Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chinese Soy Sauce Chicken Galantine

One of the things I really enjoy about CharcutePalooza is learning to make new things while at the same time trying to figure out how to incorporate something familiar into each challenge.  That point of reference could be a flavor, a texture, an aroma, an ingredient, or a technique.  For the October CharcutePalooza, galantine, I drew from Chinese BBQ: soy sauce chicken and cold poached chicken with ginger-scallion oil.


Keeping with the Chinese influence, I decided to use the Chinese holy trinity of ginger, scallion, and garlic for the aromatics and shiitake mushrooms and wood ear fungus for the garnish.


When it came time to make the galantine, some parts were easier than others.  Thanks the previous challenges, producing the forcemeat was a breeze.  I was worried about skinning the chicken, though, as the recipe calls for keeping the skin in one piece.  However, it was surprisingly easier than I thought.  The only part I struggled with was separating the end of the drumsticks from the skin by pulling the drumsticks through “as if you were removing a tight shirt.”


Up until the point where I had the chicken breast laid out on top of the forcemeat, I was pretty confident that I’d be able to finish up this challenge without a hitch.  I was wrong.


Rolling the galantine into an even cylinder proved to be extremely difficult for me.  After a few tries, the best I could muster was a galantine shaped more like one of the Michelin Man’s appendages or Lumpy Space Princess.  I was afraid if I didn’t tie the support strings tight enough the forcemeat would spill out.


In order to make the galantine a true Chinese soy sauce chicken galantine, I poached it in the mother sauce I created about a year ago when I made my first soy sauce chicken.  The mother sauce is a combination of soy sauce, chicken stock, rock sugar, ginger, scallion, garlic, cinnamon, and star anise.  Each time it’s used to poach something, fresh aromatics are added and the meat being poached deepens the flavor of the liquid.  The soy sauce gave the skin that distinct brown hue that comes with every soy sauce chicken.


Yes, the galantine looked like a piece of poop as a whole, but when sliced it was hard to tell.  Although the slices did come out a bit oblong, the flavors and textures were spot on.  The wood ear fungus provided crunchiness and the shiitake provided a little more meatiness to the soft forcemeat.  As is traditional in Chinese cuisine, I garnished the cold chicken galantine with ginger-scallion oil which was a nice refreshing contrast to the dark flavors imparted by the mother sauce.  Overall, the dish was new yet familiar at the same time.  Overlooking the failure to roll the galantine perfectly, I felt pretty good about how this month’s challenge ended up.



Ginger-Scallion Oil

Via my recipe previously posted here

Chinese Mother Sauce (makes about 2 kg)

Mise En Place

  1. 1 kg chicken stock or water
  2. 0.5 kg soy sauce
  3. 0.5 dark soy sauce
  4. 100 g vermouth
  5. 100 g ginger, sliced and smashed
  6. 100 g scallion, roughly chopped
  7. 100 g garlic, smashed
  8. 100 g rock sugar
  9. 10 g black peppercorn
  10. 2 star anise
  11. 1 cinnamon stick


  1. Simmer for 2-3 hours, tasting every now and then and adjusting accordingly
  2. Strain

Galantine Forcemeat Aromatics

Mise En Place

  1. 18 g ginger, minced
  2. 18 g scallion, minced
  3. 18 g garlic, minced

Galantine Forcemeat Garnish

Mise En Place

  1. 20 g dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
  2. 20 g dried wood ear fungus, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Asador Etxebarri: 9-10-11

The day after our disappointing meal at Akelarre, we headed into a remote area of the Basque Country just south of the Durango mountain pass.  The destination was the highly acclaimed Asador Etxebarri.  Just managing to squeeze into this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at #50, Etxebarri specializes in grilling.  After Akelarre’s flashy dishes failed to deliver interesting flavors, I was hoping Etxebarri’s straight forward approach to cooking would help me better understand Basque cuisine and more importantly offer a tasty meal.  In the end, it thankfully did.


At Etxebarri, it’s all about the grill and grilling taken to the highest level of execution.  In their pursuit of excellence, Etxebarri makes their own charcoal on premises.  The side of the building houses the different woods they use to make charcoal.


Before eating at Etxebarri, I thought I had an idea of what types of flavors their grill and charcoal might impart on their food.  I’ve had various grilled and smoked foods in the past and used those experiences to calibrate my expectations.  However, the the grill and charcoal at Etxebarri influenced the flavor of each dish in a way I’d never experienced.


Beet Juice

The meal started out with a simple beet juice.  It tasted like…beet juice.  I would later realize that this was a perfect example of one of the things Etxebarri is all about.  Taking a simple ingredient and preparing it simply in a way that showcases and celebrates it.



Homemade Chorizo

I’d heard great things about the homemade chistorra at Etxebarri, but sadly it wasn’t on the a la carte or tasting menu.  Instead, we opted to add the homemade chorizo as a supplement to the tasting menu.  The chorizo was decent, but by it wasn’t memorable.



Salt-Cured Anchovies on Grilled Bread

This being the first dish on the tasting menu, it was a nice introduction to what I’ll call “the Etxebarri flavor.”  I knew I was tasting something new in the bread, but it wasn’t until a couple dishes later that I finally understood what exactly that was.




Next was a grilled oyster with a citrus foam (if I recall correctly) and seaweed.  The oyster was very meaty and there was a subtle yet distinct crispness to the flavor.  This was the same flavor that piqued my interest in the grilled bread.



Palamos Prawns

Palamos prawns are regarded as some of the best prawns in the world.  Caught off the Costa Brava, their meat is intensely sweet and their head juices are briny yet clean and not muddled.  You can actually taste the ocean when you suck these heads which can’t be said for the majority of crustacean heads I’ve devoured.  However, I did find the heads of the prawns we had in Madrid noticeably brinier and tasting more of the sea.

That’s not to say I enjoyed the ones in Madrid better.  The ones at Etxebarri were taken to another level thanks to the Etxebarri flavor which was more pronounced in this dish compared to the previous two.  By being able to elevate an already pristine product to new heights by simply grilling it made me realize how special Etxebarri is.



The Etxebarri Flavor

That little something of flavor that I’d been thinking about for the past 2 dishes finally clicked in my brain and I felt pretty dumb for not realizing it sooner.  That flavor that had progressed from nuanced in the bread to assertive in the prawns was from the grill and the charcoals.  How could something so simple, so rudimentary, so primal provide such a complex flavor and aroma?

Smokey without the darkness.  Crisp and clean.  Light and refreshing.  These were the words that ran through my head when I made the connection between the new flavor I was experiencing.  When you think about something being grilled and having a smoky flavor, rarely are those mental flavors light, clean, and refreshing.  Another word, well acronym, that came to mind was YMCA.  For reasons I can’t explain, that magnificent Etxebarri flavor reminded me of how an over-chlorinated YMCA swimming pool smells like in the best way possible.  I think that thought was triggered because both things are clean.  Perhaps I’m totally wrong, but I was happy to have made some type of memory reference with the food even if it was unintentional.


Sea Cucumber

Out of all the dishes, none had more of that intense Etxebarri flavor from the grill and charcoals than the sea cucumber.  It wasn’t too surprising since the sea cucumber was essentially grilled directly on the coals.  The sea cucumbers are placed in a shallow wire basket such that the sides of the flesh are flush with the basket walls.  Then, the basket is placed directly onto the coals.

I’ve had sea cucumber before, but only at a Chinese seafood restaurant.  Typically it’s gelatinous, mushy, and fairly tasteless.  Etxebarri’s rendition was anything but.  The flesh was meaty and sweet, almost like a scallop.  Served over white beans and a vinaigrette, the dish as a whole may have been my favorite of the meal along with the prawns.

sea cucumber


Tomato with White Tuna

This was a very refreshing dish as the tomato was plump, juicy, and incredibly sweet.  The tuna was lightly grilled.  Simple ingredients prepared simply and when combined in a logical manner make for great eat.



Hake Kokotxas

The Basque people love their kokotxas.  We had disappointing faux kokotxas the night before at Akelarre, and in Madrid we had them pil-pil style.  Like most everything at Etxebarri, these kokotxas came simply grilled.  No fuss, no muss.  Fatty, gelatinous, and with that great Etxebarri flavor.  It was interesting to note that the English menu referred to kokotxas as “tongues.”



Red Sea Bream

The sea bream was brought to the table whole and portioned out tableside.  Thankfully they asked us if we wanted to keep the head and we of course said “si.”  The fish was very tender and moist and served with the same olive oil and parsley “sauce” that came with the kokotxas.  It also came with fried garlic and what I discovered to be hot peppers.



Beef Chop

Known as chuleta, this was Galician beef and supposed to be some of the best in Spain.  The huge chop was to be split amongst 3 out of the 4 of us as my mom opted not to eat it.  Sure, it finished with a pretty beefy flavor, but what beef doesn’t when you cook it rare?  I don’t mind rare, but this beef was so hard to chew.  My jaw eventually started to get tired and quickly lost interest as the flavor didn’t warrant the amount of chewing involved.  Perhaps the Basque people or Spaniards enjoy chewy beef?  This was a huge letdown as I’d heard so many great things about chuleta.  Even if I had zero expectations of it, it would still be a big disappointment.


The only saving grace of this dish was the amazing char on the outside of the beef and the excellent grilled vegetables that accompanied it.



Baby Squid with Ink

We had many iterations of chipirones in Spain and this one wasn’t much different.  Tender, sweet, and of course that Etxebarri flavor.  Since my mom opted out of the beef, she was served a single baby squid which everyone found pretty funny and ridiculous that a single baby squid would be served as her final protein.  We guessed this was done because the chuleta was probably a serving for 4 and the single baby squid was served as a courtesy.  Why they didn’t give us a beef portion for 3 and my mom more baby squid was confusing because we told them ahead of time that she would like to substitute something for the beef.  Not that big of a deal, though, as the total amount of food left us too full to go out for pintxos that night.



Reduced Milk Ice Cream

Despite the seemingly plain and simple menu listing, this ice cream was the bomb.  The milk used to make the ice cream is smoked, and you can definitely taste it in the ice cream.  It was like no ice cream I’d ever eaten.  Combined with the tart and sweet fruit sauce, this ice cream was very memorable.

smoked ice cream


Roasted Apple with Sheep’s Cheese Ice Cream

Not to be outdone by the smoked ice cream was the sheep’s cheese ice cream paired with a roasted apple infused with that Etxebarri flavor.  Delightfully tart, it reminded me of cream cheese ice cream that I’ve had before.   That tartness was well balanced by the sweet roasted apple.  This was yet another very memorable dish.



View from One of the Dinning Room Windows



View from the Parking Lot



Horses Across the Street



Cows Down the Road