Friday, April 27, 2007

well, brandade it ain't but...!

I tried bacalaitos tonight.

All my life, I have never understood eating things that smell bad. (Or are raw, or rotten, like cheese or sushi or so many gourmand items). And there's not much that stinks more than salt cod someone's rehydrating. I'm reading Mark Kurlansky's Salt at the moment, so I'm learning historically about why salted fish was/is important economically and to the survival of human history, but still, salt cod is a white leathery piece of fish that's wooden and dried out, and when you cook it to rehydrate you get this briney, sea smell. Not a beach smell (god, I've really been missing the beach lately.

At Sonsie the guys used to make brandade, and they'd always end up pureeing the cod with potatoes right near me, and it just smelled like bad fish that washed up on the beach somewhere.

But somewhere along the line of eating things in general and fish in particular, I owned up to brandade curiosity. I didn't expect to like it. I didn't expect to get near it anytime soon with any adventuresome friends. But they had bacalaitos at this Puerto Rican restaurant I was getting takeout from tonight, and I did it. I was going to get a filled churros from the lady by the BART, too, but decided salt cod was more of a challenge. How was it? Bizzarely, the texture was like fried eggplant in my mouth, only I could see the little fishy protein fibers. It wasn't overwhelmingly salty; it didn't taste like it smelled while cooking. It didn't taste like much I could pick out, more like a salty, deep undercurrent. Like something I'm not smart enough to know. It had gotten soggy, too, in the takeout container. Probably not the best salt cod.

Certainly the maduros and the pollo guisado were really not impressive. Which is to say, I guess, I miss Cuba, because their stewed meat dishes are much more flavorful (mine was a little congealed, too, from sitting there, even though the chicken was very moist), and the maduros really weren't ripe enough or else not cooked long enough to let the sweetness bleed out.

Work today was:
blackberry financiers w/browned butter, tasting pleasantly of almonds
more upside down cakes, again with rhubarb and blood orange, this time with the chez panisse fruit book recipe
orange chocolate meringues, to be filled with orange jam
strawberry-mascarpone filling for strawberry tiramusi a la olivetto
more fresh fruit tarts
more strawberry lavender tarts
shortcakes, maybe, blackberry-strawberry?
butter cookies

I burned myself again, once on each hand actually. Did not sleep well last night. I was wondering about a lot of things today. The physics of pastry, and such. Where to find something to make my rhubarb tarte tatin in. How lemongrass would taste with rhubarb. How substituting honey for sugar would work in cakes and what spice would rough up those blackberries in the financier (pepper. cinnamon. citrus. berries.), and what made Cheffy's financiers so much better than the David Lebovitz recipe I tried because I'd rather make a dozen of something that 50.

I tried almond extract plain today. Last week, I tried raw rhubarb. I need to learn bitterness. And then sweeten appropriately.

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