Bread and Bookends

20190216_093340I read somewhere that people with established routines are very successful.  I guess that depends on the routine.  The day consists of a crazy middle sandwiched between a routine beginning and routine ending.  Regardless of what happens during the middle, the mornings and evenings are the same every day.  They are the bookends of my daily life.

Flour, water and the mother go into a huge bowl.  They are mixed, then we wait.  Salt is added.  Then we wait.  Five times the dough is folded, five times we wait.  Three hours later the dough rests in the fridge, and I finally get to sleep.  It takes around eight to twelve hours to make bread.  Well, good bread at least.  I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life making bread of some sort, but my masters degree in food didn’t really start until about five years ago.  In particular my education in bread.  I’m still learning.

In the morning the oven deck is heated, dough is divided and shaped.  Then I have just enough time to make a cappucino and sit for a minute before the crazy middle starts.  I think if I did not have these bookends in my life I would be insane.  I love bread in all it’s iterations, but the sourdough is probably my favorite.  They say it’s the ‘Staff of Life’.  I don’t know about the keys to success, or staves of life, but my routine with sourdough keeps me from being whisked away in the crazy middle.20190216_134227

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Introduction

Hey guys, you may have found yourself here because of the companion site ‘Fox Talks’.  ‘Fox Talks’ is more of a narrative about the history of the dishes we do at Fox and Fork, in the booming metropolis of Clarksville Arkansas!  Make no mistake, the town is going viral!

In any case, here is where you will find recipes, and advice on making some of the things we have at Fox and Fork.  A lot of restaurants needlessly guard their ‘recipes’ or ‘techniques’.  But I believe in order to preserve a robust and vibrant food culture these things must be shared.  Most importantly, the things we do at the Fox are very ‘from scratch’.  We don’t use pre-measured, pre-weighed, pre-cut anything.  With the exception of fish, for which there is no advantage in this region.

I hope you find this site helpful and advantageous.  Eventually I hope to include a ‘You-Tube’ channel to serve as a companion site to this one which will take you step-by-step through the process.

Food, like anything is a repetitive thing.  You get better by practice, so do these at home, and often.  Soon you will be the ‘Grandma’ or ‘Pops’ of the family.  Nothing says ‘HOME’ like a well-prepared meal.

Farmers Market Bubble Showing Cracks

Things move slowly here in the landlocked states.  Rural areas with much lower populations than our coastal counterparts don’t always benefit from new ideas, technology and introductions to new foods.

This phenomenon is what makes Austin so interesting.  Somewhat landlocked, nothing says Austin should be an epicenter of ideas, or food culture, but it is.  I think it is, simply because the people WANT it to be.  So change is familiar, and to the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ folks, fun.

Even still, the question Austin’s ‘The Statesmen’ asks in it’s article ‘Are There Too Many Farmers Markets’, is “Are customers in the middle of Austin saturated with options?”

I definitely hope this isn’t the case, but entrepreneurial trends do tend to flatten and shrink with time as margins grow tighter and competition grows stronger.  Here in the River Valley, I think we are still UNDER-marketed for two reasons.

  1.  Not enough options:  I don’t believe there are near enough ‘craftsmen’ doing business in the farmers markets.
  2. Not enough converts:  I also don’t believe there are near enough people who understand the importance of ‘made from scratch’, in this area.  While there are some who think, ‘Wow! a three pound loaf of sourdough for $10’ is a fantastic deal, there are still others who shake their heads and walk away, not realizing it takes 6-12 hours to turn a few dollars of ingredients into something amazing.

My opinion is, ‘There’s still plenty of room for growth in the River Valley’, and this makes me happy.

My opion

Book Review: Cheers to the Publican

Before we get into the gritty part of the review, (you don’t really need it) I am saying this is one of the most comprehensive books I have seen. So many amazing texts on the subject of food, it is ridiculous a new tome would cross my path and impress me so much as much. So let’s get to it.

CONSTRUCTION:
1. Cover: excellent and rugged. At first I thought I had received a used item, but the cover only LOOKS splotched and stained. This is a brilliant move and shows how even the cover connects to a pub-like restaurant. The cover art is bold and subdued at the same time featuring the blood pasta. Cover is solid and will withstand many hours on my commercial kitchen counters, as it will most likely be spending a majority of it’s life.
2. Binding is a strong stitch and glue. Stitching is important to me, and it is apparent the authors actually expect the book to be used regularly.
3. Pages are heavy with nice smooth feel, and are not so ‘white’ to blind you when reading. As I age I find this is an important thing.
4. Text is crisp and easily read, along with bold type, where bold type is important. Excellent use of italics as well bringing attention to important factors of each formulae (recipe). Notes in the margins are nice addition.
5. Page numeration are easy to follow, only being absent when full page color plates are used.
6. Photos are great, full page color plates are beautiful and makes you want to dive into the food and/or setting, giving the reader a ‘I wish I was there right now!’ feel. I love the real-life shots of the artists at work and the feel of inclusiveness.

CONTENT:
First of all, let me just say that it drives me crazy the people who post poor book reviews that give really great books low reviews based on the availability of ingredients for their area. I’m not saying it isn’t annoying to not have the items available, but I also know that there are work arounds to these things. ‘Cheers’ is not pretentious at all about their ingredients. If you can’t get piment d’Espelette in your area, suck it up and throw in the best smoked paprika you can find. It’s not hard. I do wish they had helped me to understand what ‘AOC’ was, (appellation d’origine contrôlée) but a quick Google search fixed that.

Introduction: was awesome! Loved the narrative. Anytime you can put ‘Trappist cheese’, ‘peasants’, and ‘Night Ranger’ together on a page is just plain smart. Well done Mr. Kahan. The homage to the ‘partners’ was a nice touch on page 7.
Pantry: Really well written, simple and to the point.
To The Mighty Vegetable: This is a surprisingly long section and smelled of Ottolenghi. I am anxious to try the Barbecue Carrots, and an upgraded version of Elotes. The spiced honey looks particularly interesting as well.
The Seafood section is expansive and delicious looking. I admit I thumbed through these glancing here and there and look forward to adapting to our landlocked location, but it’s just not my ‘go-to’, from a restaurant perspective. Don’t be mistaken however, tons of ideas on Chicory, croutons, mayo, and sunchokes. Don’t skip it simply because of a lack of access to the fresh good sea stuff.
Now to the one reason I pre-ordered the book. ‘Swine, Bovine, and Particularly Fowl’. With emphasis on the fowl. I have heard stupendous things about the Publican Chicken, and I have dreamt of having a ‘whole bird’ on the menu. This easy to perform recipe is welcome in ANY pub, restaurant, or home kitchen in the world! It can be a bit tricky learning how to debone a whole bird, but not impossible. This recipe is absolutely brilliant and I have executed it several times now.

Surprise #1: Yes, I was surprised to see a section on Charcuterie. Even more surprised that the narrative is humble in the fact that these brilliant masterminds arn’t afraid to talk about their failures as much as their successes. This section reminds me so much of another great book ‘Olympia Provisions’ that I almost forgot I was reading ‘Cheers’. With enough of a narrative to embolden the home chef with the knowledge of how to tackle this art safely.
Surprise #2: A complete section on offal, scraps and bits. Excellent! Even one of my favorite things, ‘fish collar’, which in my humble opinion is one of the most flavorful parts of the fish, and most don’t even know about it. Homemade butter cheese is enticing at the very least.
Surprise #3: I love baking, particularly hearth style breads. I was completely shocked to see that there is an entire section of bread. Not just any bread, but real, honest to goodness sourdough. The real McCoy. Even employs Chad Robertsons technique (not sure who invented it, just stating where I had read it first of baking off in cast-iron pots) for airy, open-crumb hearth bread. A nice addition on cultured butter in this section too.
A parting shot for publican waffle with honey butter rounds out the book with the important ‘Sources’ section, Acknowledgments (yes I read them) a nice expansive appendix and a little more about the authors. The epistemology here is important and suddenly the reader goes, ‘OOOHHH, of course ‘Gramercy’.

So, yes, long review. If you are still on the fence about buying this, I totally understand, no book can be that good….could it? My answer is yes, if for no other reason than to pull off the Publican Chicken, and dream about all the others.

Summer – Fall Transitions

Seasonal transitions tend to be a bit painful in the restaurant business particularly, especially in small towns.  Late summer mini-vacations, first week of school, labor day, all vie for the last few minutes and the last few dollars (especially those of us with large households of extended family).  The annual phenomena keeps the restaurant empty.  For a ‘cash-flow’ business.  No flow, no go.

For the Fox and Fork menu, challenging. We vary our menu from season to season in keeping the palates of Clarksville entertained.  So we are shifting to fall-like flavors.  Charcuterie is at the top of that list.  Tough meats marinated in an array of French and Spanish flavors.  Cooked slowly, then shredded and chilled with a little fat-cap on top.  The perfect companion to crusty home-made sourdough.

Soups are slowly coming back online, and we have exciting plans.  Standard, piquant tomato bacon bisque headlines the attraction.  We are working on a rustic, smokey black-eyed pea soup as well.

We can’t talk about soups and Charcuterie without also talking about the bread.  At Fox and Fork the bread is EXTREMELY important if not tantamount to our existence.  So we are doing a lot of experimenting.  Fresh out of the oven we have a Coffee Porter Sourdough that is pairing extremely well with the Tomato-Bacon Bisque.  Served as a Cheddar Grill Cheese it’s toasty, rich, and delicious.  Part of what makes this grill cheese is the cheese.  Only Tillamook extra-sharp will do.  A little tip about grill cheese, add salt.  Not a lot, just a little sprinkle of course kosher before you close it up and get it all melt-y.

Special thanks to local Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co. for being artisan-masters of the beer process and the Coffee Porter used in the making of this recent loaf.  Keep up the great work and enduring the transitions.