Automne à la Grecque Sunday, Jan 23 2011 

Autumn à la Grecque

Up close and seasonal.

A rich, edible tapestry of fall produce cooked à la grecque; glazed in olive oil and white wine with coriander, fennel seed, then finished with lemon juice for proper acidity balance and color enhancement.  Carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms, turnips, rutabaga, radishes, cauliflower, apples, bay leaf and whatnot.

In all seriousness, shut up and eat your vegetables.

A suitable accompaniment to the aforementioned pâté en croûte and soothing distraction from the cancerous plague of hopelessly temperamental dinner guests customers whose fundamental social graces and table manners have been diluted by trendy bargain basement activism and bullshit dietary restriction picket signs.  Incontinent 2nd and 3rd aged children with epicurean Asperger strains of social autism who are simply incapable of eating what is offered or proposed without fussing or eating around the offending item.  Allergens notwithstanding, occasionally ingesting a comestible element which has been consciously castigated from the shopping list under the flimsy crutch of morality is harmless and a testament to basic courtesy as a guest.

Comport yourself as a guest and you will be treated as such.  Until then, you are and will forever be a soulless customer, worthless to the core, applying a supermarket’s cereal selection to your inflexible rolodex of selfish “choice” and confusing a restaurant with services rendered from anything-goes prostitutes.


Le veritable pâté en croûte; Édition spéciale veritable pâté en croûte Sunday, Jan 2 2011 

Special Veritable Pâté en Croûte Edition:

The Veritable Pâté en Croûte.

Sunny-side up.

Possibly another worthwhile exploit and milestone in the immensely satisfying strut towards St. Lawrence’s sisterly Lady of the Venerable, Highbrow Meatloaf in a Blanket; this particular trick shot falling much deeper into the realm of epicurean success than previous culinary blunders which were far less than terrific.  At long last, a proper tin mold acquired on Ebay for less than a bar tab earned this endeavor the distinctive “en croûte” appellation, and provided a flat canvas of crust for proper pastry ornamentation. An even keeled course of action was plotted within the traditional margins of stalwart charcuterie craftsmanship.  Pork, fat back, pig’s tongue, pistachios and currants were the primary ingredients, supplemented by chicken livers, lollipops and rainbows to ensure a smooth forcemeat.

Tumbin’ dice.

A pork tongue was injected with and left to soak in a 5%/2.5% salt/sugar brine with the usual aromatic suspects (garlic, bay leaf, clove, allspice, chili, etc…) while pork shoulder devoid of excess fat and sinew was marinated in thrifty E&J brandy, which, despite septic consumer reviews, is good enough to marinate raw meat in and, after a week of mingling with raw pork, chicken livers, olive oil, spices, garlic and a carrot or 2 (then strained) is quite drinkable, if not enjoyable, though it loses it anti-septic properties.  Drink it, but certainly do not apply to open wounds or use as an eye wash.

The pastry was a standard 50% fat shortcrust pastry with 60/40 lard/butter proportions, an egg to bind, salt and a sign of the cross.  “Pâtés and Terrines” by Mssrs. Longue, Raffael, Wesel and Ehlert was again instrumental in forcemeat/pastry fabrication and among the valuable recipes, suggestions and references, offers inspirational pictures of thick, nicely groomed chef beards complimented by expertly folded neckerchiefs.

Full tank.

The pig’s muscular hydrostat was awakened from its briny slumber, bathed and left to cook in seasoned water at a quiet “happy boil” until tender.  When cool to the touch, its outer skin was removed and the thing was diced in precise 7mm cubes.  Pork and chicken livers were picked out from their marinade and the leaner porcine portions were trimmed to even more precise 7mm cubes as was the fatback which, along with the tongue, pistachios and currants represented the 30% forcemeat garnish (equal weight tongue/lean/fatback, 10% pistachio/currants).  Despite the recommendation of Pâtés and Terrines, the forcemeat was not seasoned prior to grinding. After grinding twice through the smallest die, the mixture was given a once over with an egg at the serrated hands of a food processor until relatively smooth.  Diced garnish et al was folded into the puréed forcemeat and only then was the seasoning calculated:1.5% salt and .25% TCM by the weight of the meat, along with black peppercorns, candy corns, pop corn, cloves, allspice, rasp of nutmeg, espelette, fall foliage, whatever…

Dry dock, prow-ess.

Meanwhile, aspic was pulled from the freezer and spruced up with a healthy pour of expendable port wine.  As the forcemeat chillaxed out in the refrigidaire, attention was turned to lining the mold.  Valuable lessons were learned from prior painstakingly persnickety pastry pitfalls and a modest 50% fat content coupled with the cologne approach to spray-painting bicycle frames applied to assembling shortcrust (go light, then walk away) resulted in a pliable, sturdy dough with no elasticity.  The mold was given a primer coat of butter & flour to prevent even the faintest thought of any possible stickage. A pattern of the flattened mold was gently introduced with bated breath and delicately pressed into the corners with a frighteningly simple ball of excess dough courtesy P’s&T’s pastry lining tips, the reasoning being that fingertips may stretch the pastry to the point of rupture, which would not be cool.

Flour power.

Upon filling the starchy vessel with its meaty ballast, the matter of decorative gussying up was addressed, again drawing creative encouragement from the aforementioned book.  Port-holes were adorned with a crown of pastry leaves while the border got a rudimentary, though labor intensive baroque treatment of sorts. The package went on to incubate in a 400ºF oven until an amber color was achieved, after which the heat got tuned down to 325ºF or so until the core of the beast reached 140ºF without burning the crust.  Once green-light internal cookery was assured, distractions were pursued while the thing cooled quietly on its own, after which aspic was poured in to seal/fill any vacant space.

Slice & easy.

The pâté was commissioned for a food enthusiast picnic and degusted in absentia, therefore an objective verdict is not possible, though a sample of the excess forcemeat and pastry was tasted with delightfully savory conclusions.  A premier-grade follow up endeavor is in the works, appropriately slated for President’s weekend.