Le Rôti de Bœuf: Édition Spéciale Boucle d’Agrume. Wednesday, Feb 22 2012 

The Beef Roast: Special Citrus Buckle Edition

A toast to the buckle roast.

A fiercely handsome aged roast.   From a farm out in Virginia and dry-aged for 5 weeks.  Sweet, feral, drool inducing aged beef-fat fragrance girdled in pork back fat with citrus and herbs.  Until the USDA allows farmers to raise grass finished cattle older than 2 years (i’ve heard something to suggest that they have recently amended the regulations, but such info is difficult to find; specifics are welcome) for slaughter without sending the spinal cords for inspection to assuage BSE concerns , we’ll have to settle for pastured, grain finished since 24 month old grass-fed animals do not have the time to fatten up on the grass nature intended.

Starsky & Hutch Edition Top Round Roast

Or perhaps a top-round roast for 8, in traditional racing stripes.  Versions or Randall Lineback wrapped in petit salé (French bacon) available as well, in addition to melon style lamb shoulders and boneless prune stuffed pork loins dutifully packaged in caul fat with appropriate spices and herbs.

Galantine de Volaille: Edition Spéciale “ma sœur me manque ; diagrammes de Venn par l’intermédiaire de « Joie de Vivre », de Robert Delaunay”. Thursday, Jun 16 2011 

Chicken Galantine: 

Special “I miss my sister; Venn diagrams channeled through

Robert Delaunay’s “Joie de Vivre” edition”.

Frankie Purdue’s electric acid and aspic preservation society.

Not since Sir Sidney Poitier’s critically acclaimed 1980 dramatic psychological thriller “Stir Crazy”, has a bird suit made such a satisfying impact on a beer & sausage buzzed audience. Conceived as homage to a beloved sister’s visit, and executed with antique culinary showmanship, the occasion provided an opportunity to challenge the deceptively handsome, technically demanding variety of galantine de volaille en chaud-froid.

John McEnroe experienced the same daunting rivalry on a conceptual English putting green in the late 1970’s against prodigal heart-throb fashion doll Björn Borg.  As with any other seemingly dreamy, follicular tête à tête sporting snug 3” inseams and terrycloth headbands, tempers are likely to flare, more so when the senior competitor’s enviable golden locks, soothing turquoise eyes and frighteningly consistent strokes stoke the coals of a defeated tantrum.

Cool has been lost on several occasions, when firm temperament put the motherfucking kibosh on the occasional shittiest pastry and aspic known to humanity.  However, failures gradually shifted towards winnings, the equilibrium payoff of improved theory & practice, eventually ensuring results well within the margins of success, awesomeness and horny girls’ adoration column.  A veritable cootie-catcher of inevitable victory permutations, though a winningest champion who has built an epic career trademarked by sang-froid and imperviousness to stress will have  a melt-down for the fans when absolute perfection is not achieved, affirming that even a master craftsman invariably blames his tools.

Green Gene, mean sausage machine.

Sister was in town for a brief visit from Notsofunnyland and nothing more than the be all end all of hopelessly dated grandiose E-coli-free chicken whimsy would fit the bill for making her visit worthwhile (fostering Mr. Cuddlesworth  notwithstanding), though mustard green sausages were an enticing opening act.

A chicken only agents Mulder & Scully and Gonzo the Great could love.

Chicken was obtained from a reputablish Latin grocer in exchange for currency and a genuine appreciation for meringue music.  Extremities were lopped off, the skeleton ripped out with a forceful hand à la Predator, stock made with said bones, bla-bla-bla, same ol’ song and dance.  Eviscerated bird was brined in a 3% salt brine (1.5%  sugar, aromatics).

Fowl bondage.

Forcemeat was made from pork, chicken trimmings, its offal, fatback, pistachios, figs, foie gras & truffle mousse scraps, Muppet tenderloins, Dutch Guilders, and a rose of a different name.  Pork and chicken trimming were ground twice and supplemented by an egg puréed with the bird’s liver.  Seasoning and curing salt was measured by the weight of the forcemeat and its garnishes using a sextant, just like Shackleton did on his way to South Georgia island fromElephant  Island.  No small feat, especially in a windowless basement.

Crop-circle chicken upholstery.

After stuffing and trussing the creature, it was launched into the stockpot (gooseneck –fade away) and left to simmer until the inside reached 160ºF.  Took a long time.  Didn’t want to boil too hard as I was afraid the skin and remaining bones (wings and drumsticks) would fall apart.  It was left to cool in the stock and then refrigerated while the chaud-froid was fabricated.  A white roux was cooked, heated stock whisked in, gelatin added, strained, cooled, tasted and tested for strength.  After an extreme (look out, Dan Cortese) coating of chaud-froid, excesses and cosmetic imperfections were melted away with extremely gentle wafts of heat from a butane torch.  And of course the ubiquitous fluted mushrooms, whittled turnips and brightly glazed radishes.

Court-side with Stanley Kubrick. (nice booties, blondie)

Sister has an affinity for Venn diagrams, an appreciation of which would inspire the decoration.  The brightest natural colors and workable textures are extracted from bell peppers.  The pepper are carefully selected by shaking them like maracas to see if they have any loose change in them, boiled, peeled and cut to specifications, in this case a variety of overlapping circles which would also, coincidentally, suggest the “joie de vivre” painting by French abstract artist Robert Delaunay, whose nationality we all share (with tremendous, fiery enthusiasm).  Look too close and you might get hypnotized and crap sideways for a week.  Seriously.

Inedible abstract joy of living.

After attentively adorning the critter with deliberately alternative, meticulously cut anit-Mondrian  colored discs, the thing was given a proper shellacking of aspic followed by the butane torch once-over to smooth out any unsightly bulges.

Dissecting the game.

Overall, the chaud-froid could have used more salt and the forcemeat could have benefited from more aggressive cooking.  Slow cookery may have made the forcemeat mealy rather than firm, giving it a somewhat unpleasant texture.  The chicken itself was delightful as far as poached chicken goes.  While not a championship win in straight sets, it was a respectable qualifying endeavor.  Notes have been taken and the tapes have been studied.  Training is under way for summer’s 2.0 galantine; special argyle rainbow chard edition.

Édition Spécial Heraldique District de Columbia No. 2 Monday, May 16 2011 

Pâté en Croûte.

Special At-Large 2.0 DC heraldry Edition.

Pork barrel degustation

Commissioned and cheerfully donated to a Bryan Weaver At-Large campaign party, and a follow-up to the inaugural DC heraldry edition.

Stately pastry

The endeavor failed to sway votes but allegedly swooned attentive eyes and registered palates. Coincidentally, Mr. Weaver was in attendance at an Easter party and following an introduction as the progenitor of the jingoistic meatloaf, pictures corroborating his alleged enthusiasm for the creation were shown. A doughy, half-baked plan was kneaded, the filling of which was to raise Mr. Weaver’s profile by staging an abduction and sequestering him in a Mt. Pleasant villa. Spanish television in the background of all telephone conversations would complete the Central American kidnapping ruse. The sleeper agent at the party was to have been provoked into seizing the candidate by a singular pickled shishisto pepper flavored jelly bean, but after having ingested a multitude of tutti-fruity jellied beans necessary to maintain appearance of legitimate mingling, the agent’s palate was muddled, incapable of distinguishing root beer jelly beans from keg beer and the plan had to be aborted.

The Flavoring Candidates

The meatloaf campaign was similar to past efforts with proportions of garnish (fatback, pistachio, figs) based on 1/3 of the weight  of the forcemeat which was comprised of pork marinated in brandy and port, then supplemented by chicken livers and a foie gras & truffle mousse which had been idling in the fridge for the better part of the Obama administration. As an added bonus, an inlay of cured pork ran through the middle.

Federal Jambox

In its raw state, the pâté was remarkably stately, albeit with a mid 1980’s boom-box allure.  After a repose in the heat (as any observer of the prolonged effects of sunbathing and gravity can corroborate), there was a little bit of sagging. The drooping consequences evoked either smarmy little bastard Stewie Griffin or brainy rolling robot Johnny No. 5.

Victory is mine. (Weaver’s will have to wait).

Coloring the aspic red in a thrifty manner proved to be a considerable challenge given the home bar’s absence of grenadine, the tremendously bitter properties of annatto and burgundy results of red beets. In the end, a heavy hand of red food dye squeezed from a sizeable stone would have to suffice.

Red #40 alive.

Excess forcemeat was cooked in a small terrine and sampled in accordance with the terms of epicurean accountability. The forcemeat was moist, smooth, tender, properly seasoned and offered hints of the brandy in which it marinated. Sadly, there is no documentation of the pâtés interior and concerns about an uneven distribution of the aspic linger. However, Mr. Weaver’s lively presence a fortnight later on the eve of the election was evidence of the pâté’s gustatory success, though it surely can not be blamed for his unfortunate loss.  At the very least it deserves to be in good company with state dinners and other notable political dinner roasts.

Meat Party demographics.

Soirée Germinal Monday, Apr 18 2011 

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

Citrouilles, revisited Friday, Oct 29 2010 

Johnny Walker Pumpkin. Dispensing mulled cider spiked with Johnny Walker.

Gosling's Rumpkin. Spiked cider on tap.

Pimpin’ to Lozèrien kin
Jacque-O’-Lanterne
Squashy propaganda for the first Muslim president.
Gourd Marnier. With spiked cider in a wine bladder within.

And now for something completely different:

I’ve got nothing on  Ray Villafane.

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.

Une soirée émouvante avec Valient Thorr Sunday, Sep 26 2010 

A whipper of an evening with Valient Thorr

Sat next to Valient Himself, himself at the Black Cat’s bar before his show last week.  An exceptionally affable Rasputin looking fellow and former teacher who, when Valient Thorr is not touring with Motörhead or playing Nordic metal festivals, is a benevolent son who donated a kidney to his ailing earth father “Pop”.

Lead hair guitar.

Those grizzly cosmic minstrels hail from Burlatia on that planet Venus, packing their galactic luggage with scorching metal jams of salvation (no room for shaving kits) in an intrepid mission save our putrid souls; ravaged by desperate right-wing entitlement, duplicitous corporate greed and toxic sour grapes.  The teeth swelling licks and sweaty enthusiasm will have any budding Thorrior crapping sideways for a week through bleeding ears.

White people with beards and no shirts can dance.

First caught a hypnotic whiff of Valient Thorr over a few “Super Awesome’s” (bourbon rickey) when a raging band of unkempt troubadours thrashed about silently on FuelTV overhead but rattled my body down to its core.  The gnarly angels’ steel claw riffs can skewer marrow and it might as well have been Eidan Thorr scraping abscessed frets on my 6-string shinbones.

Barbasol Tour ’09

Difficult to make out any of the savory lyrics during the show despite being so close to the 4000 watt speakers, but the grinding  motivational gospel and headbanging fury of encouragement was frighteningly clear: “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s where you’re at and what you’re gonna do.”

Pâté Pantin de Volaille, édition spéciale blason de Washington Thursday, Jul 22 2010 

Poultry pâté pantin,

special District of Columbia heraldry edition.

Stars and bars meatloaf in a blanket.

A pox upon sweltering, balmy, mid Atlantic summers; their oppressive humidity, hokey halter tops, air conditioned sequestering and general lethargy.  Cold meat beats the heat.  Septimal (depending on who is keeping score) noble attempt at aligning the confluence of theory and practice required to fabricate a worthwhile pâté pantin –the freeform version of the venerable pâté en croûte. When cruel life  bequeaths a freezer of meat scraps, make whimsical meat pies. Mid-summer flavors of Cornish game hen, dried apricots, fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary) from the Mt. Pleasant sharecropping herb garden and the ubiquitous supplements of pork shoulder, pork liver, fatback, peanut M&M’s, black peppercorns, crushed urinal mints, Spanish peanut skins and such.

Vexillologists, waive your savory surrender.

The decorative decision process was tedious, cloudy and more of a nuisance than anything else until a topical nod to Charles A R Dunn’s iconic flag (widely applauded by the North American Vexillogical Association), this adoptive city and George Washington heraldry fit the mid-year bill. Naturally, the stars would be fluted, bars ribboned, pastry laurel leaves adorned and an associating feather on the backside to evoke the ticklish nature of a feathered farce within.  (insert applause)

View on the bay (leaf).

Standard forcemeat procedure was followed: Cornish hen meat (breasts & legs), pig liver and pork shoulder was cleaned, cubed and marinated in brandy with the addition of herbs, peppercorns, garlic, olive oil, token carrot and a piece of onion or two for 4 days. The liver was puréed with 1/3 (equal weight) of the marinated meat and an egg. Another 1/3 was ground and the remaining meat consisted of diced breast, pork and fatback. #1 curing measurements were made, the seasoning calculated based on the total weight of the forcemeat with the inclusion of the diced dried apricots and crushed pistachios.

A feather is kinky. But whole birds are kind of pervy.

Less than half the dough was rolled out with an empty Bordeaux bottle (1984 Lynch Bages –that’s how I roll) for the base. The remaining was rolled out in the same manner, though larger by a few centimeters to cover the forcemeat which was placed on the base and shaped with a spatula. Stars were cut from the top portion, the base border brushed with egg wash, then the top was placed over the forcemeat and the seams sealed…twice because the dough in the first covering was too dry and fell apart. The base form was covered with a towel whilst the chimneys and decorative pastry was painstakingly carved and applied. A pain in the ass like no other. Flat, 2 dimensional bars would have been far too prosaic for an homage to the American capital. Draping, sort of colonial ribbons were fashioned instead and empty space filled with the hallmark  feather and laurel leaves for classical showmanship.

George likes his pâté crusty.

Half a dozen egg washes and a proper chill later, the thing was tucked into a 450F oven for 20 minutes, the temperature reduced to 400, the beast rotated and baked another 20 minutes until the internal temperature was somewhere near 140F. It was left to cool on its own and after a day in the fridge the aspic was poured in through the chimneys. Apparently cracks had formed in the pastry since aspic was clearly, frustratingly leaking through. As a measure of relief, the pretentious meatloaf was crushed from a distance.

In an attempt to transfer the fragile oeuvre to a dry platter the cracks worsened. Crap. Soft butter was generously applied to the cracks with the deft of a Portuguese mason. The red wine aspic was fortified with some stronger neutral aspic and it literally sealed the deal. A torch melted away the excessive butter spackle and some of the shame.  In nervous haste, sweating like a sharlila at the temple mount, pictures of the cooked forcemeat were not taken.

Life is like a dubiously crafted pâté…

Shitté pâté? Almost. Certainly not an historical high water mark or a colossal tapestry of shortcomings and oversights as acknowledged in the disastrous pâté pantin beta version. Merely a few technical hiccups. In lieu of the cost disparity between butter and lard (as well as UNPO Cup gambling indiscretions –damn you Chechnya, and funds pending between Lagos and here) the thrifty later was increased to represent the dear formers proportions. However, the varying water content was not properly accounted for and the dough was a just a bit drier than it should have been. Some additional water and well seasoned expletives remedied the tough dough and tense situation. Secondly, the pastry was rolled to thin and the pâté itself too broad in width making the cooked product (after shrinking) very fragile. Again, the ef’in aspic was too thin. Made exclusively from pig trotters and skin, it should have been cooked longer and reduce further before clarifying to ensure proper solidity. Notes have been taken and such errors will not be repeated,  intentionally, though others might.

Un Poulet, Frappé d’une Belle Fille Wednesday, May 12 2010 

Smitten man’s chicken

A classy chick doesn’t show any leg.

Taking a cue from nature, this bird tried to seduce another, with a larger, roasted bird.  Ginger brined, Confucius-style (head & feet still attached, hasn’t been ef’ed with, just as Confucius would)  roasted chicken, actually.  Ginger as a nod to Eastern cultural sensibilities, wheat berries for a wholesome, noble and humble demeanor; manicured asparagus to evoke spring and mimic those properly groomed fingernails; fluted mushrooms for masculine showmanship and flexing of deft hands; soffritto made with lemon zest, chili  and my8 month cured lardo di Mt. Pleasant. Frilly paper booties covered up any unsightly, severed feet; hopefully better crafted than all the other paper booties the young lady has had made for her by potential 2nd date dinner companions.

Brined, bound & buttered. Duck fat too.

A 4lb bird from Culver Duck farms.  Head was tossed while neck & feet were reserved to make a rich, though simple jus.  The thing was then left to do its thing for 4 days in a 3% brine primarily flavored with fresh ginger, cinnamon, clove, chili and rosemary.   1 day prior to roasting the wishbone was removed (as with any properly prepared bird) the creature trussed and left to dry 1 day in the fridge so as to achieve crisp skin when roasting

Chocolate truffles? Who is this suitor?  Only natural when the  brain-scramblingly stunning  lady in question has the style and etiquette to show up on bicycle with nary a sign of make-up, pickled rhubarb and a bottle of Hendrick’s.   Hazelnut & rum ganache.  Some with fleur de sel de l’Île de Noirmoutier, some without, others with some swirly stuff going on that can not be accounted for, but it looks sharp.  Sure does.

Much, much better than brown eggs.

Chicken gets the chick? Not likely.  Despite what could be recorded as one of the pretty damned good dates in Western civilization, the chicken was undercooked.  Whatever.  There is always Scrabble, but it sucks to play by yourself.

Pâté Pantin, édition spéciale Grecque Orthodoxe et pâte feuilletté foiré Tuesday, Apr 13 2010 

Pâté Pantin, special Greek Orthodox and muffed puff pastry edition.

The Last Tempation of the Croûte.

Enough of an endeavor, maybe, to secure a single orchestra seat to the rapture. Protestant ancestors might not be too jazzed, but who cares. Supposed to be an Easter Pithiviers but the puff pastry got muffed up, naturally, and a colorful monument to profanity ensued. Bitterly added enough flour, piss and vinegar to make some sort of bullshit pâte à foncer.

Meatloaf left me cross.

Forcemeat was a desperate mish-mash of duck scraps, chicken liver, probably some pork, my spoiled lardo, metal shavings, cat litter and a whatever pistachios could be pilfered from uppity lounges.

Tree of Job would have been more original, and organic.

Oh great. Aspic.

Reckoning: Not enough nitrate in the pantry, had to substitute sel-rose and the forcemeat oxidized after cooking. Aspic didn’t have enough wine because I drank most of it. Pretty much a waste of time. Sorry to have wasted yours. Should have gone to art school.

Multifaceted blasphemy. Barely sacrilicious.

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