Have I ever told you about the time I cooked for Santa? Long, long ago I was visiting family back in Alaska for Christmas. My cousins and I were in the middle of an intense game of 'Caribou Eyes' when we heard a crash louder than a hundred thousand ladies screaming at a Nickelback concert.
We made our way through the thick Alaskan brush and could tell we were getting closer, for the air became thick with the unmistakable scent of booze. As it turned out, Santa and Mrs. Claus had been going through a rough patch that particular season, and Santa had hit the hot buttered rums pretty hard before he and the reindeer set off on their mission. They'd barely even made it out of the North Pole before the sleigh came tumbling back down to earth. Upon our discovery as we finally came to the clearing, a singular name we all exclaimed: "Santa!" A shout came from above: "Bears!" We looked up and found the poor guy holding onto the branch of a Douglas Fir for dear life. It took a little coaxing, but once we had him down and back at camp, it became painfully clear the old man needed a little TLC.
"Bear," he began, "my little mishap has set me back hours, and I'm afraid I've lost the pep in my step to make up the time. But I've heard about you. Word has spread across the globe that your magic in the kitchen can revive and rejuvenate. Can you help me, Bear?" Luckily I had the fixings for a carrot bisque, and my cousin Herb donated some pork belly from his swine farm to complete the dish. We fed Santa and his reindeer, warmed and sobered him up, and helped fill his sleigh with the necessary Christmas spirit. I named the dish 'Bisquey A Go Go,' in honor of getting Santa back on the move and saving Christmas. And that's the story of how this little number came to be.
You can find it on the current menu at Cow by Bear San Diego or make it on your own with the recipe below.
BISQUEY A GO GO
for carrot bisque
1/2 lb butter
2 onions, chopped
3 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 bottle dry white wine (or try Mead)
6 c chicken stock (richer the better)
2 c heavy cream
splash cider vinegar
salt, pepper, nutmeg
for braised pork belly
1 large carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 c high-quality cider
small splash vinegar, plus extra to season
4 1/4 c chicken stock
2.5lbs unscored boneless pork belly
2tbsp sunflower oil
for caraway cream
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp caraway seeds
salt and pepper
For the carrot bisque:
1. In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, add butter, onions and garlic. Stir often until onions are limp. Add wine (or mead). Reduce by half then add stock, carrots and season with a hefty amount of salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced.
2. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Do not fill the blender more than half way (blend in batches if necessary). Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender (use a kitchen towel to hold lid down). Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth. Return to the pan and add cream and stir over high heat until hot. Add the splash of cider vinegar and season to taste.
For the braised pork belly:
1. Day 1: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place all the pork belly ingredients except the pork and sunflower oil in a flameproof pan that will fit the pork snugly - a casserole dish is idea. Season, bring everything to a boil on the stove then turn down the heat to low and slide the pork into the pan. The pork should be totally submerged. Top with water if needed. Cover the dish with a lid or tight tent of foil and place in the oven for 3hrs. undisturbed.
2. When the pork is cooked, leave it to cool slightly in the stock. Line a flat baking tray with cling film. Carefully lift the pork into the tray and make sure you get rid of any bits of vegetables or herbs as they will end up pressed into the pork. Cover the pork with another sheet of cling film and cover with a flat tray or dish (the tray must be completely flat as any indentations will be pressed into the pork). Weigh the pork down with another dish or some cans and leave to cool in the fridge overnight. Strain the juices into a jug or small saucepan, cover and chill.
3. Day 2: Unwrap the pork and place on a board. Trim the uneven edges so that you have a neat sheet of meat. Cut the meat into equal pieces and set aside until ready to cook. Life off any bits of fat from the braising juices and tip what will now be jelly into a saucepan, then bubble down by about two-thirds until starting to become slightly syrupy. Add a few drops of vinegar, to taste.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until hot, then turn the heat down. Add the pork to the pan, skin-side down. Be careful as it has a tendency to spit. Sizzle the pork as you would bacon for five minutes until the skin is crisp. Flip it over and cook for 3-4 minutes until browned.
For the caraway cream:
1. In a saucepan, toast caraway seeds until fragrant. Add heavy cream and gently bring to a simmer, season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely in the refrigerator 2 hours or overnight, whip and dollop on just before serving.
To Assemble: Serve the carrot bisque in a bowl and top with the pork belly then a dollop of caraway cream. Delicious extra garnishes are: pumpernickel bread crumbs, micro sorrel, dill, pickled onions and diced apple.
Thanks so much for following along on the 'Bear's Necessities' newsletter! I hope you get as much out of reading it as I do writing. This is the place to get priority access on all of our announcements. I'm happy to say we will be hosting a special New Years Eve dinner in both San Diego and Seattle locations this December 31! As usual, each dinner is reserved for just 14 guests and will begin at 8pm. Price is $250/person. The dinner portion of the evening will wrap around 11pm, and we'd love you to stick around and celebrate the new year with us until 1am! Dinner is five(+) courses with paired fine wine and will include champagne at midnight and a few other surprises along the way. Tickets can be purchased here for San Diego and here for Seattle. Act fast as I expect this to sell out quickly!
I'm excited to have launched our website redesign this morning, which includes our new and improved shop! To celebrate and get into the Christmas spirit, everything in the shop (including Gift Certificates) is 15% off from now until end of day December 15. Just enter the code BEARDOWN at checkout!
Speaking of pricing, we need to make a small adjustment in cost for the dinner experience in San Diego by raising the ticket price to $195. Here's why: several months ago I made a change that resulted in both service fee and tax being inclusive in the ticket price, whereas before they were an additional charge. This has made it a cleaner process for guests, as it's just one flat fee and takes away some of the confusion that was present before. I decided not to increase the price at the time, but with this additional cost we are absorbing as well as rising costs from suppliers, it's necessary I make this adjustment in order to keep the dinners going. The price will remain $175 until January 1 and then increase that day. Seattle cost per ticket remains $195 and I intend to keep both locations at that price for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your understanding on this, and please reach out to me at email@example.com with any questions!