Archive for the 'alaska' Category

The History Dish: Moose Face

Moose Mouffle stew.

Ok, what? What am I talking about?  Here. Read this, from The Moose Book, published in 1916.

…A military chaplain (Rev. Joshua Fraser) writing of a dinner in an Indian camp on the upper Ottawa thus describes a dish of muffle ‘The crowning dish was that grandest of all dishes moose mouffle. This is the immense upper lip and nostrils of the animal, and I have no hesitation in pronouncing it one of the most toothsome and savoury of all the dishes within the range of the gastronomic art. It is white and tender as spring chicken, yet firm and substantial as fresh beef, with a flavor combining the excellencies of both. I eat to repletion, yet was not sensible of any of that uneasy heaviness which generally follows a too hearty meal.’

The edible portion of the muffle comprises the fibrous flesh of the cheek and the gelatinous prehensile upper lip. The cartilaginous nasal septum is, of course, not eaten… When I shot my first moose the guide who was something of an epicure and a skillful cook withal described stewed muffle in terms of extravagant praise. His mouth fairly watered at thoughts of royal banquets in the woods when simply a dish of muffle with pilot bread and tea had constituted the menu.

This is not even the first and only place I’ve read about moose mouffle, you can read more about it here.  It’s even mentioned in the Joy of Cooking.

When the idea of mouffle was first presented to me, my curiousity was peaked.  I placed a call to my friends in Alaska, who called thier friends, and an APB was put out: should someone take down a moose, please save the mouffle for Sarah Lohman.

A year passed.  Attempts were made, but a moose was never felled.  Then, one day, I was tramping through the wilds of South Dakota.  I was there for a wedding, in a spot far outside the realm of internet connections and cell phones.  On my first night there, I got a chance to check my email: I found a dozen desperate messages, facebook posts, and later, voicemails–they had got a moose.  They needed to send my the mouffle, NOW.

It wasn’t doable; I wouldn’t be back in New York for a week.  So we took the risk of freezing the mouffle, even thought it might affect the flavor, and it was shipped to me when I returned home.  It arrived via fed ex, and I opened the cooler to find a huge trashbag, just barely reaveling something large, bloody and hairy within.  I stuck it on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator, too terrified to look.  They also generously sent me a big, floppity, moose tongue as a bonus prize.

As part of the deal, my arctic providers require that I serve my cooking to at least one other person besides myself.  So I sent out a facebook invitation:

Let’s call it mystery meat. It’s large and from Alaska, and hopefully it will taste good. I’ll reveal the ingredients when you arrive. It’s not any kind of genitalia. Please come?

And to my great surprise, people did indeed come.  But I’m getting ahead of myself–the day of the feast, preparations began eight hours ahead of time.  Beware–there is some gruesome content below.

The tongue was easy part.  It was large, and bloody, but also looked less terrfying than beef.  It didn’t smell very good, and I had to trim some bristly hairs off of it.  To cook it, I used a historic recipe and a modern crookpot, which you can read about here.

Cooked moose tongue. It tasted better than it looks.

When I was brave enough to open the bag of thawed mouffle, I discovered literally half a moose face, hair and all.  I am not a skilled butcher, I have done very little breaking down of my own meat, let alone skinning half the head of a wild animal.

Moose face. What the shit do I do with this thing?

I knew I needed to start by removing the hair, so I googled up a plan to scald the moose head (here).  I set a huge pot of water on the stove, waiting until it was steaming, and dunked in my moose face.

Wet moose stinks.  And I didn’t scald it right: when I pulled out the moose face, the fur was still firmly attached, and the flesh was slighty cooked.  I fucked up.  The hair, which should scrape off easily, was immovable.  I tried hacking away at the skull to skin it, hair and all, with little result.  At this point, I was standing in my kitchen, wrestling half a moose head, in near tears.  The house stunk of boiled moose.  I realized I needed help.

I called the Meat Hook.

“You have a what?”

“A moose snout.  It’s supposed to be the most delicios part of the moose.  If I brought this in, could you skin and debone it for me?”

The Meat Hook is a trendy, back-to-the-land type butcher shop in Brooklyn, attached to a classroom space that teaches things like butchering and knife skills.  I figured if anyone could help me, it was them.

“You want us to… take the cheek meat out?”

“No, the mouffle.  It’s their prehensile upper lip.”

“Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say we don’t do that.”


So I placed a call to Alaska, where I got skinning advice from a fisherman:  “Get you sharpest knife.  Find a place where the skin is already a little loose, and pull on it.  Cut underneath while pulling the skin away.”

It actually worked, although I was poorley equipped in the knife department.  It took me nearly two hours, but I ended up with a tidy pile of meat, and fur all over my kitchen.  A friend walked in halfway through this process and later commented: “I saw her with half an animal’s snout in her hand.  It was disturbing.”

Skinning the moose.

I discovered the the cheeks were tough to skin and contained very little meat; I should have just focused on the paydirt in the nose: “It’s all in the honker,” Boyfriend Brian commented.  The nose meat was plentiful, and  easy to skin and cut.  Although I don’t know if I could call it meat: more the texture of butter than fat, but more gelatinous than muscle.  It was was white and firm and appeared to be food.

That's about half a moose face.

The inside of a moose nose. I skinned the rest of this and cubed the flesh.

The resulting pile of moose meat.

I rinsed the mouffle meat and picked out the hairs as best I could, and followed the recipe from The Moose Book:

Stewed Muffle of Moose: Clean the muffle thoroughly by skinning, shaving off the skin of the nostrils with a sharp knife. Wash thoroughly and cut into two inch pieces. Put the meat into a stew pan, with a slice of clear fat salt pork cut into dice, and an onion cut up fine. Add cold water to cover and let it stew gently till tender four or five hours. Add water as it boils away being sure to have plenty of broth when done. Add sliced potato in season to cook. Thicken, season and serve.”

I used bacon instead of salt pork, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried herbs: thyme, parsley, and sage.  I thickened with a little cornstarch before I served it up.  Simple enough.

As the stew slowly simmered, the apartment began to smell better, but the soup retained some essense of the wet moose stank.  Shortly before dinnertime, Roommate Jeff came home.  “It smells like face in here,” he commented. Other friends soon arrived, a half dozen in all, ready to eat some face.

Contemplating the mouffle stew.


I served the tongue first: it was perfectly tender, as it always is with my slow-cooker recipe.  I sliced it and arranged it on a rustic plate. The response:

“It’s good!” “It’s SO good!” “So light!” “So Tender!”  “Can we have more?”  It was declared to taste like the most tender, most flavorful pot roast.  I wasn’t such a fan, but maybe that’s because I spent the whole day covered in moose gore.

Next, the mouffle stew.  Honest reactions?  The cheek meat was chewy; the white mouffle meat tender, but generally flavourless.  Some people ate it with gusto, others had to steel themselves before placing it in their mouths.  It really wasn’t bad–but it wasn’t good either.  It lacked any flavor other than the bacon and herbs from the soup itself.  It certainly wasn’t the great gastronomic delicacy that was promised.

I left most of my soup behind; other guests were members of the clean plate club.  We paused for a moment, regarding the results of the day’s efforts.  Then, I broke the silence: “So we’re ordering pizza, right?”

Appetite City: Baked Alaska

Appetite City: Fine Dining. My demo starts at 12:35

Ok. So mine is maybe not the prettiest Baked Alaska.  And sometimes, I show my colors as still being a young cook.  Like when I dump my carefully crafted dessert all over the floor.  Oh well–at least I’m honest about it.

The history of  how Baked Alaska came to be is a little loosey goosey, as origin stories for the most famous dishes tend to be.  We do know that at the turn of the 19th century, scientists discovered the insulatory properties of egg whites.  Cooks seized on this idea, and began creating Baked Alaska-like dishes in the first half of the 19th century.  But Chef Charles Ranhofer, the gifted head of the Delmonico’s kitchen, seems to be the one that perfected and popularized it.  Allegedly,  it was served at a dinner celebrating the purchase of Alaska in 1867, and the popularity of this fantastic new dish sky-rocketed over the next century, peaking sometime in the 1950s.

Making a good, old-fashioned “Alaska, Florida”  has a hella lot steps, and the end result doesn’t taste that great.  It was waaaay super sweet.   I think this is one of those instances when you should look up a modern version of the old classic.  The dessert is worth cooking up in a simpler form: the combination of hot meringue and cold ice cream seems like magic and will really impress your friends.



Alaska, Florida (Baked Alaska)

From the Epicurian, published 1893.
And Martha Stewart Living.Small yellow cakes
Apricot marmalade
4 bananas
1 qt heavy cream
1 ¼ lb sugar
½ vanilla bean
6 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tarter1. Cake base:  Make your favorite yellow cake recipe in advance, baking it in cupcake tins or ramekins, depending on the size of your ice cream molds.  Remove the cakes from the tins, level the tops, then cut a depression into the center of each cake.  Fill depression with apricot marmalade.

2. To Make Banana Ice Cream:  Mash 4 banana to a pulp; Mix with 1 pt heavy cream and ½ lb sugar.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Put into an ice cream maker until frozen soft.  Pour, or scoop, into a conical ice cream mold until mold is halfway full. Freeze until frozen hard.

3. To Make Vanilla Ice Cream: Infuse ½ a vanilla bean in ¼ cup milk by gently heating on a stove top burner.  Combine with 1 pt heavy cream and ¼ lb sugar; stir until sugar in dissolved.  Freeze in an ice cream maker until frozen soft.

4. When banana ice cream is hard, remove from freezer and pour vanilla ice cream over top, until the mold is filled.  Return to freezer and freeze until hard.

5. To make meringue:  Combine egg whites, remaining sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of electric mixer, and place over a saucepan filled with water.  Heat over stove-top like a double boiler, whisking constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.  Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Unmold ice cream, and place on top of cake.  Fill a pastry bag with meringue; encase ice cream and cake in meringue

7. Bake in a 500 degree oven for 2 minutes.  Serve immediately


Be sure to watch the episode to see me demo the whole thing, from start to finish!