If you ever have a bone to pick with someone, make sure it's a marrow bone. It was this sight of marrow bone towers that excited me most when I arrived at the home of Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin' for our latest Stomachs Eleven adventure.
Appetisers to start
The members of our merry dining crew have all been terribly spoilt by the generosity of Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin'. Our original aim was to rotate as hosts for roving dinner parties, but lately it's all been about Chez Pig. Pig Flyin cooks with such selfless generosity and unparalleled effort that we can never resist another invite. And it always beggars belief that Pig Flyin' is an entirely self-taught cook who works in IT.
Surprises in the kitchen
What's most impressive about a dinner with the Pig Flyin's is how organised they are: every dish has been pre-thought with multiple components ready and prepped. Dinner service operates like a well-oiled machine, and by the time we finish one course, there's only a ten-minute wait until the next one. We all take turns to wander in to help, and there's never a sense of panic - just relaxed joviality that puts everyone at ease.
Ortiz anchovies on toast with homemade onion jam
A platter of Ortiz anchovies on toast make for the perfect canape for arriving guests to nibble on. Pig Flyin' had picked up a tin of these premium hand-filleted sardines at the recent Simon Johnson sale, and the flesh and tasty of these was superb - delicately firm and gently salted. Pig Flyin' served these with his homemade onion jam, adding sweetness.
Ortiz Filetto di acciughe del Cantabrico in Olio di Oliva
Slices of homemade brioche stuffed with foie gras torchon were an impressive sight. Inspired by this dish from Next restaurant by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, Pig Flyin' had spent several days and attempts trying to recreate this dish. To stuff the brioche, they used small pieces of wooden dowel to make a hole inside the bread. Mrs Pig Flyin' laughed as she described their trip to Bunnings where they had to work out the best-sized dowel to buy, and how they convinced staff to cut each piece into shorter lengths.
The foie gras was whipped and then transferred to a piping bag to pipe into the hollowed-out brioche. A 'fascinator' of mustard fruits provided the ideal complement to this rich mouthful.
Foie gras with apple two ways and foie gras 'snow'
Foie gras snow is what you get when a block of frozen foie gras and a grater meet. It was a late-minute inspired idea by Pig Flyin' when he realised he had forgotten to defrost the foie gras, but it works brilliantly, melting on the tongue like the fluffiest snowflake.
Beneath the foie gras snow we found cubes of buttery foie gras and two styles of apple: tiny apple cubes and wobbly apple jelly. I am not lying when I said people were fighting to lick the serving plate clean. I was one of them.
Roasted bone marrow with smoked salt and parsley salad
I've always loved bone marrow - is that not the sole reason to eat osso bucco so you can score the marrow prize? Roasted bone marrow has always been on the menu at the famed St John by Fergus Henderson but Pig Flyin' assures me you don't have to travel to London to savour this dish.
To roast bone marrows, Pig Flyin' suggests you clean the bones as much as you can and then soak them in cold water in the fridge for a night to leech out any blood. Bake in a 180C-200C for about 25 minutes or until the marrow starts to pull away from the bone.
There are few things that will make you as giddy with joy as digging into a marrow bone and savouring the rich and fatty pleasures within.
Homemade mini brioche loaves with store-bought sourdough served with smoked butter
Spaghetti with mullet bottarga and a slow-cooked 65C egg
Bottarga is the word for cured fish roe and is sometimes known as the poor man's caviar. The entire roe pouch is dried and cured in sea salt for several weeks.
Grating the mullet bottarga over the spaghetti; whole smoked mullet roe bottarga
I was fascinated as I watched Pig Flyin' grate smoked mullet roe bottarga over freshly cooked spaghetti.
Spaghetti with mullet bottarga and a slow-cooked 65C egg
Spaghetti with mullet bottarga was simple yet elegant, a tangled nest of spaghetti drizzled generously with extra virgin olive oil and crumbs of mullet bottarga. The bottarga has a smoky saltiness, the hard little crumbs reminding me of salted duck yolks but fishy. On top is a slow-cooked 65C egg, and we break through the soft egg white to find a sticky runny yolk that coats the pasta deliciously.
Chestnut soup with confit duck and whipped smoked cream
Winter is the time for chestnuts but noone talks about how hard they are to peel. Chestnuts would feature in two of our dishes tonight and Mrs Pig Flyin' confesses she spent six hours over two days peeling chestnuts in front of the television!
The chestnut soup is glossy and silky and incredibly fragrant. An island of whipped smoked cream provides a touch of luxury, and at the bottom of our cups we find shreds of rich confit duck.
Salad course with home-grown leaves from the garden
A salad course on its own seems a little unusual to Australian palates, but this is very common on French menus. We welcome the chance to clean our palates, especially when we realise most of the salad greens -- curly watercress, rocket, fennel fronds and radicchio -- have come straight from the backyard garden.
Pig's trotters Pierre Koffmann with king oyster mushrooms and confit chestnut
It's about this point we are starting to feel our bellies distend and yet still the onslaught of incredible dishes continues. The Pig's trotters Pierre Koffman is a signature dish by Pierre Koffman that was adapted and made famous by Marco Pierre White at Harvey's in 1980s. This dish is a test of patience and endurance, involving braised trotters that are deboned and then stuffed with sweetbreads, morels and chicken mousse.
To say this dish was amazing would be a gross understatement. If you want to see how the process on how this is made, you can watch Marco Pierre White cooking this dish for Raymond Blanc here (fast foward to the six minute mark and continue with part two). You can also check out the step-by-step attempt by food blogger, Trotters and Tales.
Three shades of white: braised fennel, baby turnip and baby leeks
Our vegetables were a tribute to winter, with three shades of white provided by braised fennel, baby turips and baby leeks. These were all cooked sous vide, a process that Pig Flyin' says is ideal for speed and efficiency.
Poussins en demi-deuil en-croute - truffled hens cooked in crust
Oh yes, it didn't stop there. Mains were an alternate drop, and while half the table received the pig's trotter, the other half was gifted with a truffled hen parcel.
Spatchcock stuffed with WA truffles
Inside the dough crust was a spatchcock stuffed with West Australian truffles. The crust, Pig Flyin' explained, helps to keep in the truffle aroma, and creates a juicier cooked bird. The only difficulty they encountered was trying to the keep the truffles in one piece as they were pushed down beneath the skin.
Truffle-stuffed spatchcock with mashed potato and baby turnips
The spatchcock was succulent, moist and deliriously decadent with truffle. We even nibbled on the dough crust and found it to be tasty too.
Apple tarte tatin
Dessert was apple tarte tatin, cooked ahead of time and waiting patiently on the side counter. Caramelised apples and flaky pastry are a match made in heaven.
Canelés homemade by Mr Egg
A plate of canelés were handed around and I admit I didn't believe it at first when I told they were made by Mr Egg. Canelés are one of my favourite treats, custardy baked pastries with a dark and chewy caramelised crust. The mixture is made from milk, flour, sugar, rum and vanilla.
These were better than any I've had before, with a thick sweet crust that demanded to be slowly savoured.
Beetroot pate de fruit
Beetroot pate de fruit were made on a whimsy by Pig Flyin' (as you do) when he picked up a heap of beetroot on special. The beetroots were juiced, combined with pectin and then poured into molds until set. The jellies were dipped in sugar just before serving, and the beetroot flavour in these came out remarkably well, a compelling mix of earthiness with sweetness.
Fourme d'Ambert blue cheese with charred fresh dates, vanilla-poached tamarillo,
green apple straws, mustard fruits, nasturtium leaves and rosemary flowers
We finish with two cheese boards, each presented with the artistic flair of a hatted Sydney restaurant. Fourme d'Ambert is a striking blue cheese, one of France's oldest that is said to have originated in Roman times. The piquancy of the blue marries brilliantly with fresh dates, charred with a blow torch so it is caramelised and smoky.
Whipped Saint Angel triple cream brie with Italian artisan crackers,
green apple straws, mustard fruits, brioche crumbs and nasturtium flowers
I'm also enamoured by the Saint Angel triple cream brie, whipped until light and fluffy. We take our time to enjoy the brie on crunchy shards of artisan crackers, sweetened with green apple straws and nuggets of chopped mustard fruits.
Thank you Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin'. My stomach salutes you.
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas Dinner 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
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7/25/2011 02:52:00 a.m.