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Home-Cured and Hand-Whipped: A Response to Not Being in Two Places at Once

December 19, 2011

Life is full of ups and downs (as we confirmed via cattle in an earlier post). Sometimes we are exhausted. Our work, our million splintered responsibilities, our failures, weigh us down. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with joy in the simple moments in our lives. Sometimes we come to our senses and delight in what is before us. Sometimes our desires to be elsewhere pull deep inside of us. (And of course, most times we are all of these, and more–ahh, that blasted human condition!). I can personally speak to the desire to be two places at once, as this past weekend was a Christmas Party in New York City that Jason and I were unable to attend because we had 48 calves to vaccinate and care for. Our inability to attend was a great point of contention between the farmer and I, because the Christmas party, you see, was no ordinary party. No red and green things popping out of every corner of the house. This was a food-lover’s celebration among close friends, where deep, purposeful conversations about the meaning of life are coupled with artisan eating (does it get better than this?). A group of friends, connected through the theological pursuits of the Academy for Christian Thought, were getting together in a well-outfitted, open kitchen to cook all afternoon together and feast all night. I hear there were lingerings of duck, lobster, porchetta, 10 tapas dishes, and more (if you were there, don’t email me with the tantalizing details of what we missed, or I shall be tempted to email you laboriously detailed notes about each one of our little calves…). However, in spite of my momentary melt-down at missing such belly/brain sustenance, I began to delight again in the small things already before us, including the joys of learning to move cattle into small spaces, and the joys of, of course, food. I made the effort in the kitchen to celebrate life no matter what we were missing out on. And this celebration took shape in the following:

1. Home-Cured Salmon

2. Hand-Whipped Mayo

Let me elaborate.

Home-Cured Salmon: We all do it–we share different parts of ourselves with different people. I probably share the food-side of myself with most everyone, as it’s pretty vast. But I especially share it with Ashley Byrd. Ash and his wife Carly, and Jason and I lived together in NYC for years, in the same building for four years, and in the same apartment for almost two. We shared immense amounts of life together (including shampoo, shopping trips, marital woes, freezer space–always occupied by Ashley’s umpteen haagen daz flavors, and friends). But I would not hesitate to say that what often knit us together with the most joy was food. It bound us to the table, the kitchen, and the night-out. It motivated us to invite hoards of friends over for feasts, and to experiment and push ourselves in cooking endeavors. It served as peace offerings and as unspoken sympathy in times of loss. Today, despite the distance, we still share food with the Byrds.

A normal phone call between Ash and I is often about prices in the grocery store, restaurants, or new-fangled approaches to cooking. It can consist of “Hey, Harrigan, I’m at the butcher, and he’s got this leg of lamb. I was thinking of braising…what do you think about…” Or “Hey Ash, how do I cut this tuna for sushi correctly?” (For my birthday, Ash did orchestrate a mass-group gift of an incredible Japanese knife; for a laugh, watch Carly’s hilarious virtual card here). Well, a few weeks ago, I received one of the best gastronomic calls yet. “Harrigan, you need to make your own lox! It’s so easy!” WHAT? I ponder what Ash has just said. Well, I had for a long time wanted to learn to smoke meat on the farm when we moved home, but… “Really? Easy?” My mouth begins to salivate, as images of the Russ and Daughters fish counter flash in my mind, where one can sample smoked and cured salmon from around the globe. “Yeah!” I can hear his huge smile, from ear-to-ear, at the prospect of having lox at home every day. “Just cure it in salt and sugar for 24 hours!” “But that’s not smoked, Ash!” And before the words came out of his mouth, I already knew what he was going to say…”Liquid smoke.” (Ash was basically a mascot for the stuff, sneaking it into anything he could for a while, sometimes to great success). Needless to say, Ash was right! It is easy! (My greater question is what took us so long to figure this out?)

Hand-Whipped Mayonnaise: This is really an outpouring of a valiant effort this summer to vary the use of our daily fresh eggs, motivated as well by an insatiable desire for mayo smothering our then-fresh tomatoes coupled with a staunch opposition to the globby white stuff they sell in stores. The double joy here is that like home-cured lox, we can all make it at home with a few minutes of effort and elbow grease! If you’ve seen the movie Julie & Julia, you might remember when Julia sends her *top secret* mayo research to Avis to try out. Julia had “discovered” in her research a way to make the stuff that even Americans could get right, and she wasn’t about to have some Good Housekeeping magazine steal her thunder before the book was out in print. Well, much like her pie crust recipe being the model of many contemporary renditions (including Mark Bittman’s), so too is her mayo recipe the foundation of many an American cook. My humble addition? Truffle oil. The stuff is liquid gold! (I might admit to once having incredible truffle oil atop a poached egg nestled into pillowy Italian toast smothered in bottarga at Inoteca in New York, and secretly enjoying the truffle-burps that followed the rest of the day…but then again, I might not admit to that…)

So, in the spirit of celebrating life through food, I share with you the simple recipes for home-curing and hand-whipping! As MFK Fischer reminds us again and again, we all must eat, right? Why not do it with vigor and excitement and tiny joys that burst into flavors brought to life by our own hands? For more details about trouble-shooting the making of your own mayo (which can easily become a part of your pantry in a way that you’ll never regret), I recommend consulting this Bon Appetit blog article. Also, click on the recipe below to make it larger. Happy culinary creations!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2011 12:04 pm

    HARRIGAN! What a beautiful post! The composition is soooo pleasing to my eye. And my Scandinavian tummy is churning 🙂

  2. Sam permalink
    December 24, 2011 10:28 am


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