Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 21, 2014 Lunch Noodle soup with Mussels, Dinner New Recipe Shrimp Scampi with Spaghetti Squash and sugar snap peas

Lunch -   around 11:30 I went to the garden and picked several kale leaves, some cilantro, oriental basil, and garlic greens.  I set a pot with about 2 quarts of water to the boil and added instant dashi, and 1 large tbsp. of brown miso and the last Tbsp. of pork tapa diced.  I then added Rice sticks, Soba noodles and mung bean noodles with seche seaweed, 2 white mushrooms sliced, 8 oz. tofu, about 8 frozen mussels and 3 green onions.  This is the combination Vietnamese noodle/miso soup I often make.  When the noodles had softened after about fifteen to twenty minutes of simmering, I ladle a bowl of the soup into a large bowl and squeezed into it juice of ½ lime and hoisin sauce to taste.  I could only eat ½ of it so the other half will be lunch on another day.

Dinner  We had decided to make shrimp scampi last night with the PPI baked spaghetti squash and sugar snap peas.  So tonight after I rode ten miles and showered I went to the kitchen where Suzette had started melting about 4 oz. of butter and 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet and added about ½ lb. of sugar snap peas I had de-stemmed and halved  because the peas needed the longest cooking time.  We then squeezed into the simmering butter 2 large cloves of garlic.  We then discussed herb selection and Suzette said she wanted lemon thyme and tarragon, so I went to the gardens and picked both, plus some regular thyme and parsley, which I chopped and added to the skillet.

After adding the garlic and before I went to the garden for herbs, Suzette wanted to add about ½ cup of white wine.  We decided to open the bottle of 2013 Les Portes de Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc we had bought at Trader Joe’s on Saturday ($6.99).  The wine had a clean finish; not any grassy citrus flavor, more of a tannic metallic flavor.  I loved its slightly astringent metallic flavor.  We decided to drink it chilled with ice with the meal. This a good Sauvignon Blanc wine for the money.  Vivino reviews give it a 3.6 rating, which is impressive.  Definitely a winner and worth keeping in the cellar. 



Suzette then scraped about ½ lb. of roasted spaghetti squash into tendrils and added it to the sauce in the skillet and added the 1 lb. of shrimp she had peeled.  We cooked the mixture until the shrimp had cooked to pink and the spaghetti squash had heated through. 

We ladled spoonfuls of our one dish meal into pasta bowls and enjoyed it with a slice of toasted French sour dough bread (Costco, $4.99 for two 16 oz. loaves) and a glass of the Les Portes de Bordeaux.


During and after dinner, we watched Colbert Report, Jon Stewart and the first game of the World Series until it became evident that San Francisco was overpowering KC.  I took a glass of cognac with a bit of Cointreau and some chocolate covered almonds and raisins and went to read in bed around 8:30.

Bon Appétit
   



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 20, 2014 Lunch Monte Carlo Steakhouse Dinner Salad, French Onion Soup au gratin and Bananas Foster


Aaron took me to lunch today and we first wanted to go to Monica’s El Portal but it was closed, so Aaron suggested that we go to Monte Carlo Steakhouse.  I said, “I have not been there for years, Why not.”

 The large dining room at Monte Carlo is dominated by a long bar and large vinyl covered seats on rollers and booths.  This is definitely something out of the 50’s or 60’s.  I could not read the menu in the half-light so I ordered the daily special of BBQ beef short ribs with a baked potato and a Greek salad. 
Monte Carlos looking at bar and kitchen
The salad was mostly chopped iceberg lettuce with a great Greek dressing on it.  The BBQ beef short ribs were covered with a thick BBQ sweet sauce, huge but not very meaty.  I felt like a complete carnivore tearing into them with my fork, knife and teeth.   The baked potato came with two small paper cups, one with butter and the other with sour cream.  Aaron ordered a green chili hamburger, which he said was just okay.

Beef short ribs with baked potato
Green chili cheese burger with fries

I enjoyed my meal but I no longer consider a steakhouse fine dining because Suzette and I can prepare a great steak with lovely fresh vegetables any day of the week.

Suzette had suggested PPI Texas chili over spaghetti squash yesterday for dinner, but around 5:30 when we started thinking about dinner, I asked her to consider eating PPI French Onion Soup au Gratin and salad instead for dinner.  Since she had eaten meatloaf for lunch, she agreed to heat the PPI French Onion Soup.  I suggested that we make a short cut and simply melt Swiss Gruyere cheese on a piece of toast and lay it on the soup, but Suzette wanted to make the au gratin traditional method by placing slices of Swiss Gruyere cheese on a piece of toast and baking the cheese covered toasted bread in the oven in a French Onion Soup bowl to melt the cheese.   So I fetched the French Soup bowls and freshened up the salad dressing with lemon and olive oil and fetched the cucumbers and tomatoes.

While Suzette cubed pieces of tomato and cucumber and composed the salads and garnished them with some baked spaghetti squash, I went to the cellar to fetch a bottle of light red wine to drink with the soup.   I wanted a light red like a 100% Grenache, but did not see one, so I finally picked a bottle of Slow Paseo Spanish red wine ($3.99 at Trader Joe’s), which I do not remember having drunk before.  When we opened it I discovered two things.  First, the wine was not lighter, but heavier, like a Tempranillo grown in Southern Spain.  Second, the absence of a regional and grape designation on the bottle should have been a tip off that this was an unreliable wine to buy in the sense that there was too little information and thus you were at the mercy of the producer or bottler’s whim to put in a bottle whatever they could find that was cheap and mix the dosage anyway they wanted.  As dinner progressed I also struck upon a simple indication of the poor quality of a wine; Suzette will not drink a second glass of a bad wine.  Pretty label, bad wine.

composed salads

note use of spaghetti squash


We loved the French Onion Soup and both agreed that it was better reheated a third time, very much like the Texas chili that finally made it into a saucy stew-like texture instead of a watery texture with lots of separated pieces of tomato, beef and beans on the third day of cooking it.  Sometimes, PPIs are beneficial.  We loved the soup and the fresh salad.

After dinner Suzette said, “We need to eat the bananas.  I think it is Bananas Foster time.”

So I peeled two bananas and sliced them in halves lengthwise, so they would lie flat in a skillet.  I fetched the dark brown sugar and about 4-6 oz. of butter and the bottle of rum.

Bananas Foster Recipe:

I melted ½ of the butter in a large skillet and sautéed the bananas in the butter and flipped them to coat them with butter for a couple of minutes.  Then I added about ¼ cup of dark brown sugar and stirred the sugar into solution by adding more butter.  After another minute of cooking to let the sugar and butter sauce cook into the bananas, I added about ¼ cup of rum and stirred it into the sauce and cooked it for about a minute to heat it. Then I lit the sauce on fire while Suzette laughed and took a video of the process.  We have a lot of fun cooking.

flaming the bananas foster
As soon as Suzette stopped filming the flames, I blew out the fire so the sauce would retain some of the rum’s alcohol flavor.   We served the bananas foster over vanilla bean ice cream ($2.50 at Albertson’s for 1.5 quarts).  We enjoyed our whole meal; especially the wonderful use of soft bananas that would otherwise be inedible to make a delicious dessert.


Bon Appétit

Monday, October 20, 2014

October 19, 2014 Breakfast Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches Lunch Texas Chili Dinner Roasted Duck with Sauce L’Orange, Sugar Snap Peas and Baked Spaghetti Squash

We had a rather bitter sweet moment this morning when we made bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with what will probably be the last tomato ripened in our garden this summer.  Then we spent three hours cleaning the garden beds, putting the top over the pond to protect it from falling leaves and laying the uprooted cosmoses in the new bed on the 15th Street side of the yard to try to propagate cosmos in the new flower bed by the new fence.




By 1:30 we were hungry so we heated the Texas chili, which finally is getting thickened enough to consider it a stew of the type I am familiar with, in which the meat, beans, onions and tomatoes are cooked enough to start to go into solution .  It took three days of cooking to reduce the chili to a stew like consistency because I did not add any thickener such as masa, which I think changes the texture and flavor of the chili, by obscuring the dominant flavor of the meat and beans.

At 6:00 we started cooking dinner.  Suzette had thawed out our last package of two duck halves.  I wanted to make a Sauce L’Orange, so I found the recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1.

Suzette started by baking two of the spaghetti squash we had grown in our garden.  I split them and she put butter in the cavity and baked them for 1 hour.  Then she took a fork and pulled the softened flesh into threads.

I then zested the orange portion of 3 oranges and then blanched the zested strips of orange peel in water for ten minutes.  While the peel was blanching I peeled the oranges and removed the orange sections from them and put the sections and the prepared sauce from the duck package into a sauce pan and added 2 Tbsp. of port vinegar and ½ cup of Madeira.   The sauce was thin and so I added about 1 Tbsp. of arrowroot dissolved in madeira, but that did not thicken the sauce, so I turned up the heat and cooked the sauce for about fifteen minutes because that was how long it took to roast the pre-cooked duck halves.   The sauce was still not very thick but it had a toothsome flavor of fresh oranges with a slight vinegar edge to it that can not be achieved with a commercial sauce.   
Suzette went to the basement to fetch a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Valréas “Cuvée prestige” ($5.99 at Trader Joe’s), a blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah.  We plated up our plates with the leg quarter of duck, sugar snap peas, spaghetti squash and the orange sauce and had a lovely meal and watched Peyton Manning break Bret Faure’s record for the most TD passes at 509.  Then we watched Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece Theatre from 8:00 until 9:30 and then turned the TV back to the Sunday Night Football game and saw Peyton Manning had pushed the TD pass record to 510 as Denver blew out San Francisco.



We then soaked in the new hot tub for fifteen to twenty minutes and fell into bed very relaxed at around 10:00.

Bon Appétit    


October 16, 2014 New Recipe - no-fail Béarnaise Sauce with Grilled Rib steak, steamed Sugar Snap Peas and PPI Roasted Acorn Squash

I had returned to Albertson’s for their $6.97/lb. sale on Rib Steaks on Sunday and bought 7 more steaks.  I also bought another 2 lb. piece of boneless pork sirloin on sale for $1.88/lb., which we used ½ of to make the Eggplant in Garlic sauce on Monday, October 13, 2014.

Today Suzette drove to Santa Rosa and I worked and went to court and rode ten miles, so did not get out to shop and we did not put together a dinner menu until Suzette arrived home at around 5:30.

I suggested that we grill a steak and I make Béarnaise sauce.  I had bought a bag of sugar snap peas at Costco on Monday (2lbs./$5.99).    Suzette suggested that we grill two steaks, “So we would have leftovers.”  While I made the Béarnaise Sauce she seasoned the steaks with sea salt and black pepper and grilled the steaks and de-stemmed and steamed the sugar snap peas and heated the PPI roasted acorn squashes in the microwave.  

Béarnaise Sauce

I know the Julia Child recipe for Béarnaise Sauce by heart; 2 Tbsp. of minced shallot, 1 tsp. of fresh tarragon, boiled in ¼ cup of white wine and ¼ cup of white wine vinegar with a dash of salt and white pepper rapidly boiled until reduced by 2/3 and then left to cool while 2 egg yolks are whipped and then the wine and vinegar reduction is poured through a sieve to eliminate the leaves and shallot into the egg yolks and ½ lb. (16 oz.) of butter is added in 1 tbsp. pieces as the sauce is slowly heated.

If one heats the sauce too quickly it will break and you will end up with tasty scrambled eggs.

Today I adjusted the recipe in two respects to make it more fail safe.  Since I had a bit over 2 Tbsp. of shallot and over 1 tsp. of tarragon leaves, I used 1/3 cup of vinegar instead of ¼ cup of vinegar.  I also made a slight but fortuitous slip of my hand when I was adding the white pepper and put in about ¼ tsp. instead of a dash, so I increased the amount of salt slightly, also. The vinegar is what binds the egg and butter into the sauce, so more vinegar insures a stronger bond.  Secondly, I used three egg yolks, the egg yolk to butter ratio is important because if you increase the butter to egg ratio the sauce has a tendency to break.  I think the combination of more egg yolk and more vinegar helps prevent the sauce from breaking in another respect, because the sauce will thicken and bond together naturally at a lower temperature which avoids it breaking due to overheating.

These two additions made a sauce that quickly thickened at a lower temperature.  I even added an additional 4 oz. of butter to see if the sauce would take it and it did, beautifully, quickly developing a thick texture.  As the sauce cooked I added about ½ tsp. of the boiled tarragon leaves to color and flavor the final sauce. 

Suzette judged this sauce one of the best.  The additional white pepper and salt gave the sauce more body and punched up the flavor, if you like that instead of the elegantly smooth classical flavor. 

When the sauce had thickened but not stiff after the addition of all the butter I turned off the heat and stirred it for another few minutes and then put it in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down.  One of the big mistakes folks make is not continuing to stir the sauce after the heat is turned off in order to reduce the heat in the sauce.  Julia Child recommended putting the pan in a water and ice cube bath to reduce the heat quickly.  This is especially important when using heavy enameled sauce pans, because they build up a lot of heat in the metal and enamel and without cooling will quickly overcook the sauce if left unstirred.         

Suzette did a great job grilling two steaks.  She grilled them perfectly to medium rare so the inside was pink throughout.  The Béarnaise Sauce was thick so it lay on firmly the slices of meat even though the meat had lots of juiciness.  The reason I decided to make a Béarnaise Sauce is because it tastes great with both steak and a slightly bitter vegetable like sugar snap peas or asparagus or spinach.

The snap peas were not overcooked and still had a crunch and the acorn squash was softened in texture to a lovely tender consistency by its repeated heating in the microwave.

I felt it was important to drink a good wine, so I picked a 2010 Slingshot Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, which is a favorite.   We originally tasted it at a Southern Wine and Spirits tasting and Suzette offered it on the Greenhouse Bistro’s wine menu for about a year, but it proved to be too expensive for the restaurant, so she brought several bottles home (As I recall the introductory bargain price was around $15.00 wholesale and the regular price was around $20.00, so it did not sell well at the Greenhouse Bistro in Los Lunas at $45.00 a bottle).  This was our last bottle of Slingshot from the cellar.  We loved the wine, big and smooth; perfectly matched with the delectable fresh steak with its juices still intact and the thick creamy and vinegary Béarnaise Sauce.  The steak had been stored in the fridge for five days, which is not a lot of aging, but it is some, so it had a slightly firmer texture.

All of these small elements made this a memorable meal.  Suzette smacked her lips in amazement at the combination of the perfectly grilled steak and the astoundingly well- constructed thick and flavorful Béarnaise sauce. Quite a compliment.

Hats off to the chefs.


After we finished dinner I cut a slice of French Country bread and laid slices of Iberico cheese on it for a cheese course and I enjoyed it with the wine also. 

Later, I drank a cup of Cardamom tea with milk and sugar and ate several 70% chocolate truffles (Costco, $7.99? for 25 oz. from Canada) and finished reading W. Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, this month’s book club selection.


Bon Appétit

October 18, 2014 New Recipe Breakfast burritos with steak, spaghetti Squash, onion and mushrooms Dinner-L’Olivier

Today was Stephen’s Consignment’s semi-annual sale, so we wanted to get an early start.

Suzette had saved about 1/3 lb. piece of grilled steak but we had no potato so I looked to improvise.  I cut open one of the long yellowish green melons from the garden that Suzette said was a cross between a melon and a cucumber and to our surprise we found out that it was really a spaghetti squash.

So I sautéed about ¼ cup of onion, and ¼ cup of spaghetti squash and then sliced three white mushrooms and added them to the sautéed vegetables; then I chopped up the steak and added it and grated ½ cup of longhorn cheese and stirred that into two eggs and the three egg white from Thursday’s meal and scrambled the egg and cheese mixture into the vegetable mixture and we toasted two flour tortillas over an open gas flame on the stove and made breakfast burritos.  I covered my burrito lightly with a lime flavored Mexican red chili sauce and made fresh mint tea with three small stalks of mint I picked in the garden yesterday.  Suzette made a Bloody Mary and we ate in the garden, watching the sun flicker across the cosmos.  Suzette said she wanted to pull the cosmos and lay them in the street side garden on 16th street in ho[pes that they will propagate there and form a border for the fence.  We talked about a big gardening day on Sunday and I then told Suzette that the oriental basil and dill were propagating in the front bed and we went to look and saw lots of small dill plants and one new basil plant.

We then drove to Santa Fe and stopped at the Flea , which was closed,  We then drove to Stephen’s and looked at everything and decided to buy nothing.   We decided to drive to the consignment large store on Cerrillos, where I found a biography/art book on Gaugin and we bought two lovely Danish Modern wall lamps that burned lamp oil.

Our other major goal for the day was to visit the Galisteo Studio Tour.  Suzette wanted to take a bottle of wine with us to Galisteo to drink in the afternoon, after buying the Danish lamps, we drove to Trader Joe’s so Suzette could buy toothpaste and we bought a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and Suzette picked out a bottle of Spanish Alero Rosé made with the bobal grape for $5.99.
At around 12:45 we drove to Galisteo.  While visiting galleries in Galisteo, we received a text from Amy inviting us to visit her and Sandy and Jan from Laguna Beach for drinks at her and Vahl’s house.  Almost as soon as we read the message, Amy, Sandy and Jan walked out of the studio we were arriving at to visit.  We made a plan to visit them at Amy’s house around 3:00 and I handed her the rosé and asked her to chill it, We cut our visit to Galisteo a little short but did go to the Fire Station and the Community Center.  At the Fire Station we saw lovely pots made by Frank and Barb Lux.  I bought a small bowl with a lovely yellow commercial glaze that Frank said he had bought at Coyote Clay in Albuquerque for $35.00.  At the Community Center we saw an attractive wire sculpture made with a green Buddha beer bottle that Suzette said was the perfect craft use of her Buddha Bottle.  The seniors at the Center for Ageless living have started making wonderful crafts items, like plates and mugs and Suzette must be thinking of adding wire sculpture to the list of arts and craft projects for use and sale.

We then drove back to Eldorado to Amy’s but we had seen an Estate Sale sign so we followed the signs to a sale way out on Dominguez Road.  Unfortunately or coincidentally the sale was not the estate sale but was a garage sale by a couple who owned an antiques gallery in Santa Fe and had lots of high end fashions.  I immediately saw a wonderful old Guatemalan Huipil for $20.00 and realized we had hit pay dirt.  Suzette bought for or five high fashion items for about $110, that cost over $1,000 at retail.  The owners of the house had put the original retail prices on the clothes.  In addition to the huipil, Suzette bought an attractive green converted blanket tunic, a gray German cotton and rayon crinkled fabric coat, and one or two Bluefish dresses.

We then drove back to the main entrance of Eldorado where we had seen the Estate Sale sign to retrace our steps and found the house where the sale was.  The house was owned by a lady who had a fabric art shop in Santa Fe and again there were fabulous fabrics.  The item that first caught my attention was an unusual Romertopf fish baking covered ceramic baking set for $15.00.  I asked the Carrie, who was running the sale if she would take $5.00 for the fish roaster and she said, “Yes.”  

It was after 3:00, so late in the day and they were beginning to pack dome of the merchandise so I realized there was an opportunity to buy lots of good stuff cheaply.  I next saw a French oil cloth table cloth and cotton 70” round French table cloth still in the bag. Then I saw two hand woven Mexican square cotton and Dacron table clothes of the kind we had purchased in Mexico that now cost more than $30.00 after some hard bargaining and I called Suzette, who went through all the table ware fabrics and picked out two more French Provencal napkins, several white cotton tea towels, several vintage aprons (including a very clever one with a butlers formal wear with long tails in black and white printed on it and a lovely signed German bud vase hand painted with a red rose on it.  I started looking at other items also and quickly found a hand blown signed Danish light blue glass bowl with a lovely darker blue lip and a copper mold in the shape of a sea shell.  Then I saw one of those hand painted guardian angel tin ware wall hangings that used to be sold by Doodlets marked $12.00 hanging on the wall.

I approached Carrie again and asked what would they take for all of the items we had selected.  She said $6.00 for the Doodlets tin ware wall hanging and then quickly went through the other items and came up with a total of $25.00, including my Romertopf fish roasting set.  So we carried our selections to the main sales table and she confirmed with Carrie that we were buying everything for $25.00 and I handed the sales table attendant $25.00 in cash.  We loaded our items into the back of the car and drove toward Amy’s in amazement.   I later found that a regular Romertopf chicken ceramic roasting set sells for $45.00 at Williams Sonoma.  
Alas, a great day of shopping.

When we arrived at Amy’s house at 3:15 we found that the rosé was well chilled and that Sandy and Jan had bought several wedges of cheese and some crackers at Trader Joe’s; including a  lovely semi-soft Asiago dusted with caraway seeds.  Here is some info on Asiago cheese:
Asiago /ɑːsiˈɑːɡ/ is an Italian cow's milk cheese that can assume different textures, according to its aging, from smooth for the fresh Asiago (Asiago Pressato) to a crumbly texture for the aged cheese (Asiago d'allevo) of which the flavor is reminiscent of Parmesan. The aged cheese is often grated in salads, soups, pastas, and sauces while the fresh Asiago is sliced to prepare panini or sandwiches; it can also be melted on a variety of dishes and cantaloupe.

As Asiago has a protected designation of origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP, see below),[1] the only "original" Asiago is produced in the alpine area of the town of Asiago, province of Vicenza, in the Veneto region. Asiago cheese is one of the most typical products of the Veneto region. It was, and still is, the most popular and widely used cheese in the DOP area where it is produced. The production area is strictly defined: it starts from the meadows of the Po Valley and finishes in the Alpine pastures between the Asiago Plateau and the Trentino's highlands. The officially designated area where the milk is collected and Asiago DOP cheese is produced, extends to four provinces in the north-east of Italy: the entire area of Vicenza and Trento and part of the provinces of Padua and Treviso. Asiago cheese which is produced and matured in dairies located more than 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level, using milk from farms also more than 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level, is entitled to the additional label "Product of the Mountains". Many imitations of Asiago, however, are produced elsewhere using different techniques and cultures that produce a cheese of a similar aspect but with a different taste.[citation needed]

There was also a Blended English white stilton with bits of apricot in it.

Blended Cheese - Also known as fruit cheese, herb cheese, cheese with bits or More Than Just Cheese. Though we think of these as modern cheeses it is well known that the Romans routinely blended their cheese with fruit and herbs. High quality hard cheeses are chopped into small pieces and herbs or fruit added and the whole mixed together before being shaped into cylinders or blocks. Most popular examples in the UK are Wensleydale with Cranberry, White Stilton with Apricots, Cheddar with Caramelised Onion, Double Gloucester with Chives and Onion and Lancashire with Garlic.

We opened the rosé wine and Suzette and Amy really liked it, although I thought it had a fruity smooth flavor but lacked any sort of character.  It was fun talking to Sandy, who is a professional potter now, after a career of teaching math and Jan who still does management training, who live in Laguna Beach.  I have loved Laguna Beach ever since I visited it the first time in 1969 when I worked in L.A. for a law firm in Beverly Hills for the summer.   I mentioned the we had eaten at the Montage resort and restaurant where we took the kids for dinner about ten years ago and drank our first bottle of Savenniers.  Jan Immediately told me about the political heat that was generated by a large resort being built in the ecologically sensitive hillside in Laguna Beach and Sandy told us that they loved France and had spent two weeks in the small village of Brantome in the Dordogne.  Sandy googled Brantome on his I Pad and then we googled Savenniers and the mapping function even allowed me to show him the B &B we stayed in Moulin de Géant in Rochefort sur Loire (http://www.france-voyage.com/chambres-hotes/chambre-maison-rochefort-sur-loire-15999.htm).  I marvel at the ability of use of the internet to enhance one’s conversations.

Sandy and Jan are also friends with the Luxes, so we examined and discussed a number of the Luxes' pieces that Amy owned and ours with Sandy and looked at his pieces on his I pad and one in Amy's living room. 

1.      Finally at 5:30 we said goodbye and drove to L’Olivier for dinner.  We arrived a few minutes late and made our apologies to the Madam at the front desk, who explained that she had called to confirm availability at 5:30 to an earlier call from Suzette that said we would only be two for dinner and questioned the availability of a 5:30 reservation, which we did not receive through a mix up in telephone numbers. Anyway we were seated at a table for two and soon were deeply engrossed in the menu.  I was at first interested in the specials of lobster salad and the cassoulet of duck and lamb.  After our waiter, Anthony, introduced himself and explained the daily specials Suzette said, Please look at the regular menu.  I can make lobster salad and the cassoulet is simply using the day old leg of lamb that was on the menu yesterday.”  I then studied the menu more closely and I found that there were two appetizers that we do not usually make that I love, escargot and foie gras.  The waiter had said that the foie gras of the day was a torchon with German Black Forest ham served with mission figs poached in red wine with toasted brioche.   The torchon was made in a rather elaborate process including poaching the foie gras.  Here it is explained by a step by step recipe located at www.seriouseats.com/the-food-lab
Foie Gras Torchon
J. Kenji López-Alt Managing Culinary Director
Foie Gras Torchon
[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
Note: It is possible to make this recipe using imperial measures, but I strongly recommend using metric, as it makes figuring out how much seasoning mix to use very simple. This recipe will make more seasoning mix than you need for one batch. I recommend La Belle Farms foie gras, which is available online from Bella Bella Gourmet.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.
Every recipe we publish is tested, tasted, and Serious Eats-approved by our staff. Never miss a recipe again by following @SeriousRecipes on Twitter!
Foie Gras Torchon
About This Recipe
Yield:
Serves 10 to 16
Active time:
1 hour
Total time:
3 days
Special equipment:
Gram scale, cheesecloth, sushi roller, spice grinder, kitchen twine, tweezers
This recipe appears in:
Ingredients
  • 1 entire Grade A or Grade B fresh foie gras, about 500 to 750 grams
  • 75 grams salt
  • 25 grams sugar
  • 12.5 grams pink curing salt (optional)
  • 10 grams white or black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons brandy (such as Cognac)
Procedures
  1. 1
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Let foie gras rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes before starting to clean. Split foie into two separate lobes with your hands. Working one lobe at a time, using a paring knife or small offset spatula and a pair of tweezers, carefully remove all the veins from the center of the liver, following the instructions in this slideshow. Discard veins and repeat with remaining half. Return foie gras to the refrigerator.
  1. 2
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Combine salt, sugar, curing salt, and pepper in a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder.
  1. 3
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Weigh foie gras, then weigh out exactly 2.5% of the foie gras' weight in spice mixture. For example, for a 500 gram piece of foie gras, you should have 12.5 grams of spice mixture (500 grams x 2.5%). Set aside remaining spice mixture for future use.
  1. 4
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Lay a triple layer of plastic wrap, 12 by 18-inches on a cutting board. Remove foie gras from refrigerator and transfer to plastic wrap, exterior membrane-side down. Carefully butterfly with your fingertips, spreading the foie gras out and pushing it into shape with your hands until it forms a rough 9- by 9-inch square of even thickness.
  1. 5
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Place half of weighed spice mixture in a fine mesh strainer and sprinkle evenly over top surface of foie gras. Sprinkle with half of cognac. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on top and carefully flip. Peel of plastic wrap from what is now the top, and sprinkle with remaining spice mixture and cognac. Flip back over and remove top piece of plastic wrap to expose surface again.
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Slide foie with plastic on top of a bamboo sushi rolling mat, adjusting it so the bottom edge of the foie is flush with the bottom of the mat. Fold the trailing plastic wrap underneath. Carefully start rolling foie, using bamboo mat to keep it nice and tight until a complete cylinder is formed. Pull back tightly on bamboo to tighten cylinder.
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Lay out a quadruple layer of cheesecloth about 16 inches wide by 2 feet long. Roll foie gras off of plastic onto the cheesecloth a few inches from the bottom edges. Carefully roll foie in cheesecloth, pulling back as you go to keep it very tight and even.
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Twist ends of cheesecloth and secure one side with a short piece of twine. Secure other side with a 3-foot piece of twine. Twist twine around end of cheesecloth to tighten the roll, making the torchon shorter and shorter with each twist. Tighten until you see foie fat starting to leak out around the edges of the torchon and it has the consistency of a bike tire. Tie off cheesecloth
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Hang torchon from a refrigerator rack for at least 1 day and up to 3.
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Bring a large pot of water to 160°F (bubbles should just begin to appear on the bottom of the pan. Prepare a large ice bath. Submerge foie torchon for 2 minutes, then transfer immediately to ice bath. You should see little droplets of fat forming on the surface. Let rest for 10 minutes, then transfer to a triple layer of paper towels and roll to dry carefully.
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Repeat the tightening step, using more twine to twist and shorten the ends of the torchon until the entire thing starts to show signs of leaking fat. Hang in refrigerator for at least 1 more night and up to 3.
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Slice off ends of torchon through the cheesecloth (eat these ends for yourself), then unwrap the center portion. To serve, slice into disks. For better presentation, use a round pastry cutter to trim oxidized edges off of foie. Sprinkle with coarse salt, and serve with toast, preserves, or dried fruits.
Dec 10, 2012 5:20PM
Filed Under:
J. Kenji López-Alt
About the Author
J. Kenji López-Alt Managing Culinary Director
A restaurant-trained chef and former Editor at Cook's Illustrated magazine, he is the author of upcoming The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, to be released by W. W. Norton.
He currently resides in Harlem with his wife and dogs.
He can be contacted at kenji@seriouseats.com

After reviewing the menu I suggested to Suzette, “Can we split the foie gras torchon ($22.00) and the escargots served with tomatoes, spinach and sautéed slivered almonds ($12.50) and you pick the entrée. “  Suzette obligingly said, “Yes.  I will select the roasted suckling pig on penne pasta with okra ($28.00)”.

We were next confronted by a selection of a beverage.  We wanted a sweet wine for the foie gras, while red wine is usual drunk with escargot, and we tentatively thought a bottle of apple cider would work well with the pork dish.  But we could not agree on which wines to order and Suzette settled the issue beautifully when she suggested that we order a bottle of Gruet 25th Anniversary Blanc de Blanc champagne and drink it with everything.  The Gruet was moderately priced on the wine list at $36.00.

We also agreed to pay $2.00 for a split on the glazed suckling pig.

The meal was amazing to say the least.    

Suzette suggested eating the escargot first, then the foie gras and finally the glazed suckling pig

 We loved the escargot with its attractive combination of lightly sautéed spinach, fresh grape  tomatoes, escargot and sautéed almond slivers served in a small ramekin.  The addition of the sautéed almond slivers lifted the flavor of the whole dish by adding a toasted nutty flavor to the traditional sautéed butter and garlic slices that both embraced and transformed the otherwise mushy texture of the snails into a combination of ingredients and textures that we loved.

Then came the foir grass torchon, which was a ½ inch thick slice of foie gras poached with Black Forest ham.  It reminded me of the torchon we had in France at Cheval Blanc in the Marne River Valley on our first trip to France 17 years ago where the foie gras was poached with a fresh peach.   Torchon is a lovely presentation and flavor because it gently merges the flavors of the ingredients.

I ordered fresh bread and butter, so I could smear the torchon on buttered bread, which I prefer as a way to eat foie gras.  I find the the toasted bread points or, in this case, brioche usually served with this dish to be too tough for my palate and the more tender bread and butter softer and more in keeping with the soft texture of the foie gras. 

The champagne went well with both the escargot and the foie gras and we still had ½ bottle after we ate the foie gras, so we decided to not order the cider.

Finally the Glazed Suckling Pig arrived and I was a little surprised.  I had forgotten that it was served over truffle oil tossed penne and that the okra was lightly blanched.  I guess I was thinking back to a Christmas party years ago where there was a whole suckling pig and it was served on massive serving platters.  Instead this dish was about 1/2 pound of meat in slivers served on a mound of pasta and garnished with four or five lightly blanched halved okras.  Actually, this was exactly the construction of many dishes we make; a small portion of interestingly prepared meat, sliced and served with a blanched vegetable with a light sauce formed when the meat is cooked.  I loved it.  The au jus was flavorful and very light made from slightly thickening the strained meat juice.  The sauce had been flavored with herbs and tasted of the meat, not unlike the Asian meat sauce made by Devvan at the Greenhouse Bistro.  The only negative about the preparation of the Suckling Pig was that the skin was not crisped.  I guess the idea was to yield as much jus as possible instead of continuing to cook the pic until the skin crisped.   

We tore into the pasta dish with the gusto of peasants, which is probably exactly the way it was intended to be eaten, spearing bits of firm okra with a bit of pork and a penne and then following each bite with a sip of water or champagne. 

We loved each of the dishes; the escargot for its creative combination of ingredients melded together, the beautifully prepared and presented foie gras torchon for its classical elegance and the Glazed suckling pig for its immediate freshness and simplicity of ingredients and flavors.   Sometimes I get a little tired of the complexity and elaboration of Classical French food, when in the right hands it can be a simple combination of fresh ingredients cooked in a pleasing manner.  I would judge our dinner to be a explication of three different approaches to French food.  The Escargot was an example of a traditional ingredient combined in a creative combination with interesting ingredients and textures.  

The foie gras was an example of classical French Haute Cuisine at its best.  And the Glazed Suckling Pig was an example of what I consider one of the best characteristics of French Cuisine; creating an attractive combination of the freshest ingredients with a flavorful sauce fused from the natural by-product of the cooking process (the meat juices) with the richness of herbs and truffle flavor lightly reduced into a natural sauce.  The pasta was not only the palate on which the combination was presented, but became a part of the dish as the sauce mixed with it.  There was a lot of sauce it seemed but by the end of the eating the dish I was able to only dab of sauce left to soak onto bits of fresh bread.  And the bottle of champagne lasted to the end of the meal also.


A view of the bar and our waiter from our table 

The escargot appetizer 

The torchon, toasted brioche and mission figs cooked in red wine

The torchon appears to be flavored with black truffle

torchon and mission fig on a piece of buttered bread

The suckling pig on pasta with okra au jus

The other plate of pig

The end of a lovely meal

The Dessert Menu
Rather than eat one of the dess
erts offered, some of which looked amazing, we decided to drive home so we could soak in our new hot tub.  So we left the restaurant around 8:00 and were soaking by 9:30 and in bed by a bit after 10:00.


Bon Appétit