You know those times when someone is deliberately trying to insult you and it is actually a compliment that they just do not understand?
I cook the way I do with quite a bit of thought, probably way too much. Considering ingredients, cooking styles, flavor profiles, etc is just something I have trained myself to do. For instance, there are things that can be cooked fast but for myself, slow is usually the way I go.
I remember being told that I was thinking and acting too much like a a Food Network Chef and not like a bar kitchen cook. It was a compliment but not in a self aggrandizing way. It meant to me that it was the food that was the thing and not me. This is of course backwards from what he was implying for me but it partly comes from the chefs that actually mean something to me.
One of the things I have been doing for quite some time is the saving and reusing of the cooking liquid from almost anything braised. When I was cooking whole pork bellies for instance, I always saved the pan juices to use for the next braise. The way it works in my mind, if the liquid is made from the combination of spices, juices released from the meat during the braise, and the little liquid used to start the cook then why toss all of that flavor out. Sometimes it is only a small amount but the flavor is wonderfully concentrated.
When I make empanadas, I save the sauce that I cook the meat in to use as a dipping sauce for the finished little meat pies. It reinforces the taste inside the flaky crust. Once again, why let that flavor just go away. Sometimes I use the saved liquid to reinforce the flavor of something entirely different than the original dish. This is why I talk about my cooking not being consistent. If I use something for flavoring that I cannot readily reproduce then the dish will be a one off. I do not have a problem with that but in the commercial kitchen it is a difficult thing to sell.
I saw Chef Enrique Olvera on a documentary series called Chef’s Table on Netflix. His establishment Pujol http://pujol.com.mx/ in Mexico City was ranked within the top 15 restaurants in the world at the time. What interested me in this case was his experiment with mole. Mole is a rich Mexican sauce that often has 15-20 elements in it. There are many varieties but they share a long list of ingredients and an extended time to make.
Chef Olvera talked about the typical mole preparation being made each day with the next day’s service in mind. Any sauce left over was destined for disposal in the name of consistency. He decided to make an experiment where he used today’s remaining mole as a base for the next days batch. At the time of the show taping, the batch was over 800 days old and a check on the web produced a video from January 2018 where Chef Bremont showed the mole at 1452 days or almost 4 years old. They serve it as an appetizer contrasted on one plate with a freshly made mole of today. It is called Mole madre/Mole nuevo or Mother mole/New mole.
I applaud Chef Olvera in his quest for a unique flavor even if it changes daily. Reading current reviews show that it is not something everyone likes. I’m OK with that, sometimes you have to see how far you can go with an idea.
I could find no reference to the age of the Mole madre more recent than 2018 although the Pujol website shows it on the current menu with reservations being accepted. I hope it has survived Covid-19 and continues to gracefully age.
Just a few personal thoughts on food. I do this quite a lot and there will be more posts like this one.