Competitive talking. It's a phrase I learned in Napa, at Taste 3, and although I had never heard it before, it made sense immediately. There were so many interesting people there that you had to be somewhat aggressive in seeking out those whom you wished to meet. Alex is pretty good at the meet and greet. On the other hand, it's not something that I do well or comfortably, so it was very welcome when people came to us. It's a wonderful thing to have your work recognized and appreciated. It's even more special when it's enjoyed by someone who's work you admire in return. We were slightly amazed by the response to this website and it has really motivated us to continue trying to make it better. We met so many interesting people that our brains were practically on overload, churning with new ideas and inspirations from the various conversations that we had. There is a laundry list of new ideas to play with and experiments to carry out over the next few months.
Of course once we left California and began our adventure in Montana, all of my aspirations were quickly smothered by sheer exhaustion. Thankfully I'm finally catching up on sleep and things are starting to gel out here on the ranch. New beginnings are usually difficult but the rewards can be great. Re-opening a seasonal kitchen usual involves a fair amount of cleaning (in our kitchen this was more organizing than actual scrubbing) and cursing (I have a tendency to bang into things in an unfamiliar kitchen) and a lot of energy and imagination to get things up and running. It's inspiring to look out over an empty dining room and imagine the people who will joining us there. It's equally inspiring to see the empty shelves in the walk-in and map out what to fill them up with.
We're basically starting with a blank slate for our new pantry. As I write this, there is some bacon broth working on the stove. We've found some rather large bottles of a good raspberry vinegar and a basic balsamic vinegar and are reducing them down to syrups. We'll keep some of the reductions separate and combine some for a blended raspberry-balsamic agrodolce type liquid. We've got Meyer lemons, morels, ramps and elf mushrooms to pickle and preserve over the next day or two. We're still debating over what to do with them because while the same old, same old is good, we want to make something better this time. We're definitely open to any suggestions you want to throw out in the comments. We've also got two new cooks working with us for the season and we're eager to see what they come up with as well. We've got quite a few toys in the kitchen to play with. There's an enormous smoker, a serious dehydrater, juicers, a paco jet, a couple of circulators and a beautiful range. We're only limited by our imaginations. We're focusing in on healthier foods and maximizing flavor without heaviness on the palate. The following bacon broth is a good example of how we can use fat in the process for flavor and still basically eliminate it in the end product. As always, feel free to add or subtract whatever flavor elements you wish, the only real must haves are the bacon, the water and the gelatin.
2# bacon, sliced into matchsticks
2 large onions, sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup-3/4 cup pickled jalapenos with their brine (to taste)
1 cup of soy sauce
2 gallons of water
Render the bacon in a large pot and then slowly let it caramelize in it's own fat. Once it starts to brown, add the onions and cook them together until they are both a rich golden brown. Then add the pickled jalapenos, soy sauce and water. We leave the residual fat in the broth to help infuse flavor. Simmer the broth for 45 minutes-1 hour. Then strain it, skim the fat, weigh the resulting liquid, calculate 0.5% and add that much sheet gelatin (bloomed first in cold water) to the hot liquid and dissolve it in the broth. Cool the broth in a hotel pan and then freeze it overnight. The next morning pop it out of the pan and put it in a cheesecloth lined perforated hotel pan over a deeper hotel pan. Place it in the refrigerator and let it melt over the next two days. Discard the cheesecloth and it's contents. The liquid in the bottom pan will be a clear bacon broth.