In Memoriam of Cats
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the untimely expiration of a dearest companion. He is missed to pieces.
T’is the season, for anadromous salmonidae. Wild specimens from Alaska, pretty much the only place where the fisheries are well managed and there are abundant numbers. Not to be confused with novelist heartthrob and Islamic human bulls-eye Salman Rushdie that was allowed access to Padma Lakshmi’s genitals for the better part of 3 years.
Despite the nutritive omegachron fattie acid health claims or whatever associated with wild salmon, the terrine is about 80% Trickling Springs heavy cream with even heavier cream on top. Have to give it the glass ketchup bottle slap treatment just to get the stuffout. Actually, it is exactly 80% cream by weight of the salmon, though half of it is whipped, therefore lighter than an angel on marshmallow. And 10% puréed onions cooked in rich creamery butter. Bit of bread. Some booze as well. A couple eggs white too, which is what bodybuilders eat.
Fragile Great Lakes (not sure which one) whitefish was ground twice and blended with 80% cream as well bringing the terrine’s heavy cream content to a respectable 160%. A pie chart in 3 or maybe 4 dimensions is required to show the cream proportions. That is just how slammin’ this salmon terrine is. Whitefish was tricked out with some Old Bay seasoning, lemon zest and magically inserted into the terrine with the use of science and modern-day refrigeration. What’s more, some center cut salmon was lightly cured and crusted with fennel seed, dill, mustard seeds and lemon zest. Thinly sliced parallel to the bloodline with absolute Zen, the slices were embedded in savory vermouth-flavored aspic. Fish & aspic, together as last. Should I have Muppet twins, those will be their names.
Garnished with smoked steelhead trout roe as an alternative to fleur de sel, the terrine was well received. Properly seasoned, neither gritty nor fishy, and visually quite appealing. Bread helped to lighten the affair and a recent reincarnation will be speckled with capers, pickled red onion and shingled with cherriette radishes.
For cassoulet purists, there are 3 primary varieties which all fight for the distinction of having invented the dish and each comprising their particular base proteins:
Castelnaudary, “The Father”; pork products (shank, belly, butt, shoulder, sausage, etc…) and goose or duck confit.
Carcasonne, “The Son”; pork and red-legged partridge.
Toulouse, “The Holy Spirit”; pork, lamb, mutton, duck confit, Toulouse and pork skin sausage.
According to Prosper Montagé, a Carcansonne native who drafted the first edition of the Larousse Gastronomique and most rival Chauriens, a legend suggests that the cassoulet started in Castelnoudary during the Hundred Years’ War as a means of feeding the troops who, well fed by an enormous ragoût called estofat, later beat the Brits. However, common beans weren’t introduced to Europe from South America until the 16th century, so the story is probably a comforting tale to reclaim some sort of honor after the town was mostly burned to the ground during said war. Dried favas or other broad beans were likely used back then and the dish was called estouffet up until the 18th century when it acquired the cassoulet title. Any authentic version of either from the cassoulet trinity should contain pork skin lining the cassole which thickens the cooking liquid and prevents the beans from burning.
This variant, suitable for a rainy day, incorporates fundamental elements and springtime produce, namely cherriette radishes and mini suprema onions from Steve Turnage’s Northern Neck Fruit & Vegetables. Tarbais beans were attentively cooked with water, tomato concassée and a pork hock from Craig Hagaman’s Berkshire pork until tender, the skin from the hock giving the bean liquid viscosity and richness. Belly from said pig was dry cured, smoked and simmered while murçon sausages (a French equivalent of cotechino) made from the shoulder, blanched pork skin and juniper were cooked in white wine. The shank was brined, simmered and picked from the bone. Young carrots were glazed until tender in olive oil with a splash of sherry vinegar, as were the mini onions and radishes. An olive oil soffrito of spring garlic, dried chili and lemon zest allowed fragrance, heat and freshness. All was simmered together and sold to happy patrons for $10/lb. Good batch.