Alors, l’alose. Friday, Mar 28 2014 

I had a shad.  And painstakingly deboned it.

Swim Shady.

Swim Shady.

Shad.  The hallmark Mid-Atlantic harbinger of spring, along with the ubiquitous asparagus, those tired ramps, the pods, the peas, mushrooms, rhubarb, berries and such.  However the shad demands more than a peeler.  Nimble and sensitive fingers, insurmountable patience and a dexterous knife rule the day.  Shad roe is the folksy popular progeny while the mothership is generally an afterthought, overlooked on account of the maddening maze of bones; pin bones, “y” bones and everything in between.

Pocketbook style eggs

Mothership & crew.

Provençal culinary folklore suggests that the oxalic acid  in sorrel melts the multitude of minuscule bones. There are as many fables to support the homeopathic shad-butchery of yesteryear as there are tales on the intrawebs declaring otherwise.  Undeterred and fiercely obedient to traditional French cuisine, the shad was butterflied through the back, the pin bones removed, stuffed with an ample amount of sorrel, bathed with brandy and slow baked for 10 hours at 160F.

My fish butchery has been commended as being strongly vaginal which bothers some men.

My fish butchery has been commended as being strongly vaginal                                which bothers some men.

The fish didn’t fall apart.  In fact, it held together quite well.  If the oxalic acid had worked as well as advertised, I would get a boneless slice of shad, the bones having melted away much like those in pickled herring.  Perhaps a pressure cooker would have sufficed.

Shad in  steel cercophagus

Shad in steel sarcophagus

Mummified

Mummified

It didn’t work.  The results were discouraging and left discomfort in the craw.  The “y” shaped pin bones are as remarkable a choking hazard as they are irritatingly baffling. Deboning shad is an enterprise in another reality of fish butchering and the handful of old timers that still know how to do it cleanly and efficiently deserve a comfy repose somewhere between the Smithsonian’s American History and Folk Art Department.  The meat was picked apart and we made shad cakes like they used to do back in the 50’s when you could still find canned shad roe at the grocery store.

Shadurday night fever.

Shadurday night fever.

There are about 400 bones, maybe even more, in each filet.  After fucking up a couple filets the bone matrix was finally deciphered and eventually, with dainty fingers, insufferable patience and delicate knifework, about 99.27% of the bones were removed.  The roe was rolled up in the beta version and inlayed in the forcemeat; a mixture of ground fluke, cream and egg white then sieved and mixed with J.O. spice, lemon zest and sorrel. It was rolled up as one would for a ballotine then poached, gently.

Tube fish.

Boneless tubefish.

A revised 2.0 version had the roe washed clean with water to remove the blood and bound with 10% of the forcemeat.  Much better results.  What’s more, the sorrel, without contact to the air or too high of cooking temperature kept green.  A sauce was made.  Loosey-goosey soubise of sorts (fish fumet thickened with butter, rice and onion) then blended smooth with blanched sorrel, watercress and parsley.  Lardons from my venrèche, little onions and red thumb potatoes filled out the rest of the plate after the slice was seared in lard rendered from the cured belly.  The dish was well executed, properly harmonized and exceedingly well received.

Hopelessly dated discipline and technique.

Hopelessly dated discipline and technique, though delicious.

Pâté en Croûte: Édition Spéciale Rédemption Monday, Jan 7 2013 

A slice of redemption, be it ever so little. Squab and foie-gras inlay.  Currants in there too.  Yep.  The new Electrolux oven does not allow cookery without a fan, hence the lop-sidded chimneys.  For what its worth, a good technician always blames his tools.  For 2013, I resolve to be more ornery and judgmental.  And to hold equipment that has a USB port but no “no-fan option” more accountable.  Technology breeds dumber cooks.

Rosey squab flavored glasses.

Rosy squab flavored glasses.

Kind of really busy running the engine-room at Range. In the interim, support motion-sensor escalators and screw buzzwords.

Un Diner d’Automne Chez Ripple: Édition Spécial “Châtaigne”. Friday, Nov 9 2012 

A Collaborative Autumn Dinner at Ripple:
Special “Chestnut Edition”.

Get your chest-centric nuts on/off.

A premium dinner featuring whatever food category the venerable chestnut falls into on Tuesday, November 13th at Ripple in Washington, DC.  Brandade, Barbajuan, Lap Dance, Soup, Salad, Sturgeon, Prime Rib Ballotine, Cheesecake, Grappa, and whathaveyou.  Act now and the next dinner may or may not be free.  Foodstuffs manufactured by chestnut enthusiasts Logan “here comes Loogie-Coo-Coo” Cox, Jonathan “Domestic Venice” Copeland, Alison “Sugar Time!” Reed, and yours “Makes Your Mouth Breathe Harder” truly.

Enjoy.  Thank You.  You’re Welcome. 

Chestbuuuuump!

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.

Les Paupiettes de Veau Rosé à la Richelieu. Tuesday, Sep 11 2012 

Rose Veal Paupiettes à la Richelieu.

A properly detailed bundle of joy.

At the crosshairs of stubborn stalwart tradition and resourcefulness craftiness lay paupiettes: veal paillards wrapped around pork sausage stuffing, in this fabrication with the addition of olive-oil cured tomatoes as dictated by the Richelieu appelation.  Though it would strike any myopic marksman as a low hanging plum job (in Belgium paupiettes are knows as “birds without heads”) 3 prototypes were necessary to refine the forcemeat so as to deliver a stuffing that was firm, moist, exceedingly savory and extreme.  Beta version sought to use rose veal in its entirety, supplementing the lean nature of the meat with diced ventrèche and breadcrumb/cream panade in specific proportions based on the weight.  All craftsmen worth a damn, measure, or everything would be crooked and those bird-brained craftsmen who don’t measure would serve humanity better by making off-entered one-off T-shirts.  Sadly, the veal proved too dry.  And I cried.

Real deal veal parade.

Inaugural examples were deemed too dry and crumbly, a direct result of the lean (though tender) veal.  Pork sausage mixture left in the chamber of the extruding device was tinkered with, omitting the initial cream, maintaining the 3% breadcrumb mix, 20% oil-cured tomatoes and appropriate seasoning (fennel pollen, neutrons and picked thyme). 120g paillards cut from the tenderloin, knuckle, clod and mock tender were pounded thin, cinched  around the filling, wrapped in caul fat, cintured tight with a belt of ventrèche, elegantly trussed then a Jewy-looking fatback callote held in place with a dab of roasted garlic purée.  Ain’t that some shit?  All that with nary a tattooed appendage or hallow self-absorbed celebrity.

A breeze of summer in there. Makes one feel fine.

So the creatures get browned on all sides and then gently roasted with whatever suits one palate.  In this case, summer corn, tomatoes from the garden and lime segments for the indispensable acidity which enlivens all foodstuffs.  The veal itself is nothing short of delicious.  Pure, meaty and smells exactly what meat should smell like; not the artificial corn-stuffed bullshit that represents oh, about 96% of the beef consumed in this 47% deplorable, imbecile infested country of greedy self-righteous bigots.  Once cooked, the little bastard was juicy, well seasoned, tender and the roasted ventrèche immensely fragrant.  Not sure how this solipsistic paupiette compares to others in the Washington, DC area (or even the east coast) since I do not know of anyone else making them for retail sale.

Finaliste. Wednesday, Jul 4 2012 

Finalist

Old timey chop shop.

StartUp Kitschen 2012 finalist.  Best of luck to my fellow competitors and I salute their adherence to more agrarian consumption.  However, I ask guests to leave their flimsy dining morality US dollar fueled entitlement at the door.

Un autre compagnon s’éteint Tuesday, May 29 2012 

In Memoriam of Cats

Zazie le chat c.1992-2012.  1 week ago.  Condolences to my sister.

Pour one out.

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the untimely expiration of a dearest companion.  He is missed to pieces.

Cat catharsis.

 

A la mémoire de M. Helm Thursday, Apr 19 2012 

In Memoriam.

Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm. 1940-2012

King of skins, and sings.

Impassioned musical troubadour until the end.  Raspy pace setter and soulful time keeper for a memorable Band whose ode to measurement is any disciplined cook’s northernmost star.

Des modèles pour un magasin Tuesday, Mar 13 2012 

Models for a store.

Business end of a meat store.

The sands of 16 years worth of dedicated culinary work have at long last bound to form a professional methodology of disciplined theory and deliberate practice, heavily influence and inspired by a modest monument to unflappably consistent epicurean technique in Cleveland Park; Washington, DC, the likes of which would intimidate the corporate chef at Mercedes-Benz headquarters.

The sands of French cuisine.

A sound repertoire (a fraction on which is for sale in Old Town, Alexandria), has been dutifully assembled, the prototypes and subsequent improvements documented on this electric diary as an exercise in accountability, the pursuit of reliable gustatory results and edging the window of error shut. Eventually, if the effort ever pays off, a singular, personal storefront to showcase the wares would be the prologue and foundation of a new volume in the tome of a culinary career. However, without full coffers or the guidance of business savvy entrepreneurs, unrecognized skills must be shelved for more proven measures of attention earning endeavors: tattoos and TV.  Fortunately, a respect tattoo anthropologist and handsome Hollywoodland actor  are in the circle of friends. Tattoo suggestions (recipe tattoos would seem to benefit most chefs, particularly those vying for a lifetime supply of plastic wrap on Top Stupid) and worthwhile gameshow participation are welcome and will be filtered through the appropriate experts.

The model for the envisioned full service butchery with dry goods is based on grocery greatness in capitals across the Atlantic and butchery/charcuterie craftsmanship by which all others should be measured against:

Boucherie Hugo Desnoyer: The contemporary monarch of artisan Parisian butchers. World class quality and selection.

The benchmark of meat majesty.

A Litteri: A panoply of Italian sundries. Something like food enthusiast Hoarders running a consignment store. Somewhat organized collection of bottles/jars/boxes of olive oils, vinegars, pastas, condiments, wine, canned goods…etc.

A Litterally good selection

Gilles Verot: Daniel Boulud’s go-to charcutier and silver medalist in the 2011 world Pâté Croûte Championship.

The cures for appetite.

Épicerie Izrael: Breathtaking variety of top-notch epicurean bric-a-brac.

They have 2 kinds of it. That too.

The Worthwhile Meats & Provision business plan was a finalist in the Grey Market business plan competition, but ultimately lost to…you guessed it… someone who teaches cupcake classes. Campy food trends should likely be added to the venn diagram.

À La Mémoire de M. Le. Thursday, Feb 16 2012 

In Memoriam

Holding life by the tail.

Thang Hoang Anh Le:  1980-2012. A dear friend & globe-trotting colleague whose epicurean dedication earned the envy and savory applause of those who shared his remarkable passion.

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