I'm looking for recipes that are basically the hardcore level of food.
May 8, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recipes that take, literally, days to make and are incredibly labor intensive.

So my assignment is to find the toughest meals to make in the world. Like gourmet marathon level. Like a demitasse that needs to be stirred for 12 hours straight. Or a bird that must be soaked in three different kinds of marinade over a week. It's got to be more than just difficult gourmet stuff. It's got to involve endurance as well. So what are the recipe equivalents of a triathlon?
posted by rileyray3000 to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Tartine Croissants. Abso-freaking-lutely phenomenal. Three days of serious effort. Recipe available here or here (it's complicated and precise enough that you'll want to go from the book, absolutely not a possibly-effed-up rewritten version on someone's blog). Review of the recipe here.
posted by amelioration at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most of the plated recipes in the fifth volume of Modernist Cuisine could be classified as such!
posted by unlaced at 10:18 AM on May 8, 2012

Farce Double! Ruth Reichl's reading of the "recipe" on Selected Shorts is great, too.
posted by bcwinters at 10:19 AM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Escoffier's Consumme de Tortue Warning: May be triggering.
posted by carmicha at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2012

Nesselrode Pudding, the only dessert mentioned in Proust. (I would say this, however).

Also, Alton Brown's Coq au Vin takes two days, but not that much time on each day -- you could do it all in one day, I suppose, if you wanted.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2012

Peking Duck

Here's a basic rundown:
Day one: Slaughter duck. Dress, eviscerate, and rinse. Remove neck bone without breaking skin. Tie neck skin in knot. Apply maltose/soy sauce coating to skin. Hang overnight to dry.
Day two: Use straw to inflate duck skin like a balloon to separate from meat. Blanch duck quickly in boiling water to tighten skin and begin rendering fat. Apply more maltose/soy mixture. Hang overnight to dry again.
Day three: Roast duck while hanging vertically in wood-fired brick oven. Roast until rendered fat from under skin has completely dripped out of duck, basting meat and rendering skin crackly crisp. Serve immediately.

posted by vacapinta at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I couldn't find it just this moment but I read a blog from a guy somewhere in the Middle East who make haggis from scratch at home. You have to clean out intestines, stomach, and clean the pluck to make it sanitary, so there's lots of preparation before you get to the cooking, chopping, then filling the stomach lining without breaking it and then cooking again.

But damnit, I love haggis and I'm glad I can at least buy it frozen.
posted by jujulalia at 10:35 AM on May 8, 2012

Do fermented foodstuffs like sauerkraut and kimchi count? They do take quite a lot of time but a lot of that is just letting little critters do their work.

Some cheesemaking would definitely qualify, though step one is "First, find a cave."
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2012

If done from scratch in the traditional manner, Cassoulet takes several days but is delicious!
posted by TedW at 10:39 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a bit oddball but I've always found the beginning to end story of bottle-conditioned (méthode champenoise) Champagne production to be pretty impressive but it isn't exactly what you're looking for I'm afraid.

Read the section on it anyway, it's pretty impressive.

posted by RolandOfEld at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2012

Homemade ramen is pretty ridiculous to make. And this is without making your own noodles.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:55 AM on May 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

A typical tasting menu at Alinea includes about 19 dishes, each of which involves many sub-dishes and could easily take a day to prepare.

This blog goes through the process of re-creating an individual dish as a home cook. Doing a whole menu would definitely be the culinary equivalent of an Ironman.
posted by psycheslamp at 11:04 AM on May 8, 2012

Response by poster: Well the goal is to take several of these and make them side by side. They may only require one or two things to be done every few hours but with seven dishes concurrently that are THAT intensive with different things at different times, it will be the kitchen equivalent of Gitmo.

Well that's the hope anyway.
posted by rileyray3000 at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2012

You might want to clarify a bit about the start point and other requirements of your cooking challenge.

I just say that because, for example, I noticed some people commenting about making haggis from pig to table. If you're not interested in messing with a freshly butchered pig's stomach then that one is pretty invalid for your food ironman/gitmo-thing, not to mention shark buried in the sands of iceland or some such.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2012

Also, Mexican Mole Poblano

Mole is very time-consuming to make, but you can begin up to three days ahead.

You can also include an actual roast meat to put the Mole sauce on and perhaps a side of tamales made from scratch with a stew as filling.
posted by vacapinta at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could make your own puff pastry, that's a pain in the ass. Also you need the right weather.
posted by fshgrl at 11:26 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cassoulet. PARTICULARLY if you make the sausages, bacon, confit, &c from scratch. I've made it once and am planning to make it again, and the rundown basically goes:

Get a 1-2 pound chunk of pork belly. Rub it with a brown sugar cure (1:1:0.1 brown sugar, salt, and pink salt / curing salt), pack it in a ziploc bag, and put it in the fridge.
The next day, make your sausage. I like garlicky sausage with bonnes herbes and red wine.
The next day, take the skin off your ducks and render it down, slowly, for the fat. Be careful not to let the fat burn or brown. That night, have spinach salad with oranges and duck cracklings for dinner. Flip the bacon over in the fridge.
The next day, take the legs of your ducks, salt them, and pack them in a dish (or ziploc bag) with aromatics to rest overnight. Flip the bacon over in the fridge.
The next day, confit your duck. When it's done, put it in a jar, pour the fat over it, and stick it in the fridge to ripen. If you're short on time, you can make your sausage on this day. Flip the bacon over in the fridge.
The next day, make a stock from pigs' feet, mirepoix, bay, sage, thyme, garlic, and marjoram. If you're low on time, you can shorten the ripening step and make your confit on this day. Flip the bacon over in the fridge.
The next day, simmer lamb shank together with pork rind, pork shoulder, aromatics, stock, and wine to make a ragout. Smoke the bacon.
The next day, layer the beans, bacon, sausage, ragout, and confit in the casserole, cover with stock, and bake all day.
Cool overnight.
The next day, return to the oven and bake until the crust has formed and it is dinnertime. Eat like a ravenous pack of wild dogs.
posted by KathrynT at 11:36 AM on May 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

ARGH my cure ratios are off! 1:1:0.2. Dangit.
posted by KathrynT at 11:37 AM on May 8, 2012

Heston Blumenthal did a show for UK TV called "In Search of Perfection" where he makes "extreme" versions of classics. (Probably up on YouTube.) It also has a companion book. Most of the recipes are extremely time intensive with long prep times for each sub-component.
posted by smackfu at 11:43 AM on May 8, 2012

fshgrl: "You could make your own puff pastry, that's a pain in the ass. Also you need the right weather."

And then you could use that puff pastry to make something fancy-pants like Beef Wellington. The Gordon Ramsay recipe I used came out unbelievably good.
posted by Grither at 11:44 AM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whole stuffed camel. I can verify that goat/sheep, stuffed with chicken, stuffed with eggs, and each layer stuffed with rice, is prepared for the occasional wedding feast in Pakistan. I have not seen stuffed camel myself, but have heard from more than one person who claims to have been at meals where it was served.
posted by bardophile at 11:49 AM on May 8, 2012

A Timpano seems pretty labor intensive, though I don't know if it would be cooked over a series of days.
posted by lemonwheel at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2012

Maybe you could look to the victorian era?
posted by mgogol at 12:39 PM on May 8, 2012

Heston Blumenthal should be a goldmine of long-prep meals, considering his "Feast" TV series.

Also, absolutely second "Farce Double."

Homebrew beer can be a little labor intensive for the two days of actual work you have to do, not counting the fermenting and aging periods. Especially if you're starting from pure grains, rather than malted syrup, and even more labor intensive if you have to harvest and/or malt/dry/age your grains, and harvest your hops. Despite all that, it can be done by a single man or woman who is, it is presumed, drinking previously-made homebrew during the entire prices.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:22 PM on May 8, 2012

Classic demi-glace is the most pain-in-the-ass thing I've ever made. It only takes a day but it really takes the entire day and constant vigilance to skim the stock. And then it's just an ingredient in a sauce.

I asked a similar question a while ago and there's lots of good feedback there. Cassoulet and tamales are the first that come to mind because neither really require specialized equipment and you can find all the ingredients in any city.

If you can get your hands on Modernist Cuisine (it is, um, floating around the internet), then in their recipe book they have many gourmet foods listed with very precise directions that amount to ridiculous preparation time (like tripling the amount of time it takes for even basic things). Most of these are waiting times, but I've stolen many of their techniques (like how they tenderize meat) for other recipes.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:43 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could have people make masa (corn dough) the traditional way, grinding by hand. That was basically someone's full-time job in a household, before industrialization. Hours and hours of monotonous, back-breaking work.

See this lecture on masa production, via.
posted by 6550 at 2:29 PM on May 8, 2012

You should totally make Sauerbraten.
posted by arianell at 2:40 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Thompson Turkey.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:38 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Laurie Colwin's Black Cake from her book Home Cooking:
There is fruitcake and there is black cake, which is to fruitcake what Brahmss piano quartets are to Muzak. Its closest relatives are plum pudding and black bun, but they are mere third cousins twice removed. Black cake, like truffles and vintage Burgundy, is deep, complicated, and intense. It is light and dense at the same time and demands to be eaten in a slow, meditative way.
Making this recipe seems to be something of a quest for many home cooks -- Google "laurie colwin black cake" (with or without quotes), and you'll get a lot of hits. You have to commit to this recipe. As Yoda said in another context: "Do or do not. There is no try."
posted by virago at 3:56 PM on May 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Bardophile's stuffed camel suggestion led me to a couple of other things that can be pretty labor-intensive. My mother actually made a turducken following a recipe similar to Paul Prudhomme's; it was a big hit but a lot of work. Also, cooking a whole pig is an adventure; here is my take on it. The thread I posted in is full of other good ideas, and there are a lot of variations on that theme, such as a traditional Hawaiian luau (I have a friend who does these and it involves a backhoe, 200 pounds of lava he brought with him when he moved from Hawaii, banana leaves (or collards if banana leaves aren't in season in GA), chain link fence, and burlap, among other things. Let me know if you want more details. The cajun version is called cochon de lait and although this recipe looks good, although I think the typical pig is a bit smaller. This is my approach to cooking a pig, the whole thread is good as well. Of course any barbecue-type dinner requires some hash (or maybe Brunswick stew); everyone has their own recipes, but the best involve cooking large, bone-in cuts of meat in liquid until they fall off the bone, then grind/chop them and add things like potatoes, tomatoes, or corn. Ideally this is done with the head/feet of the hog, but in practice I will use a small bone in Boston butt, some bone in chicken thighs and breasts, and a bone in chuck roast, similar to this recipe. Cook it to death, go to town with seasonings.
posted by TedW at 5:17 PM on May 8, 2012

I came to suggest mole poblano, turducken, and cassoulet with homemade sausage. Including butchering, you're looking at days of work.
posted by elizeh at 7:24 PM on May 8, 2012

There's always pâté en croute (pâté cooked inside pie crust) or chicken gallantine (step one, remove skin from a whole chicken, intact, making no new holes) which is essentially a whole chicken braised inside its own skin in fat.

Charcuterie is your friend. Handmade sausages, cured meats. Some take days. Weeks. Years.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:08 AM on May 9, 2012

Bacon Leviathan (NSFW)
posted by Serf at 11:13 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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