Fin d’un ère Friday, Aug 30 2013 

End of an Era

Pork & Squab Starship.

Pork & Squab Starship.

My term as meat minister at Range is coming to an end (“master” is the journalist’s embellishment, which, while flattering, is embarrassing considering what I have seen elsewhere.  I am grateful for their faith and trust in my craftsmanship.  Now to re-align recipes to work with seafood from the Chesapeake Bay.  Cue the B-roll photo montage of things that no one really ate:

Chicken giblets.  Livers as a terrine, gizzards confit.

Chicken giblets. Livers as a terrine, gizzards confit.

Chicken galantine with pistachio-stuffed morels

Chicken galantine with pistachio-stuffed morels

Rabbit and Riesling with mustard and mint.

Rabbit and Riesling with mustard and mint.

Galantines: Édition Spéciale “roule ma poule” Saturday, Nov 17 2012 

Galantines:  Special “On a Roll” Edition.

Breast binoculars yet.

Chicken Galantine.  Swan song for the penultimate day at work and poultry butchering demonstration.  Bobo chicken, breast strips, pork, fatback, brandy-drenched currants, pistachios and an inlay of liver mousse wrapped up in fatback.  Yep.  Centered too.

Pleasant, that pheasant.

Pheasant galantine.  Ballotine actually, since it was lightly seared and warmed through with the poaching juices.  Pheasant breast garnish, confit gizzards, pork, livers chestnuts and sage.  Served with chestnut purée, autumn vegetables and a croquette made from the legs.  Legs were braised with juniper and gin, picked from the irritating tendons, shredded, supplemented with whole-grain mustard and orange zest.  Twice breaded and fried (needed more fat for unctuousness).

 

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.

Merci-donnant 2011: Édition Spéciale “Nouvelle Frangleterre“ n. 3 Monday, Jan 2 2012 

Thanksgiving 2011: Special “New Frangland” Edition.

Part III.  Turkey Delivery

Dinner seen through rosy early 20th century glasses.

Happy New Year, dearest faithful and hopelessly sexually repressed readers. Forgive the brevity, but commuting has sapped free time. Consider relieving your New Year’s Eve shame with this delightful –albeit tardy- ultimate TG2011 installment as you hopelessly milk the clock –managers or worker bees alike.

Hell, its been almost 6 weeks and at this point flexing any turkeyday muscles is just a formality.  Still, if a pair of contraceptive diaphragms remain in your desk drawer and weren’t taken to your holiday party, put them in over your glasses because you are about to get fucked in the eyes.

A delectable variety of seasonally appropriate garden accoutrements preceded the roast of honor.

Baby cabbages, or whatever. From Belgium with flavor.

Brussels sprouts, savory and tart.  Blanched in water seasoned to theWestern Atlantic’s liking then agitated with red onions cooked in plenty of lard and made vibrant with lemon juice.

Holla-flower. #gratiné

Heirloom cauliflower à la Polonaise.  Yellow, purple, and romanesco.  A béchamel supplemented with the stalks.  Eggs barely boiled, split and nestled within the brassica valleys.  A generous dusting of lemon zest, garlic and bread crumbs toasted in poultry fat –butter not readily available from a turkey no matter how hard you milk it.  Given the tanning salon treatment  in an oven until deliciously crunchy.  Verdant, tender, firm, rich, crisp, saucy, hearty.

Roast cleavage.

And then there was the heritage Virginia bird.  Brined in a solution of salt and maple syrup.  Left to dry overnight then roasted over a bedding of vegetable aromatics and sliced lemon to the goldest of golden.

Thigh-roller.

As for the leggy appendages, ballotines, naturally.  Puréed, seasoned garnish with thigh meat, fatback, cranberries, fatback and expertly rolled up, as one would an XXXL reefer and roasted with fresh cranberries and chestnuts.  Superb.

Tastes charming as well.

No bird can go to the ball without a proper dressing, or in this case, saupiquet –a gravy made from reduced turkey stock and thickened with the seared liver.  Then some confit gizzard chopped up in there.

I am the gizzard king.

Pan Coudoun.Languedocfavorite. Candied quince baked in whole wheat bread.  Chewy crumb, aromatic crust, sweet filling.

Nature’s candy in a gluten wrapper.

Frangipane pagentry.

 Pumpkin and ricotta frangipane tart.  Courtesy a friend in the industry.  To top it; honey-cream cheese iced cream.  Wonderfully flaky crust.  Fragrant frangipane, sweet pumpkin and just a little bit of sour from the ricotta.  A fitting closure washed down with Pachernc.

Gilded arches.

An exceptional evening whose fare was only made as enjoyable as the company.

Thank you guests.

Merci-donnant 2011: Édition Spéciale “Nouvelle Frangleterre“ Thursday, Dec 1 2011 

Thanksgiving 2011:  Special “New Frangland” Edition.

Part I: Preamble

Ceci est vrai, mon Général.

Tippy top-shelf guest list was not accurately represented, though 14 friendly orphans gathered around a table instead and provided exceptional company for an enjoyable feast.  Similar to and inspired by 2009’s successful Old-World meets New-World premise, a coastal New England menu was devised using traditional autumn ingredients with traditional French techniques.  Stalwart perennials included mulled cider, charcuterie, soup, turkey breast and legs cooked separately, Jansson’s temptation,  cheese and dessert.  Due to unshakable unemployment since returning from France, certain tasks were outsourced so as to alleviate the financial burden, in this case the adroitly mulled cider, mustache-force roasted nuts, selective cheese, ethereal dessert and, as always, libations.

Coastal menu

Slightly sticky, sweet, spicy, crunchy nuts roasted in a light butter caramel arrived courtesy of a former colleague and provided a welcome start to the evening.  2 variations of properly mulled cider were spearheaded by another guests and offered the essential social lubricant.  Warm apple cider infused with allspice, clove, star anise and cinnamon and proposed with either dark rum or bourbon steeped with dried apple chips and raisins.  Fantastic.  Pickled sour Mexican gherkins and yellow wax beans from the garden supplied essential acidity to whet the appetite and balance the delectable rillettes.

Mulled cider to be pumped. (insert fist pump emoticon)

Bostonmackerel, appropriately, was pickled in my red wine vinegar with carrots and red onions, dressed with extra virgin French olive oil and eaten with the help of antique cocktail forks bought at Ruff & Ready for a song.  Firm, pleasantly sour and a crunch from the carrots.  Nice contrast to the sweet cider and stoopid good rillettes.

Diff’rent forks for diff’rent dorks.

Far and away the most luscious element of the preamble was the unctuous and resourceful smoked turkey rillettes.  Cured and smoked turkey drumsticks were acquired from the venerable and aptly named Bestworld for pocket change and simmered in Berkshire pork leaf lard, bay leaf and peppercorns for a few ticks longer than the duration of, of…of…? until thoroughly hammered. Strained from the smoky fat, the meat was cleaned of the miserable plastic-like tendons that make turkey (and pheasant)  legs so unappealing and exhaustingly paddled by modern technology with the incorporation of the fat until smooth and pasty.  Some premium octane German mustard  and sherry vinegar for balance.  Potted in a pot, covered with remaining fat and left to do its thing in the fridge for a couple days.

Turkeyday preamble Olympic podium (you’re welcome, turkey).

I’ve been unabashedly bashful about some of the culinary flops documented in gustatory diary.  The rillettes is not one of them.  Tippiest toppest shelf product and formidable in its properly proportioned complexity.  Smoky, rich, salty, smooth, creamy, mustard heat, tartness from the vinegar, appealing color and an all around intoxicating aroma.  I’d gladly be embalmed with it if Root or Van Gogh espresso is not available.

Smooth, leggy, blonde and spreads.

Hearty crackers were an essential vehicle for consuming the poultry alchemy and a spit-shone curvy antique fish knife was the proper tool for administering such a voluptuous yet austere product on said cracker.

TBC…

Poulet rôti et choufleur à la Polonaise: Edition Spéciale Bonne Mère et Bon Œuf. Thursday, Nov 10 2011 


Roasted chicken & cauliflower à la Polonaise:

Special Good Mother and Good Egg Edition.

Fresh from the oven. 11/5/11 -5lbs, 2oz.

Nearly a fortnight ago as the infallible doctor-mandated temporal due date expired,  an expecting mother’s expectations had withered from frustration to desperation only to be reignited with traditional internet folklore.  According to Cobb County, Georgia legend, the revered eggplant parmigiana at Scalini’s old-fashioned Italian restaurant had, for better or much worse,  particularly labor inducing properties.  The ingredients themselves seem benign and the adulteration of nutritionally worthless eggplant.

Fertile soil

Eggplants are naturally high in nicotine and perhaps abundant levels of affection for kitschy guido bric-a-brac may help to explain why pregnant women’s bodies dislodged an abundant amount of cute-deficient babies after gorging themselves on really crappy Americanized Italian foodstuff.   (insert shudder emoticon).

Whether or not the expedient natural birth was a symptom or relief from the dutiful father-to-be’s rendition of eggplant placatingiana, not more than 3 hours later the couple welcomed the adorable tiny fruit of their mutual affection and steadfast commitment.

Drawn butter helps delivery up north.

A cook’s cook once said that anything worth doing was worth doing right and that the final product is a measure of effort, passion and dedication.  If the newborn is any indication, her folks must have done it right, intensely, and probably twice just to make sure.  In recognition of their compassionate endeavor, a soulful dinner to feed the soul was offered up. Roasted chicken -a centerpiece mainstay of homely nutrition, and as an allegory to the seasonal household addition  -cauliflower à la Polonaise.  As an extension of the fall harvest, a garnish of potatoes from the mother’s garden, glazed turnips and red pearl onions.

All natural, cage-free birthing bearth.

The bird was prepared and cooked in an orthodox manner (wishbone removed; drumsticks Frenched; stuffed with sliced lemon, garlic, thyme, dried chili and the last of summer’s savory; trussed) and left to roast on a bedding of standard vegetables and slices of another lemon.  The resulting creature attained a golden lacquer which retained an abundant reservoir of succulent juices with prevailing poultry, fragrant traces of herbs and echoes of citrus.  Paper booties were applied in lieu of a proper bowtie which was impossible to wear without a neck.  Meat was moist and clean, though if given the opportunity to serve in two acts, the legs would have returned backstage and simmered in the juices until entirely free from the bone.

Yellow Hot Cauliflower Crispies.

The pennant of Polonaise preparation involves garnishing with clarified butter, hard cooked eggs, bread crumbs and parlsey. Yellow cauliflower and romanesco were purchased for a song at the morning’s market.  No parsley.  No problem. Once manicured and whittled to florettes, the stalks were cooked down in stored poultry fat and made into a noble béchamel with the addition of flour, milk, nutmeg and piment d’espelette.  Meanwhile, as eggs were brought up to barely a boil, bread crumbs toasted in a pan with mashed garlic and the zest of a lime. The earthy béchamel lined the bottom of a dish and blanched cauliflower was spread on top, interspersed with halved eggs.  After a hot flash in the oven, rosemary scented poultry fat was drizzled for rizzle all over that shit (until chickens give milk, schmaltz will replace clarified butter) and a dusting of those bread crumbs provided that essential crun(k)ch.  All involved parties seemed satisfied, particularly the baby who, despite a strict regimen of mother’s milk,  apparently found no reason to protest.

Édition Spéciale Marché Gris: Viandes et Provisions Vaut la Peine. Monday, Jul 18 2011 

Special Grey Market Vendor Edition:

Worthwhile Meats & Provisions

Worth mine and your while.

Under the storefront nom de plume of Worthwhile Meats & Provisions, wares within this repertoire were placed for sale at the 3rd DC Grey Market in an effort to showcase the confident breadth of basement kitchen derring-do as well as gauge public demand and tastes.  Products were smoked wild king and sockeye salmon (18 ounces of each), boudin  blanc d’Avranches (24 links), leafy greens sausage (36 links), pâté en croûte (48 ounce pâté) and cauliflower agnolotti (150 pieces).  Epicurean bric-a-brac was not for sale, though complimentary tomatoes and pickles were well received along with the products.

You should see my lemonade stand.

All were sold within 3 hours with the help of a lovely assistant’s handsome signage and personable hawking talent; an indispensable asset to any would be vendor. Sales covered all shopping costs and fees, leaving just less than $40 to compensate 2 weeks worth of late night work.  Portion sizes were respectable (3, 4, 10 and 15 ounces for salmon, pâté, boudin and sausage) and modestly priced at $3, $4, $7, $7 respectively as well as $1 an ounce for the agnolotti which helped to ensure that the items would not be prohibitively expensive.

The better kind of “sell out”.

The Grey Market provided an excellent opportunity and barometer of sorts for budding entrepreneurs to test the viability of they hobbies, passions, visions, etc…despite the somewhat remote location, awkward  placement of vendor tents and little to no advertising (contrary to the 1st and 2nd markets) –the last 2 liabilities resting squarely on the frumpy, strung-out shoulders of the untrustworthy promoter whose aggrandizing self titled culinary rank (the hallmark of kitchen insecurity) was hopelessly dubious and confirmed by the tasteless choice of chili pepper motif shorts.  Exhaustive intertron research has failed to produce any real meat & potatoes credentials relating to the alleged 2 decades of success, much less any evidence of culinary bona fides.

WorthWhile Meats & Provisions can be reached at worthwhilemeats@gmail.com

ETA:  The Washington Post food editor deemed my wares and ambitions worthy of front page ink.  Still, there remain skeptics whose pretzel logic concerning food safety illuminates the hopeless depths of their ignorance with respect to food safety and the effects of inspections/regulations.  For those, consider the FDA recall list from FDA-regulated products.  Then consider how many home kitchens are inspected and whether such cynics have ever been sickened from eating a meal prepared from an unlicensed kitchen in the form of breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, dinner party, birthday party, Thanksgiving, Christmas, bbq, picnic, etc…and whether or not they were concerned about food borne illnesses.  The paranoid fantasy is hyperbolic and unfounded.  It suggests that a price tag is enough to contaminate.

While my personal home kitchen is not officially licensed, it is sanitary, empty for 12-16 hours a day and does not have more than 2 hands or feet in it at any time.  15 years culinary experience, a formality food handler’s license, common sense and the desire to replicate a savory, worthwhile product trumps the hallow assurance that industrial facilities or restaurants are guaranteed to prevent illness by virtue of  occasional health inspections, biannual at best for latter that do not immediately require changes for 100% compliance with food safety codes.


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.

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

Tacksägelsedagen Thursday, Nov 25 2010 

Tacksägelsedagen 2010

Fancy pilgrim galleons no match for proper pillaging.

Through frigid swells, Icelandic maelstroms and Faroese oe (nod to brevity Scrabble™ hotshots), on Bjarni Herjólfsson’s lapstrake constructed knar, a weathered crew of sea savvy slaves navigated by OG/P (original gangsta/pimpgrim) Leif Ericson  is alleged to have discovered North America.  Just a whiff of the dragon ship and/or its salty mariners would have curdled the prude migratory fantasies of the Mayflower’s prim & proper pansies. Decidedly and accordingly, a Nordic flavored feast would prevail over contemporary New Englandish mish-mashes of green beans, marshmallows and awfully starchy or achingly sweet varieties of potatoes in mashed form.  Antique French glasswares and Scandinavian flatwares befitting Babette’s table would be in order.

Glass class. Skøl.

The numbers: 1 millennia since the Norse discovery of North America, 1 month’s menu foresight,  1  fortnight’s worth of labor and a few days of anxiety over whether a proper bird would be attained and pledged guests in attendance.  A 25lb Pennsylvania raised heritage turkey was obtained and the guest list swelled from an anemic 7 to a gouty, tightly packed 11, consistent with the intrinsically Danish standard of life (Rick Harrison, grand wizard of historical bric-a-brac from Pawn Stars was high on the guest list but unavailable).

The fundamental cultural hallmark of Danish year’s end awesomeness vibe is “hygge” (h-ewe-guh), something candlelit and warm nestled somewhere comfortably within the realm of “cozy” and “tranquil”.   The mesmerizing absence of anything even slightly irritating, annoying, grating, overwhelming, i.e., greedy social conservatives, self-entitled diners, mouth breathers and urban residents unwilling to make even modest concessions for the sake of harmonious city living and/or humanity.

 

The evening began with a variation of glögg made with one of the guest’s seasonal, exceedingly artisanal pear wine crafted with cursory sanitation practice and flirting with  the zombie equivalent of wine: vinegar.  A healthy dose of vodka, toasted almonds, currants,  cranberries and some heat made it a potable social lubricant.  After polishing off the glögg any and all buzzed guests were seated to the carefully set table where traditional holiday starters were pleasantly passed around.

Before the devil knows your spread.

Gravad laks: 1 and 2 day salt/sugar cured sockeye salmon, mustard seed and caraway/juniper respectively, the former having benefited from an extra day of drying and produced a better pellicule than the later which was more moist.

Matjes: herring pickled in my red wine vinegar which was made possible with wine dumped from Halloween wine box bladders and some of Logan’s mother.  Fresh herring not being readily available, the salted variety was procured, degorged in cold water and then covered in the vinegar with shallot rings, bay leaf and peppercorns.  After a week in the pickle, the mackerel was drained and covered with a mixture of grapeseed and olive oil whose richness balanced the acidity.

Leverspostej: Danish liver and anchovy pâté made with pig liver and anchovies.  The forcemeat was puréed twice then introduced to the business end of a food processor with the addition of a béchamel panade.  The mixture was wrapped in bacon, baked in a waterbath and aside from being seasoned too timidly (not enough spice or anchovy), the final product was moist, properly cooked and offered an enjoyable texture.

Leverpostej was accompanied by cauliflower pickles: romanesco, cheddar and purple cauliflower with carrot, lemon zest, red onion, aromatics, 3% salt and a mixture of water, white wine vinegar and 24% ättiksprit (Swedish vinegar).  Delicious.  The romanesco fractals being delicate and visually stunning (pioneered in space by joint NASA/EU aerospace/agriculture scientists), the cheddar nicely crunchy while the purple’s staining properties encouraged guests not to be sloppy.  Olive oil glazed radishes finished with vinegar rounded out the accoutrements.

Nordic study on getting your pickle tickle.

3 loaves of rugbrød, traditional Danish rye bread were made though the results erred to the side of unconventional what with a much chewier crumb and hearth bread loaf shape.  Rye flour/buttermilk starter provided a portion of the leavening agent and was supplemented with yeast, twice the recommended amount since the beer (King Cobra malt liquor –softball leftover) was hastily added from the fridge at a frosty, possibly yeast killing temperature.  In addition to rye and higher gluten bread flour, a variety of grains and such were incorporated into the dough:  rye seeds, millet, oats, caraway, flax seed, ball bearings, woodchips and shrimp shells.  Aside from excessive coloration on the bottom of the bread from the oven stone –reminiscent of asphalt and embarrassingly cut away- the bread had respectable crust, crumb and chew.

Aquavit, in the rocks.

Shots of Krogstad aquavit,  captivatingly encased in ice and neighborhood shrubbery trimmings were offered between courses and kept the guests limber.

Torsksuppe: Cod’s head soup revisited.  Fish fumet from the collars with aromatics, thickened with a roux then finished by poaching the cheeks and tongues in the soup and rounding out the affair with lemon zest, celery, celeriac and potato.  Croutons with cod roe in a tube would have been rendered the soup unstoppable.

Gøbble, gøbble.

Meet the meat of the matter.  25lb Confucius style Pennsylvania raised heritage turkey with a closer, natural breast to leg meat ratio.  Turkey leg tendons are an affront to any civilized “hygge” palate and are routinely, painstakingly, though expertly removed so that the dark meat can be manipulated in a fashion deemed worthy and reflective of the culinary theme.  Past leg up endeavors have seen the limb presented as succulent kofta (Turkish meatballs) with giblets and raisins or brilliant ballotines flaunting a fluted mushroom entourage.  Keeping in stride with Nordic elements, tendon-free meat-feet Frickadeller (Danish meatballs) were proposed.  Turkey meat, egg, parsley, clove, black pepper juniper, 20% pork, 10% fatback and 5% bread crumb and 1.3% salt by the weight of both meats were ground, shaped and roasted in a 450ºF oven.  Stock was made from the bones, neck, calf’s foot and aromatics in which the frickadeller were cooked until tender.  The cooking liquid was thickened with a roux then garnished with boiled golden beets, dried cranberries and eventually blanched Brussels sprouts.

Roasted with apples & prunes. Sleep inducing, but keeps you regular.

The breast of the beast was injected with and left to soak 2 days in a wintry spiced brine.  Once rinsed and patted dry, it rested on a comfortable bed of vegetables, some aromatics and roasted in a balmy oven for a couple hours, turning around every so often and getting a juicy basting.  Sleek, turned braeburn apple wedges and pitted prunes (typical Nordic roast accompaniments and beneficial for digestion)  flattered the roast like adulating geriatric fans. Though not much of a revelatory bird, it was sufficiently moist, well seasoned, photogenic and found harmony with the sweet-tart cranberry sauce detailed by clove, orange zest, honey, turbinado sugar, rosemary, cinnamon and salt.

Jansson’s temptation: delectable, traditional Swedish holiday potato gratin with a central layer of savory caramelized onions and salty sprat  infused cream (anchovies are suitable replacements); a  personal Thanksgiving/Christmas staple.

A traditional Swedish holiday thing aside from intensely repressed glögg inebriation: Scalloped potatoes baked in cream with a middle layer of caramelized onions and pickled sprats -bit smaller than a herring. Anchovies erroneously found their way into the American version since sprats are called ansjovis by Swedes, whereas anchovies fall under the sardeller appellation.

The three folkloric Norse origins of Jansson’s Temptation’s legend are inconclusive and subject to very little debate by neither mythological conspiracy enthusiasts nor epicurean historians.

*Some suspect the namesake of the dish to be Per Adolf “Pelle” Janzon, a gluttonous 19th century opera singer whose troubadour regimen allegedly consisted of beer, schnapps and the dish which won him marginal posthumous celebrity on the 40th anniversary of his expiration date.

*Gunnar Stigmark, author of the Gastronomisk Kalender hopelessly attributes the dish to the eponymous 1928 Swedish silent-movie box-office flop starring Edvin Adolphson.

*Hippie publishers of the 1967 American Heritage Cookbook believed that Erik Jansson, the really pious Swedish religious reformer who founded Bishop Hill, Ill in 1846 (2000 census pop. 125) was spied eating a decadent dish of anchovies and potatoes bound with rich, creamery butter and farm fresh milk. Janssonist zealots considered Jansson to be the second coming of Christ and cursed the dish as Jansson’s Temptation. He was murdered in 1850.

*Rumored inspiration for the Swedish Chef is also lukewarmly contested.

Conceptual stuffing was represented with pearl barley, handsomely manicured winter root vegetables (rutabaga, celery root, parsnips, carrots, turnips and red pearl onions) lathered in butter, dusted with bread crumbs then baked until chestnut brown and crispy.  The dish stretched the definition of stuffing, yet root vegetables glazed until tender in olive oil then finished in Swedish vinegar (to highlight the colors and interrupt the cooking process) dutifully showcased year’s end austere, often overlooked produce.

Alongside celebratory shots of akvavit, havarti and Saga Danish blue were passed around with one of the guest’s lovely challah bread while the æbleskiver cooked and a guest hid a prize winning almond in one of the bowls of his novel aerated rice pudding: classical rice pudding, puréed and ejected from an iSi dispenser.

deflætedskiver. Out of føcus too.

Æbleskiver batter (flour, butter, vanilla, egg yolks, sugar, milk, whipped egg whites, baking powder) was poured into a buttered monk’s pan, flipped and recommended that they be dipped in quince jelly or chestnut honey.  The batter required more leavening agents since they did not rise into the characteristic spheres.  Otherwise, they tasted good and went well with their sweet accompaniments and having never had æbleskiver before, there was no benchmark for objective grading.

Overall, the dinner guests made the evening a success, save for some unfortunate lapses in lexicon with an 11 year old at the table which would have promptly filled a swear jar.  All were well behaved, affable, indiscriminately hungry, courteous,  didn’t break anything and relieved the refrigerator from leftovers and subsequent 4am snacking potential.

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