I get but it was interesting and not unpleasant.oyst

How did I get in an oyster eating situation? Me, who hardly will touch cooked fish, eating something raw. Well it was our anniversary, the 43rd. Not a significant number according to the Wedding Gift list. After 25 it skips every 5 years so I have to wait till 45 for my sapphires. Uh-huh. But we like to go out and do something fun or different on our anniversary no matter what year it is. This year we decided to go back to Restaurant Three-Three-Five where we took a close friend of ours for a retirement celebration in January. As I mentioned in that post they are only open to the pubic one day a week and take reservations one week in advance. And their menu is different every week. So I called and was told that this coming week they were having an 8-course prix-fixe Crudo menu. Each course included a drink pairing and in this case it would be craft beers. Curt, of course, knew immediately what Crudo meant but I needed to ask details. Crudo is Italian for raw and basically the meal would be composed of raw fish and raw meat (tartare). I expressed my reluctance to raw fish to the person on the phone who said they could accommodate me so… I made the reservation.

I really don’t know why I said yes. Maybe I am at an age where having a new adventure doesn’t happen that often so what the hell! Anyway, the week went by quickly and all of a sudden I found myself at a restaurant where I was going to be presented with raw fish. What the hell is right, as in what the hell was I thinking? Do I really want new adventures?

We were greeted at the door, offered a glass of champagne and seated outside (it was a pleasantly warm June evening) to wait to be seated. There were two (2 hour) services that night and we were in the 5:30 one. Once they were ready for us we joined 8 other adventurous souls at a long counter that faced the kitchen. We were going to be able to watch as everything was plated and prepared. Food Theater!

Lft: Counter of ten, Beer expert presiding. Rt: Plating area

Lft: Counter of ten, Beer expert presiding. Rt: Plating area

Before each course we were poured a small glass of beer and the beer expert or cicerone explained the source, the ingredients and/or the brew process.

Craft Beers; sweet, sour or earthy

Craft Beers; sweet, sour or earthy

So far, so good…then the first course arrived and naturally it was raw oysters. However, the chef had obviously taken good notes when I made the reservation because my course was fried oysters with pea shoots. How nice. But there was Curt, looking at me with those questioning eyes and then saying, “Would you like to try a raw one?” Long pause…….I said yes. The raw ones came with toppings or accents or mignonette of rhubarb or lemon. I tried the rhubarb. Yes, I put it to my lips and in it went. I chewed once or twice and then slipped it down my throat. And….it was tasty. No gagging, no funny faces.

Fried vs Raw oysters

Fried vs Raw oysters

The next four courses were Razor Clams (w/ green strawberries, osstra caviar, dill weed), Hamachi fish (w/ daikon “noodles”, chive blossoms, toasted pine nuts, cold-pressed pineapple juice, pineapple week), Tuna (w/nasturtiums, crispy capers, pickled capers, celery sprouts) and Trout (w/crispy chicken skin, pickled fennel). Curt’s were raw, mine were poached or lightly seared. All amazing flavors and the beers paired with them were great matches. (To see the dishes larger just click on the images)

Lft to Rt: Razor Clams, Hamachi, Tuna, Trout

Lft to Rt: Razor Clams, Hamachi, Tuna, Trout – top row cooked, bottom row raw.

But for the last three courses (fluke, scallops and lamb) the Chef came over and asked me if I wanted them cooked because he suggested they would be much better raw and he thinks I would like them. How can I disagree with the Chef? Okay…in for a dime, in for a dollar.

The Fluke was delicate. It had garnishes of sliced radish, pickled rhubarb, micro greens and buttermilk sauce.flukeCJThe Scallops were sliced impossibly thin and were tangy with Fresno chile, kiwi pulp and micro greens. We each got a tiny finger lime which we squeezed onto the scallops. Our fingers smelled wonderful.

Finger lime and scallops

Finger lime and scallops

And just before dessert we had Lamb Loin Tartare. This had pickled mushrooms and Mt.Rainier cherries and I would have loved a second helping. lambJC So now you know what you get for your 43rd wedding anniversary – seafood. As we finished I realized I had  just eaten more seafood, and raw seafood. that I had ever eaten in my entire life and I liked it. We ended with a dessert of lovely strawberry slices topped with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. Can’t wait to find out what we will do for anniversary 44.

 

Picadillo Alfredo

Warning! This is an experiment.

The NY Times recently published a recipe by Sam Sifton for Picadillo which he calls the ultimate Cuban comfort food.  Picadillo is a sort of sloppy-Joe kind of stew made from ground meat (picadillo means mince), tomatoes, raisins, olives and liberally seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and other warm spices.  To my taste, it sounds like a Persian inflected dish (who often combine meat, fruit and spices) via Spain (remember, that Arabs held sway in the Iberian peninsula for nearly 700 years).  Mr. Sifton suggests serving it with rice.  OK, but I couldn’t quite get my head around picadillo as a stew.

Recently Jeanne made spinach enchiladas which were quite tasty.  Her enchiladas prompted me to think of picadillo as a stand in for the filling of an enchilada-like presentation.  Of course, I couldn’t follow the typical enchilada routine by covering the filled tortillas with a tomato and chili sauce as the picadillo has plenty of tomatoes in it already.  So, why not invert the order of things?  Enchiladas often have cheese in the filling so why not put the cheese on the outside.  But I didn’t want to just bury the tortillas in shredded cheese.  How about something creamier?  I’ve got it – Alfredo sauce!  I know, it’s not Cuban.  It’s not even Latino.  But it creamy cheesy good.  And you can buy it in a jar, ready to go.

For the picadillo I followed the NY Times recipe to a “T”, just cutting it in half to accommodate our more limited table (and so as to not have too much left over in case my experiment was a bust).

Ingredients.1

Ingredients (see NY Times recipe for complete list)

Minced garlic, diced Chorizo and chopped onion

Minced garlic, diced chorizo and chopped onion

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic and seasonings saute away

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic, raisins, olives and seasonings saute away

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Sprinkle a light layer of grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend but cheddar would be fine).  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350˚ F. for about 30 minutes or untll the Alfredo sauce is bubbly and lightly browned.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not much to look at but pretty yummy.  I think the picadillo mixture could serve other purposes – maybe an Cuban sloppy-joe?

Not Eggs-actly

eggbanner.jpgIt’s somewhat of a joke among my friends that I believe, and have often said, adding an egg to any left-over is a good thing. An egg can transfer almost any soup into a breakfast (I lo-o-o-o-ve soup for breakfast). An egg can elevate some left-over vegetables to a lunch or even dinner. It adds protein to what might otherwise be a thin offering. It adds an eggy richness to almost anything. In my opinion, the egg should be poached or fried when used in this kind of savior role, but scrambled eggs work sometimes too (scrambled eggs and chili anyone?).

But wait, I recently encountered an egg of a different ilk. Salt-cured egg yolks. I saw a mention in one of those upscale cookbooks that line the shelves at almost any bookstore in the run-up to Christmas.  Salt-cured egg yolks were not something that was on my radar but when I saw a recipe in a book called Flour + Water by Thomas McNaughten, I immediately swooned.  What was this thing – cured egg yolk?  It sounded delicious, strange, rich, luxe, umami.  I had to find this food.

Turns out the rest of the world seems to already know about cured egg yolks.  A quick search of the inter-web revealed numerous sites with recipes, photos and opinions about cured egg yolks.  The basic idea is to take fresh (critical information!, FRESH) egg yolks and bury them in a dry cure of salt (and maybe other stuff).  Some recipes call for 100% salt.  Some use 50% salt and 50% sugar.  Many use ratios somewhere in between.  Some add other stuff (black pepper, cayenne, fennel, miso, soy sauce).  What’s a boy to do.  I wanted to try this but I didn’t want to waste a bunch of eggs on an experiment gone wrong.  So I trod a middle path of simple, and a second path of “sounds good, let’s try it”.

My two batches (shown below, side-by-side) follow the same basic procedure just the salt mix differs.  Each version shown below is enough to cure 4 – 6 yolks.

Mostly Salt Version
2 C. kosher salt
1/4 C. sugar
1 Tbs. fennel pollen
2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground fennel seed

Simple but more Sugary Version
1-1/3 C. kosher salt
2/3 C. sugar
2 tsp. black pepper

Fresh egg yolks buried in curing salt mix

Fresh egg yolks buried in curing salt mix.

 

For either version, mix the dry ingredients and put a 1/4″ – 1/2″ layer in the bottom of a non-reactive container.  Make depressions in the salt mix to hold the yolks.  Carefully separate the yolks from the eggs, getting the yolks as free from white as you can.  Once separated, carefully place a yolk in the depression.  Once you have placed as many yolks as you will be curing, gently spoon some of the remaining salt mix around and over the yolks, covering them by about 1/4″ to 1/2″.  Cover the container and place in the fridge for 1 week (7 days).

As I noted above, I didn’t want to end up wasting a bunch of eggs.  But on the other hand, if this turned out great, I didn’t want to have to go through all the trouble and have little to show for it.  So I prepared 4 chicken-egg yolks for each of the cures and 2 duck-egg yolks which I cured in a mixture of the two salt mixes.

eggs.2

Yolks after 2 weeks in the salt cure.

After a week I checked the progress, not knowing exactly what I should be looking for.  The yolks seemed like a firm but fragile jelly and a pretty sticky.  The instructions I had seen said they would be firmer, more like gummy bears.  So, I covered them back up and let them sit in the fridge another week.  In hind sight, leaving them buried in the salt but not putting a lid on the container would have sped up the drying/curing but fridge space was at a premium and I wanted to stack the containers so I put the lids on.

eggs.4

Brushing excess salt cure off the yolks.

Another week later, they’re firmer.  So, on to the next step.  Carefully clean as much of the salt mixture off the yolks as possible – not easy because the yolks are sticky and still surprisingly delicate.

eggs.5

Yolks laid out on cheesecloth, ready to be swaddled.

eggs.7

Swaddled yolks tied off between each one.

eggs.8

Swaddled yolks ready to go back into the fridge. The 4 on top were cured in the fennel cure. The two in the middle are the duck yolks.

Once clean, the yolks are swaddled in a strip of cheese cloth, tied off between each yolk and  returned to the fridge for another week or two of drying, uncovered.

The end result is a yolk that is about half or less the size of what I started with.  The texture is firm, sort of like Swiss cheese.

Now, after all that, what do they taste like?  Reports on the inter-web rave about the richness, the depth of umami.  One likened grated cured egg yolk to dried mayonnaise.

eggs.9

Finished cured yolk grated over ravioli. One-half yolk is enough to season 2 servings.

In my opinion, not so much.  They’re salty.  They taste vaguely of egg.  The added flavor elements of black pepper and fennel are subtle but present.  In the end, I think it was an interesting egg-speriment.  I’m glad I tried to make them.  I find them useful as an umami flavor addition/boost, like anchovy or miso.  My favorite use so far is to grate half of one over a simple pasta with an olive-oil, garlic sauce. They’re also nice grated over a green salad or into a simple vinaigrette dressing.  Ultimately I probably won’t take the time to cure egg yolks again. But you should! It’ll cost you some time but you won’t be sorry.