Hopelessly dated French food has always been the war-cry of this withering electronic diary, and the recent tragedy across the pond called for something with a more pro-populist, Tyranny stifling design and seasonally garnished quote from a revolutionary rabble-rouser. The menu came together with only a few laps left since I’m running on flat tires and will probably abandon this bloggy thing in the New Year. This food career never really came together and despite flaky assurances on behalf of others and 19 years or dedicated effort on mine and more than a year of fruitless odd-job plum jobs that fulfilled a need for cash, the pieces never fell into place. So savor this penultimate post, all 7 of you readers. I think I’ll take up hawking antique cookware and corny mugs at a bric-a-brac store somewhere in the countryside or upper 14th St and hook my wagon up to ISIL’s tech scooter which might be an edgy way to get some hardcore intraweb fans.
Got the 16lb pastured turkey from the Mennonites. I’ve never been up there, so maybe they got it from the pious Safeway and repackaged it. I’ll never know. But a bonafide Mennonite delivered it. Decent bird, no heritage breed or anything and all the parts & accessories were there. Roasting it whole is more boring than life itself and the drumsticks have those irritable plastic tendon things that I would have liked to have yanked out, but the bird was amputated below the ankles. Recent Thanksgiving misgivings have been the noticeable absence of the whole bird centerpiece, but there is always a better way and the style of a whole roasted bird suffers compared to the practical and delectable substance of a compartmentalized critter. In the past, the legs have been deboned, rolled up and stuffed with all the holiday party favors or ground up into regional meatballs and such that generally went over the convives’ heads who wore sweatpants and scarfed down pedestrian chips.
Pickled fish is just about the next best thing and some surprisingly fresh mackerel (never seen anyone else buy any there) made for a fine product. Brined in 10% salt brine for 3 hours facing Mecca, then in a pickling liquid with onions, vinegar, wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, some bullshit spices and who cares. Photographed very well in the natural sunlight though, and that is what counts (on the Instagrams).
Got some Virginia chestnuts which was nice since the North American chestnut tree was essentially wiped out in the last century by Japanese imports. A bit small perhaps, more or a “marron” than a full fledged chestbump. Soaked for 20 minutes in dihydrogen monoxide, scored, roasted and easily peeled. Tasted and peeled much better than the cheap imposters Bestworld was peddling. Not where the later came from, but they were starchy, crumbly, hallow and exactly what $3.75/lb gets you. Shame on both of us.
Bestworld is still the best place around and the kooky Korean-owned, Latino-run, gringo-serving emporium came through with plenty of other misspelled sundries. They always have smoked turkey parts so I got a neck while the turkey carcass and bone scraps barely simmered for well over, like, 2,880 minutes (modernists rejoice) and once the turkey pot-au-feu juice was cooled and strained, a white knuckle consommé path was plotted with some ground turkey, egg whites, cardboard, lawn clippings and other things that go in a raft sturdy enough to brave white water rapids. You, extreme reader, know what I mean. I picked the smoked meat, added some broccoli and carrots and called it a day.
Standard practice is to take the legs and do something to them that eliminates the inedible tendons that run through the drumstick in a fashion that makes for a preparation that is consistent, flavorful and easy to serve. Ballotines (essentially a round meatloaf) show some culinary proficiency and some showing off, which is the purpose of documenting holiday meals anyway. These followed similar turkey leg fabrications; ground drumstick with liver, eggnog, cream, bit of pork, booze and then mixed with confit gizzards, thigh meat, some of the busted up chestnuts, sequins and were roasted in extra consommé, root vegetables and fresh cranberries. The cooking juices and garnish were blended smooth and made some gravy of sorts. Hurray.
Browned some Brussels sprouts in duck fat, then some fresh cranberries and poured the sauce over it. Photographed rather well, particularly in a bowl by Daniel Castel.
Couple air pockets which could have been mitigated by a pastry bag and caring more, but the passion is fading and there were some re-runs to watch on the TV.
Done this one a few time before and the sauce of white cauliflower, sweet onion, butter, cream and lemon was particularly flavorful and a pleasant texture compared to the roasted florets. Taking pictures during the meal is kind of tacky nowadays, particularly with people tethered to their phones so this portrait was snapped before it got gratinéed with clarified brown butter and lemon-toasted breadcrumbs. Could have cooked the eggs a bit less, but whatever.
The girlfriend likes vegetables tremendously and I like to whittle and cook them. Most stuffings taste like a wet sandwich that got stepped on by a crowd, so these vegetables were glazed in duck fat and finished with lemon juice, vinegar and some flabby whole grain bread left to go stale; or as I and other closeted modernists like to call it “blanched air-toasting”. Plenty of bread, vegetables, leafy Brussels sprouts, what’s not to like?
Still clinging to the pâtés, for better or worse. I was the 1st and so far only American to qualify for the World Pâté Croûte Championship 3 years ago in France. Cost me a lot of money to get there and while I learned 2 things about the pastry, but I didn’t do that well and aside from the jet-lagged memories there wasn’t much of a payoff. Not even a T-shirt. Should have invested in PR or had a more selfless Top Chef boss at the time. If there is any advice to give to a buddy cook, it would be to invest in hype and/or tattoos rather than substance and technique. The former gets you the dining public’s attention and validation and by that time the later deficiencies are exposed, it doesn’t really matter because with the right type of irreverent hipster stoner food, you’ll be able to smear peanut butter on a coaster and there will be a 2hr wait at your door.
Pastry is the standard 50% clarified brown butter short crust and I broke out the fancy game-pie mold. Made some black pastry with non-toxic (hopefully) shoe polish for the artsy fartsy flair. Found a District of Columbia cookie cutter in a freebie box and stamped one out for the side, a carved a feather on the other side and some stupid stars on top for no other reason than they being a bit more interesting than fluted circles. Pretty much the same forcemeat as the ballotine with the addition of dried cranberries, pecans, a piece of black truffle that has been soaking in port wine for about 6 years (that is not really a good thing). Had some extra forcemeat and pastry so I made a pithivier shaped pâté pantin and planned to serve it hot as well. But most guests’ appetites and attention were satisfied by that point so we just kept drinking.
Not exactly traditional for Thanksgiving, but it is something to do when you get tired of watching re-runs and drinking alone. Sure it is a bit effeminate, but such fabulousness will soon earn the respect that they, house-made vinaigrette and cake pops deserve.
The pâtés always look sharp in the raw, but sag and droop once they’ve cooked. Oh well, that’s life. Those guys at the fancy meatloaf championship made some fantastic decorations with sharp, crisp lines and they are true craftsmen. Not sure how they do it, if they embed the colored dough or super-impose it.
I filled the untouched one with apple cider aspic and tossed it in the fridge. There is a post-partum sluggishness that takes over after the big day, during which I am too nervous to eat, though I am content to eat leftovers at 3am with my fingers in the twilight of the Frigidaire for a week.
Some friends came over and we stabbed at the leftovers a bit and took a couple slices of the round meatloaf in pastry with the brown starfish on it. Girlfriend took some to work but I think it was to use as a shim for a wobbly table or doorstop. Form and function, how about that!? But I should have made turkey ramen with uni ice cream and gold leaf on mismatched vintage plates and charged $85.