Saturday, May 31, 2008

OOS: WSJ Article

Much like Thursday is the new Friday, and wrapped in bacon is the new pink, according to the Wall Street Journal, "Cook the Book" is the new food blog. And it should be! You get to eat pork and foie gras and enjoy yummy food with your friends. Woot woot for cook-the-book!

Kudos to Carol for (re)starting the trend!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mission: PDC Petit Cornichons Sales (Pickles)

Who doesn't like pickles? No, not Mr. Pickles. No, not this Pickles, either. We're talking about pickles made from cucumbers. The kind of pickles that we have three or four jars of in our fridge of at any and all times. (We also have an emergency jar of ghetto pickles in the pantry: just in case.)

But really now: who doesn't like pickled things in general? What better unifier of cultures than vinegar, time, and the art of canning? Even tripe - tripe! - is good when it's pickled! (And certain people have shown us, recently, that tripe ain't always good.) Today we sally forth into our first batch of pickles and our first adventure with canning. By making pickles.

Did we tell you we like pickles? Let's DO IT!!!

First, we mis en place:

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What's up with those cukes, you ask? Are those ice crystals, you ask? No, friends: those are rock salt crystals! To get ready for this recipe we got a couple of pounds of cucumbers and packed them in rock salt overnight:

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And then, right after we took the meez picture, we put the cukes in some ice water to firm them up. We were dubious that this would work, but... trust in Chef Picard!

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While this was happening, we got our jars and whatnot together for sterilization. This part involved a stock pot, boiling water, and was pretty much something you can imagine on your own. So here's a picture and a mystery: are these things sterile? Or pre-sterile?

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The answer next week! Maybe. Anyway, we decided we wanted one jar of whole pickles, and one jar of pickle chips. So we got out the mandoline, and got to work:

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And then we filled up the jars with the goods, just so:

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And then we put them all to bed. Chef Picard recommends a month or more, and hopefully we can wait that long.

Notes to selves: Do we really have to wait a month? Really?

Time, mis to eat: A month? Or more? This is really sad.

Next Up: Something that's marinated in the tears we're shedding during this month or more that we're going to have to wait for these pickles... sweet, delicious pickles...

Blast from the past: Marrow ain't all that offal, is it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mission: Caroline's Pouding Chomeur

This week we're going to head into the magical land of dessert, and we're going to see (SPOILER ALERT!) if the easiest recipe so far can be the most popular recipe, as well.

Let's get some mis en place, eh?

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First we combined the butter and the flour, using everyone's favorite underutilized wedding present, BIG RED:

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And then, we added some egg:

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And flour:

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And spread the resultant yummy in a lasagna pan:

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And then we chilled it for 24 hours. Then we took some maple syrup and some cream and put it on heat for a little bit:

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And then we poured it over the aforementioned yumminess:

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And stuck it in the oven for a little bit. And then we taunted the dog:

Pouding for Pouppy?

And then we pulled it and took it to the party, looking like this:

Caroline's Pouding Choumer

And oh boy. This was goooood. Jacob said that it reminded him of one of his most deeply loved old timey dishes, the Moravian Sugar Cake. Melissa said that it was wonderful. So did everyone at the party.

This was a sugary delighty goodnessy deliciousness. The pastry bits had lifted gently, and the cream and syrup slurry was... is there a word that's stronger than "delightful?" We took this to a party and it was devoured - all "five servings" with such abandon that for a moment we felt some regret at having brought it (because there were some perfectly fine brownies that were being ignored because of it), but um, then we got over it and relished in the mapley ooey gooeyness.

Notes to selves: Um, so easy. If only maple syrup grew on trees...

Time, mis to eat: About 40 minutes (not including the overnight resting time) - maybe 20 minutes of cooking action, and another 20 of hot baking action.

Next Up: Uni gonads? Or not? Wait and see...

Blast from the past: Poutine with foie gras. Do we need to say more?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mission: Foie Gras Poutine

First and foremost... we're back! It's been too long, friends. Let's just say that there was a cavalcade of work and homeowner type things that came up over the last week or so that kept us pretty much outta the kitchen. But we called an end to those pitifully unimportant distractions on Friday, and whipped up something nice, new, rich, and foie-licious.

So forgive us our tardiness and come with us on a journey - a journey into a numbing amount of foie gras, a stupendous amount of potatoes, and a fan-diggity-tastic meal. As Technotronic might have said: Meez! Meez it up!

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Behold! There's foie! There's heavy cream! There's peanut oil! There's tallow! There's cheese! There's all manner of fat and potatoes too! Oh, we are in for a treat today!

We cut up the potatoes from russets the night before and put them in an ice water bath over night, as so:

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The next night, we got to making the foie-based sauce, by putting that wonderful stuff into the blender and setting it to "goo-ify:"

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While meanwhile one of our guest sous chefs helped in making the poutine sauce. We made it using a demi-glace base, and it looked pretty good at first:

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And then it looked even better when we added the goo-ified foie and put it over loooow heat:

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Next we prepared our platter, putting down a layer of delicious fresh cheese:

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And then we started on getting the oil heated up for the potato frying. Note that most of what you see here is peanut oil, and those big wobbly bits are... 100% beef suet. From the kidneys, people, the kidneys:

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Soon, the suet had rendered (mostly), and it was time to boil those chips in oil:

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But only for a par-cook. So we set them aside for a moment:

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And got to searing some of the foie we had reserved for putting a-top the poutine once it was ready for such a thing:

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And we were actually just about ready at this moment! So after another dunk in the oil, we put the taters on the the cheese:

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Which immediately started to melt. More gooey! And so then we immediately set the foie atop the potatoes, and poured the (broken, somehow, booooo!) foie sauce on top of all of that:

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And that, as they say, was that.

Now, yes, OK, we broke the sauce. This makes our second broken sauce of the project, and actually our second broken sauce ever. We think we overheated this one. The flavors were still very much there - and since this isn't a dish that's about being refined we aren't too upset. Well, not incredibly upset, anyway.

The taste was out of this world, really. We cannot imagine what it must be like to grow up in a country where poutine is something that is regularly served; and it's even harder to imagine going to a place where foie poutine is the most popular thing on the menu. (Apparently it is the runaway favorite at PDC.) More power to the Quebecois and more power to Picard for this; but how are they not all housebound and/or dead?

Time, mis to eat: About three hours, not including the overnight soak on the potatoes. This was another one of those "it'll be quick and easy" recipes that was certainly not quick. (We would say it was easy but we did after all break the sauce, so...)

Next Up: Copper pot scrub and a player to be named later! We are definitely not doing another foie dish for a while, we can tell you that!!

Blast from the past: We served the poutine with beef hamburgers and it worked really well. We cannot imagine what it might have been like had we served it with this, however.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mission: Foie Gras Tart

This week, we're not only doing this recipe in a new kitchen... and we're not only preparing the dish using electric appliances (instead of gas)... we're also preparing it to serve to our mothers (both of 'em!) who came up for an early Mother's Day retreat at a friend's beach house in Gualala, California. Will Jacob and Melissa be undone by the confluence of a strange kitchen and the deep pressure of cooking for, and in sight of, their Moms? Let's find out.

First, there was a mis en place:

The view from the kitchen in Gualala

Whoops! That's the view from the kitchen! Sorry.

Here's the mis en place:

Foie Gras Tart Meez

You'll notice that we have the dough all ready in the bowl there, as well as the balsamic vinegar reduction and makings for PDC mashed potatoes, all of which will be required this week: because basically, we're just assembling some previously done (but freshly made) ingredients this week! Easy right?

Right?

Anyway, first we made the potatoes by getting the curds under way:

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And then got into peeling the taters:

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Which we then sliced up and pushed through our new toy, the tamis. Here's what they looked like coming out:

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And from here, it was just like the PDC Mashed Potatoes were before, with roasted garlic and the curds folded in; until we got this:

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Now we made a quick bechamel, as we had before, but with different tools:

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And with that done we were ready to get into the dough. This was by far the most difficult part of the recipe, as Jacob forgot once again virtually all of his hard won pastry knowledge of years gone by and made it much harder than it probably needed to be. Still, we eventually did get things rolled out:

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And then we did eventually get six rounds out of the dough, all ready to be piled upon. And so we did:

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And then everyone went into the oven just so:

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We turned our attention now to the salted foie gras that we had so lovingly prepared earlier in the week:

Salted Foie Gras

And sliced it up:

Salted Foie Gras all sliced up

Now we did the final assembly. The pastry at the bottom, with some bechamel, cheese, mustard, potatoes and a bit of the reduction; all topped by a few slices of foie:

Foie Gras Tart

So, as for the taste... whoa. Rich is the word. The foie, potatoes, and pastry all together were almost unbearably rich; and without the balsamic reduction to cut through the fat (somewhat) we're not sure it would have worked at all. We were too generous with the potatoes - we couldn't help it, we were so proud of them - and this probably weighed down the dish a little bit. While the moms were duly impressed, Jacob was a little disappointed in the pastry. But once again this was surely due to his still-rusty dough skillz and not to the recipe, which was vetted by both Moms on-site. (Note from wife: the pastry was great and Jacob should not be so hard on himself! Flour + Butter = delicious)

Neither of us were able to finish our tart - we so very wanted to, but we just couldn't - but both the Moms did or almost did, all while approving of their dishes loudly and often. We weren't sure if it was because they saw us slaving away over the hot stove and they felt sorry for us or if it really was that delicious. We choose to believe the latter.

Oh! And one more thing... this dish would be an awesome 2-3 bite appetizer, instead of dinner for 6, we'd probably make it as appies for a large dinner party. So. Very. Rich.

Notes to selves: Next time you prepare a new dish in a new kitchen for a critical audience such as your Mothers, consider leaving a little less to chance. We got lucky with this dish!

Notes to selves 2.0: Don't believe everything that you read! When it says something along the lines of "while your tarts cook for 10 minutes, make the potatoes"... it is a LIE. Luckily, we are suspicious by nature and made the potatoes well in advance -- which took us more like an hour, but that's because we, um, sort of undercooked them, which made the AWESOME tamis process a bit of a chore. But it still would have taken more than 10 minutes in a non-professional kitchen!

Time, mis to eat: About five hours all told, including making the salted foie, but we did it in manageable broken up blocks -- and that doesn't include 24 hours for chilling the salted foie or chilling the dough.

Next up: Copper Pot Scrub! (unless we find something more interesting at the Farmer's Market -- we're a little foied out this week)

Blast from the past: More foie gras? Yes please!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mission: Salted Foie (Out of Scope)

So, foie gras.

You buy a lobe of it at the butcher and you think to yourself... wow! This is awesome! Maybe expensive, but awesome! I'll just take it home and slice off a piece and stick it on some toast. Since it's so expensive, it must be ready to eat, right?

Well, you could eat it straight, sure. And we've been known to lop off a bit of it for searing and consumption. But it's probably better to salt it, a process that involves deveining the lobes and then reassembling them back into one piece. We did that in preparation for our tarts this week, and thought it'd be fun to walk through it here. So, let's go!

The first thing to do was to stick the lobe into some warm water and let it soak for a while to get it all loosey-goosey:

Foie in warm water

We let it sit for about an hour. Then we put it on a cutting board and started to devein it by hand, like so:

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But that really didn't seem to be working. For one thing, as you can see, the foie kind of disintegrated while we were getting the veins out. And we really weren't confident that the result would be the kind of thing that we could re-form later - it was just kinda clumpy, and we're used to seeing this product as a uniform consistency. So to solve this problem we trotted out our new kitchen gadget, the tamis, like so:

Foie through the tamis

And it came on through the device swimmingly:

Foie through the tamis - the end

And then we ended up with a a pile of it and we threw some salt on the bad boy:

Salted Foie prior to rolling

And then we shaped it into a log and rolled it up tightly with cheesecloth, placing it in the fridge.

When we took it out to use it for the Foie Gras Tart, it looked like this:

Salted Foie Gras


All and all, a striking success. The consistency was great, and really? Doing it through a tamis made the process much much easier overall. So push it real good through the tamis when you try doing it at home, and you'll get great results.