Tête de serpent Monday, Jul 28 2014 

Snakehead pie.

Pie from the sky.

Pie from the sky.

Snakeheads, in mother fucking savory pastry

with mushroom catsup and some pickles.

 

Nasty creatures. They can live outside of water for up to 4 days, cross from one body of water to another and are alleged to even use public transportation.  They eat just about every and anything.  By law they have to be killed if you want to keep it.  Everything from mice to batteries have been found in them.  The flesh is similar to sturgeon in texture, but kind of tastes a but dirtier. With proper brining, curing and smoking however (and cutting with catfish), it can be quite delicious.

Ugly little bastard fish.

Ugly 10lb bastard fish.


 

if an angler wishes to keep a legally caught northern snakehead, the fish must be killed to be in possession, and the angler must call the hotline and report the angler’s last name, date of catch, location of catch and size. Kill the fish by:

  1. removing the head,

  2. separating the gill arches from the body, or

  3. removing the internal organs and put it on ice as quickly as possible.


The pasty is made by clarifying brown butter as with all afore-detailed pâtés in pastry.  A fine shortcrust with thyme or summer savory, eggs, vinegar, water, molasses, discipline and such.

Hotdog fish

Hotdog fish

Mushroom catsup is an olde timey English condiment and reads more nicely than the initial “white devil” sauce, particularly in a gentrifying, historically black neighborhood.  Mushrooms (button and chanterelle) are roasted and simmered with beer, white wine vinegar, shallots, aromatics and blended smooth.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

Snug as a bug in a savory rug.

The snakehead is a bit drier than the other fish I have used for fish pies (most of them are frozen immediately after they are caught and thawing releases too much moisture) so forcemeat is more of a farce fine with up to 100% cream by weight of the fish trimmings.  The smoked filets are put in the middle of the forcemeat, bundled up all nicely and baked at 425F for 17 magic minutes.  Some say it smells like hotdog via the far east.

Championnat du Monde de Pâté Croûte 2012 Tuesday, Jan 8 2013 

2012 World Pâté Croûte Championship:

Special Chump Edition.

World Champ.  Slices of life on the farm

World Champ. Slices of life on the farm

Here is a close approximation of my performance at the 2012 World Pâté Croûte Championship. I was exposed to dizzying level of professionalism and experience and feel that I fell short. Having to bring my wares from so far away put me at a considerable disadvantage, perhaps more so without the ooh-la-la garnishes & flair (though presentation accounted for few of the 200 total points) and I picked #12 at random, placing me last in the tasting, at which point the judges may have had their fill of 23,000 calorie forcemeats. Judges included Regis Marcon (Le Clos de Cimes ***), 2011 winner Eric Desbordes (Le Bristol ***) and numerous MOF’s. My mistakes were significant, but at least my slices stayed together –another contestant’s aspic was too loose and the pastry collapsed when cut. First and foremost, my pastry (80 points) did not achieve enough color, likely a result of baking 3 at once, thereupon lowering the temperature of the oven. Had I cooked it longer at that temp, I would have risked overcooking the forcemeat. I did not have a consistent gap for the aspic either.

Color me humbled.  Bravo Yohan (insert applause emoticon).

Color me humbled. Bravo Yohan (insert applause emoticon).

Upon speaking with Patrick Henriroux (La Pyramide **, MOF) he said that the judges prefer a chunkier forcemeat, and that I should have kept the gizzards whole. Keeping pace with the gin flavors I finished the slice with fleur de sel mixed with lime zest and ground juniper berries. M. Henriroux explained that juniper is not a flavor that the judges crave. Pickled cauliflower lightly dressed with an orange zest & confit fat soffrito didn’t compare to some of the Bocuse d’Or inspired garnishes put forth by other competitors, but wasn’t worth many points anyway. Lastly, I should have pulled the pâté out of the fridge earlier so that it would have been served at room temperature which otherwise mutes the flavors. Now I know better and being exposed to such work has been invaluable.

My piddling pâté, in all its underbaked splendor.

My piddling pâté, in all its underbaked splendor.

This is the high water mark of cookery; the confluence of discipline, theory, practice, technique, artistry and finesse. It is an absolute honor and pleasure to have been selected. Any and every cook should aspire to have the substance of their work judged blindly in such a format that transcends the stylistic pandering to photogenic tattoos and irritable congeniality. The gentleman whose work I witnessed and tasted are legitimate craftsmen*.

I represented, at the very least, be it ever so crooked.

I represented, at the very least, be it ever so crooked.

Yohan’s pâté had been in the works for almost a year and was stunning, though I thought the liver flavor was a bit strong. The theme was “the farm” and included something from every farm animal. The black dough fabrication & application of the lettering was clever and the detailed flower inlay nicely centered. Virtually all the forcemeats were chunky to the point where they fell apart after cutting the slice (mine had a firm yet moist texture) and more than half featured exceptional quality foie gras, not the excessive 2 ½ lb+ David Crosby sized lobes generated here which loose too much fat. Very rich and significant amount of care went into layering and inlays. One criticism from the judges is that they fear the aesthetics may begin to trump the flavor. Other inlays included especially savory ballotines, intricate designs and even whole cèpes with an intensely mushroom flavored aspic. All other pastries were cooked closer to perfection than I have ever seen and nothing short of delicious. An absolutely remarkable event with plenty of Mumm bubbles and M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers to wash it all down. We plated in 10 minute intervals and I was not able to see the first 8 pâtés plated.  I got pretty juiced on complimentary wine afterwards.

1% meatloaf sampler.

1% meatloaf sampler.

*The romantic suggestion that cooking at this level is art is nonsense. I do not know of any artist that must consistently replicate such a varied standard of work on a daily, weekly, monthly basis (we each had to bring 3 identical pâtés). These cooks are in the rare league of polished tradesmen like woodworkers whose creative artistry is seen through clean dovetails and moldings. Artists make one-offs. Craftsmen don’t.

Bocuse d'Or is next month, sir.

Bocuse d’Or is next month, sir.

Pâté en Croûte: Distraction Spéciale «Merde Sandy, Il Pleut». Monday, Oct 29 2012 

Pâté en Croûte:

Special “Crap Sandy, its Raining” Distraction.

Ivy League Edition: Beats Harvard and Yale. Both flooded.

With the absolutely crippling, thrilling, paranoid fantasy of a shotgun full of delusional diluvial rain pointed at what seems like the crotch (the good kind of crotch) of North East America, take the time to call up your local utility provider and courteously thank them for the thankless services they provide  before rabidly barking at them 72 hours from now when you have to suffer the inevitable consequences of weather and the fallibility of electricity when you are not able to sustain your sedentary lifestyle with less than 3,800 calories of raw fruit.

It might float your boat.

This silly culture of irrational fear is remarkable.   It has been suggested by the media, home improvement store magnates and toilet paper manufacturers that such coincidental weather patterns are more likely brought on by the really very real threat of Al Qaeda, gays marrying homosexual pets or iced cream, a second socialist term of a totally radical left-handed Muslim president and running out of milk.  A scholarly professor-type in the family posits that America’s atavistic pilgrimage to the milk aisle before hyperbolic warnings of fire, rain and brimstone is a terrifying emotional regression to an infant state nurtured by mother’s milk.  An erudite cynic at the local tavern professes that toilet paper consumption during fo-rizzle rapture-inducing drizzle can be attributed to giardia brought on by desperately drinking tainted river water.

The Arc that I baked.

But rather than curse your flooding basement, here’s a metaphorical lifeboat, or, if you still have electricity, a worthwhile distraction since this thing will sink like a 3rd world ferryboat.

Sturdy hull.

This “inadvertent argyle peppercorn-nipple edition” is hardly waterproof, is not sea-worthy and will not power a flashlight or lightsaber, but doesn’t need any appliances or utilities to cook.

Rivet(ed)ing.

Baking Bad.

Chunky ration.

Le Pâté en Croûte: Édition Spéciale Canard et Cerises Sèches. Tuesday, Mar 6 2012 

Pâté en Croûte: Special Duck and Dried Sour Cherries Edtion.

Pretty feathery pastry.

Some duck marinated in Sailor Jerry rum.  Damn fine rum.  Nice & spicy.  Then a nod to Neil Diamond’s fruit of choice.  Farce a gratin (chicken livers marinated in brandy, shallots, duck fat), pork (30% of the weight of the duck), confit gizzards, fatback, pistachios and some warm spices.  No structural breaches and the most recent pastry proportions provided noteworthy savor and palatabilitinessness.  A worthwhile endeavor.  It’s be even more worthwhile is someone bought any of the damned stuff rather than gazing mouth agape at the meat case as if it were some sort of kooky dead animal exhibit at the zoo.

Doing what Pablo Neruda wants me to do with cherries in preparation for spring, I think.

Plenty of similar cooked charcuterie offerings available, in addition to raw sausages and a wide variety of cuts from all animals.

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.

Merci-donnant 2011: Édition Spéciale “Nouvelle Frangleterre“ n. 2 Tuesday, Dec 13 2011 

Thanksgiving 2011: Special “New Frangland” Edition.

Part II.  Super Soup

A complete, coastal package.

Gloucester chowder  and acorn squash goldfish.  No big deal.  A veritable Tetris of flavors and juices Just had to make sure the guests remembered to wear their dental dams as they were about to get fucked in the mouth .  The likes of which inspires pop-culture folklore.

Healthy dinner eco-system

Navy beans cooked with bacon, garlic and bay leaf.  Bacon rendered, then celery and red onion cooked in the fat, finished with lemon segments.  Littleneck clams then mussels cooked with white wine, toasted garlic, the skin from thick-cut bacon and parsley.  Legitimate salted cod (not pollock) simmered with lemon zest and shrimp then poached with the salt cod liquid and ground chili.  After reserving some cooked beans for the garnish, the remaining were puréed with 75% of the weight in bean, clam, mussel and salt cod/shrimp juice.

Selfless shells & fish

A bowl of shrimp, clams, mussels, salted cod, navy beans, leek and celery leaf ready to welcome in open arms a hot ladle of chowder freckled with bacon, celery, onion, beans, sage and lemon zest.   Rich, savory, smooth, pleasant saltiness and acid notes from the salt cod, lemon and white wine, subtle smoke and crunch on behalf of bacon, creamy beans and fragrant greenery courtesy the blanched leeks.

Going for gold. Soup sopper.

Accompanying the decidedly chauvinist (in a good way) chowder were, appropriately enough, cornbread-acorn squash-goldfish hybrids, essential for sopping up the palpable bean porridge.  Yep.  Your hypothalamus probably just got a confused erection or crapped. Or both. You’re welcome.  Acorn squash roasted with olive oil, salt and a few select wintry spices after which the pulp was incorporated into a soignée cornbread recipe and baked in a delightful fish-shaped cornbread mold found at Happy’s flea market  in Roanoke for price of 3 cans of local suds.

Salt-water angle.

The chowder was well within the limits of being branded as “too salty” and in an effort to highlight the shellfish as well as potage, a carousel of lively and aromatic salt varieties was passed around.  Grey, lavender, Persian blue, smoked, espellete and fleur de sel.

To Be Continued…

Pâté en croûte d’anniversaire; Édition spéciale jour de naissance Tuesday, Jul 12 2011 

Anniversary pâté en croûte;  Special birthday edition.

When this bun came out of the oven.

Happy birthday to me.  No real surprises in this production.  Another exercise in a series of fabrications benefiting the fabrication of a legitimate pâté en croûte which is structurally, texturally, tastefully and aesthetically sound. Measurements in the pastry have been slightly altered (60/40 butter/lard) and recorded as have the forcemeat participants to ensure a consistent fill without excessive surplus.  Forcemeat components were raw cured shoulder, pistachios, fatback, currants and tongue.  Future filling tests will have the raw shoulder replaced with cooked ham.  Pork and chicken livers marinated in brandy and port along with aromatics bound all the stuff together after being partially frozen, ground twice (meat and fat separately so that the fat doesn’t smear or melt) and puréed –but not too long as an extended stay in the whirly blades incorporates too much air and lightens the color.

Forcemeat genesis.

Stenciling the date into the pastry lid involved several delicate dances of draftsmanship before an efficient routine could produce crisp, evenly spaced numbers.  A proper cutting instrument was essential for the surgical incisions as was the temperature of the doughy patient.  Warm dough is virtually impossible to cut with any precision.

Save the date and incise it.

For some reason the forcemeat did not shrink much and left little to no gap between the lid for the aspic.  No birthday shrinkage.  How about that?  Needless to say, what little  aspic made it through the numerical chimneys was sturdy and flavorful as far as savory port flavored Jell-O goes.  Pastry was enjoyable and similar to past episodes though it eventually softens and is not as crisp as the purported hot water crust meat pies from theUK.  Hot water pastry needs to be worked before it cools but is alleged to yield a firm crust (insert that’s what ___ said).  Prototypes will be experimented with shortly, perhaps in a less sophomoric manner.  And a special kudos to the dearest sister for the trademark slideshow.

Another C-section, 37 years later.

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

Pâté en croûte pendaison de crémaillère, Édition spéciale imposte. Tuesday, Feb 22 2011 

Housewarming pâté en croûte

Special transom edition

One handsome transom.

As a celebratory gesture of gratitude for the surrogate folks upstairs who have provided K&C’s new digs underneath theirs, a time-honored meatloaf with classical sensibilities was offered for the equally esteemed housewarming bash. Friends chit-chatted around a 2/3rd’s of February BBQ hearth while others hobnobed along the lengths of a communal table courtesy the Mrs.’s dexterous family and her farm’s reclaimed wood. Fare was represented by assorted cheeses, suds, dips, juices, pickles, kabobs and a particularly delightful elixir from Jeremiah Weed: “spiked cola”, reminiscent of Root liquor; an equally savory tonic which tastes remarkably similar to its namesake despite an alcoholic proof of 80. Root is limited to the Philadelphia region, however those in The District can score a sip between smoked sandwiches and home tinkers hot sauces.  If there were ever a delicious,  somewhat innocuous way to get pasted, it would be on this variety of sarsaparilla.  As for trying to get juiced on “spiked soda”,  good luck with that.  The sugar from chug-a-lug session equivalent to sucking down a 12 pack of RC Cola should cancel any effects of inebriation or need for sleep…or toothpaste.

Executive ham mansion.

The transom themed pâté was unveiled with modest fanfare as there were concerns that the beast’s core and shell shared the rickety, artisan craftsmanship of the octogenarian   venue.  Despite proper cookery and measurements, and obstruction prevented the aspic from filling in the entire void left by the shrunken forcemeat.  As with most dwellings designed during the Wilson administration, the roofing is prone to a leak or two, and, in extreme(ly resourceful) desperation, can be remedied with a generous spackling of butter, or, in times of financial ruin, a liberal smear of thrifty all-purpose lard.

The forcemeat was comprised of 70% pork & chicken livers with a 30% garnish of pig’s tongue, pig’s heart, shoulder meat, pistachios, Piglet’s stutter, dried figs and fatback.  Tongue, heart, oink and lean shoulder meat was cured in a 5%/2.5%/.25% salt/sugar/#1 brine for about a week or so whereas the remaining shoulder meat was left to marinate in brandy, port wine, olive oil and aromatics in the form of carrots, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, allspice, hogwarts and a splash of awesome.

Building blocks for a monument to flavor.

Pastry was a standard 50% fat shortcrust (70% lard, 30% butter) which has proven successful in previous applications.   The pork tongues were simmered until tender, their outer skin removed and diced along with the other garnishes.  The marinated meat was drained, ground twice with the chicken liver then puréed in the food processor with an egg and some ice water to ensure a smooth emulsification. It  was seasoned with salt and #1 in the proportions of 1.5% and .25% by the weight of said paste since the diced meat garnishes had previously been introduced to their seasoning agents.  Once all the ingredients were collected and enthusiastically mixed with even distribution, the mold was lined with the pastry while Dick Gordon told some stories on the radio.

Wet Paint.

The matter or decorative ornament deemed worthy of a house acquisition and its subsequent warming by revelry was addressed.  Transoms, the iconic DC housing accents so dutifully documented by the Prince of Petworth provided inspiration and eventually aesthetically pleasing pastry trim surrounding the numeral distinction was sculpted.  Several coats of egg-wash affixed the highlights and ensured a decadent oven-baked tan.

Crowning molding.

After sufficient time in the hotbox necessary to achieve a desired internal temperature of 150ºF and desirable coloration, the edible structure was left to cool and firm up.  One immediate issue of concern was the considerable amount of juices that flowed from the chimney upon piercing the forcemeat with a thermometer.  The resulting protein heavy juices may have congealed during refrigeration and obstructed what should have been a channel above and around the forcemeat which would later be filled with aspic.  A minimal amount of aspic made its way in leaving a blister of sorts at one end of the piece.

Otherwise, the texture and flavor of both the forcemeat and pastry were commendable.  A moat of aspic between the pastry and forcemeat would have offered and exceptional product.  That missing space is a measurable incentive for a more harmonious orchestration of fat, flour, meat, jelly and flavor.

Tis a mighty fine croûte, but tis no house, English.

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