Citrouilles, revisited Friday, Oct 29 2010 

Johnny Walker Pumpkin. Dispensing mulled cider spiked with Johnny Walker.

Gosling's Rumpkin. Spiked cider on tap.

Pimpin’ to Lozèrien kin
Squashy propaganda for the first Muslim president.
Gourd Marnier. With spiked cider in a wine bladder within.

And now for something completely different:

I’ve got nothing on  Ray Villafane.

Sambal de Mont Plaisant No. 2 Monday, Oct 18 2010 

Mount Pleasant Sambal No. 2, the sequel.

Nicely spicy.

Second lively installment of the perennially favorite condiment, topical antiseptic, scorching decongestant and sizzling masochistic genital ointment. Sadly, a bumbling duo of pilfering ass hats pillaged the prized pepper patch of all ripe cayenne, banana and Carmen varieties. Twice. Bastards. In a dastardly act of vigilante community garden justice, the remaining peppers were delicately laced with a retaliatory agent of thallium, syphilis, plague pox, Visine™ and unripe persimmon…though it was foiled by the analgesic properties  of immature puckering persimmons (high-five to the Native American community), notably their remarkable ability to tighten tissue around burns thus reducing “ooze” and in treating gastrointestinal bleeding. Plunder at your own peril regardless. I will ferment your soul and eat it with rice.

Sgt. Pepper’s Homely Heartburn Brand. Letterbox edition.

Only the cayenne peppers would have provided any heat. In their absence, habanero as well as other higher Scoville percentile peppers (serano) were necessary for the capsaicin foundation and milder types (Carmen, banana) stretched the quantity while dumbing down the intensity (a warm-body modus operandi which lends itself well to stretching a single intense date into plenty of not quite boring, but tolerable ones). Garlic, fiery rhetoric and bay leaves were the flavoring agents, though they probably are only detectable by the nerds’ spectrometers over at CookingIssues or a Jedi sommelier.

Waiting for fizzle. For rizzle shizzle.

Peppers were washed, tops removed and ground through the small die of the meat grinder with the garlic, bay, rhetoric, and the brass nipple tassel things from a bolo tie that is not necessary to wear when using a meat grinder. Sea salt comprised 3% of the weight of the ground peppers, the mixture going into a sterilized glass mason jar and then left out at room temperature for the salt and fermentation do its thing. A plastic pint container lid was perforated and placed on the surface of the pepper gruel to keep it below the surface of the brine it would release thereupon preventing any mold formation. After a week or so the peppers would run their course and bubbling would cease a.  Mixture would be drained and then 50% vinegar added to the strained liquid which is then added back to the mixture until a desired consistency it reached. The resulting sterile brine ensures that the refrigerated product has an immortal shelf life, which is praiseworthy as far as homemade condiments go.

One of the few opportune times for hot & spicy gas.

Chili Chili, Bang Bang: Lost of bang for the buck. Peppers cost less than $7 and will provide enough hot sauce to last a year. On second thought the bay leaf shouldn’t have been ground up as it is not exactly pleasant to eat bits of bay leaf. The sauce is pretty damn hot and a little goes a long way. Eventually, an onion purée can sweeten the sauce a bit and offer a creamier consistency while slightly muting the heat. In the mean time, Mt. Pleasant sambal is a welcomed condiment for rice, soups, pizza, backgammon, Mexican, Persian, thespian, lesbian or whatever else it is that you like to do with hot sauce during the colder months.

Pâte de Fruit de Figue en Croûte Tuesday, Oct 12 2010 

Fig Pâte de Fruit en Croûte.

All aboard the dinner’s fig caboose.

By far the finest weekend of matrimony took place on a 300 acre farm in Finncastle, Virginia over Labor Day 2010. Billed as “farm casual”, the event mandated that tuxedos, cheap suits,  sequins and etraneous family be left in the city, alternatively encouraging the relaxed, comforting properties of untucked linen haberdashery, open toe footwear for all and nothing but long since unseen friends. What’s more, rather than capitulating to the tired tradition of conventional wedding cakes, the newlyweds invited guests to bring country flavored pies in lieu of novelty vehicles for achingly sweet frosting (though noteworthy exceptions exist). Characterized by an exceptionally tart personality, 2 eponymous open faced finales were delivered rather than the suggested pie crust encasements.

Flavor Country.

As a bonus gesture and somewhat self-gratifying culinary fist pump,  an unprecedented amalgamation of sweet function and savory form was conceived which would embody the brazen allure of the venerable pâté en croûte while delivering a remarkable saccharine finish. But what sugary confection could possibly pass as a convincing forcemeat imposter? Well, Nabisco’s ewy, gewy, rich and chewy modern version of the ancient fig roll of paste and pastry  –the humble Fig Newton™– is essentially a pâté en croûte, so a figurative fig configuration was figured out. To further suggest an astutely garnished forcemeat facsimile, dried fruit (raisins, apricots) and pistachios were added.

Newton’s 4th law of pastry, inspired from under a fig tree.

An unadulterated fig purée would likely not be firm enough to withstand being sliced and might ooze from the pastry shell. In theory, a pectin fortified paste “pâte de fruit” would provide sufficient strength to maintain a “slice”. Numerous pâte de fruit recipes were consulted and a sample from whole fresh figs was noodled with based on Pierre Hermé and Michael Laiskonis formulations.

That’s how I roll…

Figs were cooked with sugar, vanilla bean and a trickle of honey until mushy to provide the purée element, albeit too thick in hindsight. The measured sugar, lemon juice and pectin were added in their turns however the purée was far too thick and bringing it to the required boil to activate the pectin was treacherous. Damn near volcanic. The unfortunate result was that the purée did not set properly and trying to re-boil it was virtually impossible without scorching pot or limbs. It would have been an exercise in futility, like a one legged rabbi trying to bring his wife to orgasm at an ass kicking seminary.


Sweet, sweet sarcophagus.

Cumulatively and foolishly, about 280% too much pectin (boiled with water and lemon juice) was added, in a desperate effort to set the paste. Ultimately, the fig purée was no firmer than a jam, but no less sweet. Balderdash. After a week or 2 it may have set further, but clairvoyance was not in the pantry and a viable, tangible product needed to be presented. Ideas can not be eaten, neither as a savory overture nor sweet crescendo. Initially a pâte sucrée was made to entomb the fig entity, but the dough would be too brittle upon cutting and was tentatively abandoned for a sweetened lard and butter shortcrust, though the pâte sucrée later found use as tartelette shells after a soupe au pistou à la mode de Sète with late summer squash, squid and ink crozets, which, admittedly, was just as easy on the palate as it was on the eyes.

Nubile temptresses, teasingly sweet and provocative.

Lining the mold with the fragile dough was a tedious exercise in patience and anger management. Once lined, it was filled with foil, beans and blind baked along with a flower petal motif of sort lid. The lid blistered slightly and buckled, perhaps from the dough being overworked and air pockets formed from refolding scraps. Some assembly was required, primarily putting the lid on the base and pouring some melted fig filling through the vents for adhesion.

Wheels on the pie keep on turnin’

Go figure. Possibly the first of its kind and well worth the labor. Pâte de fruit matrix was initially ef’ed up, however, as is the case with anything worth ef’ing up once…it is worth screwing up twice and the second endeavor will be executed further into the arena of success by diluting the fig purée which will considerably improve its boilable capabilities. The flavor of the fig paste was delicious, particularly when spread across bread, cardboard, muffins and a young woman’s cleavage. Future prototypes will require that more dough be made to avoid overworking scraps. Newlyweds were grateful for the gesture, dedication and effort and all parties were too joyfully inebriated to be critical.

Tarte aux pêches et la frangipane au romarin Monday, Oct 4 2010 

Peach and Rosemary Frangipane Tart.
Fulfilling summer’s peach niche.

Sweetest and most congenial southern belle of all stone fruits, (despite the “made in china” tag) providing both  musical and literary inspiration (prettier, bigger and squishier than a cherry) to those for whom this nature’s candy extends well beyond the allegory for a healthy woman’s exceptionally inviting bottom as ogled behind efficiently tailored clothing.

Seriously. Eat one. And remember Duane

The noble peach is filed under almond in the subgenus Amygdalus within the genus Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated non garbage-disposable seed shell.  Consequently, in keeping gracefully disciplined stride with the traditional, logical and deliberate epicurean compositions which are management’s hallmark, almonds were chosen as a secondary element.  Rather than toasting a few slivers of silly pedestrian nuts and sprinkling them willy-nilly with some of that powdered sugar dust, an almond based frangipane filling corollary was unanimously voted upon, after little tedious deliberation.  The frangipane custard (a whole chicken-egg, vanilla scented custard thickened with flour, hope, ground almonds and patience) was adapted from the Escoffier standard, supplemented with blanched (to maintain the color) low hanging rosemary brazenly acquired from a neighbor’s unguarded front yard.  A tip from a colleague (and neighbor) offered a solution for how a French grande toque elegantly displayed the co-ingredient in a clever manner: candy the almond and place it in the pit’s cavity, an edible trompe l’oeil.  Marcona almonds were toasted then candied (crystallized) in a small amount of water, sugar and cracked black pepper stovetop, then left to cool and placed in their caramelized fruit nests before unveiling.

Tart #1 flaunts symmetry, perfect accessory for August and iced tea.

The dough was a customary pâte sucrée and the molds were lined with a flour/butter mixture for easy release, a trick that will be applied to often stubbornly fastened bicycle parts, tight trousers and recalcitrant windows of yesteryear.  Peaches retained their skins (should have skinned them in hindsight),  were halved and placed on the docked pastry shells.  The frangipane batter was poured evenly and distributed with enough room to accommodate expansion, then baked at an orthodox, though proprietary, temperature until golden brown/central American skin color –about 45 minutes.

Tart #2 brings  prime numbers to desert, worthy of a dance with bourbon.

To peach their own. Overall a pleasant and worthwhile success which was repeated a few months later with the same results.  Only liability is that the frangipane deflates as it cools.  For plump visual appeal and airy texture it should be eaten shortly after the oven gestation period.  Reheating has limited resuscitating effects.  Aesthetically and for perhaps an accent of sweetness the peaches should have been dolled up with a shiny peach glaze or jam of sorts.  Peaches could benefit from being peeled since the skins contrasted too much with the soft peach and frangipane.