Germinal evening

Crowning achievement

As our homely rock tilts predictably closer to the alleged center of the universe our alarm clocks cast wider shadows and we shuffle out the door every morning just a bit closer to the sun. It is a season of renewal and rebirth where buds burgeon, stalks spout, trees regain their plumage and bird calls remind revelers that their amphetamine binge is losing flight. Such earthly order did not go unnoticed by the revered French whose Revolutionary calendar  honored the season with a Germinal appellation and daily plant-name attributions.

Meanwhile, some growth was going on upstairs.  Consequently, a topical spring and regeneration menu was conceived with as many hallmarks of the season that could be acquired.  Said menu was then delicately drawn by a charming local artist whose soothing sensitivity to old timey Art Nouveau illustrations, adroit brushstrokes and particularly infectious laugh are well received by the household.

With the earth slightly out of winter kilter, the oceans have a tendency to slosh around a bit and that inexplicably drives all the salmon up rivers and streams where they reunite with others and make the sex, (like the folks upstairs did) as Animal Planet would have us believe.  Or they crash into you and your bicycle.

A very good looking menu.

Gravlax-oology
Zen sliced panela cured sockeye salmon, some spears of manicured asparagus and eggs “Evelyn”.

Aïgo sao d’iou
A clearly spring garlic soup with bits of chicken and a nicely poached egg.

Crown rack of lamb “Mazarine”
Nestled among artichokes stuffed with spring flavors, fragrant brown rice and a few handsomely fluted mushrooms

Cheese
Mt.Tam, Red Hawk, Ossau-Iraty

Frangipane tart
With a smattering of pistachios and turbinado sugar.

Asparagus high water mark.

Herring, though delicious, migrate in the same fascinating numbers, but are more difficult to find in their whole raw state and the cacophony of tangled bones is enough of a deterrent. Salmon floated to the top of the list, preferably in a salt-cured “gravlax” preparation as past file-cabinet device smoking fumigated the apartment more than it flavored the fish. A quick study on eggs, “Egg Evelyn”, namesake of the mother to be would provide delectable & aesthetic harmony. Rounding out the rhythm section of this 3 piece Motherly orchestra would be asparagus, which, when deftly peeled, naturally, conjures spring as well as male virility.

Send in the clones.

Sockeye salmon is the desired variety based on color, size, fat content and flavor, though they are not available until mid summer, suggesting that the portion purchased was invariable frozen from the previous year. No big deal. The salmon was cured with a mixture of 4% sodium chloride, 2% panela, 1% ground foeniculum/coriandrum sativum by the weight of the thing, the zest of 1 rutaceae, then left to cure for exactly 46hrs 38minutes 23.6 seconds after which it was rinsed with dihydrogen monoxide and left to develop a pellicile in the ice box. Whence a sufficient pellicile was achieved, the gravlax was sliced parallel and away from the bloodline with graceful Mahāyāna concentration to ensure even rectangular pieces and profound inner peace.

A spoonful of unrefined sugar helps the cure go down.

Asparagus no slenderer than an elegant woman’s manicured finger was selected and given similar treatment courtesy a paring knife, peeler, laser, lathe, paraffin wax then a quick dip in both seasoned boiling water & iced water and finally left to drip dry in a colander to the mellow salon sounds of piano hotshot Sigismond Thalberg.

Asparagus: concerto in Major F’in peeling.

Finally, mixed-martial arts themed “free/open range/cage” chicken eggs were boiled as per the Escoffier edict (start in appropriately sized pot with enough cold, salted water to cover eggs and count 8 magic minutes* after boiling. Plunge in ice water and then remove shell with DIY eggstractor which functions as a rudimentary DIY penis pump/glory hole for hurried perverts).  Eggs were eggscavated then stuffed with a filling made from the yolks, sour cream, mustard, gravlax scraps, olive oil, Swedish vinegar, pickled peppers, capers, salt then topped with wild salmon roe to suggest the egg within the fine lady upstairs.

Eggceptional.

Some pea shoots, wild watercress, carrots, beets and radishes were gussied up with sherry-shallot-basement apartment-aged vinegar vinaigrette with a splash on the asparagus bundles, fleur de sel here & there and paraded out to the table.

As seen in Charlie Trotter “Jealous”.

Continuing with the egg theme, the egg’s matron was used in its entirety to make a humble provençal soup and highlight the properties of its parts. Stock was made from the bird and spring garlic. Feet (this bird had lots of them) were roasted for additional body and flavor, egg whites comprised the clarifying raft, leg meat was poached, as were eggs, culminating in a clarified broth with some chicken meat and an egg.

Odalisque Poulaga.

Aïgo sau d’iou. A clearly spring garlic soup with some bits of chicken and a poached egg.  A little of something for everyone from everything.

Jurassic feat.

Soup was clear, bright, flavorful, offered a lightly pungent aroma of spring garlic and an enjoyable course of distraction while the main event was quietly composed nearby.

How do you do, Aïgo sau diou?

The apogee –and personal Hillary Step- of the evening was what invariably looks better in the mind rather than on the platter: crown rack of lamb with elements of the traditional Mazarine garnish (artichoke bottoms stuffed with jardinière, rice, mushrooms). In this representation, artichoke bottoms were dutifully filled with fava beans, brown rice, spring onions, red onions, lemon zest and butter while small white onions, baby white turnips and handsomely fluted mushrooms casually filled the center of the roast.

Two massive racks of a mutton sized lamb were hacked away from the spine with a flannelled woodsman’s dexterity, patiently frenched, chine bones removed, scored then impatiently glued together with transglutaminase, courtesy a dear colleague  who does remarkable things with food and sacked Michael Vick twice while in college **. While the meat glue works well for Arby’s “Roast “Beef” (actually shin and other less desirable “cuts” resourcefully glued together)” and downunder blowhard Adam Melonis’s stupid octopus lollipop, it didn’t really hold the ends of the racks together and the racks had to be seared individually anyway.

Boned, the French way.

After searing, the racks were sewn together with kitchen twine using a single loop at the top and bottom of the loin then wrapped a few times to maintain the crown’s shape. Voluptuous booties were cheerfully constructed by the aforementioned artist upon consulting a few prototypes and self fastened with nimble folds. Once roasted, rested and warmed, the bones were shod with booties, artichokes stuffed and arranged, the center of the crown filled with people fodder and the composition given its red carpet moment before gracefully holding court at the table. Though not extraordinary, the flavor of the lamb was good. It would have benefited from a proper red wine and vinegar marinade. However, it was tender and well cooked, though just a whisper and wink short of the desired «à point» medium, and did not carry the excessive saddle-bags of unpleasant lamb fat odor not uncommon in husky Colorado raised specimens.

The majesty’s boneyard.

Surrounding vegetable garnishes were quite respectable. Artichokes bottoms « cuits dans un blanc » (cooked in a flour and water mixture with lemon juice and a splash of olive oil) were tender, uniformly colored and succulent with just the right amount of acidity while the filling indicated many compass points of flavor–richness from the butter and olive oil, favas providing starchiness, nutty brown rice, sweet and acidic red onions glazed in olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice, sharp green crunch with the scallion tops and finishing fleur de sel from l’Île du Noirmoutier. Garnish within the meaty walls were an earthier contrast to the verdant moat. Small onions and sweet white turnips slowly bathed in butter, olive oil and a splash of vinegar along with mushrooms cooking in a similar fashion as the artichokes so as to preserve the color and acquiring notes of richness and acidity from the olive oil and lemon juice.

Fancy-full feast.

An accompanying olive sauce was made with lamb trimmings, some sort of chicken stock from the freezer, rosemary and cured black olives. More of an afterthought since Hollandaise was initially envisioned but scarcity of time, hands and eggs scuttled such an operation. Not much of the lamb was left outside of bones stripped clean of flesh. Well within the parameters of success for a pioneering engineering feat though future versions will include a 24 hour marinade and slower/longer cookery to attain a more desirable medium doneness throughout.

A penultimate selection of cheeses: Ossau-Iraty (French raw sheep’s milk and personal favorite), Mt Tam (triple cream California sheep, cow and goat) and Red Hawk (stinky triple cream washed rind cow milk) and some of the Mrs’s walnut bread allowed all to decompress and coat their palates with rich dairy before a closing of desert and digestif.

Having had success with frangipane, a rhubarb version was planned though searches were fruitless and came up empty. Pistachios however were abundant and incorporated into an updated frangipane batter in which the almonds were toasted, coaxing more sweetness and roasted almond flavor.

Shell shock. (not some, but all the pistachios they had)

The mixture was cooked in a double boiler rather than directly in a pot and yielded a delicious, even texture. Pâte sucrée was blind baked, the filling poured in and baked at 325ºF so that it would swell nicely as it had in previous versions. Sadly, it did not. Not sure why. The moisture within should have expanded it (Charles Law) but nothing happened. The uninflated but not totally deflated tart was sprinkled with turbinado sugar for a little sweet crunch. Topped with a soothing quenelle  of whipped cream.

Frangiflat...

All was washed down with a spiced sleep inducing elixir: cordial glasses of my very own bottle of fantastic Root liqueur. A perfect finale to the opening primavera cocktail offered by the patriarch upstairs; a refreshingly fragrant vodka and citrus soda aperitif scented with coriander.

Root, root root for the home team.

The evening was a tremendous success in that the guests enjoyed each others’ pleasant company and there was enough appetizing food and drink to go around.

*(same as normal minutes)
** in practice