Thanksgiving 2009, the recapitulation. Saturday, Nov 28 2009 

TG09: Old World France meets New World America.

A moderate case of PTD (post-turkey depression) affected the host after having cogitated then gestated the menu and its formulations for the better part of 3 weeks, but the dinner was not  offered without gustatory success. No breakage, pretty girls and a weekend of early morning grazing on tryptophan & cheese scraps with fingers by the twilight of the Frigidaire brought savory solace, albeit cold and perishable.

Exemplary guests provided long sought company, anecdotes and booze.

Preamble: My Mt. Pleasant dry cured sausage, turkey pâté en croûte with currants,  Chris Bradley’s blood pudding and a salt cod brandade in the style of Nîmes. Pickled purple cauliflower accoutrement and mulled cider to warsh it all down, adulterated with some trickle of George Dickel’s whisky for some social lubricant. The pâté en croûte was not as successful at the pâté pantin poultry edition in terms of pastry crust which was far too wet.  Escoffier’s measurements called for far too much water (2dl water for 25ogr flour), though such proportions were respected on account of the esteemed author’s reputation.  The same pâte á foncer proportions were used in the coq en pâte prototype  with diastrously wet results but technique and choice of fats may have been the culprit.  Whatever the case, notes were taken the recipe has been adjusted for future endeavors.  The  cooked pastry tasted good but was not as flaky as it could/should have been but was removed from the over for fear of overcooking the forcemeat.  The forcemeat  however–turkey, pork, chicken livers, cooked gizzards and hearts marinated in gin and augmented with currants was satisfying. Aspic was of the proper consistency, though perhaps a bit too sweet as a result of the crappy sweet wine used.  Patience and the fundamental practice  of  waiting for the pâté to cool before applying the aspic was not respected causing the aspic to run through a seam that did not have time to seal upon cooling.

Turkey trimmings in a savory pastry sarcophagus.

Variations of tubesteak.

Pickled Purple Caulimonster.

1st plated course: An almost ethereal turkey consommé with a few cauliflower-mornay agnolotti and florets of different cauliflower varieties (white, yellow and romanesco) clearly visible at the bottom.  The stock was made from chicken legs, 1/2 a turkey neck and turkey drumstick bones, the meat of the chicken legs being used for the clarifying raft, and that of the turkey for the pâté.  The other half of the turkey neck was caramelized with mirepoix and tomato purée, covered with the cold stock and clarified with a raft of ground chicken leg meat, vegetables, egg whites, salt and vinegar.   The cauliflower florets and agnolotti were blanched in advance then heated in extra stock upon serving.

Shots of Armagnac all around.

The bird: Heartier traditional sustenance manifested itself in 2 preparations of an Amish heritage turkey, a descendant of the original birds the Hittite pilgrim brought over with Columbus on the Mayflower .

Start cold turkey.

The breasts were brined on the bone and then roasted on a bed of vegetable and pear trimmings with slices of Bosc pears shingled under the skin, essentially basted with pearoultry juices.  The rest of a bothersome extra bottle of orgeat syrup replaced the sugar component of the brine (pears and almond blossom seemed compatible) and was injected into the breasts.  The shingled pears were apparent under the skin but pictures were blurry.  The ambitious vision was to reproduce a crude feather of sorts under each breast.

The legs for their part were transformed into ballotines.

Double barreled poultry.

The legs were skinned in a manner to provide the largest canvass and the meat broken down into major muscle components and any tendons removed. A forcemeat was fabricated from scraps and the remaining meat from the pâté marinade. Pistachios, dried cranberries, diced fatback and the larger turkey leg muscles were rolled into cylinders, wrapped in the skin, tied with string and poached in turkey stock with a calf’s foot until an internal temperature of 150F was attained. The poaching liquid cooked into a rich braising liquid with a tender garnish of standard mirepoix, leftover cranberries, sliced gizzards and fluted mushrooms for showmanship shits & grins. The flavor was nothing short of remarkable. Well seasoned, moist, delicious and classically refined. Nitrite was added to the forcemeat so as to ensure an appealing rosy hue rather than the drab autumnal brown.

Winner: Turkey legs in a supporting roll.

Another round of Armagnac.

Nods to the fall harvest: A gratin dauphinois. Scalloped russet potatoes with a middle layer of caramelized onion deglazed with white wine vinegar and anchovies (inspired by the Swedish Jansson’s Temptation) bound by mace and nutmeg infused cream which helped to permeate the saltiness of the filling throughout the dish.  Fresh cranberry sauce with orange zest, cloves and some more currants.  Brussels sprouts off the stalk with rutabaga, turnips, rainbow carrots, parsnips and pearl onions glazed in veal suet, finished with toasted almonds.

My rye bread was turned into stuffing with pomegranate seeds, celery root, celery stalks and their leaves. Could have benefited from further toasting of the bread.  Vehicles for sopping up the juices were sweet potato biscuits (courtesy of Mr. Bradley) and my pan coudoun: bread rolls with a segment of cooked quince inside.  The leavened biscuits were made from roasted sweet potato, lard, butter, buttermilk, flour and 2 sieved hard boiled egg yolks to absorb any excess moisture from the sweet potato.

Lou Pan Coudoun (the quince bread in Provençal dialect) was hearth bread dough with a wedge of cooked quince (oven cooked in a light syrup until tender and red) inside, then baked.  Traditional recipes called for a whole raw quince, peeled, halved, cored put back together with honey and butter inside and baked in a dense bread for 40 minutes or so which is supposed to cook the quince.  The safer M.O. was to use cooked quince and work backwards to less cooked quince.   The cooked quince were extremely soft, like firm apple sauce and not at all unpleasant.  Delectable, actually, though a little fleur de sel on the bread before baking would have balanced the sweet/salty.

Your quince charming.

Yep, more Armagnac.

Cheese: courtesy of Mr. Bradley’s affinage program.  Clockwise from center: Livarot, France;Nettle Meadow Kunik, NY; Gorwydd Caerphilly, Wales; Twig Farm Square Cheese, VT; Tarantaise, VT; Mondegueiro, Portugal; Rogue River Blue, OR.

Cheese course, of course.

Dessert: A honeycrsip apple tart with a nappage of my qunce jelly perfumed with rosemary and cinnamon.   Standard pâte sablée with 1/2 lard 1/2 butter for the fat proportion and a whisper of orange zest and ground cinnamon.

In lieu of a flower.

Ef’n Jelly. Disclosure: after countless attempts in making pectin-free apple/quince jelly, pectin was called in from the cupboard in desperation. The cursory theory appeared simple.  Cook quince scraps (cores & peelings) in water with rosemary and cinnamon,  add 55% sugar by weight, chill and glaze apple tart. Quince are heavy in natural pectin and based on numerous recipes, none such additive would be needed.  In practice the results were anything but jolly jelly.  Reduction made a remarkably tight and sticky syrup better destined for pest control than desert.  Cooking new scraps in the previously attained liquid boosted the quince flavor but did not make jelly.  Powdered pectin was considered and obtained, but in what quantity?  The properties of quince and pectin were researched and Eureka!, the gosh darn good jelly scholars at University of Minnesota, oh yah, had the explanation

A certain amount of acidity (below pH 3.5) is necessary for jelly to form. If the fruit juice is not sufficiently acidic, a gel will not form. If too much acid is present, the jelly will lose liquid or weep. Acidity can apparently be tested.  To form a gel, fruit juice should be as tart as a mixture of 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of water. If the fruit juice is not this tart, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for each cup of fruit juice.

What’s more, the kind folks up there provided a simple test for determining whether the jelly juice base has sufficient pectin to gel, which begs the question: “why jelly and not gelly?”  A tsp of the juice is mixed with rubbing alcohol and if the junk gets hard, you’re on.  If it stays limp and juicy, there is a powder for that.  Don’t drink the rubbing alcohol-quince juice mixture, unless you are a hopeless alcoholic.

The proper Ph matrix for apple/quince jelly has not yet been figured out despite 11 prototypes and a mathematically derived 11% lemon juice formula.  Quince scraps and apples were cooked in water with varying proportions of acidulated water ranging from 6.7%-11% lemon juice based on the U of M’s recommendations of 1tsp of lemon juice for 3tbsp of water for proper gelling Ph.  However, weight is a more disciplined unit of measure than volume, even if the weight and volume of both lemon juice and water are the same.  55% sugar was added to the strained liquid, cooked for 20-30 minutes each time and nothing happened. Many recipes, both French and American called for a range of a whole lemon’s worth of juice, half and none at all, despite the science that mandates a fruit juice can not gel without the 3.5Ph.  So 1% powdered pectin was grudgingly added and the damned stuff set.

Eat it, William Tell.

Coffee, cigarettes, more Armagnac and a joint or two rounded out a superlative meal helping to easy digestion and induce well deserved sleep.  Enthusiastic thanks to all the guests for allowing the host the pleasure of hosting.

Hure de cochonnet à la Parisienne Monday, Nov 16 2009 

Head cheese. (may not intentionally contain actual cheese)

Hure, from Middle Latin which signified a cap, and later a man’s spiky hair or the mane of a pursed-lipped wild beast. In Old French, hure came to signify the head of a boar, wolf or bear in heraldry.  Early documented recipes for a boar, either before the popular husbandry of pigs or when wild boar presented a regal alternative to the plebian porcine are found in Guillaume “Taillevent” Tirel’s iconic Viandier:

Bourblier of fresh boar. Put it into boiling water, remove it very soon, roast it, and baste it with a sauce made of spices (to wit, ginger, cassia, cloves, grains of paradise and some grilled bread soaked with wine, verjuice and vinegar). When it is cooked, [cut it into bits and boil] everything together. It should be clearish and black.

Boar, hog, lamb, mutton, veal, horse, pike, salmon and such animal heads gilded with golden yolks graced the banquets and cookbooks of France throughout the 14th and 18th centuries.

Heads of State.

 

 

The head in question was taken from the business end of a 40lb Pennsylvania shoat.  It was rinsed clean in cold water,  injected with a 5% salt brine flavored with warm spices and rosemary, then left to sit in said brine for 10 days.  The noggin was rinsed clean of the brine and the tongue & ears was poached until respectively tender.  The sides of the head were cut away and pared to an equal thickness throughout; scraps from the sides and skull were reserved for the forcemeat.

The  Mt. Pleasant paring knife massacre.

The diced portion of the forcemeat was made up from tongue, ears, fatback and larger scraps.  Remaining trimmings were ground, half of that ground twice and mixed with the diced components, roughly chopped pistachios, ground black pepper, rosemary and distributed along the inside cheeks of both sides.   The sides were rolled around the forcemeat, a challenge due to holes from the eyes and mouth, then wrapped in foil and chilled in the freezer to firm the shape for easier wrapping in cheesecloth and tying.

The Porcine Patient

Both pieces were gently poached with aromatics in barely simmering water overnight until tender, though that was kind of hard to determine.  They were left to cool in the liquid.  A cast-iron Dutch oven was the only pot that accommodated the halves of head and aromatics and accordingly, though regrettably, tinted the cooking liquid an authentic medieval “clear and black”.  Such cookware may have been the medieval standard.

Bric-a-Brackish

Heady times! Not really.  Anyone who trumpets the gustatory merits of a pig’s head must have just gotten theirs out of one’s ass.  Overall the taste wasn’t as unpleasant as the texture.  If the almost crunchy ear cartilage elements were peanuts and the rest of the meat were chocolate, peanut butter, nougat and rainbow fucking sprinkles, then I nailed it.  The ears could have benefited from much longer cooking time, like a week.  Or perhaps they should have been prepared as one cooks a carp North Carolina style:  Put carp on a wooden board and cover with salt.  Let sit 30 minutes.  Throw away carp and eat wooden board.

The forcemeat, with the exception of the auditory appendages was well seasoned and when sliced thin was quite enjoyable, particularly with mustard.  The skin was certainly not, as is invariably the case with cold skin, especially when it has little stubbly hairs coming out of it.  Seasoning the forcemeat was a challenge since the meat was brined and any extra salt could have made the final product unbearably salty.  Whatever the case, the hure should have been cooked much longer.  It may have made the skin more edible (yuck), or at least easier to peel off.  In the unlikely event of being stranded on a deserted island populated with feral pigs, such an attempt might be considered again.  Until then, it will not.

Thanksgiving 2009 Friday, Nov 13 2009 

Tentative menu for a Thanksgiving meal which embraces New World ingredients and Old World French techniques.  Still need a couple of  sophisticated asses to fill 2 seats.

French & Indian fare

Sambal Mt. Menyenangkan Monday, Nov 9 2009 

Fermented Mt. Pleasant chili paste.

The premise for this Indonesian inspired chili condiment is to ferment ground chilies in their brine and then stop the fermentation with vinegar.  Pepper options were limited at the neighborhood Spanish markets so scorching Jamaican scotch bonnets (100,000–350,000 SHU)  and rather benign red jalapeños (2,500–8,000 SHU) had to make do.  The peppers were cleaned and put through the meat grinder on account of the food processor’s blades having taken a beating whilst bludgeoning the boudin 2.0 farce.

Bubbles in the hot chili tub.

3% of the peppers’ weight determined the salt portion and a few bay leaves  were added for good odorous measure, as well as a mashed clove of garlic or two.  A small amount of water was added to help dissolve and mix in the salt.  The mixture was placed in a jar with the lid loosely closed and left at room temperature to ferment.  A perforated plastic disc was placed on top of the mixture and helped to press it down below the brine to keep and mold at bay.

After a few days the fermentation process began and the salt extracted much of the water, in effect curing or corning the chilies in their own brine.  When the bubbling stopped 10 days later, an indication that fermentation had slowed down.  The liquid was drained from chilies, half was drunk for breakfast with a cigarette in the shower and the remaining half was supplemented with 1/3rd of its weight in white wine vinegar,  thereupon stopping the fermentation and producing a hostile environment for would be bacteria and whathaveyous.  The resulting sambal was put into jars and is enjoyed with rice and rainbow sherbert.

Hottie or Nottie? Uh …a little of both actually.  Not particularly enjoyable due to the heat.   Wouldn’t recommend putting it on your junk.  A blender would have helped to purée some of the paste for a smooth & chunky texture, but such a gift has not yet been made, ahem.  Some puréed onions cooked in olive oil and butter could have brought a sweeter element to the paste as well.

Garbure Inaugurale Sunday, Nov 1 2009 

Inaugural Garbure

“I do gravely swear on the curly ends of a Gascon’s mustache that I will faithfully execute the garbure  and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend traditional, regional French cookery.”

Having not had a meter stick’s worth of traditional garbure against which to measure this hearty one, the execution and assembly was inspired by sound theory and practical methods of French cookery. It was fabricated to celebrate the folks’ visit to the nation’s capital and the inauguration of our first foreign born socialist president in January.

The fundamental pillars of the soup which eats like a stew are cabbage, lingot beans (either Tarbais, coco or maïs –from a yellow skinned pod), winter vegetables and an assortment of fowl (generally giblets and confit legs) and pork products. Despite the president’s adherence to a strict regimen prohibited of pork as per the clerical guidelines of his Muslim faith, pork products exclusively provided the auxiliary protein: smoked ham hocks, salted pork belly, pork shoulder and espelette sausage. The ham hocks were purchased in their smoked state yet the salted belly and sausage were fabricated at home, naturally.

Neither Tarbais nor coco beans were readily available and the contempt for Whole Frauds’ pricey conventional items and overpriced organic ones required that small navy beans be substituted. The beans were soaked overnight and cooked in seasoned water until just tender –they would continue cooking in the stew.

Vegetables were comprised of green cabbage, carrots, parsley root, turnips, rutabaga and red pearl onions. The cabbage was cut into thin wedges and caramelized in pork fat. Carrots and parsley root were halved then beveled, turnips and rutabaga were turned into crescents and along with the onions were glazed in their proper turn in pork fat and finished with a splash of vinegar for acidity and to preserve their bright color.

The meats were browned in a cast iron Dutch oven with pork fat, then covered with the beans and their liquid, the vegetables and simmered over a low flame until the sausage, belly and butt were cooked through.

Executive summary: A hearty stew indeed, though admittedly heavy handed on the sodium what with the bacon, sausage and ham hocks. The beans could have been more lightly salted during their cooking. The cabbage slices were not the proper type of cut for this particular application. The wedges lost their integrity and ended up flapping around in the stew like wayward rags. Ideally, the cabbage should have been cut into small squares. The parsley root was more of a novelty and took an absurd amount of time to cook tender. Parsnips should have been used instead.

The espelette sausage was well executed and particularly savory and the smoked ham hocks introduced an appropriately smoky element reminiscent of it coming off a hearth’s fire. The turned vegetables may have contradicted the humble, rustic nature of the dish, but such knife cuttery highlights an attention to detail, discipline and showmanship.

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