Petits Fruits de Mer Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 

A little plate of seafood.

Flatter with fish platter.

Flatter with fish platter.

Higher than normal winter temperatures are not conducive to hearty hearth braises, roasted roots and the chocolate-like whiff that red wine & red meat seem to waft.  So something a bit lighter, well marinated, fragrant, delicate and compatible with vinegar -which, I am pleased to drink by the spoonful or get  fix through the venerable breakfast pickle sandwich.  Pickled mackerel, blue prawns gently steamed in their shells, and barely poached-in-their-shells  Chincoteague oysters.  A couple of pickled mushrooms and pickled onions from last summer’s pickles.  Some bits of lemon and a considerable drenching of the finest quality French olive oil.  Some herbaceous crunch and verdant punch from the parsley.  Mustard seeds dredged from the bottom that would make the Rice Krispies gnomes blush.  Briny, floppy oysters; succulent, meaty mackerel; delicate, plump shrimp.

Poseidon's buffet.

Poseidon’s buffet.

A re-imagined, betterized version will include octopus or squid, cured sturgeon and its caviar and grilled bread to sop up the oil slick* and fried squid tentacles for he essential crunch that I crave.

* I have proposed to environmentalists and oil industry cleaner-uppers that an efficient culinary method for transforming the oil into an easily scoopable product would be to drop a few million egg yolks and ride over the affected area with a multitude of outboard motors, whipping up the oil and egg mixture into a stiff mayonnaise.  You’re welcome Neptune.

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: 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.

Finaliste Wednesday, Nov 21 2012 

Finalist

 4th edition of the World Pâté Croûte Championship.

Crust or bust.

The Pâté Croûte World Championship has finally lived up to its international claim by including this American (dual French/US citizenship), a Swiss and Belgian.  A detailed recipe and photographs of a “Squab, Gin-Soaked Currant and Marcona Almond” were submitted and reviewed with others, all names removed, just as any food competition should mandate.  Then a phone call was received, though I did not answer it.  A message was left informing me that I had been selected.  I listened to it and then felt something I haven’t felt before.  Far out.

Skin to win?

All pâtés will be tasted blindly thereupon ensuring that substance trumps style, photogenic tattoos and irritating congeniality generally associated with State-side cooking gameshows. I will be assembling my pâtés (3 total) in Washington, DC and flying with them to Paris, then on to Maion Chapoutier at Tain L’Hermitage on December 3rd.  I will be competing against 7 Michelin stars and well seasoned, ahem, culinary competitors.  I am a long shot dark (meat) horse but it is an absolute honor and pleasure to take part in a celebration of practice, theory, artistry, passion, discipline and technique.  MOF judges and I am guaranteed a free apron afterwards.  I’d prefer a T-shirt, but whatevs.  I’ll take what I can get.  Congratulations to my fellow competitors.

2009 CMPC

2010 CMPC

2011 CMPC

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).

 

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.

La Côte de Veau Rose Soignée Tuesday, Sep 25 2012 

A Cared-For Rose Veal Rib-Eye.

1% rib-eye, made by the 47%.

My unremitting compassion for animals does not extend to greedy assholes vying for feudal power at the expense of plebeian vassals.  Sentient animals and the flesh they are raised to relinquish deserve faithful veneration.  I file grievances with the middlemen who ferry abused carcasses from the slaughterhouses and when possible inform the creature’s owner in an effort to determine or establish accountability for animal welfare.  I have yet to find a fault with any of Joe Henderson’s Randall-Linebacks, and if I am to trust Mr. Henderson (I have absolutely no reason not to) the animals are slaughtered humanely –no hematomas, broken bones or feverish meat. Proselytizing vegetarians should take note that Draonian vegetarian diets are a windfall for flatulence-deodorizing corporations  and was even a ghastly liability for the chancellor of the third Reich, whose despotic flatülenz  after a blüe-plate special was astutely recorded, for posterity, by the Führer-Furzen’s kraut-quack:

“…constipation and colossal flatulence occurred on a scale I have seldom encountered before.”

And so, as with any resource which demands resources itself to be raised, the meat in question should be treated with respect, steadfast discipline and nothing less than a proper cutting technique (clumsy woodsmen need not apply) .

A chop above the rest.

Beef rib-eyes generally conjure fat speckled, cholesterol fueled gluttony trophies for any high-pressured red-blooded Americans aspiring for type 2 diabetes  –though to be fair, food doesn’t make you fat;  lifestyle does.  Inspired by one of the pre-eminent artisan butchers of France, Hervé Sancho, the rib-eye was meticulously denuded: the Complexus, Spinalis and Longissimus Dorsi were separated to remove the sinew and any membranes.  Given the lean nature of the Lineback, fat needed to be introduced into the equation.  Jubilant fat from the kidneys (not quite suet, yet) was pounded into an even thickness and introduced into the otherwise stiff meat party.  The deckle (Spinalis) was sewn shut around the Frenched bones.  Strips of fatback barded the outside which was then proudly ornamented with lemon and orange zest because that is what a professional who gives a damn does.  In addition to providing essential flavoring, the fat retains moisture, and those variables, when applied properly, and passionately, make for an exceptional piece of meat.

Cornerstone of French quality and luxury in moderation.

The detailed rib chop was adroitly seared then gently laid to roast on a plush bedding of sweet corn, squash and small variety tomatoes at a comfortable 325ºF until done just so.  Left to rest while libations were poured, the meat relaxed, the juices redistributed themselves and a warm, sweet, roasted hush wafted over the table.  The fat itself is neither a flavor nor texture that I crave, the fragrance and moisture it afforded was exceptional for an otherwise slender, straight-laced roast.  Any muscle from a noble animal, no matter the rank or price, deserves at least half the attention of this one.  Anything worth doing, should be done right.  At least put in the effort.

Roasting Beauty.

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.

Le Pied de Porc Farci: Édition Spéciale Grande Bottes. Tuesday, Aug 28 2012 

Stuffed Pig Trotter: Special Knee-High Boots Edition.

Stuffed, with the right stuff.

With an amplitude of skin and hooves obtained from butchering minimally processed, whole pork shoulders with the hoof, stuffed trotters are the reasonable fabrication to avoid waste, even if the hoof itself is more aesthetic than practical.  In cooler months the hooves and skin are used to fortify and thicken bean cookery water (cooking beans in stock is an absolute waste of stock and highlights an ignorance of the collagen properties of skin and hooves) and the shanks will often find themselves brined (skin-on), simmered, picked and pressed into porksicle molds like candied apples except that they are comprised of boneless cured pork, brushed with lard and rolled in bread crumbs.  Jellied pigs feet is not really a flavor that you, I or Flavor Flav crave, though there are fashionable exceptions.

Up yours, Manolo.

Stuffed trotters however, showcase some extreme sewing skillz and allow for a slice of the forcemeat to be caramelized in a pan, bound in tender skin, whose collagen will thicken the basting juices like gluey pudding.  Mmmm, gluey pudding.  In this fabrication, the skin up to picnic ham was removed and freed of all extraneous fat.  The shank was set aside for another spectacular use which does not concern you at this moment. Lean and fatty meat from the shoulder was ground with some liver in proprietary proportions along with cream, an egg, brandy, Randy tubemeat, Pez candy, apricots, pistachios and other spectacular filler that does not concern you at this moment.

Aromatic footrest.

All the ingredients were secretly mixed (more finely ground than the pâté de champagne forcemeat) and stuffed into the trotter that had been sewn up prior in a neighboring sweatshop while I was fighting crime in this nefarious, 2nd tier food city.  The stuffing was loose enough to allow for a shrinking of the skin and avoid blowouts.   The foodboot was slow roasted covered, then uncovered and glazed until the skin was tender when poked with a food poker thingy.  Admittedly, the hoof does nothing more than reassure the provenance and nature of the appendage, but it looks sharp, makes a formidable conversation centerpiece and beats the out-of-sight-out-of-mind freezer storage.

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