Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mission: Chicken Pie (now, with 20% more foie gras!)

To go along with the yummy sauce gribiche, this week we made PDC Chicken Pie. We meezed it up good.

Chicken Pie Mis en Place

Knowing dinner was going to be on a Friday night after a long work week, we made the pie crust ahead of time so it would be all set when it was time to ROLL.

We weighed the flour. (PS - Michael Ruhlman has requested your comments about weighing via his blog . Go forth and comment!)

A touch of flour

And we added in some cold butter...

A knob of butter

All mixed up nice in the food processor...

Make some dough!

And rolled into a log, and put in the fridge for a few hours...

Prior to a day in the fridge

We added the green beans to the carrots, onions, and celeriac (celery root) and chicken (which had been cooked in the same pan and deglazed with some white wine).

Pie Stuffing just about ready
Note from wife: Celeriac was a fantabulous food-piphany for me! Not a fan of the texture of proper celery in hot preparations (hot, watery, stringy things... not so much), I've shied away from it, straining it out at the end before serving. But I have always liked the taste. (And I love me some raw celery with cream cheese and paprika. Hello? Who doesn't?!) Needless to say, the introduction to celeriac changed everything! It's got all the taste of celery, none of the watery boringness I was trying to avoid. Good taste and good texture. EVERYONE WINS! (OK, just I win, but still. That counts for something. THANK YOU, CELERIAC!)
After the celery after-party was celebrated inside aforementioned homemade pie dough.

Dough into pie pan

Every pie pan got its share...

Pies ready for lids

Then every pie got its lid... And a rub down with egg yolk!

Pies with yolk wash

Mmmm... and they baked up nice and toasty. But wait! There's more!!!!

Pies out of the oven

Per an optional suggestion in The Album (which is basically what they do in the restaurant), we added a mind-blowing foie gras sauce, using the leftover foie gras fat from the foie gras burger, an egg yolk, cream, and some veal demi-glace.

Chicken pie with foie gras sauce

So, the taste? Well, the addition of the sauce was... not a mistake. In fact: Oh.ma.gaw. It went from "mmm, this is a delicious, nice, fresh, homemade chicken pot pie" to "Agurlglurlrugg" (the sound of drooling, with eyes rolled into the back of the head), quickly followed by "AND furthermore (as dinner companion gets fork perilously close to aforementioned foie sauce), if you get your fork any nearer to my luscious foie covered chicken pie, I you make sure that you will seriously regret it. FOREVER. My pie! MY PIE!" Violence was avoided, but daaaaaaamn, was that chicken pie with foie gras sauce good!

Leaving the sauce aside for a moment, this dish did have a nicely familiar feeling to it - and while we were both really pleased with the results of the addition of cerleriac, and happy about the substitution of string beans for the more traditional peas in this kind of dish, it brought us both back, remembering pot pies we've had in the past. Which is all to say that this dish didn't expand our palates in major, significant ways - but it did give us a little more of the depth that we're doing this whole project for.

Note to selves:
FOIE GRAS SAUCE ON EVERYTHING! ALWAYS! We're not sure we made the point clearly enough above, but this really made a positive impact on the dish, and we recommend it for anyone considering the option.

Time, mis to eat: About six hours, four of which were spent chilling the pie dough.

Next up: Mother's Day come early this year as we prepare us some Foie Gras Tart (#9)

Blast from the past: First time here? Check out why we're doing this from his and her perspective.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mission: Deviled Eggribiche (Out of Scope) A Ménage à trois

As mentioned earlier, we loved the sauce gribiche from PDC's White Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche recipe. We would eat it in a box. We would eat it with a fox. We would eat it here or there. We would eat it anywhere.

Asked to bring appetizers to a Sunday dinner party, we jumped at the chance to play with the Gribiche again. We monkeyed with the recipe a little to make Deviled Eggribiches, a Ménage à trois of recipes from Thomas Keller and Martin Picard, using a technique from Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques. The results were amazing.

deviled eggribiche

(This photo was taken fresh from the fridge the next day -- we saved a couple for home consumption, so it doesn't look quite as emulsified and delicious as it did the night before. But um, if you ate one for breakfast, you wouldn't be disappointed.)

They were a big hit and we were pleased with the addition of ideas from Keller (like dijon mustard and shallots) to Picard's original sauce and the super cute technique of Jacques to cut a little off the ends and bisect the egg across the equator to make little cups that stand on their own (instead of the normal oval half sections).

We used the ends and dead soldier egg whites (the ones where the yolk was in a funny place so it wouldn't work well as a cup) to mix in to the gribiche and we put it all through the blender/spice grinder for a smoother consistency. We noted that the fresher eggs we used (we mixed two cartons - one was a few weeks old and one was recently purchased) had much better yolk placement, and far less chance of the egg being oddly shaped by what appeared to be an air pocket (maybe they didn't have time for evaporation?) but were also a little harder to peel.

The trio worked well together and we now have a great new recipe for future egg appropriate events! Woo hoo!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mission: White Asparagus with Gribiche Sauce

This week we have a dual mission: a simple white asparagus salad with something called gribiche sauce, and chicken pie. Let's get into the sparrygas mis en place, shall we?

White asparagus and gribiche mis en place

Both of us were intrigued by white asparagus. Jacob has dim memories of consuming some, from a can, at a family friend's place in the hinterlands of Virginia years and years and years ago. Melissa has similarly dim memories of eating white asparagus, also from a can, in Spain. Neither of us really remember what we thought of it, Jacob being about 10 when he had it and Melissa being in college.

But as it would happen, this dish is mostly about the "sauce," which is built on hard boiled eggs. The first step in making it involves taking the yolks and muddling them up with some vinegar, just so:

Yolk and vinegar

And after doing that, we whisked in some oil to make a basic emulsification:

Emulsify!

And then we added the egg whites, which we had rough chopped, along with some other aromatics...

Gribiche

And then we put it in the fridge while we blanched the asparagus (which really? boring. we didn't take any pictures of that) and made a very simple vinaigrette and put it on some mesclun, and assembled as follows:

Asparagus Salad

And we served it with the chicken pie.

And the "sauce gribiche" final verdict -- it rocked. It rocked hard. It rocked harder than Bret Michaels rocks cleavage baring pole dancers. (Which is pretty hard, if you um, watch that sort of thing. Which we totally would never admit to doing. But we digress.) We could eat an entire bowl of it straight! We could stuff it into hard boiled eggs like a super-flavorful deviled egg stuffing! We could smear it on toast! We could... you get the idea. While we did make several jokes regarding the non-saucy nature of the sauce the taste and texture of it was... uh... no joke. We did some looking to see what other takes of gribiche were like, and they all were much more saucy and refined sounding.

As you have seen from how clean we work in the kitchen, and how well we wipe our plates for service, we're not really all that refined. We like it rough. And we'll eat it that way too.

We'll be seeing you later, sweet sweet gribiche sauce. We are officially your gri-b*tch, and liking it.

As for the white asparagus... meh. Not much flavor brought to the party by this ingredient. "It tastes like a water tube," one diner said, and the consensus was that though it was stated with the eloquence and vocabulary of a first grader, this was an essentially accurate description. In the end, we all pushed it aside in favor of devouring the gribiche. Let us not blame the asparagus, however. It didn't really get a proper smooth, refined sauce to mix n' meld with and it had to stand all by its lonesome next to a really awesome sauce that could be eaten by the spoonful. Poor asparagus. Maybe next time...

Note to selves: Muddlers can be used like mortars! At the last moment we realized we needed to mortar and pestle the yolks, and in one of her trademark ninja kitchen moves, Melissa came up with using a muddler we won at a mixology class. Gooooo Team!

Time, mis to eat: About an hour, a great deal of which was hard boiling the eggs.

Next up: PDC Chicken Pie (#8)

Blast from the past: It must be stock week! Carol B. made some really good looking veal stock and we made a few gallons of yummy chicken stock ourselves. (Sorry, no pictures, we have to keep some things a mystery!) So in light of that let's take a look at some work we did in that sandbox not too long ago.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mission: Foie Gras Hamburger

This week we're going back a little bit to a slightly simpler recipe that - at least on the face of it - is little more than just assembly. Let's get our mis en place on, eh?

Meez for the burger

Our burger fixin's consist of tomato confit, sauteed mushrooms, cheddar (we used 3-year Quebec cheddar), balsamic meat glaze, mesclun salad mix, and a pickle.

Tomato Confit, you say? Does that just fall out of the sky, you ask? Have you read nothing from our previous entries? It's a thing to make, friends! The recipe was not provided by The Album, so we poked around, meshed a few recipes together and finally decided on olive oil, tomato, garlic, salt and a bit of sugar.

Tomato Confit Before

And roasted it up nice.

Tomato Confit After

Now on to the balsamic Meat Glaze... which also did not fall out of the sky, and which made our kitchen smell really nice while reducing... and reducing... and reducing...

Balsamic Meez

Mix it up...

Onions and vinegar

More reducto!

Thick and delicious balsamic meat glaze

It was thick enough to coat a spoon and smelled AMAZING. And gave us another opportunity to deploy the venison stock!

Next up, Senor Foie!

The foie: before

Mmmmm... foie

The foie: getting its sear on

Searing the foie

Here we've piled on some of the assembly - that's the tomato confit, balsamic glaze (oh, we'll see you again later, balsamic glaze), and mushrooms on there...

Assemblage

And now, the final burger...

Foie Gras Hamburger

The foie burger was SUPERMUYDELICIOUS. Luckily, we split it, as it would have been almost too much of a good thing. Almost. The confit and glaze played really well together and made the fat almost seem light. (Yes, we said it made foie seem light. Maybe we just had a foie high, but that's kind of what it seemed like at the time.) We didn't really notice the salady mix or the mushies one way or the other, but we Trust In Chef Picard (TICP) and licked up every bite. It goes without saying (except that, well, we're saying it) that we would totally make this again!

Note to selves: To stay on schedule, be sure to post blog entries before undergoing major knee surgery!

Time, mis to eat: About two hours, 1.5 of those being dedicated to the balsamic sauce and the tomato confit. TOTALLY worth it! The rest was just assembly.

Next week: White Asparagus Salad (#7) and Chicken Pie (#8)

Blast from the past: Remember the La Coupe? So do we!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mission: Pigs Feet

As of this week we're putting the low-hanging fruit on hiatus for the week and going for one of the namesake recipes of he Album... along with, as you may have seen, some decadently mashed potatoes. Wish us luck.

Let's get ready to meeeeeeeeeezz!

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Those are four, count'em, four pig's trotters and shanks, all from the front of the beast. We had the trotters and shanks cracked at the butcher, and stuck them all into our stock pot along with an undetermined quantity of pork stock.

Meanwhile, we whipped up a nice emulsion that will become part of the sauce a little later. Whisk it real good!

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And then we stuck it in the fridge (to keep it away from the dog, mostly). After some simmer time, we pulled the pig parts to find these:

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And it was at this point that Melissa started the important work of separating the meat from the bone of the shanks (easy!) and the meat and other bits from the trotters (not so much meat!). Sadly, Jacob was out running some errands while this was happening, so no pictures are available of this particular task; and perhaps that's for the better. Let's just say knuckles are not so photogenic. Maybe next time...

Anyway, at this point we took some of the stock that we had been simmering the shanks and trotters in, and started it on a reduction:

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And while this was happening we took the trotter meat and bits (with a little shank meat added for good measure), stuck it in the food processor (knowing our "chopping" skills are not quite on par with a professional cook), and then put it in a bread pan, just like Rice Krispy Treats. PorKrispy Treats.

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And then we chilled it for a little while. Now it was time to reassemble the shanks using caul fat, a process that Jacob had been gleefully looking forward to for some time. We got a pound of it at our favorite backup butcher, and soaked it in cold water for about 30 minutes or so:

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And then we drained it, and put together our shank and fat station:

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And then Jacob played with the caul fat for a moment:

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And then he got to work. It was actually very easily done, and soon all four shanks were wrapped up in the stuff:

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And it was time to move on to the sauce. And what a sauce! Like so many other things, this was based in tomatoes, onions, and stock; but this was all placed on top of the four shanks in our big copper pan:

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And into the oven it all went. Now we worked on the potatoes for a while, and then we came back to our PorKrispy treats. We cut them into eight pieces (the original recipe called for four, but we thought that more would be better):

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And then we got them ready for battering:

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While Jacob was doing this bit, Melissa pulled the pan from the oven and set the shanks aside:

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And reduced the sauce for a while (we should be used to this by now!) and eventually whisked in that yummy emulsion we made some time ago:

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(Yes, our range is filthy at this point... we'll work on working clean in a coming post... maybe.)

The little PorKrispy Treats are now ready for the hot oil:

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And so they go in. Now things start to happen very quickly as they turn golden brown in something like 60 seconds:

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During this time we lay a base of mashed potatoes on the plates, and pull the shanks from the oven (they've been keeping warm there), and place them on the starch. Then we ladle some sauce over the whole thing, and put the piping hot little PorKrispies on top, and put a dollop of mustard on each one, and we come up with this:

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The plating makes it clear how pressed for time we were at the end, but then it's not a bad thing when everything is ready at exactly the same time, right? The better to eat you with, my dear!

The PorKrispies were the consensus winner of this dish. They had the advantage of being deep fried - which can do no wrong, after all - but more than that, they had a surprising and somewhat delicate taste that was quite unique from the rest of the dish. They reminded Jacob of scrapple, which was strange since he's never had that, or at least thinks he's never had it. (Though the PorKrispies were probably of higher quality than the "bar mat of meat" which some members of this family believe scrapple to be.)

The potatoes were wonderful, as mentioned in our another post, and made a great foil for the excess of sauce that we piled on the dish.

There was some debate about the shanks. The caul fat did not render as we thought it would. This didn't bother some eaters, but it did bother some others. (Note from a not liker: It was sort of like pudding skin. Not offensive, just not a texture that improves upon anything. I want my fat crispy and rendered! So, this made the shank a little less popular than the PorKrispy.) The shank meat was, however, fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy, and perfectly cooked. In the end the consensus was that, if anything, it suffered only from comparison to the PorKrispies and the potatoes; and as time has passed our collective memory of the entire dish has improved significantly. (And one of us not-caul-likers might have even poked around the fridge for leftovers, before remembering that our lovely guests were actually given a Happy Meal of leftovers to take home. Darn us for being so nice!)

Note to selves: After a lot of discussion we decided (though we know close to nothing about caul fat, having never tried it to our knowledge and certainly never cooked with it, but decided nonetheless) that the caul fat didn't render for two reasons - first, that it wasn't at room temperature when we wrapped the shanks, and second, because we placed it under the sauce components when we put it in the oven, not really allowing the heat to penetrate through the layers and layers of tomatoes and onions as much as it should have. Next time we will be mindful of the rendering dynamics!

Time, mis to eat: About eight hours, four of those being the pig's feet boiling and cooling to the touch. And we also did take about a two hour break in between to clean the attic while everything was at a good stopping point. (Though, we should have brought things up to room temp before carrying on! That will teach us to have a glass of wine and get distracted by shiny objects!) So, maybe from start to finish... about 6 hours, only 2 being active.

Cost of the components of the dish: We give up! Tracking money spent on this project has become depressing and well, not really worth it because we're going to keep on cooking stuff, even if it's spendy. So from here forward we are canceling this section of the post. Adieu section of this post!

Next week: PDC Foie Burger (#6)

Blast from the past (or visit from the future, really): PDC Mashed Potato

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mission: PDC Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes.

Who doesn't love them?

Who hasn't made a volcano from them, or watched one be made?

Who hasn't cooed and clucked while Nana folds in a stick of butter and a little bit of cream to make her traditional mashed potatoes?

Who hasn't had Such-And-So's great garlic mashed potatoes at the potluck?

OK, we're potato homers around here, it's true. We love'em. We'd eat'em every day if we could. One of us has been known to eat entire bags of potato chips as a light appetizer. And to load up his plate with so much potato as to preclude all other elements (save the protein and lots of gravy). Baked, fried, mashed, who cares - let's eat'em. They're the best.

But why are mashed potatoes so good and so popular? We think it's because they are essentially a blank canvas. You can taste that butter and cream that Nana folds in there. You can taste the garlic that Such-and-So has dumped into them. They reward quality ingredients and - usually - are forgiving of mediocre ones. They make you feel like a successful cook with a minimum of skill or effort. (Plus you get to mash stuff up and make volcanoes, which doesn't hurt.)

So with all of that said, let's see what a truly gifted chef - Martin Picard - did to make some really, really yummy mashed potatoes.

Meez it up!

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But wait! Where are the potatoes, you ask. They're already getting ready, friends:

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Probably the most interesting ingredient in this dish - at least from a sourcing perspective - were the cheese curds. Melissa called several cheese outlets - 10 at least - and got some pretty curt answers - before finding these:

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Oh, and in case you're wondering... they taste like cheese. So we shredded them, thusly:

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And then we riced up the potatoes:

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And then put them back into a saucepan, and added some roasted garlic and some cream, and stirred:

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And then we added in those curds and a bunch o' Amish butter. And stirred some more until it got nice and creamy good:

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And then we plated it just so:

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And eventually we piled the PDC Pigs Feet on top of it. And they were goooood. With the pigs feet and without! (Not that we would take a swipe of them with our finger while plating or anything, but if we had, boy-oh-boy were they good! Hypothetically.)

Note to selves: We did diverge from the recipe in one big way: we did not strain the potatoes through a fine mesh sieve (tamis), as directed. Of all the kitchen gear we have, we don't have one of those. And we looked, but had trouble finding one locally. So we carried on with our lumps. This means that ours were not as smooth as what you get at PDC - there was a bit of lumpiness to them that detracted from them not one bit.

But, that being said, PDC Mashers are components in a bunch of the dishes and next time, we'd like do it with a tamis, just for kicks! (Maybe there is a magical tamis secret that we aren't privy to just yet!) Anyone know where we can get a good tamis?

Time, mis to eat: About 45 minutes or an hour. Nothing really complicated or time consuming-- just boiling and mixing!

Next week: PDC Foie Burger (#6)

Blast from the past:
PDC Pig's Feet