Seven Courses of Profanity
Lessons on cuisine from Chicago’s chic anarcho-nihilist supper club
Our Chicago apartment has recently become the venue for a recurring dinner party – the Anarchist Gentle Person’s Supper Club. Discontent service workers, state-hating lawyers, filthy queers, and communard chefs1 frequent our suppers. The suppers are currently fundraisers for anarchist legal funds, tending to favor purveyors of illegalist and nihilist thought. We set a fixed price for each dinner based on what will cover our expenses and how much money the legal fund needs.
Our cuisine is not unlike our fashion. What’s in season? What’s easy to find for free? We find oxalis, or wood sorrel, in our backyards. This herb makes a wonderful, slightly tart, ice cream. We hear that the factory down the street has apple trees so we head over with empty bags. A coworker gives us a flat of cherry tomatoes. We slice them and dehydrate them, knowing that we will need them two months from now, when the vines have dried. Should a dish be missing that final component, we pool our dwindling food stamps and head to the markets.
Our interest in cooking and dining is something we share with one another, but something we haven’t always been able to share with fellow anarchists. We profane high cuisine by trying to understand where the cooking techniques and recipes come from. Duck confit, for example, is found on countless Michelin star menus. But at its core it is a dish created by peasants who wanted to preserve duck meat through the winter. We served duck confit at our first dinner, and shared the history and technique of this dish with our friends. This is at the heart of the Anarchist Gentle Person’s Supper Club – the decadence of good food and wine, fused with experiments in communization; you know, not giving a fuck about property and sharing all that wealth.
“Even what is closest to us can seem exotic and mysterious, merely on account of our ignorance: even though we are surrounded by a specific environment, we’ve never really lived in close contact with it.”
— Andoni, chef at Mugaritz
When we get together to discuss the menu, we ask some questions. What is available? What is best this season? What have we already preserved? What can we acquire? This process inspires, and the elements in each of the dishes represent our environment perfectly. We put the sorrel ice cream on one of our menus. We might sooner buy lemon ice cream from the grocery store than explore the flavors of our immediate surroundings. The tartness of sorrel resembles lemons, yet unlike lemons, sorrel surrounds us, growing even in the grass we walk on. Because the growing seasons shift drastically in Chicago, our menus are never fully ready until a day or two before the dinner.
Our menu relates to the theme of each event. Guests are encouraged to discuss, debate, and – most importantly – dine on the ideas. Our last dinner explored the dialectic of modern American and ancient Mediterranean cuisine. We sent invitations out to our friends, inviting them to:
“Please join us for an enchanted evening where blasphemy will swim by night. A partisan consideration of witchcraft, the profane, heresy, the end of history, desire, commune, and friendship will be pursued by means of a seven course tasting menu, hors d’oeuvres, spirits, poetry, and other performative elements.”
The menu highlighted modernist techniques paired with sea-based proteins, and southern Mediterranean flavors. Special menus were created for those with vegan diets. The ingredients we use aren’t all local, and when they aren’t, we still are interested in whether they are seasonal to the bioregion from whence they came.
Remarkably, we’ve been able to raise money for those we’re supporting, while also covering our expenses. We are currently working on a winter dinner that will feature tomatoes in a variety of preserved forms that we have working on since the end of summer.
Dry-cured Finocchiona salami made from venison and pork fatback
Salami can be found in many grocery stores. We really like Olli Salumeria out of Virginia – they use a slow-cure method and have been making salami since the early 1900s.
We made the fennel pollen salami we served at this supper after turning an old fridge into a dry-cure chamber. We acquired a temperature and humidity regulator and connected it to the fridge and the humidifier. We programmed the temperature at 65 degrees, and the humidity at 80 percent and hung our salami to cure for almost a month. The venison we used was from a deer that died at one of our friend’s farms. We offered up our backyard and kitchen for the butchering process. After eight hours, we had processed the deer and had venison to eat and share with others for many months to come. Below is the recipe and methods we followed as closely as we could, which were from the website of Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook.
- 4 pounds venison
- 1 pound pork fat
- 38 grams (about 3 tablespoons) kosher salt
- 15 grams (a scant 2 tablespoons) sugar or dextrose
- 6 grams (about a teaspoon) curing salts #1
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons fennel pollen
- 20 grams (about 2 tablespoons) starter culture (we use plain yogurt)
- Chill the meat and fat in the freezer for at least 1 hour. You want it close to frozen.
- Chop the meat and fat into 1-inch chunks. Remove as much silverskin and gristle as you can from the venison. Put the casings you’re using into some warm water and set aside.
- Mix all the spices, salt, curing salt and sugar with the meat and fat. Chill for 1 hour in the fridge.
- Grind through the fine die on your grinder. Then run warm water through your casings. This flushes them, and will show you any leaks in the casings. Set them aside when you’re done.
- Take the temperature of the meat: If it is warmer than 40 degrees, put it back in the fridge for 30 minutes and check again. Take out the meat and add the starter culture, then mix everything for 60–90 seconds. You are looking for a good bind, where the meat is beginning to stick to itself.
- Put the meat into your sausage stuffer and stuff it into the hog casings. Twist off into links of about 8 inches. Tie off each link with kitchen twine. Hang the links on a drying rack – a wooden clothes drying rack is excellent for this – and find a needle. Heat the tip of the needle over a flame until it glows; this sterilizes it. Prick the casing anywhere you see air pockets.
- Now you need to ferment the sausage. You will want to tent the hanging sausages with black plastic from some garbage bags, or some other plastic sheeting. If you have one, put a humidifier under the sausages. You really want them to stay moist. Let the sausages hang for at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours. Every 6–12 hours, spritz them with a spray mister to keep them moist. This is the fermentation stage, the stage where the starter culture you are using defeats any bad bacteria in the sausage.
- Now you need to hang them in your drying chamber at about 80 percent humidity for at least 2 weeks before eating. You can let them go as long as 6 weeks. Store in the fridge, or vacuum sealed in the freezer.
Sunchoke Chips with Balsamic-Tomato Sauce and Chive Aioli
Finely slice and pan-fry the sunchokes in canola oil (we used expeller-pressed canola oil). Immediately upon removing them from the pan, toss them with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic, onion, celery seed, thyme, mustard, cayenne, and allspice.
The balsamic-tomato sauce can be very free-form, incorporating cayenne, aged-balsamic, allspice, and cloves into a prepared ketchup to taste.
The chive aioli is made by blending one package of chives on low speed with an egg and a couple cloves of garlic, then slowly incorporating 1/2 cup of olive oil with increasing speed. Season with salt, white pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
Main: The Leviathan
- 1 medium octopus
- fresh rosemary
- roasted garlic
- pasilla peppers
- Massage the octopus for 1 hour to tenderize.
- Vacuum seal the octopus with a fresh sprig of rosemary, roasted garlic, and pasilla peppers, then cook in a pot at a steady temperature of 170ºF for 5 hours. This is known as sous-vide – a method of cooking food by sealing it in airtight plastic bags and cooking it at a steady temperature in a water bath. This cooks the food evenly and ensures that the meat will be perfectly cooked and tender on the inside, without being overcooked on the outside. Sous-vide machines are expensive, but we have had success by temping water on the stove and putting it inside a small cooler, which will keep the temperature for long enough to cook most meats.
- When finished, remove from the bag, saving the cooking liquid for the tomato broth.
- Slice the shallots on a bias of 2mm.
- double coat them with an egg wash and season with flour.
- pan-fry the shallots.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- cedar chips
- 1 tbsp plain yogurt
- Smoke 2 cups of heavy cream on the stove with cedar chips for 2–3 minutes, then add a tablespoon of plain yogurt to the cream.
- Put in a jar, cover with cheesecloth, and let it sit out for a day to thicken and sour.
- Refrigerate after a day and let cool.
Heirloom Tomato Broth
Peel and slow-cook the tomatoes in a pot until the sauce thickens, then thin it out with the octopus broth.
Toss 2 parts olives and one part capers in a vinaigrette of their own brine and olive oil. Season with black pepper.
Position 2 tentacles in a bowl, pour the heirloom broth over top into the bowl. Spread the caper relish on a crostini and put half under the broth leaving half revealed. Add the shallots, and creme fresh to the top of the crostini. Serve.
Dessert: Apple Pie
- 8 cups of water
- 1 cup of chai tea
- Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.
- Turn off the heat and steep 1 cup of chai tea in the water for 10 minutes.
- Strain and place apples in the chai tea. Bring back to a boil and simmer apples for 20–30 minutes, or until apples are tender but not mushy.
- Remove apples and cool. Put chai tea aside for the chai tea simple syrup.
Cinnamon graham cake
- 32 cinnamon graham crackers, crumbled
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup milk.
- Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then the wet ingredients in another.
- Mix the wet into the dry then bake at 325º F for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove, cool, and break into crumble.
Vanilla bourbon ice cream
- 3 cups of heavy cream
- 1 cup of milk
- ½ – 1 cup of sugar
- ½ vanilla bean split and scraped or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons of good quality bourbon (We used Buffalo Trace)
- a pinch of salt
- Whisk together all the ingredients in a lipped bowl. Pre-chill the mixture. Freeze in your ice cream maker.
- Serve immediately or after freezing for 4 to 6 hours.
Chai tea syrup
Use 1 cup chai tea from the poached apples and 1 cup sugar. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces. The syrup should coat and slowly drip off a spoon when done. Transfer to a squirt bottle, chill, and squeeze out to serve.
Create a design on the bottom of the plate with the chai simple syrup, place the apple off to the side of the plate. Sprinkle crumbles overtop of the plate. Place seared apples around the plate. Then finally place a scoop of the bourbon ice cream on the plate.
Swarm of Locusts
The black locust flowers were wild-harvested in July and steeped in a bottom-shelf vodka. After three days, the flowers were strained off and the vodka was passed through a Britta water filter. This can be done with any cheaper alcohol to get a smoother finish.
To make the Black Locust Liqueur
- 80 g black locust flower blossoms
- 750 ml vodka
Infuse the blossoms in the vodka for 1 week, keep in a cool, dark place.
To make the cocktail:
- ½ ounce black locust
- 1.5 ounce gin
- 1 sugar cube muddled with blood orange bitters
Pour into a tumbler, top with soda water. Garnish with black locust blossoms.