Ravioles du Barry Sunday, Oct 25 2009 

Cauliflower Agnolotti
Cauliflower Agnolotti

Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry (and illegitimate daughter of Anne Bécu, possibly the daughter of a Friar) was Louis XV’s favorite piece of non-dyn/monastic ass.  Twas during his reign (1715-1774) that cauliflower grew in popularity and when the comtesse’s blonde noggin was lopped off in 1793, it probably looked like a bastard head of cauliflower falling into the basket, albeit likely flush with blood.  Whatever the case, du Barry would later signify a cauliflower garnish or base as with her eponymous veloutés and such.

Cauliflower was the primary ingredient, proving the filling, garnish and sauce.  Florets  were cut and reserved for the garnish.  The rest, including the stems were blanched until tender and puréed while hot with a minimal amount of milk to help make it smooth.  The filling consisted of a roux (roughly 20% the weight of the cauliflower purée) with minced onions cooked in the butter until tender, a chopped dried chili, Reggiano cheese and a trickle of lemon juice, essentially a traditional Mornay sauce accompaniment.  A few ounces of the initial purée were reserved for the sauce which was later augmented and thinned out with warm milk, grated Reggiano cheese, nutmeg, salt and a scant spoonful of the filling.

The egg based pasta dough is made with water, egg yolks, olive oil, salt and durum flour in precisely measured quantities so that it sticks to itself does not need further moisture for the flaps to seal shut, though not so much can be said for Alex Trebek’s mother.  Once the filling was deposited the dough was folded over, sealed shut, punched out and an indentation is made behind it to give the angolotti’s characteristic priest’s hat shape, or wrestler’s traumatic auricular hematoma.  Garnishing the ravioli were florets cooked tender in olive oil with lemon zest, sliced garlic, capers, a few lemon segments and blanched curly endive leaves.

Cauliflower Mornay filling is applied/
Cauliflower Mornay filling is applied.

Pasta is folded over.
Pasta is folded over.

Dough is pinched around the filling and punched out with a ring mold.
Dough is pinched around the filling and punched out with a ring mold.

The proceedure is repeated.
The proceedure is repeated.

Attention.  Passion.  Organization.  Uniformity.
Attention. Passion. Organization. Uniformity.

Post pasta posturing: The ravioli were pleasantly rich and the Mornay style filling complimented the cauliflower without overpowering it, notably the sweetness of the butter and saltiness of the Reggiano, though an older Reggiano would have been more pronounced and nutty, perhaps demanding hazelnuts or almonds for continuity.  The florets could have benefited from more caramelization to contrast from the blanched cauliflower and bring out more of the natural sugars.  The bitterness of the curly endive, saltiness of the capers and acidity of the lemon all worked to provide the necessary elements of delectable harmony or whatever.  The sauce coated the former elements with a hearty, albeit light dressing and allowed the ravioli to function as a vehicle for the other ingredients rather than merely hot noodles on a brisk fall evening (even if peak cauliflower season is in the spring).

Consommé de pintade avec ses quenelles et vermicelles Sunday, Oct 18 2009 

Guinea Hen consommé with dumplings and vermicelli.
Guinea Hen consommé with dumplings and vermicelli.

A romantic era virtuoso said that “anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart and can not make a good soup.”  Based on this soup, any allegations of Scrabbulous sleight of hand or cheatery should be illegitimate and unfounded.

Guinea hens carcasses and bones were gently cajoled for 5 hours or so in water with minimal mirepoix over the warmth of one hundred attentive mothers’ hands; just enough heat to coax the proteins and aromatic poultry properties into the broth while keeping it as clear as possible.  The meat from 2 of the 4 drumsticks were ground with the a light carrot/onion/celery triptych and added to egg whites which were broken up by the addition of salt and vinegar to produce the clarifying raft.  4oz of spicy tomato purée, chopped rosemary and the strained stock were brought to a late summer’s temperature,  the raft was whisked in and left to do its thing under a whisper of a flame.

In the mean time, the thigh meat was ground smooth with lemon zest, lavender, salt, an egg white and splash of sherry vinegar for the quenelle forcemeat.  Spaghetti was wrapped in a towel and broken into 1” segments over the countertop’s edge then toasted in the oven until chestnut brown, a manipulation which gives the pasta a slightly nutty flavor. The remaining 2 drumsticks were poached in salted water.  Julienned onion, diced carrot and celery were blanched in the same water, the quenelles poached as well and ultimately used to boil the vermicelli.  Such flavor layering and procedure is a modest monument to the efficient use of water and cookware.

The consommé was strained through a few ladles of the cooked raft in a coffee filter.  The vegetable garnish, quenelles, picked drumstick meat and vermicelli were heated together with the clarified broth.

Soup to nuts evaluation: The consommé’s spicy notes from the tomato purée were particularly enjoyable, giving the broth an added dimension.  The lemon zest lent proper and distinctive acidity to the rich broth and quenelles.  The pasta provided an essential starchy element and alternative texture.  The vegetable garnish gave the dish sweetness, another texture and further sustenance.  The consommé was perfectly clear but once the garnishes were added some of the residual fat from the drumsticks and quenelles probably coated some of the vegetables and vermicelli and rose to the surface of the consommé during it photography.  Camera doesn’t have a soup setting.

Boudin Blanc d’Avranches, 2.0 Monday, Oct 12 2009 

Boudin Blanc dAvranches 2.0
Boudin Blanc d’Avranches 2.0

Upon discussing the textural concerns of the original Boudin endeavor with a technically savvy disciple of the esteemed Antoine Westermann, the decision was made to freeze the twice ground boudin forcemeat and then blitz it in the food processor, making a garage equivalent of the $4500 Pacojet. Of course?! The blades would reduce the frozen meat to dust and the resulting boudin would be smoother than me at a club on roller skates. It is unlikely that the folks at Cuisineart had anticipated their machine be used to grind frozen ground meat into (hopefully) dust. Rightfully so. The clumps of frozen meat spun around dizzyingly, and did little more than chill the forcemeat while dulling the blade. Bummer.

The forcemeat was stuffed into casings and poached as per usual, then chilled. The boudin were removed from their casing and browned in duck fat. Turnips were turned and glazed separately in olive oil with a whisper of Ättika (21% alcohol Swedish vinegar) as were beveled carrots. Shiitake mushroom caps were sautéed in the same fat as the boudin with rosemary and once tender the boudin, carrots and turnips were added as well as enough chicken consommé to glaze all of that junks.

Boudin bonuses: The dish was enjoyed with the sister whilst throwing down tiles on the Scrabbs board and “Eastbound & Down” for ambient ambiance. Sister’s light Scrabble score was challenged by the lightness of the boudin which trembled under the distressed breaths of her awful tile choosery. There are plenty of acceptable words in the English vernacular to describe the serene sponge-like texture of the boudin, but she was not able to spell any with her left-handed letter draw. “The distinctive shiitake earthiness and assertive rosemary was a sober Ying to the otherwise delicate Yang of the other shit”, to clairvoyantly paraphrase Kenny Powers. It was indeed “tight” (to use current urban kitchen parlance) and the sweet root vegetables provided a pleasant seasonal textural contrast and the Swedish vinegar successfully subdued the otherwise rich nature of the dish.

Realité cheque:
In hindsight, the grating attachment would have been more effective in shaving the frozen meat, a coarser, more Neolithic version of what the Pacojet would offer.

Coufidou de l’Averyron Monday, Oct 5 2009 

Coufidou de lAveyron
Coufidou de l’Aveyron

A rustic red wine and beef stew from the Aveyron which used to be served by its residents during Easter and Christmas and derived from the Occitan word “coufir” which mean to slowly simmer.  It is generally composed of tougher, rail quality cuts such as beef cheek, shank or neck that have been marinated in coarse regional red wine and demands slower and lower cookery consistent with a braise.

More tender and commonly used (in France) anthropomorphic biarticular muscles from the other side of the creature on the medial side of the top-round include (muscle name and cleaned weight):

Beef top round cross section: 1. La poire “the pear” Pectineus 390gr. Named for its pear shape. 2. Le merlan “the whiting”, somewhat resembles the fish of the same name. Sartorius 170gr. 3. L'araignée “the spider” Gracilis 640gr; Allegedly looks like a spider after it is cleaned of sinew and nerves. Source: Senaratne et al., 2009

The traditional garnishes include mushrooms, onions, lardons and carrots which are seen in other dishes typically enjoyed during the shorter days of the year such as variations of Coq au vin or Bœuf Bourgingon.

For this particular interpretation of Coufidou, beef neck segments were marinated for 4 days in a raspy bottom-shelf syrah with standard aromatics (carrot, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns).  The neck segments were pulled from the wine and blanched in water to remove as many impurities as possible.  The segments were covered with the original marinade to preserve the resourceful vein of frugality and simmered with salt for 6 hours or so until tender.

In the meantime, button mushrooms were fluted and cooked in an acidulated blanc (water, flour, lemon juice, salt and olive oil).  Rutabaga and turnips were turned, carrots beveled and glazed in olive oil and a splash of white wine vinegar as were cipollini onions.  Potatoes were turned and carefully simmered.

The segments were cooled in the strained liquid and the meat was picked from the bones when cool enough to handle.  To build the stew base, garlic was browned in beef fat, (crushed and discarded) and then crushed tomatoes were cooked until dry.  The beef neck liquid was added piecemeal to the tomato product and quickly reduced to build a sauce of adequate consistency and depth to which the picked meat was added.  The chocolate aroma undertones of beef and red wine are worthy of a scratch & sniff sticker.  The vegetables were then added to the base and only brought to a simmer in order to meld the flavors.  Seasoning was verified and the stew was heartily consumed.

Stewings on the stew: The flavor profile offered a respectful triptych of beef & wine (which magically conspire to present the aforementioned aromatic element of chocolate), the sweet, earthy starchiness of the root vegetables, onions and mushroom and the acidity from the vinegar.

In hindsight, the stew base could have benefited from an acidic element of either sherry or Banyuls vinegar.  The vegetable garnish appeared to overwhelm the protein element; however that could be chalked up to the intentional emphasis on the cellar rather than the larder in the day of when proteins were a scarce luxury rather than a cheap commodity.