Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Skin-ny...Recipes From Grandma?










Little Skin-ny Bundles...










+++Recipe To Follow+++













Reading interviews with celebrity chefs waxing nostalgically about their mother's or grandmother's cooking and how wonderful and inspiring it all was has become fairly commonplace in food porn mags. Sometimes I wonder how much of it is true, and how much is 'truthy', or just plain marketing. Is it possible that every chef learned how to cook from their mother/grandmother/great aunt Sophia? Was every nonna and bubbie a Lidia Bastianich superstar? I guess you could say that that is why they are great chefs today, although my personal experience is a little different. While my mother certainly did cook for three boys and a husband for many years, at one point I realized that if I wanted to vary my dinner selection off the roast chicken/broiled hamburgers/chicken soup rotation of my ethnic upbringing, I was going to have to do it myself.













And while I studied my favorite cookbook (Craig Claiborne's NYTimes International Cookbook), and it did puzzle some family members that I enjoyed cooking, no one minded when I took over the helm in the tiny kitchen to make such 'delicacies' as Chinese Pepper Steak. This, and other dishes like Rice Andalouse (my first introduction to the mysterious bay leaf) were added to the classics that mom had learned from my grandmother, which included salmon latkes and my favorite, stuffed helzel. A helzel is a neck, and the dish is kind of like the skin of a turkey neck (or chicken neck, as turkey neck skin seems to be harder and harder to find) stuffed with something similar to a matzo ball mixture, then boiled in soup, or roasted in the oven alongside chicken. For my updated version, I added a little smoked duck meat to the mixture, and I tied the neck skin together with twine, rather than meticulously sewing the ends shut as I remember my grandmother and mother doing (probably the reason this dish eventually disappeared from their repertoire-too labor intensive).















After pulling the neck skin off, I created a stock by cooking the necks together in a soup pot with some carrots, onions, celery, and, yes, a few bay leaves. After 45 minutes, in went the necks for about 45 minutes more. Then a quick saute in the pan, or even better, a deep-fried minute or two as you tilt your pan (see video)










Rich Neck Broth...





+++My constant companion was revolted by the 'raw' appearing skin, even after I pan-fried the Helzels to crisp them, so she deep-fried them further, and the result was a very crispy, golden-brown skin, enveloping a smooth, almost pâté-like interior. An inspired recipe change that took the dish to a more rarefied level. She's right, I'm wrong. Again. The soup that you have left can be spooned into a shallow bowl around the stuffed neck, or saved for another occasion-I used it for a risotto the next day-see http://dailycocaine.blogspot.com/2008/07/black-mushroom-risotto.html



After pan-frying for a minute on each side...











+++ Anybody have some oddly delicious dishes from their moms or grandmothers or just weird stuff you ate growing up?



Even better deep-fried for a minute or two...


A little hot sauce to add some fire...







RECIPE...
Combine matzo meal, finely chopped onion, schmaltz (rendered chicken fat-it's in the frozen food case if you don't have any lying around-about $1.79, then microwave a bit for this recipe), and eggs (similar to the recipe for matzo balls on the matzo meal package, but with fat instead of oil), and any bits of leftover meat you may have, and a bunch of herbs (I had basil lying around). Shove mixture into neck skin and tie with string. Boil in soup (or salted water if you must), then dry, and deep-fry two at a time, tilting the pan. Serve with spicy sauce, or with broth ladled into bowl. Perhaps, I'll admit, stuffed neck-skin is not extremely appetizing to the untrained eye, or any eye...




...or just spoon in some neck broth...










Deep-Fried Method...



video