Day 9 – Food preservation: gravlax, duck confit and pickling/brining

13 Jul

Today we shook things up in terms of pace. It was a much slower pace than yesterday and, reflecting back on it, I appreciate it. We learned about the many methods of food preservation through the ages – salting, covering with fat to prevent any air from wreaking havoc on food (the confit part), smoking, pickling, and pasteurization. I should have guessed that the word “pasteurization” came from Louis Pasteur who discovered the process and who is hailed as the father of microbiology, also discovering the molecular structure of tartaric acid (one of the main acids found in wines) and the vaccine against rabies.

So, what did we make? Well, we started a few things, like the gravlax (gravad lax, in French), duck confit, pickled jardiniere vegetables in a cider vinegar/white wine vinegar/salt/sugar/peppercorns/bay leaf/coriander seed brine, and preserved lemons. Below are a few pics of Chef Tomm starting the gravlax.
The recipe is really quite simple: cover a salmon filet with equal parts sugar and salt. Then add pretty much any herb, other spices and/or flavoring you want to give it. We used a white peppercorn, fresh dill, lime zest and Acquavit topping we sprinkled on top of the sugar and salt mix, to totally cover the salmon. Then, you wrap it tight with 3 rounds of plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let it sit overnight. The recipe in our book calls for weighting it down, but Chef Tomm’s rationale – that osmosis is going to have a harder time working if the flesh is compacted – makes sense, so we didn’t weight ours down. So, what is gravlax? It’s basically cured salmon. The curing is done through the salt/sugar mixture and osmosis. So, you really want to cover your fish completely (only one side; not the skin side). Then, when it’s cured (1-2 days), brush off the cure with a damp paper towel and eat!

Chef Tomm let the class come up with our own recipe for curing the next salmon fillet. We chose a “sort of” Caribbean, sort of “Jamaican” recipe. We made a spice mix of coriander, cumin, cloves, and nutmeg. For the fresh ingredients, we used a couple of tablespoons of white rum (thought of you, Papa), a diced canned chipotle, fresh orange and fresh lime zest. Here’s our picture. Tomorrow, we’ll see if it turned out the way we envisioned it – with just a little heat.

Our pickles, duck confit and preserved lemon have to sit for several days before we get to “finish” them, in the case of the confit, or try them in the case of the pickles and lemons. After the lemons, we learned to make salt-cod fritters. When we tried the Brandade mixture as the recipe called for, it wasn’t very good. But, then Chef Tomm encouraged us to doctor our mixtures with flour, an egg, and baking powder and fry them in canola oil. I had a few partners today – Victor, Bobbie, and Mark – and our fritters (with a hint of cayenne) and the lovely, mustardy mayo that Bobbie made, turned out quite delicious. Shannon, with another fish, this fritter recipe is a keeper! Here’s Chef Tomm showing us how to fry our fritters. Tomorrow, we’re on to salads! I’m most excited about the Salade Niscoise. I’m also curious about the vegetable chlorophyll we’ll be making, which is an ingredient used for flavoring and coloring different sauces.

But, tonight, it’s about my husband’s adaptation of Jonathan Waxman’s brick chicken. So, what am I drinking while I’m writing this? A delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Chile called Casa Marin. It’s a 2009 and it’s a classic Sauvignon Blanc – crisp, grassy, slightly effervescent. Yummmm.

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3 Responses to “Day 9 – Food preservation: gravlax, duck confit and pickling/brining”

  1. Jocelyn July 13, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    Each day looks wonderful – the food and pictures are great. Thanks for continuing to share them.

  2. carnet July 13, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    If anyone has a chance to pick up a bottle of this Casa Marin sauvignon blanc, it is a definitely keeper…. we picked ours up from lot18, unfortunately I only grabbed two bottles. I hope to get a chance to taste the Gravelax… my favorite version has been what they serve up at Solage in Napa.

  3. Bee Leng Chua July 13, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    I had no idea that gravlax is cured salmon. I thought that it was salmon wrapped in light pastry. Often served as appetizer. Am I mistaking it for something else? Thanks for the blog – I am salivating.
    Bee Leng

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