May 25, 2006

French wine rematch

There's lots of theories about the results of the famous 1976 Paris wine tasting. But if nothing else, it did bring California wines into the world scene. I'm sure many think that the results are more because of flukes or marketing or just plain dumb luck on the part of the Americans.

Ridge won the rematch.

Kinda neat, because Ridge is about 10 miles from my house (albeit up one of the smallest and winding roads you'll find in California).

Posted by dowdy at 11:11 AM

December 17, 2005

The French Laundry

As part of the ongoing "birthday month" of December, I was taken to a very special dinner at The French Laundry by anne, Dave, and Tim.

For anyone living under a rock, The French Laundry has been wining awards, hearts, and minds in the food community since 1994 (if my memory serves). I was lucky enough to go there about three months after opening, and this makes my third visit. It was every bit as memorable and wonderful as the first time. It is difficult to talk about The French Laundry and say something that has not been said a million times before.

Three things stand out from this time:
- We got to shake hands with Thomas Keller himself, because he noticed us looking into the kitchen. He just came outside for a brief moment to say hi.

- I was able to have "Oysters and Pearls" (one of The French Laundry's signature dishes) for the first time. I'm not overly fond of either tapioca or caviar and yet this ranks as one of my favorite dishes of all time!

- I was able to wrangle us an extra desert. anne had been wanting "Coffee and Doughnuts" (another signature dish) and didn't have it the first time she and Dave went there. We also noticed that a) it wasn't on the menu and b) another table had it delivered. A few courses before desert, I called over our main waiter and stated that "The young lady is concerned that she did not see 'Coffee and Doughnuts' on the menu." "I'll see what I can do, sir."

Tim writes up and provides great photos here. He did an amazing job with low lighting and a tiny camera without flash.

Posted by dowdy at 07:19 AM

September 30, 2005

You're making a mess...

Lobsters are expensive. But they are also tasty, and as an added bonus you get more "stuff" out of them. I almost always use the carcasses to make stock and butter. Unless, of course, there's been a glut of lobster eating this year and my freezer is already full.

Start of stock
Starting of the stock

This is a basic stock. Lobsters, Veg (carrots, celery, onions), pepper corns, some thyme. I make the lobster stock basic, but later can add cooked rice, more variety of veg, and whirl down into a bisque very quickly.

After about an hour, any meat/bits/tasty parts have falled out of the shells, and so I fish out all of the shells except the crusher claws (They are too hard for butter making). I let the stock continue to cook for another hour, then strain and reduce by half.

I almost always reduce stocks that I'm going to freeze. Take up less room in the freezer, and less time when it comes to use them. I got just under 4 quarts out of this batch.

Finished Stock
Completed and reduced stock

Now for the "fun" part. As Derrick says, lobster butter is probably one of the more creative uses of kitchen equiptment. Take your lobster shells, whack them up as best you can (rolling pin), and place them in your Kitchenaid with the paddle attachment. Add butter (in this case, two pounds of Sweet Sweet Plugra). Cover the entire operation with the towel, and turn on the lowest setting.

Grinding the lobster
Grind the lobster covered!

Rejoice! As bits of lobster and butter and butter coated lobster try to leap out of the mixer. Keep an eye on the mixer, you may need to halt it if it jams. Eventually, things should settle down, keep grinding away until the bits don't seem to get any smaller. With larger lobsters, the pieces never do break down entirely. However, with 1.5 pounders, you usually end up with very small bits.

Oh yeah, and did I mention one unholy mess as well?

Notice that we've got butter on the towel, the outside of the mixer, the counter, and even up into the gearworks of the mixer.

Mixing done
Finished butter and lobster parts

Scrape out all of the parts and bits into some sort of oven-safe cooking vessel (I use a stock pot). Start on top of the stove over medium-low heat until the butter has melted.

Transfer to a 200-225 oven, and cook for 40 minutes.

Cooking starting
Starting to cook the butter

Check the oven from time to time. You want nothing higher than a low simmer.

Cooking done
Cooking done, unstrained

Now, how are you going to get that lobster away from that butter?

Add water to the pot -- about an equal amount to the amount of butter. Return the pot to the stove and heat until you are sure everything is still plenty liquid. Then, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. If you don't have a chinois then I recommend a coarse strainer followed by a fine mesh one.

Return the strained liquid to the pot. I usually clean the sieve at this point and pass the mixture through one final time to make sure I got out any shell bits.

Strained lobster butter

Once strained, the bright orange color of the butter really shows up. Place the pot into the fridge overnight. The butter fat will rise to the top and solidify while the water-based liquid will be at the bottom and remain a liquid.

Butter Chilled
Lobster butter the next day

Using a spoon, lift and/or scrape the fat from the liquid. Dry off the bottom. And there you have it. Lobster butter. Well, technically, this would be lobster flavored butterfat. The process of separating the fat from the liquid has also removed the natural emulsifiers from the butter.

As a result of this, you cannot use this in preparations that make use of this emulsifing nature of butter (such as beurre blanc, or, uh, lobster butter cream). You can, however, mount the butter into sauces that have otherwised reduced. It also makes a great stir-in at the end of cooking risotto.

The cannonical use of lobster butter, however, is as a final stir-in when making lobster bisque. It is lobster butter, and not tomatos, that gives bisque the unique orange color. Well, if you make it correctly, that is.

Wrap well in plastic and freeze.

Finished Butter
Final product ready for freezing

Posted by dowdy at 11:07 AM

May 03, 2005

My ears are burning

Well, a little birdy told me that there has been some discussion in the food blogging world about me. The query was "Do you think that guy from butterpig has any formal training?"

Yes, yes, I do.

I spent three months at the CIA in upstate New York. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Based upon the above prompting, I dug around and pulled up this entry. It's probably the best I can write up about what it's like to be at the CIA. It still doesn't express it all, but what can I say. I'm an engineer, not a chef, and not a writer.

Posted by dowdy at 01:31 AM

April 25, 2005

Very lame

You know you've been out of the kitchen for too long, and not writing about it as well when you manage to cut yourself.

While trying to slash the tops of French bread loaves

Sigh. The good news is that work-related fun has tailed off now, so I can get back at it in the kitchen. I have a pile of new ideas for dishes that I need to start experimenting with.

Posted by dowdy at 07:48 AM

March 08, 2005

A publishing date

The Julie/Julia Project has a publishing date and is up on Amazon (but not yet for pre-order). September? Darn.

If you want to read instead in blog form, here it is.

Posted by dowdy at 07:40 AM

March 06, 2005

Glace class

I've written about stockmaking before, but have never shown pictures of the process of turning the second stock (remouage) into glace. The other weekend I realized that I was completely out of stock in my freezer. This is unusual for me to let the supplies get that low. I think that a winter of soup making proably did me in before I could realize it.

I never make a beef stock without doing a second stock and glace afterwards. Since I use oxtails for my meat base, even the first stock isn't cheap. Oxtails are around $3/lb on average. 1 pound of meat per 1 pound of water means around 8 pounds of oxtail per gallon (since they are so flavorful, I go with anywhere from .5 to .75 per pound of water). But, you are getting two products for the price of one, so I feel it is worth it. In addition, oxtails are full of the gelatin that makes glace what it is. The second stock is very pale in color. It's almost straw colored or light brown, much like beef soup you'd find from a can. But as you will see below, the end product turns out much different.

Starting reduction
Halfway through the first reduction

I didn't take any pictures of the starting process. But that 6 quart stockpot in the back was full of the strained second stock. After reducing the stock at a medium simmer and skimming it as it reduced, I transfered part of the contents to the smaller 3 quart in the front. I tried to moderate the heat to avoid a rolling boil, but let's face it; this is a long process and a slow simmer is only going to make it even worse.

Going going reduction
Starting the second reduction

Once the 6 quart pot is empty, I continued to reduce the liquid using the 3 quart (now at the back of the stove). As that began to boil down, another transfer was done into a 2 quart. Each time I tranfered, I did so through a fine mesh strainer.

I used a 2 quart here as the final pot because of the initial amount of liquid and the fact that I used oxtails. In the past, for smaller amounts or weaker stock, I've gone down to 1 quart or even a 2 cup pot.

Going going going
Second reduction almost done

The reduction continues. Here's the 2 quart undergoing the final stages. Note the bowl that is my final target amount. At this point, it's important to be a bit careful with the heat as the liquid is starting to thicken and can stick and burn if you aren't careful. I have once fallen asleep on the couch while doing this and ruined the glace.

Not much left
Completed reduction

When to stop? When the stock is very thick and the bubbles quite large. You can see how syrup-like the reduction is by the drips on the counter. The first few times you do this, you'll probably reduce more than you need. If you don't reduce enough, you will know because the glace does not set up in the fridge. If this happens, simply re-heat and reduce some more. Except for burning, the process is pretty forgiving.

Cooled and unmolded

Place the bowl into the fridge and let it set up. This goes pretty quickly because of the small amount of liquid and the massive gelatin load within it. Once it is hard enough to slice (a few hours or overnight), run a thin knife around the edge and pry up to unmold. This is another indicator if you have reduced enough. If the spheroid tears easily rather than prys up, you may have not reduced enough.

8 inch chefs knife for scale. The bowl holds just over two cups of liquid if filled directly to the rim.

The final product

After all of that work, the sliced cubes are ready for the freezer. Kept sealed well in a zip-top bag or other container, they will last for longer than you probably need. Once you start making use of these in sauces, you will likely use them up before they could go bad.

Glace is a labor of love. You have hours to make the first stock (at least one hour in the oven browning the meat plus anywhere from 6-12 simmering the first stock). Then more hours to make the second (another 6-12); although overnight in a low (200-225) oven does make that a bit easier. Then the straining. And the reducing. And the skimming. And then cleaning all of these pots laden in grease and sticky beef residue. And all this time your entire house is humid and smells of cooking beef (a wonderful perfume during the first hour; less so after a day or more).

But, now you have condensed flavor and time and frozen it for later use. The sauces you make will be sublime. Even better, they form themselves quickly and will apparently no effort.

Posted by dowdy at 07:05 AM

February 24, 2005

Michelin Man

Salon as an article about plans for Michelin to start rating restaurants in New York.

The end has this great "These Go To 11" quote: "Michelin will have to do a bit of explaining with only three stars at the top; Most of the newspaper reviewers here go up to four stars."

Posted by dowdy at 11:16 AM

January 22, 2005

"P" bread

I haven't baked bread in a while, and a cold (and foggy) day certainly is the right time to do it. I decided to do a rustic French-style bread, with a "poolish" of fermented dough the day before. Some whole wheat (about 1/8 of the final flour) went into the day-before ferment.

Pain Poubelle
Sorry to steal the idea, you were a God

I got (what I thought) was a neat idea to slash the rounded loaves into the letter 'P' for "Poubelle", which I thought might turn into a nice bread shape for a future party. Only after I had slashed and baked the loaves did I realize the horrible tresspass I had commited.

A round rustic loaf slashed (much more artfully than I could ever do) with a 'P' is the mark of "Pain Poilane", a baker who did much to revive the rustic method of bread baking in France. I was horrified when I realized what I had done.

In pennance, I will continue working on my bread. And develop a method of slashing the bread with a small 'p' instead.

Posted by dowdy at 11:26 AM

October 26, 2004

IMMB 9 - Terrines

Crap. I swore up and down I would be in on this one, and had plans, and a new camera, and everything.

Alas, events conspired against my entry into the mainstream insanity of Is My Blog Burning. So, I point you to Derrick, the "author" of this event: IMBB 9: Terrines and invite you to check out web chefs both more creative and motivated than myself.

Posted by dowdy at 07:47 PM

September 30, 2004

CA bans Foie Gras

California has baned the production and sale of foie gras. Law doesn't kick in until 2012. Sonoma Foie Gras (located in CA) is one of two producers in the US, the other is Hudson Valley Foie Gras in NY.

Sure to be all over the food blog world today. I can't find any news articles on the web that aren't "yay yay" over the bill. Ah ha! Here's one!

Derrick is sure to comment on the subject. He knows far more about the details of it than myself.

Posted by dowdy at 08:10 AM

December 16, 2003

Beurre Blanc and Friends

I got a bunch of email recently asking about "beurre blanc", probably due to the fact that I refer to making a sauce "via the beurre blanc method" fairly often.

Beurre blanc (French meaning "white butter") is considered one of the "modern" sauces. It is very elegant and tastes great (assuming you like butter), but actually isn't very hard at all to make. Ironically, in spite of the amount of butter, it is often referred to as a "light sauce". This is not a reflection of the calorie count, but rather that the consistancy of the sauce is light rather than heavy.

The sauce makes use of the fact that butter is itself already an emulsion (albeit in solid form). McGee points out in The Curious Cook that you can make a beurre blanc out of nothing more than butter itself. Beurre blanc basically takes "mounting with butter" (the process of whisking in butter at the end of a sauce to add shine and flavor) to the extreme, such that the sauce itself is a liquid, flavored, butter.

There are a few downsides to this sauce. It can be difficult to make in small amounts (quantities below would probably sauce dishes for 4-8 people, I'm guessing -- you can cut the amounts in half if you have a good small pan) because it is hard to whisk such a small amount. It does not reheat at all (it will break if you attempt to do so). You will need to perform the whisking of the butter right before service, or optionally keep the sauce in a thermos (a great trick that works very well). And, finally, you don't want to eat sauces like this every day.

First, Basic Beurre Blanc.
In a heavy sauce pan, combine:
- shallots, 1
- wine vinegar, 1/8 C
- white wine, 1/4 C
and cook over medium heat until you have reduced the liquid almost to a glaze. This combination of reduced sour ingredients is known as a "gastrique" and may be made ahead of time. At this point some recipes add a small amount of heavy cream to "make the sauce more stable" but I haven't found that to be the case. I do sometimes use cream when I want the sauce to be more "white" or "creamy" looking.

Place pan over low heat and begin adding whole unsalted butter. Whisk constantly to encourage butter to melt and to form an emulsion. Don't add next amount of butter until first is almost completely incorporated. Continue adding butter until desired consistancy is reached (I'd probably use between 1/2 and 1 pound for the above amount of gastrique). Maintain low heat. Do not allow sauce to boil (or even simmer). Do not allow sauce to become so cold as to become solid. If you feel the sauce is becoming too warm, move away from heat and add butter quicker (which will cool the sauce). If you feel the sauce is becoming too cold, wait a bit between additions of butter. Salt/pepper to taste at this point.

Once desired amount of butter has been added, strain to remove shallots and either a) serve right away or b) pour into a thermos where the sauce will keep fine for up to 2 hours. Beurre blanc is often served over fish, such as salmon, often when poached.

Some varients:

Modified "buffalo" sauce (used for "Buffalo Monkfish")
- 1/4 C red wine vinegar
- 1/2 small can tomato paste (1-2 Tablespoons)
- 1/8-1/4 C Frank's Hot Sauce (or to heat preference)
Reduce by about 1/3, whisk in 1/2 pound unsalted butter. No need to strain.

Hazelnut Beurre Blanc (excellent on green beans)
- 1/2 C chopped hazelnuts (or other nuts)
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1/8 C champagne vinegar
- 1/4 C white wine
Sautee hazelnuts and shallot in a small amount of butter. Add liquid and reduce to form gastrique. Whisk in 1/2 pound unsalted butter. Strain.

Saffron Vanilla Cream (used for scallops)
- 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out and added
- small pinch saffron
- 1/2 C heavy cream
- 1/2 C light chicken or vegetable stock
Combine in a small pan and reduce to about half volume. Remove vanilla bean pieces from pot. Whisk in 1/2 pound unsalted butter. Do not strain. Shake before using to ensure vanilla seeds are visible in sauce.

Tomato Vermouth Sauce (I usually serve with shrimp)
- 1 shallot, minced very fine
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced very fine
Sweat in a bit of butter and then add:
- 1 C dry vermouth
Reduce in pan until 1/4 of original volume, then add:
- 1/2 small can tomato paste (1-2 Tbs)
- 1/4 C very heavy geletin dark chicken stock (optional)
Whisk in 1/2 pound unsalted butter. Optionally strain. Then add chopped parsley.

Posted by dowdy at 08:00 AM

December 12, 2003

Dessert, party of the last part

As is often the case, I decided to keep the deserts under control and made mostly ahead of time. One of these days I'm going to "break out" in full CIA-mode and do something far, not so much.

Chocolate and Rosemary Fraternals

Carol had requested "a dessert with chocolate and rosemary" (two of her favorite things) and so William and I planned ahead a theory -- two desserts, served at the same time, both of which included chocolate and rosemary. With the same ingredients, but differing methods, I dubbed them "Chocolate Rosemary Fraternals" (see previous entries concerning recipe development for the method) More than one clever guest figured out the meaning of "fraternals."

First was a "galub jamun" which had chocolate in the dough, and was soaked in a rosemary syrup (made the day before and re-tossed in the syrup shortly before service).

Second, a rosemary cream puff filled with an egg-heavy chocolate mousse (made well in advance and kept cold until about three hours prior to dessert time). Except for the addition of the rosemary, the cream puffs and mousse are Straight Outta Julia.

Fruit Tarts

I really enjoy making fruit tarts. Fairly easy to do, and quite impressive looking. I made the crusts the day before, as well as the pastry cream filling. I baked the crusts early in the morning and filled the tarts. A light glaze of apricot and placing them in a cool room let them stay in fairly good shape with a minimum of worry.

Dessert Plate
Fruit Tart and Fraternals, plated

Here's a better picture of both a tart slice and the two fraternals next to one another.

Bread Pudding
Dried Cranberry Cornbread Pudding

Cornbread pudding is common to see in soul-food places, usually with chocolate chips in it. I went with dried cranberries due to the season. William claimed it was thus "Amish Soul Food."

I'm not a huge bread pudding fan myself, but cornbread has a nice texture that I like better than most. I enhanced that by first toasting the cornbread.

Posted by dowdy at 06:49 PM

December 11, 2003

Mains, party of the third part

Boeuf Bourguignon, Truffled Potato Gratin, Wild Mushroom "Cassoulet" (left to right)

The first set of mains consisted of things we could do either in the oven, or ahead of time. The gratin and cassoulet cooked in the oven while the fish courses were being worked on. The beef we made ahead and kept hot in a cooler along with the reduced sauce. We could have re-heated it if needed, but it was honestly warm enough without that.

The potato gratin is a favorite of mine due to the simplicity of it. Just sliced potatoes, salt, pepper, and heavy cream to cover. Bake in a 350-375 degree oven until the potatoes are soft. Place a sheet pan under it in case the cream boils over. To make this version more fancy, we placed a layer of black truffles mid-way through the potatoes, and also hit the top with truffle oil pior to putting it on the table.

I wrote about potatoes before.

You can read about the mushroom "cassoulet" here.

Lamb Platter
Vegetables Pointy and Round, Cherry Smoked Lamb Racks (back to front)

Vegetables pointy were asparagas tips and morel mushrooms, cooked in a white wine and dark vegetable stock. Vegetables round were turnips and carrots attacked with a melon baller and cooked in light vegetable stock, vermouth, and garnished with lemon thyme. This isn't much work for a dinner for two or four people, but for a party of this size, Derrick had lots of "fun" prepping all of the vegetables.

The lamb was smoked at 350-375 in a smoker with lots of cherry wood chunks. Took it to around 120 degress internal temperature, let it rest for 15 minutes and then cut and served. The sauce was a simple reduction of Pinor Noir, lamb trimmings, and oxtail stock. Note William's cool use of two kinds of grapes in the plating!

Lamb Plate
Lamb, Vegetables, and Sauce -- single serving plate

Here's how I more normally serve this dish on a single plate. We didn't do any fancy plating for the party, but wanted to grab at least some things in case the guests inhaled everything before those of us in the kitchen could eat.

Posted by dowdy at 08:06 AM

December 10, 2003

Fish, party of the second part

This dinner was light on prep in that we easily got the setups ready well in advance of the guests. But as I theorized to the sous chefs, the cooking was going to turn intense. We had a large number of dishes that needed lots of burner time.

Once again, I was impressed beyond measure with the help. The vision of the dishes was produced by hands other than my own. I can't even begin to describe what cooking with these folks is like.

Scallops in Vanilla Saffron Cream

Gone in five minutes. Really. Several people were impressed by the idea, but the reality is that this is a new American Classic. I really just did a minor riff on it. However, we really did execute it very well. Not a single chef got to taste the completed dish -- it went that quickly.

The scallops (really huge 12 count ones) were pan seared in clarified butter for 3 minutes or so until just cooked through. Around them, spinach cooked with shallots until wilted. The sauce, a flavored butter/cream sauce.

The base of the sauce was reduced stock (I used a light chicken) and cream, to which whole/split vanilla beans and saffron were added. Then butter was whisked in and the resulting sauce poured into a thermos to keep for service. Beurre blanc type sauces keep in this manner for up to two hours, which really helps with the plating.

Trifecta of Gnocchi

Three flavors: sun dried tomato, butternut squash, and spinach. These had been made a week before and frozen. During prep we boiled them until they floated and then shocked them in ice water. Oiled and bagged into the fridge until ready for service.

Each was pan-fried in clairified butter along with sage leaves. Plating was additional sage and parmasagn cheese. Pretty simple stuff, but they turned out quite well.

Buffalo Monkfish
Buffalo Monkfish and Maytag Blue Cheese Celery Root Salad

Called "fiendishly clever" by a guest, this is another forray into what I call High/Low food. I take a traditional dish (in this case, Buffalo Chicken Wings) and recast it as something fancy.

This was an idea brewing for the past three years, and twice I thought about doing it, and rejected the idea. Finally, I just went for it. Monkfish is an excellent fish for medium/pan frying. We first sliced the fish into "medallians" as one would a pork tenderloin. Just before cooking, we gave it a flour coating that contained ground poultry seasoning.

The sauce was a combination of Frank's Hot Sauce, tomato paste, and butter. We mixed them in a beurre blanc fashion, and kept the heat level down in order to keep things "fancy." The tomato paste helped keep the color while not adding too much heat. We ran up the sauce ahead of time and placed it in a thermos to stay warm. The finished monkfish was tossed in a bit of the sauce, and the remainder of the sauce was served on the side.

Since Buffalo Chicken Wings are traditionally served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks, I used a varient of this. Celery root was shaved into 1/4 inch "noddles" and dressed in a remoulade sauce (oil, lemon, mustard) to which we added about a quarter of a pound of smashed Maytag Blue Cheese. The salad was prepared several hours ahead -- this is a requirement in order for the celery root to "cook" in the lemon.

For the plating, I kept it to the tradition and served everything on a bed of leaf lettuce. As one guest mentioned -- "I get the joke." But joke or not, this dish turned out amazing and I would easily make it again. It was my worst fear going into the dinner, and also the most resounding success.

Posted by dowdy at 03:51 PM

December 09, 2003

Appetizers, party of the first part

The party was (as usual) an amazingly good time. I had three folks helping me out this year in the kitchen, William, Derrick, and Tim. And, as always, Carol did a stunning job with the decor. Every year, we get more and more organized, and I now instinctively trust everyone. A minimum of words and guidance are needed.

The party starts off slow and calm with the appetizers set out as the guests begin to arrive. Wine is poured. Chairs and tables found. Slowly plates and silverware begin to be pressed into service -- the madness is on!

Foie and Cheese
Foie Gras, Pain de Mie, and Cheese Tray (front to back)

I can't recall all of the cheeses this year, but do remember one was "Roaring Fourties" (a blue from Tasmania) and another "Chimay Washed Rind Cheese." The fruit and cheese tray also featured Spicy Rosemary Mixed Nuts.

The foie is my fairly standard terrine, studded with truffles. This year we served it with a frisee salad tossed in truffle oil, and toasted pain de mie. The supplier was Sonoma Foie Gras, which has been taking quite a bit of heat recently, so I figured I would support them.

Soup and Salad
Strawberry Salad, Crab Bisque, Old Bay Beignets (back to front)

The Strawberry Salad was baby spinach, small dice of English Cucumber, vertically sliced strawberries, and matchsticks of jicama. We tossed them all in a basic oil and lime vinegarette. This actually works best with strawberries that aren't super great and in season. I think that lame strawberries kind of taste like cucumber, which is why I included the cucumber.

The crab bisque was mostly made the weekend before and frozen. I used Dungeness crabs because I'm on the west coast. Right before service we re-heated the soup and added heavy cream. We then whisked in the crab butter. Garnish was chervil leaves. Along with the bisque we served savory beignets (a kind of doughnut) flavored with Old Bay seasoning (a seasoning blend popular with shellfish that has a heavy celery flavor). For the liquid we used Dixie beer, because both bisque and beignets are popular in New Orleans.

Posted by dowdy at 07:52 AM

December 07, 2003

I'm wired and I'm tired...

...and I'm grinnin' like a fool.

The party was amazing. The guests. The help. Carol. The food. The wine. The complete lack of sleep for three days.

More later, Homer sleep now.

Posted by dowdy at 10:46 AM

December 04, 2003

Party prep, part 2

Okay, so here's the prep list, reordered based upon time. I honestly can't say anyone other than me cares, so my excuse is that I'm using this blog to back it up in case I delete it from my computer.

This list is now taped to the cabinet in my kitchen, all ready for the big day.

1) Fruit & Cheese
2) Olive/Rosemary Bread (2 loaves)
3) Demi Baugetes (3X recipie)
4) Pain de mie

5) Crab Bisque with Old Bay Beignets
6) Foie Gras Terrine
7) Strawberry Salad

8) Scallops with Vanilla Saffron Sauce
9) Trifecta of Gnocchi in Sage Butter
10) Buffalo Monkfish, Maytag Blue Cheese Celery Root Salad

11) Wild Mushroom "Cassoulet"
12) Boeuf Bourguignon
13) Truffled Potato Gratin
14) Cherry Smoked Lamb Racks, Pinot Sauce
15) Vegetables Pointy and Round

16) Chocolate Rosemary Fraternals
17) Dried Cranberry Cornbread Pudding
18) Fruit Tarts


#) Clarify butter, 2# FRIDAY
1) make rosemary nuts FRIDAY
2) make olive bread FRIDAY
4) make pain de mie FRIDAY
11) cold smoke and slice red bell pepper FRIDAY
11) roast garlic FRIDAY
11) soak beans FRIDAY
16) make rosemary syrup FRIDAY
16) make galubs FRIDAY
16) toss in syrup & cool FRIDAY
12) cube beef FRIDAY
12) rough cut mir poix FRIDAY
12) slice bacon FRIDAY
14) trim lamb FRIDAY
11) bread crumbs FRIDAY

18) make pate seucre FRIDAY EVE
18) make pastry cream FRIDAY EVE
16) make chocolate mousse FRIDAY EVE
17) make cornbread w/ cranberries FRIDAY EVE
3) make pate fermente & poulish FRIDAY EVE

16) make cream puffs w/ rosemary AM
18) bake tart shells AM
3) cook baugettes AM
18) pastry cream->diplomat AM
18) fill tarts AM
18) top tarts AM
18) glaze tarts AM

16) fill cream puffs & into cool area 10

9) grate cheese 10
9) slice sage 10
15) chop shallots 10
8) chop shallots 10
15) round turnip, 50 each 10
15) round carrots, 50 ea 10
15) trim asparagas 10
15) rehydrate morels 10
15) setup sauce #1 lt veg & vermouth, lemon thyme 10
15) setup sauce #2 dk veg white wine shallots 10
11) cook beans 10
11) reserve cooking liquid 10

2) reheat and slice olive bread noon
12) cook bacon and reserve lardons noon
12) sear meat noon
12) wine, oxtail, water noon
10) clean/slice monkfish noon
8) clean scallops noon
8) prep sauce, vanilla bean into cream, no strain noon

12) add mir poix, tomatoes 1:00
12) into oven @ 275 1:00
5) prep ingredients for beignets 1:00
5) clean and ploush chervil 1:00
12) chop chives 1:00
11) soak mushrooms 1:00
7) cut strawberries into vertical slices 1:00
7) cut cucumber into small dice 1:00
7) cut jichama into matchstick & toss in lime 1:00
7) make lime vin. 1:00

9) boil each gnocchi, shock, oil and cool 2
15) boil and shock turnips 2
15) boil and shock carrots 2
10) make remoulade 2
10) slice and lemon celery root -- min 2 hr before 2
10) prep lettuce leaves 2
10) make spice/flour mixture -- poultry seasoning, ground 2
10) setup sauce 2

17) prep custard 3
17) slice cornbread and toast 3
17) prep cornbread in pan 3
16) pull galubs out of fridge 3
16) re-toss in syrup, check softness and sweetness 3
14) reduce lamb w/ oxtail and pinot and lt chick 3

5) make beignet dough 4:00
14) build fire, prep wood, themometers, etc 4:00
14) umbrella, flashlight 4:00
12) check doneness 4:00
12) drain liquid 4:00
12) reduce sauce 4:00
12) place all into ice chest 4:00
11) make/cook mir poix 4:00
11) reheat demi 4:00
11) cook mushrooms 4:00
11) assemble 4:00

8) clean/heat thermos 4:30
8) make vanilla beure blance base 4:30
8) mount with butter & into thermos 4:30

1) prep cheese and fruit 5:00
6) clean frisee 5:00
14) light fire, bring up to 375 5:00
11) into oven 5:00
13) slice potatoes 5:00
13) slice truffles 5:00
13) layer potatoes and truffles 5:00
13) salt, pepper, cream 5:00

5) oil for beignets to 360 5:15

16) check state of cream puffs 5:30
16) check state of galubs 5:30
10) make beurre blanc w/ tomato & franks & vin, not too hot 5:30

--------CHECK SETUPS------ 5:30
5) heat serving dish for beignets, line w/ napkin 5:30
5) fry beignets 5:30
4) slice pain de mie 5:30
4) toast & triangle cut pain de mie 5:30
#) OVEN TO 375 5:30
5) re-heat soup 5:30
5) add cream, whisk in crab butter 5:45
6) slice and plate foie 5:45
6) toss w/ truffle oil 5:45
7) toss/mix salad 6:00
5) soup, beignets out, garnish w/ chervil 6:00

--------APPS OUT---------- 6:00

13) bake 375 45 mins 6:00
11) check/break crust 6:00

9) fry each gnocchi in butter and sage 6:30
9) top w/ cheese 6:30
9) garnish w/ additional sage 6:30

8) pan fry scallops 6:45
8) pan fry spinache w/ shallots 6:45

10) toss in flour 7:00
10) pan fry 7:00
10) plate, lettuce leaf under remoulade 7:00

--------FISH OUT---------- 7:00

14) salt and pepper lamb 7:00
14) smoke, 375 for 20-25 mins w/ cherry 7:00


11) remove from oven 7:00
13) remove from oven 7:30
17) fill w/ custard and bake 1 hr 350 7:30

12) toss to re-heat in sauce 7:45
12) chopped chives & bacon garnish 7:45
13) truffle oil on top before service 7:45

14) check sauce 8:00
14) plate w/ sauce in sauce boat 8:00

15) reheat turnips & carrots w/ lt veg & vermouth 8:00
15) sautee morels and asparagas 8:00
15) sauce asparagas w/ dk veg, white wine, shallots 8:00
15) garnish turnips & carrots w/ lemon thyme 8:00
15) plate as two sides or in two dishes 8:00

17) remove from oven 8:30

--------MAINS OUT--------- 8:00

16) plate fraternals 8:50
16) extra syrup on side 9:00
17) bread pudding out 9:00
18) tarts out 9:00

--------DESSERTS OUT------ 9:00

Posted by dowdy at 08:04 AM

December 03, 2003

Party prep, part 1

Well, I've got together the menu, prep, and shopping lists for this year's big party. The first step for me is to list all of the items on the menu, breakdown the steps that go into them, and figure out what needs to be purchased (that I don't already have on hand).

Each menu item has a number and the steps are numbered the same, so that when looking at the timeline view, I can tell which dish a particular step goes with. The next step is to re-order the items based upon a timeline and assign times to do each step.

If you find this sort of thing interesting, go to the extended entry.

1) Fruit and Cheese
1) prep cheese and fruit
1) make rosemary nuts
- fruit for fruit and cheese
- cheese for fruit and cheese
- nuts, mixed + cashews, unsalted, raw

2) Olive/Rosemary Bread (2 loaves)
2) make olive bread
2) reheat and slice olive bread
- olives for olive bread

3) Demi Baugetes (3X recipie)
3) make pate fermente and poulish
3) cook baugettes

4) Pain de mie
4) make pain de mie
4) slice pain de mie
4) toast pain de mie

#) Clarify butter, 2#
- 6# plugra


5) Crab Bisque with Old Bay Beignets
5) re-heat soup
5) add cream, whisk in crab butter
5) make beignet dough
5) fry beignets
5) garnish w/ chervil
5) prep ingredients for beignets
5) heat serving dish for beignets, line w/ napkin
5) clean and ploush chervil
- eggs (3 dz)
- milk (1 gal)
- chervil

6) Foie Gras Terrine
6) slice and plate foie
6) clean frisee
6) toss w/ truffle oil
- frisee 2 ea

7) Strawberry Salad
7) cut strawberries into vertical slices
7) cut cucumber into small dice
7) cut jichama into matchstick and toss in lime
7) make lime vin.
7) toss/mix salad
- spinach, 2 bags
- strawberries, 2 pt
- jichama, 1 ea
- english cuke, 1 ea


8) Scallops with Vanilla Saffron Sauce
8) clean scallops
8) make vanilla beure blance base
8) clean/heat thermos
8) mount with butter & into thermos
8) pan fry scallops
8) pan fry spinache w/ shallots
8) prep sauce, vanilla bean into cream, no strain
8) chop shallots
- scallops (40)
- butter, sweet 1#
- spinache, 1 bag
- vanilla beans, 2 ea

9) Trifecta of Gnocchi in Sage Butter
9) boil each gnocchi, shock, oil and cool
9) fry each gnocchi in butter and sage
9) top w/ cheese
9) grate cheese
9) slice sage
9) garnish w/ additional sage
- sage, 2 ea
- butter, clarified

10) Buffalo Monkfish, Maytag Blue Cheese Celery Root Salad
10) clean/slice monkfish
10) make spice/flour mixture -- poultry seasoning, ground
10) toss in flour
10) pan fry
10) make beurre blanc w/ tomato & franks & vin, not too hot
10) make remoulade
10) slice and lemon celery root -- min 2 hr before
10) plate, lettuce leaf under remoulade
10) setup sauce
10) prep lettuce leaves
- monkfish, 5#
- celery root, 3 ea
- maytag blue, 1/4 #
- lettuce leaf for garnish


11) Wild Mushroom "Cassoulet"
11) cold smoke and slice red bell pepper
11) roast garlic
11) soak beans
11) cook beans
11) soak mushrooms
11) cook mushrooms
11) make/cook mir poix
11) reheat demi
11) bread crumbs
11) assemble
11) remove from oven
11) into oven
11) check/break crust
11? reserve cooking liquid
- wild mushrooms, 3#
- celery, 1 large bunch
- red bell pepper, 2 ea

12) Boeuf Bourguignon
12) cube beef
12) rough cut mir poix
12) slice bacon
12) sear meat
12) wine, oxtail, water
12) add mir poix, tomatoes
12) into oven @ 275
12) check doneness
12) chop chives
12) drain liquid
12) reduce sauce
12) toss to re-heat in sauce
12) chopped chives & bacon garnish
12) cook bacon and reserve lardons
- chuck roasts, 2 ea
- chives
- 3 tomatoes

13) Truffled Potato Gratin
13) slice potatoes
13) slice truffles
13) layer potatoes and truffles
13) salt, pepper, cream
13) bake 350 45 mins
13) truffle oil on top before service
- man. cream, 1/2 gal
- 6 large potatoes

14) Cherry Smoked Lamb Racks, Pinot Sauce
14) trim lamb
14) salt and pepper
14) smoke, 375 for 20-25 mins w/ cherry
14) reduce lamb w/ oxtail and pinot and lt chick
14) check sauce
14) plate w/ sauce in sauce boat
- lambs, 8 racks

15) Vegetables Pointy and Round
15) round turnip, 50 each
15) boil and shock turnips
15) round carrots, 50 ea
15) boil and shock carrots
15) reheat turnips & carrots w/ lt veg and vermouth
15) garnish turnips & carrots w/ lemon thyme
15) prep asparagas sauce & shallots
15) trim asparagas
15) rehydrate morels
15) sautee morels and asparagas
15) sauce asparagas w/ dk veg, white wine, shallots
15) plate as two sides or in two dishes
15) setup sauce #1
15) setup sauce #2
15) chop shallots
- turnips 8 ea
- carrots, large, 8 ea
- asparagas, 2 bunches


16) Chocolate Rosemary Fraternals
16) make galubs
16) make rosemary syrup
16) toss in syrup & cool
16) re-toss in syrup, check softness and sweetness
16) make cream puffs w/ rosemary
16) make chocolate mousse
16) fill cream puffs & into cool area
16) check state of cream puffs
16) pull galubs out of fridge
16) check state of galubs
16) extra syrup on side
- soft rosemary

17) Dried Cranberry Cornbread Pudding
17) make cornbread w/ cranberries
17) prep custard
17) slice cornbread and toast
17) prep cornbread in pan
17) fill w/ custard and bake
- stone cut cornmeal, 2#

18) Fruit Tarts
18) make pate seucre
18) make pastry cream
18) bake tart shells
18) fill tarts
18) top tarts
18) glaze tarts
18) pastry cream->diplomat
- fruit for tarts

Posted by dowdy at 01:43 PM

November 07, 2003

Allow me to Clairify

Some folks at work were asking me about clairified butter a few weeks back after I admitted that I usually keep between one and two pounds of the stuff on my stove.

Last night with Bravo re-runs of The West Wing playing, I figured I might as well make some more and write up how I go about it. At least it goes with the name of the blog.

Clairified butter is butter which has had all of the water and milk solids removed. As a result, you can use it for high heat cooking without fear of burning. You traditionally also use it for emulsion sauces, although melted butter also works fine there and has a bit more flavor. Because it has had the water removed, it keeps well without refridgeration for several weeks (at least in my experience -- web searches turn up no solid information on this).

I keep mine in a small 1 qt covered saucepan that has seen better days such that I don't care to cook much in it. I leave it on the back of the stove unless I need the room. I use the same pot for doing the actual clairifying. It's just big enough for about a pound and a half of butter without having a foam-over problem.

To do this, melt 1 pound of butter. It can be either salted or unsalted -- salt is water soluble and thus you are going to remove it anyway. Since this butter is going to be a cooking medium rather than a main ingredient, I tend to use cheaper butter for this. Costco sells butter in 4 pound packs that I usually pick up for this purpose, freezing the unused blocks until again needed.

After the butter is melted, turn the heat down to low or medium low. You want the water to actually boil off, so exact heat isn't important. You don't want it to be really high for two reasons: 1) the pot can foam over 2) the solids will eventually settle to the bottom of the pot where they can burn. I usually use a large soup laddle to stir the butter every once in a while in order to encourage the water to boil off.

Once the water has fairly well cooked off, reduce the heat and allow the liquid to obviously settle into solids at the bottom and oil at the top. If there are bit of foam at the top, spoon these off. Pour off the oil into another container and remove the solids, any remaining water, and what's left of the oil from the pot. Wash the pot with water and dry. Pour the oil back into the pot, taking care not to catch any stray solids you may have missed in the first pour-off. Done.

You can either discard the milk solids, or if you have been careful not to allow them to brown and are thrify, can make use of them. They make a nice addition to bread recipies that already call for oil, butter, or milk. Two weekends ago I added them to a Rosemary/Olive loaf that I'd put about 1/2 C of whole wheat flour into. The butter solids helped to soften and tone down the whole wheat just enough.

Posted by dowdy at 08:55 AM

November 01, 2003

Recipe Development - Part 3

I did a batch of Gulub Jamun today as a test. It appears that the correct fry temperature is quite low -- about 300-325 in order to keep them cooking for 5 minutes without burning.

I also tested adding cocoa to the mix, and it appears that an addition of an equal amount of cocoa to flour is about right. The mix didn't get too dry as a result and had a nice chocolate taste. I'm also pretty impressed with the recipe as a whole. It seems quite easy and forgiving. I've been taste-testing them without the sugar syrup, but will add that in next weekend.

William and I discussed this desert and we sort of thought about doing a second dish to parallel the Gulub Jamun. My thought is a Rosemary flavored cream puff stuffed with a very rich dark chocolate mousse. I'm thinking of calling it "Rosemary-Chocolate Fraternals" because they are twins in ingredients and shape, but not really in production.

So far, looks pretty interesting.

Posted by dowdy at 02:35 PM

October 06, 2003

Recipe Development - part 2

Well, I found the correct spelling, which is "Gulab Jamun" (boy it sure is hard to search for words with Google if you don't know how to tell them!)...and a pot of recipes as a result. This basic one seems to be representative.

Almost all of the online recipes mention that a high proportion of the dough should be dry milk powder, and that it is easier to make if you use more flour -- but that the result isn't as good. All recipes also seem to specify a low temperature fry that takes 15 minutes in order to cook the insides, but all fail to mention a temperature other than "medium low."

I figure that some or all of the flour can be swapped out with cocoa powder. Usually one can turn a recipe into a chocolate one by using about 1/4 cocoa powder in place of the flour.

Posted by dowdy at 08:44 AM

October 05, 2003

Recipe Development - part 1

As summer turns to fall, I find myself starting to think of ideas for my December party. I always like to have at least a few dishes that are unexpected or (as a sushi menu would say) are "challanging." I'll try to document the development of one that I hope ends up on the final menu.

Carol made a request for a dessert that combined chocolate and rosemary -- the later being her favorite herb with a loving love. Rosemary is a good herb to try to meld into sweet things, and a dark-heavy chocolate is close to a savory flavor, so this is actually a good combination to try to do something more "wacky" for the guests.

My initial thought is for a "galoob jamon" (I don't even know yet how to spell it), which is a traditional Indian fritter which is soaked in a sugar syrup. My theory is to try to make a cocoa flavored fritter and then use a rosemary syrup to soak it in. Initial web searches show that "gloob jamon" are pretty basic, so I should be able to modify them to have a chocolate component.

Posted by dowdy at 06:37 PM

September 29, 2003

Baking the Bread

As planned, I spent Sunday making bread. I used the recipe for "Acme's Rustic Baugettes." I'm actually a bit puzzled by the name because they certainly are shaped in the standard way. Perhaps "Rustic" refers to the fact that they make less use of commercial yeast -- the majority of baugettes in France are currently made in a fairly "dull" manner.

The recipe makes use of two pre-ferments prepared the day before. First off is about a cup of "leftover dough" which in this case is made the day before (in a Bakery you just literally use something leftover). The second is a "poolish" which is a very battery dough left for about 12 hours.

The original recipe called for All Purpose flour, but I used bread flour. It also had a rather silly sub-dividing of yeasted water between the dough and poolish. I instead just use a small amount of dough as the yeast injection for the poolish. Only a total of 1/2 tsp of yeast is used for 4 baugettes. This is probably about 1/4 of the amount you would normally see in a normal cookbook. Fermentation and rise times were longer as a result, but not a huge amount.

I did an OK job at forming the baugettes, but a lousy job of transfering them to the baking stone. This resulted in only one of the four being straight. They tasted great, however, and the interior came out just about how I like to see it.

I think I might start a multi-day sourdough project for baking this weekend.

Posted by dowdy at 10:49 AM

September 23, 2003

How not to cook green beans

Made dinner this weekend and part of it were some nice tiny French Beans that I'd gotten. I was going to cook them in my normal method, but that involves getting the kitchen way too hot -- and the weather here has decided to move back into summer for some reason.

Instead, I wrapped the beans in a foil packet with some chopped tomatoes from the garden, salt, pepper, and a dash of olive oil. Cooked it on the grill along side the steaks. This method insures high acid content during the cooking, an inabilty to check when they are done, and thus a nice brown/gray color to the beans -- violating every one of the green vegetable cooking rules.

Which are as follows:
- green vegetables should be cooked in a low acid environment (ie, large pot of boiling water)
- since vegetables themselves have acid in them, you need to cook them in something that allows that acid to move away (ie, an open container)
- adding additional acid (ie, tomatoes) is a bad idea
- adding a buffer agent (ie, salt) is a good one
- vegetables need to be cooked until they no longer have a raw taste, but need not be cooked any longer

Here's my normal method:
- blanch beans in a large pot (around 4 quarts) of boiling water, which has been heavily salted
- cook until they taste cooked, or just under that point
- shock in ice bath until completely cool, then drain very well right away
- at this point, they can sit until you are ready to plate and finish your dish
- sautee in butter, salt and pepper just to re-heat
- a dash of minced shallots can also be added at this stage

Posted by dowdy at 04:45 AM

August 04, 2003

26 Days

If you haven't been reading or heard of (where have you been? Under a rock?) The Julie/Julia Project, check it out. She's 26 days from finishing cooking every single recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One.

She just got done with the brains. Mmmmmm. Brains.

Posted by dowdy at 10:02 AM

April 18, 2003

Heavy Metal, er, Cream

About a week ago I picked up a half gallon of "Manufacturing Cream" from Smart & Final. This appears to be a "unique to West Coast" item as when I asked chef-instructors at the CIA about it, they hadn't heard of it.

The attributes of it are: higher in butterfat than most heavy cream, and no additional ingredients. Most heavy cream has stablizers in it, which can make for less than ideal chocolate truffles and whipping behavior. So I'm Told. I've never myself had any problems in these areas.

In any case, I've got quite a bit of very heavy cream in the fridge now. So last night I made a quick chicken stew in heavy cream.

I cut up a really nice and small chicken I managed to find into four pieces. A quick browning in clarified butter. Then fine minced onion and sliced mushrooms. Some white wine, chicken stock, and thyme. I then returned the chicken to the pan, covered, and simmered for about 10 minutes. Removed the chicken, reduced the sauce and then added about a cup and a half of heavy cream. Reduced this again to thicken.

Served the whole thing over noodles.

Posted by dowdy at 07:57 AM

February 25, 2003

Stock 101

On Saturday it was stock making time. I was almost out of all of my frozen stock, and Carol wanted to learn how to make stock -- so, off to the store we went for supplies and several hours of simmering.

Stock is such an important part of French cooking that I'm not sure what I'd do without it. Homemade stock is always preferable to canned (which has far too much salt in it), although you can get by with canned stock for lots of applications. There is one exception -- brown beef stock can basically only be made at home.

We made brown beef stock (2 gallons), light chicken stock (1 gallon), and brown pork stock (1 quart). Here's my general purpose stock making guidelines:

For 1 gallon of stock:
- 6-8 lbs of main product (ie, beef bones, chicken bones, mushrooms, etc). 1 gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, and the general rule is equal weight flavoring and water
- 1-2 lbs of vegetables. The standard is onions, carrots, celery in a ratio of 2:1:1 (A)
- spices/herbs in a package. The standard is 8 peppercorns, 1 tsp thyme, 1 bay leaf, 5 parsley stems. If you don't have parsley stems, don't use the leaves, which put off too much green coloring (B) (C)
- 2 T tomato paste (for brown stocks) or 1/4 C white wine or dash of vinegar. (D)

The procedure:
1) For Brown stock, brown the main ingredient well in a 400 degree oven (about an hour). For Light stock, blanch in boiling water, drain, rinse.
2) add main ingredient to water
3) For Brown stock, brown the vegetables in the same pan you used for the meat. At the end of browning, add tomato paste, brown that as well.
4) Add vegetables, wine/vinegar, vegetables, spices/herbs to pot
5) Simmer for desired time. Skim to remove surface scum and grease. (E) (F)
6) Strain. Cool. Remove solidified grease from top. Freeze in ice cube trays.

Here are some notes:
A - you can use other vegetables. For white stock, sometimes people use parsnips instead of carrots.

B - Generally speaking, you don't want to get carried away with flavorings because you never know what you'll use the stock for. Some would argue that even including thyme/bay leaf counts as flavoring. So, you can leave these out if you wish.

C - Normal recipes call for wrapping in cheesecloth. I use a coffee filter, which is much cheaper and easier to come by in most kitchens.

D - Acid helps clairification. If you have some sort of produce with acid in it, the stock tends to self-clairify a bit.

E - Don't boil too strongly. A slow simmer is best.

F - 1-2 hours for vegetable and fish stocks. 3-4 for smallish bones like poultry. 5-6 medium bones like veal or oxtails. 10-12 for thick knuckle bones.

We used oxtails for our beef stock, which are very flavorful and heavy with gelatin. As a result, we didn't need to use a full 1:1 weight ratio. For our chicken stock, we used chicken wings which also make a very heavy stock. We used standard vegetables and flavorings, as I wanted to show Carol the basics.

After the oxtail stock was done and strained, I ran a 2nd stock from the same ingredients. This is known as remouage or "re-wetting" in French. The resulting stock is weaker. However, I take this second stock and reduce it down to about 2 cups. This results in a very heavy beef glace which can be used for enriching sauces. It is incredibly thick and rich and sticky -- and you can't buy it anyplace. Plus, you just got two produces for the price of one!

Our pork stock was browned in a pot (because we had such a small amount of meat we were using). Also, I went ahead and flavored the stock with garlic and rosemary. This is because this tiny amount of stock had one purpose only -- a BBQ sauce the next day. This non-traditional stock was a nice change from the more "boring" other ones we were making.

All in all, it was very successful!

Posted by dowdy at 10:15 AM

December 13, 2002

Blancquette de Veau

I'd like to call this entry "Weeknight" because I did it on a whim, but with a name like Blancquette de Veau I think it's just got to be French.

Inspired by the Julie/Julia Project (see Links) I just had to cook something from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That, along with the fact that I had a bunch of leftover stewing veal, eggs, a whole pile of Plugra butter, and more heavy cream than I know what to do with.

And so it is that I'm drinking a Chardonnay, watching pointless bomb dropping on the Discovery: Wings channel, and waiting for veal stew to be tender. After that, it's a quick veloute sauce, and the final addition of eggs and cream to thicken it. Carol is missing this one, but it'll give me a chance to attempt to re-heat it for her. I'm curious if the sauce will curdle or not. I'm thinking that perhaps the starch in the sauce might allow it to work, much in the same way as pastry cream.

It turned out great, and I served it over Cous Cous along with some parsley sliced into ribbons. I made the sauce with a good deal of lemon, but could still taste the veal. The stock as the veal was cooking came out crystal clear -- I used a two minute blanch that Julia recommends, and it worked a treat.

Posted by dowdy at 05:16 PM

Sean's Latest Review

My ex-roomate from the CIA just got a new five star review. Looks like he's doing awfully well now! If you're in Austin, be sure to check it out.

Posted by dowdy at 10:08 AM

December 11, 2002

Menu Planning 2002

Here's the menu planning that went into the 2002 party. The links are to pictures of the dishes. We missed getting pictures of two of the dishes -- ah well.

I like to have four "courses" in my meals. These are: appetizer/soup, fish course, main course, dessert. I try to have 3 or 4 dishes in each course. At least one of the appetizers is vegetarian. Half of the fish and main courses are as well. The desserts usually don't have meat in them either.

I don't cook vegan, and I don't cook low-fat. My cooking style is fairly French and my bow to healthy eating is that not everything contains meat. It's my birthday, after all, so I don't really aim to make things that I won't enjoy.

1 Charcuterie Platter

A charcuterie platter is a bunch of sausages and pate like items, served cold. I wanted to do this because I hadn't made a pate in a few years, and I had some neat recipes for home make pickles. Also, most of this is make ahead. It does involve some elaborate plating, but that goes fairly quickly.

2 Butternut Squash Soup

I usually have a soup, and this year kept it vegetarian because of all of the other meat being served. Again, this is mostly make ahead, with re-heating and adding of the cream being a last minute step.

3 Terrine of Foie Gras

I love Foie Gras, so I make this every year. The foie is made a week in advance, and the pain de mie that it is served with the day before -- toasted the day of the party.

4 Sea Bass, Celery Root, Red Wine Reduction

I wanted a "thick tasting" fish dish here. Sea Bass can really stand up to meat-y flavors, so it was a good choice. This is also an easy dish to prepare. The fish is a quick saute in butter, the celery root is boiled with some potatoes and mashed to form the base, and a red wine and oxtail reduction stock poured around the result.

5 Zebra Potatoes

A Charlie Trotter recipe. Small potatoes are boiled, slice, reassembled with mushroom slices between them, buttered with a flavored butter, wrapped in spinach leaves, re-wrapped in brioche dough, and finally baked for service. Sliced perpendicular to the original direction, the "zebra" stripes reveal themselves. A red wine and dark mushroom sauce completes this dish.

Of course, this is all very labor intensive. This is where several hands make the work go quickly. But, it's mostly all done well in advance.

6 Shrimp, Winter Vegetable, Blood Orange Sauce

With all of the heavy sauces, I knew I wanted a lighter dish as well. The base of vegetables was julienne of mixed bell peppers, fennel, and red onion. This was sauteed quickly, and the shrimp were broiled for 1 and a half minutes on skewers.

The sauce was a blood orange beurre blanc, made ahead of time and kept hot in a thermos. A drizzle of the sauce and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds completed the dish.

7 Ravioli de Saint Loius, Sauce Tomate

My parents now live in Saint Louis, and this is a traditional starter course there -- Deep Fried Ravioli. I made them ahead of time, breaded and froze them. The tomato sauce was a chunky homemade marinara, and the ravioli was topped with curls of parmasagn and basil.

In spite of being deep fried, this is actually a nice bright dish to go with the others.

8 Osso Bucco, Saffron Rice

Osso Bucco is braised in the oven, covered in a large hotel pan. It stays hot for a very long time once done, so it can rest outside of the oven, still covered.

The Rissoto requires 20 minutes on the stove, so it a bit of work during service. Plating is rissoto around the edge, with the osso bucco in the middle.

9 Wild Mushroom Ragout

William made the ragout the night before, so all that was needed was a re-heat. Buttered toasts with herbs, and roasted garlic custards to go under the ragout were done ahead of time. There was plenty of heat from the ragout itself to re-warm the custards.

10 Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Desert Style

Guided by mid-eastern cooking styles, the stuffing was of diced red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and some hot sausage. The outside was rubbed in a spicy, salty, cinnamon rub. All of the prep was done ahead of time, and cooking consisted of 5 minutes of browning on top of the stove and 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

The pork was sliced and plated on top of cous cous (prepared in a rice steamer to free up a burner on the stove), and surrounded with a yogurt cilantro cucumber sauce.

11 Warm Lentil Salad

Very small diced carrots, parsnips, and rutabega was sauteed quickly. Tossed with boiled French lentils, and a mustard vinegarette.

12 Mocha Puzzle Cake

This is a classic Bo Frieburg cake that consists of alternating layers of chocolate and plain cake with buttercream frosting. Halfway through the assembly, a cone is cut from the center and the cake inverted. The final result is a cake with both diagonal and horizontal layers. Thus, the puzzle. Carol asked for a coffee and chocolate dessert, thus the Mocha in the buttercream. Also, one of my friends who came to the party is a puzzle maker, so I thought this was a fun idea.

13 Apricot Pithivier

A pastry of almond cream and apricots surrounded by puff pastry. Very impressive looking, but easy to make ahead of time.

14 Lemon Tart

The lemon curd makes this a simple dessert, but did not set up enough to my liking. I combined it with pastry cream to stiffen, and froze the resulting tart. The end result was maybe better than my original concept as a result.

Posted by dowdy at 09:08 AM

December 10, 2002

Prep Lists 2002

Here's the prep list for the 2002 party. Some people have wondered about the planning that goes into these things, now here's your chance. The numbers match up with the master menu list numbers from the Menu Planning Entry.

8 defrost shanks                                    thurs
12 make butter cream                                fri AM
13 make puff pastry                                 fri AM
12 make cakes                                       fri
1 make sausages                                     fri
1 make pate                                         fri
1 make galentine                                    fri
(several) 6 heads roasted garlic                    fri
2 make soup                                         fri
13 soak apricots                                    fri
14 make pate sucre                                  fri
14 make lemon curd                                  fri
5 make brioche                                      fri PM
2 make cinnamon straws                              10 AM
13 make pithivier                                   10 AM
14 bake shell                                       10 AM
14 fill shell                                       10 AM
5 boil & cool potatoes                              AM
5 slice and cook mushrooms                          AM
5 shock spinach, dry well                           AM
5 make hotel butter                                 AM
6 clean, devien, skewer shrimp                      AM
6 slice pepper, fennel, onion                       AM
9 slice, prep toasts                                AM
10 make stuffing                                    AM
10 spice rub                                        AM
5 assemble, saran, freeze                           noon
6 prep shrimp stock                                 noon
6 prep beurre blanc                                 noon
6 prep garnish, setup                               noon
10 stuff pork tenderloins                           noon
4 Cube Celery Root, Potatoes, Salted water          1 PM
5 brioche, freeze                                   2 PM
(several) fine chop herbs                           2 PM
7 make sauce, oil                                   2 PM
7 shave parm, setup                                 2 PM
10 setup couscous                                   2
10 make cuke and yougurt, into fridge               2
11 fine dice veg                                    2
(several) snip parsley plouches                     3 PM
4 Cut bass, s&p                                     3 PM
5 Reduce brown veg                                  3 PM
8 prep shanks, sauce, etc                           3 PM
8 make gremollata                                   3 PM
8 setup for risotto, measure, defrost stock         3 PM
9 prep custards                                     3 PM
1 slice pate, gal., sausages, plate                 4 PM
1 mustards, pickles, etc                            4 PM
5 transfer from freezer & egg wash                  4 PM
8 brown shanks                                      4
8 into oven, 300                                    4
9 cook custards, 20 mins, slow oven                 4 PM
11 prep dressing, check setup                       4
11 thin slice radish                                4
CHECK ALL SETUPS!!!                                 4 PM
make cheese plate                                   4:30
2 reheat soup, season, cream                        5 PM
3 toast pain de mie                                 5 PM
3 slice foie                                        5 PM
4 Cook celery root, potatoes, mash, cream, butter   5 PM
4 Reduce wine + beef glace                          5 PM
6 make beurre blanc                                 5 PM
3 plate foie, frisee, truffle oil                   5:30
APPS OUT                                            6 PM
8 degrease, strain sauce, hold                      6
5 Into oven, 20 mins                                6:30
6 make shrimp                                       6:30
6 sautee veg                                        6:45
4 Sautee, plate                                     6:45-7
5 plate                                             7
6 plate                                             7
7 heat oil                                          7
7 reheat sauce                                      7
10 make couscous, rice steamer                      7
7 fry, plate                                        7
FISH OUT                                            7 PM
8 reheat in oven (watch temp!)                      7:30
8 risotto start                                     7:30
9 reheat ragout                                     7:30
10 5 mins stove, into oven 15, rest 20              7:30
11 sweat veg                                        7:30
11 boil lentils                                     7:30
8 plate                                             8
9 plate                                             8
10 plate                                            8
11 toss, combine, plate                             8
MEAT OUT                                            8 PM
14 whip cream, top, lemon                           8:45
DESSERTS OUT                                        9 PM
Posted by dowdy at 08:11 AM

December 09, 2002


The 2002 Birthday party menu. Take a look. Cooking-wise, this was probably the best job that me and my 4 man crew have done so far. The food turned out well, and the work went smoother than ever before. More pictures are here.

Random stats for this year's party:
- 45 people
- 14 dishes
- 4 burners on the stove
- 34 bottles of wine
- 15 pounds of butter
- 4 dozen eggs
- 16 pounds of veal shank

Posted by dowdy at 04:47 PM