The idea for this recipe came to me last weekend, when I went hunting for wild turkey, and came home with three brook trout. The spring turkey hunt with Wayne was rather tricky this year: the gobblers didn’t gobble, and the ones we saw didn’t show much interest in our languorous hen calls. Having read an article in New York Game and Fish about trout fishing in Ninemile Creek, I decided to try my luck there while I was in the area. What I didn’t know is that Wayne happens to be friends with one Mike Kelly, who A) wrote the article I read, B) has been fishing Ninemile Creek for most of his life, and C) was generous enough to spend his Saturday afternoon showing me around with his friend Paul, despite having already hunted turkey and caught his limit of trout earlier the same day!
So, while I wasn’t completely successful in my little cast-and-blast trip, I thought it would still be interesting to create a Syracusan sportsman’s perfect May appetizer, a recipe that would highlight the delicate flavors of both trout and turkey, and at the same time showcase some spring produce.
When I started working on the Salmon and Pork Belly Burger, I thought making a good potato bun would be a no-brainer. After half a dozen trials and several pounds of patties, I acknowledge the task was harder than it seemed.
Though I won’t name names, the commercial potato rolls I’ve looked at are a bit of joke, as they use about as much potato flour as yeast (understand: not a whole lot). Check the labels yourselves! The main ingredient is wheat flour, and food coloring does the rest. There aren’t any eggs either, so that oh-so-potatoey yellow color is 100% Yellow #5, or 6, or whatever.
Pictures of my first attempt would not speak highly of my baking skills. Whoever wrote the recipe at King Arthur Flour should try to eat their own dog food some day — the result tasted fine but was too heavy for a burger. Both Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking and Further Adventures in Search of Perfection offer pretty similar recipes for regular, potato-free buns, but they each take over 24 hours. I understand the importance of flavor development when you work with yeast, but will one really taste a difference once the bun is sandwiching a flavorful patty, some cheese, and condiments? Especially with a potato bun? I’m not so sure. (Note: I tried, of course.)
Well, take THAT, messieurs Nathan Myhrvold and Heston Blumenthal! My potato bun, though inspired by your recipes, can be ready to eat in under 3 hours, and it tastes pretty damn good. Continue reading
I recently adapted a recipe for Jarred Salmon In Olive Oil from a Russian cookbook titled Pro Okhotu I Rybalku [Of hunting and fishing]. Here’s another idea I yanked from this book: adding pork fat to fish to make burger patties. Although I’m using salmon today, you could choose almost any fish you like.
The rest of the recipe is my own invention: baked tomato halves for additional juiciness, a kind of bean ketchup (with a lot of olive oil to balance the beans’ dry mouthfeel), and potato buns. There will be a recipe coming for my homemade potato buns very soon, but in the meantime you’ll have to cope with the store-bought ones that don’t taste like potato (because they contain nearly as much food coloring as potato flour) and are pre-cut in a less than optimal fashion (see my picture above). On the side, whole fingerling potatoes are deep-fried exactly as for the perfect fries, and topped with fried parsley. The result isn’t quite as crispy as real fries because of the lower starch content of the fingerlings, but is still rather excellent.
ETA: The potato bun recipe is here!
March 31, 1814. With the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian armies having defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Paris, the War of the Sixth Coalition is now over. Tsar Alexander I of Russia receives the key to the French capital from Talleyrand, and enters the city at the head of the army, cheered by the crowd. Talleyrand, master of political flip-flopping, started to distance himself from Napoleon several years earlier, and is now eager to participate in the new government. He sends a message, through the Russian diplomat Count Karl Nesselrode, offering the tsar a place to stay at his palace.
Talleyrand’s chef at this time is none other than Antonin Carême, the first celebrity chef of sorts. So impressive is his cuisine that Alexander I takes Carême with him when he moves from Talleyrand’s digs to the Elysée Palace. During these few months of Russian presence in Paris, Carême creates a luxurious chestnut ice dessert of in honor of Count Nesselrode. The Nesselrode Pudding is born — or, at least, this is how the story goes according to Ian Kelly’s excellent Carême biography, Cooking for Kings.
Spring is here, and despite the persisting snowfalls throughout New York State, the ice fishing season is coming to a close. I haven’t had much luck recently. No matter how hard I tried and how long I froze my butt (sometimes way after all the other fishermen had given up), I didn’t land anything. I’m starting to doubt whether some of the lakes I’ve been to actually contain fish at all. So I decided to have my small revenge and just buy some fresh salmon at the store.
For a change, here’s a recipe from the “let’s make a trivial dish with 3 ingredients and write about it” school of blogging. It’s inspired by something I found in a Russian cookbook called Pro Okhotu I Rybalku [Of hunting and fishing]. Not only does it come with very appetizing pictures, and cover most wild game and fish you’re likely to kill for food, but it offers a different take on preparing your catch. There are traditional Russian dishes of course, but also more creative recipes (such as partridges in chocolate sauce or pigeons with kumquats and couscous).
Whether you want to celebrate the last day of Maslenitsa, Saint Patrick’s Day with a Russian twist, or the coming birch sugar season, this is the drink for you. The Irish-cream-like mixture dilutes the intense flavor of birch syrup, helping to reveal its complexity. This might be my favorite way to consume the syrup, in fact!
I originally thought I could take inspiration from Bailey’s, the mother of all cream liqueurs. The main ingredients are well known and advertised, together with the nutrition facts, on their web site. Reproducing the same proportions of sugar (from the birch syrup), fat (from the dairy) and alcohol (from the vodka) should give a similar result, right? Well, not quite. It was a starting point, but the mixture came out way too fatty and boozy. It took me a few rounds to get the balance right, but the result is very enjoyable.
At long last, my Latvian hare trio is complete! I started this project when I discovered those mysterious recipes for hare cheese. If you run an internet search for hare cheese in English, Russian, or Latvian, you probably won’t find much; for one thing, you won’t see a single picture. This in itself required further investigation.
Because I don’t spend my time dining on wild Scottish hare from D’artagnan, and because my own attempt at hare hunting could easily replace “wild goose chase” in proverbial parlance, it took me a couple of years to reach a point where I was satisfied with my result. Early on, it became clear to me that a whole hare yielded way too much hare cheese, and so I looked for other dishes of Latvian inspiration that could use hare. In particular, I determined that cooking the leg meat in fat ensures that it doesn’t get dry, and hare loin really shouldn’t be cooked more than medium-rare.
This curious dish — which has very little to do with actual cheese — was actually what first motivated me to start my Latvian Hare Trio. The final result may look like a traditional pâté, but the preparation is quite different. Lesley Chamberlain’s Food and Cooking of Russia and Pokhlebkin’s Cookbook of the Soviet Peoples both contain fairly similar instructions: take a hare, roast it, braise it, grind it, then cook an omelette, grind it, and mix everything together with mushrooms and butter before baking in a dish, optionally wrapped in pastry.
I found that the result of this procedure had an unpleasantly dry mouthfeel, so I made several changes to improve it. In particular, cooking the leg meat as a confit was a big improvement, and it made little sense to use the precious hare loins. I also got rid of the bizarre ground omelette and used raw eggs to bind the forcemeat like a normal person. Finally, the onion jam and cornichons bring welcome touches of sweetness and acidity.
After last week’s hare loin, this post features the hare legs with another group of typical Latvian winter flavors: potato, sauerkraut, and animal fat. The recipe is pretty short, because most of the work has been done during the hare preparation.
The only non-trivial element left is the potato pancakes. I’ve already talked about deruny here, but I’m taking a different approach today, simply slicing the potatoes and relying on the starch and salt to bind them all together.
Finally, if you want to make the dish a little bit healthier but still recognizably Latvian, you could prepare a wine reduction to drizzle on the meat, instead of the fat!
Black Balsam is a traditional Latvian herbal liqueur. Its recipe, created by a pharmacist living in Riga, is based on a composition of 24 different plants, flowers, buds, juices, roots, oils, and berries prepared in oak barrels. The drink itself is black and very bitter, but with a distinct sweetness to it. Admirers of chartreuse and the early novels of Poppy Z. Brite will love it. Others, maybe not so much.
Legend has it that Catherine the Great became ill during a visit to Latvia and was cured after drinking Black Balsam — one sure has to hope that such a harsh-tasting beverage has some medicinal virtues to justify consuming it. Nowadays, however, a smoother version is available, mixed with blackcurrant juice. If you have trouble finding it in the US, try mixing regular black balsam (check availability here) with crème de cassis instead.
What does this all have to do with today’s recipe, you might ask. Well, balsam and hare have more in common than it seems: they’re both consumed in Latvia, and both can be acquired tastes. Because Latvian cuisine gravitates around a somewhat limited number of ingredients, it made sense to me to try to pair them together — and I think the association works quite well. Barley, another staple of the region, was a natural accompaniment.