5 Scented Ham in Aspic with Ink Truffle Découpage Monday, Mar 29 2010 

Petit jambon aux 5 sents en aspic et son découpage de truffes a l’encre.

If I had a nickel for every ham,
I’d still be a poor, sham of a man.

Singularly considered to be a subjectively smashing success, a cooked then jelly covered tribute to the District of Columbia’s premier bag tax (which has reduced bag consumption by 87%) and delectably absurd salty reminder to the avoidable 5¢ tax’s cheap opponents.  An edible monument to the achingly inane whines against it that are being ranked on watercoolers in any progressive office where tolerance, paychecks and science fundamentals have evolved since the 1860’s.

The first of its kind in the nation, the tax on bags from grocers and such was an effort to challenge wasteful “out of sight, out of mind” consumption, the revenue from which would be spent on cleaning up the filthy Anacostia river and Chesapeake  Bay watershed. 6 out of 10 Residents of NW (North White) Washington support the tax where as the rest of the city is evenly split.  Some of the tax’s opponents call the tax regressive on the poor or inconvenient and post their gripes on intrawebs.  The poor for their part do not have intertron connections but are resourceful enough to circumvent the burdensome tax by bringing bags to stores if they deem the $0.05 fee to be so crippling, or they can go to the Anacostia River and pick up gently used ones for free.  What is most ridiculously duplicitous and largely an indication of regressive political identity and intolerance is the white gentry that uses alleged plights of the poor as a shield & war cry while lamenting the 5¢ fee on bags for uppity sundries such as white wine & premium liquor (though they are happy to pay the 6% sales tax)  and consciously deny impoverished residents a marginal fee destined to clean up their waterfront, a slummy waterfront that anyone with good enough sense, taste and money to enjoy Chateau Grincheux will avoid at all cost (to their BMW).

Almost looks like Victoria Jackson’s head, only smarter.

Òste e còc enthusiastically supports the bag tax as it has reduced monthly bag use to 3 million from 22.5 million last year.  However, an unexpected result of diminishing usage –either from environmental consciousness or thrift- is that far less revenue ($149,432 as of January 2010) may be generated than expected ($10 million over 4 years).

Most remarkable is what a benign fee on a wasteful commodity can do to the human psyche and whatever loose change has accumulated in couches and car consoles.  If only American food manufacturers were savvy enough to emulate Raymond Sachot, head of the French condiment company Amora, who in 1932 had the fabulous idea to package and sell mustard in reusable glasses ranging from Smurfs and Asterix to Minervois or Glenfiddich.

Pickle, then a tipple.

The meat of the matter.  The ham in question was originally attached to a 25 lb shoat from Pennsylvania.  Having removed the femur bone, the thing was injected and cured in a 5% brine with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, Old Spice,  gorging spice, coriander and clove) for a fortnight.  Once rinsed it was gently simmered in a smiling boil seasoned with salt, garlic, bay leaf and chili for 3 or so hours until the skin was tender and could be easily removed.  The ham was pressed in the fridge under a weight that was not being used in rigorous workouts at the time after which the skin was removed to expose the meat.

Meanwhile, the trotter and a few beef knuckle bones were blanched then simmered overnight as with the previous aspic preparation.  After cooling and de-greasing, the resulting jelly was clarified with egg whites loosened up with salt and vinegar then strained through a coffee filter.  No truffles –neither winter, summer domestic nor imported- were available at the neighborhood Latino grocer so a facsimile had to be fabricated.  For the impostor truffle découpage A portion of the aspic was colored with squid ink diluted in a scant spoonful of water and strained into a dish lined with plastic wrap.  Typesets were researched until an appropriate Mr. Burn’s era Victorian theme to goof on the frugal curmudgeons was found, drawn freehand, cut and used as a stencil.  The clear aspic was pleasant to the taste.  The ink one was certainly not.  Charcoal tablets will be stolen  from the hospital after the next post-binge visit as an alternative.

The darker the Jell-O, the grosser the juice.

The segments of the second smallest denomination of United States currency were applied and after a couple spoonfuls of barely seized clear aspic to hold the fee in shape, the entirety was turned over into an oval dish into which clear aspic was poured.  A butane torch was used to evenly melt away any excess aspic as use of the hair-dryer had been given up for Lent.

Nickel & swine.

Ad Haminem: Aesthetically, the ham and its cheeky flavored homonym were delightfully austere, the typeset properly amplifying the antiquated value of a nickel tax which that can be avoided through Pavlovian conditioning and which decreases as a percentage of what is efficiently packed into the bag to begin with.  The ham was well seasoned without being too salty, fragrant, moist, nicely colored, tender and practical to slice in its boneless preparation.  It could have benefited from a trip to the smoker which would have had the twofold effect of smoking the apartment, hopefully covering up the noxious poached-cod like odors of sister’s geriatric cat’s urine.

Colonel Mustard ate it, in the dining room, with condiments.

Shrimp Stuffed Sea Bream “Belle Vue” Wednesday, Mar 3 2010 

Daurade Crécy Farci aux Crevettes “Belle Vue”

Get a load of that ostentatious piece of bass.

With the world fisheries only a few months away from complete collapse, leaving little more than mermaid, pibales, smelts, carp, whales and their disturbingly delusional, inept sea hazard followers (the motorboating waterworld brothers in arms of Jesus’s loony station-wagon & bumper sticker worshippers), a lone, local, probably not sustainable porgy sea bream, some chemically preserved shrimp and industrial feedlot beef bones were purchased from the local neighborhood latino grocer for US$40, upon which US$33.72 in change was received.

$2.68. You’re welcome economy.

Aspic.  Epicurean bling of 19th bourgeois cuisine,  the first recorded recipe of which is found in Taillevent’s  premier and illuminating cookbook Le Viandier:

Gelée de poison qui porte limon, ou de char. Metez cuire, en vin et en verjus et vin aigre, un pou de pain qui veut ; prenez gingenbre, canelle, girofle, grene de paradis, poivre long, noys muguetez, saffren, cilion folion ; broiez et le liés en ung blanc drapel, et metez boullir avec vostre poisson ou char, et lez cuvrez tourjours jusques a ce qu’il soit drecié ; quant il sera cuit, metez vostre grain refroidir sur une nappe : ce c’est poison, le peler et nestoier, et getez lez peleurez ou boillon, sans le troble ; et ne fault pas attendre qu’il soit froit a le couler ; metez vostre grain par escuellez, remetez vostre boillon ; en boullant, escumez tourjours ; dreciez sur vostre grain, et poudrez dessus vos escuellez en lieu froit, fleur de canelle et massis

Presumably from the Greek aspis which means buckler or shield and not the serpent “asp” aspic is the clarified result of the coagulated collagen and gelatin naturally found in protein.  Aspic forefather molds were in the shape of shields, though others are alleged to have represented the shape of a coiled snake, likely to justify the snaky etymology.  Crécy,  classical French culinary descriptor suggesting carrots as well as the northern French city, site of one of the most important battles in the Hundred Years’ War which  may have suggested the end of chivalry what with the combination of new weapons,  tactics and bloodshed…chivalry also clings to integrity during the 111th congress’s suffocation at the hands of GOP tantrums.  Belle Vue is likely an Escoffier-ish appellation, perhaps meaning nothing more than “a lovely sight”, even better when someone brings lobster and truffles to the party.

Lobster “Elton John” ca. 1976

Aspic and it’s perverted, sweetened, über kitschy derivatives would later be used by psychedelically depressed housewives to accentuate iceberg lettuce, lime, canned tuna and other shit so that their kids and husbands wouldn’t go Manson on them.

Jell-O WTF-O

In this pelagic aspic demonstration, the slippery un-gutted Jesus symbol was scaled, the fins and gills snipped, the spine & pinbones skillfully removed from the back porte-feuille style and thoroughly cleaned.

The forcemeat consisted of ground shrimp, some of the cats’ half & half, citrus zest, red onion brunois, dried chili, my diced lardo and salt.  The forcemeat was piped into the cavity and spread evenly.  A smiling court-bouillon was prepared, the fish delicately tied and then slow poached until the forcemeat was probably cooked judging by touch and what the fastidious French call “Le Feeling”.

The evolutionary process of raw Jesus to jellied lunch.

The fish was left to cool a bit in the liquid, removed, then left to cool further covered in plastic wrap.  Meanwhile, split beef knuckle bones were blanched and simmered overnight with nary a garnish.  The resulting stock was reduced a bit then clarified with egg whites augmented by white vinegar and salt.  The consommé was passed through a coffee filter and left to set.  Pictures would have been taken but it was so god damned clear that the camera couldn’t focus on anything.  Actually, the stock reduced too much and kind of looked like really clear urine : (

Daily carrot flavored Swedish fish intake
keeps optometrists away.

Blanched sliced of yellow and Dutch carrots were shingled on the top side of the fish whose skin had carefully been peeled off and a combination of both carrots covered the lugubrious eye.  A few rudimentary layers of aspic were spooned over the carrots in order to seal them against the fish so that the entire thing could be turned over and laid into additional aspic which filled the curvature of a dish thereupon insuring (hopefully) and even distribution of aspic, which was not the case with the previous hams: New Years Suckling, Swedish ham.  Any uneven excess aspic was melted down with the help of a blowtorch as hairdryer usage had been given up for lent.

Insert mayonnaise. Lots.

Abe Vigoda says: For something that looks so aesthetically elegant, resourcefully clever and technically disciplined, the carrots and stuffing tasted better than the fish.  In hindsight, any fish of the sparidae family is not best suited for eating cold.  The meat itself is too delicate and the bottom side compressed under the weight of the fish and stuffing.  Pompano or golden pomfret will make a better product as the meat is much firmer and like mackerel is not unpleasant to eat cold.  Hydrocolloids and other gelling agents derived from seaweed or silicone shoe inserts could be used which would permit the fish to be served warm without the aspic melting, but would invite accusations of unethical facsimile according to Mr. Melonas’ half-spherified pretzel-logic and hyperventilating fears of Mole-Gas’s demise.