Saturday, June 28, 2008

Breast of lamb Ste. Menehould

I've been wanting to try cooking with lamb belly (also known as breast of lamb) ever since I tried it for the first time at Momofuku Ssam bar. So a few weeks ago I picked up a piece from Florence to take to PA with me. I placed my order over the phone, and the person warned me that it was mostly fat and bone. But I was not deterred.

It looked like a rack of ribs. I think these are equivalent to the spare ribs and belly of the pig.

I looked to my trusty Meat Book, and there was a recipe for Breast of Lamb Ste. Menehould. Ste. Menehould is a method where you braise something, press it, cut it up, cover in bread crumbs, and bake.

I braised it with a typical mix of aromatic vegetables for 3 hours.

Then I let it cool in the braising liquid enough to slip out all the bones, the ribs and something I think was the sternum. I pressed the deboned belly in the braising liquid between two differently sized casserole dishes, the top one smaller than the bottom and with bottles of tonic water in it to weigh it down. And it all went into the refrigerator overnight.

This is what the pressed product looked like the next day.

It looks a bit like bacon, eh? I wonder if anyone has ever bothered to cure lamb bacon. That's an idea! But I'm sure they have. I'm beginning to realize in cooking that pretty much anything that seems like a new idea is an old one.

Anyway, the rest of my pictures are lost because we lost our camera when we went back to Manhattan.

I cut up the pressed lamb into fish stick sized pieces; dredged in flour, egg, and panko; brushed with melted butter; and then baked them on a wire rack to heat through and broiled them to brown (I almost burned a side).

They were pretty awesome. But I realized that I'd had something like it before two times. Once was at Momofuku Ssam Bar of all places. Another time I went, they did a different preparation of lamb belly from their roasted lamb belly, and it was essentially Ste. Menehould style with fancy sauce (I made tartar sauce for mine, they used a violet gastrique). Another restaurant did pork belly a la Ste. Menehould. But they never call it Ste. Menehould for some reason. And now that I think of it, Hagi has a Ste. Menehould pork belly dish too, although they deep fry theirs. I wonder if that's technically Ste. Menehould then. Who knows?

This is a good technique. You can use it for any cheap and fatty cut. It's also supposed to work well with pig's feet and shanks. Pretty much anything you can press together. I'm going to be looking for any excuse to use it again.

Update 7/31/08
I made this dish again last week, so I have a picture of the final product. It looks a bit more appetizing than the intermediate steps.

We have more limited space in our New York kitchen, so I had the idea to use one of those Chinet paper plates to hold the flour, egg wash, and panko. Everything is self-contained, it's less messy, and you can throw the whole thing away after you're done.

Salt peter and juniper berries

I had been searching high and low for salt peter and juniper berries in order to cure my own bacon and jowls. I'm using a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The salt peter was especially difficult to track down. I heard or read somewhere that drugstores might carry it, but when I visited the local drugstore in Buckingham, PA the pharmacist seemed to think I was crazy and sent me to the health food store in the same shopping complex. When I asked the health food store owner, he treated me as though I was trying to make a bomb . (When they didn't know what salt peter was, I said that they chemical name is potassium nitrate. That obviously just made things worse.) Anyway, the health food store guy said to check out a drugstore in Manhattan of all places! He said that when he can't find something, he'll try asking them. Well, why didn't he ask them for me? Because he thought I was a nut.

I looked online and I found salt peter marketed to wickens for use as an anaphrodisiac. I refused to buy it on principle, and it seemed marked up a lot. I found a good deal for salt peter at, but I was a little freaked out buying something I was going to eat at a website called If it was just called then maybe because everything is a chemical, in a way. But cheap chemicals. No way.

Anyway, on Friday Mabel and I got lost and were literally driving around in circles through Doylestown and we came upon an everyday CVS. They didn't have salt peter in the aisles, but when I asked the very nice pharmacist if he had any, he looked, didn't find it, but then said that they might be able to order it. And then he pulled out this magical catalogue of chemicals and drugs printed in a 6 pt font. And there it was: saltpeter. And only $1.05 for 6 ounces. Awesome. Except that when I went to pick it up they told me that the warehouse no longer stocked it. Thanks for nothing.

It turns out that it's better to use sodium nitrite instead which you can buy from Butcher and Packer online as DQ curing salt, or pink salt. And in the end I just ordered it online.

The juniper berries were much easier. Rather than pay more for shipping than the berries themselves on the internet, I picked up a small bag of them at Aphrodesia in the West Village. I got them before buying steaks and lamb breast at Florence.

264 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Burger craving

Mabel and I woke up this morning on top of the covers with all the lights on in the apartment, and we both felt a bit queasy.

I had to get up to re-park the car we're borrowing from my parents then fell asleep again when I got back.

When I woke up again, I had a strong and very specific craving for a bacon, avocado, and swiss burger from Burgers & Cupcakes. Craving is maybe too weak a word. I needed to have that burger. Once I planted the idea, Mabel needed one too.

So we get there, and they're doing some minor construction, trying to renovate the associated pizza place. We walked into Burgers & Cupcakes a bit wary because of the construction noise, but then decided it was worth it. The waitress isn't really sure what to do, but motions us to sit down. Awesome! But then Mitchel London himself says that they're renovating and aren't ready to serve customers. Drat! But then I have a great idea! Can we do take out? He says he'll check with the kitchen. Nope, the kitchen isn't ready. Oh no!

Okay, chicken parm is second on my list, but we find that our local deli doesn't have the marinara sauce on the weekend. A diner isn't quite what I'm after. I want a good hot sandwich, not corned beef hash, and anyway I've been ruined for corned beef hash.

What about Quiznos? I've seen their commercials. Mmmm... toasty and all. We walk there. Mabel orders a beef sandwich that you dip in dipping sauce. And I get their chicken carbonara sandwich. We get Lay's potato chips which for some reason tasted like cardboard to me. Our sandwiches taste all processed and, frankly, not like real food. And we feel a little worse. I pronounce the meal unsatisfying. In retrospect, it was gross, disgusting even.

Well, we went to Burgers & Cupcakes for dinner, and it was so good. I would rank it as one of the best meals of our lives. I got my burger and Mabel got a straightforward cheeseburger. Lettuce and onions, but unfortunately no tomatoes because of the tomato scare. We shared a vanilla milkshake--which was just added to their menu--and it tasted like the milkshakes that I used to drink at home when I was a little kid. Mabel got fries, and I ordered sweet potato fries. But they brought onion rings for me instead, which was a miracle because I wished that I ordered onion rings after it was too late to change my order. And our waitress didn't charge for them because she felt bad she got the order wrong!

Monday, June 16, 2008


After we stopped going to Hagi so frequently, we needed a source of our favorite drink, Ikkomon.

So a few weeks ago, we called Landmark Wines to see if they sold it. They had two bottles in stock. I picked up both of them.

Ikkomon is a Japanese shochu made from sweet potatoes. We've been drinking it on ice recently, but in the winter it's nice to drink mixed with hot water (1 to 1). Mabel likes to say it's like what you wish water would taste like.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I picked up half a pig from Kristian today, and I'm pretty satisfied with it.

They got the butcher to wrap it all up in freezer paper. I got 16 pork chops, 4 racks of ribs, 2 large pieces of fresh pork belly, 2 jowls, 2 hocks, 1 or 2 loin roasts, several shoulder roasts, a cut up ham, and sausage. I asked to get some lard rendered, but I forgot to ask about it when I picked up the pork.

I'm planning on curing the belly and jowls this week. And eating the rest over the next 6 months or so. My parents have donated part of their chest freezer for me to use.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

123 Burger Shot Beer

Arun introduced me to this great sports bar called 123 Burger Shot Beer a few weeks ago, and I met up with Josh and some of his friends here to watch the NBA finals last Thursday.

The concept is $1 burgers, $2 shots, and $3 beer. Any beer that they have on tap. The beers aren't full pints, but it's still a decent deal. And the burgers are sliders, but still. Get 4 burgers for $4 and that's still $4. And they're pretty good.

The only problem is that their website, makes it seem like they're called 123 Burgers Hot Beer. But that's not the case. The beer comes in frosted glasses.

123 Burger Shot Beer
738 10th Ave (between 50th and 51th St)
New York, NY 10019