This past week, a cookbook we ordered arrived. It’s Thomas Keller’s new cookbook, Bouchon.
Scott told me to go through it and mark all the recipes I want to try.
I marked 20.
The first one I cooked this weekend. It was a 37-hour-long recipe.
I didn’t know who Thomas Keller was, but I know his restaurant, the French Laundry out in Napa Valley. I’ve never been there but its reputation is pretty high, has been for a pretty long time.
Three Michelin stars, for instance. Mr. Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three star ratings by the Michelin Guide, having received a total of seven stars in the 2011 editions. Bouchon is the name of the restaurant he opened next door to the French Laundry a couple of years ago. Keller jokingly says he opened it so he’d have somewhere to eat after finishing work at the French Laundry.
Bouchon is a term you find in Lyon. It’s used to describe a typical French bistro. We spent a lot of time eating in bouchoneries when we spent a week in Lyon in the mid-'00s. And that’s what the book is all about: dishes you would find at any decent French bistro, especially in Lyon. Pig’s feet, foie gras and other offal; but also duck leg confit and some really tasty cuts of meat, vegetables, potatoes, desserts.
I have made duck leg confit half a dozen times. When Scott finds a fresh duck in the market, he always buys it. Sometimes we roast the whole thing, but more often, he cuts the breasts and legs off, and we make two meals of it as well as roasting the carcass for a rich stock.
For my confit, I normally marinate the raw legs in salt overnight.
Mr. Keller has me marinating the raw legs for a full 24 hours in something he calls green salt. It’s kosher salt (I used sea salt), fresh thyme and a bunch of fresh parsley thrown into a mini-food processor with a dozen black peppercorns. You smear each of the legs with about a tablespoon of this verdant green salt then cover them and let them sit in the fridge for 24 hours.
Then you rinse the salt off, pat dry the legs and put them into a dutch oven, cover them with melted duck fat, pop the lid on and put it in the oven at 190°F / 88°C. For ten hours.
If you do the math, you can see it’s an interesting work-back schedule. I got up at 4:45 a.m. Friday morning to get the legs into the green salt and marinating by 5:15 a.m. Then Saturday morning I got up again at 4:45 a.m. to get the legs into the slow cook by 5:15 a.m. This was so that I could take them out at 3:15 p.m. and let them cool to room temperature in time to use them in the evening repast.
Duck Confit with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
Here is a picture of what my dinner is supposed to look like:
Meanwhile on Friday, I needed to make garlic confit, which is also an ingredient in my Saturday dinner. The ingredients for the dish include other stuff we normally have on hand – fresh thyme, fresh chives, chicken stock, shallots, crème fraiche. . . (that last one: I use sour cream because it’s hard to find the other here).
The garlic confit was fun to do: peel about 40 cloves, put them in a small saucepan, cover them with canola oil and put them on low low heat for about 40 minutes. Do not let it boil. Cool in the oil, then fridge it all. (it’s good for about a month, if Scott doesn’t sneak them out and eat them all first).
All is well on Saturday afternoon when I pull the legs out of the pot. They are just as Mr. Keller promises: meltingly tender.
I have to be careful with them so they don’t disintegrate on me before I get them into the fry pan to crisp up the skin.
Next come the sprouts. They’re also a bit of a production.
First trim and cross, then into an ice bath.
Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil.
Pop them in a few at a time so the water stays at the boil. Bring them out and right back into the ice bath after 5 or 6 minutes. Once they’re cool, onto a kitchen towel until you’re ready for them.
After I sauté the legs to get the skin crisp they go into the oven just to get warmed through. And I make the sauce.
At the end I add the sprouts (they’ve been sliced in half lengthwise), plate it all up and add the legs last.
Here’s what my dish looks like:
Mr. Keller’s and mine back to back:
Okay so you could say that this is a sublime recipe and ridiculously complicated (it's not) but that’s not why I titled this post ridiculous.
It’s because the next day I was making sausage – about 10 pounds of pork needed to get trimmed, chunked and marinating in two different flavors (one for Italian sausage and one for breakfast).
I had quite a bit of trimmings I thought I’d give to Sisi, so I put them in a saucepan, filled it with water and let it simmer until all the connective tissue was broken down.
Funny thing: when I tested it for doneness, this euphoria came over me – it smelled just like the cooked beef my dad would make for gritzwurst!
There was enough of it to make a small batch. And I had just enough oatmeal in the cupboard to finish it off.
This is the ridiculous part of the story: I have not made gritzwurst since we moved to Slovakia because, one: it’s hard to find the right kind of beef cut; and two: I didn’t know how to find oatmeal for the first couple of years we were here.
My cousin Jon has been making gritzwurst (original recipe handed down by our grandpa Zumberge, btw; for me through my dad) with pork for a long time and he urged me to try it. Being a purist jerk, I pooh-poohed the idea.
With heartfelt apologies to you, Jon, I can again enjoy the wonderful aroma and taste of one of my favorite childhood foods.
And that is the ridiculous part of this story: that it took me so long to smart-up. BTW, Jon: If you google 'gritzwurst,' the first several recipes come up with pork as the base, not beef. I was wrong, you were right!
One last thing: most of the wonderful human beings who have married into this family know that gritzwurst is definitely an acquired taste. I'm not sure how many acquired it, but Scott has.