Chant du Cygne Sunday, Apr 10 2016 

Swan song en croûte.

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Inscribe the date.

A final somewhat selfish fabrication to celebrate and honor the nuptials of 2 cherished, well deserving friends who are straight after all.   Tamworth pâté en croûte with heart, tongue, wedding vegetables and mini-mortadella inlay.

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Both their birthdays, too.

After 13 years and a few months, there’s no more juice left to squeeze, so fuck it, we’re done.  There have been countless friends, a reunion with a sister, 5 issues of Gluttony Digest, a dozen freedom BBQ’s, suckling pigs, turkey variations, fancy pumpkin, jobs here and there, bars that have expired, bars that have been raised, 2 cats, 2 presidents, legalized pot, statehood not, some competitions, softball, a blog, pictures, trips, broken thumb, brownouts, blackout, heartache, dwindling friends, steeper rents and relentless sirens at all times of the day and night.

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There’s a swell bell.

My sweetheart, the cats, bric-a-brac and I going out to pasture to become sharecroppers and manage a little slice of country living in Einstein’s getaway on the Northern tine of  Eastern Long Island  nestled between the LI sound, Peconic bay and some shitty vineyards.  We’ll be living in a 1940’s house with an original built-in murphy-bed style ironing board on an organic sheep farm with pigs, chickens and a garden; upstream and closer to the source of food. We’ll eventually help open and run a full service butchery & grocer using products grown on the 28 acres outside.  What’s more, there is a 2 acre garden where we can grow jelly beans, cotton candy and our very own dildo tree.  Hurray.

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A little lopsided, as is often the case with love.

Thank you all for your readership. There are arcane liquor and zoning laws up here, cellphone service is sporadic, there are many spiteful low-watt Trump supporters and public transportation is virtually non-existent save for the occasional single-track diesel train that still runs in 2016. So we are pretty much moving back in time with the rest of you, but the barns and people are charming even if they tawlk funny.

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Looking out my backdoor.

Merci-Donnant 2015 Sunday, Dec 6 2015 

Thanksgiving 2015

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A well altered classic. Thank you JL David.

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.

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Birdman: or the unexpected virtue of making dated food things.

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.

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Photogenic pickled fish.

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).

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B-cup chest nuts.

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.

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Less filling, tastes OK.

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.

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For the pervert who is into bondage and raw poultry.

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.

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It is a very nice platter.

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.

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Gizzards and thighs, oh my.

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.

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At the very least, it is colorful

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.

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Colorful, and with 10% more gluten

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?

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Not an endorsement of FIFA.

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.

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Yes, the stars are a bit much and it looks like prom night.

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.

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It is the District of Columbia, or South America

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.

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Stuck a feather on the side and called in turkey dinner.

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.

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Like a pastry urchin.  The last one of 2015

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.

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Inlay sagged a bit, but you get the gist.

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.

Pot-au-Phở Saturday, Mar 7 2015 

Núi Vừa ý Phở

Beached noodles.

Beached noodles.

Mount Pleasant Pot-au-Phở

Western tweed scholars and irritating “foodie” epicures alike maintain that the etymology of Phở can be traced to the iconic, non-partisan, French dirty-water beef “pot-au-feu“.  Low cost cartilaginous cuts of beef are slowly left to simmer on the corner of the stove for days on end, renewed with water, meat and vegetables as needed; a carnivorous proxy to a bread baker’s starter.  The French, who have a sweet spot for beef and colonizing swampy parts of the world from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries, introduced pot-au-feu to the Vietnamese, in addition to goldfish, flip-flops (which they previously introduced to the Egyptian trailer park community in the 15th century BC), novelty prophylactics and Jerry Lewis.

East meets northwest DC.

East meets northwest DC.

The Vietnamese took a liking to the soup and French soldiers are alleged to have been heard crying “feu!” (fire) whilst pointing to the steaming bowls of broth and wood fire below -both allegories to the syphilitic burning in their sweaty, mischievous linen trousers.  Scorching cases of crotch-rot sped up France’s exit from Indochina but they left the “feu” behind, both as a nourishing broth and cootie contaminated prostitutes and toilet seats, the later of which would be America’s downfall in both the Vietnam war and failure to popularize the STD sounding “Beenee Weenee” in the Eastern hemisphere.

Dr. Reinhold.  Draft dodger and Beenee Weenee glutton.

Dr. Reinhold. Draft dodger and Beenee Weenee enthusiast.

As snow fell on Nation’s capital this week, short-ribs were simmering (after a proper blanching) with warm spices and vegetable aromatics.  Lemongrass should have been in there, but I forgot to buy it and couldn’t be bothered to ride through the snow again. Forgot the fuckin’ lime too.  Lemons would have to suffice.  A spoonful of fermented chili paste, some of that squid brand fish sauce, some vinegar, vegetables glazed tender in olive oil (should have used the beef fat) with lemon zest and segments.  Then some bánh phở (rice noodles), broccoli, the picked short-rib meat, scallions and “ăn ngon miệng nhé!”

Fancy chopsticks in a woven koozie.

Fancy chopsticks in a woven koozie.

A couple slurps of the broth and I thought “it’s not fantastic and it’s not like some homeless grandparents crapped in a bowl. It’s Alright.”  Needed more of the beef fat for richness but the noodles were absolutely delicious, though they sucked up most of the broth.  If you are going to drink a case of beer before something important to do and gym-mat-filling  inspired injera is not readily available, eat a pack of rice noodles and you’ll be sober as a judge by lunchtime. A 2.0 version will be assembled shortly, with beef neck, the missing lemongrass, pretzels, marshmallow Fluff, herbs and more liquid.

Fin d’un chapitre Monday, Apr 28 2014 

End of a chapter

Palena restaurant

2000 – 2014

My home for 5 1/2 years.

My home and mentor for 5 1/2 years.

Thank you Frank.  And to the stranger at Tonic in Mt. Pleasant who, in January of 2006, upon overhearing my conversation of where to work next, kindly urged, without hesitation, “go to PalenaIt’s the best place in the city.”

I just re-read the first 10 pages of the Palena thread and with the exception of the Pojarski detractor (a dish you will have trouble finding anywhere else, in this century, and is representative of Frank’s fiercely classical repertoire) and grumbles of service, long waits for a table (for a damn burger) and other bullshit white whines there was near universal and effuse praise for the food, on a weekly basis.  We all misfire from time to time but on Frank’s watch those fumbles were rare exceptions.

Frank’s tenet #1.  Anything worth fucking up once is worth fucking up twice.

Hey, Pojarski!  My version.

Hey, Pojarski! My version.

Jonathan and I (Logan, Brian, Sarah, Carl and quite a few more) are fortunate to have found that door to culinary Narnia and been able to work at Palena.  After 8 years cooking for Laurent Manrique, Charlie Palmer, Gerry Hayden, Buben, Cathal and Bryan Voltaggio I thought I knew a bit, as most young-ish cocky cooks are wont to do, but all the while we were playing checkers to Frank’s chess. We unlearned some clumsy, bastardized -though standard- practices and were exposed to an entirely new reality of deliberate discipline, finesse, proper technique, sound theory, resourcefulness, professionalism, practicality, humility, layering of flavors and elegant compositions that highlighted traditional techniques of yesteryear, seasonality, regions and well established combinations that made sense and had exceptional flavor.  Never anything that was purposely random or conceived because of the pervasive “it sounds cool” variety of ideas.  Decadent, but no gimmicks. No hollow celebrity inflated by the curious praise of leaving things to go bad on natures terms, but what Michelin and big-shot bloggers fawns over. We learned to make everything that was worth the while.

Tenet #2: Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

Pea soup of the finest caliber.

Pea soup of the finest caliber.

We were treated to premium, tippy-top shelf products.  We had the privilege of cutting up and cooking wild loup de mer, glass eels, abalone, live urchins, live snails, periwinkles, crayfish, turbot, Dover sole, shiimaji, fresh anchovies, fresh Alaskan king crab, all types of things with wings, cockscombs, wild game, the best beans, olive oils, grains, luxury mushrooms, truffles, all sizes of animals all in raw state and then all the stuff from his garden which you can’t really make out from Google Earth, but probably rivaled Le Potager du Roi.

Consistent,stuffed noodles.

Consistent,stuffed noodles.

We learned a better way to make pasta (a well made dough never needs eggwash for sealing ravioli), a better way to make stocks and sauces, a better way to cook rice and grains (stirring risotto is folksy and romantic but totally unnecessary if you do it how he learned in Italy), the proper way to braise, to brine, to marinate, to butcher, to season,  to sear, grill, simmer, roast, clobber, poach, cure, corn, to turn vegetables to glaze them, to taste, to test, to feel, to smell, to cook until tender, to use spice, to be patient, to make breading, doughs, condiments, soups and an ethereal consommé, stews, ragouts,  to be efficient, be professional, make use of everything and waste nothing, to stuff things, to use recipes, take notes, to write recipes,  proportions, percentages, formulas, to measure, calculate the weight and be remarkably consistent without sacrificing soulful cookery.  Seeing how the butter was cubed on the stations was the first of  5 ½ years of revelation, immeasurable inspiration and 4 years of seasonal affective disorder. We also got a free turkey every thanksgiving.

Top shelf quail galantines.

Top shelf quail galantines.

Frank learned from stalwart Olympic heavyweights at the White House (Haller, Raffert, Messier), bonafide masters of the trade who knew how to do everything better and faster than the rest.  A flabbergasting  amount of skill and craftsmanship to be exposed to, and 50 ways to cook a potato. Frank regaled us one day with some pictures from his White House tenure (needlessly apologizing for the barely distressed 20 year-old photos).  Drive-in theatre sized glasses, an unruly soup strainer under the nose and one of those unfortunate mini-aprons that wouldn’t conceal one of those random workplace erections.  There was a nougat cauldron with sorbet flowers courtesy special pastry tips from the WH engineers, lobster Bellevue, elaborate centerpieces with stuffed this and jellied that, monkfish ballotines, booties on crown roasts, a dozen of hundreds of sweet potatoes whittled into Santa’s boots, fanciful desserts… “L’Art Culinaire Moderne” and Escoffier’s whimsical highlight reel revisited by Kodak.  I sucked up that inspiration like a depraved tick.

Proper pot au feu.

Proper pot au feu.

Frank was the first I ever saw to make a pâté en croûte from start to finish (though technically it was more of a pâté plantain).  Marinated in truffle juice with venison, prunes, ham, fatback and such.  A very elegant and particularly savory farce fine.  Though it would be cut up in slices he decorated the top just as if it were a centerpiece, painstakingly weaving vines, leaves and motifs and lavished layers of eggwash to give it a golden luster.  He told me he once made a pâté en croute for an event attended by all the city’s big toques.  One pointed and said “now that is technique”.  Another asked why he took the time to decorate it when the guests would never see it in the slices.  He answered that he himself would see it and so would all the other chefs.  Some humble showmanship and proud upstaging that showed off know-how.

Grind & salt

Parts of the pig

Palena was DC’s premier seminary for learning indispensable fundamentals and essential practicum (then go to Cityzen for a proper polishing) and I’ll never know another chef personally that and so heavily influenced my passion and who’s style was in my immediate orbit. We did a retrospective dinner that celebrated the White House years back in 2010 and Frank made the salmon bavarois with stuffed artichokes.  There aren’t many others, if any, who have the trained hands and talented mind to fabricate such a professional old world composition these days.  Frank can do it all, from baking the breads (all starter based, naturally), butchering, curing, puff pastry, vinegar, mostarda, donuts, savory tarts, pies  evenougat petit-fours.  And all the fancy napkin folds cradling the even fancier canapés.  A working chef who cooked something every day for almost 14 years gracefully, with composure and absolute pleasure.

Tenet #3: Perfection doesn’t happen by accident.

Frank’s wild king salmon bavarois with Prosecco aspic and artichokes filled with English peas.

Frank’s wild king salmon bavarois with Prosecco aspic   and artichokes filled with English peas.

I am eternally grateful for Frank’s tutelage and congratulate his remarkable reign. Palena’s untimely expiration is a bummer. That’s life. Every patron, cook and chef worth a damn anxiously awaits his inevitable rebound.

Une année de plus Monday, Jan 6 2014 

I resolve to be more ornery and judgmental.

Crabby New Year.

Crabby New Year.

A positive review is always welcome, though cursory Mad-Lib generated validation based on the sampling of 5 dishes (not counting the oyster and caviar & potato chips -neither of which we make, all we do is order and open them) after only 2 visits is the kind of empty praise one expects to find in a greeting card written sent from a grandparent whose wits are slowly unraveling or the praise parents must lavish on their tone-deaf and hopelessly uncoordinated children.  Better than to be panned I guess, though at least Ebert watch more than 10 minutes of the film.

π's

π’s

Fish pie in savory pastry with some pickles.

Fish pie in savory pastry with some pickles.

The fish pie is still a work in progress and I am flummoxed by the salinity despite a conservative 1.2% seasoning.  Eels will be available in the spring/summer, though my concern is that the eel meat will be mushy after 24 hours -the reason eels are sold live.  The coulibiac in Daniel’s cookbook  is absolutely stunning and the next challenge in the pâté croûte realm.

Butterflied swimmers.

Butterflied swimmers.

Salt bath.

Salt bath.

Pickled herring have been a success, though some are far more difficult to butterfly than others.  The Swedish varieties are exceedingly sweet and these are tempered a bit, not without their charm. More vividly colored pickles to follow.

Tales of the pickle.

Tales of the pickle.

I do miss making the meat fabrications though.

Star gazing.

Star gazing.

Fin d’un ère Friday, Aug 30 2013 

End of an Era

Pork & Squab Starship.

Pork & Squab Starship.

My term as meat minister at Range is coming to an end (“master” is the journalist’s embellishment, which, while flattering, is embarrassing considering what I have seen elsewhere.  I am grateful for their faith and trust in my craftsmanship.  Now to re-align recipes to work with seafood from the Chesapeake Bay.  Cue the B-roll photo montage of things that no one really ate:

Chicken giblets.  Livers as a terrine, gizzards confit.

Chicken giblets. Livers as a terrine, gizzards confit.

Chicken galantine with pistachio-stuffed morels

Chicken galantine with pistachio-stuffed morels

Rabbit and Riesling with mustard and mint.

Rabbit and Riesling with mustard and mint.

Jambon sec Wednesday, Jul 24 2013 

Dry-cured ham. 

Ham Jam 2013

Ham Jam 2013

Pure-breed Berkshire ham.  2 of them. More of a European approach in that the aitch bone was removed before curing.  Benton’s and Col Newsom’s  keep them on.  For what it’s worth (not much), I’ve become proficient at deboning and sewing up bone in hams.

Ham in a can.

Ham in a can.

Cured with coarse sea salt, modest amount of sugar, nitrate, effort and time.  Packed in a wooden wine box on a rack on an incline to do away with the resulting brine.  Rubbed again with salt after 2 weeks.  Terrific.

Salt of the earth.

Salt of the earth.

It spent a month in the salt. I got drunk a few times in the meantime.

Dark side of the Ham.

Dark side of the Ham.

Soaked the hams in water overnight and hung them out to dry. Rubbed the exposed meat with lard and ground spices as is tradition, even though there is little chance of any insects getting into the crappy Stagionello curing cabinet (based on the cabinets confusing and awful performance, anything is possible).  They will hang at 55F with 75% humidity for 6 months or so and we’ll see what happens.  And if they are inedible, I’m not too worried.  That’s the silver lining of not getting any credit for your professional work.  It also ensures all but absolute anonymity and keeps you exiled in a lower tax bracket.

Business end of lunch.

Business end of lunch.

Artichauts en Crepinettes à la Barigoule Thursday, Jun 13 2013 

Artichoke Crepinette à la Barigoule

A fresh and dried chick pea ragout with simmered pork shank.

Savory choke orb.

Savory choke orb.

A delightful cassoulet-inspired spring fabrication using artichokes, chickpeas, pork shank and spring garlic.  The dish presents a fair amout of work, but I was told by a better cook than myself that anything worth doing is worth doing right.  While my craving for artichokes is not one that I would run 10 miles in wet jeans and fip-flops to satisfy, turning the artichokes is a an exercise in handiwork, knife skills, speed, efficiency and Zen –the pleasures generally associated with endorphins and diligently slicing cured salmon.

Artichokes in roasted formation.

Artichokes in roasted formation.

The artichokes were turned whole, the stems cut at the base of the heart and simmered in acidulated water with olive oil, aromatics, honey, spice and salt until just tender.  Meanwhile, over on the counter, a measured amount of dried chick peas were soaked (in lieu of garbanzo beans) in dihydrogen monoxide overnight.  They were then blanched with pork shanks that had been brined for a few days to remove the impurities –namely foam- from the chickpeas.  Tomato water (a byproduct of the strained canned San Marzano tomatoes), water, salt and spices were measured according to the weight of the beans, a bouquet of tarragon, 2 ½’ed lemons, bay leaf, Oreo cookies and gently cooked in an 225F oven for 6-7 hours.

Chock full 'O chokes.

Chock full ‘O chokes.

Back to the chokes.  Pork trimmings were resourcefully ground with turnip and beet greens then seasoned with a determined amount of cream, bread crumbs, salt and spice, because BMW doesn’t just slap together car parts; they measure.  The forcemeat was divided into equal parts, rolled up, placed into the artichoke bottoms, cinched with a thin slice of my ventrèche to maintain moisture and promote flavor, then wrapped in caul fat to keep it all nice and clean and bound up tight.  The artichokes were placed on an aromatic vegetable bedding with olive oil and more of the tomato water then roasted covered in a moderately hot oven until the vegetables released their juices and cooked tender, then the cover removed to caramelize the artichokes and concentrate the flavor.  The artichokes were placed in a container and the tomato water/juices strained over.  And that is some good French cookery.  Perhaps it might succeed in the nation’s capital, as it appears to in an admittedly larger city up north.

Artie Chokes.

Artie Chokes.

Barigoule has been bastardized and diluted over the last few centuries.  Not sure why or how the recipe (d)evolved, but originally, artichokes à la barigoule appeared in the 18th century and the name is attributed to the milk cap mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus) known as the “barigoult” derived from the provençal berigoulo.  The artichokes are cut as one would pick the mushroom, turned so that they resemble the mushroom in appearance and cooked in olive oil as the mushrooms would be.  Later, they were stuffed with a mixture of the mushroom and onion, wrapped in fatback or pork belly (ventrèche or petit sale) and then slowly braised.  The mushrooms began to disappear, either as a result of over-harvesting or natural cycle, and along with it the traditional preparation. “À la barigoule” is cooked in the manner of the mushroom, which is to say generally stuffed.  Therefore, a proper artichoke à la barigoule should be stuffed or at the very least treated in a manner deemed worthy of a saffron milcap or similar mushroom.  Cooking artichokes in acidulated water does not à la barigoule make.

Parsley de Lys.

Parsley de Lys.

Fortunately, the pork shanks and chick peas cook tender after the same amount of time.  The shanks were pulled from the beans and left to cool after which the meat was picked and shredded at the natural seams then mixed into the beans.  The ½’ed lemons were squeezed to release their juice and some sherry vinegar added for essential acidity in an otherwise rich dish.

Red Funion.

Red Funion.

While the shanks were cooling, spring garlic was toasted in olive oil,  sliced red onions added and cooked until wilted after which the segments and julienned zest of 2 lemons were added to bolster the red onion color and flavor.  The reserved artichoke stalks were sliced and stirred into the onion mixture along with spring garlic tops and said matignon (French soffritto) would be incorporated into the chick pea mixture once it cooled –lest it discolor the red onion.  Check for salt and vinegar, place in a container and wait to serve the next day.

A proper chick pea stew.

A proper chick pea stew.

The gelatin released from the collagen-rich shanks will thicken the bean liquid considerably and once cooled the cassoulet is firm with good body and viscosity.  The stuffed artichoke is heated in its liquid until warmed through while the beans are supplemented by fresh chick peas.  The components come together with a blessing of bread crumbs.  It is a substantial dish with well-seasoned and moist sausage, tender artichoke,

Le Grand Non-Gagnant de Cochon. Monday, Apr 22 2013 


The Grand Non-Winner

Cochon 555 Washington, DC 2013

This little piggy went straight to the bar afterwards.

This little piggy went straight to the bar afterwards.

Behind a fawned over figurehead’s formidable speech (Theodore Roosevelt notwithstanding),  is generally an obscured speechwriter worthy of a couple kudos, snap-shots, blogs, high-fives and twatters.  I am such a wordsmith with an equally subjective, savory craft who doesn’t always receive the credit they work hard to earn.

After all but begging my employer to get me to participate in the DC Cochon 555 edition since my requests to be considered as a candidate were routinely ignored, I had 5 weeks to develop a menu and after delivery of a decent Large Black hog from Leaping Water’s farm, 6 days to execute.  With the exception of a few fabrications and tasks that were delegated to colleagues, I made 96.83% of all the food; butchering the hog, brining the hams & bellu, making the aspic, the rillettes, the cheese sausage, the loin, the pâté en croûte, the pickles, the liver terrine, the pojarski, the breading, the gribiche and even cut the booties for the Pojarski.

Ham jam 2013.

Ham jam 2013.

As dictated by the contest rules, I would be judged based on usage of the entire animal, flavor, creativity, affability, star appeal and apparently marketing.  In hindsight, the menu should have mentioned the parts used, which have now been added in parentheses. The quality of the animal was not remarkable and any enthusiasm was quickly snuffed out by the presence of a few blood splashes in the shoulder caps, a symptom of careless slaughter and not being bled quickly enough.  Nonetheless, it was a decent hog.

Cochon 555, DC 2013

Range

Prosciutto Cotto (hams) & Mortadella (top sirloin, fatback)

Asparagus in blood aspic  (bones, feet, skin, blood)

and chicories in a smoked ham-hock vinaigrette. (shanks)

-∞∞∞-

Leverpostej.

Danish-style liver terrine wrapped in cured belly. (liver, trimmings, belly)

Salted and cured anchovies, a couple of marinated capers.

-∞∞∞-

Pâté en Croûte 

It’s heart, tongue, kidneys, fatback, pistachios and a few figs. (lard, trimmings, offal)

Some pickled rhubarb and mushrooms.

-∞∞∞-

Pork Belly Pojarski

Breaded and fried.  (belly, trimmings)

Ramp gribiche

-∞∞∞-

L’Astet

Loins roasted with spring garlic. (loin, tenderloin)

Warm confit potatoes and rillettes (jowl, belly)

-∞∞∞-

Saucisson en Brioche

Clothbound cheddar sausage baked in a leaf lard brioche. (trimmings, lard)

And cracklin’ whipped lard.

Hams (and shoulder caps) were given a heavy brine, tied and simmered.  Mortadella was stuffed into smaller beef middles so as to be more manageable to cut and serve.  Shanks were brined, smoked and simmered with tomato juice after which my sponsor assembled a vinaigrette with the diced meat, gelatin enriched tomato juice, pickled mustard seeds, olive oil and banyuls vinegar.  Stock was made from the feet, skin and bones then clarified with blood and egg whites.  The blood doesn’t impart so much of a flavor as it does an amber color, which didn’t necessarily produce a credible sanguine color until it was supplemented with clarified beet juice.  The asparagus was manicured and gently blanched, then tediously dipped like a candle in the aspic.

Me cook pretty one day.

Me cook pretty one day.

Danish style liver terrine was comprised of liver, belly, milk, eggs, salted anchovies, salt tears, madeira, lemon zest, picked thyme and a purée of onions cooked in lard.  The terrine was wrapped in slices of brined and poached belly.  I should have dry-cured the belly as the wet cure yielded flabby slices that were difficult to work with.  This was a very good terrine (a pressed pâté) with a proper balance of liver and meat and the lightest touch of anchovy, which could have been more pronounced.  The slice was adequately garnished with marinated salted capers and pickled white anchovies.

For the pâté en croute, lard represented the fat content of the dough, malt syrup supplemented the mixture for added strength and color and the corn starch was entirely eliminated so as not to compromise the amount of protein in the dough –so as to eliminate breakage.  Tongue, gizzard and heart were brined & cooked; premium trimmings marinated with Armagnac, lemon zest and thyme, figs plumped in booze and a delicate inlay of pistachio assembled with the addition of chlorophyll, egg whites and a nominal amount of trimmings.  The hinging properties of the mold were properly used to apply a decorative pig emblem and after learning a thing or 2 at the Pâté Croûte World Championship, the pâté was built upside down to ensure a clean top and eliminate fissures.   This was a very good pâté, and with absolute humility, better than any other there.

Good enough for government work, but not the judges.

Good enough for government work, but not the judges.

Pojarski’s were diminutive, fancy mock-cutlets fashioned from trimmings of raw shoulder, cured belly, onions cooked in lard, spices, toasted bread crumbs and cream.  Twice breaded and gussied-up with a paper bootie.  Gribiche made with barely boiled eggs became seasonal with a surplus of ramps; the bottoms sweated in olive oil, the top blanched & chopped, along with gherkins, mustards, lemon and whatnot.  They were fried to a golden George Hamilton  and down right delicious.

The loins and tenderloins were brined (without #1 curing salt) in a 5% brine flavored with rosemary and fennel seed. I do not remember any of the other contestants using the loin, surprisingly.  L’Astet is a regional pork dish from l’Aveyron that involves a trussed loin and garlic.  In this case, the tenderloin was cut in half lengthwise and threaded through the center of each quarter loin.  The loin(s) were expertly trussed, nice & tight, and left to marinate in olive oil with spring garlic.  It was later cooked to 145F internally, roasted fat-side down and sliced for the contest.  It was completed with one of the best batches of rillettes I have ever made –jowl, belly, 4 spice and meyer lemon.  Yukon gold potatoes were punched out, blanched and finished in rendered fat with mustard seeds.

A variant of saucisson à l’ail (garlic sausage) had clothbound cheddar replace the garlic and after a quick steam in the combi oven was wrapped in lard-based brioche dough and baked.  The prototype came out much better.  Inexplicably, these ones had a significant gap between the sausage and the dough which we had not experienced when using the garlic sausage.  It was a worthwhile sausage, though the binding properties of garlic make for a better, firm texture than cheese.

Complimentary smoked fat-back truffles with Bavarian pretzel crust were offered courtesy of our pastry chef and a testament to the amount of rendered lard that we used.  We had a modest amount of food left over after the liquor drenched event and with the exception of a pound or 2 of fatback, used up the entirety of the animal. 2 of the more reputable judges validated my efforts with firm handshakes and solidly honest compliments, but their votes were diluted by the great unwashed whose palates and eyes were fooled by pedestrian fare and stickers.  Congratulations and thanks to the teams from Proof, Vidalia and Birch & Barley for providing creative and satisfying fare under such considerable time constraints, particularly to those that did the work.  If there is a next time, I’ll develop a winning recipe for making T-shirts. Tremendous thanks to Richie Havens too, even if your career really took off before I was born.

Mes salaisons Wednesday, Feb 27 2013 

My salted wares

How dry I am.

How dry I am.

Rather successful  bovine dry curing.  Viande de Grisson, bresaola and saucisson sec.  Randall-Lineback eye of round for the VdG was cured in 2 stages (half the salt cure for 3 days, the other half for 3 more days), wiped clean of the cure mix, rolled in herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano,  and marjoram) wrapped in cheesecloth and hung in a refrigerated room –no need to ferment the whole muscle, just to dry it. Very nice color, sweet taste, but I don’t know how much the herbs contributed to the flavor.  Kind of musty actually. It eventually developed a bloom after 3 weeks and when it had sufficiently dried to my liking, I pressed it (to achieve the traditional pressed shape) between wooden boards weighed down with cans of tomatoes, though any canned good with equal weight would have worked just as well I suppose.  A friend of mine once pilfered in my pack a can or roasted red peppers from Buca di Beppo, whose “Pope Room” is the gold standard for Italian dining with your delinquent friends, and there is a crappy nudie bar next door  (gnudi bar, by the way, would be a very good idea for a gnudi menu themed room).  I was pleased as punch by the plucked can, though upon shaking it, it seemed like there was quite a bit of water in there.  That sloshy sound was consistent with the contents –dihydrogen monoxide.  What was most amazing, was that the cans were authentically labeled, painted on, nutritional info, imported, importer address, contents, ingredients…  A very convincing 5lb can of roasted red peppers that would fit in on any Costco shelf. Who makes such a mock product?  And what will become of the Pope busts that bless the Pope Room tables?

A square meal.

A square meal.

The bresaola was fabricated from an Angus eye of round, cured in the same manner as the VdG, put in a beef bung casing, brushed with vinegar and left to dry in the same refrigerated room.  After a week, the bresaola began to develop a healthy white bloom and 3 weeks later was completely encased in the cherished bloom which other manufacturers artificially replicate with rice flour. Very nice color and sweet beefy flavor.  Far better than the desiccated beef often passed off as the real McCoy.

Saucisson sec was more of a challenge. Lean Randall-Lineback eye-of-round was used in lieu of pork, primarily because of the abundance of the former, and pork back fat supplemented the fat.  No starter culture.  Standard procedure was applied and the pieces were incubated in a plastic tub for 72 hours.  The refrigerator conditions were not ideal for the proper curing (too cold, not enough humidity) and the ph of the meat may not have been sufficient. While the flavor was enjoyable, particularly the lucknow fennel seed, the sausage itself was a bit softer than desired in the middle, though the face of the slice was encouraging –no air pockets or festering inside, but the fat distribution left much to be desired.

Bloom County.

Bloom County.

Randall-Lineback secca (the French variety of bresaola) was successful and absolutely delicious.  Cured in the same manner as the Viande de Grisson and bresaola.  Stuffed in a beef middle.  Top notch bloom.  I could have snow angels in that bloom if I was smaller.

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