Le Pâté en Croûte : Édition Spéciale Coings Thursday, Jan 12 2012 

Pâté en Croûte : Special Quince Edition

Procession to the wailing wall of cured meat.

Tis the season for forgotten fruit cousins of apples and pears which are virtually inedible raw but when placed in a sock is a practical alternative to more useful soap when applied to bludgeoning a dopey donut craving liability. Afterwards, they can be fed to the elderly for absolute hilarity.

Envince the quince

As per the usual, the quince were prepared by carving them into segments and slowly braising in a 3/1 water/sugar syrup jazzed up with rosemary, clove, lust and pride. As they cook, the quince turn pink and then ruby red as a result of the tannins which help to create anthocyanin pigments and a consequence of all your past profanity. And lies.

Eden’s forbidden meatloaf

The organic pork shoulder, heart, tongue and liver came from a conscientiously raised Berkshire pig which called High View Farm in Berryville, Virginia home. The heart was cured and confit in lard whereas the tongue was brined and simmered. A farce fine was made with the liver and thrice ground pork. After being puréed smooth a diced garnish of tongue, heart, quince, fatback and loin was mixed to the farce along with spices, salt, #1 and such. Naturally, the pork was marinated in booze, olive oil and aromatics for a week prior to processing.

Convincing quincing

A new pastry recipe was developed based on some research from the World Pâté Croûte Championship (this fall’s stage took place at Gilles Verot who honorably placed second). Seeking a krustyier though austere pastry  lard represents 70% of the fat while some of the flour percentage is replaced by cornstarch which helps to make a smoother dough.

conglomermeat

To highlight and represent the overlooked fruit encased within, quince and leaves were delicately carved then adorned on the roof much like your average consumer Joe-Christmas puts jingly crap all over his roof for the holidays.  After a deep rubdown of egg wash the thing was baked, left to cool slightly and delightfully filled with port aspic -no leaks.

Savory fresco.

There were few if any faults in this edition. The pastry was firm, savory and a pleasure to eat, though it could have cooked slightly more on the side juxtaposing the forcemeat. The forcemeat was complex, though tender and well seasoned. Spice and booze from the marinade was noticeable and the variety of textures/flavors offered by the heart, tongue, ham, fatback and quince were nothing short of satisfying. Future editions might include an inlay of quince paste.

Pâte de Fruit de Figue en Croûte Tuesday, Oct 12 2010 

Fig Pâte de Fruit en Croûte.

All aboard the dinner’s fig caboose.

By far the finest weekend of matrimony took place on a 300 acre farm in Finncastle, Virginia over Labor Day 2010. Billed as “farm casual”, the event mandated that tuxedos, cheap suits,  sequins and etraneous family be left in the city, alternatively encouraging the relaxed, comforting properties of untucked linen haberdashery, open toe footwear for all and nothing but long since unseen friends. What’s more, rather than capitulating to the tired tradition of conventional wedding cakes, the newlyweds invited guests to bring country flavored pies in lieu of novelty vehicles for achingly sweet frosting (though noteworthy exceptions exist). Characterized by an exceptionally tart personality, 2 eponymous open faced finales were delivered rather than the suggested pie crust encasements.

Flavor Country.

As a bonus gesture and somewhat self-gratifying culinary fist pump,  an unprecedented amalgamation of sweet function and savory form was conceived which would embody the brazen allure of the venerable pâté en croûte while delivering a remarkable saccharine finish. But what sugary confection could possibly pass as a convincing forcemeat imposter? Well, Nabisco’s ewy, gewy, rich and chewy modern version of the ancient fig roll of paste and pastry  -the humble Fig Newton™- is essentially a pâté en croûte, so a figurative fig configuration was figured out. To further suggest an astutely garnished forcemeat facsimile, dried fruit (raisins, apricots) and pistachios were added.

Newton’s 4th law of pastry, inspired from under a fig tree.

An unadulterated fig purée would likely not be firm enough to withstand being sliced and might ooze from the pastry shell. In theory, a pectin fortified paste “pâte de fruit” would provide sufficient strength to maintain a “slice”. Numerous pâte de fruit recipes were consulted and a sample from whole fresh figs was noodled with based on Pierre Hermé and Michael Laiskonis formulations.

That’s how I roll…

Figs were cooked with sugar, vanilla bean and a trickle of honey until mushy to provide the purée element, albeit too thick in hindsight. The measured sugar, lemon juice and pectin were added in their turns however the purée was far too thick and bringing it to the required boil to activate the pectin was treacherous. Damn near volcanic. The unfortunate result was that the purée did not set properly and trying to re-boil it was virtually impossible without scorching pot or limbs. It would have been an exercise in futility, like a one legged rabbi trying to bring his wife to orgasm at an ass kicking seminary.

 

Sweet, sweet sarcophagus.

Cumulatively and foolishly, about 280% too much pectin (boiled with water and lemon juice) was added, in a desperate effort to set the paste. Ultimately, the fig purée was no firmer than a jam, but no less sweet. Balderdash. After a week or 2 it may have set further, but clairvoyance was not in the pantry and a viable, tangible product needed to be presented. Ideas can not be eaten, neither as a savory overture nor sweet crescendo. Initially a pâte sucrée was made to entomb the fig entity, but the dough would be too brittle upon cutting and was tentatively abandoned for a sweetened lard and butter shortcrust, though the pâte sucrée later found use as tartelette shells after a soupe au pistou à la mode de Sète with late summer squash, squid and ink crozets, which, admittedly, was just as easy on the palate as it was on the eyes.

Nubile temptresses, teasingly sweet and provocative.

Lining the mold with the fragile dough was a tedious exercise in patience and anger management. Once lined, it was filled with foil, beans and blind baked along with a flower petal motif of sort lid. The lid blistered slightly and buckled, perhaps from the dough being overworked and air pockets formed from refolding scraps. Some assembly was required, primarily putting the lid on the base and pouring some melted fig filling through the vents for adhesion.

Wheels on the pie keep on turnin’

Go figure. Possibly the first of its kind and well worth the labor. Pâte de fruit matrix was initially ef’ed up, however, as is the case with anything worth ef’ing up once…it is worth screwing up twice and the second endeavor will be executed further into the arena of success by diluting the fig purée which will considerably improve its boilable capabilities. The flavor of the fig paste was delicious, particularly when spread across bread, cardboard, muffins and a young woman’s cleavage. Future prototypes will require that more dough be made to avoid overworking scraps. Newlyweds were grateful for the gesture, dedication and effort and all parties were too joyfully inebriated to be critical.

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.

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