Thursday, March 29, 2012

Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal and Poutine avec McDonalds’ Fries

I have 2 junk foods that I eat –– both involve potatoes –– French fries and chips.

I was driving past a McDonalds and I remembered the French-fry based poutine with foie gras from Au Pied de Cochon that I’d seen in the NYT in 2008…. I thought this combination was obscene… obscenely good –– I had to try it “one day”. That day had come.

The Times said, “These days, you can’t mention food in Montreal without touching on the chef Martin Picard’s unrepentantly Québécois restaurant. P.D.C., as the locals call it, was a pizzeria before Mr. Picard got his meaty mitts on it, and a blazing fire in a wood-burning oven greets guests at the door.”

The NYT continued, “Mr. Picard put his restaurant on the gastronomic map when he put foie gras on poutine back in 2004, just after the restaurant opened. Many dishes at P.D.C. are conceived with that same wicked sense of humor — who puts foie gras on French fries? — and carry an unspoken threat of a cholesterol-triggered overdose.”

“There’s a even a whole section of the menu dedicated to the fatty livers: foie gras on a burger, foie gras on a pizza and, most compellingly, the Plogue à Champlain — a dizzying combination of buckwheat pancakes, bacon, foie gras and maple syrup”

Fur Cup by Meret Oppenheirn, 1936

Poutine au fois gras is like putting fur on a cup –- inspired madness –– surreal.  Gravy, cheese, foie gras sauce… this is a heart attack on a plate… but what a way to go.  You see why I had to make this –– me who, thanks to the wonderful foie gras cubes from D'Artagnan in my freezer ––  can make little foie gras treats any time.

But let’s get back to poutine.  For those of you who are clueless Americans like me, poutine is French Canadian comfort food, pure and simple  –– French fries, curd cheese with a rich meat gravy poured over everything.

Martin Picard is known for his mercurial temperament but he is also known to be a fiery proponent of local, nose to tail cuisine using the best Canadian products. The menu has lots of foie gras dishes including his famous poutine but also duck carpaccio and duck fat fries…  

Yannick Grandmont for The New York Times

and lots of, yes you guessed it, COCHON (Boudin tart, pig’s head, stuffed pigs feet even pigs head for 2).

Evan Sung for The New York Times M Wells, LIC, Queens

At this point, Picard’s acolytes are flying all over the States.  One of them, Hugh Dufour, came to my attention when he opened M.Wells, a quirky and crazy popular place that began with erratic hours and did only breakfast and then lunch (I read that lack of liquor license was the hitch on the dinners) and chose a location in an off-kilter corner of Long Island City Queens, NY housed in an old metal diner.  As soon as the drooling reviews started pouring in, they closed, adding to the allure (word is there is a steak place in the works).

Ah yes, back to Picard’s creation –– The Calgary Herald said “One of Montreal's famous brasserie (French for "small eating place") restaurants, Au Pied de Cochon, has also created a following with their own unique poutine recipe. Chef Martin Picard takes this "low food" to loftier heights, infusing pork stock, egg and foie gras.”

I found the recipe for Picard’s foie gras poutine sauce in The Calgary Herald but I still had to find a recipe for the base poutine sauce or “gravy” that was an ingredient in the mix. I looked at quite a few and ended up combining a bunch of ideas to get a flavor I liked –– it is thickened gravy after all (those of you in Canada can buy it in a jar, but I wouldn’t recommend that for this recipe).

The other thing that gave me pause was the cheese.  Canadians use something called cheese curds that aren’t available in my area (or if they are I didn’t find them). I heard they squeak so I used mozzarella and then, because I had this amazing cottage cheese, I let the cottage cheese drain and used it as a base for the mozzarella then popped them both in the microwave to melt them a little… it was delicious and creamy. You can just use the mozzarella if you would like or cheese curds if you can find them.  Of course, I stopped by McDonalds and got my fries. 

Honestly, this is crazy rich… I was seriously stuffed less than half-way through my serving using about ¾ box of fries.  Still,  it is an inspired way to use foie gras in a dish with a delicious sense of humor.

Pied a Cochon Foie Gras Poutine for 2-4

Foie Gras Sauce
2 1/2 oz foie gras ( I use wonderful cubes from D'Artagnan)
2 egg yolks
2/3 c plus 2 T poutine sauce
2 T cream

foie gras for  searing ( I used a few cubes for each plate)
5 oz mozzarella, cut in 2-3 slices and then into wedges or cheese curds
1 c cottage cheese, drained for a few hours (optional)
1-2 large packages McDonald’s French fries (you may want to warm them in a 350º oven on a sheet pan for 5 or 10 minutes –– better still have someone fly them in, piping hot from the restaurant)
¼ c poutine sauce  (gravy) for spooning on top (optional)
chopped parsley

Bring the poutine sauce to a boil and then keep warm.  Mix the egg yolk, foie gras and cream in a food processor and blend.   Pour the hot poutine sauce into the mix and pulse a few times. You can strain it at this point if you would like as you add it back into the saucepan.  Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, till it reaches a temperature of 175º and remove from heat.  Continue stirring for 30 seconds more and keep warm.

Heat a cast iron skillet till hot. Place a few pieces of foie gras in the pan and sear on both sides. 

Place cheese on one large plate or individual plates.  Put the cheese(s) on a plate(s) and place in a microwave and warm for 30 seconds or until slightly melted.

Sprinkle fries on top of the cheese, pour foie gras poutine sauce over the fries.  Pour a little reserved poutine sauce over that if you would like and sprinkle with parsley.

Poutine Sauce

2 T butter of duck fat
1 shallot, chopped
½ t dry thyme
¼ c red wine
1 T cognac or armagnac
2 T flour

1 C chicken stock, warm
2 T demi glace
1 t Worcestershire
s & p

Saute the shallot in butter or duck fat. Add the thyme, wine and brandy and reduce a little.  Stir in the flour and slowly add the stock and demi glace  and stir till thickened.
Add the Worcestershire and strain.  Salt and pepper to taste.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Henri Charpentier, J. Edgar Hoover and Purée Mongole (fresh pea soup with tomato)

When I wrote about Downton Abbey and its Crêpes Suzettes a few months ago, I made the acquaintance of the purported creator of said crêpes, Henri Charpentier for the first time and I was smitten.  I wanted to pick up his autobiography after reading the story of the birth of the dessert that took place at the table of the future King of England.  True or not (would they really let a 15 year old, no matter how precocious he may be, serve England's Prince Regent?), it was a great story that you want to believe because he is so adorable.

Henri Charpentier 1880  - 1961

The Modern Library reprint of his book, Life a la Henri: Being the Memories of Henri Charpentier (Modern Library Food),  was a joy to read.  For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the wonderful and amazing former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl put together a small collection of truly great but nearly forgotten food books from the early 20th century that became the Modern Library Food Series.  It was only fitting that it came out at the dawn of the 21st century.

The series included Clementine in the Kitchen (about a the Chamberlain family and their French cook), Marcel Rouff’s fictional chef, Dodin-Bouffant, Pomiane  as well as the Charpentier book.  Each has a brilliant opening from Reichl (I love the way she writes… she could make watery gruel sound like the sexiest food on the planet) and guest forewords by a stellar crew of modern writers… many of whom were inspired by the books they write about.  In Charpentier’s case, no less a food luminary than Alice Waters shares her love of this little book and the effect it had on her when she read it early in her life.

To say Charpentier has a joie de vivre is putting it mildly.  Even in adversity, he triumphs and rushes onward and upward. Waters put it beautifully when she said,  “…he resembles…a beaming, benevolent and sometimes blustering grandpapa, white mustache dancing as he acts out for the little ones the extravagant story of his life.  Does he exaggerate?  Perhaps. But he does so for the sake of a good story, and with such ebullient innocence and pride that we can easily forgive him his flamboyance.”  He got to Waters with his insistence on fine ingredients and dismissal of fussy garnishes that served no purpose.  She said she still loves Crepes Suzette and often makes them at Chez Panisse –– doubtless with little Henri in mind with each buttery, sugary, orangefully-boozy mouthful.

Charpentier was born in 1880.  He is discreet about his origins but hints that there may have been an unsanctioned romance between his young, high-born mother and a father who was less so (he was an older lawyer who died shortly after Henri’s birth).  Henri was dropped off at a country farm to be cared for by his wet nurse and then it seems, he never saw his mother again. He is much more definite about his relationship with his adopted family named Chamous in the city of Contes, whom he loved.  They were poor, simple folk but there was also a well-respected chef in their midst –– his adoptive brother Jean.

It was through the Chamous families’ eldest son Jean’s influence that he advanced through the stratosphere of the European restaurant business, beginning in Monaco at the luxurious Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo (where the happy accident with the crepes and the Prince was to have happened) and then on to hotel Cap Martin all the while working his way through the front of the house and learning the ways of great restaurants.  This served him well as he traveled to England to learn English at 12 (no great Maiître d’ could ascend to top, front-of-the-house positions in the Continent’s finest restaurants without English).

Back and forth across the channel with his illustrious French chef adoptive brother, he learned and grew in his craft.

Eventually this led to America and the famed kitchen of Café Martin in Manhattan.  Listening to Henri’s stories, you sort of felt, no matter what, that little Henri was blessed by those he worked with and for and even his clients.  Café Martin’s owners and managers helped him with his little restaurant in Lynbrook, LI.  Yes, he hardly slept and worked at Café Martin to pay the bills as he got his place going but he was terribly happy with his wife and their restaurant.  Poor, but happy and his clients were the rich and famous he had met and charmed in the city.  Many had houses out on the island.  This all went well and gave him money and respect –– until prohibition when he lost most everything and went back to Europe for a time.

He returned to the States as a hired gun, hired to run the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center after prohibition wiped him out (how DO you cook great French food without wine?? –– no wonder American cuisine went through a dead spell after prohibition). Then it was on to Chicago and finally out west where he fed one table at a time at his house…booked a year in advance.

The back of the book includes 65 pages of his favorite recipes. Normally deciding what to make would be a tough decision, but when the time came, it was simple –– it was already on my radar.  Purée Mongole

What is that, you may ask?  I had already looked it up during my holiday perusal of 1930’s Manhattan nightclub menus for Nick and Nora and the Rainbow Room –– because, I admit it, the name is pretty compelling and I had never heard of it.

It was on a few of the grand old menus I looked at but I had never heard of it, shame on me.  Evidently it was big at The 21 Club and The Carlyle.  It was terribly popular in the 30s and there are many, many recipes for it.  Even The Joy of Cooking has one for the soup.

The first thing you find out when you look up Purée Mongole is that it was J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite soup (from the sweet little blog, Soup Song) –– the blog says that FBI historians will tell you so if you ask).  A little more digging finds the guy ate mostly the same thing for lunch for decades at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, “chicken soup, lettuce salad, cottage cheese, grapefruit, and buttered toast” with his own home-made diet dressing –– always on a diet –– boring.

Evidently, his true love was this soup, which is remarkably ironic since it was also a favorite of his nemesis, JFK .

Although its preparation seemed to have devolved into dumping a can of tomato soup and a can of pea soup into a pot and tossing in a pinch or curry and/or sherry, Henri’s recipe is quite fine and fresh.  I cheated a bit with the tomatoes since March tomatoes are not terrible good and Muir Glen’s are bursting with flavor… I used canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables this time around but am looking forward to giving it a try in summer when everything is fresh and good.  It is a breeze to make (basically heat and purée) and good for you. I used a little less liquid than he did and cooked the white beans beforehand since I wanted the vegetables to be soft but not overcooked mush.

Also, and this is just me, I didn’t want brown soup so I did the tomato and pea components separately… made it look bright instead of deathly… your choice.

Purée Mongole adapted from Henri Charpentier Recipe

¼ lb string beans
¼ lb. lima beans
¼ lb green peas
1 m onion, chopped
½ stalk celery, chopped
¼ lb white navy beans (cooked till done), or 1 c canned beans
1 c milk (use ½ c for a thicker soup)
2 c beef or chicken consommé (use 1 c for a thicker soup)
2 T sherry
1 c pureed tomatoes or 5 tomatoes peeled and cooked
1 t curry powder
1 T butter

salt and pepper to taste
½ c heavy cream (optional)

Just cover the beans and peas, navy beans, celery and onion with water and cook till softened Purée the mixture (I always put in some of the liquid and add more as needed instead of making it too watery).  Add milk, and consommé and boil and then add this to the puree and strain if you want a silky texture, otherwise leave as is.  Peel the tomatoes if using fresh, heat with the butter and the curry powder, then purée and strain and reserve. If using canned tomatoes just cook with butter and curry powder and strain. When ready to serve, heat the bean purée and add the sherry.

You can put the tomato and bean purée together and cook or do it separately and join as you serve.  If you would like the richness, pour the cream into the bean puree or put spoons of cream in the bottom of individual bowls and then add the soup.  It is good without it and much lighter and the buttered tomatoes provide the richness. Henri recommends 2 parts bean to 1 part tomato.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mad Science vs Our Daily Bread…Ancient Einkorn to the Rescue

In a film class many years ago, a professor told us that Godzilla was no mere monster movie. He said that the story (told ingeniously and subversively) revealed the unanticipated consequences of the nuclear age as only the Japanese could after the cruel horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  Godzilla was the monster that had been unleashed from the disaster.  Or rather, Godzilla was the monster that nature had unleashed because of the nuclear bomb. 

The more I hear about Frankenfish that have had animal DNA spliced into them to make them grow faster or grains developed to withstand horribly toxic chemicals –– the more I see the shadow of a new Godzilla looming with each new announcement.  Do scientists think 1000 steps ahead like great chess players or do most of them just work blindly on the problem at hand (more, bigger, cheaper, chemically tolerant, needs less water etc.) and say “oops” when there are unintended consequences (like chemicals and mutant plants that are killing all the bees and causing birth defects in animals and humans because other plants and living organisms weren’t sufficiently considered when the mad scientist performed his Franken-science).  The collateral damage could be epic.  Then will “sorry” be enough –– when offspring are no longer viable and those that are born are a mess??? Sorry to be a drama queen, but yeah, I’m a little worried.

This has been on my mind a lot lately with a rather common Frankenfood, wheat.  Lately, a son of a friend and my art director have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance –– my best friend's nutritionist told her to cut wheat from her diet to feel better … it’s everywhere.  I read that 30% of the population has it.  It seems like people are coming down with it like the plague.  You’ve got to wonder why. Well, I’ve got one possible reason.

Beginning in the 19th century, wheat changed, I mean really changed to make for bigger yields. The hexaploid wheat strain mutated in farmer’s fields and then was embraced and refined in the 20th century. And in so doing it wasn’t as easy to digest as it had been (unintended consequence) so that now wheat makes a lot of people sick when they eat it.  If they have celiac disease it makes them very sick. 

From the National Science Foundation, Old vs New Corn

But there’s more–– the reasons we are all getting so fat are legion, but one may be that we don’t digest wheat the way we used to because it’s different stuff (like corn that once looked more like wheat –– most animals can’t properly digest a solid corn diet so that they get sick eating it –– especially grass-eating, born-to-be-ruminant  – heavy on the grass, lighter on the grain cows who live shorter, sicker lives and pass their sickness on to us who drink their milk and eat their flesh).  In fact it’s much different than our very recent ancestor’s wheat –– thing is they have discovered that people with gluten intolerance can often eat the ancient varieties with no problems at all.

Einkorn ––Triticum monococcum 14 chromosomes

This is where the very ancient einkorn wheat comes in.  The name means “single grain” in German but its Latin name is Triticum monococcum and was thought to originate in Turkey. The gliadin protein (which helps form gluten) of einkorn may not be as toxic to sufferers of celiac disease or those who are gluten intolerant as modern wheat seems to be.  Einkorn wheat does contain gluten but is different from most wheats in that it contains only 14 chromosomes as opposed to 28 in emmer (farro) or 42 in modern wheat. This alters the gluten structure.

Einkorn is old –– very, very old.  Archaeobotanist Jack Harlan, suggested that “wild einkorn grain was harvested in the late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic Ages, 16,000-15,000 BC. Confirmed finds of wild grain remains have been dated to the early Neolithic (Stone Age) 10,000 BC. (Helmqvist 1955; Zohary and Hopf 1993). Cultivated einkorn continued to be a popular cultivated crop during the Neolithic and early Bronze Age 10,000-4,000 BC giving way to emmer by the mid-Bronze Age. Einkorn cultivation continued to be popular in isolated regions from the Bronze Age into the early 20th century. Today, einkorn production is limited to small isolated regions within France, India, Italy, Turkey, and Yugoslavia (Harlan 1981; Perrino and Hammer 1982).”

Modern wheat, 42 chromozomes

Wheat varieties break down like this:

Common wheat or Bread wheat (T. aestivum) – A hexaploid species that is the most widely cultivated in the world.
Durum (T. durum) – The only tetraploid form of wheat widely used today, and the second most widely cultivated wheat.
Einkorn (T. monococcum) – A diploid species with wild and cultivated variants. Domesticated at the same time as emmer wheat, but never reached the same importance.
Emmer (T. dicoccum) – A tetraploid species, cultivated in ancient times but no longer in widespread use.
Spelt (T. spelta) – Another hexaploid species cultivated in limited quantities.”

I wanted to see what the oldest variety was like so ordered my einkorn from Jovial Foods.  The first thing you notice on the site is a recommendation from Gluten-free Girl, Shauna Ahern… pretty good recommendation.

I read a great article about the taste of heirloom wheat on Serious Eats that basically said that it’s not about the taste necessarily, because good technique makes any wheat taste good.  For me, it’s always a little about history… I wanted to know what our ancestor’s bread tasted like.  But it’s also about taste and digestibility  Famous baker Jim Lahey said there was no taste difference in the article.  He went on to say he makes his bread from mega-corp (and poster child for the factory farm) ConAgra Foods  flour.   Lahey is the man who invented no-knead bread –– sorry Jim, Con Agra wheat??

The organic Einkorn is not cheap, but not much more than special, small batch flours that I see at the farmer’s market.  One 2 lb. bag makes 1 big loaf using a starter (that takes out most of the cost of an 80¢ packet of yeast at least –– you only use ¼ teaspoon of yeast).

What I got on my first try with a long fridge rise was a very crisp crust and a very dense, lightly spongy, cake-y interior.  Jovial recommends using no salt, but I have forgotten salt in bread a few times and hated it.  They said if you must, use only 1 t of salt.  I used 2 and wished I’d done more.  I think if I made it again I would use more water.  The dough rose well and puffed splendidly in the oven.  The 2 lb loaf took longer than 40 minutes and I was a little worried that I couldn’t get the internal temperature much above 170º (most breads are 180-200º) but I put a piece of foil over the top and added another 15 minutes.  This made the crust very crisp… almost cracker like but the inside was done.  Another idea would have been to make the loaf much flatter and that would have lessened the cooking time.  As it is, the loaf rose very high, I didn’t expect that to happen.

I like the flavor.  It was a white flour so that is a little confusing since I use a white, whole wheat and sometimes rye mix when I make bread.  Because of this I can’t say the taste is earthier because it is just white flour without the germ.  But it has a lot more personality than white bread with a warm smell… it is also slightly yellow as if it were made with egg. The texture is really lovely, dense but very tender and spongy.  Dr. Lostpast said he was one of the best breads I ever made –– a very impressive review.  I would very much like to try it again with whole grain added (Jovial recommended using their wheat berries, ground to make a whole wheat flour).  I tried it on a gluten-free subject and it was a success, no stomach upset.

For myself, I am thrilled to taste bread made with flour that was eaten before the Roman Empire.  Since I have no gluten intolerance I can’t tell if it is more digestible.  I do think if you are gluten-intolerant and have given up bread (perish the thought) this would be nice to have every once in a while.  I froze most of it and it holds up beautifully.  It made awesome French toast.

Next to try, an Emmer wheat… just to see how it does. 

PS Sarah over at All Our Fingers in the Pie wrote about a visit with wheat scientists HERE.  You may get a kick out of what they had to say.

Einkorn Bread, recipe from Jovial Foods

½ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup of Jovial einkorn flour
½ cup + 2 tbsp of warm water
Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water in a glass or ceramic bowl. Stir in the flour and mix with a fork until you get a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let 6-8 hours or overnight.

6 cups of Jovial einkorn flour
1½ cups of warm water
1 tsp. of sea salt

In a large mixing bowl, mix together unsifted flour and salt.
Add warm water to your pre-ferment and use a spatula to stir together and pour in flour.

Mix by hand in the bowl until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and you have formed the dough. You can add more of flour to make the dough stiffer, but it will be a bit wet and sticky. If you are using a standing mixer, use Speed 1 just until the ingredients are mixed. If you continue to mix on Speed 1, unlike common wheat bread, the dough will not dry and pull away from the edges, but get stickier.

I recommend letting your dough rise in a real ceramic bowl covered with a 100% linen dishtowel. If you use linen, not cotton, the dough will not form a crust on the surface. A glass bowl and plastic wrap will work too, just lightly oil the bowl so the dough is easier to get out later. Let rise in the warmest place in your kitchen, away from drafty spots, for 2 hours. [I let it rise till nearly double which took 3 hours,  then I put it in the fridge for 2 days].

Sprinkle the dough with flour to remove from the bowl to your counter. Let relax for a minute and then form a loaf by rolling the dough into a cylinder and tucking the corners under until it is compact.

Transfer to an oiled loaf pan if you want to make a formed loaf. If you are looking for an artisanal bread like the loaf in the picture at the top of the post, place the linen in a basket, sprinkle with flour and flip the loaf nice side down in the basket. Cover with linen and let rise for 1.5 hours. [It took longer than this since the dough was cold… 2 ½ hours]

Heat your oven to 400° for 15 minutes. When the oven is very hot, you can bake your loaf pan for 35-40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes. If you like a real dark crust, you should bake at 425°.

If you are not using a loaf pan, preheat the baking tray or stone in the oven. When the oven is very hot, remove the tray completely from the oven, close the oven door and place on a heatproof surface or counter top. Turn the basket upside down to quickly flip the loaf on the tray. Make a few slashes with a baker’s razor or very sharp knife on the surface to allow for expansion and place in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes. [this took longer, I would say 55-60 minutes to get it to an internal temp of 170-ish – if you started with a very flat dough and let it rise this timing could be right… mine was very fat!!]

Einkorn bread with grass-fed, very yellow butter.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!

I can't promise that the bread will work for all Gluten Intolerant people... I did a test on a few friends with great results.
This is by no means a scientific statement that it will work for everyone... but certainly something to try!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Variations on a Theme: Goose Burgers with a Molten Foie Gras Center

$400,000 18th Century Chinese Export Goose Tureen 

In music, a variation is “a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form”. My theme is goose (Variations on Goose? –– what would Bach say?).  This is the 3rd and final part of my goose trilogy.

Variations can be visual, like these obscenely expensive and rare Chinese Export porcelain geese from the 18th century you see decorating this post, whose creators took the humble goose and delicately individualized each porcelain bird with a sophisticated rainbow of glazes in what was to be the last gush of Chinese imports before western pottery makers took over the market (what a pity, these are remarkable creatures).

Variations can happen in cooking as well as art. I think my favorite creative cooking moments come when I latch on to a technique or an ingredient and run with it like those Chinese potters did.  This often happens when I am introduced to a new ingredient or one that I have only used infrequently that finally captures my imagination.  It makes me want to take it out for a test drive and see what it can do.   Yes, it’s true, the goose made me do it.

$500,000 Qianlong 18th c tureens from Christie's

I struck up an email conversation with Jim Shiltz of Shiltz Goose a few months ago and got to play with a variety of goosely products.  I have loved each one –– from smoked goose (see HERE) to the ground goose meatballs I made (see HERE) and now his foie gras.

His foie gras is done without the traditional ‘finition d’engraissement’ (gavage).  Instead, these geese are encouraged to be gluttons and they rise to the task admirably.   As I’ve mentioned before, the whole idea for creating the gavage system was to mimic a natural proclivity of the goose to gorge.  It was discovered that they would overeat prodigiously to fortify them for their fall migrations (a wild goose can nearly double its weight preparing for this flight).  The livers of these geese were enlarged and absolutely delicious. The Shiltz goose liver was probably the most flavorful fowl liver I’ve ever had.

1760 Chinese Export Tureen, V&A

I got 3 grades of liver from Schlitz.  They go from normal size to a few times normal size.  The color changes from red to pale golden pink.  It is this last variety that I worked with for my recipe.  It isn’t like the very fat and pale foie gras that I am used to.  A test with some local foie experts agreed, although not as fat, it is incredibly flavorful (just like Jim’s geese).   I wanted to do a riff (a Jazz form of “variations on a theme”) on the fabulous foie gras burgers that I have read about, made and loved. 

Thing is, once I made this burger, I realized the technique would work with duck of course, but would also make a luxurious turkey or chicken (using ground thigh meat) or even ostrich burger (you could use smoked chicken or duck in the mix–– even ham would work).  I made the foie gras filling using my all-time favorite liver mousse recipe that I’ve used FOREVER.  It makes the burger incredibly moist and flavorful.  Since goose is delicious with port and port is delicious with Stilton I put them into the burger and loved it.  I fed it to Dr. Lostpast (who only tried it because it was my birthday –– his initial reaction to my request was ICK, goose burgers?), and he was shocked.  They were delicious. The mousse and port jelly bathe the interior of the burger with a luxurious flavor that is really out of this world.

1770 Chinese Export Tureen from Christies ($180,000 Goose!)

I tried them with puff pastry shells and also with brioche buns (the classic accompaniment to fancy burgers) and liked them both ways.  The recipe for brioche is from Martha Stewart and is truly the best I’ve found.  The puff pastry is my favorite recipe and rises like a dream (recipe is HERE ).

These little burgers are very rich and are best when made small like a slider in my opinion.

“The Dickens”, Goose and Stilton Burger with Foie Gras Center (makes 8 large to 24 small burgers)

Goose meat mixture
Foie gras mousse
Port jelly or currant jelly
½ pound Stilton Cheese
Sautéed onions (1 or 2 sliced onions)
Brioche Buns or pastry puffs (toasted or warmed)

Make 16 to 48 flat paddies with the goose.  Top half of the patties with a spoon of the liver and a small spoon of the jelly.  Top with the remaining paddies and seal well, but do not handle too roughly (compression makes them tough).  Fry at medium heat or grill until cooked (as for a MW burger).

Top with Stilton just before removing from the heat to melt it a little (using lid of pan) and place on bun with onions and serve.

Goose Burger Mix

1 ½ lb ground goose made from Schiltz goose meat (I ground it myself) or ground duck, turkey, chicken or ostrich
½ lb ground pork
¾ c finely minced smoked goose from Shiltz Goose
1 t mace
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t salt
2 t pepper
1 t ground coriander
3 T Port
1 T chopped fresh marjoram

Combine all and reserve.

Mousse de Foie d'Oie, Canard, Volaille (goose, duck or chicken)

1 c goose liver from Shiltz Goose, chopped ( I think you could use any of the goose liver varieties with this recipe or chicken or duck liver)
1 T goose fat or butter
1 shallot, sliced
½ t thyme
1t mustard
2 T Cognac
¼ c Port
1/3 c stock
1 t Worcestershire sauce
½ c cream
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the goose liver and shallot with the goosefat or butter.  When the liver is just about done, add the thyme and mustard and the liquors and stock and reduce a little.  Put in the blender with the cream and Worcestershire and blend, adding more cream  or stock if it is needed.  Chill till hardened.

Port jelly

¼ c port
¼ c demiglace
1 T currant jelly

Reduce port, add the demiglace and currant jelly and warm.  Remove from the heat.

Sautéed Onions with Port

1 or 2 sliced onions
1 – 2 T goose fat
salt and pepper to taste
1 -2  T port

Sauté the onions in the goose fat slowly until browned and softened.  Add salt and pepper to taste then the port to glaze.  Reserve

Brioche Buns, recipe from Martha Stewart, for 8 large rolls to 24 small rolls  

    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
    3 T sugar
    1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from one 1/4-ounce envelope)
    1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached bread flour
    1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
    1 teaspoon salt
    5 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
    8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
    Vegetable oil cooking spray, for bowl

Combine milk, sugar, yeast, and 1/2 cup bread flour in the bowl of a mixer. Mix until just combined. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons bread flour, the all-purpose flour, and salt to cover; do not mix. Let stand for 45 minutes.
Using the dough-hook attachment, mix dough to combine. Add 4 eggs, and continue to mix until dough is smooth and does not stick to sides of bowl, about 5 minutes. Mix in remaining egg. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until incorporated. Continue mixing until dough is smooth and comes together in a ball around the dough hook, about 5 minutes more.
Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl, and cover with plastic. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough, and re-cover. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough again, re-cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 425º degrees. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and punch down. Working in batches (refrigerate remaining dough as you work), evenly divide dough into thirty-two 1-ounce pieces. Punch down each piece using the palm of your hand, and press each into a tight ball using the heel of your hand.
Butter small Turk's-head or similar shaped cast-iron pans. Place 3 dough balls each inside molds (dough should fill three-quarters of each mold section). Or, make simple buns on pieces of parchment on sheet pans. Loosely cover pans with plastic; let stand in a warm place until dough balls are soft and springy to the touch, about 30 minutes.
Lightly brush tops with egg wash. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and continue to bake until tops are dark gold (time will vary depending on size of pans or the bun size). Remove from oven, and immediately remove brioche rolls from pans and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely.
Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday

Thanks to eHow for including my gooseburger on their Burger Emporium slideshow.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Visiting with the Silk Road Gourmet, Ancient Sour Meatballs

Sour Meatbballs

One of the things I absolutely love about blogging is all the remarkable people that I have met.  Mostly virtually but some in person and they have been amazing.  Of course, it makes perfect sense that you would connect so well with fellow bloggers, since our shared passion for food is what got us together in the first place.

This is especially true with Laura at Silk Road Gourmet who I got to know last year when I was doing research. Since then, we have struck up many email conversations and become virtual pals.   Her blog is brilliant.  She is a world-traveller, cookbook author and real scholar of the exotic cuisines of the Silk Road.  All the dishes I have tried from the blog have been superb and the writing is so fine and fascinating.  She eats with the people she visits (that takes a lot of courage... yak butter tea????) in their homes and in really authentic eateries.

Last year, she graciously did a guest blog for me HERE, with a great story and a delicious lamb dish with barley and mint from the oldest recipes in the world (on clay tablets!).  She invited me to make another dish from the tablets for her really fun Mesopotamian Cook-off last summer that I did HERE.

Needless to say, guest-blogging with her is an enormous pleasure.  Please go visit her blog and read my guest post for these terribly delicious meatballs from the golden era of Baghdad.  They are delicately sweet and sour and very good.  They ate pretty well in old Baghdad!

Visit Silk Road Gourmet HERE to read the rest and then enjoy scrolling back over her amazing posts!