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.

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.

Galantines: Édition Spéciale “roule ma poule” Saturday, Nov 17 2012 

Galantines:  Special “On a Roll” Edition.

Breast binoculars yet.

Chicken Galantine.  Swan song for the penultimate day at work and poultry butchering demonstration.  Bobo chicken, breast strips, pork, fatback, brandy-drenched currants, pistachios and an inlay of liver mousse wrapped up in fatback.  Yep.  Centered too.

Pleasant, that pheasant.

Pheasant galantine.  Ballotine actually, since it was lightly seared and warmed through with the poaching juices.  Pheasant breast garnish, confit gizzards, pork, livers chestnuts and sage.  Served with chestnut purée, autumn vegetables and a croquette made from the legs.  Legs were braised with juniper and gin, picked from the irritating tendons, shredded, supplemented with whole-grain mustard and orange zest.  Twice breaded and fried (needed more fat for unctuousness).

 

Le Pâté en Croûte: Édition Spéciale Canard et Cerises Sèches. Tuesday, Mar 6 2012 

Pâté en Croûte: Special Duck and Dried Sour Cherries Edtion.

Pretty feathery pastry.

Some duck marinated in Sailor Jerry rum.  Damn fine rum.  Nice & spicy.  Then a nod to Neil Diamond’s fruit of choice.  Farce a gratin (chicken livers marinated in brandy, shallots, duck fat), pork (30% of the weight of the duck), confit gizzards, fatback, pistachios and some warm spices.  No structural breaches and the most recent pastry proportions provided noteworthy savor and palatabilitinessness.  A worthwhile endeavor.  It’s be even more worthwhile is someone bought any of the damned stuff rather than gazing mouth agape at the meat case as if it were some sort of kooky dead animal exhibit at the zoo.

Doing what Pablo Neruda wants me to do with cherries in preparation for spring, I think.

Plenty of similar cooked charcuterie offerings available, in addition to raw sausages and a wide variety of cuts from all animals.

Merci-donnant 2011: Édition Spéciale “Nouvelle Frangleterre“ n. 3 Monday, Jan 2 2012 

Thanksgiving 2011: Special “New Frangland” Edition.

Part III.  Turkey Delivery

Dinner seen through rosy early 20th century glasses.

Happy New Year, dearest faithful and hopelessly sexually repressed readers. Forgive the brevity, but commuting has sapped free time. Consider relieving your New Year’s Eve shame with this delightful –albeit tardy- ultimate TG2011 installment as you hopelessly milk the clock –managers or worker bees alike.

Hell, its been almost 6 weeks and at this point flexing any turkeyday muscles is just a formality.  Still, if a pair of contraceptive diaphragms remain in your desk drawer and weren’t taken to your holiday party, put them in over your glasses because you are about to get fucked in the eyes.

A delectable variety of seasonally appropriate garden accoutrements preceded the roast of honor.

Baby cabbages, or whatever. From Belgium with flavor.

Brussels sprouts, savory and tart.  Blanched in water seasoned to theWestern Atlantic’s liking then agitated with red onions cooked in plenty of lard and made vibrant with lemon juice.

Holla-flower. #gratiné

Heirloom cauliflower à la Polonaise.  Yellow, purple, and romanesco.  A béchamel supplemented with the stalks.  Eggs barely boiled, split and nestled within the brassica valleys.  A generous dusting of lemon zest, garlic and bread crumbs toasted in poultry fat –butter not readily available from a turkey no matter how hard you milk it.  Given the tanning salon treatment  in an oven until deliciously crunchy.  Verdant, tender, firm, rich, crisp, saucy, hearty.

Roast cleavage.

And then there was the heritage Virginia bird.  Brined in a solution of salt and maple syrup.  Left to dry overnight then roasted over a bedding of vegetable aromatics and sliced lemon to the goldest of golden.

Thigh-roller.

As for the leggy appendages, ballotines, naturally.  Puréed, seasoned garnish with thigh meat, fatback, cranberries, fatback and expertly rolled up, as one would an XXXL reefer and roasted with fresh cranberries and chestnuts.  Superb.

Tastes charming as well.

No bird can go to the ball without a proper dressing, or in this case, saupiquet –a gravy made from reduced turkey stock and thickened with the seared liver.  Then some confit gizzard chopped up in there.

I am the gizzard king.

Pan Coudoun.Languedocfavorite. Candied quince baked in whole wheat bread.  Chewy crumb, aromatic crust, sweet filling.

Nature’s candy in a gluten wrapper.

Frangipane pagentry.

 Pumpkin and ricotta frangipane tart.  Courtesy a friend in the industry.  To top it; honey-cream cheese iced cream.  Wonderfully flaky crust.  Fragrant frangipane, sweet pumpkin and just a little bit of sour from the ricotta.  A fitting closure washed down with Pachernc.

Gilded arches.

An exceptional evening whose fare was only made as enjoyable as the company.

Thank you guests.

Merci-donnant 2011: Édition Spéciale “Nouvelle Frangleterre“ Thursday, Dec 1 2011 

Thanksgiving 2011:  Special “New Frangland” Edition.

Part I: Preamble

Ceci est vrai, mon Général.

Tippy top-shelf guest list was not accurately represented, though 14 friendly orphans gathered around a table instead and provided exceptional company for an enjoyable feast.  Similar to and inspired by 2009’s successful Old-World meets New-World premise, a coastal New England menu was devised using traditional autumn ingredients with traditional French techniques.  Stalwart perennials included mulled cider, charcuterie, soup, turkey breast and legs cooked separately, Jansson’s temptation,  cheese and dessert.  Due to unshakable unemployment since returning from France, certain tasks were outsourced so as to alleviate the financial burden, in this case the adroitly mulled cider, mustache-force roasted nuts, selective cheese, ethereal dessert and, as always, libations.

Coastal menu

Slightly sticky, sweet, spicy, crunchy nuts roasted in a light butter caramel arrived courtesy of a former colleague and provided a welcome start to the evening.  2 variations of properly mulled cider were spearheaded by another guests and offered the essential social lubricant.  Warm apple cider infused with allspice, clove, star anise and cinnamon and proposed with either dark rum or bourbon steeped with dried apple chips and raisins.  Fantastic.  Pickled sour Mexican gherkins and yellow wax beans from the garden supplied essential acidity to whet the appetite and balance the delectable rillettes.

Mulled cider to be pumped. (insert fist pump emoticon)

Bostonmackerel, appropriately, was pickled in my red wine vinegar with carrots and red onions, dressed with extra virgin French olive oil and eaten with the help of antique cocktail forks bought at Ruff & Ready for a song.  Firm, pleasantly sour and a crunch from the carrots.  Nice contrast to the sweet cider and stoopid good rillettes.

Diff’rent forks for diff’rent dorks.

Far and away the most luscious element of the preamble was the unctuous and resourceful smoked turkey rillettes.  Cured and smoked turkey drumsticks were acquired from the venerable and aptly named Bestworld for pocket change and simmered in Berkshire pork leaf lard, bay leaf and peppercorns for a few ticks longer than the duration of, of…of…? until thoroughly hammered. Strained from the smoky fat, the meat was cleaned of the miserable plastic-like tendons that make turkey (and pheasant)  legs so unappealing and exhaustingly paddled by modern technology with the incorporation of the fat until smooth and pasty.  Some premium octane German mustard  and sherry vinegar for balance.  Potted in a pot, covered with remaining fat and left to do its thing in the fridge for a couple days.

Turkeyday preamble Olympic podium (you’re welcome, turkey).

I’ve been unabashedly bashful about some of the culinary flops documented in gustatory diary.  The rillettes is not one of them.  Tippiest toppest shelf product and formidable in its properly proportioned complexity.  Smoky, rich, salty, smooth, creamy, mustard heat, tartness from the vinegar, appealing color and an all around intoxicating aroma.  I’d gladly be embalmed with it if Root or Van Gogh espresso is not available.

Smooth, leggy, blonde and spreads.

Hearty crackers were an essential vehicle for consuming the poultry alchemy and a spit-shone curvy antique fish knife was the proper tool for administering such a voluptuous yet austere product on said cracker.

TBC…

Poulet rôti et choufleur à la Polonaise: Edition Spéciale Bonne Mère et Bon Œuf. Thursday, Nov 10 2011 


Roasted chicken & cauliflower à la Polonaise:

Special Good Mother and Good Egg Edition.

Fresh from the oven. 11/5/11 -5lbs, 2oz.

Nearly a fortnight ago as the infallible doctor-mandated temporal due date expired,  an expecting mother’s expectations had withered from frustration to desperation only to be reignited with traditional internet folklore.  According to Cobb County, Georgia legend, the revered eggplant parmigiana at Scalini’s old-fashioned Italian restaurant had, for better or much worse,  particularly labor inducing properties.  The ingredients themselves seem benign and the adulteration of nutritionally worthless eggplant.

Fertile soil

Eggplants are naturally high in nicotine and perhaps abundant levels of affection for kitschy guido bric-a-brac may help to explain why pregnant women’s bodies dislodged an abundant amount of cute-deficient babies after gorging themselves on really crappy Americanized Italian foodstuff.   (insert shudder emoticon).

Whether or not the expedient natural birth was a symptom or relief from the dutiful father-to-be’s rendition of eggplant placatingiana, not more than 3 hours later the couple welcomed the adorable tiny fruit of their mutual affection and steadfast commitment.

Drawn butter helps delivery up north.

A cook’s cook once said that anything worth doing was worth doing right and that the final product is a measure of effort, passion and dedication.  If the newborn is any indication, her folks must have done it right, intensely, and probably twice just to make sure.  In recognition of their compassionate endeavor, a soulful dinner to feed the soul was offered up. Roasted chicken -a centerpiece mainstay of homely nutrition, and as an allegory to the seasonal household addition  –cauliflower à la Polonaise.  As an extension of the fall harvest, a garnish of potatoes from the mother’s garden, glazed turnips and red pearl onions.

All natural, cage-free birthing bearth.

The bird was prepared and cooked in an orthodox manner (wishbone removed; drumsticks Frenched; stuffed with sliced lemon, garlic, thyme, dried chili and the last of summer’s savory; trussed) and left to roast on a bedding of standard vegetables and slices of another lemon.  The resulting creature attained a golden lacquer which retained an abundant reservoir of succulent juices with prevailing poultry, fragrant traces of herbs and echoes of citrus.  Paper booties were applied in lieu of a proper bowtie which was impossible to wear without a neck.  Meat was moist and clean, though if given the opportunity to serve in two acts, the legs would have returned backstage and simmered in the juices until entirely free from the bone.

Yellow Hot Cauliflower Crispies.

The pennant of Polonaise preparation involves garnishing with clarified butter, hard cooked eggs, bread crumbs and parlsey. Yellow cauliflower and romanesco were purchased for a song at the morning’s market.  No parsley.  No problem. Once manicured and whittled to florettes, the stalks were cooked down in stored poultry fat and made into a noble béchamel with the addition of flour, milk, nutmeg and piment d’espelette.  Meanwhile, as eggs were brought up to barely a boil, bread crumbs toasted in a pan with mashed garlic and the zest of a lime. The earthy béchamel lined the bottom of a dish and blanched cauliflower was spread on top, interspersed with halved eggs.  After a hot flash in the oven, rosemary scented poultry fat was drizzled for rizzle all over that shit (until chickens give milk, schmaltz will replace clarified butter) and a dusting of those bread crumbs provided that essential crun(k)ch.  All involved parties seemed satisfied, particularly the baby who, despite a strict regimen of mother’s milk,  apparently found no reason to protest.

Édition Spéciale Marché Gris: Viandes et Provisions Vaut la Peine. Monday, Jul 18 2011 

Special Grey Market Vendor Edition:

Worthwhile Meats & Provisions

Worth mine and your while.

Under the storefront nom de plume of Worthwhile Meats & Provisions, wares within this repertoire were placed for sale at the 3rd DC Grey Market in an effort to showcase the confident breadth of basement kitchen derring-do as well as gauge public demand and tastes.  Products were smoked wild king and sockeye salmon (18 ounces of each), boudin  blanc d’Avranches (24 links), leafy greens sausage (36 links), pâté en croûte (48 ounce pâté) and cauliflower agnolotti (150 pieces).  Epicurean bric-a-brac was not for sale, though complimentary tomatoes and pickles were well received along with the products.

You should see my lemonade stand.

All were sold within 3 hours with the help of a lovely assistant’s handsome signage and personable hawking talent; an indispensable asset to any would be vendor. Sales covered all shopping costs and fees, leaving just less than $40 to compensate 2 weeks worth of late night work.  Portion sizes were respectable (3, 4, 10 and 15 ounces for salmon, pâté, boudin and sausage) and modestly priced at $3, $4, $7, $7 respectively as well as $1 an ounce for the agnolotti which helped to ensure that the items would not be prohibitively expensive.

The better kind of “sell out”.

The Grey Market provided an excellent opportunity and barometer of sorts for budding entrepreneurs to test the viability of they hobbies, passions, visions, etc…despite the somewhat remote location, awkward  placement of vendor tents and little to no advertising (contrary to the 1st and 2nd markets) –the last 2 liabilities resting squarely on the frumpy, strung-out shoulders of the untrustworthy promoter whose aggrandizing self titled culinary rank (the hallmark of kitchen insecurity) was hopelessly dubious and confirmed by the tasteless choice of chili pepper motif shorts.  Exhaustive intertron research has failed to produce any real meat & potatoes credentials relating to the alleged 2 decades of success, much less any evidence of culinary bona fides.

WorthWhile Meats & Provisions can be reached at worthwhilemeats@gmail.com

ETA:  The Washington Post food editor deemed my wares and ambitions worthy of front page ink.  Still, there remain skeptics whose pretzel logic concerning food safety illuminates the hopeless depths of their ignorance with respect to food safety and the effects of inspections/regulations.  For those, consider the FDA recall list from FDA-regulated products.  Then consider how many home kitchens are inspected and whether such cynics have ever been sickened from eating a meal prepared from an unlicensed kitchen in the form of breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, dinner party, birthday party, Thanksgiving, Christmas, bbq, picnic, etc…and whether or not they were concerned about food borne illnesses.  The paranoid fantasy is hyperbolic and unfounded.  It suggests that a price tag is enough to contaminate.

While my personal home kitchen is not officially licensed, it is sanitary, empty for 12-16 hours a day and does not have more than 2 hands or feet in it at any time.  15 years culinary experience, a formality food handler’s license, common sense and the desire to replicate a savory, worthwhile product trumps the hallow assurance that industrial facilities or restaurants are guaranteed to prevent illness by virtue of  occasional health inspections, biannual at best for latter that do not immediately require changes for 100% compliance with food safety codes.


Galantine de Volaille: Edition Spéciale “ma sœur me manque ; diagrammes de Venn par l’intermédiaire de « Joie de Vivre », de Robert Delaunay”. Thursday, Jun 16 2011 

Chicken Galantine: 

Special “I miss my sister; Venn diagrams channeled through

Robert Delaunay’s “Joie de Vivre” edition”.

Frankie Purdue’s electric acid and aspic preservation society.

Not since Sir Sidney Poitier’s critically acclaimed 1980 dramatic psychological thriller “Stir Crazy”, has a bird suit made such a satisfying impact on a beer & sausage buzzed audience. Conceived as homage to a beloved sister’s visit, and executed with antique culinary showmanship, the occasion provided an opportunity to challenge the deceptively handsome, technically demanding variety of galantine de volaille en chaud-froid.

John McEnroe experienced the same daunting rivalry on a conceptual English putting green in the late 1970’s against prodigal heart-throb fashion doll Björn Borg.  As with any other seemingly dreamy, follicular tête à tête sporting snug 3” inseams and terrycloth headbands, tempers are likely to flare, more so when the senior competitor’s enviable golden locks, soothing turquoise eyes and frighteningly consistent strokes stoke the coals of a defeated tantrum.

Cool has been lost on several occasions, when firm temperament put the motherfucking kibosh on the occasional shittiest pastry and aspic known to humanity.  However, failures gradually shifted towards winnings, the equilibrium payoff of improved theory & practice, eventually ensuring results well within the margins of success, awesomeness and horny girls’ adoration column.  A veritable cootie-catcher of inevitable victory permutations, though a winningest champion who has built an epic career trademarked by sang-froid and imperviousness to stress will have  a melt-down for the fans when absolute perfection is not achieved, affirming that even a master craftsman invariably blames his tools.

Green Gene, mean sausage machine.

Sister was in town for a brief visit from Notsofunnyland and nothing more than the be all end all of hopelessly dated grandiose E-coli-free chicken whimsy would fit the bill for making her visit worthwhile (fostering Mr. Cuddlesworth  notwithstanding), though mustard green sausages were an enticing opening act.

A chicken only agents Mulder & Scully and Gonzo the Great could love.

Chicken was obtained from a reputablish Latin grocer in exchange for currency and a genuine appreciation for meringue music.  Extremities were lopped off, the skeleton ripped out with a forceful hand à la Predator, stock made with said bones, bla-bla-bla, same ol’ song and dance.  Eviscerated bird was brined in a 3% salt brine (1.5%  sugar, aromatics).

Fowl bondage.

Forcemeat was made from pork, chicken trimmings, its offal, fatback, pistachios, figs, foie gras & truffle mousse scraps, Muppet tenderloins, Dutch Guilders, and a rose of a different name.  Pork and chicken trimming were ground twice and supplemented by an egg puréed with the bird’s liver.  Seasoning and curing salt was measured by the weight of the forcemeat and its garnishes using a sextant, just like Shackleton did on his way to South Georgia island fromElephant  Island.  No small feat, especially in a windowless basement.

Crop-circle chicken upholstery.

After stuffing and trussing the creature, it was launched into the stockpot (gooseneck –fade away) and left to simmer until the inside reached 160ºF.  Took a long time.  Didn’t want to boil too hard as I was afraid the skin and remaining bones (wings and drumsticks) would fall apart.  It was left to cool in the stock and then refrigerated while the chaud-froid was fabricated.  A white roux was cooked, heated stock whisked in, gelatin added, strained, cooled, tasted and tested for strength.  After an extreme (look out, Dan Cortese) coating of chaud-froid, excesses and cosmetic imperfections were melted away with extremely gentle wafts of heat from a butane torch.  And of course the ubiquitous fluted mushrooms, whittled turnips and brightly glazed radishes.

Court-side with Stanley Kubrick. (nice booties, blondie)

Sister has an affinity for Venn diagrams, an appreciation of which would inspire the decoration.  The brightest natural colors and workable textures are extracted from bell peppers.  The pepper are carefully selected by shaking them like maracas to see if they have any loose change in them, boiled, peeled and cut to specifications, in this case a variety of overlapping circles which would also, coincidentally, suggest the “joie de vivre” painting by French abstract artist Robert Delaunay, whose nationality we all share (with tremendous, fiery enthusiasm).  Look too close and you might get hypnotized and crap sideways for a week.  Seriously.

Inedible abstract joy of living.

After attentively adorning the critter with deliberately alternative, meticulously cut anit-Mondrian  colored discs, the thing was given a proper shellacking of aspic followed by the butane torch once-over to smooth out any unsightly bulges.

Dissecting the game.

Overall, the chaud-froid could have used more salt and the forcemeat could have benefited from more aggressive cooking.  Slow cookery may have made the forcemeat mealy rather than firm, giving it a somewhat unpleasant texture.  The chicken itself was delightful as far as poached chicken goes.  While not a championship win in straight sets, it was a respectable qualifying endeavor.  Notes have been taken and the tapes have been studied.  Training is under way for summer’s 2.0 galantine; special argyle rainbow chard edition.

Soirée Germinal Monday, Apr 18 2011 

Germinal evening

Crowning achievement

As our homely rock tilts predictably closer to the alleged center of the universe our alarm clocks cast wider shadows and we shuffle out the door every morning just a bit closer to the sun. It is a season of renewal and rebirth where buds burgeon, stalks spout, trees regain their plumage and bird calls remind revelers that their amphetamine binge is losing flight. Such earthly order did not go unnoticed by the revered French whose Revolutionary calendar  honored the season with a Germinal appellation and daily plant-name attributions.

Meanwhile, some growth was going on upstairs.  Consequently, a topical spring and regeneration menu was conceived with as many hallmarks of the season that could be acquired.  Said menu was then delicately drawn by a charming local artist whose soothing sensitivity to old timey Art Nouveau illustrations, adroit brushstrokes and particularly infectious laugh are well received by the household.

With the earth slightly out of winter kilter, the oceans have a tendency to slosh around a bit and that inexplicably drives all the salmon up rivers and streams where they reunite with others and make the sex, (like the folks upstairs did) as Animal Planet would have us believe.  Or they crash into you and your bicycle.

A very good looking menu.

Gravlax-oology
Zen sliced panela cured sockeye salmon, some spears of manicured asparagus and eggs “Evelyn”.

Aïgo sao d’iou
A clearly spring garlic soup with bits of chicken and a nicely poached egg.

Crown rack of lamb “Mazarine”
Nestled among artichokes stuffed with spring flavors, fragrant brown rice and a few handsomely fluted mushrooms

Cheese
Mt.Tam, Red Hawk, Ossau-Iraty

Frangipane tart
With a smattering of pistachios and turbinado sugar.

Asparagus high water mark.

Herring, though delicious, migrate in the same fascinating numbers, but are more difficult to find in their whole raw state and the cacophony of tangled bones is enough of a deterrent. Salmon floated to the top of the list, preferably in a salt-cured “gravlax” preparation as past file-cabinet device smoking fumigated the apartment more than it flavored the fish. A quick study on eggs, “Egg Evelyn”, namesake of the mother to be would provide delectable & aesthetic harmony. Rounding out the rhythm section of this 3 piece Motherly orchestra would be asparagus, which, when deftly peeled, naturally, conjures spring as well as male virility.

Send in the clones.

Sockeye salmon is the desired variety based on color, size, fat content and flavor, though they are not available until mid summer, suggesting that the portion purchased was invariable frozen from the previous year. No big deal. The salmon was cured with a mixture of 4% sodium chloride, 2% panela, 1% ground foeniculum/coriandrum sativum by the weight of the thing, the zest of 1 rutaceae, then left to cure for exactly 46hrs 38minutes 23.6 seconds after which it was rinsed with dihydrogen monoxide and left to develop a pellicile in the ice box. Whence a sufficient pellicile was achieved, the gravlax was sliced parallel and away from the bloodline with graceful Mahāyāna concentration to ensure even rectangular pieces and profound inner peace.

A spoonful of unrefined sugar helps the cure go down.

Asparagus no slenderer than an elegant woman’s manicured finger was selected and given similar treatment courtesy a paring knife, peeler, laser, lathe, paraffin wax then a quick dip in both seasoned boiling water & iced water and finally left to drip dry in a colander to the mellow salon sounds of piano hotshot Sigismond Thalberg.

Asparagus: concerto in Major F’in peeling.

Finally, mixed-martial arts themed “free/open range/cage” chicken eggs were boiled as per the Escoffier edict (start in appropriately sized pot with enough cold, salted water to cover eggs and count 8 magic minutes* after boiling. Plunge in ice water and then remove shell with DIY eggstractor which functions as a rudimentary DIY penis pump/glory hole for hurried perverts).  Eggs were eggscavated then stuffed with a filling made from the yolks, sour cream, mustard, gravlax scraps, olive oil, Swedish vinegar, pickled peppers, capers, salt then topped with wild salmon roe to suggest the egg within the fine lady upstairs.

Eggceptional.

Some pea shoots, wild watercress, carrots, beets and radishes were gussied up with sherry-shallot-basement apartment-aged vinegar vinaigrette with a splash on the asparagus bundles, fleur de sel here & there and paraded out to the table.

As seen in Charlie Trotter “Jealous”.

Continuing with the egg theme, the egg’s matron was used in its entirety to make a humble provençal soup and highlight the properties of its parts. Stock was made from the bird and spring garlic. Feet (this bird had lots of them) were roasted for additional body and flavor, egg whites comprised the clarifying raft, leg meat was poached, as were eggs, culminating in a clarified broth with some chicken meat and an egg.

Odalisque Poulaga.

Aïgo sau d’iou. A clearly spring garlic soup with some bits of chicken and a poached egg.  A little of something for everyone from everything.

Jurassic feat.

Soup was clear, bright, flavorful, offered a lightly pungent aroma of spring garlic and an enjoyable course of distraction while the main event was quietly composed nearby.

How do you do, Aïgo sau diou?

The apogee –and personal Hillary Step- of the evening was what invariably looks better in the mind rather than on the platter: crown rack of lamb with elements of the traditional Mazarine garnish (artichoke bottoms stuffed with jardinière, rice, mushrooms). In this representation, artichoke bottoms were dutifully filled with fava beans, brown rice, spring onions, red onions, lemon zest and butter while small white onions, baby white turnips and handsomely fluted mushrooms casually filled the center of the roast.

Two massive racks of a mutton sized lamb were hacked away from the spine with a flannelled woodsman’s dexterity, patiently frenched, chine bones removed, scored then impatiently glued together with transglutaminase, courtesy a dear colleague  who does remarkable things with food and sacked Michael Vick twice while in college **. While the meat glue works well for Arby’s “Roast “Beef” (actually shin and other less desirable “cuts” resourcefully glued together)” and downunder blowhard Adam Melonis’s stupid octopus lollipop, it didn’t really hold the ends of the racks together and the racks had to be seared individually anyway.

Boned, the French way.

After searing, the racks were sewn together with kitchen twine using a single loop at the top and bottom of the loin then wrapped a few times to maintain the crown’s shape. Voluptuous booties were cheerfully constructed by the aforementioned artist upon consulting a few prototypes and self fastened with nimble folds. Once roasted, rested and warmed, the bones were shod with booties, artichokes stuffed and arranged, the center of the crown filled with people fodder and the composition given its red carpet moment before gracefully holding court at the table. Though not extraordinary, the flavor of the lamb was good. It would have benefited from a proper red wine and vinegar marinade. However, it was tender and well cooked, though just a whisper and wink short of the desired «à point» medium, and did not carry the excessive saddle-bags of unpleasant lamb fat odor not uncommon in husky Colorado raised specimens.

The majesty’s boneyard.

Surrounding vegetable garnishes were quite respectable. Artichokes bottoms « cuits dans un blanc » (cooked in a flour and water mixture with lemon juice and a splash of olive oil) were tender, uniformly colored and succulent with just the right amount of acidity while the filling indicated many compass points of flavor–richness from the butter and olive oil, favas providing starchiness, nutty brown rice, sweet and acidic red onions glazed in olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice, sharp green crunch with the scallion tops and finishing fleur de sel from l’Île du Noirmoutier. Garnish within the meaty walls were an earthier contrast to the verdant moat. Small onions and sweet white turnips slowly bathed in butter, olive oil and a splash of vinegar along with mushrooms cooking in a similar fashion as the artichokes so as to preserve the color and acquiring notes of richness and acidity from the olive oil and lemon juice.

Fancy-full feast.

An accompanying olive sauce was made with lamb trimmings, some sort of chicken stock from the freezer, rosemary and cured black olives. More of an afterthought since Hollandaise was initially envisioned but scarcity of time, hands and eggs scuttled such an operation. Not much of the lamb was left outside of bones stripped clean of flesh. Well within the parameters of success for a pioneering engineering feat though future versions will include a 24 hour marinade and slower/longer cookery to attain a more desirable medium doneness throughout.

A penultimate selection of cheeses: Ossau-Iraty (French raw sheep’s milk and personal favorite), Mt Tam (triple cream California sheep, cow and goat) and Red Hawk (stinky triple cream washed rind cow milk) and some of the Mrs’s walnut bread allowed all to decompress and coat their palates with rich dairy before a closing of desert and digestif.

Having had success with frangipane, a rhubarb version was planned though searches were fruitless and came up empty. Pistachios however were abundant and incorporated into an updated frangipane batter in which the almonds were toasted, coaxing more sweetness and roasted almond flavor.

Shell shock. (not some, but all the pistachios they had)

The mixture was cooked in a double boiler rather than directly in a pot and yielded a delicious, even texture. Pâte sucrée was blind baked, the filling poured in and baked at 325ºF so that it would swell nicely as it had in previous versions. Sadly, it did not. Not sure why. The moisture within should have expanded it (Charles Law) but nothing happened. The uninflated but not totally deflated tart was sprinkled with turbinado sugar for a little sweet crunch. Topped with a soothing quenelle  of whipped cream.

Frangiflat...

All was washed down with a spiced sleep inducing elixir: cordial glasses of my very own bottle of fantastic Root liqueur. A perfect finale to the opening primavera cocktail offered by the patriarch upstairs; a refreshingly fragrant vodka and citrus soda aperitif scented with coriander.

Root, root root for the home team.

The evening was a tremendous success in that the guests enjoyed each others’ pleasant company and there was enough appetizing food and drink to go around.

*(same as normal minutes)
** in practice

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