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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.