Dorades en Portefeuille Monday, Aug 24 2009 

Dorades en portefeuille farci aux goûts d’
Porgies, purse style, stuffed with summer flavors.


Whole ungutted porgies (bream, if you will) purchased for a pittance at the Spanish store up the street. The fish were scaled with a spoon, the fins cut, gills removed, then washed. Purse style butchery consists in skillfully opening the fish though the back and removing the spine. Cuts are made along the length of the back from the head to the tail, and along the ribs being careful not to puncture the belly or skin. Using scissors, the spine is cut behind the head, before the tail, and then carefully pulled out with the guts and whatnot. The pin bones are removed with pliers. Its pretty bad-ass when done properly.

The stuffing: Essentially a bread salad with summer vegetables. The stuffing needed to be light and cooked so that it would suffice to be warmed through slowly without having to hammer the fish, giving you just enough time to flirt with and ultimately offend the lassies at the grill. The bread also helps to absorb any juices which would otherwise be lost. Stale sourdough was diced and toasted. Zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant diced as well, all sautéed in olive oil not before letting the eggplant degorge some water after lightly salting. A red pepper was roasted over a flame, diced and added to the other vegetables. The entire mixture was bound with a soffrito of toasted garlic, dried chili, anchovies, diced red onion, tomato paste, lemon zest and segments. The stuffing was finished with chopped parsley, olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar. The cavity of the fish was filled with the stuffing and tied shut with butcher’s string. A hot grill stood the chance of burning the string as well as cooking the meat before the stuffing had a chance to warm through so it was slowly cooked on a perforated metal sheet tray over a low grill.

Gustatory Conclusions: The fish was properly butchered and cooked. The stuffing however could have benefited from diced raw tomato for a higher water content. Some lemon slices under the string would have been a good source of acidity and a foil for the sticking skin.

Ballotine de Lapereau aux Blettes Tuesday, Aug 18 2009 

Ballotine de Lapereau aux Blettes
et Graines de Moutarde
Ballotine of Rabbit with Swiss Chard
and Mustard Seed

Second half of the Good Friday rabbit course. Boneless rabbit stuffed with a triptych purée/ground/dice forcemeat of rabbit (trimmings from the forelegs, liver, heart, kidney) pork, my lardo, swiss chard and mustard seeds with the loins inlaid lengthwise. The rabbit was deboned (bones used for the bombine base) in the same method as in for porchetta; the ribs and spine removed in one piece (like in Predator) from the underside as to give a rectangular meat canvas. Forcemeat is mixed, seasoned, wrapped in the meat and chilled to give it a firm shape.

Once chilled and firm, bay leaves and thyme are placed on caul fat and the roulade is wrapped whereupon it can be cooked and offered as either a cold galantine or hot ballotine.

Galantine vs Ballotine?

Galantines and ballotines (ballantine is a brand of scotch whisky) are roulades but roulades are not necessarily galantines or ballotines.Roulade =any meat that is rolled around a stuffing made of vegetable, meat, dairy or whatever.

Ballotine = a galantine served hot.

Galantine = a meat, poultry or fish that is boned, stuffed with a forcemeat of the original protein and traditionally poached in a gelatinous stock and served with decorative aspic made from the stock and served cold or room temperature. Galantine comes from the Old French word for chicken “géline” or “galine” as it was originally made from chickens, though some maintain the word has its origins from the Gothic root “gal” meaning jelly, for the gelatinous stock. Towards the end of the 17th century it came to include other types of poultry, the remarkable Russian Doll Roast making use of 17 birds stuffed within one another being a remarkable example. The Bedouin camel stuffed with lamb, chickens and rice is on the furthest edge of the galantine spectrum, and its authenticity is debated. Zamponga stretches the roulade definition even farther and is the skin of a lamb or goat which is made into a bagpipes by bohemian Italians. Roger Waters used zampogna inspiration for the ubiquitous Pink Floyd pig-prop showmanship.

Pâté Pantin, poultry edition Wednesday, Aug 12 2009 

Pâté Pantin, édition speciale Volaille.
Freeform poultry pâté in a savory shortcrust pastry.

Much better improvement on the previous pâté. The forcemeat contained duck breast trimmings, chicken leg, chicken and pork liver, chicken gizzards, chicken hearts, fatback, celery and carrot. The duck, chicken thighs, liver and heart were ground with garlic and rosemary and half was puréed. The drumsticks were poached along with the gizzard. The cooked drumstick meat, gizzard, diced fatback, mortar crushed peppercorns as well as diced celery and carrot from the poaching aromatics were folded into the forcemeat. The forcemeat had a pleasant pinkish color and tighter texture than the previous effort. It was far leaner and shrunk far less, consequently leeching less liquid, though it remained moist.

The dough was significantly better as well. Much sturdier though initially overwork in an effort to save it after erroneously using only half of the required water. The dough was rolled thicker and the seams were along the edge of the forcemeat rather than underneath as in the previous. The leaner forcemeat also helped maintain the integrity of the crust and it did not have to absorb/retain any cooking liquid.

Aesthetically the decorative feathers were successful though fluted chimneys would have been more classical. Cross hatches were made after 4 coats of egg-wash with the point of a knife. Not entirely necessary, more of a impulse and effort to keep the ends from being boringly bare.

Ultimately the pâté was well within the spectrum of success. The cooked forcemeat had good texture, taste and appearance as did the pastry. However, a few issues need to be resolved.

Shortcomings and accountability:

Forcemeat: The puréed portion of the forcemeat could have been smoother. It was ground once through the small die and then pulverized in the food processor. A smoother product could have been attained by either grinding the meat twice or more, or putting it in a blender (which I do not currently own) and then passing through a sieve. I was hesitant to pass the meat through a sieve as it is difficult to clean out the sinew and such afterwards.

Shortcrust: The amount of water called for in the recipe formulated from classical French resources looked excessive and roughly half was carelessly omitted since it looked too wet. As a result the dough was dry and brittle and broke apart when folded or stretched. In an effort to salvage the dough, more water was incorporated and naturally it became overworked and elastic making it difficult to work with.

Aspic: Not strong enough, melted at room temperature, again. It later came to my attention that gelatin sheets cancel out any natural gelatin in a consommé or stock and that a proper aspic should be made with 2% gelatin by weight.

Pâté Pantin Richelieu Wednesday, Aug 5 2009 

Pâté Pantin Richelieu,
édition speciale prunes et pistaches.
Freeform Pâté in a savory crust,
special prune and pistachio edition.
Made for the celebration of a good friend’s enthusiastic restaurant review, his first in the capacity of Chef. In keeping with the star flavored theme and obsession with restaurant reviews*, the chimneys are star shaped and the prune and pistachio inlay was star shaped, though the shape compressed during cooking.

Recipe technique and theory (albeit not up to snuff but acceptable for an inaugural attempt) inspired by Larousse Gastronomique and Escoffier formulations for forcemeats and farce à gratin. Forcemeat was comprised of 20% farce à gratin, 60% ground meat and 20% cooked garnish (diced ham, beef tongue and fatback).

The prune and pistachio inlay (generally cooked chicken or duck liver -the Richelieu characteristic) was made by filling a star shaped tube with ground prunes and pistachios, freezing it, unmolding it and placing it in the middle of the forcemeat. The star shaped tube was fabricated by scoring an 11cm long piece of flexible plastic alternatively on the other side every 1 cm and then bending the plastic so that it folds like an accordion. The ends are brought together and overlapped producing a tube and when compressed a bit it makes a star.

Overall the pâté was a marginal success and failures are a vital bittersweet step in understanding what went right, what went wrong and why. A culinary mentor reminded me that anything worth fucking up is worth fucking up twice and urged me to consider how many things he had fucked up in a 35 year career. Successfully following a recipe does little more than prove solid reading skills and attention whereas understanding the theory comes from the practice and experience in experimenting the limits of fat, water, salt, temperature and time.

Initial, humble shortcomings:
1. Forcemeat: The meat was marinated in plum wine with olive oil, rosemary, carrot, onion, bay leaf, rosemary and a splash of cider vinegar. The vinegar should have been omitted as its purpose it better suited for marinated large joints or meats to be roasted and it may have cooked some of the meat and lead to oxidation. The cooked texture had a dry and crumbly appearance. It was not as tight and smooth as it should have been and had a brown-to-pink color gradient rather than pink throughout.

This may have been a result of the farce à gratin which was made by sautéing pork belly, the liver, red onion, deglazing and puréeing with 40% of the ground meat. If anything, the liver should have been cured with #1 to maintain a pleasant pink color, but ideally the farce à gratin should have been omitted or kept raw. When cooking, the forcemeat released a frightening amount of “juice”. The forcemeat may have been to fatty.

On the plus side, the flavor of the forcemeat was decent and the tongue garnish & ham was properly cooked (each inject with and cured in brine with curing salt for 4 days and simmer until tender in plainly salted water with a few vegetable aromatics until tender)

2. Pastry:
The short-crust pâte à foncer was 60% fat (½ butter, ½ lard) and after making the dough a few times the water amount should have been increased, though initially the dough looked too wet and I was hesitant to add the entire amount of water. The flavor was good and seasoned with salt (just a bit too much) and ground black pepper. The pastry was wrapped around the forcemeat and overlapped under the entirely. The overlap should have extended up the sides or the pasty should have been thicker. As the pâté cooked it compressed and its weight caused the pastry to tear and lose all the juices. The pastry should have held all the meat in place. Furthermore, a disastrous crack formed between the chimneys, ruining the visual aesthetics and handywork.

3. Aspic:
The aspic was far to thin (too little gelatin) and began to melt at room temperature. It was properly seasoned but could have used some Madeira or Port wine.

The forcemeat should have contained all raw proteins outside of the garnish and been leaner. Vinegar should have been omitted from the marinade as it was likely to cause unsavory color change. The pâté itself should have been smaller and less forcemeat would have caused less structural issues. The pastry should have been thicker, especially in areas where liquid was likely to collect. The star should have been made from a cooked protein that wouldn’t have compressed. Apologies to Logan for using him, his celebration and guests as guinea pigs, though I ambitiously hadn’t anticipated a less than perfect specimen.

*The 0-4 star rating scale is stupid. If wines and school children are graded on a scale of 1-100, so should restaurants since the ½ star gradient does little to differentiate one restaurant from another or merit from more merit.